With so many new (and not-so-new, but still greatly loved) dining experiences in Disney Springs, it can be tough to decide where to make your precious Advance Dining Reservations.
So on a recent visit to Disney Springs, I checked out Paddlefish — this time in the dining room (as opposed to the top deck bar) to get an overview of some of the menu’s most popular items. And while most of it was good, some of it was great (and one item — spoiler alert! — was just bad).
Paddlefish is a brand new restaurant in an old, established building. You’ll recall that Fulton’s Crab House used to reside here, in the docked, multi-storied Empress Lily on Lake Buena Vista; and actually this spot has been a restaurant since 1977. When Paddlefish opened, guests were greeted with a combination of old and new. Neutral and trendy gray paint gave the restaurant a streamlined look, but some details of old remained, like brass railings and the fabulous sternwheel.
So what do you say? Shall we paddle in?
The first floor bar at Paddlefish is a beautiful space, with its curved, recessed ceiling, wall of windows, and various seating arrangements. Definitely a comfortable place to grab a drink or two!
Tables are also available on the second floor, which continues the industrial-meets-seafaring theme and incorporates more windows so guests can drink in aaallllll the views.
Seriously. Every seat has a great view — even if you’re not right by a window. You might even catch sight of an Amphicar from The Boathouse bubbling by!
And the bright design details with white chairs and light paint help to create a breezy atmosphere.
Table settings feature a neutral color scheme and shiny glassware. It’s elegant without being stuffy.
It’s a beautiful environment in which to dine. So, let’s do this!
The drink menu at Paddlefish is fairly extensive. And while the seasonal Dark and Smoky is gone, guests can find plenty of options to satisfy every grown up diner.
My friend and I wanted to give the Southern Sangria another try on this visit. The combination of Medley Bros. Bourbon, Peach Liqueur, Tempranillo, and Seasonal Fruit is as delicious as it is lovely to look at. Plus, it packed a nice punch!
The Prohibition Mai Tai is a refreshing combination of Scarlet Ibis, Orgeat (a sweet syrup of almond, sugar, and rose or orange flower water), Banana Liqueur, Fresh Lime, Scrappy Orleans Bitters, and an Amarena Cherry. It’s fruity, but dense, while still being strong.
With the drinks came some warm pull-apart bread with whipped seasoned butter.
The menu is pretty darn big, too, with options from sea and land.
I started my meal with a massive bang: Lobster Corn Dogs! The corn meal breading on the dogs has tremendous flavor, but the pepper sauce is totally killer! It’s not overly hot, but it is super flavorful.
In my opinion, the Lobster Corn Dogs are the best thing on the menu!
My dining companion and I also tried the Crab Fries. These are Skin-on Potatoes, Lump Blue Crab, and Louie Dressing (mayo with red chili sauce, green onions, and minced green chili peppers). The dressing has a nice kick to it, and there was oodles of crab meat. It’s kind of a seafood version of poutine, which is pretty brilliant.
This is a signature item for Paddlefish — you’ll see it all the time on their instagram account — and it’s good; but those lobster corn dogs are better.
My friend ordered the Market Catch of the Day, which on this visit was Mahi Mahi.
The fish was cooked perfectly and rested on a bed of rice. The slaw on top was a fresh counterpoint to the savory components. This was my companion’s favorite dish of the day.
The Shrimp and Grits were fine, but not outstanding. Cheddar Grits provide a pillowy base for the (noticeably few) Shrimp and a Spicy Black Pepper-Butter Sauce. The sauce was tasty, but I wouldn’t go back for this dish.
The Burger (yep, that’s the proper name) at Paddlefish is great — the best of the entrees, actually, in my opinion. Maybe it’s the Pimento Cheese. But then, you know me and pimento cheese… .
The Burger is served on a beautiful Brioche Bun (I’m not the only one who thinks bread is beautiful, right?) and comes with Pickles, Red Onion, and a creamy slathering of that Pimento Cheese.
The nine-ounce burger (a proprietary blend of cuts) was cooked exactly to my specifications. It was juicy, flavorful and carried the components deliciously. Seriously good.
We tried a side of a traditional Louisiana dish called Maque Choux. This is a warm and satisfying combination of Roasted Corn, Roasted Red Pepper, Onion, Cream, and Hot Sauce. You can’t really go wrong with those ingredients, can you? And this was tasty!
The last savory option of the day was the side of Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Diners have raved about it ever since Paddlefish opened last year, so I figured I should give it another shot. But this was my second time trying it, and I just can’t get into it. There’s something in the five-cheese blend that does not work for me, and it’s simply not creamy and gooey enough for my liking.
Desserts at Paddlefish are hit-or-miss, so I wanted to give a fair shot to a few of them.
Let’s get the worst out of the way first: Charred Carrot Cake. I know, I know: I never thought I would meet a carrot cake I couldn’t love. But this one… frankly, it’s been completely underwhelming both times I’ve tried it.
The cake itself is made with Caramelized Carrot Puree, and it’s just a block of dry, chunky… blah. The frosting is a Cream Cheese Mousse that can’t save the cake. On the side is a White Chocolate and Cream Cheese Mousse with Fried Carrots (huh?) and Shortbread Crumble. The whole thing is a hard pass.
The Chocolate-Bourbon-Pecan Tart came highly recommended, but mine was dry and waaaay too smoky from the bourbon. The Bacon garnish is tasty in the Whipped Cream, but the rest didn’t work for me. (I do like the presentation, though.)
Even the best dessert of the night isn’t going to knock off anyone’s socks, but if you’re determined to eat dessert here, I recommend the Key Lime Pie. It’s SUPER tart, which I love. The toasted Meringue was a light partner to the rich Key Lime filling.
Now you may have already seen the signature Paddlefish brownie milkshake. It’s intensely photogenic:
But, again, this dessert just didn’t do it for me. I know it’s the trend to blend baked goods into your milkshake these days, but all of those brownie crumbs in there just made it feel like there was a forgotten, soggy brownie in my shake — and the texture was like having coffee grounds in your milk. Not a good thing IMO.
So, I guess the Paddlefish dessert menu just isn’t for me at the moment.
But, there you have it… the highlights, the lowlights, and everything in between.
Nosh or Not?
Make an ADR for Paddlefish (or stop into the rooftop bar without a reservation!) if:
- You love seafood and want to check out this iconic Disney seafood restaurant.
- The idea of Lobster Corn Dogs is too compelling to ignore. (Follow your instincts!)
- You’re drawn to the unique views of Disney Springs that Paddlefish offers and want to dine in a quietly elegant setting.
Skip Paddlefish if:
- You’re not a big fan of seafood (though the burger is great).
- There are too many other new places you want to try.
- You would rather spend your time browsing in World of Disney than sitting for a Table Service meal.
Paddlefish has a lot going for it. The location can’t be beat, with sweeping views of Disney Springs and the lake. And the food is pretty good across the board (with the exception of those desserts…). If you’re looking for seafood in Disney Springs, this is still one of your best bets. But with so many other options that are outstanding (Homecomin’ fried chicken, Morimoto wagyu beef!!!), it’ll be hard for us to justify coming back more than once a year or so.
What’s your favorite new Disney Springs dining experience? Let us know in the comments!