Welcome Guest Reviewer Katie Drake as she transports us to a by-gone era and the world of Winnie the Pooh!
Couldn’t snag a reservation with the princesses at the Castle? Why not try the Palace down the street?!
The Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace may not boast any Disney movie royalty, but it does have everyone’s favorite friends from the Hundred Acre Wood, available for meet and greets all day long. Most guests take advantage of the scrumptious breakfast offerings, but the restaurant is one of the few at Walt Disney World that offers character meals three times a day, and lunch and dinner have several tasty offerings.
After walking down Main Street U.S.A., visitors are in a turn-of-the-century frame of mind, and taking a bit of refreshment in the conservatory sounds perfectly delightful. With it’s airy walls of windows and greenery throughout, the Crystal Palace feels like a Victorian greenhouse, but with plenty of AC cranking to keep the heat and humidity at bay.
Guests must wait outside on the veranda until their table is ready, the air stirred by large ceiling fans. Inside is full of greenery, with lots of light streaming through the windows.
Visitors are seated on either side of the restaurant, with the buffet in the center. Pooh and his friends are celebrating “Friendship Day” and have several homemade decorations up for the party.
Though the food offerings are fab, this is really the reason to dine at the Crystal Palace. The billing is “Winnie the Pooh and friends,” which usually includes Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore, who all come around for photos and autographs. The restaurant is always busy, and with only four characters the ratios aren’t great, so be sure to have those autograph books out and cameras ready. The characters are all “furs,” but all manage to communicate quite well through gestures.
About once an hour, the gang rounds up all the children in the restaurant for the Friendship Day Parade, a long line marching around the restaurant waving napkins.
Some guests are annoyed by the antics, wishing the characters would spend the precious time with their little ones instead, but the parade can make for some great video moments. In our case, it resulted in my toddler losing her shoe during the madness, resulting in her older cousin carrying her around while Tigger returned to find the shoe. Certainly a moment we’ll remember when we look back on our dining experience!
On paper, the Palace’s menu does not sound very exciting, yet another American, all-you-care-to-eat buffet. But many of the items have a different take on the traditional, and are replaced often for excellent freshness.
Menu items change often, so you can never be sure what will be offered, but you can bet everyone in your group will find something. The salad bar is loaded with fresh fruit, crispy greens and several other unique offerings. My favorite was a simply Greek salad with romaine, red onions, olives, tomatoes and fresh crumbled feta in a vinaigrette.
Too much dressing or too long on the bar could result in soggy salad, but it was crisp, tangy and delightful. Others, like the Moroccan seafood salad with couscous, fresh veggies and seafood like shrimp and calamari, is a bit too adventurous for some, but guests in our group loved the chance to try something new.
Hot dishes are equally well executed. The restaurant operates its own rotisserie, offering BBQ pork tenderloin, roasted chicken, and a delicious citrus-marinated flank steak.
The poached salmon with creamy pesto is a must-try, flakey and delicious. Hot sides like mashed potatoes, pastas and stir fries are also good, and the fire-roasted corn spoonbread is a fixture on the menu due to guest requests.
Kids can find plenty to eat at Pooh Corner, offering the best chicken nuggets I’ve ever tasted (I swear they were hand breaded), pasta with marinara sauce, and mac and cheese alongside healthy offerings like green beans. Kids can help themselves at Pooh Corner, which is just their height, or eat with Mom and Dad at the main buffet.
As with many restaurants in Disney World, the desserts are a bit of a disappointment. Simple offerings like cookies, lemon bars and marble-cheesecake bites are fine, but the fancier desserts are a big letdown.
A chocolate-coconut trifle tasted like grocery-store sheet cake, and the banana bread pudding with Bailey’s Irish Crème sauce is nothing to get excited about. Kids do seem to enjoy the create-your-own sundae bar. One dining hint: both sides of the main buffet are identical, but the dessert offerings are different on either side, so be sure to check out both.
If it’s you birthday, let the cast members at the podium and your server know. You may get a special treat!
Dinner service is the same as lunch, with the addition of a few items like peel-and-eat shrimp to the menu.
Lunch and dinner at the Crystal Palace can be pricey, with adult meals at about $25 and $37 respectively, but are a great way to use a dining plan credit! All of the food, with the exception of desserts, is excellent, so fill up on savories and have a Dole Whip or Mickey Premium Bar later for dessert. The restaurant offers one of the few chances on property to meet Pooh’s gang, and can make for some great photos and memories.