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Where to Eat: Lunch at Fulton's Crab House at Walt Disney World

November 19, 2014, 11:42 AM · ORLANDO — Confession time: In all my years living near, working at, and visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, I've never eaten at what is likely the most visible restaurant in Downtown Disney: Fulton's Crab House.

Fulton's Crab House

Originally The Empress Lilly, this riverboat-themed restaurant has endured as the shopping district around it has transformed from the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village to the Walt Disney World Village to Disney Village Marketplace to Downtown Disney, and soon, to Disney Springs. Originally run by Disney, The Empress Lilly became Fulton's Crab House when Levy Restaurants took command in 1996.

But, somehow, I never stopped in. So on this unseasonably brisk and chilly afternoon in Orlando, I decided to fix that.

With more construction workers than guests walking the forest of construction walls that now passes for Downtown Disney, I figured I wouldn't have to wait for a table. And I didn't, walking into an empty Stone Crab Lounge for my lunch.

Inside the Stone Crab Lounge

As a concession to the 47-degree weather outside, I decided to start by warming up with a cup of the lobster bisque ($5).

Lobster Bisque

Topped with some luscious blue crab, the bisque offered just enough peppery kick to warm me on this chilly afternoon. The crab added some texture to the velvety bisque while complementing its rich flavor. And it got me looking forward to my main course, the Chilled Seafood Trio ($17).

Chilled Seafood Lunch Platter

Featuring three oysters on the half shell, a large king crab leg, and about a dozen Old Bay-slathered peel-and-eat shrimp, the platter delivered more seafood than I expected for the price. (This is a theme park resort, after all.) The oysters hog the spotlight here, with their bright, briny flavor. There's no way to gracefully slurp every drop of oyster liquor from a rocky shell, but that's what I did, not wanting to sacrifice any of its flavor.

I don't find that King Crab delivers quite as intense the sweet crab taste that a great helping of Snow Crab can, but the King rules for consistency and heft. And, unlike some diners, I like wrestling with the shell to extract every last morsel of crab. Which I did.

The shrimp are the supporting players here. A touch overdone for my taste, these medium-sized shrimp relied more on their seasoning for their flavor, rather than standing alone as the crab and oysters did. But I inhaled every one.

My favorite Disney dining experience anywhere might be the S.S. Columbia Dining Room at Tokyo DisneySea. Which makes me question all the more why I'd not yet bothered to try "ship-board" dining at Walt Disney World's version of a restaurant in a boat. While Fulton's seafood isn't quite on the level of the S.S. Columbia's perfection, Fulton's just destroys the S.S. Columbia on value. And it managed to leave me with the same euphoric feeling that a great a seafood meal gives me, fueled by all that wonderful, low-fat protein.

The good news? I'm glad that I finally made the choice to dine at Fulton's. The bad news? I realized (once again, alas) what an idiot I am for waiting so long.

Replies (4)

November 19, 2014 at 1:55 PM · We have dined there several times and each time the food was great.
November 19, 2014 at 3:45 PM · Never ate at Fulton's. However I did eat there several times when it was the Empress Lily. Back then there were 3 restaurants, steak, seafood and sort of a bar/restaurant. In the evening men were required to wear a jacket. The food was delicious and the service first class. My favorite was the black bean chili. Never found it better at any other restaurant. Luckily I bought Mickey's Cook Book back then and it had the recipe.
November 19, 2014 at 10:05 PM · 47 degrees is chilly? HA! (Sorry, had to point it out)- Thats Spring weather in Chicago! :)

Tried Fultons a long time ago. My family are not big fish eaters so we usually skip it. That soup does look good!

November 22, 2014 at 11:30 AM · I haven't been there since the Lake Buena Vista era despite annual visits. Looks like I need to get back to it! Downtown was definitely chilly this past week. While in town for IAAPA I was only able to get to House of Blues for my favorite happy hour on Disney property. (maybe the only one)

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