Lettuce Entertain You has announced Summer House on the Lake, a new table service restaurant coming to Walt Disney World in 2023. This post covers the upcoming addition to Disney Springs, what it’s replacing, and other random commentary.
For starters, if this news feels vaguely familiar…that’s because it is. Almost 3 years ago, Walt Disney World announced a slew of new dining options at Disney Springs, including a table service restaurant by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a Chicago-based restaurant group that was to open their first restaurant in Florida at Disney Springs West Side.
In case you’ve forgotten, that was Beatrix neighborhood restaurant, coffeehouse and grab-and-go market featuring a mix of healthy eating and comfort foods. Beatrix was to replace Bongos Cuban Cafe as part of the ongoing transformation of the West Side, which was (is?) the last phase of the multi-year Disney Springs transformation project.
We don’t often stop to “appreciate” it, but what has happened and hasn’t happened with the Disney Springs West Side has been quite the saga. DisneyQuest closed approximately 5 years ago to kick off this project, and was eventually replaced by NBA Experience. That operated for about 7 months before permanently closing.
The totality of our NBA Experience coverage was a lame running joke about the project being cancelled because such a huge venue devoted to a single sport was unsustainable among Walt Disney World visitors. That turned out to be correct, and would’ve been even without the whole closure thing. NBA Experience struggled to draw (paying) customers from day one, offering freebies to Cast Members and others. But in its defense, at least it did open!
The same cannot be said for other concepts like Beatrix or Ample Hills (that one still stings).
On a more positive note, the West Side did receive a number of popular additions pre-closure, most notably Jaleo and City Works Eatery & Pour House. Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew is another West Side sleeper–not so much for their doughnuts, but for the savory dishes that are surprisingly good. In addition to that, there have been a number of worthwhile food trucks in Exposition Park; the most recent addition to that lineup is Local Green Orlando.
What’s most interesting about this saga (to me at least) is that Walt Disney World has issued strong denials in the past that the deal with Lettuce Entertain You had fallen through. The latter issued this statement last year: “Disney and Beatrix agreed to delay the start of construction on the project as a result of the pandemic, and that a restart date has not been determined.”
Depending on your perspective, that statement and the denial were either true, false, or somewhere in the “misleading middle.” It would be like if Disney announced a new ride based on Wall-E, delayed the project in consultation with Pixar, and then instead built a ride based on SportsCenter. Not quite what was originally announced, but still something by the same parent company.
Regardless, Lettuce Entertain You has released concept art for the exterior of Summer House on the Lake (above) and interior (below).
Thankfully, the interior is not yet another “rustic hipsters move into an old barn and find some eclectic decor on clearance at Anthropologie” that has become ubiquitous at Disney Springs. While not hyper-themed, it has a modern brutalism meets coastal style that doesn’t look half bad–especially if it leans into the open and airy design, highlighting big views of Lake Buena Vista.
Currently, Summer House Santa Monica has two locations–one in Illinois and the other in Maryland (both fairly far from California, if my calculations are correct). Its Disney Springs concept will drop Santa Monica from the name and add “on the Lake” in its place. It’s unclear whether that’s to avoid confusing tourists or because California doesn’t “play well” with the Florida audience. Perhaps a little of both.
One thing it does have in common with Beatrix is that both that and Summer House Santa Monica are well-known Chicago restaurants that have their own followings. Reviews of both are fairly glowing, with the latter sounding more appealing to me personally. (We love California coastal cuisine, so your mileage may vary there.)
On its official site, Summer House Santa Monica is described as the place where summer never ends! Whether you’re in for date night, a family get-together, or brunch with friends, summer is waiting for you on the other side.
“The California-inspired menu, led by Chef Ben Goodnick, features simple ingredients sourced from local grower partnerships and sustainable products. Rosé is poured all day off the signature Rosé Cart, alongside an extensive wine and handcrafted cocktail list. And no matter the weather, the bright and airy vibes always fill the atmosphere.”
Above is one of the menus (more can be found here), which sounds pretty good and broadly appealing to me. The restaurant should have enough variety to appeal to the aforementioned categories–families, couples on date night, friends going to brunch, etc.
Even though we are personally looking forward to Summer House on the Lake as something that appeals to us (and also should be a crowd-pleaser), it doesn’t look like a game-changer for Disney Springs.
In order to stand out, restaurants really need to bring something particularly unique to the table.
The culinary field is already crowded at Disney Springs, so it’s tough to shine without ambitious and unique cuisine (like Jaleo) or thematic novelty (like Boathouse). Granted, I’m just going off of the menu and concept art for Summer House on the Lake. It’s obviously impossible to judge a restaurant without actually dining there.
Ultimately, it’s nice that Walt Disney World is finally filling this massive plot of land left behind by Bongos Cuban Cafe and it’ll be good to ride the West Side of its final set of construction walls. Moreover, even if Summer House on the Lake is not a standout in the sea of stellar dining options at Disney Springs, it’s still a good addition.
There is no shortage of dining demand right now, even with the massive existing lineup at Disney Springs. In the past, we’ve questioned how sustainable so many table service restaurants would be in the long term (and still wonder that), but clearly that hasn’t been an issue yet. With Central Florida’s population continuing to explode and the parks & resorts more popular than ever, Summer House on the Lake sounds like another needed addition to the landscape of Disney Springs.
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What do you think of Summer House at the Lake joining the Walt Disney World dining scene? Think this will be a worthy addition to the culinary landscape at Disney Springs, or just more noise in an overcrowded market? Are you excited for this third party offering, or would you prefer some original concepts by Disney? Do you agree or disagree with thoughts? 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!