It’s May, and for many people, that means it’s time to bust out their grills and get to barbecuing. And that’s not just because Memorial Day is right around the corner – May is actually National BBQ Month! We don’t know about you, but this is an unofficial holiday we can get behind.
If you’re going on a Disney vacation during National BBQ Month, there are plenty of places to celebrate this festive occasion. We’re not just talking about pulled pork and ribs either. At Disney, National BBQ Month can be International BBQ Month with Disney World & Disney Springs BBQ options from around the world.
Due to COVID-19, some of the options below (specifically the Hoop-De-Doo Musical Revue, Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, Jiko – The Cooking Place, Trail’s End Restaurant, and Sebastian’s Bistro) are currently closed or canceled to accommodate health and safety guidelines, as well as reduced travel to the Walt Disney World Resort. As the pandemic recedes, however, we are confident these restaurants and dining experiences will reopen, so keep them in mind for next year’s National Barbeque Month. For the most up-to-date information, please refer to the Disney World website or My Disney Experience app.
What Is Barbecue?
Whether you spell it BBQ, barbecue, or barbeque (or call it barbacoa, braai, tandoori, teppanyaki, etc.), barbecuing is one of the most popular cooking methods in the world. That’s right, Americans don’t have a monopoly when it comes to grilled, smoked, and sauced meats. In fact, there are over 40 different kinds of barbecue in countries across the globe. Isn’t that deliciously mind-blowing? Think of all the tasty possibilities!
Plus, although many people only tend to think about four main variations of regional barbecue in the U.S. (Carolina, Kansas City, Memphis, and Texas), if you want to get specific (which, we do, because this is an article about the best Disney World and Disney Springs BBQ), you can actually find 10 kinds of barbecue right here in the good ole U.S. of A.. Best of all, you can try 12 different global BBQ styles across the Walt Disney World Resort.
Depending on where you are, even within the United States, the word “barbecue” can mean many different things. However, there are two things they typically all have in common: heat (for cooking, not flavor – although that can be part of it too) and some kind of sauce or seasoning. As for the heating element, we’re talking, over charcoal, wood-grilled or smoked, in a pit or clay oven, or more – depending on the variation.
Meanwhile, for other barbecued meats, it’s all about the sauces or spice rubs. From the sticky sweet or tangy, vinegar-based barbecue sauces of the United States (and don’t forget creamy Alabama white sauce) to smoky, South African braai spices and the spicy, citrus-infused kick of Jamaican jerk seasoning, barbecue picks up all the flavors of the place it calls home.
Best Places for Disney World & Disney Springs BBQ
As anyone who has ever looked for a place to grab lunch or dinner (and even brunch) at the parks can attest, barbecue is ubiquitous at Disney World. From seemingly endless iterations of pulled pork to ribs galore (Dry-rubbed! Slathered in sauce! Chinese and St. Louis-style! From a galaxy far, far away!), finding barbeque at Disney World is by no means a challenge.
However, if you want to dig deeper than just pulled pork and ribs, you’ll need to think outside the grill and smoker. Luckily, we did all the hard work for you, with this roundup of all the places you can chow down on smoky, saucy, spicy, flavor-filled barbecue from across the globe at Walt Disney World. So, if you’re going on a Disney vacation during the month of May and would like to celebrate National Barbecue Month, here are the top spots for BBQ at Disney World.
Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue
Instead of eating around the world, take a culinary road trip across America – all without ever needing to get behind the wheel – at Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue. Located in The American Adventure Pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase, the Regal Eagle Smokehouse dishes up those four major regional styles of American barbecue that we mentioned earlier: Memphis, Kansas City, Texas, and Carolina (North Carolina, to be specific).
Memphis-style BBQ specializes in pork ribs rubbed with a spicy-sweet and smoky blend of salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne, and sugar. Kansas City barbecue features several kinds of meats, all smoked to perfection for hours and drenched in a tangy sweet-sauce made from tomatoes and molasses. Texas-style barbeque, meanwhile, is a love affair with succulent brisket. While over in North Carolina, it’s an ode to the pig, all doused in a zippy, vinegar-based BBQ sauce.
Memphis Dry-rub Pork Ribs, the Kansas City Smoked Half-Chicken, a Sliced Texas Beef Brisket Sandwich, and the North Carolina Chopped Smoked Pork Butt Platter are all on the menu here. Plus, even vegetarians can get in on all the barbecued goodness with the BBQ Jackfruit Burger. If you’ve never had jackfruit before, this tropical and subtropical fruit has been making waves in the culinary world for its ability to take on a pulled pork-like texture.
Flame Tree Barbecue
Ask most people for recommendations for the best Animal Kingdom restaurants (and certainly for Animal Kingdom BBQ), and chances are good that Flame Tree Barbecue on Discovery Island will be on their list. And with good reason! This quick-service Animal Kingdom restaurant serves up heaping piles of hearty smokehouse favorites and tons of shaded, open-air seating with great views of Expedition Everest.
Right next to the walkway to DinoLand U.S.A., the Flame Tree BBQ menu is filled with smoky dishes like the St. Louis Rib Dinner, Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich, and the Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork. For something lighter, try the Smokehouse Chicken Salad or the plant-based Hot Link Smokehouse Sandwich. And whatever you do, be sure to save room for some of the restaurant’s signature, saucy baked beans.
The Polite Pig
Did you know that Florida has its own style of barbecue? Neither did we! Like much of the Sunshine State, Florida-style BBQ is a melting pot of America’s regional barbecue varieties with a hit of island flair. Smoking is essential, as is a sweet, vinegar or citrus-based sauce.
The Polite Pig in Disney Springs is like one big, Florida-inspired cookout. Although they don’t offer the state’s signature BBQ dish of smoked mullet (a kind of fish), you can find all manner of other smoky barbecued meats and flavorful sides here like the Low & Slow Brisket with pimento cheese, Southern Pig pulled pork crowned with a fennel-apple slaw, and even BBQ Cauliflower. Wash it all down with a craft beer or small-batch cocktail from the restaurant’s small bar.
The sister restaurant to a popular local spot, The Ravenous Pig, we especially appreciate The Polite Pig’s local cred. Plus, of all the Disney Springs quick service restaurants, this is inarguably the standout.
4 Rivers Cantina Barbacoa Food Truck
Ok, we’ll admit that barbacoa might not be the first thing that comes to mind when most people in the United States think of barbecue. However, that’s literally what it is: Barbacoa is Spanish for ‘barbecue.’ In fact, that’s where the word ‘barbecue’ comes from!
Typically beef (usually various parts from the cow’s head, but especially the tender cheeks and tongue), although it could also be made from goat or lamb, this Mexican style of barbecue is traditionally slow-roasted over an open fire or cooked in an in-ground pit before being shredded then browned in a skillet until crispy.
Get your fix of this quintessential Mexican dish from the 4 Rivers Cantina Barbacoa Food Truck at Disney Springs. We love a local connection, and this restaurant-on-wheels parked in the West Side’s Exposition Park is run by a beloved, local Orlando restaurant chain usually known for it’s American-style barbecue.
You can get all kinds of south-of-the-border-inspired dishes here like burrito bowls and the portable Taco Cone. However, we recommend you opt for the classic Street Tacos – filled with barbacoa, of course – or one of their trendy Birria Tacos or Quesadillas. “What is birria?”, you might ask. Picture, succulent barbacoa beef and maybe some Oaxacan cheese, all tucked into a tortilla and served with a rich, beefy consommé for dipping.
House of Blues Restaurant & Bar
Nothing says southern like barbecue and the blues. Luckily, the House of Blues Restaurant & Bar has both. Although you can find all manner of southern-inspired favorites here including Jambalaya or Shrimp and Grits, the whole menu is virtually slathered in barbecue sauce.
Whether you’re looking for lunch, dinner, or even brunch, the House of Blues has you covered with plenty of smoky, saucy dishes all day long. Greet the morning with a house-smoked Brisket Hash that will have you satisfied until lunchtime. Tantalize your taste buds at the beginning of a meal with the fully loaded BBQ Nachos or the pulled pork-smothered Carolina Mess. Give yourself the meat sweats with a one, two, or three-meat Smokehouse Platter.
However you choose to celebrate National BBQ Month, the House of Blues is there for you. You can even get your barbecue to-go from The Smokehouse, the House of Blues quick service restaurant.
Whispering Canyon Café
Looking for a family-friendly BBQ restaurant at Walt Disney World? Look no further than the Whispering Canyon Café at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. This table service restaurant brings the fun, along with a bottomless (literally – this is all-you-care-to-eat, baby) amount of homespun, stick-to-your-ribs dishes.
Whether you’re visiting for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, we suggest you go for one of Whispering Canyon Café’s signature skillets. These all-you-can-eat meals offer hearty, Western-inspired fare including Maple-Chipotle Barbecued Slow-smoked Pork Ribs, Barbecued Pulled Pork, and equally torched sides like Charred Carrots and Roasted Peppers. Or, for all the brisket fans out there, go for The Carnivore breakfast skillet or the ‘Burnt Ends’ Nachos.
If you’re looking for a quiet, dignified meal, this certainly isn’t it. In keeping with the Wild West theme, cast members here are encouraged to be a bit sassier and rougher around the edges than other Disney servers. Plus, it’s kind of hard to eat in peace when there are hobby horse races galloping past you. But, if you’re looking for a Disney World BBQ restaurant the whole family can enjoy, this is the spot. After all, you know what they say: The family that gorges themselves on barbecue together, stays together.
Trail’s End Restaurant
Do you have an appetite for barbecue that can’t be matched by a mere skillet? Then bring on the buffet! The Trail’s End Restaurant at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground serves up plate after plate (after plate) of down-home cookin’ in a rustic setting that feels far removed from the pixie dust-laced magic of the rest of Walt Disney World.
Open for breakfast, dinner, and weekend brunch, Trail’s End dishes out Southern comfort food classics just like grandma and grandpa used to make. In the morning, start your day with Pulled Pork Benedict. Then, in the evening, treat yourself to so many Smoked Pork Ribs they’ll need to roll you out the door. No matter when you choose to visit, Trail’s End is the Disney restaurant equivalent of a warm hug, making it the perfect place to fuel up before visiting the parks or to go into a food coma after a day spent exploring.
Hoop-De-Doo Musical Revue
Do you know the only thing better than barbecue? Why, barbecue and a show, of course! The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue is Disney’s longest-running stage show, featuring two fun-filled hours of finger-lickin’-good food, foot-stompin’ music, and laugh-out-loud entertainment. Join the Pioneer Hall Players as they sing, dance, and joke their way to your heart. This nightly, vaudeville-inspired hootenanny is held in Pioneer Hall in the back of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground.
If Dolly Drew and Six Bits don’t win you over with their frontier hijinks, then the bottomless buckets of old-fashioned cookout favorites will. Tuck into smoky, saucy BBQ Pork Ribs, along with crispy Fried Chicken, Baked Beans, and Cornbread. And be sure to save some room for that sweet, sweet Strawberry Shortcake. Plus, not only are soft drinks included, but *unlimited* beer, wine, and sangria as well for guests over 21.
Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
Hawaii may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of barbecue, but for a culture that celebrates the volcano and fire goddess known as Pele, it should come as no surprise that one of their signature dishes is similarly fire kissed. Kalua pork, like most barbeque, is a labor of love.
The entire pig is roasted in an earthen pit – resting on a toasty, steamy bed of smoldering kindling and lava rocks, topped by layer upon layer of palm fronds or banana leaves. Then, the whole thing is covered by another layer of leaves and all the dug-out dirt before being left to cook for at least eight glorious hours. The result? Fall-off-the-bone tender, delightfully flavorful pork.
Although we’re pretty sure the version served at Disney World’s luau isn’t cooked in a palm leaf-bedecked, in-ground oven somewhere at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, it is a very enjoyable substitute. At the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, feast on Aloha Pulled Pork and Polynesian Barbecued Pork Ribs, along with Roasted Chicken served with chimichurri, fresh fruit, and more. Oh, and we can’t forget the addictive Pineapple Coconut Bread and *bottomless* beer, wine, tropical rum punch, soda, tea, and coffee.
Transported to the Hawaiian paradise of Luau Cove with a little Disney magic, you’re invited to an area luau. Your hostess with the mostest for the evening is Auntie Wini, who’s holding the tropical soiree for one of the locals before she jets off to the mainland for college. Throughout the night, with rib in hand, you’ll get a taste of Polynesian traditions as you are regaled with pounding drums and dances from Hawaii, New Zealand, Samoa, Tahiti, and Tonga. The highlight – besides the barbecue, of course – is definitely the awe-inspiring fire-knife performer.
Jiko – The Cooking Place
South Africa may be known for its wildlife and wines, but it’s also home to a rich barbecuing tradition, or braaiing. ‘Braai’ is the Afrikaans word for a grill, as well as having a cookout. These lively gatherings involve epic amounts of meat resting over a fire or, at the very least, charcoal – no gas grills allowed.
There, you can see everything from your typical chicken, pork, beef, sausage, or lamb to more local delicacies like kudu steaks or wildebeest fillets. Don’t expect any sugary BBQ sauce like what you’ll find in the U.S. though, meats here tend to be lovingly seasoned with a smoky, spicy rub of tantalizing flavors like paprika, garlic, coriander, cayenne, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. Best of all, the whole thing comes with a party! Spending time with friends around the flames is a braai must.
Named after the Swahili word for ‘stove’ or ‘kitchen’, Jiko – The Cooking Place, the signature restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, is where to go if you’re looking to splurge on some sophisticated wood-fired eats. This signature restaurant’s seasonally changing menus often showcase braai-inspired elements, its dual wood-burning ovens churning out dishes like Oak-grilled Filet Mignon, Bone-In Grilled Rib-Eye, and Grilled Wild Boar Tenderloin. Top it all off with a glass of South African wine and the braai-spiced Braai Brownie.
Believe it or not, Japan has a few kinds of barbecue of its own including teppanyaki, hibachi, yakiniku, shichirin, and more. While hibachi-style cooking is done over a tabletop charcoal grill of the same name, teppanyaki – like that served at Epcot’s Teppan Edo, uses a large iron cooktop instead.
Teppanyaki is basically Japan’s take on an American steakhouse with a side of dinner theater. Throughout your show/dinner, a chef will give you the old culinary razzle-dazzle, grilling your meats and veggies with as much fire, steam, impressive knife skills, and pizzazz as they can muster. Once they’re finished, you’ll down the delights with a variety of sauces made out of ingredients like vinegar, soy sauce, ponzu, and mirin.
Teppan Edo in World Showcase offers that same style of Japanese barbecue and a show that has become so popular throughout the U.S., albeit with a Disney touch. A hidden Mickey made out of grilling veggies, anyone? Come here for various cuts of steak or kinds of seafood.
One of the fiercest kinds of barbecue, and we don’t just mean the cooking method, is Jamaica’s jerk BBQ. The star of jerk – its bold seasoning blend – is just as hot, hot, hot as the grill or flames the meat is cooked over, yet with a surprisingly sweet kick. This rub is packed with vibrant flavors including scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, and a generous helping of brown sugar. After being drenched in jerk seasoning, meats (chicken, seafood, pork, goat, beef, and even boar are popular) are then cooked slow over a grill or a fire of green pimento wood, soaking up all the smoky goodness.
Sebastian’s Bistro at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is like a surf-and-turf restaurant stuck on island time. Although you can find lots of Latin and Caribbean-infused dishes here, you’ll obviously be getting the Jerk Chicken or Jerk Chicken Wings, both with a dark rum glaze, along with the Caribbean Pull-apart Rolls served with guava butter, onion jam, and a Jamaican jerk oil.
You don’t need an open fire or a grill to make barbeque. Case in point: tandoori. This Indian style of barbeque is made in a tandoor oven. Traditionally bell-shaped and made out of clay, the oven’s intense heat seals the smoky flavors of the tandoori paste – typically a spice-laden blend of coriander, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and more all swirled with cooling yogurt – into the chicken, lamb, or shrimp.
For this suggestion, Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge at Kidani Village, you’ll specifically want to visit during lunchtime. Once you’ve finished the can’t-miss Indian-style Bread Service, dig into the Tandoori Chicken for a bright, flavorful meal full of contrasts. Oh, and we forgot to mention the best part: You get to enjoy it all while looking out over an African savanna teeming with wildlife.
Barbecue may be an American mainstay, but all those sausages and brats lining your grill or smoker have roots in Germany. Bratwurst and other sausages, as well as porky items like Kotelett and Schnitzel, are pillars of German cuisine – and for as long as they’ve been making them, they’ve been barbecuing them to charred perfection. You may even come across some grilled trout. Oh, and if you’re wondering which comes out on top here in the battle of wood-fired or charcoal, Germans are Team Charcoal.
Biergarten in World Showcase’s Germany Pavilion is an all-you-can-eat feast of classic German favorites, all served al fresco in a quaint village square by moonlight. Or at least, that’s what it looks like from your shared, beer garden-style seating. Now, we’ll admit that while you’re dining “outside,” that’s probably not charcoal branding your brats with their tasty, grill-marked badges of honor. However, we still love this restaurant for its infectiously cheerful atmosphere (Live oompah band, anyone?) and filling German eats.
COMING SOON! Rodeo Roundup BBQ Restaurant
Ok, you caught us – this final BBQ restaurant on our list isn’t actually open yet. At Toy Story Land’s Rodeo Roundup BBQ Restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Andy has decided to throw a rodeo-themed barbeque in his backyard for Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Bullseye, and the rest of the gang – and you’ve managed to snag an invite.
Shrink down to toy size and dine on what are sure to be some tasty, barbequed eats (although we’re not sure what as the menu hasn’t been released yet) in the middle of a makeshift rodeo arena made out of cardboard in this bright, larger-than-life table service restaurant. Although no opening date has been announced yet, our best guess is that it will open its doors to guests starting with the 50th Anniversary.
Well ya’ll, that wraps up our list of the 15 best places to get BBQ at Disney World during National Barbecue Month. If you’re making a trip to Walt Disney World during the month of May, we hope we helped narrow down some ideas for your impending, barbecue-filled celebration. And, to make your BBQ binge even better (i.e. more barbecue), be sure to learn how you can save money by booking your discount Disney World tickets through Park Savers.
What’s your favorite style of barbecue? Do you have a favorite BBQ spot at Walt Disney World? Let us know in the comments!
Amber is a proud former Walt Disney World Cast Member, an unabashed travel addict, and a hospitality and tourism specialist with over 10 years in the industry. She likes getting her wanderlust fix by sharing her favorite park tips and tricks with other Disney fans. When she isn’t working, you can usually catch her in a hot power yoga class or spending way too much money at Disney Springs.