Today, it’s high time that we share with you our thoughts about the one and only working microbrewery at Walt Disney World, Big River Grille & Brewing Works!
Located at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn Resort, the American pub-style restaurant features a primo location to see and be seen right on the Boardwalk. But, I’ll be right up front with you and tell you now that this has NOT been my favorite place to eat at Disney in the past.
However, we came to it with an open mind hoping to find some improvements on our last visit. We were rewarded with a much, much better experience than in times past! What did they do right on this visit? Read on…
The entrance to the restaurant on the Boardwalk, beneath an awning bearing the restaurant’s name.
Once inside, you’ll notice that there are three distinct seating areas within the restaurant: the bar area to the right; the seating area to the left, a rather nondescript space; and a patio area offering great views of the Boardwalk, the lake, and the Yacht and Beach Club on the other side of water. (You may even see the tops of Illuminations fireworks from here.)
There are a few good reasons to head over to Big River Grille:
1.) It’s normally pretty easy to get into, so if you’re hungry and don’t have an advance dining reservation, or you’re at Epcot or Hollywood Studios and would like to skip out on the park crazy for a while, this can be a good place to come for a bite and a sip.
2.) As I mentioned above, it’s the only working microbrewery at Disney, and the beers are quite popular! (More on the beer a little later.) It’s also pretty cool to look around the interior and see just where your brew is being produced.
3.) Finally, while I don’t love the inside dining room with its too-close-for-comfort tables…
…that outdoor dining area is a great place to relax and people-watch while you’re enjoying your beer and meal. (Assuming it’s not 500 degrees in the shade in Orlando.)
Beer and Eats
We visited during lunch time, and of course we had to sample some of the craft beers available.
In order to try the most variety, my friend opted for the sampler, which includes all four of the regular beers on tap as well as a sample of the seasonal beer.
The Southern Flyer was a thinner, very drinkable lager. Light and refreshing on a hot day, but not necessarily one you’d want to cozy up to if you’re in the mood for a heavy, “chewy” beer.
The Gadzooks was another medium bodied Pilsner. Spicy sweet flavors made it stand out a bit, though it may not stick in your head as the most interesting beer you’ve had in Disney World.
The Steamboat Pale Ale was probably our least favorite. We’re not huge pale ale fans, and this one wasn’t memorable.
The Rocket Red Ale is pretty well-loved among Disney guests, and we liked it, too. Caramel-y and hoppy, this is a heavier beer than the previous two, but still drinkable in the hot Florida weather.
Next, the Sweet Magnolia American Brown Ale, the seasonal beer when we were there (in early Spring), was headier and heavier than we expected after drinking the others. There was good flavor to this, and a nice full-bodied feel. A decent chilly, Springtime beer.
When it came time to order, we started with the Beer Cheese Soup. This is a guest favorite at Big River, and it lives up to its reputation. It was delicious and creamy, with that little bit of “beer tang” that you always want to taste in a beer/cheese soup. And the croutons were a great addition.
We also tried the Beef Nachos. I know, “beef nachos” sounds kind of gross, but these are really delicious. The beef topping is nicely seasoned, and the white queso has just the right amount of heat.
The toppings on the side are also yummy, in case you’re sharing and someone isn’t a big fan of sour cream. (I don’t know people like this. But I know they must be out there. 😉 )
Once we finished with our appetizers, we were on to the entrees. My friend opted for the Big Brew Cheeseburger with Swiss cheese, which was served with kettle chips.
While it was a nice portion and perfectly adequate, there was really nothing that made it stand out. He said it was fine, but not particularly memorable.
But my entree was in a whole other league! I opted for the Flame-Grilled Meatloaf, and it was quite good.
Three big, thick slices of meatloaf made from a combination of ground beef and Italian pork sausage were finished over a flame grill, and then topped with savory brown gravy. A garnish of onion made for even more flavor, and the garlic mashed potatoes and a colorful side of beans and carrots finished the plate.
Comfort food at its best.
When it came time to choose desserts, there were only two on the menu — so that made it easy! We started with the New York Cheesecake served with raspberry sauce, which was quite good and very enjoyable.
But the star here was the Chocolate Confusion, which has to be one of the BEST chocolate cakes I have ever had.
Normally, I’m not so much about the chocolate-on-chocolate-on-chocolate combo. Call me crazy, but I like a little something to contrast and break up all that richness (Peanut Butter, I’m talking to you). But surprisingly, this was just perfect. I could totally have eaten the whole thing all by myself.
But the real magic happened when we combined the two, eating a fork full of a combo cheesecake/chocolate cake mix.
I can honestly say that, with this latest visit, Big River Grille is off my “it’s best not to go there” list. With a combination of fantastic service, interesting beers, and good to great food, we were both happy that we gave this spot another try. And if you go, by all means, get the meatloaf! You will not be sorry. 🙂
Have you visited Big River Grille for the beer, the food, or both? What are your favorites there? Leave us a comment below and let us know all about your experience!