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Review: Disney World’s Grand Floridian Cafe

Today we head over to the beautiful Grand Floridian Resort to dine at one of Disney World’s most underrated restaurants, in my opinion. And if it’s not underrated, it’s at least a hidden gem.

The Grand Floridian Cafe is located in the main building of the resort, tucked back off the lobby to your left. You’ll pass it when heading out side toward the marina, Narcoossee’s, and Gasparilla Grill, but you might not even take notice it’s there.

Atmosphere

Decorated in muted shades of pink, mauve, and sea green, the Grand Floridian Cafe is the resort’s requisite “moderately priced restaurant.” There are no characters here, no signature dining qualification, and no 5-diamond rating. But it functions quite well, offers most walk-up guests a seat with no wait, and actually has some pretty darn good food!

GF Cafe

Grand Floridian Cafe Entrance

The dining room is pleasing — even if it does seem a bit dated — and I can tell you from experience that when you find a decent restaurant in Disney World where you can get a walk-up table without an Advance Dining Reservation during Spring Break, it’s like you’ve won a little lottery.

Dining Room

Light woods and massive windows make the dining room light and airy.

GF Cafe Tables

GF Cafe Tables with a View

And beautiful, if nondescript, food-themed watercolors can be found throughout the restaurant.

GF Cafe Decor

Overall, it’s a pleasing, and usually quite quiet, atmosphere to have a meal, and a great place to escape to from the Magic Kingdom via monorail or boat.

GF Cafe Mirror

Eats

I’d heard all kinds of reviews of the Grand Floridian Cafe, running the gamut from “the best food we’ve ever eaten,” to “we really didn’t like it at all.” So I was eager to sample some of the dishes I’d heard about.

click image for larger version

I started out with a “Red Grape Sensation,” one of the newer drinks on the standard Disney World bar and lounge menu. Ingredients included: Rain Organics Red Grape Hibiscus Vodka, Cranberry juice, Agave Nectar, and freshly squeezed Lime juice topped with Soda Water. It wasn’t bad, but nothing all that memorable. Sigh.

Red Grape Sensation

The husband started out with a Heineken — not normal for him, but it sure did look frosty and yummy!

Heineken

If you have kiddos, you can get these fun drinks (usually a fruit punch or lemonade) with clip-on character lights!

Punch with clip on light

Bread was quickly delivered to the table with salted butter (yay!), and we dove in. Definitely freshly baked — delicious. I always love when there’s a bit of sweetness in the bread, so the mini-loaves with raisins were a fun treat.

Bread

Bread Cross-Section

The Caesar Salad, ordered by guess who (not me), was acceptable. As usual, the croutons were the best part!

Caesar Salad

And I begged the server to stop by our table to let me snap a shot of a Strawberry Salad ordered by another patron! This is a particularly beloved dish at Grand Floridian Cafe, and I wanted you to see it even if we didn’t order it…

Strawberry Salad

My appetizer was INCREDIBLE. It was: Gorgonzola Onion Soup with Pear and Bacon Garnish. I do not kid. It had an almost smokey, savory flavor to it, and the pear and bacon garnish gave the perfect accents of crunchy sweetness and salty tang to the dish. A truly amazing soup. I mean — look at those thick chunks of bacon and those little pearl onions. Stunning.

Gorgonzola Onion Soup with Pear and Bacon Garnish

Next up — entrees! We ordered the penne pasta with Asiago cream sauce and peas, substituting chicken for shrimp; and the grilled rib-eye with Parmesan frites and red wine sauce.

The pasta was decent. I would have enjoyed a bit more sauce, but the addition of fresh, crisp peas and the sharp Asiago cheese was great. I did need to add salt, but that’s not saying much. I add salt to everything. ;-)

Penne Pasta with Peas and Asiago Cream Sauce

The rib-eye was delicious and cooked exactly as we’d requested. But I found it odd to have SO much red wine sauce on it. It was thick — like a gravy — and was poured with a heavy hand. It felt a bit too “Salisbury Steak”-ish to me, if you know what I mean. The Parmesan frites were lovely! We could definitely have done with another order of those! The veggies were slightly bitter, but I still ate ‘em all.

Ribeye Steak

For dessert, there are lots of options, but overall I’d suggest you get either the Dessert Sampler, which has Tiramisu, Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse Cake, Lemon Cheesecake, and the Key Lime Tart; or the dessert fondue. We ordered the Key Lime Tart and the Lemon Cheesecake thinking we’d get larger portions of each than we would on the sampler. This is not the case, and we ended up spending $7 on two desserts instead of getting four for $10. PLUS, you get a chocolate Mickey. Not fair.

GF Cafe Dessert Sampler

Chocolate Mickey

So, yes, the cheesecake and key lime tart were very small, but for just $3.29, that’s an acceptable size — and just enough sweet, really. If you’re one of those folks who dislikes the ginormous desserts served at most restaurants, this will be just right for you.

And we really did enjoy each dessert. My husband is a huge fan of the lemon cheesecake, and I loved the key lime tart, which had a chocolate crust!!!. Yummo.

Lemon Cheesecake

Key Lime Tart

But I think my winner of the evening was the chocolate dessert fondue. I’m a big fan of interactive desserts, AND I think any dessert with chunks of fresh fruit means it must be healthy. So I had a ball with this one. The chocolate was truly outstanding — just delicious. The only thing I’d do to change this one would be to toast those marshmallows a bit before plating them…

Chocolate Fondue

Overall

Really, this restaurant is a hidden gem. If you haven’t been here, find a day when you need a quiet lunch, a yummy breakfast, or an escape from anywhere, and pop in.

The service for us was excellent — top notch — and you can tell that the chefs in the kitchen are playing with new and fun ideas (read: Gorgonzola Onion Soup!!!) while keeping the favorites on the menu (Grand Floridian Cafe Burger, complete with Lobster and Hollandaise!!).

Next time — we’re going for breakfast. Then we’re having the burger after that!

How about you? Let us know what you think about the Grand Floridian Cafe in the comments section below!

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18 Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    The first time I went here was a few years ago with just my Mom for breakfast. It was so delightful! So we brought my Dad back with us next time…and it was awful. They must have had a management change because our food took forever to come out, it was cold, AND they ran out of bacon?? (Who runs out of bacon?) Our poor waitress was wonderful, but when the manager came over (at our request) she acted like nothing was wrong. Seriously, there is no other way to describe the experience than awful.

    Then a year or so later we were looking for a nice place for lunch that didn’t require a park ticket the day after Christmas…eek! We decided to give this place another try and once again it was wonderful. So we really must have hit a bad day that one time!

  2. Kristina says:

    I had already made ADRs for the Grand Floridian Cafe for our trip this October so I was very happy to see a review of it before we go (and while there is still time to change my reservation if needed ;) ) It sounds like we’re in for a real treat and will be keeping the ADR.
    I’m anticipating ordering the New York Strip and the dessert sampler.

    My only question is do you think this will be a good choice for parents of 4 and 6 year old girls? I checked out the kids menu (of course) and I’m sure the food will be fine for them, but is the atmosphere too stuffy?

  3. Emily says:

    WE love GFC.We act canclled tuskers to eat breakfast there again
    . Our kids loved it so much 2 and 4.

  4. That burger became my new favorite dish at WDW. I was really getting into eating it….so much so that my hubby asked if he should leave so I could get a room with my burger! LOL! WOW. Great review of the place.

    PS Looking forward to the Foodie Fest!

  5. AJ says:

    Kelly — Yet another instance of inconsistency at Disney restaurants, eh? Sigh. I have a very short list of restaurants I can count on no matter what. But I’m glad to hear that 2 out of 3 times were good. That’s a pretty good record. ;-)

    Kristina — Yep!! This will be fine for kids. There won’t be much stimulus in the way of atmosphere, but the meal will likely be good. :-)

    Emily — Thanks for the recommendation! Any special items you enjoyed?

    Allison — Ha!! We were torn on whether to order the burger. Figured we needed to head back soon to do so!!

  6. Alan says:

    AJ is right about this being a hidden gem. I’ve eaten here several times and usually had a very good meal. They try a little harder than many of the single ticket table service places with both the flavor profiles and presentation. If you haven’t stayed at or visited this hotel, arrive an hour or so early for a meal at the GFC or other restaurant. Sit in the main lobby, have a cocktail, listen to the pianist and enjoy the luxury.

  7. Sarah says:

    I just had lunch here for the first time yesterday! It was delicious!

  8. Gini says:

    DH and I are going to WDW in September for our first ever trip there and we are staying at the GF. Hubby is a meat and potatoes kind of guy so based on the menu we are having dinner at the cafe the last night of our trip. I showed him the picture of the steak and the man immediately started drooling!! LOL. It sounds like I made the perfect dinner choice.

  9. NT3 says:

    Your husband needs to learn how to pour a beer. ;)

  10. Elissa Pelaez Fuentes says:

    My husband & I have stayed a few times at the Grand Floridian, including our honeymoon. We’ve enjoyed having breakfast there during all our trips. On our most recent trip last year we had lunch at the cafe and it was a pleasant surprise. My husband, parents, & I all enjoyed our meal. The Grand Floridian burger was delicious!!!

  11. Dana says:

    A few years ago, we went during Free Dining, and we were down to the wire getting reservations and we decided to try here on a whim- what a happy surprise– everything we had was delicious, the service was great, and it was just a generally relaxing dinner, close enough to the MK, but away enough from the hustle and bustle that you think you’re in a remote corner of the property!

  12. canadianslovewdw says:

    I ate here on my first trip to WDW.(sept 2007) they had character dining then with prince charming, cinderella, and the mice… the food was good. maybe next trip we will return cant wait to read about breakfast..

  13. Leslie says:

    We love the GF Cafe! We stayed at the Grand Floridian in February 2010 and had booked an ADR for dinner there our first night, knowing we’d be exhausted by an overnight drive followed by the kids dragging us through the park that day while we were waiting for our room to be ready – we wanted an easy, early dinner close to home.

    We ended up actually eating breakfast there that morning, though, when we checked into the hotel and before heading into the park. I was so tired from being up most of the night that my memory is fuzzy, but I do remember excellent service, fabulous waffles and the bacon was actually as crisp as I asked for it to be, which is a rarity in most places.

    That night we returned for dinner (again, first night of the trip) and my husband and father both ordered the infamous Grand Floridian Burger. Oh. My. Word. 1/3 of a pound of angus beef topped with lobster, asparagus and hollandaise…heaven on a plate. They loved it, and the bite I had was spectacular. The service was again excellent, even with 3 grouchy and tired kiddos. I had the ceasar salad and the french onion soup, both of which were excellent.

    The GF burger was such a hit that we ate there again later in the trip on a night when we didn’t have an ADR and didn’t feel like venturing back out into the park (I’ve got small kids, so the end of the day can often be a bit dicey in terms of their patience and stamina!) The guys again ordered the GF burgers, and loved them just as much. We once again had excellent service.

    This past April we returned to WDW and stayed elsewhere, but on the one night we didn’t have plans with another family we were traveling with, we returned to the GF Cafe for dinner. The burger was still outstanding, as were my salad and soup. The kids loved the drinks with the lights on them, and the service was still stellar. I think this will become a regular “must do” on our trips!

  14. Leslie says:

    @Kristina ~ I have 3 boys ages 10, 7 and 3 and they were all fine at the GF Cafe. It’s nice but not stuffy. The staff are perfectly prepared to handle kids, including getting the bread or appetizers to the table quickly, keeping their drinks refilled, etc. My boys think of it as a “nice restaurant” (i.e. not a character or themed place) but they like the food. Two of my boys have had the kids’ salmon before and loved it enough to order it again on the next trip!

  15. Emily says:

    Two words: GRAND SANDWICH

    You will die a happy person after eating this thing. The amount of moaning coming from our table was almost obscene…. And I am not ashamed!

  16. Janet says:

    I’ve eaten here twice.. both for Breakfast and we loved it. Be sure to try the Grand Mimosa! yum!
    We’ve had the eggs benedict, the mickey waffles, and the Vanilla Maple French Toast. ALL excellent.

    I need to hit lunch and dinner there for sure!

  17. lynn says:

    Thanks for the recent review- trying to sort out restaurants in my head for the next trip and am thinking of ditching Kona and going here since we’ve not been yet. I like trying new places & sticking with maybe 1 or 2 from a prior trip. The menu offerings (as seen) seem like they would suit everyone in our group.

  18. Wow… OK, I’m SOLD! DW and I will hit the Grand Flo Cafe on our next trip, and I’m tryin’ that Grand Floridian Burger! Thanks, A.J., for the great review!

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