Paddlefish in Disney Springs to have 'modern yacht feel'
Fans of Fulton’s Crab House should get ready for the unveiling of its dramatic makeover this winter.
The iconic paddle-boat restaurant closed months ago for a full revamp - from a renovation of its interior to the change of its name to Paddlefish. It sits in the entertainment complex of Disney Springs, formerly Downtown Disney, which went through its own overhaul in the past two years by adding restaurants, shopping and more.
The changes at Disney Springs prompted restaurant operator Levy Restaurants to modernize Paddlefish while respecting its heritage.
“We wanted to bring something forward that would still be unique in the mix of the new experiences that were being added,” said Alison Weber, Levy’s Chief Creative Officer.
The Levy team took a look at the vessel and pictures of its past. They decided to bring back the smokestack and paddle wheel from its days as the Empress Lily.
The paddle wheel’s return helped pin down a name. Learning there was a paddlefish (freshwater native to the Mississippi River Basin) sealed it.
“We wanted a name that was memorable and a name that spoke to the concept,” Weber said.
The commitment to Paddlefish’s history extended to the menu - popular dishes from Fulton’s such as Florida Stone Crab, Alaska King and Queen crab and lobster corn dogs - will return. Some more playful items, such as tableside guacamole with Maine lobster and a “build your own” lobster boil, will be added.
The Levy team also researched seafood restaurants across the country, filling three walls of their offices with photos of uniforms, boats, restaurant and dishes as inspiration.
Daroff Design, an interior design and architecture firm based in Philadelphia, was brought in to bring the project to life.
The plan was to make the ship have more of a modern yacht feel, said Karen Daroff, president and design principal of Daroff Design.
“We wanted to celebrate the sea and celebrate the iconic nature of this vessel,” Daroff said.
Planning was challenging , she said, because of the boat’s limited space. Everything is luxurious - but purposeful - in a yacht. Paddlefish’s design embraces that.
New windows offer a more open view of Disney Springs - and each dining seat takes advantage of that. The decks were all replaced and leveled.
Although the ship’s physical shape stayed the same, the designers worked to bring the interior into the 21st century.
Similar color palettes and textures (navy, white and slate complemented by warm, wood tones and brass) give some continuity to the “look” inside, but are used to create contrast among the boat’s different areas.
In addition to the main dining room, there’s outdoor seating in a lounge on the first floor with space for a fish boil and oyster bar, a bar on the second level, and a rooftop deck with some of the best views of Disney Springs.
“Everyone can have a great experience, but not the same experience,” Weber said. “And there’s enough that you’ll want to come back.”
In the end, Weber and Daroff hope diners can see the beauty of the mashup - a transformation that stays true to the restaurant’s heritage.
“It brings it back to the greatness,” Daroff said.
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