Dining Out and About: Cap'n Jack's Restaurant

by Jack Spence, ALL EARS® Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the October 23, 2007 Issue #422 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

If you get hungry while shopping at the Marketplace at Downtown Disney, there are five options to choose from if you want a full meal. First there is McDonald's. This is a good choice if you have little ones and are on a tight budget, but when I visit Walt Disney World, I want something that isn't available on every other street corner back home. Also, be aware that the prices at this McDonald's are probably higher than you're used to paying.

Wolfgang Puck Express is another counter service restaurant, but unlike McDonald's, its offerings are far more extensive and a lot tastier as well. However, their prices reflect this quality and, for me, are a little too high for a "fast food" restaurant.

The last counter service eatery is The Earl of Sandwich. There is a reason you'll find long lines here. The food is exceptionally good and the prices are reasonable. You can't go wrong with this selection for a quick bite to eat.

The Rainforest Cafe is a table service restaurant. This establishment also has long lines as people really seem to love the atmosphere here. For me, it's too frenetic, the tables are much too close together, and the audio-animatronics are definitely lacking when compared to Disney. I've eaten here on several occasions and most of the time the service has been adequate at best. In addition, I don't feel the food lives up to the menu description. Yet, this restaurant remains popular so they must be doing something right that I can't quite grasp.

For my personal taste, this leaves Cap'n Jack's when I want a full service restaurant at the Marketplace. This eatery opened in March 1975 and was part of the original Lake Buena Vista Village (also called Walt Disney World Village and Disney Village Marketplace before becoming the Marketplace at Downtown Disney).

Cap'n Jack's is open for lunch and dinner and can be found at the farthest end of the Marketplace, somewhat behind the Rainforest Cafe and next to the boat dock. The building sits on piers and juts into Village Lake and is surrounded on three sides by water.

As you might guess by the name, Cap'n Jack's has a nautical theme. The entry sports various maritime fixtures as does the passageway running through the restaurant. For the most part, the floors, walls and ceiling are covered in light woods, adding to the seafaring feel. Please note, this restaurant is over thirty years old. It was named long before the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and has absolutely no connection with Captain Jack Sparrow.

Cap'n Jack's has two dining rooms. The first one you come to is rectangular in shape and has a row of tables against the windows and a second row against a half-wall that separates a passageway from the dining room. The row against the windows is always seated first as it affords a nice view looking back at Cap'n Jack's Marina and the shops of the Marketplace. This is a very pleasant spot to sit and watch the activities outside as you enjoy one of the house specialties, a delicious margarita.

This dining room is also where larger groups are usually seated. All of the tables at Cap'n Jack's seat either two or four guests. To accommodate larger groups, tables must be pushed together.

The second dining room is situated at the far end of the building in a hexagonal structure. A large sit-down bar fills the center of the room and a single row of tables lines the windows. I'm not sure why, but this is my favorite of the two dining rooms. The view from here is more sedate as you look over a larger expanse of water before the eye makes landfall. The riverboat that houses Fulton's Crab House sits majestically across the way and adds to the relaxed atmosphere.

Whenever I eat at Cap'n Jack's I always order the New England Clam Chowder. It's rich and creamy and a great way to start any meal. Manhattan Clam Chowder is also served, but I've never ordered it so I can't tell you anything about it.

Side note: Anita Answer and I recently ate at the Yacht Club Galley. Anita had read my complaint about their new chowder recipe and wanted to see if it was as disappointing as I had described. Against my advice, she ordered a cup. To my surprise and delight, the chef has tweaked his recipe and now, instead of a broth, the chowder is somewhat thick and creamy. I can once again recommend it. However, it still doesn't live up to the recipe that I raved about in my original review of the Yacht Club Galley. Sigh.

Back to Cap'n Jack's...

The Spinach & Artichoke Dip, served with tortilla chips, is a nice appetizer. The serving is just large enough for two, but there really isn't enough to share with three or more.

Another good choice for an appetizer is the Crab Cakes served with a Cajun-horseradish sauce. I've tried these several times and have always been pleased. I've also enjoyed the Crab Cake Melt as an entree. It's served on Focaccia bread, with smoked mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and the same Cajun-horseradish sauce. A side of slaw accompanies the sandwich.

A good choice for lunch is the Caesar Salad with Chicken. I like the dressing they serve. It has just enough bite to give you the flavor of "Caesar" but it doesn't overpower the chicken. This salad is also available with shrimp for $3 more. For this extra money you will receive five large shrimp attractively displayed on top of the lettuce. A true shrimp lover probably won't be disappointed, but for me, the flavor is lost in the tangy dressing. It works for the chicken, but not the shrimp. Go figure.

I've tried both the tuna and grilled chicken sandwiches. The tuna sandwich comes with your choice of soup and the chicken sandwich comes with a choice of slaw or kettle chips. Both meals are basic. There is nothing exceptional about them and nothing disappointing either.

I've had the Penne Pasta Alfredo and have been more than pleased. It's attractively served, the sauce is creamy, and the chicken is flavorful.

For dinner, I also like the Seared Salmon Steak with Caper-White Wine Sauce. Rice pilaf and seasonal vegetables accompany the meal. The salmon is moist and flavorful and the sauce is a good accent.

I have two favorites when it comes to dessert, the Key Lime Pie and the White Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake. I had never had Key Lime Pie until I moved to Florida eight years ago, and it was at Cap'n Jack's that I had my first slice. I don't know if it's really all that good, or if it's simply because I had theirs first, but I really like what they serve here. It's tart, but not too tart. It's sweet, but not too sweet. I like it. I have loved cheesecake for as long as I can remember. I also like white chocolate and raspberries. So when you combine them all together, I'm in heaven.

Cap'n Jack's has a circular bar where guests can sit and enjoy cocktails or soft drinks. The friendly bartenders are always willing to engage in conversation and answer your questions about Walt Disney World. The full menu can also be ordered while sitting here. This is a perfect spot if you want a pleasant retreat from the heat outdoors and want a "quick one" to cool down.

Unlike many other restaurants at Disney World, I do not have a regular server at Cap'n Jack's. However, I have always been pleased with the service I've received. Drinks are brought to you and refilled quickly, yet the timing of the rest of the meal has a relaxed pace about it -- exactly what I'm looking for when I'm shopping at Downtown Disney.

I like this restaurant -- I eat here for lunch every couple of months and about twice a year for dinner -- but I feel that it is due for a major refurbishment. Disney has done its best to maintain the decor, but after 30 years of operation, some of the restaurant is starting to look a little tired. In addition, a musty smell often greets you as you enter the lobby. I attribute this smell to age, and fortunately it doesn't follow you into the dining rooms. However, until Disney gets around to this rehab, think of Cap'n Jack's as a pair of comfortable old shoes -- you may not want to wear them to a formal occasion, but they work just fine for vacation.

I have never had a problem getting a table for lunch if I arrive before noon. But sometimes during the busier times of year, you may have to wait for a table between noon and 2 p.m. if you don't have a reservation. Dinner is similar. If you arrive early, between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., you will probably be able to get a table without waiting. Anytime after that I would suggest you call ahead for a reservation.

Cap'n Jack's hours are as follows:

Lunch: 11:30 a.m. - 4:00 pm
Dinner: 4:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.

Reservations can be made by calling 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463).

UPDATE: Captain Jack's closed as part of the Disney Springs project

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RELATED LINKS:

Other reviews by Jack Spence: http://allears.net/btp/jacks.htm

Rate and Review: 69 percent of our reviewers recommend Cap'n Jack's with a rating of 6.0 out of 10. Post your own dining reviews, or read others' ratings, in our Rate and Review section: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=130&cat=40


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.