Welcome, Sports Fans, to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill!
To clarify before we begin, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill is not to be confused with the ESPN Club located on Disney’s BoardWalk. The ESPN Grill is a Counter Service eatery found in Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex — a place you may be familiar with if you’ve participated in a runDisney event, attended a Major League Baseball Spring Training game here, or visited as a participant or spectator in a sporting event hosted at the facility.
My visits to the Complex stem from being a participant in runDisney races (the Fitness Expos including runner Packet Pickup are typically housed here). Understanding how jam-packed any runDisney race weekend can be — from transportation to and from both the Expo and the races, the events themselves, as well as packing in all the park touring you want to do — it can be convenient to have access to some Counter Service eats at one of your required stops during the trip.
When I went to pick up my race packet for the Inaugural Star Wars 10K, I figured it would be a good time to grab a bite and give Complex visitors an idea of what’s available. After all, if you’re here, you’ve clearly got sports on the brain, so you’d better fuel up :)!
As a facility that hosts numerous sporting events throughout the year, the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex spans over 230 acres that include playing fields and building facilities. The ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill is located in the Complex’s Jostens Center.
The very first thing you see upon entering are the menu boards and ordering counters, located outside of the main dining area. So you’ll place your order here…
… then you’ll head to the dining room, with its entrance situated to the left when facing the ordering counters.
As you’d likely expect, the theme inside the ESPN Grill revolves around all things SPORTS!
Photo murals of teams and individual game players interspersed with inspirational quotes — all in black and red in keeping with the ESPN logo — dominate the decor.
The dining room also boasts seven gigantic HDTVs where you can catch the big game (five in the main dining area you see here, and two in a side alcove).
A few more (though smaller) TVs are situated at the full service bar tucked behind the main dining area.
After placing my order, I received a table tracker so I could find a seat and wait for my food to be delivered to my table.
Which brings us to the most challenging part of my experience: finding a seat. I’m not sure about what crowds are like for regular sporting events at the Complex, but the runDisney crowds are MASSIVE, so the grill was hoppin’.
That said, with the crowds that runDisney events bring in, this may have been a likely scenario at Counter Service spots all around property, and I did find a table after a couple of minutes.
It’s also worth noting that I limited myself to the main dining room to look for a seat. I could also have considered the shaded outdoor patio seating, which did have a few empty tables (along with more TVs, of course!).
Oh, and here’s something I missed at first… be sure to grab your forks, knives, condiments, and the like as you enter the dining room. I totally missed it at first and had to make a run after my food arrived.
Okay, I think we’re set! Time to check out the grub at the Grill…
A quick glance at the menu will reveal several typical Counter Service items like Chicken Breast Nuggets and Burgers (though here, they’re Booya Burgers 🙂 ). But a closer look proves that the menu is a bit more diverse than it first appears. Cold sandwiches, soups and salads are listed along with game-day, sports-bar-and-grill inspired eats, which makes the Grill a fitting choice for participants fueling up for their event as well as guests looking for some fun eats to enjoy while watching a game.
I also feel compelled to mention the fountain beverages here, because I was thrilled to see Coca-Cola Freestyle machines!
I have no idea why I get so excited when I see these machines offering their famous 100+ drink choices, since I inevitably fill my cup with regular, plain Coke every time. But still… Coke Freestyle 🙂 !
For my meal (or meals 😉 ), I ended up going with the Smoked Turkey Sandwich because I thought it would be a good decision considering the race weekend ahead… along with some Touchdown Tacos listed under “Fan Favorites” for good measure.
The Smoked Turkey Sandwich has a bit more going on than the name implies.
The simple sliced turkey breast, lettuce, and tomato are spruced up with a Zinfandel vinaigrette, caramelized red onion, and avocado-garlic mayonnaise, all served on sunflower bread. (I should mention that the Star Wars-themed paper you see lining the trays is probably not the norm; I’m assuming it was just in use for the Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend 🙂 ). Side choices were Cucumber Salad (which I chose), or House-fried Potato Chips.
The Smoked Turkey Sandwich provided exactly what I was hoping: a fresh, filling sandwich with better-for-you ingredients, kept from a “boring” label thanks to a major flavor boost coming from the caramelized red onion made even sweeter with the Zinfandel vinaigrette.
I think it could have done with some more of the avocado-garlic mayo, because when I tasted it on its own it was really yummy, but since it was put on with a light hand that extra flavor got lost in the rest of the sandwich. Overall, though, I really enjoyed it — and the hearty (but not to “seedy”) sunflower bread was a nice touch.
My side of Cucumber Salad was definitely small (not much larger than a condiment cup), but was packed with intense flavor from the pickled red onion.
That said, if you’re a game participant who isn’t too worried about a less-healthy splurge before your event, I say go with the House-fried Potato Chips — you can rarely go wrong with those no matter where you are in Disney World.
The “Fan Favorite” Touchdown Tacos are actually a fairly simple dish: your typical seasoned ground beef, shredded cheese and lettuce, diced tomato and a bit of salsa fill the shells. The tacos come with black beans and rice on the side.
The tacos were tasty, but given the ingredients I can’t say there was anything super remarkable about them other than this: I assumed that all the “Fan Favorites” would be on the heavier side, and while most of them certainly seem to be (you could grab some Winner’s Wings, Game Day Nachos with Chili and Cheese, or the 1/2 pound Home Run Hot Dog), one thing I really appreciated about the tacos was that they weren’t even remotely greasy.
Even as one of the game-day splurge items, they were more on the fresh side.
Unexpectedly, the item that stood out more than the tacos to me was the side of black beans and rice. There wasn’t much in the way of seasoning other than a sprinkling of diced red pepper, but this simple dish was filled with perfectly fluffy rice and just the right amount of liquid from the beans to seal in some flavor.
I wish I could find this as a side in more Counter Service locations.
I skipped dessert because offerings weren’t unique to the Grill — primarily ice cream novelties and such. But I wanted to show you the options in case part of your pre-or-post game traditions include a Mickey Ice Cream Bar.
Let’s face it… you’ve earned it, Sport! (Or pre-earned it. Which totally counts ;)! )
With a full tummy and race packet in hand, I was ready to leave the ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill and get ready for the rest of the weekend!
The ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill is not destination dining, but it does offer solid options for both competitors and event spectators in a setting custom-made for sports fans.
Keep in mind that, if you’re at the Complex, clearly you’re there for some sort of event, so allowing some extra time for a likely crowded spot will be a good idea (and those visiting during sporting events may want to know that concession stands often operate for spectators, too). Though I didn’t experience lines at the food ordering area during my 2:00 pm-ish visit, I definitely noticed them during the noon lunch hour. Oh, and Disney Dining Plan participants will be glad to learn that the plan is accepted at the Grill.
No matter what brings you to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, here’s wishing you a successful event or lots of fun enjoying the game! On you mark, get set… GO!!
Have you ever paid a visit to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex? Please let us know with a comment!