Jim’s Attic: Farewell to Cap’n Jack’s


Farewell to Cap’n Jack’s
By Jim Korkis

Cap’n Jack’s Restaurant was an informal, New England-ish, nautically-themed restaurant at the Downtown Disney Marketplace on the east side. The restaurant had been a staple on the waterfront since The Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village opened in 1975. In fact, both opened on the very same day and for years afterward Cap’n Jack’s was considered the place to visit on WDW property in the evenings.

Originally, it was called Cap’n Jack’s Oyster Bar and was a location where adults could grab cocktails and appetizers in the early days of Walt Disney World. Obviously, it specialized in seafood and was one of the very few locations on or near WDW property that was open until the wee hours.

When it became an official “restaurant” around 2000 the menu expanded and featured seafood, steak, pasta dishes, and kid friendly items like chicken strips and hamburgers. In fact, from an adult lounge, it had transformed into a family friendly location but was unable to compete with newer additions like the Rainforest Café.

Not only was it the longest surviving original business in the Downtown area, it was the last remaining Disney operated restaurant in that area as well. It was born along with now forgotten locations such as the Gourmet Pantry, the Village Spirits and so many others.

The entire area was not just a way to satisfy guests staying on Walt Disney property so that they didn’t have to find transportation to downtown Orlando. It was meant to be a hub from which a housing community composed of town houses, condominiums and more would grow.

As part of the Phase Two plans for Walt Disney World property, the monorail was to be extended to stop at the shopping and dining area and some stanchion foundations were put in place and county clearances had been obtained.

Pricey shops selling elegant goods from clothes to wine were included to attract the local population as well as the tourists who could purchase items that they would be unable to find anywhere else in Orlando.

Cap’n Jack’s unique hexagonal-shape offered wonderful views of the lake and Downtown Disney’s marina where guests could rent watercraft to leisurely cruise the nearby waterways. In the earliest days, there was not much else to see from the windows except cypress trees and water until the Empress Lilly debuted in 1977.

Cap'n Jack's

Cap’n Jack’s was built out into the lagoon and was described as a “floating” restaurant. The outside porch for Cap’n Jack’s was intended for live female models to walk and display the newest in swimsuits from the nearby shop, the Windjammer Dock Shop (that had a red-headed mermaid as its logo).

The restaurant was not named for Captain Jack Sparrow, who would not be born for several decades. It was named after Disney Legend Jack Olsen who had a fondness for sailing and fishing. Olsen retired from the Disney Company in 1977 but was instrumental in shaping the Disney theme park merchandise mentality since the opening of Disneyland in 1955.


It was Olsen who jumped into dumpsters to rescue Disney animation cels, trim them into a cardboard matte and then sell them for a dollar or so to early park guests. He was the one who insisted that Disney park merchandise be distinctly different than what guests could get anywhere else.

Like many of Disney’s top executives, he relocated from California to Florida to open Walt Disney World where he was the Vice President in charge of Disney Merchandise.

Cap’n Jack’s last day of operation was in mid-August. Its closure was part of the conversion plan for the new Disney Springs.

However, the name lives on at the Cap’n Jack’s Margarita Bar dockside and as the name of the marina.

The famous drink at the original Cap’n Jack’s Oyster Bar was the Strawberry Margarita. Actually, it was the first East Coast appearance of this drink but was quite popular with the California WDW cast members who had relocated to Florida and that spurred its introduction.

That tradition lives on in Cap’n Jack’s Margarita Bar so a little of the spirit (in every sense of the word) of the original shopping village still lives on as well.

Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.


Check out Jim’s other “From the Attic” Blogs

Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: /ae/archives.htm

Jim Korkis

Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.

He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse
Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":

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17 Replies to “Jim’s Attic: Farewell to Cap’n Jack’s”

  1. We recently picked up a framed picture of the original restaurant and it’s symbol with an anchor in the middle. Not sure if it’s age or value but it does have a Disney stamp on the back and the pictures are framed in silver metal with an anchor cut out in the middle. Please let me know of this items value

  2. I can’t say I’ll miss this place. I think we had a decent meal there around 17 years ago, but since then… all bad.

    I can’t wait to see what they put in it’s place!

  3. They used to have an excellent red snapper in parchment that I enjoyed more than once. I always liked that place. Like many say, it used to be the place to go. Of course, Walt Disney Village was a relaxing respit from the parks years ago.

  4. Great question! When the area opened there was the Village Restaurant located approximately where Rainforest Café is today. Sometime between 1989-1990, it became Chef Mickey’s (or Chef Mickey’s Village Restaurant on some items) where you were guaranteed you would get a chance to meet with Mickey in a 45 minute block of time while dining there. In 1995, it was transferred (in name only) over to the Contemporary Resort. So Chef Mickey’s was near Cap’n Jacks and the water which is why you could see the Empress Lilly. And the waterside stage used to be where the Pottery Chalet was. Hmmm. Maybe I need to write a blog post about the old Downtown Disney.

  5. Yes, we ate at Chef Mickey’s at this location in the early-mid 80’s. First time we had ever seen the hand held buzzers for when your table was ready – thought that was the coolest thing ever!!

    DEB’s Note: Would love to see any photos you might have of the Chef Mickey’s of Downtown Disney!

  6. Am sorry to see Cap n’ Jack’s leave. Was always under the impression that Chef Mickey’s occupied that spot before it’s relocation to the Contemporary. Remembered eating breakfast there and viewing the Empress Lily in the early 80’s. Could you clear that up for me?

  7. Capt. Jacks had tons of untapped potential. It felt Disney, which architects and “The Suits” running Disney just don’t seem to capture anymore.

  8. I loved Cap’n Jack’s and am very sad to see it go. My daughter loved the Fetticini Alfredo and I never had a bad meal. And sitting at a window looking out over the water was very relaxing.

  9. So sad about this closure. We’ve been to Disney 30 times since our honeymoon in 1974 and every trip we’ve enjoyed Captain Jack’s since it opened. Their peel and eat shrimp, clam chowder and key lime pie, could not be beat. It was always so relaxing and had great service. It will be missed.

  10. I am a bit sad to see this one go. We have been to Disney numerous times and the place always seems to have a good crowd. The views look great but I can see how it is so tucked away that it might be in the way for the future plans of that area.

    I have not eaten there, the pure veggies choices are super limited.

  11. Jim, thanks for the background on Cap’n Jack’s. I never knew any of that information. Now I am sad to see it gone even though I never ate there. (Not a seafood fan.)

  12. This is a shame. This is the last place we ate on our last trip to WDW, while we were waiting for our transport back to the airport, and to use up the last of the Disney Dining points. The food, the drinks, and the service were all great. In fact we commented that we were sorry we had not found them earlier. We did note that it was not very busy, but we attributed that to the odd hour we were there. And since I never liked any Rainforest Cafe, we certainly were not interested in that.I am sorry to see it go.

  13. We were there of Christmas of 1975… It was not much there at the time .. It was great to rent the paddle boats, which we did . They had a little small playground that we kids played on . My dad did not go back til 2005 that was 30 years later . He was so surprise of how big it was and the only thing that was there that you could tell that you were at the villages was the Capt. Jacks .

  14. Cap’n Jack’s will be missed. Took my son there on his 1st WDW visit. We enjoyed a great meal & the parents enjoyed great margaritas, to cap off a long day. Nat loved the nautical decor. Wish we had made it back our last trip, but we didn’t even go to Downtown Disney.

    Gone, but not forgotten!