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Guest Review: Magic Kingdom’s Columbia Harbour House

Thanks to Bill Iadonisi for this guest review of a favorite Magic Kingdom counter-service eatery — Columbia Harbour House! Take it away, Bill!

With 98 restaurants on property and counting, Walt Disney World is a food connoisseur’s Mecca. With offerings from German, American, Asian, Haute Cuisine, Bistro and everything in between, there is something for every discriminating palate. Even guests with any food allergies can be accommodated. But an important part of the food scene in Disney is the counter-service or “quick service” restaurants. They are vital for two main reasons: Time and Money. But mention quick-service and most conjure up the universal burger, french fries, chicken fingers and Mac and cheese. Yes, there are restaurants that do serve up these perennial favorites, but there are many wonderful alternatives with the healthy conscious eater in mind. And some of these choices may surprise you!

This will be a first in a series of reviews I will do for the Disney Food Blog, all concentrating on the quick-service eateries. I feel they are largely overlooked by most, and you will see the diversity of the menus will appeal to all. Many families have limited time and would rather grab a quick bite so they can get back to the parks. Also in the money department, you can feed a family of four on a limited budget easier here than at a Table service eatery. With this said, let’s get to the review!

Columbia Harbour House, located in front of the entrance to Fantasyland from Liberty Square, is a nautically themed restaurant reminiscent of a late eighteenth or early nineteenth century New England seaside inn. From its clapboard exterior, storm shutters and fieldstone sidings, you feel as if you walked back into history.

Atmosphere
Inside, there are references to our seafaring past: oak plank flooring, candle sconces, old wainscoting, and of course pictures of boats and nautical gear all over. It sets the mood — and I believe that atmosphere is half the dining experience.

Part of the Nautical Themeing

Nautical Themeing

Nautical Decor

Ordering Area

There are two dining areas, one upstairs and the main room downstairs. The upstairs for the most part is quieter, probably because many guests do not know it’s there! Like many other counter-service eateries, the dining areas are broken into smaller dining rooms offering a variety of different alcoves and seating areas. Both rooms have nice large fireplaces to give it even more of a colonial feel.

Downstairs Seating and Stairs to the Upstairs Dining Area

Upstairs Seating Alcove

Upstairs Seating Area

Upstairs Seating Area

Upstairs Seating Area

Downstairs Fireplace

Eats
The food here is hearty and the portions are good-sized. There is a Lighthouse Sandwich ($8.29): hummus with tomato and broccoli Slaw on a multi-grain Bread, very filling and the broccoli slaw is marvelous. The sister sandwich is the Anchors Aweigh Sandwich ($8.29): tuna with lettuce and tomato. It may sound common, but is fresh and satisfying. These two offerings will appease the health-minded diner.

Menu -- click for larger version

The seafood platters are a Fried Shrimp ($9.89) affair with coleslaw and French Fries, and Fried Fish Basket ($7.49), served with apples or French Fries. For the turf portion, we have fried chicken nuggets ($7.89) — a nice sized portion with 8 pieces, again served with choice of apples or French Fries. A BLT salad ($7.69) consists of fried breaded chicken nuggets (4) over a bed of Mixed Greens, bacon, egg and tomato. You can also order a Garden Harvest Salad ($8.19), mixed greens, chicken, garden vegetables, sunflower Seeds and cheese. And my favorite, Chicken breast nuggets and Fried fish, again with choice of apples or French Fries.

Chicken Breast Nuggets and Apple Slices

BLT Salad

Although all is fried and breaded, you will find no excessive oil residue. The shrimp are nice sized and have more shrimp than breading, as are the fried fish. The offerings here are a nice change of pace from the “universal” burger, hot dog etc.

This way to the food!

There is also the soup of the day or New England clam chowder ($4.49); the chowder is thick and creamy and very flavorful — hard to believe it is quick service. Of course you can order sides of Coleslaw ($2.39) or Fries ($2.49). Desserts include Apple Crisp ($3.59), a really moist and rich Chocolate Cake ($3.59) and Strawberry Yogurt ($1.99). Drinks include Hot Tea, Cocoa, chocolate Milk, orange juice, coffee and bottled water. There is of course Coke, Minute Maid apple juice, Sprite and Fanta. (See Menu above.)

The kids (Ages 9 and under) can choose from Chicken Nuggets or Mixed Greens Salad with Chicken ($4.99), or Macaroni and Cheese or Peanut Butter and Jelly ($4.99). This is accompanied with Grapes, Carrot Sticks and your choice of 1% Mickey Milk, small bottled water or 100% Apple juice.

There are plenty of condiment locations around the Harbour House as well, though here you’ll find dispensers of Barbecue Sauce and Honey Mustard along with the ketchup and mayo. Packets of tartar sauce; mustard; and Olive Oil Vinaigrette, Blue Cheese, and Ranch salad dressing are also available.

Condiment Station

Barbecue Sauce and Honey Mustard dispensers

Condiments

Overall
The Harbour House is a nice place to grab a bite that’s a little different than the ordinary. It has a nice atmosphere, and of course the detail is always astounding, thanks to those Imagineers! The cost is a little higher than some quick-service because of the seafood, but still more reasonable than table service. The food, although most breaded and fried, is fresh and hot, and not at all greasy; is very filling and let’s face it, a little breading won’t kill you!

Some negatives are the noise level, especially around prime lunch or dinner times. Upstairs is usually a bit calmer. Also, during busy times, it may be hard to find an open table; you will have to scout around till something opens, but that usually happens quick. The condiment station, both upstairs and down, has all you need to round out your selections.

As I continue the reviews of other counter-service, I will explore many of the more unique and for some, healthier offerings that await the hungry guest. For every taste, Disney has you covered, even in counter-service.

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43 Comments

  1. Carolyn says:

    This was one if my favorite QS places in the MK. We ate here twice. I had the salad w/o chicken and a bowl if veggie chili. Very tasty. We managed to come in from the rain once and really enjoyed!! Great review

  2. Kim says:

    Wonderful review! We chose QSDP this trip for our family, so I’m excited to read this series!

  3. SharonC says:

    Love to have lunch here. It is a great place to take a break from touring. We always eat upstairs in one of the small alcoves and gaze out the window to watch the crowds walk by. Great review and great pictues!

  4. Pat says:

    Hubby and I intend to try this place for lunch when there in January. Thanks for a thorough review…..will look forward to more Quick Service restaurant reviews soon, too!

  5. Kelly says:

    I love Columbia Harbor House. Absolutely delicious! I’ve had the fried shrimp platter and the Lighthouse Sandwich. Both were great, different options.

    This past trip it was really busy downstairs, so we went upstairs to look for a table. While we would have been fighting over tables downstairs, we had our pick of tables upstairs! Best tip is to head up those stairs after getting your food!

  6. Cheyenne says:

    We love Columbia Harbor House!! It’s a must every trip! We also eat upstairs because it is quieter but I will tell you we just found out on our last trip there a few weeks ago they no longer let you use the elevator to take wheelchairs or strollers upstairs. I went to the back where the elevator is located and the gal wouldn’t let us on it. Just something to keep in mind. Thanks for the great review! Looking forward to more

  7. Dana says:

    I’m glad you started with the Columbia Harbor House—next to Seasons at Epcot, it is my favorite QS spot!
    I love that Lighthouse Sandwich—the hummus is delicious, and that bread they serve it on is to die for! Easily a healthy, hearty dinner option with nothing fried!

  8. LOVE CHH! We eat there frequently when we go to MK. Our favorites are the clam chowder, which is just as good as you say. There’s real bacon in there, folks – I’m convinced. Their fish n’ chips are also fantastic: well-seasoned and always fresh – IMO much, much better than the fish n’ chips in Epcot’s UK pavilion. Thanks for this…now I want to head to MK today instead of working :-) (Great pics, too.)

  9. Valerie says:

    And they have malt vinegar. This is our one must do CS meal of the trip. The only other problem is because of the location when it rains it gets packed. But the upstairs is a really pleasant experience even then.

  10. NT3 says:

    I love Columbia Harbour House but I was really sad to find out that they recently got rid of my favorite sandwich! I don’t remember the exact name but it was ham, swiss, tomato, and broccoli slaw on a 12 grain bread. I was tempted to ask if you could still order it but it was lunchtime rush and I didn’t want to be a pain while everyone was busy and people were waiting.

    I’ll still head over there for the clam chowder but I really miss my old sandwich!

  11. Jo says:

    YUM…Tuna Sandwich! I really like Columbia Harbour House! I wish they would have kept the ham sandwich (topped with cole slaw) on the menu when they added the vegetarian option instead of dropping it completely. It was soooo good!

  12. MaumeeMom says:

    We always seem to end up here, it is one of our favorite places. The tuna sandwich is delicious and a great change of pace from the other park fare.

  13. I had the hummus sandwich earlier this year and it was the worst hummus I’ve ever had. It had the consistency of mayonnaise (and it shouldnt not).

    I miss the old clam chowder in a bread bowl.

  14. Katie says:

    Great review! I really enjoyed all the photos and the additional (non-food) descriptions. I look forward to more reviews from Bill.

    Columbia Harbor House is my favorite quick serve in MK. I do not eat red meat (or pork) and am what most would dub a “picky eater.” On top of that, I am pretty sensitive to greasy food. All of that said, I thoroughly enjoy the chicken tenders, but more so the fried fish. Bill is correct- the food does not drip grease and does not taste oily / deep fried (which is a common problem for fried fish). I might have to try the Garden Harvest salad when I’m there in a week and a half though. Sounds good!

  15. Marisa says:

    In my opinion, the best QS restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. It’s nice and refreshing to not have to eat a cheeseburger! The fish is delicious, and so is the apple crisp! Yu-um!!

  16. Bill is a friend of mine and I am always amazed at his attention to detail and desire to get just the right pictures. Awesome review. I look forward to more.

  17. stacey says:

    SO SO SO disappointed they changed the french fries here! I used to LOVE their fries, they were steak fries, best fries on property and now they are GONE and changed over to the same crappy shoestring fries like all the other counter service places. I hope they go back to the original ones…such a bummer! :(

  18. We love Columbia Harbour House & will go out of our way for a bowl of the Chowder. Great tip: we try to hit quick serves when it’s an “off time” – grab a snack, like a bowl of chowder & maybe some fries – we split it all – then get back to it on fuller tummies that aren’t bogged down by something heavy midday. We’re satisfied, get the quick break, then back to the fun – saving heavier meals for breakfast & dinner. Columbia House is perfectly placed & offers perfect – excellent tasting – food just for this trick.

  19. CHH is a perennial favorite.

    Originally, it was going to be called the Nantucket Harbour House, which goes along with the New England feel so much better. Also, there was a kitchen and order area on the second floor of the eatery that was closed in the late 80s or early 90s.

  20. Allison says:

    This is a favorite counter service restaurant of mine – it’s especially great upstairs if you need a mental break. The classic fish and chips is my favorite dish.

  21. Jayne says:

    Thank you for the review. I learned some good information that will help when I am choosing where to eat during our stay.

  22. Lisa says:

    Absolutely loved this place when we visited. It was nearly deserted upstairs and we had a lovely seat by the window. Te food was great and the decor of the place was equally lovely. Would definitely recommend it :)

  23. Sarah says:

    I personally did not go to CHH often while growing up (and if I did, I was probably only getting chicken nuggets anyway). My boyfriend Matt, however, went there often on his trips. His favorite item is the tuna sandwich. I went there for the first time in recent history (and not just for a bottle of water or a side of fries) over the summer with him and I ordered the fried fish basket. Like the Bill mentioned, the food wasn’t greasy, and was reasonably priced. I think it’s a great counter service option in the MK.

  24. MouseMisers says:

    Oh, I miss the old Starboard Deck Sandwich, the one NT3 and Jo describe above. Best sandwich anywhere on Disney property (yes, even better than the Earl). Killed me when they took that away.

    The restaurant is great, but it really isn’t any different now than any of the other counter service places. I do tend to eat here more, simply because I know I will always be able to find a quiet table upstairs.

  25. Daniel says:

    Lighthouse sandwich is one of the tastiest vegetarian meals on property!

  26. Nancy says:

    My sister, cousin and I stumbled on this place on our first trip to Walt Disney World. When my sister and I went again, we were so happy to come back here, even though we didn’t remember the name of the place, but had a vague memory of how the place looked! I love the quietness and relaxation on the 2nd floor.

  27. Sean says:

    CHH is the best QS! We always eat upstairs in the “bridge” area that you walk under when going from Peter Pan toward the Haunted Mansion. Great place to cool off, watch people go by, and look at the old Skyway. Also, CHH used to serve sweet tea, which was pretty good even for a southerner. Not sure if it’s still served but worth trying if it does. Great post!

  28. Rose says:

    Great CS. Also wish the old fries would make a comeback. This goes for just about everyplace. What happened to the good ol’ potato?! Also miss that ham sandwich. I think it all comes down to $$ and ease………

  29. Bill says:

    My thanks to all who commented on my review! I must admit I never expected such a response and in such numbers! I reminds me why I became a columnist in the first place, the readers. Stay tuned to the Food Blog for reviews on all of the Disney Counter-Service eateries. I’ll explore my favorites and why and hopefully many folks will get a chance to see the scope of what Disney has to offer it’s guests in quick-service. Later we’ll explore why Disney is the Mecca for food lovers as I review the many fine Table-Service restaurants. Again, my thanks for taking time to write and for all your kind words!

  30. Carolyn says:

    No, thank you! Keep them coming!! :-)

  31. Josh says:

    I’m a bit late, but great review Bill!

    As you said, most items look as though they are pretty much breaded or fried. I think I would just stick with the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.

    With all the Nautical theming you think they would at least have a prop or two from the Pirates of the Carribean series.

  32. Mary Jo Collins says:

    Enjoyed my meal here with the Keys to the Kingdom Tour. I liked how they had the food waiting for you when you arrived. I had the BLT Salad. It was an average salad, but the chicken nuggets on top seemed straight off the kids menu.

  33. Sarah A says:

    Great review!

    I also love CHH. When I went on the Keys to the Kingdom tour in February this is where we stopped for lunch. I had the fried shrimp which was really good. Most of the time I just get the clam chowder, I also wish they still offered it in a bread bowl. The soup is still so yummy especially if you happen to be there on a cooler day.

    Looking forward to more reviews!

  34. Cody says:

    Great Review! I love Columbia Harbor House, has a variety for all!! I dontknow ifyou know this, but you can request for the Tuna Sandwich to be put on white bread, and in doing so its freshly made, and you get two sandwiches (easy to share with another person, just the right size)

  35. Caleb Berg says:

    This is me and my wife’s favorite stop in WDW. We’re making our 3rd trip together in December and already know what we’ll order. For me its always the chicken and fish basket. So amazing. And you gotta try the fish with the malted vinegar.

  36. Shelley says:

    We LOVE Columbia Harbour House! We stumbled into it several years ago and go every trip! We enjoy the fish basket and clam chowder…..hope to try the shrimp platter next. We love the ambiance too! Thanks for a great review!

  37. Meirong says:

    After I had Garden Harvest Salad as dinner at Columbia Harbor House at 18:00 on Dec20, I feel dizzy and then begin to vomit in the midnight. It destroyed my last day(Dec 21) in Disney Park. I still feel sick now.

  38. Jenny says:

    We love CHH! It’s always a must-do for us. On our trip in December 2010 we stopped in and got the fish & chicken basket (an old standard for us) and we were horrified to find they’d changed the fish! When did they go to finger-shaped elementary-school-cafeteria fish stick looking things? These were not the nice-sized fillet-shaped pieces we remembered. They tasted fine (nothing special) but were disappointing. We’ll come back, but will be prepared next time.

  39. This is our FAVORITE of the MK Counter Service places! We eat there every time.

  40. Gabriella says:

    Their new grilled salmon for $10 is delicious, light and healthy!! It comes with a side of couscous and steamed broccoli. Yum! Nice addition to a great counter service restaurant. I highly recommend a taste.

  41. Melanie says:

    So, we went to CHH with our friends for lunch while in the MK, and all I can say is YUM! I had the Vegetarian Chili (I’m not a vegetarian) and the couscous, both very tasty. We had 4 kids with us & they all ate everything & were still hungry for more. We sat upstairs in “the bridge” area and it was quiet and big enough to seat all 8 of us. Great QS, we’ll definitely return again!

  42. Michael R says:

    Thanks to this review we headed to CHH for lunch and I am happy to say the review was spot on. This place is a gem. The food was so good we went back there for lunch the next day. The lobster roll, salmon and fried shrimp are all excellent. A great value as well if using the counter service dining plan. CHH will now be a regular stop for my family each time we visit the MK.

  43. Connie L says:

    I had wanted to dine at Columbia Harbour House the day (approx. 5pm) we were to attend Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (Sept. 17, 2013). But they closed early because of the party. I did not understand. I was upset & disappointed.

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