REVIEW: Paddlefish Opens at Disney Springs; Trying Over 30 Different Food & Drink Options

Paddlefish at Disney Springs opened to guests over the weekend (in case you missed our barrage of tweets from the VIP event or our photo tour of the restaurant that we posted over the weekend). The restaurant replaces Fulton’s Crab House inside what was the Empress Lilly, an icon of the early Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village.

While I was not excited about the exterior concept art, the boat looks fantastic in person. This might be the only case ever where I thought that the finished product eclipsed the vision presented in the early artwork. If you would like a video tour of the exterior and interior, we have one for you below:

The three floors each have a bar, and there is dining space on each floor. If you want to sit higher up on the “vessel”, you will have to come later in the day as they begin seating at the bottom level when they open. Hours for the three bars are not set in stone yet, but the first floor bar opens with the restaurant and all 3 are generally open by 6:30PM (including the beautiful patio on the top floor). There is outdoor seating on the first level at the front of the boat if you wish to dine outside and not at a bar.

Before we go on, I do want to mention that both annual passholder and Tables in Wonderland discounts are available, both offering 20% off, however, only Tables in Wonderland also provides the discount on alcoholic beverages in addition to other items.

Paddlefish Lunch, Dinner, and Brunch Menu

We visited on Sunday afternoon specifically because I “needed” to try to the brunch menu. None of the items from this menu were sampled at the media shindig, so I needed to find out more about them with a regular visit to the restaurant.

Above is the normal lunch menu, below the dinner version.

Above the drink menu. No allergy friendly menus were available as of yet, but the chef was more than accommodating of the needs of the guest we were with who had allergies.

I included the kids menu as I am often asked about them. Sadly, not having children, I don’t often get to try any of these. Don’t get me wrong, I am not sad that I do not have children, just that I can’t have kids menu items without looking like a psychopath.

There are also Late Night and Seafood Boil menus, but we will be back for those. We did get to try a sample of the boil on Friday, but it was a bit of a letdown. We will be making a trip just for the boil at some point in the near future and will update you on how that experience goes.

Complimentary Bread

At first, they did not bring us the bread, but we asked for it after seeing another table get it. In fairness, offering bread at 11AM (when we sat down) and when we saw people starting getting bread around 2PM is a pretty big difference. I can understand maybe not offering it with brunch, but we were happy to get some to try after our meal.

So, how was it? Really fantastic. It has a crunchy exterior and a soft inside with a slight sourdough flavor. Butter is also provided.

Starters

Beef Skewers ($13)

Garlic mojo, hazelnut romesco, pickled onions

Moving on to the appetizers, the beef skewers were quite good. They were cooked perfectly and were really tender, with the accompanying sauce offering a nice flavor.

Conch Chowder (cup $6, bowl $9)

Bahamian conch, spiced tomato broth

The Conch Chowder (pictured here in a cup) was pretty tasty. I loved the spiced broth and everything in the soup tasted fresh. I’m more of a New England Clam Chowder person myself, but I would order this again.

Crab Fries ($13)

Hand cut potatoes, lump blue crab, Louie dressing

I did not like the Crab Fries at the media event, but they were much improved in their own plate in an appetizer serving. This plate is a nice size, the fries are good, and the crab is fresh and tastes great with the Louie sauce on it. These are still not a must for me, but they are pretty decent.

Hamachi Crudo ($16)

Blood orange, lime, chili, jicama, aji panca

I loved the crudo, but it was also really spicy (thus why I enjoyed it). I highly recommend this if you like such things at other seafood eateries.

Tableside Lobster Guacamole ($28) Serves 4

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This is something we tried at the event on Friday and not at brunch.

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But, we do have photos of it being made for some guests on Sunday during our brunch:

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Maine lobster, tortilla planks, tajin

This was absolutely fantastic. The big chunks of lobster in it were very good and the guacamole itself had a good flavor. I’m looking forward to ordering this in the future (even if it is a bit pricey, but hey, it’s lobster)

Ahi Poke ($16)

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Sweet black soy, yuzu, avocado, radish, Asian pickle

We got a small sample of the Ahi Poke at the media event and I loved it. It reminded me of the dish offered at the Hawaii booth at the Food and Wine Festival, which was one of my favorites. It offered a lot of spice and that’s really all I want in this dish (well, and some fresh tasting seafood is important too I guess).

Market Fresh Oysters (Half Dozen, $20)

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Champagne-cucumber mignonette, cocktail sauce

I like oysters, which most people think is gross, but these were of quality. The real portion will come with 6 instead of 4.

Crab Cake ($16)

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Maque choux, fried green tomato, remoulade

I don’t know how big the actual crab cake it, but this was phenomenal. One of the best crab cakes I have ever had in my entire life.

Lobster Corn Dogs ($15)

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With sweet chili aioli

I saved the best for last…

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I don’t know how many of these come in a regular order, but whatever amount it is, order them. It is exactly what it sounds like, lobster covered in corn batter with a delicious sauce on it.

It. Is. Perfection.

Libations + Rocks, Late Night Alcoholic Drinks

Alright, now we are going to start on the drink menu, which is a big one. In full disclosure, the event on Friday had a “pretty wicked” open bar where you could get just about any of these, so we decided to knock off a bit of the drink menu then. Someday, I hope to become a real journalist… which I think requires me to remain quiet that I didn’t pay for most of these… oh well.

Not Everyone’s Margarita ($15)

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Nue ra Soledad Mezcal, El De ilador Blanco, jalapeño, Creme de Mure, house sour

I have had jalepeno margaritas in at least 3 locations at Walt Disney World over the last year, and this blows every one of them away. It was very spicy, yet super flavorful.

Southern Sangria ($15)

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Medley Bros. Bourbon, peach liqueur, Tempranillo, seasonal fruit

This was solid, but not what you would expect out of sangria. I prefer the soaked-in fruit taste in most sangria, but this just tasted too peachy for me.

Gold Rush ($20)

Kinahan’s Irish Whiskey, Fever Tree Ginger Beer, fresh lime

The Gold Rush is expensive, but it is made at your table and it is pretty spectacular.

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The server will fix the drink for you at the table, but that then also leaves most of a bottle of the fantastic ginger beer.

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The drink itself is a refreshing mix of ginger, lime, and whiskey flavors that I would order again. Yes, even if it is $20…

Captain Handsome ($16)

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Boyd & Blair vodka, fresh raspberries, framboise, thyme

I like my drinks fruity and this was everything I wanted it to be (and it was strong, too). Probably my second favorite of the night, the raspberry and vodka mix was perfect.

It is worth noting that a lot of work goes into each of these drinks, so while you do pay a premium, you are getting a premium cocktail. I’m not defending Disney World prices, but at least you are getting something special.

Little Bird ($17)

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Boyd & Blair vodka, Nue ra Soledad mezcal, Ab cot du Roussillon, pineapple

This is probably the best of the Late Night menu drink items, in our opinion at least. In fairness, we often like vodka drinks, and if you do, I don’t think you will be unhappy with this cocktail blend.

Prohibition Mai Tai ($17)

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Scarlet Ibis, orgeat, banana liqueur, fresh lime, Scrappy Orleans, amarena cherry

This was my favorite drink at Paddlefish, and many people agreed with me. The banana liquor wasn’t overpowering (just the right amount, in fact) and was mixed well with everything else in the drink.

Swords & Sandals ($16)

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Bib & Tucker bourbon, fresh orange juice, Mau n Quina, Dolin Rouge vermouth

Honestly, this one kind of gets lost in the shuffle. It doesn’t stick out enough for me to remember what it tasted like, so it couldn’t have been that good.

Mad About Saffron Martini ($15)

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Boyd & Blair vodka, Bertina Elder ower liqueur, house sour, saffron

Possibly my second to least favorite drink of the night, this is indeed a saffron martini. I guess I don’t like saffron… or I’m not mad about it you could say. Moving on…

Admiral’s Punch ($48) – Serves 4

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A perfectly balanced blend of Smith &Cross Jamaican rum and Kirk and Sweeney Dominican rum.

With all the care and work that goes into every other cocktails on this list, this one is fairly standard and likely the weakest of the bunch. Light on alcohol and flavor, I couldn’t possibly name one thing that we enjoyed about this drink.

The Bloody Mary ($20)

King crab, jumbo shrimp, candied Neuske bacon

I’m not a Bloody Mary fan, and that didn’t change with this, but all of the seafood in the drink was really good. The shrimp and crab leg were of a good quality which makes me anxious to try them in various dishes on the menu. Yes, it is $20, but there is a full crab leg and 1 shrimp in it.

Main Courses, “From the Port” and “From The Land” Entrees

Well, now we move on to the entrees. We’ll start with some dishes we got to taste at the preview, and then move on to the dishes we ordered on our regular visit to the restaurant.

Scallops ($34)

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Brown butter, cauliflower puree, crispy Brussels sprouts, bacon

Another dish sampled at Friday’s event, the scallop was one of the best I have ever tasted. Cooked to perfection and went well with the cauliflower puree. I typically hate Brussels sprouts, but these were prepared masterfully and made me a fan for once in my life. I can’t imagine that a full serving of these would leave anyone dissatisfied.

Lobster Roll ($31)

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1 1/4 pound Maine lobster, butter, split top bun

The Lobster Roll is exclusive to the lunch menu and is quite good. The bread is nicely toasted and the lobster fresh as can be. I would have enjoyed a little less lettuce in in, but otherwise very enjoyable. We did see the full size version of this and it is quite large.

Faroe Island Salmon ($34)

Crispy skin, heirloom beets, kohlrabi-green apple salad

The person who ordered this was the one with the intense allergies, so this was heavily modified to the best of restaurant’s ability. The lightly seasoned fish was placed over rice and asparagus in this case, all of which was solid. There was nothing special about the fish, but it was fresh and good.

Fried Clam Roll ($16)

Ipswich whole bellies, lemon-caper aioli, pickles, split top bun

Many of the sandwiches are adequately priced and a good serving size, including this one. Everything about it was good, the aioli blending nicely with the fresh fried clams. Maybe it could have been a little warmer, but we did take 4-5 minutes to photograph all of the food, so that may be our fault. Everyone at the table also seemed to be a big fan of the french fires, which are the same used in the Clam Fries dish.

Monte Cristo ($16)

French toast, ham, Applewood bacon, egg, Swiss cheese, fresh berry compote, maple syrup

This isn’t what you might recall from New Orleans Square at Disneyland, but it is well priced and a massive portion. Each of these is piled high with ham and topped with plenty of egg, bacon, and cheese. This is a brunch only option and probably the one that comes closest to being a breakfast dish.

Fish and Chips ($33)

Atlantic halibut, I-4 IPA, sweet potato fries, malt vinegar aioli

$33 is a lot for fish and chips, but halibut isn’t cheap these days and this is large and fantastic serving. I honestly don’t each a lot of fried fish, but this was perfection. The halibut was light and flaky, with a perfectly crispy fried exterior. The sweet potato fries were also enjoyable.

Petitie Filet Mignon ($39)

6 ounce, hand cut fries

In all of these experiences we had at Paddlefish over the weekend, this was the one glaring disappointment. It was a fine filet, just overly salty. There are better filets you can order at Walt Disney World and this is probably not where you will want to have one.

Dessert

We were pretty full after brunch, but then we saw that there was a milkshake. I jokingly asked the waiter if it had a brownie on top and came in a jar. He said yes.

There is also an assortment of after dinner drinks…

Brownie Milkshake ($10)

After all the milkshake psychosis over the last year (and I don’t mean the former-WCW wrestler Psychosis), we felt we had to try this. First off, it was the best-looking of any of the crazy milkshakes, that including both the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen and Planet Hollywood Observatory. Secondly, it was the best tasting. The chocolate tasted of a much higher quality in the shake, making this far and away the best I have ever had in a theme park setting. It could have been a little thicker, but it really is a quality product.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Tart ($10)

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Candied bacon, dulce de leche ice cream, sea salt

This may unseat the Frontera Cocina Pecan Pie as my favorite dessert in all of Walt Disney World. Everything about this was amazing. It had a strong caramel and bourbon flavor, which tasted particularly spectacular with the candied bacon. If you love chocolate, caramel, bacon, and/pr bourbon, you HAVE to order this.

NOTE: This and the following dessert re shown in a sample size, not the larger, finished product that you can order.

Charred Carrot Cake ($10)

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Caramelized carrot puree, cream cheese mousse, shortbread cookie crumb

If you enjoy carrot cake, then you can’t go wrong with this interpretation of the classic dessert. While not as exciting as the desserts above, it is a viable option. I personally thought that the cream cheese mousse made it worth a try.

OVERALL

I am completely blown away with the quality of the food and drink at Paddlefish. I was a pretty big detractor of Fulton’s, feeling the menu was fairly plain and lackluster (and having experienced a handful of negative dining experiences there), but Paddlefish goes a long way to “right the ship”. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

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Disney Springs is already a challenge to make dining recommendations for, and this isn’t helping. There is so much good here: The Boathouse, Morimoto Asia, Frontera Cocina, and even some food and drink items at Homecoming Florida Kitchen. I hate to say it, but even Planet Hollywood Observatory offers a stellar drink menu, and Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar still has so many of the drinks we’ve come to know and love. However, overall, Paddlefish is a powerhouse.

I like seafood, and Paddlefish has some amazing and inventive dishes. Beyond that, the alcohol menu (for me) is unrivaled. Usually I sit down and know I’m between 1-2 options at a bar, but here, there is at least 4 drinks I would happily order again (although the Mai Tai makes it hard to change).

I can not recommend the Paddlefish enough, for the unrivaled views, simple, yet elegant interior, phenomenal food, and inventive tasty cocktails it offers. I’m not sure I’m ready to say it is my favorite restaurant at Disney Springs just yet, but a few more visits may certainly make it that.

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14 comments

  1. Andrew Barton

    Is Paddlefish operated by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, or is it an Operating Participant? If it is an Operating Participant, do you know which company is managing it?

  2. Linda Kmita

    I know you said the Salmon dish was heavily modified but nothing in that picture was listed on the menu under Faroe Island Salmon, the fish wasn’t even Salmon…

    • Tom Corless
      Author

      You know, I didn’t really double check it, but that what she was told she was getting. It tasted like Salmon, but in the pic it doesn’t look like salmon… I’ll have to investigate.

  3. JimV

    As usual, you order a bunch of food. Are you comped? You’re paying a lot for finger food, barely appetizers. Still looks good and significantly better than the other places. I’m unlikely to go since I don’t want to starve after ordering one entrée.

  4. Nicole

    Upcoming trip in May…Boathouse or Paddlefish? We have Boathouse currently but considering changing to Pattlefish. We havent been to the Boathouse so unsure. Thank you in advance for your thoughts:)

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