Yesterday, I discussed the changes that have been made to the Caribbean Beach Resort over the last three and a half years. I also presented you with a review of the food court found here. Today, I’ll be discussing Shutters at Old Port Royale. But before I do, I need to give you the history of this restaurant.
The Caribbean Beach was Disney’s first moderately priced resort. When planning this property, the Imagineers did not think budget minded guests would be interested in a table-service restaurant, so they only included a food court in their plans. However, they were wrong. When the resort opened on October 1, 1988, guests immediately started complaining and requesting more dining options. However, it would be almost six years before the first solution came to life.
When the resort initially opened, a large lounge called Captain’s Hideaway was located in what is now the food court seating area near the Calypso Trading Post. This spot offered a full bar with an emphasis on tropical drinks. In 1994, this spot was renamed Captain’s Tavern and dinner service began in a partially converted lounge. Prime rib, chicken, and crab legs were some of their specialties. However, Captain’s Tavern had its drawbacks. First, the atmosphere was still that of a lounge. It was nice, but hardly an intimate getaway.
The next, and more daunting problem came with its location. Because of the initial design of the building, Captain’s Tavern had no adjacent kitchen and no place to add one. In order to serve this new restaurant, a portion of the food court kitchen needed to be converted so it could prepare upscale meals. Besides depriving the food court kitchen of much needed preparation space, this distant location also created a problem for the wait staff as they were forced to cross a busy walkway and pass through a small door to get to and from the backstage kitchen.
In 2002, things changed dramatically. Captain’s Tavern was closed and this space was converted into more food court seating. At the other end of the food court, a section of the dining room was walled off for a new table service restaurant that would be opening soon.
When finished, the new restaurant would have three intimate dining rooms that could seat up to 130 guests. In addition, a new kitchen was built specifically for this eatery. However, because of space limitations, the kitchen still needed to be located across a guest walkway. To address this distant site, the Imagineers would make this a “show” kitchen open for all to see. No longer would the servers be forced to walk backstage to place orders and pick up food. Secondly, the foot traffic at this end of the food court is relatively light and dodging guests would no longer be a significant problem.
The official name of the table service restaurant at the Caribbean Beach Resort is “Shutters at Old Port Royale.” The reason for this long name is to differentiate this establishment from a restaurant at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort which is simply called “Shutters.” However, everyone drops the “at Old Port Royale” and just calls the Caribbean Beach version “Shutters” as well.
Although you can get to Shutters via the food court, the official entrance is off of the esplanade. Inside the restaurant’s lobby, guests check in at an unassuming podium. Although this restaurant can usually accommodate walk-ups, reservations are always a good idea. You especially need reservations here on holidays like Mother’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
The atmosphere at Shutters continues the rich and varied color pallet found in the food court, however the hues in the three dining areas have been muted and are relaxing rather than jarring. I find these rooms comfortable and welcoming.
Do note, the dining room located immediately to the right of the main entrance is often used as a passageway between the kitchen and another dining room located just beyond this first room. If you’re seated here, you will be subjected to servers coming and going throughout your entire meal. If a host tries to seat you in this room, I would suggest that you request another spot.
Here are two pictures each of the entrance and all three dining rooms. The last two pictures are of the dining room I mentioned above.
Here is a picture of a table ready for guests. Although you probably can’t see it in this photo, the napkins are paper. I have a problem with this.
Come on Disney. I ate lunch at Bahama Breeze the other day, a similarly themed chain restaurant, and even this eatery offers cloth napkins. At the prices you’re charging at Shutters, surely you could afford to provide guests with cloth napkins. And don’t tell me it’s part of the “island theming.” I’ve been to many nice restaurants in the Caribbean and been provided with cloth napkins. I don’t mind that you don’t have tablecloths, but paper napkins are for coffee shops. If you want to promote Shutters as a fine dining establishment, then take the necessary steps to do so.
Shutters is currently open from 5pm to 10pm each evening. Donald and I had 5:30 reservations and arrived a little early. We were given a pager but were called to our table before we could even find a seat in the lobby. We were escorted to the dining room I warned you about and given a table. (This is how I learned firsthand that this is the least appealing dining room of the three.)
Before I go any further with this review, I need to share with you one of my pet peeves I experience when dining out and how I’ve finally decided to handle the situation in the future. And this trip to Shutters would be my first execution of my solution.
Little annoys me more than going to a nice restaurant and being rushed. More times than I can count, I’ve had my entrÃ©e arrive while I’m still enjoying my appetizer. Grrr. In the early years, I would let the server place the food on the table as I hurried through my soup. But eventually I started insisting that they take the food back to the kitchen until I was ready for it.
At some point, I started explaining to my servers when I was first approached that I was in no hurry. I politely, but firmly, told them that I didn’t want to be rushed and I wanted to relax between courses. I was always assured that this would not be a problem. Sometimes my plea for leisurely pacing worked, but more often than not, it didn’t. Although I would be finished with my appetizer, my dirty plate would often still be in front of me when my entrÃ©e arrived.
Last month I ate at California Grill, one of Disney’s signature restaurants. As has been my policy for a long time now, I told my server I was in no hurry and to please time my meal accordingly. I was told that he was an expert at such things and this wouldn’t be a problem. He went on to say that I should feel free to order my entire meal and he would take care of everything.
I was still enjoying my before-dinner cocktail when my appetizer arrived. And there were a whopping three minutes “breathing time” between my appetizer and my main meal. Grrr. I’m sorry, but when I eat at a fine Disney restaurant, I don’t want to be served like I’m at a corner coffee shop.
After that night, I swore that I would never let this happen to me again when I’m planning on an enjoyable dinner in a nice restaurant. And Shutters would be my first experience with my new tactic.
Our server Kyra greeted us shortly after we were seated and offered us drinks. While I was ordering my Mai Tai and Donald his iced tea, I told Kyra that I was having difficulty making choices tonight and I thought that I would hold off ordering appetizers until after I enjoyed my drink. She smiled and said, “Not a problem.” Our drinks arrived about five minutes later and Kyra left us alone.
My Mai Tai was good and I’m glad I ordered it. Donald’s iced tea was ice tea. What can I say? LOL
For you lovers of rum, Shutters offers two different Rum Flights where you are served three shots of rum and can enjoy side-by-side tastings. I seriously considered trying one of these but decided I wanted a fruity concoction instead.
While enjoying our drinks, Kyra brought us a bread basket and butter topped with sea salt. I thought the bread was a little bland but the butter and sea salt made up for any lack in taste. In addition, I want to compliment Shutters on providing me with more than enough butter. There was plenty. Later in the evening, we were brought a second bread basket and more butter.
After we finished our drinks, Kyra returned to our table and asked if we were ready to order. I told her we would select our appetizers now, but we still didn’t know what we wanted for our entrÃ©es. Once again, she smiled and said “No problem.”
I ordered the Braised Beef and Pepper Jack Cheese Empanada with Chayote Slaw and Piquillo Pepper Dipping Sauce.
The empanadas were good, but not outstanding. I wish they had been a little more flavorful. If I were to return to Shutters in the near future, I would definitely try something else before reordering this dish.
Donald ordered the Caesar Salad with House-made Dressing and Cornbread Croutons.
This was the one true disappointment of the evening. After taking one bite, Donald said the dressing was so bland he could hardly taste it. He offered me a bite and I had to agree. If I hadn’t seen the dressing on the leaves, I would have guessed it was missing altogether. I suggested that Donald add salt. He did and it helped a little.
I know that Disney has a tendency to “dumb-down” some of their spicier meals so to appeal to the masses. If this is what they did here, they over did it.
After we were finished with our appetizers and our dishes cleared, Kyra returned to take our entrÃ©e order. I selected the Black Jack Barbecue Pork Brisket with Crab, Shrimp, and Corn Imperial. This was served with Green Beans and Piquillo Peppers.
This meal was outstanding!
First, take a look at the presentation. There is wonderful color and texture balance. The plate was artistically arranged. This meal just looks delicious.
My first bite was of the Crab, Shrimp, and Corn Imperial (right side of the plate). It was wonderful. I could easily make an entire meal of this side dish alone. Besides being extremely flavorful, it was chockfull of large shrimp.
The green beans were cooked al dente, which I like. The piquillo peppers added a sweet taste with no “heat.”
The serving of pork was large. There was plenty of meat here for a hungry eater. And the barbecue sauce was the perfect topping. It definitely had a barbecue flavor, but it was subdued. This is not the strong taste you’d get when ordering ribs at your local BBQ joint. This sauce was more refined.
Donald loves short ribs, but was afraid to order them as restaurants often skimp on the serving size. Kyra assured him that Shutters offers 10oz of meat with this offering. So Donald ordered the Caribbean-Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs in a light Curry Sauce with Mashed Yucca and Yukon gold Potatoes.
Donald was more than pleased with his selection. The dish is served in a large bowl and is reminiscent of pot roast. Besides the beef and potatoes, the meal had plenty of carrots and onions. He said it was all delicious and it was so tender that no knife was needed.
By this time, Kyra had picked up that I was ordering my meal slowly and gave us an appropriate pause after our main meal before offering us dessert. In fact, she didn’t even bring the menus to the table until after she had asked us if we were interested.
For my last course I ordered the Vanilla Cheesecake with Banana Caramel Sauce and Brulee Bananas.
Once again, I hit the jackpot. This was an outstanding dessert. The cheesecake had an original flavor. Meaning, it didn’t taste like “Cheesecake Anywhere USA.” It was obvious that it was made on premises with someone’s personal recipe. The brulee bananas were good as was the multi-nut brittle that garnished the plate.
Donald order the Tres-Coconut Tres Leches — Sweet Cream, Caramel, and Passion Fruit.
Donald also felt like he was a winner with his selection. All three offerings were flavorful and had subtle but distinct differences from one another. He especially liked the Passion Fruit.
In conclusion, we had an enjoyable meal at Shutters and I’m glad we ate here. And even though paper napkins, bland empanadas, and a tasteless Caesar salad started the evening off with less than a bang, the friendly service, outstanding entrÃ©es, and wonderful desserts made us forgive the rocky start. Not to mention, we spent more time at Shutters than we did at the California Grill a month earlier thanks to my new ordering tactic.
Would I return to Shutters in the future? Sure. Especially if I was staying at the Caribbean Beach Resort and wanted a nice meal.
Would I go out of my way to eat at Shutters? The answer to this question is a little more difficult. Shutters is good, but it’s hardly unique. On the other hand, Disney offers an outstanding array of restaurants with more interesting atmospheres and experiences. This makes it difficult for Shutters to compete.
Would I consider Shutters a Disney signature restaurant? Definitely not. And neither does Disney as Shutters only requires one dining credit, not two, when using the Disney Dining Plan. But Shutters is a good choice for a somewhat upscale, casual meal.