Monk: So you’ve made the leap and you and the family (or spouse or partner or friends) are going to Disney. If you haven’t been before (or it’s been awhile, as was the case for me), prepare yourself for 14+ hour days, 12+ miles of walking, Disney efficiently separating you from your hard earned cash, and mostly subpar food offerings that more often than not is going to be heavy handed on the salt.
For the barbecue lovers out there, yes there are technically a few options at Disney. But are they any good? The answer there is mostly “not really” but that’s not to say that you can’t find some decent items if you know what to order. As is my wont, I checked a few of them out on my recent trip with the Monk clan as well as the Monk-In-Laws.
Flame Tree Barbecue on Discovery Island at Animal Kingdom
On a main thoroughfare between Dinoland U.S.A. and Asia sits the quick service restaurant (QSR) Flame Tree Barbecue amongst gift shops, coffee shops, and a rest area. Walk up to the counter to place your order (or if you’re a pro, order ahead of time), then take your food to covered tables that are nestled amongst the trees with outdoor seating that backs up to to the Discovery River waterfront.
My smoked pulled pork sandwich came topped with slaw and was a passable version of a barbecue sandwich with the slightest hint of smoke. My side of “signature baked beans” were straight out of the can and not noteworthy at all.
My wife went with the Smokehouse Chicken Salad which was a mixed greens salad topped with pulled chicken and cornbread croutons, which she was disappointed didn’t actually taste like cornmeal.
Other options not tasted were ribs and a plant-based sausage sandwich.
Regal Eagle Smokehouse at The American Adventure in Epcot
In Epcot there is another QSR option in Regal Eagle Smokehouse, which promises “craft drafts and barbecue.” It’s located next to The American Adventure stage show and has both indoor and outdoor seating. It’s more of a International House of Barbecue style joint than Flame Tree, advertising meats and sauces from Memphis, Kansas City, Texas, and North Carolina.
In terms of Texas, they offer a sliced brisket sandwich on Texas toast which I got with house-made pickles. The sandwich was pure Arby’s. Decently tasty, but pure Arby’s nonetheless. The pickles were a welcome relief from all the salt.
Mrs. Monk got the chopped pork platter whereby a scoop of greasy, oversalted pork was plopped onto a metal platter topped with butcher paper. Not exactly appetizing or tasty.
In addition to the pro tip of always ordering ahead on the Disney app, I would recommend going with kids meals 1) either to try more meats or 2) just to cut down on portions. In this case, the youngest Monkette is in a “french fries only” phase so I ordered a kids rib meal so I could get a couple of bones of the Memphis-style ribs. And while the rest of the meats were a salty mess, I was glad I tried the ribs as they were decently smoked and cooked well, leaving clean bite marks. More of those next time.
For Kansas City, the meat was a smoked chicken (huh?) and was the lone meat not tried. Regal Eagle Smokehouse also has a show smoker out front but I’m not convinced is anything more than a prop.
Other Options Not Tried
Many other full service restaurants and QSR’s across the parks may offer different smoked meats on the menu, but those were the two main options I saw inside the parks. Though there is more coming soon, with Rodeo Roundup BBQ opening at Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios later this month (March 23). It will, on the other hand, be a full service restaurant with a buffet so off the bat that means adults are going to be $45 and kids ages 3-9 will be $25 so for a family of 4 that’s nearly $150 for starters even before any alcohol.
At Rodeo Roundup BBQ, “Andy has created a rodeo arena for his toys … and all honorary toys visiting Andy’s backyard. Chow down on house-smoked meats, a roundup of sides, sweet surprises, and more in this western-themed family-style restaurant, where you’ll see the world through the eyes of Andy’s toys.” Those meats include ribs, brisket, and chicken, with the pork option being a “spiced pork sausage.” Based on what I tasted at the other parks, expect all to be overly salty to get you to buy those drinks and push the bill upwards of $200.
Outside of the parks The Polite Pig at Disney Springs promised to be a more well-executed barbecue, but unfortunately I didn’t make it there this go round. It is actually a Michelin rated restaurant, which makes more sense at the more upscale dining options available at Disney Springs. Next time for sure.
Disney World is a magical place and I was happy with how we did it with the Monk family. Compared with other food options at Disney World parks, barbecue isn’t a bad route as long as you know what you’re in for and can order accordingly.
Of the items tried, if pressed I would go back to the ribs at Flame Tree Barbecue and Regal Eagle Smokehouse. And the pulled pork sandwich at Flame Tree was not nearly as greasy as what was served at Regal Eagle. Matthew Register of Southern Smoke in Garland, NC swears by the half chicken there as well. For sides, I’d try to mix in some fruits and veggie sides where I can (salad, pickles, watermelon salad, tomato salad), but no shame in getting fries here and there.
The beer options weren’t overly impressive and will set you back $8-11 but you can usually get one of a Cigar City Brewing Jai Alai IPA, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, or Shiner Bock. If you’re more of a liquor drinker, the cocktails will run you $13-17 (like I said, they know how to separate you from your money).
Have you tried barbecue at Disney World? Any impressions other than above? Leave a comment below.