There’s a new eagle in town…a Regal Eagle, so we thought to make it easier, we’d share our review and some Regal Eagle Smokehouse Do’s and Don’t’s. Actually, the eagle’s not new, but his BBQ place is. Last June when Disney announced a new barbecue restaurant would be replacing the original-to-EPCOT-Center Liberty Inn, we were all pretty excited and hopeful for this new experience.
Being a vegetarian for the past 3 years and vegan for the past 6 months, I wasn’t worried at all, because I knew Disney’s new plant-based initiative would ensure there was something for everyone at this new spot.
As sad as I was at losing an original piece of EPCOT Center in the Liberty Inn, barbecue does seem disctinctly American, so it seemed like a good fit. Disney has slowly been replacing its “fast-casual” dining locations with less burgers/nuggets/hot dogs and fries, and more healthy options, or at least more unique and more culinarily adventurous.
Now most places will offer a wrap or a unique salad vs. a plain old burger. With more and more folks eating more plant-based entrees, Disney really is making sure there is at least ONE thing that vegans, vegetarians, and usually gluten-free folks can try. More on that as you keep reading.
The Muppet Connection
Back in January, Disney then announced the the new bbq eatery would feature Sam Eagle of the Muppets. Of course everyone knows him from the original Muppet Show, but also Disney parks fans love to quote his line from Muppet Vision 3-D of “A salute to all nations but mostly America” which was supposed to be a “glorious 3 hour finale” (he only got a minute and a half). Disney has spun that quote and turned the motto of Regal Eagle Smokehouse to be “A salute to all cook-offs, but mostly barbecue.”
Reaction online was mixed, with some thinking the Muppets (and Intellectual Property [IP] in general) should be left out of the World Showcase’s representation of our home country of the United States of America. Others thought Sam Eagle was a perfect fit to represent our country with his swelling patriotism. The irony is that Sam was sort of a spoof himself, created for the original Muppet Show when the bicentennial of America was happening and brought out many over-the-top patriotic zealots. Whatever the backstory, he became very loveable character for his set-in-his-ways sensibilities and love of country.
Whatever your views on patriotism, it’s important to note that at the end of the day, he’s a Muppet. Part of what made the Muppets so relatable was that they poked fun at all sorts of different views, ideals, and preconceived notions.
Personally, I LOVE as in L O V E the American Adventure in this pavilion. Others think it’s boring and skippable or a place to take a nap. Still others think it leaves out huge portions of history and doesn’t do a great job of representation. From a purely fan-of-Disney-Imagineering perspective, it is one of my favorites, for its displays, its music, and its place in EPCOT Center history. So I understood feeling protective of this original concept and space and not wanting any IP seeping in. That said, I hold the Muppets to a different standard and am pretty much okay with Muppets being added any and everywhere. Double standard? Perhaps. But the Muppets deserve our love and appreciation whenever possible.
ALL of that said, after visiting the Regal Eagle yesterday, the Muppet representation, or Muppetation if you will, is really minimal. There is a small Sam Eagle in the sign logo, and 4 framed drawings of a different Muppet at each of the 4 types of barbecue represented inside the restaurant. To the left of the registers there is a sillhouette portrait of Sam Eagle and Gonzo. That was really all I saw. The rest of the decor is all early-American art and informational posters of meat cuts etc. So much more “bbq” themed than Muppets.
What struck me was the weird juxtaposition of the original colonial columns and more Georgian architecture from Liberty Inn now contrasted with brick work and very casual bbq-joint type decor, mixed with old Americana kitchen accoutrements like pot-bellied stoves and old kitchen furniture. So it’s kind of an odd space visually speaking, but I know they had to work with what they had and the bones of the existing Liberty Inn. It certainly didn’t affect our experience, just something I noticed while sitting there.
Regal Eagle Food
Back to the food options! So you may have heard about or seen the giant smoker that was installed outside the Regal Eagle, as a showpiece/centerpiece. It’s a huge double smoker and we were there on day two and the smoker was still not working. We asked at the bar outside and they said it is a functional smoker but as of now is not being used yet. So I’m not sure if they are planning to set it up soon, if it will always just be a display thing, or if they will perhaps just pipe in a smoker scented smellitzer and some smoke machine effects?
So that said, they are not smoking the bbq meats you can order outside in that smoker. As far as the meats they offered, Christian enjoyed his brisket, and the photos and reviews I’ve seen of the other options all seem to be favorable. I ordered the BBQ Jackfruit Burger, which is made with a Beyond Burger, topped with bbq’d jackfruit, the plant-based replacement for a “pulled pork/chicken” type of bbq. The best part for me was that it was served on Texas Toast. Garlic bread may perhaps be my downfall as a human, and it really added to the burger rather than a plain bun. I’m not a huge jackfruit fan, it’s a texture thing for me, but the flavor was good. The beyond burger was a beyond burger.
While I appreciate the availability and the way that this burger helps meat eaters try something plant-based, a beyond burger has a very distinctive flavor that really overpowers everything it touches. Again, I’m grateful we have an option, but I’d love if Disney chefs started creating their own veggie burgers with natural ingredients as a choice for vegetarians and vegans who are interested in a good burger, not necessarily a meat replacement. But I digress.
Sliced Texas Beef Brisket Sandwich
Rubbed with our secret Brisket Rub then Slow-smoked and smothered in Spicy Mop Sauce, and placed between Garlic Toast and served with your choice of side.
BBQ Jackfruit Burger
Plant-based Burger on Garlic Toast topped with BBQ Jackfruit served with your choice of side.
As well as a few side items and deserts (Hint, pickles may have been present). (Click on photos to view larger size)
The BBQ sauces were nothing really stand out, but as a fast-casual option, they need to appeal to the masses. The “Cook-off” theme comes in to play here with the different sauces being regional representations of bbq styles. A classic pit bbq sauce, a vinegar based sauce, a sweet-but-spicy choice, and a sweet mustard sauce. Those sauce types are the same represented on the walls as you walk in. A Muppet is displaced as the winner of each cook-off style. That’s about it for the cook-off theming so I feel like the slogan of “A Salute to all cook-offs but mostly barbecue” is a bit of a misnomer. They do have the side items of house made pickles, mac and cheese, beans with burnt ends, cole slaw, and seasoned fries. However I view a “cook-off” as many more options.
Speaking of sides, as noted in our video, there’s a bit of a discrepancy with value of sides. You get one side with an entree. Certainly a side of pickles is not in the same range as the fries, mac and cheese, or single slice of garlic bread. Same with the desserts. There is the S’mores Brownie, the Banana Pudding, and for vegans or those wanting a healthy option, cut up watermelon.
My order of watermelon was the extreme rind end of things. Very pale pink and almost too hard to bite into. That was disappointing for $5, the same price as the brownie or pudding.
Final Thoughts before the Regal Eagle Smokehouse Do’s and Don’t’s:
So overall, my thoughts on Regal Eagle is that it’s a fun addition to the America pavilion. If you are a bbq fan, you’ll enjoy it here. If you are a bbq connoisseur, you’d find more authentic styles at Polite Pig or off property altogether. From the looks of Christian’s S’mores brownie, that’s worth a visit. As are the seasoned fries and pickles in my opinion. I’d like to give the salad a try with the chicken on the side for my husband haha.
Craft Drafts Outdoor Bar
The official name of this restaurant is Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts and Barbecue. So if you’re here for the craft drafts, you will enjoy the new outdoor bar windows. There are a few options inside, but even more outside, including some frozen mixed drinks as well. I’m not a big beer drinker (as mentioned on our City Works review) but even I am intrigued by the cider on tap, and may have to try that out next visit. In any event, it’s a fun addition that I’m sure many will enjoy. This whole new addition is really just like a permanent location for the Epcot International Flower and Garden and Food and Wine Festival offerings for the American Pavilion, so I’m sure they will be immensely popular.
Regal Eagle Smokehouse Do’s and Don’t’s
- Definitely the atmosphere, the seating indoor and out is fun and functional.
- Drink Stations and sauce stations, a plus.
- House Made Pickles, I loved them, maybe not for $4.99 tho.
- Garlic Texas Toast, yes please.
- Outdoor bar – a win!
- Side of Garlic Bread. Be aware that not all sides are created equal. $4.99 for 1 slice of store-bought garlic bread? No thanks.
- Watermelon, $4.99 for unripe/rind ends of watermelon is a no from me.
- Sauces – don’t go in expecting to find hand-crafted artisinal bbq sauces. These are just standard food supply sauces as you would expect at a quick-serve/counter service/fast-casual location.
Are you planning a visit to the Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Draft and Barbecue? Let me know what you’re most looking forward to trying, of if you’ve been, what you enjoyed or didn’t!
Here’s our vlog from our visit if you’d like so see what it’s like to experience Regal Eagle BBQ:
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