Last week, I wrote a series of articles as guest blogger for i.seeKissimmee (and had a great time doing it!). One of our choices for restaurants to include was the ESPN Club on the Boardwalk at Walt Disney World – but since it was a extremely average experience, I chose to hold the review for Mousesteps instead.
We had had a long day of photographing the parks when we showed up at the ESPN Club – so we were definitely ready for an early dinner. Seated at a elevated table, it gave us a nice view of the room – the only downside of that was when a camera operator (for the ESPN Live show) stood right behind Jeff, it almost felt like a table for 3.
This was my first time dining at the ESPN Club, though I'd been inside a few times – once to meet a friend while she was having a drink at the bar, and another to meet family a few years back. The restaurant has a nice atmosphere for sports fans, with a lot of sports memorabilia on the walls and television screens everywhere (including in the bathrooms).
Jeff started with a Bud Light Gold Wheat beer ($6.50) while I tried the Juice Sparkler ($2.79) The menu says the Juice Sparkler is a blend of Cranberry, Pineapple, and. Orange Juice topped with Sprite. For a hot day, it was a refreshing drink.
We split an appetizer – the Macho Nachos For Two ($9.99) – which are corn tortilla chips with spicy ground beef, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and jalapenos. When they say it's for two – they mean it! It was almost enough for us without adding anything else. The nachos were good, I didn't find the beef very spicy. If we every came back to the club to have drinks, this would be a nice choice as an appetizer (we'd likely not eat a full meal again).
As we were getting our food, ESPN Live started. I've talked with friends who've actually seen live interviews with sports celebrities in the restaurant, but this show included sports trivia (for prizes, including a t-shirt). The hosts said they were doing a podcast – I'm not sure if that was the case or not, but they had terrific sports announcer personalities and voices.
Just a note about the service – once our food was ordered, it was hard to find our waiter. One of the biggest complaints I've seen elsewhere has to do with the service. Our server may have checked back once, but then we had to wait a little extra time at our table for him to return with our check. The ESPN Club should take a lesson from the House of Blues – we dined there three times last year, and the service was outstanding each time (the best consistent service I've had from a restaurant).
I ordered the Philly Cheesesteak ($13.49) – the one thing I'd not noticed upon ordering was that it is served with cheese sauce (and lots of it!) I'm used to a slice or two of provolone cheese, not sauce – I just scraped what I could off. The sandwich otherwise was okay – not great, not bad. The meat was a little drier than what I've had elsewhere. The french fries we received were basic Disney theme park fries, which I'll never order in the parks because of their flavor. In fact, the food we had – as Jeff would say – is the same type of food you might find at the Magic Kingdom's Pecos Bills (or the Plaza Restaurant, though the fries were better there). The cheese sauce is probably the same as you'd find at Pecos Bills too.
Jeff had the Angus Burger ($12.99), which was topped with cheddar cheese and bacon. Sometimes Disney chooses a specific meat product that is then sold nearly everywhere – and in this case, it's angus beef (in the 90's I remember a rotisserie chicken craze, and then turkey burgers, etc.). The meat isn't labeled as certified angus, so I don't think of it any differently than a standard burger. In fact, I've read that angus meat has a little more fat than non-angus. He enjoyed the burger, but again – he said it's the same burger he could have gotten at a counter service theme park restaurant.
The show continued through our meal:
I'd like to have reviewed a dessert also, but we were pretty full (and the waiter was nowhere to be found).
I would go back to the ESPN Club to watch a game – just not for a full meal. We actually had a good experience there overall, due to the professional way the hosts kept up the trivia and sports talk. I mentioned at the beginning that we were pretty hungry – so we didn't even think about the quality of our food until after we left the restaurant, where it was like "well, it was fun – but…"
We were able to use our Tables in Wonderland discount for 20% off. Current hours are Mon-Thu 11:30am-1am; Fri-Sat 11:30am-2am. If you have a particular game you want to see on TV there, arrive early! Free parking is available.