Walt Disney World has announced a new fast-casual barbecue restaurant featuring craft brews on tap will debut at The American Adventure pavilion in Epcot later this year. In this post, we’ll take a look at the news and offer some commentary about the latest dining development at WDW. (Updated January 2, 2020.)
Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue will take the place of Liberty Inn, the current counter service restaurant in American Adventure. The new World Showcase restaurant will be a modern barbecue smokehouse and craft brews spot that looks to up the ambition-level of its predecessor. To make way for Regal Eagle Smokehouse, Liberty Inn will close July 8.
Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue promises all the accompanying sights, sounds, smells and flavors you love – including a large smoker preparing fine food every day right on the pavilion’s promenade. There will also be a redesigned patio for doing some eating, drinking, and people-watching at Epcot…
I’ll start with the thought that’s obviously on everyone’s mind: if the “Regal Eagle” in this Smokehouse is not Sam Eagle from the Muppets, we riot. That’s right, Walt Disney World–all of us fans that bemoan the introduction of gratuitous IP into World Showcase are now demanding exactly that.
Since Walt Disney World refuses to give in to the chorus of voices who have signed my petition (we have 11 signatures and counting!) demanding that Sam Eagle be made a host of the American Adventure, this would be a satisfactory consolation prize. Do it, Disney.
January 2, 2019 UPDATE: Hello DTB Nation Patriots, WE DID IT!!! Above is the description of Regal Eagle Smokehouse (they still have the name wrong, but at least there’s time left to fix that) on Walt Disney World’s official press release “Historic Transformation of Epcot Underway at Walt Disney World Resort.” It turns out that once we hit signature 14 on that powerful petition, we finally caught the attention of the most influential American, Mr. Robert Alan Epcot!
The odd thing here is that Walt Disney World has released the menu and concept art for the restaurant, and never once mentioned or even hinted at the Sam Eagle connection. Either this was a last-minute enhancement before the restaurant opens, or that press release is inaccurate. Either way, it’s official EPCOT Centermatic Universe canon now, so there’s no turning back. That’s the law.
Along with this, I think it’s safe to say a better name would be “Regal Eagle’s Distinctly Patriotic Smokehouse: A Salute to All Foods, But Mostly Barbecued Meats.” If everything Disney names is going to be a full sentence anyway, might as well go all-out.
I’m only half-kidding about both Sam Eagle and the name.
In complete seriousness, this is almost certain to be an upgrade over Liberty Inn. In the last couple of years, there have actually been a few solid additions here, but it still pales in comparison to so many restaurants around World Showcase. In fact, we’d probably rank it only above Lotus Blossom Cafe in terms of World Showcase counter service offerings, which is…not good.
On the one hand, Liberty Inn filled a certain role of having crowd-pleasing, safe options in World Showcase. It’s a huge venue, and is almost always incredibly busy at lunch. We personally think it’s unfortunate that people don’t step outside their comfort zones a bit and try some more adventurous cuisine in World Showcase, but we don’t get to dictate what other people think or eat.
On the other hand, even with some improvements, Liberty Inn has been a pretty embarrassing representation of American cuisine. It basically reinforces tired, cliched (and to a degree, untrue) stereotypes about America’s food. With Walt Disney World seeing more and more international visitors, it’s a shame that this has been what’s presented as America’s contribution to the culinary world.
There are plenty of options for crowd-pleasing American cuisine that is also inventive, and a modern fast-casual smokehouse is a perfect example of this. This is especially true with regional variations on barbecue–in this one restaurant, Epcot could present a veritable BBQ tour of the United States!
That’s probably getting a bit ahead of ourselves, but the fact is that Epcot’s culinary team is no stranger to good barbecue. The American Adventure has had some great offerings at the various festivals the last couple of years. Better still has been Flavors from Fire, our favorite Epcot International Food & Wine Festival booth for the last two straight years. (It’s also worth pointing out that the Orlando area knows barbecue, as evidenced by 4 Rivers Smokehouse, which I’d rank among the best BBQ I’ve ever had.)
While this means cutting short the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Tape Live menu currently offered at Liberty Inn (and we’ll miss being served intergalactic goo in a moldy-looking space bun), summer is a good time to close the restaurant and begin an overhaul.
Overall, I find the announcement of “Regal Eagle’s Distinctly Patriotic Smokehouse: A Salute to All Foods, But Mostly Barbecued Meats ~ A Sam Eagle Craft Drafts & BBQ Joint” (oh wow, an even long and thus better name!) to be pretty exciting. With two new restaurants already slated to open this year, Epcot is in the midst of an exciting culinary expansion. So long as these options are thematically interesting or offer upgraded food options (so far, it looks like we’re 3 for 3 on that front), I’m all on board. As more details are revealed about Epcot’s huge transformation, it’ll be interesting to see whether this is to compensate for restaurants lost elsewhere, or if there’s simply enough demand (or projected future attendance growth) to sustain more dining options. Stay tuned for more!
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What do you think of “Regal Eagle’s Distinctly Patriotic Smokehouse: A Salute to All Foods, But Mostly Barbecued Meats ~ A Sam Eagle Craft Drafts & BBQ Joint”? Do you agree or disagree with our take on this replacement and addition to World Showcase? Will you be shedding any tears over the loss of Liberty Inn or that “inter-galactic” Guardians of the Galaxy menu? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!