Note: from mid-May 2017 to fall 2017, Captain’s Grille will be going through a refurbishment. During that time, it will relocate to Ariel’s at Disney’s Beach Club. The breakfast buffet will not be available during that time, though there will still be an a la carte option in the morning.
Some of the most popular restaurants for Walt Disney World resort guests lie just around the corner in their own resorts, providing a close option for a meal any time of day before or after a long day of park-hopping. Captain’s Grille at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort fits this bill – set just off the main lobby, it’s open for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, ready to serve any visitor with a wide variety of menu options. I dropped in for dinner recently to check out whether this restaurant is worth a stop during your next trip.
First impressions of the restaurant will vary based on the time of day you visit – it tends to be very busy and somewhat loud, full of convention guests and families alike, during breakfast and late dinner, but far less crowded during lunch. Overall, the dining room is just an extension of the yacht theme from the main lobby, with ship and nautical décor on every wall. At dinner, you’ll find dimmed lights in the main seating area, making the casual atmosphere seem a bit more upscale than it really is.
Our server greeted us after being seated almost immediately at reservation time, going over the menu pretty quickly and offering a few of his favorites, including the steak – though, have you ever been to a restaurant and *not* had the steak recommended to you?. My dining companion and I settled on a few appetizers to start with, and we were soon off to the races. I didn’t notice much of a long wait for appetizers at all, which I would expect considering the restaurant was not very full when we sat down at our table.
To start, we sampled the house-made potato-cheese gnocchi with Bolognese sauce, parmesan cheese, and “crispy” basil ($10). A small portion, this dish would work well for a meal for a less adventurous diner or older child, or an appetizer for two, but overall, it wasn’t much to write home about. The gnocchi were a tad overdone, but the tangy Bolognese and nutty shaved parmesan on top complemented the mild potato-based dough.
A much bigger portion, the Farmer’s Market Salad with roasted beets, pomegranate, goat cheese, and a sun-dried cherry vinaigrette ($10) was filling enough to be a complete meal on its own. Though I can’t swear to ever finding much of the advertised caramelized red onion or granola (and the large greens were a bit clunky to handle), the sweet and sour cherry vinaigrette offset the earthy beets well, paired classically with rich dollops of goat cheese. I’d definitely come back to have this salad as a light meal on any warm afternoon.
Seafood dishes take a prominent role in the appetizer menu here, and came highly recommended from our server, so I took a chance on the beer-braised mussels and clams with chorizo and garlic-herb butter ($12). This dish was surprisingly great (probably one of my favorites of the whole meal). None of the shellfish were over- or underdone, and the slightly spicy chorizo along with the herbaceous tomato-based broth in the bottom combined for a wonderful bite with every briny morsel of seafood.
The best appetizer we sampled, however, was the buttermilk fried rock shrimp with chipotle remoulade, citrus cream, and chilled cucumber salad ($15). Rock shrimp are a local Florida specialty, and can be unpalatably chewy when cooked incorrectly, but these were great little popcorn shrimp in a perfectly-seasoned salt and pepper cornmeal batter. Though these didn’t arrive to our table super crispy, they were well-fried and delicious when paired with the tangy and smoky remoulade and a squirt of the accompanying grilled lemon wedge.
After an extended wait, our entrees arrived, and with a few great appetizers under our belt, I was hopeful entrees would also impress. We continued to dive in to the seafood theme with the lump crab cakes with stone-ground mustard cream, succotash, lemon emulsion, and Old Bay chips ($29). A smaller portion of this dish is on the appetizer menu for $15, but we splurged on the larger portion to see what difference the addition of both sauces made. In hindsight, I’m glad we did – very little filler held the crab cakes together, but they definitely needed the earthy mustard sauce to add a bit of dimension. The potato chips were your standard seasoned house-made chips, and the succotash merely filled the “vegetable” role on the plate, not offering a whole lot to it other than a new thing to taste every few bites between the full-flavored crab.
Less interesting was Captain’s Grille’s house vegetarian entrée, chickpea fritters (they’re afraid of calling them falafel, but that’s what they were), with seasonal vegetables, sun-dried tomato vinaigrette, and apple chutney ($16). To be frank, this dish was a disappointment – four falafel with barely roasted cauliflower, asparagus, a few slices of onion and garlic over a red peppery-slightly tangy warm vinaigrette didn’t really feel like a cohesive meal. Vegetarian dishes are often the bane of chefs everywhere, and it sort of seemed like the theme of this dish was “let’s throw whatever leftover veggies we have on a plate with some falafel and call it a day”. The apples had no business on the plate, as the inherent sweetness of the red peppers and the carrots was plenty to handle on a savory dish. Overall, if you’re leaning vegetarian, I’d stick with the Farmer’s Market Salad instead.
The next entrée, however, had us on an upswing. The rosemary-brined pork tenderloin with braised pork belly is paired with marscarpone polenta, stone fruit gastrique, ham jus, and braised brussels sprouts ($25). Considering how easy it is to dry out pork, I was pleasantly surprised with how well-prepared these pieces were, tender with plenty of herbs popping through the savoriness of the slightly smoky grilled pork. I was less impressed with everything else on this plate, though – the brussels were overcooked and in desperate need of caramelization, and the sauces were strange: the ham jus was basically a very salty gravy (unnecessary on the already savory meats), and the gastrique had a very strong, tart and sweet cherry flavor, fine in small doses, but overpowering to the dish overall. The whole plate also suffered a bit from being all the same texture – a bit of crunch somewhere would’ve been welcome.
Our final entrée selection was the house recommendation, cabernet-braised short rib with corn risotto, pan jus reduction, and corn cream ($27). Fork-tender and not at all fatty, the short rib was rich and deeply savory in flavor with a sweet counterpart in both the corn risotto and cream. I loved the risotto dotted with corn, not overdone and mushy, toothsome enough to provide textural contrast to the beef. The corn cream complemented the savory short rib with its sweetness, though I craved a little bit more of the pan jus on the plate. I did feel like some kind of vegetable (a bright, earthy counterpart) or fresh herbs mixed in the risotto would’ve fully rounded out this dish. Overall, though, this was my favorite dish of the night, and worth the visit alone.
Entrée portions here are large enough that you may not need dessert, but it never hurts to sample a few sweet treats (for science, of course!). Though the gianduja chocolate cake with salted caramel sauce is the house recommendation (for good reason – it is *delicious*, and also available at Crew’s Cup Lounge just next door), we decided to try two other desserts – the cookies and cream brownie ($7) and the cheesecake ($8). The cookies and cream brownie was a little dense and cloyingly sweet, but serviceable as an end to the meal. Just don’t let the fancy menu description fool you with mentions of “whipped vanilla panna cotta” and “chocolate ganache” – you’ve probably had this at your neighborhood bake sale.
The cheesecake was equally (if not more) dense (texturally a bit odd for a standard cheesecake, to me), and didn’t have a whole lot of flavor even though it featured usually-sweet white chocolate as its main flavor. The berry sauce on top was very tart, and the fresh berries in a little bit of syrup were just fine on the side, but the real star of the dish was the scoop of chocolate gelato. My dining companion and I both agreed we’d readily order that gelato again on its own for dessert – its creaminess and decadently rich chocolate flavor were addictive. Luckily, once we surveyed the menu again, we found that you can order the gelato on its own ($6), or give the strawberry or vanilla flavors a shot.
Overall, the food during our meal had its ups and downs, but several of the dishes were solid options for those in search of simple, well-executed food. The relaxed atmosphere of the surroundings melted into the service as well, so though our server was personable and on top of things, I wouldn’t come here if you’re in search of a quick meal on-the-go. Perfect for a lazy meal on a resort-rest day or as a mid-evening stop before park-hopping for nighttime events, Captain’s Grille will likely fit the bill for a fine meal without all the trappings of a signature dining establishment.