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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.