Walt Disney World has announced that a new ‘Modern Indian’ restaurant is coming in late 2023! This post covers everything we know so far about the news of another celebrity chef concept coming to Disney Springs, where it’s expected to go, our commentary, and more.
Let’s start with the news. Maneet Chauhan, an acclaimed James Beard Award-winning chef and Food Network Star, is partnering with Vivek Deora, an international hospitality entrepreneur to bring a new restaurant to Disney Springs. Walt Disney World first shared the news on social media, and hasn’t yet followed up with a proper press release offering specifics.
The new Walt Disney World restaurant will be named EET by Maneet Chauhan. The location will be a “modern and fun Indian-inspired concept” and is currently slated to open later this year. Walt Disney World hasn’t yet released an official opening date, menu, or even the exact location where it’ll go, but we have some ideas…
Born and raised in India, Maneet Chauhan honed her skills at the prestigious Culinary Institute of America in New York, and has accomplished quite a lot since on her ascent to culinary stardom. Among other awards and accolades, the James Beard Foundation has recognized Chauhan on multiple occasions. She was first honored as the Best Pastry Chef in New York City while serving as the Executive Pastry Chef at the renowned Vermilion Restaurant.
Chauhan gained national recognition as a competitor on the Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef. She went on to become a permanent judge on the show Chopped, before making appearances on The Next Iron Chef, Iron Chef America, The View on ABC and the Today Show on NBC. She was also featured on the finale of Worst Cooks in America on Food Network–as a judge, not one of the infamous cooks–and won the 2021 Food Network competition Tournament of Champions.
Chauhan served as chef at a number of notable restaurants in Chicago and New York before opening her flagship restaurant, Chauhan Ale & Masala House, in Nashville, Tennessee. With its unique blend of Indian flavors and Southern charm, the restaurant has been widely acclaimed, earning rave reviews and accolades from esteemed publications such as Travel + Leisure, Zagat, Delta Sky, Playboy, and so forth. (I’ll be honest–I had never heard of Chauhan until this announcement; our household is more into HGTV than Food Network.)
According to the website for Chauhan Ale & Masala House, the restaurant draws from Chauhan’s “Indian roots, zest for travel and affection for Southern cuisine…to offer a menu featuring globally influenced Indian cuisine that highlights aspects of the culinary scene not only in Mumbai or New Delhi, but Nashville as well, perfectly combining Indian fare with traditional Southern dishes.” Indian and Southern fusion? Sign me up!
EET by Maneet Chauhan will be the latest in a long line of relatively recent celebrity chef concepts added to Disney Springs. This list also includes Morimoto Asia from Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin, Chef Rick Bayless’s Frontera Cocina, Jaleo by Jose Andres, and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill. Speaking of that last entry…
Although Walt Disney World has not officially revealed the location for EET by Maneet Chauhan, the new restaurant is expected to move into the location that was previously home to Wolfgang Puck Express in the Marketplace at Disney Springs. Given that the planned opening for EET by Maneet Chauhan is Fall 2023, this is pretty much the only space that makes sense.
If this restaurant were a new build or even a major remodel of an existing non-culinary space, EET by Maneet Chauhan wouldn’t open until 2024 at the absolute earliest. Just look at how long it’s taking The Cake Bake Shop at Boardwalk or even Summer House on the Lake at Disney Springs–and those aren’t even close to ready to debut. (Speaking of which, I wouldn’t be surprised if both slip into 2024.) By process of elimination, we can pretty much narrow it down to the old Wolfgang Puck Express building.
One thing that’s not yet clear is whether EET by Maneet Chauhan will be a table service or counter service restaurant. Wolfgang Puck Express was technically the latter, but barely. The cuisine was on par with a lot of table service restaurants at Walt Disney World, and although it was fast-casual, the food was delivered to your table. It typically topped our list of theBest Counter Service Counter Service Credit Uses on the Disney Dining Plan.
This is all to say that the restaurant space where EET by Maneet Chauhan will open is already configured for counter or table service dining, and will likely come down to the preferences of the restaurateur and chef. You could make an argument for either option. My suspicion and hope is that it remains counter service–I think that makes more sense in the Marketplace area, which is otherwise shopping-centric.
Likewise, I also hope that it remains an exceptional value on the Disney Dining Plan. Part of that is selfishness. I loved Wolfgang Puck Express and its location, and we routinely ate there while on the Disney Dining Plan. We also absolutely love Indian cuisine and will make this a part of our regular rotation if the value for money or for DDP credit is strong.
Part of it is a matter of practicality. The location that EET by Maneet Chauhan is moving into is not great. This spot is way off the beaten path, tucked away in a corner of the Marketplace at Disney Springs that is light on foot traffic and can be difficult to find. That wasn’t such a big deal back in the more compact Downtown Disney era, but it’s pretty far removed from the main drag of Disney Springs. Although it’s never been confirmed, we assume this played at least a contributing factor in Wolfgang Puck Express closing a few years ago during the phased reopening of Walt Disney World.
EET by Maneet Chauhan will have to contend not only with the inconvenient location, but also being a type of cuisine for which Walt Disney World’s guest demographics might be less enthusiastic. Accordingly, it’ll likely need something to act as a hook. Great value on the Disney Dining Plan could be that thing. So could a memorable bread service.
Giving the interior and exterior more personality than Wolfgang Puck Express, which was very generic, would also help. Maybe put a gigantic elephant statue at the end of the walkway or even on top of the building to beckon guests towards it–a “wienie” that would make Walt proud!
As for cuisine, my guess is that this is another Indian-Southern fusion spot, like Chauhan’s restaurant in Nashville. Just a few of the many menu highlights that caught my eye there are the Tandoori Chicken Poutine, Short Rib French Onion Naan, Saag Mac & Cheese, and every single lamb dish. In particular, the Tournament of Champions Thali (pictured above) looks amazing, but probably isn’t suitable for a fast-casual restaurant.
Going all in on authentic Indian food at Walt Disney World would be a gamble anywhere, let alone in a tucked away spot on the ‘wrong’ side of Disney Springs. I just have a hard time seeing that as a viable option given the location and guest demographics.
By contrast, Walt Disney World visitors absolutely adore Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’. That’s one of the most popular restaurants in all of Walt Disney World, and there’s clearly unsatisfied demand for more like that. (Homecomin’ is great, but honestly a bit overrated for what it is.) Obviously, this would be different than that–Homecomin’ is an unapologetic Southern Kitchen–but a modern Indian restaurant with Southern flare would likely be well-received by guests.
We’ve been to a number of restaurants that are, essentially, Indian comfort cuisine. There’s a restaurant we love that does almost pizza-sized cheesy garlic naan and what’s basically a hybrid of Indian and Japanese curry (less spicy, more mild and comforting). Similar ideas could be applied in Florida to make for an Indian restaurant that would “speak to” Walt Disney World guests.
Ultimately, we’re really looking forward to EET by Maneet Chauhan. We love Indian food, both the authentic variety and the inauthentic comfort cuisine spin that’s more accessible and appealing to broader audiences. Whatever this restaurant ends up being, we welcome the concept. Walt Disney World has no shortage of Italian, Mexican, and American restaurants–but little in the way of Indian eateries.
EET by Maneet Chauhan could end up being destination dining at Disney Springs, or a hidden gem that offers great counter-programming to the always-busy hotspots like Polite Pig, D-Luxe Burger, and Blaze Pizza. Our hope is that EET finds a unique hook to get Walt Disney World guests excited and develops a strong fan following. Both for its own sake and so more unique and untested concepts come to Walt Disney World!
What do you think about EET by Maneet Chauhan? Will this be a good addition to the restaurant lineup at Disney Springs or Walt Disney World as a whole? Wish there were more unique culinary concepts like this, or do you prefer the crowd-pleasing Italian and American restaurants? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!