by Beth Keating
March 2, 2021
The pictures on the evening news might have you thinking that everyone is smiling happily, and returning to eating out at restaurants following COVID lockdowns. Despite what your TV might be telling you, not everyone is ready to head indoors and dine at their favorite restaurant. A lot of us are still bringing take-out home, and cooking from scratch in our own kitchens.
On a recent non-vacation journey to central Florida, we found ourselves trying to figure out how to eat dinner each day without resorting to a week’s worth of drive-thru food eaten in the comfort of our car. Here’s a list of some of the dining choices that we discovered at Disney that allowed us to have dinner, comfortably seated outdoors, adequately socially distanced, and without needing theme park passes.
Geyser Point, Wilderness Lodge: This was one of our two favorite choices on Disney property. Seated near the shores of Bay Lake, we were able to dine under an open air roof, watching the boats ferrying guests back and forth to the theme parks. The chairs were super comfortable, and some guests were even seated on cushioned couches and low coffee tables. Big screen TVs played varying sports, and the menu was casual, yet delicious. Think rustic National Parks lodge motif. We were seated at the very edge of the roofline, along the line of shrubbery, and with the more-than-adequate distance between tables, we were almost able to feel like we were dining in a garden overlooking the water. QR codes provided the means to access the menu from our phone. We’d definitely head back to this relaxing locale again. And probably will, as the food was terrific!
Three Bridges Bar and Grill, Coronado Springs: A similar open-sided design to Geyser Point, Three Bridges is out in the middle of the lake, connected by – shocker- three bridges. Décor is southwestern, with seating again on comfy couches, or wooden tables. The open air restaurant gets great breezes from the lake, and is particularly pretty at night when the lights from the tower reflect off the water. Staff here was especially attentive, checking temperatures on the way in to the restaurant, offering small plates to rest your mask on, and parking hand sanitizer stations near all the entrances and bathrooms. QR codes again accessed the menu from your phone for less physical contact. And the food was excellent, too! This was the overall winner in our central Florida dining experience. See our dining review here.
D-Luxe Burger, Disney Springs: D-Luxe Burger is a quick-serve restaurant that is hooked in to Disney’s mobile order system. Using your My Disney Experience app, or by pulling up the app using your phone and the QR code at the restaurant, staff interaction is kept to a minimum. Order your food online, pick it up at the counter when it’s ready, and pick a seat at the umbrella tables outside on the dock. We dined here in the late afternoon, when Disney Springs crowds were low. We chose a table overlooking the blue springs, and were able to enjoy the scenery while we ate. While we were the only ones seated at the dockside umbrella tables at that hour, it is possible that on a busy night, your distancing might be a little less “distanced” than you’d prefer. All in all, the burgers were good, the shakes even better, and it was a solid choice for eating outdoors.
The Polite Pig, Disney Springs: The Polite Pig doesn’t have nearly as much space, or as many tables, for eating outdoors as some of the other options at Disney Springs due to its location near a central walkway, but the food is so good and the tables turn over so quickly that if you pass by at an opportune time and see some open spaces, it’s worth the stop! The mac and cheese is a solid choice for a side (we actually brought some back to the hotel room to eat), and the coffee-rubbed brisket was worth writing home about. There’s even an outdoor bar, should you be so inclined after a hard day’s work… or park hopping.
The BOATHOUSE, Disney Springs: If you are feeling a little more upscale, The BOATHOUSE offers outside dining on a dock overlooking Lake Buena Vista where you can watch the amphicars plying the waterways. They have a brand new Sunday brunch as well, and are known for their extraordinarily fresh selection of seafood, especially for their oysters.
Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, Disney Springs: This little place in Disney Springs has been a favorite for our family on several occasions, mainly because of the kitschy “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars” tie-ins. They have outdoor seating right on the water, and they are typically open late so you can grab a bite after you get done with meetings – or the theme parks!
These are just a few of the choices we came across when we were in the Disney area. Disney Springs certainly has plenty of other options, from the outside upper decks at Morimoto Asia, Wine Bar George and Paddlefish, to the rotating selection of food trucks where you can find your own table. Blaze Pizza is super quick, and has a plethora of picnic tables outdoors. Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ is a favorite among locals (get the fried chicken), and has an outdoor patio and “Shine Bar.” Cookes of Dublin has a smaller outdoor patio, and there are a number of grab-and-go spots like Earl of Sandwich and Morimoto Asia Street Food that have outside tables sprinkled nearby, and of course, there are always the pool bars at the resorts, which almost always have outside dining tables, if you don’t mind a few wet kiddos running by!
Beth Keating is a regular contributor to DisneyBizJournal.
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