But with many of those tourists staying home these days, I'm not seeing many people walking out of these new stores with bags in hand. The new restaurants in Disney Springs, however, almost all seem to be doing quite well. I chose one table service restaurant, one quick service, and one take-away window to try during my week in town.
At Chef Art Smith's Homecoming, I started with the Church Lady Deviled Eggs [$10], a half-dozen whole eggs, stuffed from the top and topped with an addictive relish.
For my main course, I followed my server's suggestion and chose the Fried Chicken Sandwich [$16], a double-battered breast of buttermilk-marinated chicken, topped with lettuce, tomatoes and pickles, and dressed with a hot sauce aioli. The dressing was more tang than heat, and the perfectly fried chicken was delicious, with a delicious balance of crunchy breading and juicy chicken.
Because dessert is an essential finish to any proper Southern meal, I opted for the Chocolate Pecan Pie [$9], a shallow slice of rich chocolate filling, topped with a crust of candied pecans and served with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream.
Yes, this is comfort food, but executed with a chef's vision. There was no way I could finish all six eggs by myself, but I ended up scraping the relish from the top of my remaining eggs, just because I loved it so much. Chef Art's fried chicken appears several times on the menu, and I'd love to give the fried chicken and doughnuts combo a go on a future visit. The shrimp and grits caught my eye, too, making me jealous of the Orlando locals who get the chance to eat here whenever they'd like.
The next day, I ate at D-Luxe Burger, which serves up burgers and shakes in the shack on the other side of the Disney-built spring from Homecoming. Hmmm, is this Disney's shake shack? Perhaps, but I think I'd rather drive up to the Orlando Eye and get the original Shake Shack the next time I was in the mood for a quick-service burger in the tourist district. I ordered the Bacon and Blue Burger [$11.99], with a tasty, well-charred but not overcooked patty that just got lost under the overpowering blue cheese spread.
With fries costing an addition $4.99 for the smaller of two portions, I skipped the side dish in favor of the seasonal White Chocolate Peppermint Gelato Shake [$7]. That was the highlight of the meal, with a lovely balance between the peppermint and the rich white chocolate. If I felt like a burger but didn't want to leave Disney Springs, next time I think I'd try the $9.99 Classic Cheeseburger, to give D-Luxe another chance.
Finally, today I dropped by Daily Poutine for a quick lunch, trying one of this stand's versions of the enduring Canadian dish. Instead of ordering the traditional, topped with beef gravy, I chose the special Holiday Turkey Poutine [$9.39], which topped the fries with turkey gravy, shredded turkey, and a cranberry relish in addition to the traditional cheese curds.
My only problem with this concoction was the bowl in which it was served. Poutine needs a wider dish, to keep the majority of the fries from soaking through in a pool of gravy before you get a chance to tear into them. I tried to stir up the fries to more evenly distribute the gravy, but about of third of them were a soggy loss by the time I got to them. But the flavors were there, and the cheese curds offered the snap that they should. There's enough here to share if you're looking for a snack rather than a meal. Perhaps you could ask for a second, empty bowl to divide the poutine into, making a better distribution of gravy and fries. I'd definitely like to try the traditional version and maybe any future seasonal twists, as well.
I didn't try what looked like the most popular quick-service restaurant in Disney Springs — Blaze Pizza. Nothing against that chain, but its flagship store is located about a mile away from my home in Pasadena, Calif., and we've been eating at Blaze for years. With so many other new (to me!) places to try, I just couldn't justify traveling 3,000 miles to hit up Disney's version of my neighborhood pizza joint. But a "build your own" 11-inch pizza for under $10 is a great deal, especially by theme park standards, so it's no mystery why crowds are lining up eat here. They made a great choice.Tweet
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