It’s time for lunch at Gasparilla Island Grill in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort!
The Grand Floridian dining scene is primarily defined by unique dining experiences such as Victoria and Albert’s (Disney World’s AAA Five-Diamond Restaurant) and Afternoon Tea as well as two signature restaurants (Citricos and Narcoossee’s) and character meals at 1900 Park Fare. It’s also home to one of my very favorite Disney meals in all of history: the Grand Floridian Burger at the resort’s more casual Table Service restaurant, the Grand Floridian Cafe (the name doesn’t convey the highlight of the dish: it’s the lobster-topped burger you may have heard about).
Even among all that, the Grand Floridian still remains a place where you can grab a quick Counter Service bite 24 hours a day thanks to to Gasparilla Island Grill.
The last time we paid a visit it had recently been through a refurbishment, changing from Gasparilla Grill and Games to its current name. While not much has changed in the way of atmosphere since that visit, the menu differs somewhat from its immediate post-refurb offerings, so we’re back to grab a quick bite (or three!) at Gasparilla Island Grill!
The general vibe at Gasparilla Island Grill is decidedly — and expectedly — Floridian! Creamy colors, pale greens, and lots of natural sunlight keep it airy, while the lush, darker greens and palms associated with the state of Florida are represented in the seating decor.
At the same time, the resort’s Victorian style is reflected in the light fixtures (check out those hidden Mickeys!), and by a small display of dish and glassware.
Though not known for tons of Disney detailing, the basic scene here is very pleasant in that it’s fresh, clean, and simple.
Perhaps the most unique feature to Gasparilla is the amount of high-backed booths lining the perimeter. They do allow for a certain feeling of privacy in what can be a bustling place, depending on the time of day.
Outdoor seating is also available; however, it wasn’t much in use on the day my friend and I visited, due to to some classic spring showers.
Once the rain lightened up, I stepped outside once more to
grab this picture of the Castle view (you can see it in the distance).
In the late evenings, Gasparilla Island Grill is a really nice place to grab a pre-bedtime Mickey Premium Bar and take a seat outside to enjoy “Wishes,” especially since the music for the show is piped in here, too.
But we’re here for lunch, so let’s step back inside to see what’s on the menu!
Similar to the other Deluxe Resort food courts, the setup here is relatively small compared to a Value or Moderate Resort food court such as Art of Animation’s Landscape of Flavors or Caribbean Beach’s Old Port Royale. Still, in typical resort food court fashion, Gasaprilla features all the classics such as a Grab and Go selection and a bakery case.
My friend and I, however, met up for a late lunch, so we focused on the Hot Grill Station.
Several food court standards are featured here, like burgers, flatbreads, and chicken breast nuggets. However, you can find a few items unique to Gasparilla as well, including Stromboli (both meat and a veggie version), and a Hot Turkey Sub.
We noticed the Daily Chef Special on an additional sign: Pulled Pork Nachos.
Facing the Hot Grill station, a Create-Your-Own Salad Bar is also located to the right.
Ultimately we stayed with the Hot Grill, choosing the Grand Gaspy Burger, Sausage and Pepperoni Stromboli and the Hot Turkey Sub.
In order to keep the lines from building up in the small food area, they utilize a number system at Gasparilla. After placing your order with the Cast Member at the food station, they will present you with a write up of your order that you can bring immediately to the cash register (as opposed to the larger food courts where you wait for your meal to be handed to you).
At the payment counter you’ll receive a number for your order, so a Cast Member can deliver your order to your table when it is ready.
Starting with the Sausage and Pepperoni Stromboli served with marinara, I have to say I was immediately impressed with how substantial this dish is. The portion is just huge!
While I couldn’t get a decent shot of it, the dough is indeed pinwheeled inside like a traditional stromboli. Why I’m picky about that, I have no idea, really. But there you go.
The flavor was terrific, with some nice spice from both the pepperoni and the sausage, and I liked the bubbly bread crust. But I found the amount of sausage to be overwhelming for my tastes and wished it had some more variety with the other fillings (onions, mushroom, mozzarella, and pepperoni). My husband was the recipient of the leftovers, though, and as a would-do-a-Chicagoan-proud type of sausage fiend, he thought it was excellent.
The Hot Turkey Sub made its debut in December as the seasonal “Holiday Turkey Sandwich.” I was so excited when I found out it remained on the menu past January, and was pumped to finally have a chance to give it a whirl. This Thanksgiving-any-time-of-year sandwich features all of the favorites from a holiday meal: turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce all topped with gravy. And again, the only word to describe the portion is HUGE.
My friend had enjoyed this sandwich previously and says it is now the only thing she orders at Gasparilla. So, with that endorsement, it was time to dig in. Of course, you kind of need to decide how to tackle this one first due to all the fillings! We just ended up treating it as an open-face sandwich.
This may spring up some debate, but for me, this one at Gasparilla trumps them all! Much of that is due to the thicker cut of the turkey and the CRAZY amount of gravy (because I heart gravy). For those reasons, I think this one mimics the real-deal holiday meal the absolute best. I LOVED it, and I’m even one of those I-don’t-like-my-foods-touching-eachother types. If you are a fan of any of those other sandwiches, the Hot Turkey Sub is a must-try!
By the way, clearly this one’s all about the sandwich, but it’s worth noting that, as with the other sandwiches on the menu, you do get your choice of sides: house made chips, french fries, or cucumber salad are your choices.
I didn’t care for the Cucumber Salad, finding it far too vinegary. But, with a sandwich of this magnitude, having a lighter option is a great idea.
Finally, I couldn’t resist trying the signature dish: the Grand Gaspy Burger (not to be confused with “Great Gatsby.” Pretty cute!). This third pound burger is topped with Tillamook cheddar, pulled pork, barbecue mayonnaise, and fried onions.
The rich cheddar provided some good flavor, but I lost the fried onions in the taste due to the dominant seasoning used in the pork and, I believe, in the barbecue mayonnaise.
And I definitely need to mention that seasoning, because it was rather unexpected. Instead of tasting like a typical barbecue sauce, it tasted much more like the sauce often used on baked beans, with a sweetness overtaking the expected tang thanks to what I’m assuming was a heavier helping of brown sugar. This might sound strange, but I thought it tasted just like a summer picnic on a bun :). Other than that, though, it’s your fairly typical Disney food court burger — pretty well done and not super moist. I liked the spin on it, though.
We ended up passing on dessert for this trip… mostly because we’d tried just about all of them before! Unlike its neighboring monorail resorts Quick Service options — the Contemporary’s Contempo Cafe and the Polynesian Village Resort’s Captain Cook’s — the cupcakes at Gasaprilla don’t tend to change very much. The offerings have remained pretty steady over the past couple years, typically featuring a Pina Colada Cupcake, German Chocolate Cupcake, S’mores Cupcake, and Very Berry Cupcake. Here are some shots from previous visits, and you can just click any of the links for the cupcakes to read those reviews.
Otherwise, dessert offerings remain fairly typical, with the exception of a soft-serve ice cream machine.
Oh, and I mentioned something about Mickey Bars earlier, didn’t I?
Don’t you just love that sight 🙂 ? I think it’s a great one to wrap up our visit!
Though it’s fairly no-frills, Gasparilla Island Grill offers a pleasant, relaxing atmosphere which I find to be quite peaceful. At the same time, it still manages to come up with a few great surprises like that Hot Turkey Sub. For a relatively small food court, I’d say it more than does the job.
And, remember, it IS open 24 hours — one of only a handful of places that can claim that attribute. The overnight menu is minimal, but you can usually get a few hot options like the flatbreads.
Even if you’re not staying at the Grand Floridian, Gasparilla Island Grill is accessible by way of boat or monorail from the Magic Kingdom if you’re looking for a calmer place to escape to during your busy park touring day. Here’s hoping you have a GRAND time!
What do you think of Gasparilla Island Grill? Please let us know with a comment!