Don’t overlook this hidden gem of Disney World dining – it’s more than just a “bar”
Walt Disney World won’t stop building bars! Before you grab your pitchforks and jump to the comments, we think this is a good something. Unlike many fans who bemoan the many lounges that have been added and complain that Disney no longer caters to families, we love this development.
We also think this is no longer a fair criticism, and hasn’t been for some time. Certainly, when Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, Jock Lindsey’s Hanger Bar, The Edison, and a few other spots were clearly aimed at adults—and adults only—this was true. There was also validity to grumble when more bar stalls appeared or greater emphasis was placed on alcohol on restaurant menus.
However, this has not been the trend in the past few years. Instead, Walt Disney World has added a large number of family-friendly lounges that offer more dining. They are classified more as restaurants than bars (or at least “And grilled meats”), has an attractive atmosphere and has strong menus that arguably outperform some of the regular restaurants at its resorts.
This includes Geyser Point Bar & Grill at Wilderness Lodge, Three Bridges Bar & Grill in Coronado Springs, Nomad Lounge at Animal Kingdom, and the redesigned Banana Cabana at Caribbean Beach. Our newest entry to this list of some of our new favorite hidden gem dining options is actually right next to the last one, which is also located near Barefoot Bay Beach.
Here, we see the spread of this type of dining concept into something else that has exploded at Walt Disney World in the past decade and beyond: Disney Vacation Club expansions. The latest example of this trend is in DVC’s latest expansion (for now): Disney’s Riviera Resort.
We’re talking about Bar Riva, the (adjacent) outdoor pool lounge located next to the hotel’s concierge restaurant, Primo Piatto. Like the rest of the resort, Bar Riva takes its inspiration from the Mediterranean, serving light European and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine alongside a variety of cocktails.
Admittedly, we’ve largely ignored Bar Riva in this blog’s coverage of Disney’s Riviera Resort. Partly because we love Primo Piato. It’s still tense, but we don’t quite like it as much as we used to — and our patience with the full roster that hasn’t been restored is frankly starting to wear thin. It’s also partly because my favorite thing on the original menu at Bar Riva, the Monte Cristo, is long gone and never seems to come back. But that’s okay, for the reasons we’ll cover in this food review!
For practical purposes, Bar Riva is located about a 5-minute walk from the Skyliner station at Disney’s Riviera Resort. This means you can easily take “The Most Magical Ride on Earth” from two Walt Disney World theme parks (Hollywood Studios and EPCOT) and two other resorts (Art of Animation or Pop Century) and be here within minutes. It is also easily accessible on foot from Caribbean Beach Resort.
This makes Bar Riva a great escape from the crowds at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and EPCOT, a great sit-down dining option at Art of Animation or Pop Century, and a great stop for those who are into music. Skyliner Sip & Snack ‘Stroll’ or Disney’s Gondola Gastro Glide Itinerary!
Simple and elegant, Bar Riva has a beautiful location. The indoor-outdoor lounge is a visual feast of vibrant blues and stark whites, which provide sharp, striking contrast. We’ve criticized Disney’s Riviera Resort for having no character compared to the actual French Riviera, but this is exactly the kind of chic beachfront setting you’d find at a modern hotel in Nice or Cannes.
Not everything needs to feature a large amount of embellishment or thematic embellishment. In this case, the “less is more” design is adopted to great success, similar to the other outdoor bars mentioned above. The Riva Bar is sleek and modern, but it also looks stylish. If it’s along the French Riviera (and not a resort built about 4 years ago), you’ll wonder if it’s new or if it was built in the 1960s.
The wood ceilings and furniture are lightly stained, giving the bar a warm and intimate feel. This contrasts with the tile work throughout – on the ceiling, floor and columns – giving Riva Bar a clean, refined feel. Speaking of which, there are plenty of ceiling fans that literally keep the space cool.
I had dinner at Bar Riva on an incredibly hot day, and the outdoor location was quite relaxing. (To each their own, but I actually prefer this to the stark contrast between an hour of icy air conditioning and hot, humid weather.) On the other end of the weather spectrum, space heaters are used for the park seating area. On cold evenings.
The signature images of Bar Riva are of course the frescoes that run the length of the wall. This depicts a sunny scene of a nondescript stretch of coastline on the Riviera (French or Italian unknown), reimagined to include Disney’s Riviera Resort and Disney Cruise Line ships.
The art is sharp and, while not found anywhere in particular, is actually reminiscent of the old Art Deco travel posters found everywhere on the French Riviera. It’s a great piece, permeating the Bar Riva and giving it more character. (Instead of the Pixar and WDAS posters from France, I wish Imagineering had made more of these inside the hotel. Imagine a stylized poster of Lillian and Walt Disney high in the hills of Eze.)
In short, Bar Riva is a simple, yet very effective space. It accentuates the look and ambiance, and the end result is an inviting space that you want to relax in. Now let’s move on to the food, see if it’s also where you want to refuel…
We’ll start with the burrata salad served with heirloom tomatoes, fresh pesto, and focaccia bread.
Everything about this is awesome. The burrata itself is large, soft, creamy and high quality. The pesto base underneath combines with olive oil to provide a delicious, flavorful base. The tomatoes weren’t the best I’ve ever had, but they were more than good enough with the vegetables, pesto and olive oil.
Not surprisingly, the highlight of the burrata salad is the burrata and focaccia. Cheese and bread are rarely a losing combination, and this salad kept the duo winning.
Overall, the burrata salad is a really refreshing and delicious dish. It’s also surprisingly filling, probably due to the large pieces of bread and cheese. We highly recommend this to anyone who wants a salad or something that’s not heavy, but still filling. It’s also easy to share and is good to pair with something heavier (which is what we will be doing in the future).
For the second course, we have the Mushroom Arancini: risotto, mushrooms, cheese, and truffle served with homemade marinara.
Unsurprisingly, these fried balls of mushroom quality have a special taste. Don’t like anything in the ingredients list above? Then you definitely won’t enjoy arancini mushrooms!
For our part, we loved literally everything on that menu, and unsurprisingly, we also loved the Mushroom Arancini.
The texture is perfect, with a crisp exterior that provides crunch but gives way to a soft, chewy and perfectly jam-packed interior with mushrooms, risotto and cheese.
My only issue with the mushroom arancini was that the house-made marinara didn’t add much and the dish was light on the truffle flavour. But in fairness, I wasn’t expecting the marinara to be used much (and I was right in that assumption) and I know some people lament the overuse of truffle in dishes if it’s not necessary. I don’t think that’s the case here, but I can appreciate the light touch with the truffle.
Regardless, the Mushroom Arancini at Bar Riva is fantastic and we highly recommend it. If you enjoy these ingredients, this is the perfect execution of the concept. If you haven’t, well, you probably already know this isn’t for you!
For our final appetizer, we have the Salmon with Orzo: Seared Salmon with Pomodoraccio Tapenade and Lemon Orzo.
This is the most expensive dish on the menu at Bar Riva, costing just over $20. he deserves it.
Salmon is one of those appetizers that Walt Disney World does well (even at the EPCOT festivals), and this entree is no exception. The fish is a large filet, perfectly prepared, crispy skin, flaky bits, moist on the inside, and great flavour. This salmon would have been great on its own, but the Pomodoraccio Tapenade provided a tangy, rich flavor that lifted the fish to a higher level.
I’m also a big fan of orzo, and I love when the pasta is served with salmon to make a hearty and filling dish. I can easily see a couple ordering to split a burrata and salmon salad with orzo and having an incredibly satisfying and healthy (by Walt Disney World standards) meal. This is the kind of meal I can see Sarah making at home. Very Mediterranean!
This lava cake won’t be part of Sarah’s homemade meal. But when the cat is gone, the mice play…Or something like that.
Look, I would never review Lava Cake negatively. This will never happen, and I’m not starting here.
What I will say is that, as far as Lava Cakes go, they are fairly cheap and low quality. There’s not a lot of daylight between this and Trader Joe’s Chocolate Lava Cakes (which are in the freezer aisle).
However, I’m not saying this is disappointing…just as these don’t disappoint! It’s rich and decadent, and the melting chocolate and gooey goodness on the inside will leave a smile on your face. They are also not expensive, making them a good choice as long as your expectations are appropriate.
Ultimately, the atmosphere is welcoming and the food is great at Bar Riva. We never delved into the menu here when they first opened, but my impression based on a quick review is that the current menu is actually better than the original. This is a sharp contrast to neighboring Primo Piato, which is still good – but a shadow of its former self.
In addition to what we’ve been able to try so far, there’s a deep menu of dishes at Bar Riva that sound great to us. This includes (but is not limited to) brie bread, grilled chicken sandwich, and sticky chicken wings. We will definitely be back (again and again) to try these additional dishes, as this type of restaurant is right in our path. Unlike other Walt Disney World fans who complain about the addition of more bars, we love the outdoor bar and grill combo, and hope Disney uses this formula for future expansions.
Are you planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Learn about the hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews page. To learn about where to eat, read our Walt Disney World restaurant reviews. To save money on tickets or decide which type to buy, read our money-saving tips on the Walt Disney World tickets post. Our What to Pack for a Disney Trip post takes a unique look at smart items to take. To know what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride guide will help you. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our website Walt Disney World Travel Planning Guide For everything you need to know!
Did you enjoy a respite from the weather or crowds at EPCOT or Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Bar Riva? What are your favorite or least favorite dishes on the menu? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment that this type of outdoor “lounge and grill” is actually more of a restaurant than a bar? good What kind of addition to Walt Disney World? Is it a place you’ll be sure to check out the next time you stay at Disney’s Riviera Resort or crawl on the Skyliner? Are there any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback – even when you disagree with us – is interesting to us and useful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!