With all the great food options at Disney World’s BoardWalk, Big River Grille & Brewing Works hasn’t landed on our must-do list for that area.
Big River Grille and Brewing Works
It has a fantastic location on Crescent Lake within walking distance to four other area resorts, as well as Epcot AND Hollywood Studios. It also has an on-site microbrewery! Yet Big River Grille has remained a ho-hum spot for grabbing mediocre (in our experience) American-style pub grub.
Still, we are here for YOU, dear readers, and we are here to provide you fair reviews of every restaurant option available to you, even if it hasn’t won any gold stars from us over the years.
So we’re back on the BoardWalk at Big River Grille seeing if it’s had a clandestine renaissance.
There is a LOT going on visually inside of Big River Grille & Brewing Works, and it’s definitely not what we would have pegged for a microbrewery! Banquettes are upholstered in funky patterns. The restaurant is dominated by a palette of beige mixed blue neon.
A small bar highlights the microbrewery behind the wall. You can see the elements of the brewery through glass windows behind the bar.
When we think microbrewery, we think dark woods, metal accents, and much more of a “locals come here” vibe. But the clientele here is more along the lines of visiting conference attendees staying at the Swan and Dolphin.
But that microbrewery IS really cool. It’s the best part about the restaurant! We’ll share more about that later when we try some of the brews!
We totally get wanting to head over here to sample some craft beers. But is the food worth getting along with it?
The head brewer leads a team that brings small-batch beers to Walt Disney World — brewed on-site and easily the best part of dining at Big River Grille.
For microbrewery and craft beer fans, this can be a fun and informative experience. You can even peruse upcoming beers and learn a little about the process of brewing beer at Big River’s Brewing Works.
If you insist on some food at Big River, you’ll want to know there are Starters, Salads & Soup, Sandwiches, Main Dishes, Burgers, and Desserts. There’s a little bit of everything which, if done well, can be a terrific addition for a microbrewery.
First up, we tried some beers. We went with the Sampler Flight which consists of seven of the brewery’s craft beers with intriguing names like Space Coyote American Red Ale and Carousel of Hops American IPA.
Note that because the Brewing Works is regularly crafting new beers, some or all of these may be unavailable on your visit. But what you get in the Sampler is seven three-ounce pours and a placemat with descriptions of each.
This is a great way to get a taste for Big River Grille’s best asset: beer. And with instructions on how to best enjoy them, you really can have a good craft beer experience here. We fully recommend trying one of the flights!
Of the food options, we skipped the Starters and went straight to a bowl of soup. Because Beer Cheese Soup. (Ummm…beer and cheese. ‘Nuf said!) This soup has a good reputation at Big River Grille, and we LOVE it.
The croutons add needed texture and toastiness (that’s totally a thing), and the soup itself has just a hint of beer as a background flavor, with cheese taking center stage. Make your tummy happy after all that beer by giving it this to go with it. Beer+cheese=BFF forever and ever. 😉
The Brewer’s Club is a warm sandwich consisting of sliced turkey, sliced ham, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and cheddar and Swiss cheeses. It’s served with kettle chips and chipotle mayo.
The sandwich was…fine. But come on — at Disney World, we don’t want to waste calories on just “fine!” The chipotle mayo was a nice touch, though.
The Blackened Fish Tacos had more promise, but unfortunately there’s nothing special here. The fish was, indeed, blackened, but it didn’t pack a ton of spice despite the dusting on the small pieces received.
The taco toppings include black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, lettuce, and chipotle crema. These check all the standard Southwest-style food boxes, but still didn’t really wow us.
The Cilantro-Lime Rice is standard fare.
Cajun Pasta is a bit more interesting with three proteins (grilled chicken, andouille sausage, and shrimp) and some Cajun Cream Sauce. The Holy Trinity of Cajun cookin’ is here, too: onion, green pepper, and celery.
This was a better option — probably the one I would recommend you get if you do choose to dine at Big River Grille. It’s very similar to what you’d find at a mid-priced chain restaurant. I’d suggest asking for a bit more cream sauce and a bit less cajun spice dusted over the top.
Moving on, Classic Mac and Chicken is also an OK choice here. The sauce is cheesy, but we would’ve liked a little more. The Asiago Breadcrumbs on top added a little flavor and texture, and the grated Parm is never a bad idea.
It’s passable. It’s theme park pasta passable. But there’s still nothing in this dish to come back for. (Although it’s probably a good foil for that Sampler Flight…)
But, overall, Big River Grille hasn’t taken any steps forward on the food front, and while we can recommend this place for beer and Beer Cheese Soup — especially if you happen to be on the Boardwalk and are looking for just that — a whole meal here is probably not the best use of your vacation dollars.
Nosh or Not?
Paddle on in to Big River Grille & Brewing Works if:
- You love American-style pub food, and Big River is a convenient spot to get it at the time.
- Everything else in the BoardWalk area is booked solid.
- You love microbreweries, and you want to try one on Disney property.
Give Big River Grille a hard pass if:
- You don’t have time for mediocre food with so many awesome choices nearby!
- Pub food isn’t your thing, or you’re not a beer drinker.
- You’re too busy for table service (especially if it’s not stellar).
Sadly Big River Grille & Brewing Works still isn’t doin’ it for us. Substandard food, service, and atmosphere combine for a truly meh experience. And we’re not trying to have meh experiences when we’re at Walt Disney World. Ain’t nobody got time for that. There are actual tasty eats and impressive restaurants within feet of Big River Grille, and even the restaurant’s signature microbrewery isn’t an excuse for less-than-great food.
So we’re saying skip it, and head for another location with great beer, if that’s your thing. BaseLine Tap House in Hollywood Studios has excellent beers on tap — particularly for it being a quick service location. Rose & Crown in Epcot’s United Kingdom has some terrific British beers (and eats to go with them!). For excellent proximate eats, Il Mulino at the Swan & Dolphin is consistently impressive Italian food, and Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club Resort offers up great steaks. Even the ESPN Club a short walk down the BoardWalk offers slightly better pub-style food (and lots of screens to watch the big game, too).
But one thing is certain in Disney Parks food: things are always changing. So we’ll keep an eye (and our tastebuds) on Big River should something transformative happen here, and we’ll let you know if the restaurant magically finds its footing and becomes something greater than it is. If you want to see more restaurants that just don’t do it for us, check out our video below!