This boat has been floating (well, pretending to float, at least) in the waters of what is now Disney Springs for almost 45 years! We’re back at Paddlefish in Disney Springs!
Brief History Lesson: The “boat” that houses Paddlefish is actually a stationary building modeled to look like it floats in the water and it has been around since the late 70s. It originally opened as Empress Lilly (named after Walt Disney’s wife), complete with a working paddlewheel and smokestacks. Levy’s restaurants later took over and revamped the location into Fulton’s Crab House. The spot rethemed itself as Paddlefish with modern-chic decor and a new menu in 2017.
We’ve revisited a handful of times since it first opened in its current form. We’re back for more waterfront views, fresh seafood, and of course, CORN DOGS (but more on that in a bit).
As a reminder, Disney World restaurants are practicing new health and safety protocols. The restaurant changes include physical distancing between travel groups, limited menus, contactless menus, and virtual dining check-ins via Mobile Dine Check-in.
We experienced these elements when we visited the restaurant when it first reopened. Some tables and booths are unavailable to keep distance between groups.
The restaurant is recognizing modified operations. The restaurant usually offers several bar options, but you currently can’t sit at them. Instead, Paddlefish is serving cocktails at your table and even a to-go option if you wish to pop in to grab a drink. Additionally, the outdoor patio is only open at night.
Despite the modifications, Paddlefish still offers expansive views of Disney Springs and the surrounding lake. It’s here that you’ll get sweeping views of Disney Springs and the ultimate viewing deck for Florida sunsets.
It’s a pretty cool atmosphere and a truly unique experience. You literally get the sense you’re walking “aboard” a ship when you enter! Besides the views, The look is fairly modern with dark “nautical” color schemes like rich oak, deep ocean blue walls, and gold accents in the decor.
Also, this place is huge! It has three levels with two indoor dining areas and a rooftop deck with cozy chairs. We’ve enjoyed the views on our past visits but the food has always just been ok. The food here is relatively good but we don’t often find ourselves itching to visit. Would we find some new favorites on this visit?
Ok, so the view is beautiful. Now, how’s the food? Paddlefish is recognizing a limited menu so there are fewer options than there were prior to closing. Some items that didn’t make the cut at this time are the Lobster Bisque, Maine Lobster Roll, Table-side Lobster Guacamole, Chilled Trio, and Seafood Boil with 1¼ Pound Maine Lobster. You can access the menu through a QR code that you scan using your phone camera or a disposable paper menu that’s given to you by your server.
If you can’t make out the words above, allow us to help! First up, we have a decent selection of Starters.
There’s a selection of Soups and Salads (though, right now, your soup options are just New England Clam Chowder!).
There are a number of Sandwich selections including a few meatless (seafood and veggie) options.
For Mains there are a variety of meats, fish, and pastas.
If you got money to burn, you can opt for the King Crab or the more affordable Snow Crab legs. They also have a variety of Chilled Seafood.
You can order decent sized servings of Sides as well. As for Dessert…well, maybe save the calories for somewhere else in Disney Springs. It’s just a slice of cheesecake right now.
Kids have a variety of options here as well. There are Appetizers and Desserts to choose from (BTW totally eying those warm Cookies and Milk for dessert 😉)…
For Entrees, kids actually get quite a few choices as well! If your kiddo has a more adventurous palette, they can pick through Snow Crab legs just like the adults!
We will say this, Paddlefish is a great place to grab a cocktail. The alcohol menu boasts quite a few craft beers on tap, an expansive wine list, and a good amount of crafted cocktails.
We decided to start with an Old Fashioned made with Larceny Small Batch Bourbon, Grand Quina, orange bitters, and a splash of black cherry juice. We upgraded our drink with a shot of Paddlefish’s Private Label Knob Creek for an extra $5. The drink is $15 without the upgrade. Ready to see the coolest ice cube eva?
Gotta love the Paddlefish branded ice! This is a simple and classic cocktail that was mixed well by the bartenders here. We have to emphasize that it was incredibly strong. This is definitely a drink more for someone who wants to put hair on their chest, so to speak. You can really taste the high-quality Knob Creek bourbon so we were glad we opted for the upgrade. Those who love sweet drinks that balance out the alcohol may want to skip this one. This is a drink you sip slowly because it packs a punch.
We chose a few items from the starter menu in lieu of a full entree. To start, we chose the Crab Cake for $17. The crab cake is served over Maque Choux, a fried green tomato, and remoulade. The crab cake portion is really big — almost round, oddly — and we’re definitely not complaining. You get A LOT of crab in this cake.
We’ve had this app before and love the light, crunchiness of the outside layer and the creamy mayo-based remoulade. The fried green tomato almost makes this seem like you’re getting two apps in one.
We’ve also had the Maque Choux (a Creole side pronounced “mock shoe”) on a previous visit and really loved the corn, red pepper, onion, and creamy hot sauce mixture. The crab cake is now served over a small portion of this side for added flavors and texture.
The crab cake was good, but here’s our one criticism: the crab seems to have gone down in quality a bit from when we first reviewed it. This could be due to limited supply since reopening or just what ours was like when we ordered.
On our last visit, we had the Crab Cake BLT which is basically this same crab cake piled with bacon, cheese, lettuce, and avocado. We noticed then our crab cake wasn’t full of lump crab meat like we had enjoyed in the crab cake we first tried from Paddlefish a few years back. It was still tasty but lacking HUNKS of crab. The first crab cake we had here was just the cake — no additional goodies on the plate — but it was basically just big hunks of lump crab meat and little else — and it was awesome. This still tasted really solid and is chock full of crab, but just not those big chunks of crab meat.
We’ve had the Lobster Corn Dogs a few times before and keep coming back for more! We’ve even gone so far as to say that the corn dogs are our favorite thing on the menu. It’s obvious that we’re big fans of the golden fried lobster dogs dunked in creamy peppery sauce.
You get 4 corn dogs and a side of chili aioli for the price of $16. The lobster meat is skewered then coated in cornmeal and fried until it’s crispy on the outside. The most prominent taste in this starter is fried cornmeal.
The flavor of lobster is so mild to begin with that the flavor of the meat is fairly lost against the cornmeal breading. It’s still crazy good, but if you were expecting the same lobster flavors you might enjoy in a steamed or poached lobster tail, you might be a tad disappointed. If you’re looking forward to the taste of lobster, you may want to opt for the actual lobster dish. That said, there is a good helping of lobster inside the cornmeal.
We also loved the creamy aioli sauce with a kick of chili. The sauce is very flavorful but not particularly spicy so even those averse to heat might still enjoy it. It gave the app more flavor other than just lobster and cornmeal.
The appetizer may seem a little kitschy, but we love these corn dogs every time we order them. Compare this to the many other dishes here that have been misses for us. We often find ourselves giving a lot of “meh” reviews for many of the expensive entrees and over-the-top desserts, but our spirits are lifted when we return to the Lobster Corn Dogs.
Nosh or Not?
You might love Paddlefish if:
- You’re a big seafood lover! The menu has options for those looking for meat as well but definitely skews more nautical.
- You want to experience dining in a ferry boat with romantic views of the area.
- You’re looking for a good, strong cocktail in Disney World.
You might skip Paddlefish if:
- You hate seafood! Although, there is a really good burger topped with melty pimento cheese on the menu as well as steak if your group convinces you to eat here.
- You’re looking for a less expensive meal at Disney World. The entrees range between $20-$50 with some MUCH higher like those King Crab Legs.
- You care more about the food and less about the atmosphere. We’ve given raving food reviews to other Disney Springs locations like Homecomin’ and Morimoto Asia. Paddlefish is good but most those spots are great.
We…have a lot of mixed feelings about Paddlefish. One minute we’re raving about the sweeping views and Lobster Corn Dogs and the next we’re giving less-than-glowing reviews of the mac ‘n’ cheese and lackluster desserts. The foodie experience can be incredibly hit or miss. We usually end up ordering our favorite dishes because we know that they will be good again. It’s difficult to veer off the path into unknown food territory here. Here’s the thing though — everything we tried today was good, just not necessarily “go out of our way” or “pick this over another location” good.
But that view! And you get to eat on a boat! Yes, it’s beautiful and really makes the experience something special. If you’re unsure about the menu we might suggest visiting for a cocktail. You can experience the atmosphere of Paddlefish without investing in an entire meal. Or, opt for one of the crowd-favorite items like the crab cakes, pimento burger, crab fries…and the Lobster Corn Dogs! (Did you think we could go an entire paragraph without mentioning them??)
When visiting Disney Springs with a hankering for seafood, it all really boils down to two choices: Paddlefish or, nearby, The BOATHOUSE. The BOATHOUSE tends to get our vote. They get bragging rights in the area for the freshest seafood and a much wider selection of well-prepared food for roughly the same price. Compared to other Disney Springs locations though, both seafood options tend to price out on the higher end (but that’s kind of what many have come to expect with seafood joints.). Unless your party is dead-set on having fresh fish or shellfish, there is such a wide variety of stellar dining in Disney Springs with robust menus that it can seem hard to pick Paddlefish in a sea (pun mildly intended) of other great choices.
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