Just to the right of Epcot's Eiffel Tower, there is a little walkway. It's easy to miss if you're hustling along, eager to get your hands on a chocolate macaron at the theme park's France pavilion. But stroll down the sidewalk, and it's a gateway to some of Walt Disney World's hidden gems.
If you're in town for Epcot's annual International Flower and Garden Festival and you've had your fill of small plates from the event's 15 food kiosks, exit through the park's back entrance, known as the International Gateway. The path leads to three resorts, the BoardWalk and the Yacht and Beach Clubs, and is an ideal way in and out of the park for people staying there.
But here's the thing. You don't necessarily need to be staying at one of the resorts to wander back there, around the large lake and past the boardwalk ice cream shop and magician-themed AbracadaBAR, or to chill on one of the swinging benches on the Beach Club's man-made beach. (Though, if you're okay with the splurge, it is nice to not have to worry about driving home after sampling all of those beer flights.)
As an Orlando native who learned long ago to branch out from the traditional theme park routes, this area has always felt like a secret spot worth sharing. Here are a couple of notable food- and drink-related reasons why.
Beaches and Cream
My brother turned me on to this retro-style ice cream shop near the pool at Disney's Beach Club Resort, which serves lunch and dinner but is most notable for one thing: sundaes. There are six of them on the menu, including the Kitchen Sink, a massive vat of ice cream that includes scoops of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, cookies and cream, and mint chocolate chip, plus every topping available. It is intended to serve four people, which somewhat justifies the $32 price tag. (407) 939-3463.
This high-end restaurant on the BoardWalk reopened in August after a major renovation. There's a new menu as well as a revamped interior; the AbracadaBAR was added on right next door around the same time. Unsurprisingly, fish is a major part of the new menu, with entrees like Hokkaido scallops, Wild Alaskan King salmon and a cobia with Carabinero prawn. The menu expansion extends to a large wine list, which now contains almost 300 labels. It's a fun, swanky place for a special dinner. If you're really looking to impress your date, grab a seat at the Chef's Counter, three tables that sit right in front of Flying Fish's open kitchen. (407) 939-2359.
For something more manageable price-wise, make a breakfast reservation for Captain's Grille, located inside the Yacht Club. Head here before Epcot, where the Flower and Garden Festival kitchens don't open until 11 a.m. There is a solid buffet, but your best bet is the individual entrees, which are hearty and a step above many other breakfast spots throughout the resorts. The Dark Chocolate Waffles ($13) with dried cherry compote and espresso mascarpone cream are sweet but balanced, and filling. Definitely try the Lemon-Ricotta Hotcakes, ($13) with blueberry compote and an addicting lemon curd, or the Fried Egg Sandwich ($12), with ham, Parmesan, tomatoes, onion marmalade and arugula. (407) 939-3463.
Contact Michelle Stark at email@example.com. Follow @mstark17.