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Empress Lilly | Great Southern Craft Company/Lillie Langtry's Old Fashioned Photo Studio | Mickey's Character Shop | Village Restaurant/Village Lounge/Chef Mickey's Village Restaurant
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A Mississippi Sternwheeler on the Buena Vista Lagoon
The Empress Lilly was named after Walt Disney's wife and was an authentic re-creation of a 220-foot 19th-century paddle-wheeler decorated in Louis XV style. It opened on May 1, 1977 and was christened by Lillian Disney. It had several different dining options and lounges. The Starboard Lounge had appetizers such as chicken liver pate, sauteed crab meat, oysters and clams. There were also after dinner drinks such as Buena Vista Coffee and Starboard Coffee. The Promenade Lounge was located above The Starboard Lounge and was more of a sitting area.
Special events included "Monday Night Huddles" that were held from September to December of 1980. Members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would discuss the previous day's game, show play-by-plays and respond to questions from the audience before the Monday night game was show on a large screen. There was also a character breakfast in the morning. It was one of the few character breakfasts during the park's early years (seatings were at 9 and 10:30 a.m.) and kids that attended would receive a certificate or a pennant. In addition to memorabilia from the breakfast, there was an Empress Lilly coin produced as well as some buttons and pins.
The boat closed on April 22, 1995 and reopened as a Levy Restaurant called Fulton's Crab House on March 10, 1996. Some changes once Fulton's took over was that the smokestacks and paddle wheel were removed and a gaudy sign was added on to the boat. In early 2016, Fulton's closed for refurbishment and reopened in the fall of 2016 as Paddlefish. The paddle wheel and smokestacks were put back on the boat.
(Thanks to Debi Q for this Character Breakfast ticket from 1990. A child ticket cost $6.50.)
The Restaurants of the Empress Lilly:
Located on the forward Promenade Deck, this restaurant had windows that curved 180 degrees and overlooked Lake Buena Vista. Sample menu items from Fisherman's Deck included:
Black Bean Soup
Fresh Fruit Salad
Crab Meat Sandwich
Fried Oyster and Bacon Omelet
Pan Fried Chicken Salad
Baked Stuffed Shrimp Imperial
Crab Imperial with Mustard Dill Sauce
Empress Lilly Sauteed Crabmeat
Fried Shrimp in Ale Batter
Oysters en brochette
Stone-Crab Claws with Avocado Mustard Sauce
Prawns en Brochette
Empress Delight (Pompano, oysters and bacon en brochette and crab-meat stuffed lobster)
Shrimp Scampi (same recipe also served at the Outer Rim in the Contemporary Resort)
Sauteed Red Snapper
Sauteed Trout with Cashew Cilantro Butter
Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms
The restaurant on the main deck was open for dinner only and faced the paddle wheel. It was one of a select group of Florida restaurants that served certified Angus beef.
Sample menu items from Steerman's Quarters included:
Beef Barley Soup
Chicken Pot Pie
Steak En Croute
Empress Lilly Au Gratin Potatoes
Prime Rib with Minced Horseradish
Oysters on the half shell
Diced Chicken in Mornay Sauce
This elegant restaurant was located on the Promenade Deck. It served Continental, four-star award-winning cuisine and the mahogany-paneled Empress Lounge featured a harp player. There were only seatings at 6:30 and 9:00 each night.
Chilled Avocado Soup
Smoked Duck with Creamed Horseradish
Dover Sole stuffed with salmon mousse
Malabar and Dressing
Bibb Lettuce Dressing with Pine Nuts
Green Goddess Dressing
Empress Lilly Spinach and Oyster Veloute
Lobster in Mustard Cream Sauce
Les Crustaces A La Nage
La Cote de Veau D'Ostende (Veal Chops Stuffed with Oysters)
Baton Rouge Lounge
This lounge was located on the lower deck and had a beautiful Art Nouveau stained glass window behind the stage. Entertainment was provided by The Baton Rouge Music Company and cocktails such as a Mark Twain, Mississippi River Water, Huckleberry's Cooler and a Scarlett O'Hara were served here, as well as appetizers such as homemade potato chips. Steve McCollum writes: "I have an item that might be of interest to a lot of people who visited Walt Disney World in the 1970s and 1980s. It's not exactly an attraction but more of a 'fixture' that made an impression on my friends and I over the years. His name is Denny Zavett and he was a comedian and the leader of 'The Riverboat Rascals'. They played for years on the Empress Lilly in the Baton Rouge Lounge. He was at Walt Disney World for 18 years! I thought he might deserve a mention on the Empress Lilly page. I've attached a picture of him and the Baton Rouge Lounge (Circa 1983)."
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See ya real soon!