BoardWalk Deli is newest restaurant to debut at Walt Disney World. In this WDW dining review, we’ll share food photos, a look inside, this counter service Crescent Lake dining spot, plus thoughts on cuisine quality & authenticity, value for money, and how it stacks up to other alternatives around the EPCOT area.
According to Walt Disney World, the new BoardWalk Deli is inspired by the delicatessens of the Northeast region, with a menu that (supposedly) takes you on a road trip of classic sweet and savory flavors from New York to the Jersey Shore. We say supposedly because Walt Disney World fans from the Northeast have been “a little” critical of this delicatessen’s purported regional authenticity.
The addition of BoardWalk Deli is the first phase of what will be a multi-year reimagining of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. The project’s scope is relatively vague as this point, with Walt Disney World stating that it’ll be making “a seaside splash at Disney’s BoardWalk!” Over the next few years, elements of the beloved turn-of-the-century promenade and inside the Deluxe Resort will be reimagined, including a charming new lobby design, new coffee bar & other dining options, refreshed guest rooms, and more. The biggest change is that a new restaurant will replace ESPN Club, and will open in 2023.
In terms of basics, BoardWalk Deli is located, as the name suggests, at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. This resort slash ‘WDW district’ is located between EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Directly across Crescent Lake from BoardWalk Deli are Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts; the Swan & Dolphin Resorts are also adjacent to it.
All of these hotels form their own little district, known as both the Crescent Lake Resort Area or EPCOT Resort Area. Perhaps more importantly, BoardWalk Deli is a short walk from EPCOT’s International Gateway entrance/exit in World Showcase between the United Kingdom and France. (There’s also a Skyliner gondola station over there.)
BoardWalk Deli serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For the latter two, Walt Disney World advertises that are multiple options that will transport you to the Northeast. Choose from a variety of cold and hot deli sandwiches served on traditional marble rye, fluffy ciabatta, or springy focaccia breads–all of which are freshly baked in-house.
Pictured above is the signature Italian Sub, built with layers of thinly-sliced capicola, sopressata, and pepperoni with provolone, arugula, tomato, arugula pesto, and mayonnaise on fresh-baked ciabatta bread. This is the lone sandwich we haven’t had a chance to try. Now, let’s turn to what we have eaten from the lunch and dinner menus at BoardWalk Deli…
Let’s save the first for first. The Veggie Crunch Muffaletta is stacked with cured and pickled root vegetables, an olive-giardiniera tapenade and plant-based cheese, served on focaccia. I sure hope this isn’t authentic, because if it is, I have some serious questions about your collective taste, Northeasterners!
To this sandwich’s credit (I guess), it has bold flavors and textures. This can sometimes be a pitfall for Walt Disney World’s plant-based options, which are sometimes bland. Unfortunately, those bold flavors are absolutely awful. Even Sarah, who loves root vegetables and all things pickled, was not a fan of this culinary abomination. There was simply too much going on, and none of it came together in a good way.
I don’t know quite how to describe the Veggie Crunch Muffaletta. I’ll put it in colorful terms: this tasted like a mediocre-but-normal sandwich that was made 12 days ago, forgotten in a fridge, and then eaten. Not that I’ve ever done exactly that, but I can imagine said sandwich would not age well, and would pick up random other flavors and scents from the fridge.
Next up is the Roasted Chicken Sandwich with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and roasted garlic aioli served on ciabatta.
By contrast, this chicken sandwich is boring…but in a good way! It’s exactly what you’d expect of all these ingredients, competently assembled in a way that makes for a well-balanced sandwich. There’s a lot of (delicious) bread, so I could’ve used a bit more roasted garlic aioli, but otherwise, zero complaints.
On a somewhat similar note, there’s the Chicken Salad Wrap with rotisserie chicken, grapes, walnuts, and mayonnaise in a spinach wrap served with choice of side. Speaking of which, sides include house-made chips, creamy coleslaw, or soup.
Again, exactly what you’d expect here in this well-balanced wrap. It’s not something I’d seek out, but I also wouldn’t regret eating this. There are some interesting elements, but it’s otherwise pretty pedestrian.
Our final sandwich is the Warm Pastrami Reuben. This is a classic deli staple, with rolls of thin-sliced warm pastrami topped with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing on marble rye bread.
Without question, this is the highlight of the menu at BoardWalk Deli. The meat is piled (rolled?) high here, with a generous amount of cheese and dressing rounding out the ingredients. Sarah found it a bit greasy, but zero complaints from me about that. Sandwiches should be messy. While I can’t speak to authenticity (I assume it’s somehow lacking, and those of you from the Northeast will let me know exactly how in the comments!), the taste delivers.
This reuben also offers solid value for money. Although it’s $1-2 more than the other sandwiches, it’s also larger. This is a bigger sandwich than anything at my local Panera, and it’s about the same price. (Everybody is too afraid to talk about it, but Panera inflation is very real–as is skimpflation. Perhaps their CFO has similar sentiment about “guest waistlines” as Disney’s CFO!)
This Warm Pastrami Reuben might be the best counter service entree at the Crescent Lake counter service restaurant right now, which honestly says more about the competition than it does about this sandwich’s quality. It’s good, but not that good.
BoardWalk Deli also has no shortage of dessert options.
Pastry-lovers will appreciate the delicate chocolate-dipped Cream Puff, hand-piped with silky custard, and the Raspberry Danish layered with velvet custard, fresh raspberries, and sugar crumble. The warm and gooey Cinnamon Yummies will be a returning guest favorite.
One particular highlight is the iconic New York-style Half-moon Cookie topped with rich chocolate ganache and buttercream.
This differs from a black & white cookie, but was still shockingly good.
There are also tried-and-true classics like rich cookies, decadent Brownie Cheesecake, brownies, the Cookies & Cream Cupcake, and the 50th Anniversary Celebration Cupcake. The Blueberry Scone, pictured above, is made with crème fraiche and topped with pearl sugar.
Sadly, the Walt Disney World fan-favorite Doodle Muffin has not returned. Cast Members at BoardWalk Deli indicated to us that it has been permanently retired. It wouldn’t surprise us if that changes should there be sufficient feedback from guests.
The Cannolis are filled to order in a crispy shell with a creamy blend of mascarpone cheese, ricotta, and shaved dark chocolate, with a hint of lemon zest and a touch of Mickey.
You can also get some Northeastern classics like the New Jersey Crumb Cake, a moist cake with a thick cinnamon-crumb topping, or the iconic New York-style Half-moon Cookie topped with rich chocolate ganache and buttercream.
Both the Cannolis and New Jersey Crumb Cake were good, by our non-Northeastern standards.
The cannoli filling was freshly-made, rich, and creamy–all inside a perfectly-prepared pastry. The New Jersey Crumb Cake was dense and moist, with a huge portion. (Of the two desserts, I preferred this.)
We mention this because there’s no seating inside BoardWalk Deli, so you’re likely going to be eating in your room, on the go, or at one of the tables adjacent to this work. Above is a look at the restaurant exterior, pre-changeover.
Here’s how it looks now.
The fact that Walt Disney World didn’t even bother with a new marquee–note the inconsistent spacing around “Deli” should say everything you need to know about this counter service restaurant reimagining. Maybe that’s how y’all do things when remodeling in the Northeast?!?
But perhaps things are different inside–let’s give Walt Disney World the benefit of the doubt.
Above is a look at the old interior.
Here’s the new-look BoardWalk Deli. I can only assume that the color red has fallen out of fashion in the Northeast.
The wall has been repainted from red to off-white. That’s it. None of the layout issues or anything else were addressed with the “reimagining” of this location into BoardWalk Deli.
It’s worth noting that BoardWalk Deli also serves breakfast, for those wanting something while heading out to EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Breakfast options include an Everything Bagel Sandwich with cage-free eggs, sausage, and cheddar cheese. There’s also a Bagel Breakfast Sandwich with cage-free eggs, bacon, sweet caramelized onions, and cheddar cheese. Finally, the Plant-based Ciabatta Sandwich with “egg” Florentine, plant-based cheese, tomato jam, and arugula.
We will not be reviewing the breakfast menu at BoardWalk Deli. I’ve been burned enough by morning meals at this location. Unlike our cat, we’ve learned our lesson about getting too close to that particular flame. Sorry?
Ultimately, we found BoardWalk Deli to be an incremental improvement over the menu at BoardWalk Bakery right before it closed. However, that’s not the only menu this location has had over the years, and this was nothing special in the grand scheme of things. There have been better ‘new menus’ here in the past, and none of the others necessitated a name change.
As with its predecessor, BoardWalk Deli is fine in a pinch, but not a location that you should seek out. It’s perfectly adequate as a late night option after a long day in the parks or something to grab on the way out, but that’s really about it. Anyone doing research ahead of time and trying to decide where to eat at Walt Disney World (presumably most of you reading a restaurant review!) should rule out BoardWalk Deli ahead of time. It is definitely not destination dining.
It’s really disappointing that Walt Disney World hasn’t built a worthwhile counter service restaurant at Crescent Lake. The recently redone marketplaces at Yacht & Beach Club are improvements, but still only half-measures. BoardWalk Deli doesn’t even come close to being as ambitious as those. If they’re half-measures, this is like a one-eighth-measure. And I cannot imagine that this checks many boxes as an authentic Northeastern delicatessen!
If you’re looking for decent counter service restaurant without entering EPCOT, the best option in the Crescent Lake area is Beach Club Marketplace. Not only does that offer similar sandwiches, but it has far superior dinner specialties and baked pastas. (One of those baked pastas is pictured above. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it–this is shockingly good!)
For those who can enter EPCOT, well…the World (Showcase) is your oyster. Literally every counter service restaurant in EPCOT–even the bad ones–has more to offer than BoardWalk Deli. It’s not that this is an awfulquick service option, it’s just unambitious and forgettable. You very well might have a better sandwich here than whatever you’d order at Lotus Blossom Cafe or La Cantina de San Angel, but unless you’re a party of reuben eaters, at least those will be more memorable meals.
Have you dined at BoardWalk Deli? Anything that’s a menu stand out or letdown from your perspective? If you’re from the Northeast, what are your thoughts on authenticity? Disappointed that it’s basically BoardWalk Bakery but with a new name? Are any of these menu items things you’d like to try, or will you stick to World Showcase or other eateries around Crescent Lake? What do you think of the construction and changes coming to Disney’s BoardWalk? Think the resort still needs another counter service restaurant in addition to the deli, or is this plus everything else in the area enough? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Other thoughts or concerns? 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!