Walt Disney World
has something for everyone — from rides and attractions to resorts and dining. Today we’re visiting a sports fan’s go-to table service spot in Disney World: ESPN Club!
ESPN Club is an active, energetic restaurant located at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort and Villas. And as you might expect, it’s not only sports-themed from the walls to the menu, it’s also a fantastic place to watch the big game.
And since the World Cup is still lighting up screens around the globe, it’s important to know that there are TVs EVERYWHERE. Even in the bathrooms. Yup, you don’t have to miss a second of the game. (Priorities.)
The food, which might very well be secondary for a lot of diners, is OK. It’s no Flying Fish or Abracadabar — both located just a stone’s throw away. But you’re not really at ESPN Club for the eats; you’re there for the game! And the good news is: the food will fuel you long after the final whistle blows!
The name of the game at ESPN Club is televised sports. And so the atmosphere really revolves around large screens sharing the latest must-watch games and events.
As expected, it’s not quiet in here. And that’s a good thing! You can cheer and jeer as needed without worrying about disturbing your neighbors! There’s also some cool memorabilia lining the walls (and hanging from the ceiling), so take a stroll during half time to check it all out!
During football season, there’s even a designated VIP room, where you can sit if you’ve booked an ADR for a specific game. Check out our tips for getting a seat for game day, football season or otherwise!
Oh, and here are those TVs in the bathrooms.
Basically the atmosphere here — aside from potential rowdiness during a big game — is standard chain restaurant style. It’s utilitarian, and honestly it’s what we expect from the ESPN Club. So let’s check out the game day eats!
ESPN Club Menu and Eats
A meal at ESPN Club might very well start with your favorite game day drink — and there’s a drink menu for that! It’s packed with Home Run Brews from a variety of producers, as well as Championship Spirits, Red vs. White, and Draft Picks. We love the clever categories.
Eats are also cleverly named: Pregame Appetizers, Season Ticket Sandwiches, Game Time Entrees, Slam Dunk Salads and Soups, No-No’s and a Cup of Coffee, and Post Game Desserts.
I jumped on the appetizer bandwagon and ordered a few different options. First up: the Seasonal Soup, which happened to be one of my favorites, Tomato Bisque. This soup was okay — nothing special but still palatable. And it could be nice to start a potentially four-quarters-long meal with something a little lighter.
The Warm Soft Pretzels and Dips are a share-able way to start a meal at ESPN Club, and because they come with three Dipping Sauces, they’re kind of customizable! Sauces include Sriracha Beer Cheese Sauce, Green Chili-Cheddar Cheese Sauce, and IPA Mustard.
The pretzel breadsticks themselves were good — fresh and hot. I didn’t get that weird crunchy-hard, stale feel and taste that can accompany pretzel breadsticks that have been sitting around for a while.
But since I like the option for sweet dipping sauces in addition to the savory, I scanned the dessert menu and asked for sides of Caramel and Chocolate Sauces. This is a great tip when dining in restaurants in general — if it’s on the menu, they have it in the kitchen. So if you’d like to augment your dish, it never hurts to ask.
Tater tots (or potato barrels, as Disney often calls them) are also on the menu here, and they’re Loaded Tots with Brisket, Beer-Cheese Sauce, Caramelized Onions, Pico de Gallo, and Scallions. You had me at Beer-Cheese Sauce, for real.
These were good and indulgent. I had to dig a while to get to the brisket and it ended up being one big clump of meat versus shredded meat spread more thoroughly throughout the dish. I think that was just a bad plating, though. I imagine most of the time the brisket is better integrated.
Entrees at ESPN Club cover the bases, including burgers and sandwiches, pasta, and lighter fare like salads and fish tacos. I opted for a couple of heavy options. The White Cheddar Pasta and Cheese is a heaping serving of Campanelle Pasta, Pork Belly, and Panko Bread Crumbs.
The White Cheddar cheese sauce was a little on the runny side — so the pasta isn’t weighed down terribly with it. Salty Pork Belly is great when you get some in a bite. And that arugula on top is a good contrast. It’s not a three-point shot at the buzzer, but it’s good.
The Smokehouse Burger is a winner for the burger-inclined. It looks great on the platter, the meat was cooked appropriately, the accompaniments were fresh and flavorful, and I love a Waffle Fry.
The burger comes branded, and it’s held together with a baseball-topped pick. Fun touches!
The Smokehouse Burger is topped with Tillamook Cheddar Cheese, Jalapeno, Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Onion Straws, Chipotle Aioli, Lettuce, and Tomato. The bacon really makes a statement here, and I enjoyed the spicy touches from the aioli and ample jalapenos.
Plus it’s always nice to get a burger that’s juicy and cooked to order. The layering of flavors on this one is also great. Again: it’s not going to change your life, but it’s still tasty!
Desserts here — Post Game Desserts! — are creative, starting with the S’mores Bread Pudding. Bread pudding at Walt Disney World is always a gamble (especially because this category includes two of my all-time favorite Disney desserts: ‘Ohana Bread Pudding and Toffee Bread Pudding from House of Blues), and this one was a little ho-hum despite all of its components.
The S’mores Ice Cream on top was a bit cloying, but I did enjoy the few bits of Graham Cracker that were scattered about. Toasted Marshmallows don’t hurt, either. 😉 But overall, it’s a little one-note for me.
Fruit Crisp (or cobbler) is always a draw for me, and while this one was a sizable portion, the relative lack of streusel — my favorite part, normally — was disappointing. If you’ve gotta have some warm fruit with ice cream on it, this will work. But it’s not a stand out.
The Carolina Buttermilk Pie was the most satisfying of the dessert options I tried, largely because it had some interesting and contrasting components. The so-called Mascerated Fruits on the side were… not mascerated. But I appreciate a fresh fruit component in a dessert.
The pie itself was good — creamy and dense and ensconced in a great crunchy crust. The ball of Whipped Cream was yummy, too.
The Post Game Desserts were a fun way to end the meal, and while none is worth making ESPN Club a destination, they’re fine for the environment and overall vibe of the meal.
Nosh or Not?
Dance in the endzone at ESPN Club if:
- You’ve gotta, gotta see the big game — theme parks can wait!
- You love a rowdy, festive restaurant!
- You’re looking for a chain restaurant-style dining experience for your picky eaters.
Trade to another (dining) team if:
- You prefer more upscale dining.
- You don’t have time to watch the game — Toy Story Land is calling!
- Dining in a loud, flashy restaurant stresses you out.
ESPN Club serves a pretty specific purpose at Walt Disney World: it’s a destination for watching the big game where you can also eat some filling, big game-worthy grub. And while it’s got a chain restaurant feel, we don’t hate it. There’s totally a place for this atmosphere in the World, and we’re glad for it! But don’t forget that pretty much all the food here is going to be the same quality you’ll get at a Chili’s, basically, so that’s about how high the bar goes here at ESPN Club.
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Where’s your favorite place to watch the game at Walt Disney World? Tell us about it in the comments!