by Beth Keating
August 31, 2020
When the kids were little, picking a dining location at Disney was easier. It had to offer chicken nuggets. A character appearance was a plus. But other than that, the decisions were pretty much up to mom and dad to choose. Now that the “kids” are adults in their own right, they seem to have a lot more to say about our choice of cuisine for the evening.
On last week’s solo trip to Disney (it was for business purposes, I swear!), I found myself in the previously unimaginable position of dining by myself. As in, “I can choose to eat wherever I want to? No questions asked?” Wow. And I can tell you, it was even harder to decide, given the myriad of selections available at Disney.
My first stop on the way in from the airport was Disney Springs. It was late lunch time, and I opted to head to The Polite Pig, a casual quick-serve spot in the Town Center area of the Springs (near the Lime garage). As a big fan of barbecue, I’d wanted to try this locale on previous Disney trips, but always got outvoted before we ran out of time and had to return home. This time, the food selection was mine alone.
In this era of COVID-19 social distancing, The Polite Pig had staffers stationed at the door and at the top of the ordering lanes to keep guests adequately spaced and to help the process move along more efficiently. (Polite Pig employees also handle the drink station and sauce bar for patrons.) Diners place their order at the front of the restaurant, and take a tracker back to a table to wait for your meal’s delivery.
It was a sunny, breezy Florida afternoon, and I opted to sit outside, though there were other diners eating inside the restaurant that afternoon. I collected my fountain drink from the staffer at the beverage station on my way to the table, and my food arrived almost immediately. My waiter was very attentive during the meal, reappearing a number of times, thus ensuring that I did not have to get up to gather any needed items. He also happily offered to bring additional sauces from the restaurant’s sauce bar, should I have needed them.
I’d had a tough time deciding on my meal, and knowing that I was heading from Disney Springs to my hotel after eating, I opted to try both an appetizer and an entrée, banking on the fact that I could take part of it back to my hotel for later in-room dining. The portions were more than ample to do so.
For starters, I was torn between the Hop Salt pretzel ($9.00), and the Burnt Ends BBQ Meatballs ($12.00). In the end, I selected the meatballs, made with the house brisket. They came on a bed of cheddar grits and topped with a sweet BBQ sauce. As a northeasterner by birth, I’ve never understood the appeal of grits, but these grits were a nice touch, offsetting the sweetness of the barbecue sauce and giving a bit of balance to the dish. The cheddar incorporated into the grits also gave them a tad more flavor than any of the blander grits I’d previously had elsewhere.
The meatballs themselves were a heavier, denser meatball, served in a set of three. They were on the sweeter side with the accompanying sauce, but also had varying textures with crunchy onion straws sprinkled lightly over the top.
For my entrée, I chose the “Southern Pig,” a pulled pork sandwich topped with fennel-apple slaw in a mustard BBQ sauce (also $12.00). The pulled pork was excellent. It was not overly sauced, allowing the true flavor of the meat to shine through. The meat itself was tender, and had a smoky flavor that hit a bit later in the bite. Without the mustard sauce, the meat might even have been considered a little dry, but the sauce brought in the right amount of moistness. The fennel-apple slaw on the top of the pork, though, really pulled the sandwich together. It was tangy, a bit vinegary, and not overly sweet. It offered another layer of flavor to the sandwich. The sandwich was quite messy, and I definitely needed the roll of paper towels that was conveniently centered on the table.
The Polite Pig offers a variety of “Market Sides” as a separate charge (though if you order one of the larger dishes “From the Smoker” you choose one to include with your meal). More traditional sides like Southern Potato Salad, Waffle Fries, Sweet Potato Tots, Mac and Cheese, or Baked Beans are options, but there are more unique offerings too, such as the Tomato and Watermelon Salad, Roasted Beets, Grilled Street Corn, BBQ Cauliflower, or Crispy Brussel Sprouts. All the sides are $6.00.
Since I’ve never met a mac and cheese I didn’t like, I chose the Mac and Cheese as a side, and was oh, so glad that I did! It was undoubtedly one of the best mac and cheeses I’ve ever had. Maybe the best on Disney property? (I’ll have to go do some more research!) Made with aged cheddar and topped with a thin layer of crispy breadcrumbs, it was creamy and smooth. There was the tiniest bit of heat at the finish, and a slightly smoky follow through. (I even contemplated stopping in on my way back to the airport a few days later just to get another bowl of the mac and cheese, but alas, they weren’t open yet at that hour.)
While I had chosen a sandwich for my entrée, The Polite Pig offers even heartier fare as well. Maple glazed cedar planked salmon, a citrus marinated half chicken, brisket, pork shoulder, baby back ribs, BBQ cheddar sausages, and smoked turkey breast are also on the menu, at a range from $15.00-$23.00. Other sandwich options include a smoked turkey BLT ($13.00), smoked chicken salad ($11.00), brisket with pimento cheese ($14.00), and a fried chicken with BBQ sauce ($12.00).
The Polite Pig, opened in 2017, is the younger sister to The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, Florida, and part of the Swine Family Restaurant Group. Owned by James and Julie Petrakis, who have been recognized as semi-finalists by the James Beard Foundation for "Best Chef-South," and James’ brother Brian, they have focused on combining local Florida flavors with wood-fired, smoked modern barbecue. The restaurant has a sleeker feel to its interior than your typical BBQ joint, but the décor does have artistically “swine” undertones scattered about. You can also watch the magic happening in the glass fronted cooking area.
As part of The Polite Pig’s wide range of beverage offerings (including Florida craft beers and a bourbon bar), you can have a signature glass of wine in Polite Pig White or Polite Pig Red, or an icy cold brew with your ‘cue, and enjoy a namesake Ravenous Pig Lone Palm Golden Ale, Ravenous Pig Five Points IPA, Ravenous Pig Red Drum Amber Ale, or Ravenous Pig Working Man Porter.
The Polite Pig has definitely made it on to my must-do list of restaurants for Disney. Now I’ll have to find the time to get my family there too.
Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.