As with Raglan Road, Cookes of Dublin is similarly highly-regarded with Walt Disney World guests, and this is in large part because it serves unique cuisine, with a few items that you can’t get elsewhere. This is also due to its exceptional value on the Disney Dining Plan for a few menu items. It probably also doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the few counter service options at Disney Springs, which is mostly known for its table service offerings.
I note all of this acclaim because it’s only fair to point out that a lot of people really, really love Cookes of Dublin (at least if “the internet” is any indication) before I offer up a fairly critical review.
Maybe this is one of those, Dear Cookes: it’s not you, it’s me reviews…
In one of my many diversions to Disney Springs on my recent trip, I decided to finally give Cookes of Dublin a try since I had heard so much praise. A lot of things on the menu looked appealing, so despite being by myself, I felt compelled to order way too much food and give a few items a try.
Cookes of Dublin doesn’t have a lot in the way of an interior, but the decor that is there is neat. The premise of Cookes of Dublin is that it’s a family eatery with recipes dating back to the 1930s, and presumably has been open the same amount of time.
Seating is fairly limited inside with only a few tables inside. On a slow day during Disney Springs’ construction (meaning the restaurant was hidden by a maze of walls) about 75% of the tables were full at lunch, so I can only imagine the scene once Cookes is in plain view and Disney Springs is hoppin’.
It could probably pass for an authentic family hole-in-the-wall spot in Dublin, albeit less grungy. James Joyce would be rolling in his grave over the cleanliness of this place.
The signs in the ordering there hype up the freshness of Cookes of Dublin and how everything is “almost” made to order. All of this seems like foreshadowing for, “hey, your food is going to take forever to come out.”
I couldn’t pass on the fish & chips, which is one of the highly-lauded items here. It consists of one piece of fish (albeit on the large side) and chips. I’ll cover the chips below, but I was completely unimpressed by the fish.
For me, it has nothing on Yorkshire County Fish Shop in Epcot. Whereas the batter is light but packs a nice flavor on top of flaky fish below, this batter seemed to add nothing to the equation, and was just some fried “stuff” on equally uninspired (and probably overcooked) fish. I wouldn’t say it was out and out bad, it just didn’t impress me, and certainly didn’t come close to the hype. Even if it weren’t overcooked, I can’t say I would have found anything particularly special about this.
Next up was the Hand Battered Beef Burger topped with Garlic Mayonnaise. I’m never one to pass up a unique burger at Walt Disney World, so I figured I’d give it a try. On the plus side here, I hadn’t heard anything about this. On the downside, it was awful.
It tasted as if someone had taken a really cheap, overcooked patty of meat and tried to mask those facts by battering it and deep frying it. The patty was devoid of any taste, and the burger was underwhelming. This was all despite a really nice bun and some excellent garlic mayo. Not even those things could save this burger.
I upgraded my chips to the Garlic and Parmesan Skinny Chips. I love fries and I love garlic and I love parmesan, so the results here should have been great, but they weren’t. The garlic and parmesan covering was underwhelming, seeming almost like a careless afterthought.
The chips/fries (I use these terms interchangeably even though I’m sure some would freak out about the lack of distinction) were lukewarm and pretty flavorless. I’ve had a lot of garlic & parmesan fries, and these were the most uninspired I have ever ordered.
I wasn’t sure, exactly, what the Irish Vintage Cheese and Bacon Dip would be, but this is another option about which I had heard good things, so I gave it a try. I guess I was partly expecting something to ya know…dip…in the dip (despite the menu not stating ______ & dip), but it was literally just dip. This was no worry, as I had the mediocre chips to dip in them.
This dip is the one thing that absolutely did not disappoint. It was rich, flavorful, and decadent, but not so much so that it tasted like eating straight-up lard or something like that. The cheese had this almost lightly-smoked or aged flavor, it’s hard to properly articulate what, but I suppose that’s where the ‘vintage’ part of the name comes in. The cheese dip also had a distinctly Irish taste to it, and was the saving grace of the meal.
I ended up dipping my chips and my burger into it, too. A battered and fried patty of beef dipped into cheese and back sauce…I’m sure that is nightmare fuel for cardiologists! This is the one part of the meal that I would highly recommend.
Overall, Cookes of Dublin is not a place I will make an effort to revisit. I’d be willing to eat here again in a pinch just to give other menu items another chance and revisit that excellent dip, but I’m not even especially eager to do that. I know every restaurant can send out an ‘off’ dish, but it seemed to me that each of the items I tried had fundamental ‘issues’ that weren’t the sole fault of a single instance of faulty preparation. In the interest of balance, you will find positive review after positive review after positive review of Cookes of Dublin. So, perhaps I’m the issue, and I wouldn’t know good Irish food if it hit me upside the head. To be fair, Cookes of Dublin doesn’t just phone it in with a boring menu like many Walt Disney World counter service spots, so I have to give it some points for trying. I like a lot of other Irish pubs, including Raglan Road (and we had another exceptional meal there this trip), which is one of my absolute favorites at Walt Disney World. I just find the counter service “arm” of Raglan Road to be uninspired.
If you have dined at Cookes of Dublin, what has your experience been with the food? Any menu recommendations? Do you disagree with my assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!