Timing plays an essential part of a successful escape or stroll. In this case, we went for a late-night stroll through Epcot on a Wednesday. Tuesday and Wednesday are usually the slowest days out at the parks, so we expected it to be pretty laid back. The week had an extremely busy President’s day on Monday and the Princess Marathon bringing in thousands starting on Thursday. Even more by chance, though, the long-awaited Regal Eagle Smokehouse opened in the America Pavilion.
We’ve heard that there would be craft beer, barbecue, and maybe even some Muppets involved, so we’ve been excited. It’s not always a good thing to see old restaurants and attractions go in the park, but this combination seemed like a step in the right direction. Recently the American Pavilion has been relying heavily on the Fife and Drum, Festival kiosks, and Block and Hans for some American fare and beer. As we walked up to the bustling Regal Eagle, I realized that this would no longer be the case.
The first thing I noticed as we walked up was how pretty the American Pavilion, the courtyard, and the Regal Eagle look at night. Behind the Fife and Drum, there are plenty of picnic tables in a circle around a large smoker. I will say that this area could use a little more lighting, especially if you are sitting and trying to there eat at night. The addition of tables is significant since it is always crowded due to the concerts at the America Gardens Theatre. There wasn’t anything going on at the smoker while we were there, and I’m not sure if it is real or a prop. If it is real, it has a setup that could be used for demonstrations or maybe to use during private events in the future. Past the smoker is where the outdoor walkup bar window line begins.
It looks like this window will have two servers and probably always have a decent line. Outside here, there are only drinks, but there is a decent-sized menu, including specialty cocktails, craft beer and cider, wine, and non-alcoholic specialty drinks. The drinks range in price from $9.25 for a draft beer to $14 for a cocktail with liquor. If you are looking for something cheaper or for macro domestics like Bud Light, these will be located at the Fife and Drum or merchandise kiosk in front of the American Adventure. There isn’t an actual bar to order or stand at, and I didn’t see any high top tables nearby either. Although there were plenty of open picnic tables, people didn’t seem to be lingering with drinks. This makes sense as this area will be crowded enough with people eating, sitting out of the sun, or using the tables as additional concert seating. There are a few of these same beers inside, but nothing extra.
Inside the Regal Eagle, it was packed, the tables are somewhat close together, so there’s not much space to get through the aisles. The seating area starts right when you first enter and is separated by a wall from the order and pickup windows. The decor is classic 1876 American kitchen and dining hall. There is a lot to look at on the walls, most of which is related to barbecue. There are some Muppet references, and Sam Eagle is prominent as the symbol and mascot of the Smokehouse. I was hoping we would get actual Muppets(animatronics?) in the dining area. For now, though, it looks like a more conservative approach.
The Regal Eagle has a relatively simple menu. It’s all barbecue dishes, most of which come with Garlic Toast and choice of a side dish. There are multiple styles of Barbecue represented here and lots of smoked meats. There is a reasonably traditional burger, a chicken salad, and a Jackfruit burger for those looking for something else. The sides are where this location really shines; just like any barbecue, there are a whole variety of traditional side dishes to choose from. The goal/problem here is that you’ll probably end up ordering an extra side as there are so many options. Most dishes range from $13-$16, but luckily the portions are generous.
We got the Kansas City Smoked Half Chicken with Macaroni & Cheese. It was enough for two to share. The chicken was perfectly smoked, flavorful, and an actual half chicken. The macaroni & cheese really stood out though, with creamy white cheddar and some crispy crumbles on top. We used the Garlic Toast to test out the various sauces, but it could make a mini sandwich. There is a full Kid’s Menu as well with smaller portions of some barbecue classics along with a burger and salad for about $8 each. There is also a little $5 Dessert Menu with S’mores Brownie, Watermelon and Banana Pudding. These are great choices as they could be taken to go, but also fit in well with a backyard barbecue or picnic. Always having the option for cold Watermelon will be perfect during the hot summer months.
Another great thing about the Regal Eagle is the sauce bar. There are three different barbecue sauces at the multiple self-serve sauce bars. This is a great way to get to try them all and compare, or even see which one you will like before ordering. The sauce is always a big part of barbecuing, and this is a win for all, as everyone has their own idea of how it should be. There is a savory spice sauce, sweet mustard, and vinegar-based sauce, all of which we tried and enjoyed. None of them are too spicy, while each has its own unique flavor. There is space at the sauce bar for more, and if Disney already made these three new sauces, I’m sure there could be future additions.
One thing we noticed was that the restaurant surged when the America Gardens concert let out. After some of the larger acts, this will likely make the Regal Eagle uncomfortably busy and could push the lines into the seating area aisles. It would be wise to work around the showtimes when planning a meal at the Smokehouse to avoid a bad experience. There will also be Mobile Ordering, but it’s not available yet. This will be crucial on a busy day when securing a seat first is a priority.
We were really pleased with our meal. I had no complaints about the whole experience, and I think the food is worth the price. I will definitely be back to try a different type of barbecue, a different beer, and one of the desserts. Real Eagle is going to be a massive success for Epcot dining and really makes the American Pavilion stand out. As we were leaving, it was busy, but there was no one in line for the festival kiosk, Fife, or Block. Hopefully, in the future, there will be more Muppets, sauces, and maybe some Disney magic at the outdoor smoker. I recommend the Regal Eagle Smokehouse for those looking for some filling, traditional barbecue, or a place to sit and have a craft beer outside. I give it four and half crispy pieces of Garlic Toast out of five.