Cuisine Scene: Shula’s Steak House Scores
by Debra Martin Koma, AllEars® Senior Editor
This article appeared in the March 11, 2008 Issue #442 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
I grew up in a house full of women, except for poor dad — even the dog was a girl. So after a couple days at the testosterone-infused ESPN The Weekend, I was ready for a break from all the heavy-duty, male-oriented sports talk come dinner time. Where did I end up? Ironically, at Shula's Steak House, in the Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel.
Shula's is not the place to go if you're looking for light, calorie-conscious cuisine. It's not dainty food, or a dainty atmosphere. No, it's a traditional steakhouse, owned by former Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula. It's the kind of place where, historically, business people have gathered for extravagant expense account dinners. The menu is largely meat, meat, and more meat. (In fact, there's a plaque on the wall when you enter that features an array of brass nameplates – the names of anyone who's ever managed to finish Shula's signature 48-oz. Porterhouse – that's THREE POUNDS of beef to you and me!) Yes, they have a few seafood options, and a requisite chicken dish… but you really don't come here for that. You come for the New York Strip steak, the prime rib, the porterhouse, the filet mignon…
It'll come as no surprise, then, that they do MEAT very well. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they do most things well.
Walking into Shula's is a bit like walking into a sports history museum — a very dimly lit sports history museum. There are photos of legendary sports figures like Mercury Morris and Bob Griese adorning all the walls. There's a mural on the back wall featuring Coach Shula being hoisted on the shoulders of his team after they won the 1972 Super Bowl (no, I didn't know that on my own – my son is the sports nut in the family). And as a wonderfully themed finishing touch, the menu is presented to you on a football perched on a kicking tee.
When you notice that there are no prices next to the menu items, you panic a little. This is not an inexpensive place to dine.
They also display the selections of the day for you on an attractively arranged cart — the cuts of raw meat are wrapped in clear plastic, but you can see the fine quality of the meat, with its light marbling, and the fresh vegetables, and the impressively large, oblong potatoes that are the size of, well, of a football. You also get a printed menu that describes the rest of your choices for the evening, with prices noted. Side dishes include a number of different starches (baked potato, steak fries, lobster mashed potatoes, etc.), asparagus, broccoli, and spinach. Starters, both hot and cold, range from a variety of salads to lobster bisque to shrimp cocktail and other seafood appetizers.
The evening we visited Shula's, a Saturday, the restaurant was moderately busy, and the servers were bustling around efficiently. We were seated within five minutes of our arrival and almost immediately our water glasses were filled and the aforementioned football and menu presented to our table. A friend had advised me to bring a flashlight for reading, and I soon realized that she hadn't been joking. Never mind, the teenager's eyes were keen enough to discern the fine print on the menu for me. After formally presenting the offerings on the entree cart, and placing freshly baked (that is, piping hot) sourdough bread on the table, our server took our order and we began what was a very enjoyable meal.
My husband started the meal with the Wedge Salad ($9.95), a half-head of fresh, crisp lettuce accompanied by a creamy blue cheese dressing, with tiny bits of bacon, onion and tomato. On the recommendation of a friend, my son opted for the Lobster Bisque ($10.95), a creamy, mildly seasoned soup, topped with a spoonful of sweet lobster meat. He wasn't about to lick the bowl clean, as my friend says she did, but he did proclaim it some of the best bisque he's had. Although I just tried a few sips (all he'd allow me), I would have to agree with him. The Shrimp Cocktail ($14.95) came with four very large shrimp that were prepared perfectly, neither too dry nor too juicy, and the cocktail sauce had a hint of something that it took me a while to define — ah, curry.
In the interest of research, I passed on the beef and indulged instead in the Grilled Lamb Chops ($35.95), two generous-sized chops, each about two inches thick. They were done as requested (medium), which the server was careful to ensure, flashing his little penlight on them as I cut into one. Nice and pink, but not too. The chops were accompanied by a little dish of mint jelly, reminding me of Sunday dinners at Mom's — you could never serve lamb without the mint jelly! Both of my dining partners opted for the 22-oz. Cowboy Steak ($39.95), a 1-1/2 inch thick slab of unadorned beef. Again the server and his flashlight made sure the steaks were prepared to order (and they were), before leaving us to enjoy the meal. Side dishes, generously portioned to serve two or even three diners, included the asparagus ( $8.95), slender, tender spikes of spring green cooked just to a slight crunch, served with a rather bland hollandaise sauce — just about the only criticism of the meal. On the other hand, the Crab Macaroni and Cheese ($12.95) — it could have been a main dish, it was that good. Al dente elbow mac, tossed with a sharp white cheddar sauce and sweet crabmeat, garnished with scallions and a sprinkling of parmesan — let's just say we fought over who would have the last bite of it.
Earlier in the meal the server had pointed out that if we wanted either the Molten Lava Chocolate Cake or a chocolate souffle, we'd need to order it in advance as they required about a half-hour preparation time. My son's Lava Cake ($10.95) came a respectable amount of time after our entree plates had been cleared, and the server thoughtfully provided three spoons so that drooling onlookers who were too full for an entire dessert might have a taste. The server poked a hole in the top of the little chocolate volcano with a flourish so that the liquid chocolate could ooze out, then allowed us to drizzle as little or as much of the accompanying vanilla sauce as we wanted. The chocolate cake was one of the better ones I've sampled recently — it was rich and dark and moist and the center was appropriately gooey. The vanilla sauce was not cloyingly sweet as some can be and complemented the chocolate cake perfectly. My son is lucky that I only had room to taste just two bites of this luscious dessert.
The total for the evening, including wine, drinks, and tip was, well, it was not cheap. Undeniably, a meal at Shula's is a splurge, entirely appropriate for a special occasion or the aforementioned expense account. But if you're going to splurge, what a way to go.
Shula's is open every evening from 5 – 11 p.m. (Last orders at 10:45 p.m.) Drinks are served in the lounge, but you can also dine there.
Shula's website: http://www.donshula.com/locations.php?l=1&restid=10
You can make reservations (required) directly with the restaurant at 407-934-1362, or call Disney Dining at 407-WDW-DINE.
Have you dined at Shula's Steak House recently? Share your experience, or read what others think, in our Rate and Review section here: http://land.allears.net/reviewpost/showproduct.php?product=203&cat=50
Read other AllEars® features by Deb Koma: http://allears.net/btp/dkoma.htm
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.