Disney World is about to get a taste of Chicago. As the happiest place on Earth continues to broaden its dining appeal, the Mecca has begun to lure top-notch culinary talent from across the planet, including chefs and restaurateurs from Chicago. In fact, a big chunk of the dining talent taking shape in the Disney World area hails from Chicago, including Rick Bayless, Art Smith, and Gibson's Restaurant Group. Here's a breakdown of what to expect from the burgeoning bridge between Chicago and Disney.
The central hub for all this dining development is Disney Springs, a waterfront expansion of Downtown Disney in Lake Buena Vista. The area has started to entice chefs like Rick Bayless (Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, XOCO), who seeks to broaden his national presence with a new outpost of Frontera Fresco. The order of the day here is artisanal tortas, tacos, salads, guacamole, and other Mexican standbys. To drink margaritas take top billing on the beverage menu, along with other cocktails, beers, and wine. Look for the new Frontera Fresco to open next summer.
It's a veritable homecoming in more ways than one for Florida native Art Smith (Table Fifty-Two, Chicago q), who's planning another Disney Springs restaurant called Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine. The name of the restaurant sounds a bit like a cult, but it's an understandably cheery moniker for the forthcoming Disney property, which promises a menu of homey Southern dishes like pimento cheese, deviled eggs, shrimp and grits, and pork chops with sawmill gravy. For dessert, cakes, pies, and other confections will be shipped from a bakery in Hamilton County, including Smith's signature hummingbird cake. Homecoming is also due for a summer 2016 debut.
The first major Chicago institution to officially open at Disney World is The Boathouse, a concept courtesy of Gibson's Restaurant Group (Gibson's Bar & Restaurant, LUXBAR, Quartino, Hugo's Frog Bar & Fish House) in partnership with Schussler Creative (Rainforest Cafe). As the name suggests, it's a waterfront dining property at Disney Springs outfitted with multiple bars, nautically inspired dining rooms, live entertainment, an Italian water taxi, and lots more. Since Gibson's is leading the charge on the menus, you can expect plenty of steaks, chops, a raw bar, lobster rolls, burgers, sandwiches, and surf & turf. This being Disney World, there's also a substantial kids' menu. For more info on The Boathouse, check out their website or visit here.
Michael Shrader puts his own spin on American pub fare at LUXBAR. The concentration is sourcing seasonal products locally when possible, incorporating them into classic dishes with proper, well-executed techniques.