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Review: Wilderness Lodge’s Artist Point

Ah, Artist Point. This restaurant and I have had a love-hate relationship, to be sure. On my first visit, I loved it. But after the second visit, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to go back.

On my third visit last December, I was in heaven.

Atmosphere
Artist Point is one of Disney’s lesser-known signature restaurants (read about the dress code here). Located in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, it specializes in cuisine inspired by the American Northwest (think salmon, big game meat, apples, berries, and mushrooms, for starters).

Entry

The high-ceilinged restaurant is understated, decorated with muted earth tones and a mix of light and dark wood. Chunky craftsman-style chandeliers punctuate the dining room, and soaring murals of Pacific Northwest scenes provide a gorgeous setting for your meal.

Entryway

Restaurant dining room

Mural 1

Mural

The views from the dining room, if you get there before the sun sets, are of the beautiful Wilderness Lodge Courtyard and pool, and beyond that, a glistening Bay Lake.

View

Beautiful View

Eats
We were a bit nervous as we were seated. Having had a less-than-stellar experience on our prior visit, we were hoping that Artist Point had stepped up its game.

Our server greeted us with a long spiel (that we subsequently heard again and again as each new party was seated around us), but he was clearly interested in his job and in the food being served. We felt that we could absolutely ask him questions about the menu and receive an informed and experienced answer — something I value in a signature restaurant, since I’m usually caught off guard by one ingredient or another (e.g. What’s gremolata?).

And we were excited upon seeing the menu — there was plenty that we wanted to sample…

Artist Point Menu -- click for larger image

While we were deciding, we were treated to some yummy freshly made bread and butter (with black sea salt!).

bread

Diving into appetizers, we — once again…you know us, after all — ordered three.

First, I had to try the cheese plate. Those who have been reading the blog for a while know that it’s practically sacrilege for me to NOT order a cheese plate when offered.

This one was lovely. Midnight Moon, Beemster X-O, and Smokey Blue Cheese with accompanying fruits, honey (yay!), and walnut toast. Our favorites were the Midnight Moon and the Beemster.

Sigh. Honey and cheese. So good.

cheese plate

Second in the appetizer chain was the restaurant’s famous Portobello Soup with Roasted Shiitakes and Chive Oil. This stuff is addictive, and everyone knows it! We don’t even like mushrooms! The server kindly separated one serving into two bowls so that we could each have our own…

Mushroom Soup

But the next dish is where that “heavenly” meal really began — the Butternut Squash Risotto with Crispy Berkshire Pork Belly and Chili-infused Cranberry Vinegar.

Pork Belly!

This dish was outstanding. I did not want it to end. I was hoping against hope for a Mary Poppins bowl that had no bottom. The slightly sweet and creamy taste of the risotto coupled with the strong savory flavor of the pork belly held up handsomely against that tart, tangy zing of the cranberry vinegar. Truly an amazing dish, and, sadly, most likely seasonal.

butternut squash risotto

risotto pork

As we watched our empty risotto bowl disappear on a server’s tray, we were glad to see entrees arrive. We’d ordered the Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Blue Lake Green Beans, and Espresso Reduction; and the Char-grilled Buffalo Striploin Steak with Black Diamond Mac & Cheese, Cider-glazed Brussels Sprouts, and Syrah Gastrique.

The tenderloin was lovely. The addition of the espresso reduction was a fun, I thought, nod to the coffee-focused Seattle area, and it made the steak decidedly different from the tenderloins you’ll get in other Disney restaurants. The crisp green beans were fresh and delicious.

filet

But I have to admit I was more excited about my Buffalo Striploin with Black Diamond Mac & Cheese! Back in the day, Artist Point had a Tillamook Mac & Cheese that was out of this world, so I was excited to try the replacement — especially since I think Black Diamond is outstanding.

The dish was fantastic. The Buffalo didn’t have a hint of gaminess about it, and I loved that it was cooked nearly rare to preserve the tenderness of the meat. And the mac & cheese did not disappoint! Very rich and flavorful, though I would have loved to see a bit more creaminess. Brussels Spouts? No comment, though our server did say that these were the only sprouts he’d ever seen kids actually eat and like.

bison and mac and cheese

bison

And I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get some truffle fries on the side. These had a stronger truffle taste than Flying Fish Cafe‘s (sadly departed) truffle fries. We enjoyed them.

truffle fries

The dessert menu soon came to our table and we knew we had to make a difficult choice. Whether to get dessert? Nope — no choice there! Rather, what to choose since we could only really get two.

Artist Point Dessert Menu -- click for larger image

Artist Point Tea Menu -- click for larger image

We went for the Valrhona Chocolate Terrine with Amarena Cherries and Salted Hazelnut Brittle; and the Baked Apple Tart with House-Made Vanilla Ice Cream and Apple Cider Caramel Sauce.

The terrine was really fun. I love dense, rich chocolate desserts, and this was like eating dark chocolate brownie batter. I understand that the chef might not appreciate that description, but I bet it would sell the dessert! ;-)

chocolate cherry dessert

The apple tart was a bit dry for our taste (bring on the extra caramel sauce!), but it was perfect as a light dessert.

apple dessert

Now, you might wonder about the famous Artist Point berry cobbler. You can read all about it here, and you can see me trying to re-create the recipe over on Cookie Madness’ blog here!

And we wanted to share the drink menu and kids’ menu with you as well…

Artist Point Drink Menu -- click for larger image

click for larger version

Artist Point Kids Menu

Overall
The restaurant is back to bowling me over, thank goodness. I always want to like Artist Point. It’s easy to get a reservation, the atmosphere is quiet and relaxing, the lounge next door is one of my favorite lounges in Disney World, and you can end your evening by strolling out by the lake — Wilderness Lodge is one of my favorite resorts.

On this trip, we were wowed by the menu and the service, and the quality and creativity of the food was fantastic. While it might be difficult to design a menu inspired by the Pacific Northwest, the chefs here seemed instead to be having a blast with their ideas.

Highly recommended.

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15 Comments

  1. gaylin says:

    I am glad to hear that you had a good meal there, everything sounds delicious. The only time I have been there it was beyond disappointing. The service was glacial and when our food did arrive is wasn’t hot anymore, by that time we were both so hungry we weren’t going to return it and wait again. My steak was over cooked and dry. This is the only restaurant I have ever been to at WDW where having allergies caused a problem, also it seemed to bother our waiter that neither of us drank alcohol . . . Why gluten allergies would bother them when I was ordering steak, don’t know. Again, I am glad you had such a good meal but I wouldn’t go back there, the service and the food both left a bad taste in my mouth.

  2. Dave says:

    Hopefully Artist’s Point is coming back. It was once a “must-do” on our list but fell off due to extremely poor service, which has become the consensus of reviews the past few years. Hopefully we’ll see a consistent drum beat of positive reviews in the next year – that’s what it will take to get us back.

  3. Kim says:

    We absolutely love Wilderness Lodge but we had a less than happy ending to our late and romantic meal at Artist Point too. My husband had studied the menu months before our trip and decided on salmon. They were out. They were also out of his second and third choices so he was disappointed before we even got started. Granted we were seated at 9:00 p.m. but still, for what we paid for the meal we were disappointed with the food and service we received.

  4. Sara says:

    Happy to see a positive review of Artist Point! I really want to give it a try, it seems like a fun signature, but definitely have seen a fair share of negative reveiws. But then again, I’ve seen a bunch of negative reviews of places I’ve really enjoyed, such as Jiko. It’s funny how tempting that soup looks, and I don’t even like mushrooms either!

  5. AJ says:

    Gaylin and Dave — I know exactly where you’re coming from. While our second meal there wasn’t awful, there was very little that was memorable about it. I was nervous about trying again, but there really does seem to have been a change of pace around that restaurant. The food is quite good, service is decent (though still a BIT slow), and the variety on the menu is excellent. I hope you get a chance to try it again. Of course, I can’t promise anything. You never know from day to day if you’re going to hit a signature restaurant on a good day, eh?

    Kim — Oh no! I never understand when those kinds of things happen; it’s so disappointing! Did you end up with anything you liked?

    Sara — Great point. MANY of Disney’s restaurants have a problem with consistency when it comes to good service and great food. I joke that this is why this blog will be relevant for so long — just covering a restaurant once doesn’t do it justice. Many Disney restaurants have multiple personalities!

  6. Tana says:

    I’m excited to read your glowing review. We loved AP during our October trip (I still salivte thinking about the cheese plate while the husband raved about the buffalo!) and we are headed back next month.

  7. Mark D. says:

    I am sure there were many delicious things on that menu, but I may have just had 3-4 orders of the pork belly and rissoto for app, diner, and dessert. That looks amazing.

  8. Shayne says:

    That pork belly appetizer is the one that leapt off the menu to catch my attention! It looks divine.

    And I was also interested in the buffalo, so I’m glad you tried it. We have taken to eating buffalo more often, as a leaner alternative to beef, but it takes careful attention not to overcook it and make it tough. Yours looked delicious, and I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it.

    We have never eaten at Artist Point, though our kids have! We split up one night and the grandparents took the kids there for dinner, while Hubby and I ended up somewhere in Epcot. They all enjoyed the meal as much as you did, so it sounds like we’ll have to make the trip across Bay Lake some time soon to give it a try.

  9. Chris says:

    Thanks for this. I love this place and I’m excited to go back in May, but I was a little worried because I’ve seen mixed reviews. I’m really looking forward to it now.

  10. AJ says:

    Tana — Great to hear it! Yes; we are hoping that butternut squash risotto is still there when we go back!

    Mark D — For REAL! I loved that stuff. I kidded with my husband on the way out that I could gladly have eaten JUST risotto that night.

    Shayne — Exactly; I was really pleased that the Buffalo was not at all too tough. I think you guys would love Artist Point. Maybe we can meet up there someday!

    Chris — Awesome! Maybe I’ll join you for dinner in May! ;-)

  11. Queenie3sr says:

    My self and boyfriend ate here last November and it was one of the best meals we had on Disney( tied with Yachtmens Steakhouse). Artist Point will be a must do each time we visit now. The soup was beyond great! The Buffalo was fantastic as was the tenderloin. No idea how we made room for dessert but we weren’t going to pass it up! Great views and service! I hope to try the Pork Belly, hoping it is on the menu next time we are there!

  12. Beth says:

    We absolutely love Artist Point. I think I could eat just the Smokey Portobello Mushroom soup the entire night – it’s absolutely delicious! I always have the salmon and have yet to be disappointed. To get to Wilderness Lodge, we always take the boat from MK to Wilderness Lodge, which is always a nice way to start a quiet evening (my parents take our three kids one night each trip so DH and I can enjoy a night out). Even better, if you time it just right, when you take the boat ride back, you can see the Water Pageant. We actually were “stuck” one night on the boat waiting for it to pass. It was a great way to end a great meal!

  13. Alan says:

    If ever a review and comments section showed how hard it is to run a great restaurant this is it. Good service/bad service, hot food/cold food, good choices/lack of choices – yin/yang. It’s one of, if not the toughest business there is.

  14. Dante says:

    That mushroom soup!! One of the most memorable things we ate during our whole trip. The waitress actually gave us the recipe after we complimented it so much. Of course, we’ve never made it, because it’s very rich and makes a lot more soup than we could possibly want. LOL

  15. Christy says:

    We ate at Artist Point last Friday night and loved it. I think it was one of the best meals we have ever had. The mushroom soup was out of this world. My husband had the tenderloin and I had the salmon. Both were wonderful. The tenderloin was really tender and had a great flavor. We ended the meal with the berry cobbler. We were so pleased with this restraunt. The food was really good and the service exceptional. It was a wonderful way to spend our 12th anniversary at Disney. It also helped that the Wilderness Lodge had the Cubs Den to watch our kids for us while we had a night out. All in all we can’t wait for our next trip to Disney to try Artist Point again.

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