Every time we head over to The Landing or The Marketplace in Disney Springs, it’s impossible to NOT notice the giant boat that sits there in the water. For some reason, however, Paddlefish is not a restaurant that has been high on our date night bucket list or a top priority. Subliminally, the likelihood is because the menu is primarily seafood, but the restaurant offers more than just lobster and crab. After taking a peek at the menu while looking for places to dine on Valentine’s Day, I realized that this was a place we NEEDED to check out. So ~ Valentine’s Day reservations were made for two at Paddlefish!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information.
Leaving Footprints at Paddlefish
As I noted above, there are various reasons we had likely not given Paddlefish a try. For one, Hubby is not a HUGE seafood fan. Lobster grosses him out and he’s just into many of the various fish options (salmon excluded). Another reason is because my childhood seafood allergy (which was minor and questionable for many years) has progressed to the point where shrimp and other shellfish options make my lips and tongue tingle a little and the sides of my throat feel as if they are trying to kiss each other.
You don’t know how much that saddens me to say that. I LOVE SHRIMP!
It’s not that we weren’t attracted to the venue either. Even before it’s reformation from Fulton’s Crab House and reopen as Paddlefish in 2016, it has stood as a majestic landmark in the Downtown Disney / Disney Springs area for years. I mean, the restaurant is ginormous in stature and I can’t lie ~ it always smells good as we walk by.
It was about time we decided to go aboard and give it a try.
I bet you didn’t know this (and if you did, you are a TRUE Disney fan!!). The boat that sits in The Landing actually has a name! Yup! That authentic replica of a 19th century riverboat is called The Empress Lilly, named after Walt Disney’s beloved wife. It was christened in 1977 (I believe on May 1st) and has been home to several different restaurants and lounges over time. In fact, it has even played home to some of the very first Character breakfasts found at Walt Disney World Resort.
Most recently, the boat took on her new culinary resident, changing hands from Fulton’s Crab House to Paddlefish in 2016 with Executive Chef Steve Richard at the helm. Today, they bring in the best seafood from the gulf to the east and west coasts and can boast being the only restaurant in Disney Springs to serve both king and snow crab.
Our Special Valentine’s Date Night
Let me tell you ~ I hate to be late, but time was just not on our side that night. Hubby’s trip home took longer than anticipated (darn I-4 traffic on a Friday AND a holiday), so we were already out of breath when we finally found ourselves in front of the host desk about five minutes past our reservation time. We weren’t too worried about losing our seat, except for the fact that it was Valentine’s Day. We had no idea how crowded it would be.
It took about ten minutes to be seated after checking in, but that gave us some time to catch our breath and take in the surroundings. We had no idea how vast it was inside. I mean ~ we’re not talking one giant dining room. We’re talking three floors of dining space, private rooms, bars and outside terraces. Not to mention, the top deck is the only place in Disney Springs where you can experience rooftop-level, waterfront seating!! More on that in a bit…
Let me introduce all of you to Celina!
We were seated on the second level at a window seat. Our view was decent – we saw water, boats, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, the volcano from The Rainforest Cafe and the back of The Boathouse. The sunset wasn’t spectacular that evening since we had significant cloud cover, but I would assume that this is a great place to dine at sunset.
Our server met us at our table within five minutes of our being seated. Celina was bright, charismatic and engaging right from the get-go. We knew this was going to be a great night! As she introduced herself and we started chatting, we learned that she hails from New England, just like me, and that she moved down to Florida from New Hampshire in 2014. Her mother, to whom she refers as her best friend, came with her and they began their new adventure together. Celina is one of the very few that opened the restaurant in 2016 and have remained since ~ that’s pretty awesome!!! Today, Celina has a two year old son, who has become her world!! She tries hard to arrange her schedule so that she can spend maximum quality time with him, as well as provide him with the best life imaginable.
The Menu Options
We had already taken a quick look at the menu before we arrived. There is certainly enough seafood to go around, including Maine lobster, ceviche and king crab. In addition, there was a nice list of land offerings and side dishes from which to choose. There were honestly so many things I wanted to try!! From fried green tomatoes and every crab-related appetizer I knew would cause a reaction to the prime strip and half chicken with Carolina mop sauce ~ selecting just one may not come easily at first.
The wine list looked robust and there were plenty of maritime-themed cocktails available, too.
To see the menu in full, click here: Paddlefish menu
So, what did we order?
After Celina got the preliminaries out of the way ~ asking about food allergies, dining plan, etc. ~ we placed our order. Since we had already taken a peek at what they offered, we knew exactly what we wanted (believe it or not!). So, Celina took both our drink and entree order and went to the back to get some bread for the table.
Oh, my gosh, people. This was pull-apart bread ~ the kind that reminded me of the dinner rolls my family fought over every Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s. It was served with ~ wait for it ~ brace yourself ~ are you ready…..a cinnamon honey butter!
TO ~ DIE ~ FOR!!!!
Honestly, I could have eaten that all night ~ the bread and butter combination, not just the butter.
While we waited for our entree to arrive (yes, we were sharing again), we sipped on our specialty drinks once delivered. Hubby ordered a Classic Margarita (he had been spooked by a strange flavored margarita recently, so was only interested in what he knew he liked) and I ordered the Southern Sangria.
I had been warned that the Southern Sangria was strong ~ thick on the bourbon. To be honest, though, it wasn’t that bad at all. Maybe I just sipped it too slowly??
Our entree arrives!
For dinner, we decided to share the Rib Eye, their largest piece of meat from the land selection (16 ounces). The rib eye was served on top of tender, herb-roasted potatoes and with a side of house-made steak sauce. To complement the meal, since we were sharing, we also ordered a side of crispy brussel sprouts. These came topped with shaved Parmesan and chunks of ham (OH – EM – GOODNESS).
The brussel sprouts were amazing – nice and warm, perfectly crisped. I can’t believe how hooked I am now on brussel sprouts! Hubby liked them, as well! Yum!
Our rib eye and potatoes were tender, but luke-warm. We tried about two bites each (the meal being split into two separate servings), but we both felt the same way. We were curious if the plate had been waiting a few minutes while the sprouts were finishing up. Needless to say, for the price we were paying, we decided that we needed to flag down Celina and let her know.
Celina must have been in the back taking care of other responsibilities, so Tony, the server “next door (table),” came over to help us. Tony was cordial, attentive and very eager to make sure that our dinner was made to perfection. He offered to take it back and have it recooked for us ~ and we were both appreciative.
In time, Celina returned to our table and apologized for the inconvenience. We told her it wasn’t her fault at all ~ but we just felt that the cost of the meal dictated the need to report it. Within a few minutes, one of the managers also arrived at our table to speak with us and make amends. In the end, we felt the situation was well managed. We received a brand new plate (and yes, it was brand new because I had already placed the steak sauce on my meat) and a complimentary extra set of brussel sprouts. The manager took care of the situation on her end, as well, and we went on to enjoy our “hot,” romantic meal together.
Did We Save Room For Dessert?
This is where I get to brag about a little pixie dust! THIS particular Valentine’s Day was the 25th one Hubby and I had spent together. We started dating again (seriously, I really need to write out that story) in 1996 and we have been together since. It came up in conversation with Celina and she insisted that we save room for dessert. She wanted to celebrate our milestone Valentine’s Day by offering us a complimentary sweet treat.
Awwwwww – THAT was really sweet!!!!
When it came time for dessert, we were almost too full to think we could enjoy it. Hubby is all about chocolate cake and they have a flourless one that looks delectable. However, it would have been too dense to enjoy. Since I am a HUGE crème brûlée fan (have you read my posts from our date night in Canada or at Toledo???), Hubby agreed to the chocolate crème brûlée they offered!
I will say this, though ~ for those who are crème brûlée fans, this one was delicious. However, the consistency was more like a pudding than a custard. Of course, we still loved and devoured it! Thank you, Celina!!!
The After Dinner Stroll Around The Boat
Before heading out to walk around Disney Springs, we decided to roam around the boat a little. I wanted to see the different dining rooms, check out the view and take a peek at the rooftop lounge. Oh, I am soooo glad we did, too!!
We found active private dining rooms, stunning views of Disney Springs and the surrounding areas, and live entertainment up on the top level! There was a beautiful breeze blowing, which made for a perfect cuddle on the comfortable seats to watch the performers. There is a bar area up there, as well, so we may very well find ourselves just showing up there one night to enjoy some time listening to music with a view. It was fairly populated, so it seems to be a great place to enjoy a date night together! (Hmmm….I should add that to my 30+ romantic Walt Disney World date ideas…)
Our Iconic Culinary Experience Comes To An End
Valentine’s Day ended with us slowly making our way back to our car. On the way, we did make a pit stop over at Sprinkles to pick up a Valentine’s Day treat. Since we “shared” our dessert at Paddlefish, Hubby was craving a cupcake – how could I say no???
Now, we were full, so it was perfect that Sprinkles had these mini cupcakes available with little Valentine’s candies on top. One was chocolate, another vanilla and the final red velvet. Our only complaint was that the candies were EXTREMELY stale. Like – so hard to bite into, I feared breaking a tooth. The cupcakes and frosting were delicious, though.
All in all…
Even though we encountered an issue with our meal, the service was amazing. We could not have asked for a better team to make the situation right. It was a blast getting to know Celina a little bit and we hope we have the chance to see her again after she transitions to an early-in-the-week lunch schedule. While there were families in our dining room, we do think the ambiance was fairly romantic considering it was a holiday evening at one of the busiest destinations in the world. We enjoyed great views, delicious food, awesome company and a little mood music.
I’d say we’d be very interested in doing that again some time!!!
Have you been to Paddlefish?
Have you had the chance to enjoy The Empress Lilly since Paddlefish moved in? If not, I’d recommend it. While it may not be our favorite restaurant on property, we had a great time the night we went. We also look forward to giving the rooftop deck a solo try in the future.
I’d love to hear your experience! Share your Paddlefish story below. If you haven’t been and are looking to make reservations, here’s some info you may want to take down:
- Located: Disney Springs, The Landing
- Price range: $15 to 34.99 (per adult)
- You can also make dining reservations up to 180 days in advance on My Disney Experience.
- They do accept the Disney Dining and Disney Deluxe Dining Plans, as well as Tables in Wonderland. They also offer DVC and AP discounts.
Other important info to know:
- Paddlefish is opened for lunch and dinner. The lounge located on the boat’s rooftop opens at 5 pm (at the time of this post).
- Guests in ECVs or wheelchairs may stay in them if needed or desired.
- This location does not allow for same day lunch or dinner bookings.
- You can even give them a try for Sunday Brunch between the hours of 11:30 to 4 pm. This sounds like something I may want to do in the future, too!!!
Did you know?
Orlando Magazine readers voted Paddlefish “Best Seafood Restaurant” in 2018.
If you’re ready to plan out a Disney vacation of your own – be sure to check out my travel partner, Get Away Today!! They help create magical vacations all over the globe!!
If you enjoyed this review, be sure to check out some of the other Disney Dining reviews:
- A Review of Narcoossee’s Restaurant: A Perfect Place to Celebrate
- Southern Hospitality Delivered: A Review of Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Kitchen
- Jaleo Brings the Flavor of Spain to Disney Springs
- Storybook Dining at Artist Point Delivers a Fairy Tale Experience
- Dining at the Top of Gran Destino Tower: A Review of Toledo
- Food Allergy Dining at Splitsville: Strike or Gutterball?
- An Early Morning Royal Feast: Breakfast in Cinderella Castle
- Let’s Dine Back in Time: A Review of Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ 50 Prime Time Café
- Morimoto Asia ~ A Bucket List Must for the Foodie in You
- Chicken Guy Opens at Disney Springs!
- Maria & Enzo’s Serves Up Pasta Palooza in Disney Springs!
- The Edison Features Burger Of the Month in Disney Springs
- Our 11 Dates Around World Showcase: Leaving Footprints in Epcot
Amazon Picks For The Romantic Disney Fans
Footprints in Pixie Dust is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for the blog to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com.