Monday, September 3, 2012

Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant

And so it was that on a pleasant Friday afternoon, my brother Nathan and I embarked upon a trip to Downtown Disney, there to partake in some Irish hospitality.  This stop on the Walt Disney World Restaurant Tour is Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant.

Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant

Now, like a lot of the restaurants at Downtown Disney, Raglan Road  is technically not a Disney restaurant at all.  It is an independently owned and operated business legally considered a "licensed third-party partner" with the Walt Disney Company.  But as it is operating on Disney property, and you can get reservations through Disney Dining Reservations, we're going to give it honorary "Disney restaurant" status for the purposes of the tour.

Raglan Road is located near the eastern edge of Pleasure Island (the opposite end from where the huge Planet Hollywood globe is located), between the Apricot Lane Boutique on one side and Fuego by Sosa Cigars on the other.  You'll want to park in either Lot F or Lot G and hoof it to the curb.  You'll not be able to miss Raglan Road's sign as you cross the bridge onto Pleasure Island itself.


Like I said, you're not be able to miss the restaurant as you cross the bridge.
The day was nice and sunny and not yet stiflingly hot (that would come later) when we got to the restaurant.  We actually got there two hours ahead of our reservation, but there was absolutely no problem getting a table, as the early lunch hours had only just started.  We were seated by Samantha, who mentioned in passing that the Irish folk band (whose name I did not catch) that would be performing that evening was in the middle of a sound check.  Would we mind that?

No, we wouldn't mind that.  At least, we wouldn't mind that in theory.


Samantha, our seater.


The problem was, Samantha put us right in front of the amplifiers.  I mean, literally, I could reach over my shoulder and touch the speakers from our table without stretching or leaning.  Within seconds, Nathan and I were fed up with the Irish folk band and wanted them to die from some horrible tropical disease... the kind that has no cure and leaves one twisted in great pain.

The bar from our initial table
The main taproom from our initial table.
The gentleman in red continually rubbed his temples as the band did its sound check.  He was, if anything, closer to the speakers than Nathan and I were.

So after a moment's fevered consultation with Samantha, we got moved to another part of the restaurant.  A quieter part, near the end of the bar, in what was known as the Raglan Room.  We had a huge portrait of author/playwright George Bernard Shaw overlooking us as we ate.  Within moments after our move to a new table, a very pleasant young lady named Stephanie came by to drop off some menus and take our drink orders.  While we were waiting for those to come back, I took a moment to take a look around.

The menu.

Stephanie, our waitress.
I tell you, if all servers were like this one...

I've been to Ireland, and seen authentic Irish pubs, and I have to say I'm impressed.  One thing that Raglan Road advertises itself as is authentically Irish (the owners are Irish, the chef is Irish, and even the building, they say, was built in Ireland and moved to the US), as opposed to other so-called Irish pubs in America which say they are Irish, but never seem to pull it off.

This felt authentic, and it certainly looked authentic.  Other than being about three times the size of a real Irish pub, these guys got it right.  The Raglan Room has wooden chairs with armrests, oak panels on the wall with paintings of notable Irish personages everywhere, and a fireplace that made of heavy wood, inlaid tile, and wrought iron.  Nathan even noted that the glass in the partitions had to be close to 50 years old because they just don't make it like that anymore (Nathan is an artist who works in many media... he knows such things).

Stephanie returned to drop off a bread basket filled with a honey soda bread and a plate with olive oil and a Guiness reduction dipping sauce.  The bread, while not warm, was a delightfully chewy, multi-grain bread that had a slight honey taste.  The dipping sauce was different from anything I have had before.  It was sweet, with a light caramel flavor, and I immediately started cataloging half a dozen things I could use that on (I'm thinking of a glaze for a grilled leg of lamb...).  Stephanie helpfully let us know that the reduction was on sale by the bottle in their gift shop


Soda bread, and the Guinness reduction dipping sauce.
Stephanie asked us if we knew what we wanted to order, and we both had to confess that  we hadn't made much progress on that front.  There were a lot of choices, and it all looked so very good.  We decided to each have a bowl of the Soul Soup while we riddled out the rest of the menu and made our final decisions regarding what we were going to eat.

Soul Soup
Soul Soup is a cream-based cheese soup featuring Guiness Stout and Dubliner cheese.  It had an amazing, deep smoky flavor characteristic of Dubliner, plus some sweetness from the Guiness.  This combined well with a hint of cayenne.  To be honest, Nathan and I both could have simply had bowl after bowl of the soup, it was so delicious.

Stephanie let us alone to our thoughts, and eventually we decided:  since we literally could not make up our minds, we'd order two entrees together, and split them both.  In the end, we chose to get two more appetizers, the Dalkey Duo and the Mighty Mussels, and one entree, the Salmon of Knowledge.

The Dalkey Duo
The Dalkey Duo are cocktail sausages that have been battered and deep fried.  They come with a white mustard dipping sauce, but to be honest the remnants of the Soul Soup proved to be a better dip for the sausages than the mustard.  That is not to say the mustard, which was obviously made in house and did not come out of a jar, was bad... its just that the soup was so awesome anything else paled in comparison.

The sausages had a nice flavor, meaty with just a hint of spice kick to them, and they were served already perched on the end of forks.  The presentation of this appetizer just amused the heck out of me, because I had never actually thought of preforking an appetizer in any restaurant I've ever worked in.  It was clever and amusing and the sausages were great, so all in all this is a very successful menu item in my opinion.

The Mighty Mussels
There is literally nothing bad I can say about the Mighty Mussels.  They weren't rubbery (which is a sure sign of overcooking), and came right out of their shells easily.  The mussels themselves were tender and delicious.  The yellow curry sauce had infused the mussels just enough to add to the flavor without being overpowering.  I was a bit surprised to find that there wasn't any heat to the curry at all, but after a while I'd forgotten about that as I was caught up in the joys of shellfish.

Nathan, in particular, pointed out one very important aspect about these mussels:  there was no grit.  We both are fans of well-done mussels, but we have to admit that we have often ordered mussels only to find that they are nearly inedible because of the amount of sand particles left in them.  These mussels had been cleaned carefully before cooking.

One last thing:  the garnish on the mussels was made of parsley and some crustinis.  We didn't even glance at the garnish; rather, we just shoved it to the side to get to the shellfish.  It seems a bit much for the dish, and was unnecessary.


The Salmon of Knowledge.
The Salmon of Knowledge is maple-glazed Alaskan salmon, served with mashed potatoes, some julienned cabbage, mushrooms, and a sweet creme-fraiche sauce.  It was quickly discovered that this piece of fish was so tender that it fell apart at the touch of our forks and chewing was strictly optional.  It was moist and delicious, and the flavor of the salmon matched well with the taste of the sauce and potatoes.

I should mention that the skin was charred.  At first we thought that the skin on the fish had been blackened, as with some Cajun dishes.  But no... it was charred.  Nathan and I honestly thought we found the first little flaw in Raglan Road's food, but after a while we realized that this had been done intentionally so as to protect the meat of the fish from overcooking.  The flesh of the salmon fell away from the skin easily, and we pushed it aside in our quest to get to the rest of the salmony deliciousness.

Once again, it was the garnish choices that came across as badly thought out with this dish as they had with the mussels.  In this case, the garnish was a spray of parsley and a pair of grape tomatoes.  Uncooked grape tomatoes.  Grape tomatoes that were overwarmed by their presence on the hot plate, and thus were inedible and bad-tasting.

Yes, I eat my garnishes... don't you?

After the meal, Nathan and I sat for a moment, contemplating dessert... but we were both too full to even consider them.  Besides, we were heading for the Magic Kingdom, and there were orange swirls to be had.  Instead, we let our meals settle and talked about our dining experience.

The portions were a great value for their reasonable size and we were very pleased that we could get resat so easily when it was discovered how horrible our original table was.  The prices were pretty reasonable (the entire meal came to $65, including tip), given that we ordered a lot of food.  And Stephanie was the kind of server who was always on the ball with drinks, gave helpful hints, and didn't mind just having a quick chat about the place.

Would I recommend Raglan Road?  You better damned believe I will.  And I'm already planning my next trip out there.  This time, I'm taking Mom, who does love her Irish food.

Five stars out of five.  Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant has shoved the San Angel Inn out of the #2 spot on my list of the best Disney restaurants, just behind the Grand Floridian Cafe which still sits at #1.

Next up:  The long-awaited and much advertised trip to Fulton's Crab House, at Downtown Disney.

4 comments:

  1. I want Soul Soup, and you're to blame.

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    1. I'll see what I can do about getting the recipe.

      Of course, you could always come down to Orlando.

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  2. Stumbled across your blog today. My family and I will be at WDW for the first time in November. We have plans to try out Raglan Road, so thanks for the review. Now I'm even more excited about heading to Disney!

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    Replies
    1. Your first time ever? How wonderful for you! I sometimes wish I could have that amazing "first time" experience all over again.

      If you're anywhere near the Grand Floridian, stop off at the Beach Pool Bar and say hello. I'm glad my reviews help.

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