Guest reviewer Bill Iadonisi is back with another great Disney World restaurant review! This time, Bill takes us to an actual working brewery on Disney property — Big River Grille and Brewing Works. Take it away, Bill!
Let’s move forward with a review of the Big River Grille & Brewing Works at Disney’s Boardwalk Resort before getting back to the counter-service restaurants in my next post. Disney’s Boardwalk Inn is one of my favorites, because it reminds me of summers spent on the boardwalks of New Jersey, Atlantic City or Seaside Heights.
Disney’s Boardwalk Inn is a wonderful re-creation of a Boardwalk town with restaurants and snack shops lining the boardwalk. On Disney’s Boardwalk, you will find the Big River Grille & Brewing Works, the only working Micro-brewery pub on property. Owned by CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, Inc., the restaurant is located between Jellyrolls and Thimbles & Threads, a short walk from the resort’s lobby.
Upon entering the Grille, your first impression is that of a standard bar/lounge setup a la Chili’s or Logan’s Roadhouse. There are three distinct dining areas.
The dining room on the right has tall, Pub-style, wooden chairs and tables with two large glass enclosures where you can see the brewing process taking place. Brewing kettles are in full view.
The bar in the middle of the eatery is the main focal point. There is a smaller seating area in the middle of the restaurant and a larger seating area on the left side. The tables feel small at only about 35” square, so if you want a little more room, you would have to request two tables.
Our group was a little disappointed in the décor. Every Disney restaurant, even the non-Disney owned establishments, are themed in some way. The interior of Big River was just bland and unimposing. If you hadn’t just walked in from Disney’s Boardwalk, you would never know you were at Disney World!
The one feature we all loved was the large wall of windows in all the dining areas where you could watch the folks on the boardwalk and see the Yacht and Beach clubs in the distance.
After my friend John, my wife Donna, and I were seated in the middle area, our waiter, Chris, was right there to take care of us. Even though it’s not Disney-owned, the staff at Big River Grille still has high standards, and Chris was wonderful. Throughout the meal, he took great care of us.
The menu offers primarily pub eats and casual fare:
We started out with a Beef Nachos appetizer ($11.99), it was a generous portion of tortilla chips, pepper jack cheese, sour cream (John asked for more sour cream and Chris brought him a big extra dish!), Pico de Gallo and sliced jalapenos. There was enough for all of us. The flavors were well balanced, but I would have liked a bit more beef on the plate.
We also sampled the Beer Cheese Soup (Cup $4.50 and Bowl $5.50). This was outstanding, rich and creamy with just a hint of the Pale Ale beer used in the recipe. We all agreed on the soup!
My wife loves Quesadillas and ordered the Chicken Quesadilla appetizer ($9.99) for her main course. She was disappointed. The chicken in the Quesadillas was shredded, not chunks or pieces as one would expect; she said it lacked any taste. John and I sampled it, and it had a nice texture, but there was a lack of flavor, which I believe is because of the shredded chicken. It just blended in and got lost in the cheese.
For my lunch, I chose the Blackened Mahi Mahi Sandwich ($13.50). I enjoyed this offering. The roll was soft and bakery fresh. I like my Blackened Mahi Mahi extra spicy and crispy, and the chef did not disappoint! The fish was a nice sized cut; the spices were tangy, but did not overwhelm. This dish comes with a serving of Kettle Chips.
John ordered the Honey Dijon Chicken Sandwich ($10.99). This is a grilled Chicken Breast, which is basted in honey Dijon mustard and is topped off with several slices of smoked bacon and Swiss cheese. Again, I am sad to report that John also thought the sandwich lacked any “flavor”. The bacon was tasty, and the bun was soft and fresh. The chicken breast was moist, but, like the Quesadillas, just seemed void of spices. John also said the Swiss was not even melted.
Big River has a full service bar with everything from Specialty Cocktails, Mojitos, and Martinis to a very impressive wine list. But since this is a working Micro-Brewery, their flagship offerings are the handcrafted beer made on premises. Signature Lagers and Ales such as Gadzooks Pilsner and Steamboat Pale Ale are offered. For the non-drinkers, a large selection of non-alcoholic beverages is available.
Also, a children’s menu called “Jungle Grub” is available, and homemade Root Beer can be ordered.
Desserts offered are “Chocolate Confusion,” which is a chocolate Mousse layered between Oreo brownie cakes with chocolate chips and icing ($6.50); and a New York Cheesecake with raspberry sauce ($6.50).
Now, just because everything was not 100% with our meal does not mean we will not return. Sometimes even the best of us have an off day. The restaurant has a nice lunch and dinner menu and offers beautiful views of the boardwalk atmosphere. Their handcrafted beers and extensive cocktail and wine lists are a plus. You can also order a Beer Sampler for a taste of their homemade brews. In addition, the service was friendly and quick, and we did not have to look far for our waiter, he was always available.
One of the negative aspects of this restaurant is the modest dining areas with small tables. If you have a large group, you will be pressed for space, especially during busy times. Another point, and of course this is my personal observation, is the lack of a “magical feel,” probably due to the lack of “Disney decor.”
The eatery takes the 10% DVC discount (Disney vacation Club) and the 20% Tables in Wonderland discount. Reservations are not accepted, so to get in during the busy summer/holiday seasons will be hit or miss, depending on the crowds.
If you have fond memories of dining on the Boardwalk at the Jersey Shore, the Big River Grille is just the place to take you back.
Have you dined — or have plans to dine — at Big River Grille and Brewing Works? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!