When you think amusement park food, “memorable” isn’t really the word that comes to mind. Most theme park eats aside from the nostalgic cotton candy and funnel cake experiences that fulfill our cravings fade into the not so pleasant memories of grease, oil, and indistinct flavors. And this is one of many, many reasons Walt Disney World provides us with an experience we can safely place at the ultimate caliber on the “scale of awesome”. Not only are the parks themselves evocative of childhood, imagination, dreams, and unparalleled fun, but so are the resort’s myriad, specialized dining offerings.
This past week, I went on a road trip with a few high school friends to Disney in Orlando. One of my pals, a food lover and lifelong Disney maniac, scoured through all of the resort’s most unique meal experiences and found one that he immediately set his heart on: The Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant. Located in the heart of Downtown Disney, the restaurant is the only legitimate Irish pub in all of Orlando.
What’s so unique about this eatery when Downtown Disney boasts dozens of other restaurants and the Epcot World Showcase hosts countless other international cuisines? The experience at Raglan is entirely authentic. I’ve never been to Ireland, but step one to knowing that what I felt sitting in Raglan was a mirror of true Irish spirit was the fact that the restaurant’s owners, cooks, and even the building is from Ireland (Really. The whole thing was constructed there and then shipped to Florida. How much closer could you get to a genuine dining experience?)
When we entered Raglan, we were greeted by the infectious spirit of Creel, a Celtic acoustic and bluegrass band consisting of three incredibly talented yet modest musicians at the restaurant’s center stage. Clad in casual t-shirts and jeans, the men understood that despite the elegance of where they were performing, they were still in Disney. It allowed us to make an immediate connection with them and appreciate what they were doing even more. Creel played throughout the night, giving us an eclectic buffet of original pieces that truly transported us to the rolling green hills of an Irish landscape.
And then, the lights dimmed and a spotlight hit a smaller table-stage that sat in the midst of the crowd. A tap dancer performed an amazing set, and her movement synchronized so well with Creel that it was like watching professionals from a tremendous stage production. Throughout the night, we discovered that this was no solo act, but rather a synergy of many passionate souls. Several tap dancers emerged from behind the stage and put on one of the most energizing performances I have ever seen.
What I think makes my dinner at Raglan so different from what both my friends and much of the crowd experience is that I’m both vegetarian and gluten intolerant. That rules out the majority of a traditional Irish menu for me. And yet, the manager was so warm and accommodating. I was able to order a creamy tomato soup with flavors unique to Irish cooking as well as a dish called “The Vegetarian Goat”, which was made of oven roasted vegetables drizzled with lemon oil, white balsamic, and completed with crumbled goat cheese. The taste of the roasted red peppers in my mouth was farmer’s market good. So, so fresh. My friends all raved about they ate, which ranged from the Shepherd’s Pot Pie to a stew infused with some Guinness. Needless to say, Raglan’s staff will happily work to make sure you have a pleasant and diverse meal (as per typical Disney fashion).
So if you’re ever in the Downtown Disney area and are looking for a different kind of theme park dining experience, check out the Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant. Even if you’re not a fan of Irish food, the entertainment is worth the visit. A warning: it’s not the cheapest food. So it would be a good place to reserve for your dinner splurge night (they also serve lunch).
To learn more about Raglan’s menu, entertainment, and history, go their site here:
You should make reservations well ahead of time, as the place gets crowded.