Since Downtown Disney transitioned to Disney Springs, the past couple of years have been packed with new restaurant openings producing some of the best in Orlando. But one longtime favorite still stands out among the pack.
Ragland Road has been a staple of Walt Disney World for 12 years, known for its authentic contemporary Irish cuisine and daily live music and dance performances.
Its location is on the edge of where Pleasure Island used to be, having taken over the Pleasure Island Jazz Company back in 2005. Today, it not only thrives but continues to improve on itself with an impressive menu, exciting entertainment, and even some recent upgrades to make a visit to Raglan Road that much more enjoyable.
The Disney Springs mainstay recently held a small gathering of reporters to show off its most recent enhancements, all of which were met with enthusiasm.
The restaurant still features a genuine Irish feeling, thanks to its delightfully friendly owners John Cooke and Paul Nolan who frequently bounce between the United States and Ireland, gathering new acts from local Irish festivals to be featured in the establishment. Traditional Irish dancing is accompanied by live guitar, violin, and accordion music that keeps toes tapping as the tempo increases as the evening progresses, moving from dinnertime background entertainment to late evening attention-grabbing fun. Costumes change from green to black to red as the evening progresses and the music gets a little more upbeat to keep the party going well into the night.
In the last few months, Raglan Road has installed a new state-of-the-art acoustic system throughout the pub’s Grand Room, which allows the daily mix of Celtic bluegrass, folk, ballads and beats to no longer overwhelm the dining experience. Acoustic panels on walls and pillars, acoustic curtains, and other treatments have been added to allow the performances to hit just the right volume, enabling patrons to listen and enjoy if they wish or continue to have a conversation if they don’t.
“The quality of the audio is greatly enhanced and makes conversation easier during brunch and dinner,” says Raglan Road partner Paul Nolan. “We want people to enjoy the show but also enjoy the dining experience.”
The stage lighting been fine-tuned to allow for better photography of the acts while the static painting at the back of the stage has been relocated in the restaurant, replaced by a huge screen that changes visuals with each performance.
But the entertainment of Raglan Road is only half the experience, as a wonderful variety of food and drinks are offered – and none disappoint.
Raglan Road is the top U.S. seller of Guinness beer, unsurprisingly. But they also serve a great selection of wine and some fantastic cocktails, including a few new seasonal originals like the Spiced Carmel Apple Martini. Of course, beer flights are available too including a wonderfully sweet strawberry cider and a dark coffee-based beer as well.
To choose a favorite among Raglan Road’s many delicious dishes would be a tremendous challenge, though its appetizers are arguably better than its entrees – and there are plenty of them to try.
Among the best are the gently fired Irish sausages served atop individual forks, the entree-sized rack of Guinness-glazed ribs that fall right off the bone, and a combo of crostinis that include a delicious pate and some smoked salmon. The tomato soup is quite a treat too.
The restaurant is known for its unique take on Shepherd’s Pie, deconstructed and tremendously filling. Likewise, the lamb shank won’t leave anyone hungry by any means.
It’s best to order within the Irish cuisine offerings at Raglan Road. While the risotto is good, it’s not up to par with Disney’s best Italian restaurants.
But even with all this food, you’ll still want to save room for dessert – particularly Raglan Road’s bread pudding that is so good it’s arguably worth skipping an entree completely. Chocolate lovers will devour ganache-filled shot glasses while those looking for something a little lighter can enjoy fluffy trifles. The flourless chocolate cake is the weakest of the bunch, but still quite enjoyable.
If you need an excuse to visit Raglan Road, try their Rollicking Raglan Weekend Brunch, which offers the ability to get out of your chair and dance along with the music (hopefully burning off a few calories too).
Raglan Road will be open for the holidays on both Thanksgiving and Christmas, offering butter and herb roasted turkey breast on mashed potatoes with apple sage and sweet onion stuffing, smoked bacon Brussels sprouts, duck-fat roasted potatoes, cranberry and plum chutney served with traditional gravy. ($27.95 for adults; $14 for children.) The full menu will still be available as well.
Those in a rush can try Cooke’s of Dublin, the counter service location adjacent to Raglan Road where fish and chips, battered burgers and other casual fare are available.
And if you want to take home a taste of Raglan Road, visit the gift shop – Shop for Ireland – which not only sells cookbooks (yes the bread pudding recipe is in there) but also bottles of that delicious Guinness glaze that’s good to smother just about anything edible.
If you’re planning on picking up a lot in the store, here’s a tip: Show up the weekend after Thanksgiving for their Black Friday through Cyber Monday sale. A $100 Raglan Road gift card will come with a bonus 25% cash value added to the cards.
While Disney Springs continues to expand with incredible new culinary offerings, Raglan Road will no doubt be sticking around for a while, continuing to showcase an inviting mix of entertainment, food, and drinks that stand out on their own.
More information can be found at raglanroad.com.