Monday, March 31, 2014

Can What's Old Become New at Disney's Boardwalk?

As I'm sure you've heard by now, Kouzzina by Cat Cora at Disney's Boardwalk is closing September 30, 2014. And naturally, Disney fans everywhere are wondering about its replacement. Disney has been rather closed-mouth about it thus far, but I'm not about to let that stop me from speculating!

It's not that I necessarily think the Boardwalk is lacking in dining venues. The Flying Fish Cafe is (outside of Victoria and Albert's, which shouldn’t really count) quite possibly my favorite Walt Disney World restaurant. Chef Tim Keating is an absolutely amazing talent, and his attention to detail and desire to please guests is truly remarkable. Additionally, the sports fan in me adores the ESPN Club, and the bartenders there are some of my favorite on property. I've even enjoyed a meal or two at Big River Grille and Brewing Works...but then again, I liked Kouzzina, so that tells you what my opinion's worth. ;) However, since there will be an open space, I'm certainly not lacking for ideas!

The moment I heard about an opening on the Boardwalk, I immediately recalled some interviews I had heard with Disney historians/experts Jim Hill and Jim Korkis. Both had mentioned some of the previous ideas that had been floated for this area, and I found them absolutely fascinating. (Side note: As I discuss the information shared in their interviews, any “insider” or historical content is completely due to their knowledge and hard work. Any mistakes or misinformation would be my fault entirely.)

One idea that was originally floated as a dining option for the Boardwalk was a 900-seat supper club themed to The Little Mermaid. As the resort officially opened on July 1, 1996, I can see why this idea was appealing at the time. But much like The American Idol Experience at the nearby Disney's Hollywood Studios, this is a concept whose time I believe has come and gone.

On the other hand, I find the concept of Walt's Attic absolutely fascinating. This would have been a more upscale dining experience with music and entertainment – perhaps something similar to the Top of the World restaurant that used to occupy the space that is now home to the Contemporary Resort's California Grill. They were planning to join forces with the Disney Archives, so that you'd be dining surrounded by fascinating artifacts from Disney history. Just the chance to be up close and personal with the likes of Disney's special Oscars for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or early pieces of Walt Disney World concept sketches would be worth the price of admission alone! (Also, I really loved Top of the World, and I miss it. I also desperately miss the Papeete Bay Verandah at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Hotel and found it vastly superior to 'Ohana, but that's another discussion entirely.)

Perhaps my favorite concept, however, was The Family Reunion. Do you miss the interactive experience of The Adventurers' Club? Then this may have been a venue for you. You'd have walked in and been greeted by a large man dressed in drag who'd be portraying your dear aunt (picture John Travolta in Hairspray). You'd be given a name tag (because apparently you come from a very extensive family), and would then be ushered into the “church basement” for the reunion. Cast members would portray zany, eccentric, and occasionally annoying family members as you are served old family favorite dishes in Pyrex and CorningWare. Maybe I'm just feeling nostalgic for the heyday of Pleasure Island, but I think this sounds like a blast.

But who am I kidding? The way my luck goes, we'll probably end up with a restaurant serving the typical menu of strip steak, chicken dish, pasta/vegetarian option, grilled fish, and the same Disney drinks and desserts you see throughout Walt Disney World. It could be worse, though; they could lease the space to Landry's for another Rainforest Cafe. (Okay, seriously, I'm just joking about both of those options. By all that is right and holy, I sincerely hope and trust that Disney will do neither of these things.)

What would you like to see Disney bring to the Boardwalk? Share your thoughts and ideas over at