Regal Eagle Smokehouse: A Review of All Foods, But Mostly BBQ Meats
Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue is the new counter service restaurant at the American Adventure pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. In this Walt Disney World dining review, we’ll share food photos, our opinions on every single menu item, Disney Dining Plan info, and whether it’s worth doing a meal at this Muppet Meatery.
For starters, Regal Eagle Smokehouse Craft Drafts & BBQ participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a 1-credit counter service restaurant. To our knowledge, no other discounts are presently available. On the plus side, Regal Eagle’s menu presents solid options whether you’re paying out of pocket or on the Disney Dining Plan, as there several entrees that make Regal Eagle Smokehouse a good ‘bang for buck’ restaurant.
In terms of background beyond that, Regal Eagle Smokehouse physically replaces the old Liberty Inn quick service restaurant adjacent to the exit of the American Adventure theater. As you can see in our Photo Tour: Inside Epcot’s Regal Eagle Smokehouse, there’s a ton of additional decorations and nods to the Muppets. There’s also a self-service beverage station, which in another way makes it the “spiritual successor” of the recently-retired Electric Umbrella in Future World…
While we’ll end the review with comparisons to other barbecue restaurants around Walt Disney World, the most apt counterparts here are Liberty Inn and Electric Umbrella. Not because the food is on par with either of those (thankfully that’s not the case), but because Regal Eagle Smokehouse is tasked with filling the same void of crowd-pleasing counter service restaurant left by its predecessors.
On that note, one thing we want to get out of the way right off the bat is that Regal Eagle might not be your personally-preferred take on barbecue or representative of your region’s interpretation on BBQ. In the comments to our various posts about Regal Eagle, several readers have already quibbled with various menu descriptions. I don’t remember what, nor do I really care.
Everything served in World Showcase is “Disneyfied” to appeal to a wider audience. You won’t find a single Epcot restaurant that doesn’t take liberties with its dishes. There are numerous motivations for this: the chef’s creative choices, cutting food costs, or simply a desire to make the dishes more universally agreeable.
Beyond that, regional food pride perplexes me. Even more so does the steadfast belief that cuisine is monolithic and uniform. Food changes and evolves, which is part of the fun. Why have a single style of pizza when you can have endless variations? The menu names here are probably at least partly about presentation–to give the impression to guests who haven’t visited each state that this is a veritable tour of United States barbecue. But I digress.
The Saga of Sam Eagle’s Smokehouse has tested my patience. My desire for all things Muppets and cravings for carnivorous cuisine have both been stretched to their breaking point. I’ve been hyped about Regal Eagle Smokehouse for several months, and was beyond excited to finally dine here and see whether the restaurant lived up to my sky-high expectations.
Accordingly, we decided to do Sam Eagle proud by ordering everything on the menu for a glorious three-hour feast. (In reality, it took closer to a minute and a half!)
Let’s get the distinctly unpatriotic dishes out of the way first. We’ll begin with the Power Greens Salad: Mixed Greens tossed with Fresh Citrus Fruit, Sunflower Seeds, Dried Cranberries, and Radishes in a Fresh Citrus Vinaigrette Dressing topped with Chilled Pulled Chicken.
We both agreed that this was the lowlight of the menu, and we’re not saying that at the behest of Sam Eagle. Unfortunately, there was way too little dressing, and rather this having a refreshing citrus zest, it was somewhat bitter. Nevertheless, it was fresh, sizable, and had a variety of textures and flavors. Perhaps you’ll have better luck with it being zesty rather than downright bitter.
Next up, the BBQ Jackfruit Burger: Plant-based Burger on Garlic Toast topped with BBQ Jackfruit served with your choice of side.
Walt Disney World’s plant-based burgers have improved considerably in the last couple of years, and this is no exception. The barbecue jackfruit is the perfect topping, providing a nice texture and added depth to the flavor. Likewise, the garlic toast is infinitely superior to a standard Disney bun. Definitely a good option if you’re not interested in the carnivorous feasts.
Here’s the regular counterpart to that, the BBQ Burger: 1/3 lb Angus Burger on Garlic Toast topped with BBQ Pork and Fried Onion Ring served with your choice of side. (Don’t choose pickles.)
Unfortunately, this uses the standard issue Walt Disney World counter service burger patties featuring a proprietary blend of cardboard, capybara, and aged hyena meat (rather than the signature blends at D-Luxe Burger and elsewhere). Fortunately, there’s enough going on with delicious toppings and garlic bread to totally mask that.
The end result is a fairly tasty burger that’s slightly better than the plant-based alternative. Taking that a step further, this is the best counter service burger in 3 of the 4 parks at Walt Disney World. (Only Restaurantosaurus Burgers & Sundaes has it beat.)
Next, the South Carolina Smoked Sausage Sandwich: Smoked Sausage on Garlic Toast topped with our Tangy Mustard Sauce and Caramelized Onions served with your choice of side.
This is a surprise standout. The sausage is high-quality, and further elevated thanks to the mustard and accompaniments. It’s a nice mix of sweet and piquant flavors, and something we enjoyed way more than anticipated.
Expectations were high for the 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.
I wouldn’t say that this brisket sandwich is a disappointment, but the brisket quality does seem a bit lacking here. The sandwich ends up being solid thanks in no small part to the sauce and garlic toast. The brisket would not hold up as well if ordered as a stand-alone meat.
Next, we have the North Carolina Chopped Smoked Pork Butt Platter: Chopped Pork Butt topped with our North Carolina Vinegar Sauce served with Garlic Toast and your choice of side.
It doesn’t look particularly impressive as a stand-alone platter, but the chopped pork butt is absolutely delicious. It’s juicy, tender, flavorful, and offering a mild tang that doesn’t overpower (and still works well with one of the barbecue sauces, if you so desire). As far as the meats themselves go, this is probably my second-favorite.
Continuing along, we have the Memphis Dry-rub Pork Ribs: Dry-rubbed and Slow-smoked in our Pit served with Garlic Toast and your choice of side.
I’m biased towards ribs, and wanted to like these the most. They’re lean, the dry-rub was tasty, and the smokiness added to the flavor. However, the portion was small for the price, and the meat was not particularly tender. I’m hoping we just were unlucky, but this ranks as the biggest disappointment of the meal.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the Kansas City Smoked Half-Chicken: Slow-smoked Half-Chicken smothered with our Sweet BBQ Sauce served with your choice of side.
I’m biased against chicken, and generally skip it since it’s something we often have at home. This chicken is shockingly good–about as far as you can possibly get from dry and bland. It offers an incredibly juicy, smoky, and just generally robust flavor. Aside from one spot, ours was not “smothered” in sweet BBQ sauce–that was probably for the best, as it tasted delicious as-is. We highly recommend this.
Our final entree is the American Platter, which is simply a choice of three meats and a side, plus garlic toast. (They missed a golden opportunity to call this the “Distinctly Patriotic Platter: A Salute to All Foods, But Mostly BBQ.”)
This instantly makes the list of our Best Uses of Counter Service Credits on the Disney Dining Plan. If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, this is what you want to order–no question. Not only is it the only menu item with a portion that’s truly large, but it’s also a great way to sample a variety of meats served at Regal Eagle.
We opted to order ours with ribs, chicken, and chopped pork butt, plus mac & cheese as the side. I really think that’s the ideal order all around. You get half-orders of the ribs and chicken, plus what appeared to be pretty close to a full order of the chopped pork butt. (I’m guessing we were supposed to receive less of that?)
The mac & cheese was by far the best side, too. Our second favorite side would be the Baked Beans with Burnt Ends. Everything else was middle of the road. The pickles were the most perplexing–tangy and delicious, but not something I’d typically order as a standalone side item.
Finally, desserts. Above is the S’mores Brownie.
We enjoyed this. The brownie is gooey and the topping gives it a quasi s’mores flavor. If you’re expecting that perfectly mimics a s’mores dessert, you’ll be disappointed. If you want a vaguely evocative dessert that combines a graham cracker base, chocolate, and marshmallow topping, you’ll love it.
The Banana Pudding is Regal Eagle Smokehouse’s other dessert.
Lots of textures going on in this creamy dessert mixed with custard, banana slices, cake, and wafers, all covered in whipped cream. We both preferred this dessert by a slight margin–both are above-average but not elite by Epcot standards. (You’ll find a half-dozen better desserts within a 5-7 minute walk in either direction.)
Then there’s the question of how Regal Eagle Smokehouse compares to other BBQ restaurants around Walt Disney World. Here, I think it has two primary counterparts/competitors: Flame Tree BBQ at Animal Kingdom and Polite Pig in Disney Springs.
Let’s start with Flame Tree BBQ, one of my favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World. My initial inclination is that Regal Eagle Smokehouse is better overall than Flame Tree BBQ, but not as to a handful of specific menu items (like the ribs). It’s a close enough call that I’m unfortunately going to have to make the great sacrifice of spending the next week or six taste-testing the two restaurants in the name of research.
Joking aside, it’s really not an either/or proposition. Few guests Park Hop between Animal Kingdom and Epcot, meaning you could enjoy each on different days. The bigger concern is truly whether Flame Tree BBQ is better than Satuli Canteen. (I say yes, Sarah disagrees.)
Next, Polite Pig. I know this restaurant has a rabid fanbase, and we ourselves have had some very good recent meals at Polite Pig. Without question, the quality is higher at Polite Pig and there’s more attention to detail. However, prices are also higher if you’re paying out of pocket (but not a problem if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan!).
More importantly, Polite Pig is located at Disney Springs, which is the epicenter of Walt Disney World’s dining scene. Even if you have a perfect meal at Polite Pig, you have to choose that barbecue over an embarrassment of delicious culinary riches. I love BBQ, but if I only have a few meals at Disney Springs, that’s not a choice I’d make. Nevertheless, if cost and location are taken off the table, Polite Pig is the superior option.
It’s too early to tell whether Regal Eagle Smokehouse will have issues with portion sizes, quality, and inconsistency. We highly doubt quality or consistency will be longterm issues given that American Adventure has been doing barbecue for the last several years at Epcot festivals, always to spectacular results. Portion sizes definitely could be.
The bigger potential concern is the opportunity cost. Like Disney Springs, World Showcase is the in-park pinnacle of Walt Disney World eats. On the table service side, there are too many great alternatives to list. On the counter service front, there’s Tangierine Cafe, Katsura Grill, and the incredible bakeries in France and Norway.
Ultimately, with Sunshine Seasons falling from grace, we’re now ranking Tangierine Cafe and Regal Eagle Smokehouse as our 1A and 1B counter service restaurants in Epcot, albeit not necessarily in that order. Which one is right for you comes down to whether you’re adventurous, or want to enjoy a fantastic feast of meats while savoring the glorious scents of the smoker. As much as I love Tangierine Cafe, if I’m being honest with myself, that’s not what I’ll be choosing most of the time.
Suffice to say, Regal Eagle Smokehouse is a formidable addition to Epcot’s counter service restaurant lineup. As “stacked” as this park’s culinary scene is, the big blind spot has always been high-quality crowd-pleasing cuisine that will appeal to picky eaters. Regal Eagle Smokehouse stands tall as a significant upgrade over the middling crowd-pleasers that came before; it’s far superior to its direct predecessor (Liberty Inn) as well as the restaurant that it’s indirectly replacing (Electric Umbrella).
More importantly, Sam Eagle’s Centennial Cook-Off finally presents American cuisine in a favorable light to international guests, who previously would’ve found our representations in Liberty Inn to be an utter disappointment. Regal Eagle Smokehouse, by contrast, is a Distinctly Patriotic Salute to All Foods, But Mostly Barbecue Meats. Americans from all walks of life can salute Sam, uniting behind this most stately of eagles, as we proudly proclaim, “that’s my country’s food!”
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Are you excited to try Regal Eagle Smokehouse? Anything on the menu that looks especially good? Do you have some random regional grievance about the menu decisions? Eager to do Sam Eagle proud with a feast of meats? If you’ve already dined at Regal Eagle, do you agree or disagree with our review of this Muppet Meatery? 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!
Recently visited Regal Eagle Smokehouse..Disney World.
Had bbq burger plate..dried up
Cheesburger plate.. same…served on Garlic
Would not recommend this restaurant.
Does not reflect the photos.
Cant compare to Flametree…in Amimal Kingdom
Should have brought it to management attention ..but i didn t.
I disagree with your comment (small comment) on the pickles. My husband and I totally loved the Pickles as a side dish!! Pickles and onions with a rice wine vinegar? That was scrumptious! But I understand, if you don’t like pickles in general, then it’s not your thing. I’m looking for the recipe for the pickles, and I know it won’t be posted here.
I notice the American Platter isn’t listed on their website anymore. Hopefully it’s still something you could order in person, as that’s what I’d like next month when we’re there.
If I could order ONE thing at the RE, it WOULD BE THE PICKLES!!!! Everything else was MEH. Even my kids who HATE pickles, scammed all of mine! It’s hard to find a restaurant that makes the same quality or better food than I do at home, so the BBQ here was ok if you don’t eat much of it. And we had all the meats…and sauces. The mac was ok, but not a four cheese delicacy.
Love your kids who loved the pickles! They were amazing!
The thing that confuses me about WDW quick service options is that they have proven they can do things well at certain location (Restaurantosuaras for burgers, Flame tree for BBQ, etc.) but then continue to trot out the same poor quality items at other locations. Why not replicate that success at other burger/BBQ offering places if you have shown you can? I am assuming it is cost related, as if you are still rolling out the same bad options and people are eating them why change? But it is certainly confusing to me.