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Review: Whispering Canyon Cafe at Wilderness Lodge

Despite its name, the Whispering Canyon Cafe is a rowdy restaurant that encourages diners to sing, ride hobby horses (if you’re a grown-up, you only have to do this if you’re naughty), and laugh-out-loud throughout the meal.

Fitting the Wilderness Lodge location in Disney World, Whispering Canyon Cafe servers are in “old West” character, and this place is definitely casual to say the least!

Atmosphere

To say it bluntly, Whispering Canyon Cafe will make you feel like a kid again!

warning sign - click image for larger version

Cowboys and Indians decorate the backs of the wooden chairs, whimsical tee-pee light fixtures hang from the ceiling, kids can play with Lincoln Logs while waiting for a seat, and the noise factor will definitely remind you of your junior high lunchroom (maybe not a good thing, but pretty much the truth!).

Seating

cowboys and indians on back of chairs

The servers here are special as well. There are a few Disney World restaurants where servers are part of the entertainment, and Whispering Canyon Cafe is one of them!

With funny “stage” names and devil-may-care attitudes, they’re usually a fun addition to an already fun dining experience. (As always, if you’d rather keep your meal low-key, just let the cast member at the podium as well as your server know that you’d rather not participate in the antics — this usually works.)

Our server on this visit was “Foxy Roxy,” pictured here with a giant fork! What’s the giant fork for, you say? Well, you might just find out should you — or a member of your party — drop your fork during the meal! ;-)

Foxy Roxy with Fork

Of course, dropping your fork isn’t the only thing that might make you part of the atmosphere here! These two women might have been making cell phone calls at the table — or any other of a number of “naughty behaviors” — that landed them in a hobby horse race around the restaurant!

naughty people riding hobby horses

Personally, I’ve been brought a huge bucket of Diet Coke when I asked for too many refills. And when I was finished drinking the bucket of pop, our server was kind enough to bring me a “Fastpass to the Bathroom,” which I promptly used! ;-)

A quick note here that the kids have a great time here as well. There are often games and songs, and they get to take part in real hobby horse races around the restaurant!

However, if you’re planning to try Whispering Canyon, we’ve had reports (and experienced ourselves) that the lunch antics aren’t quite as extensive as those at breakfast and dinner. If you’re hoping for a quieter, less “entertaining” meal, go for lunch.

Eats

Our visit was impromptu. We didn’t have an ADR, but wanted to visit a table-service restaurant for lunch and realized that we hadn’t been to Whispering Canyon for quite some time!

We only had to wait for fifteen minutes or so before our buzzer buzzed us into the restaurant. It was nearly empty, so they must have been between the lunch and dinner rush.

Roxy promptly came over and threw napkins and straws at us along with our menus. Like I said, I hadn’t been here for a while, but I was happy to see the staples still on the menu along with some interesting new (to me) appetizers!

Appetizer Menu - click image for larger version

Entree Menu - click image for larger version

Non Alcoholic Drink Menu - click image for larger version

Alcoholic Mixed Drinks Menu - click image for larger version

We, of course, ordered a Diet Coke and one of the Whispering Canyon Cafe’s famous “Bottomless” milkshakes (free refills through your meal!). The drinks come in mason jars…as they should — this being the old West and all.

pop in mason jars

The bottomless milkshakes are a specialty of the Whispering Canyon Cafe, and reason enough to visit if you ask me. You can order them in chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry. We didn’t test the theory, but I’d bet you could change up flavors on each refill if you you so desired.

bottomless milkshake

We started with a couple of new-to-us appetizers: the Smokey Sweet Corn Chowder and the Pulled Pork Spring Rolls. The corn chowder was delicious — thick and rich with lots of flavor!

smokey sweet corn chowder

The pulled pork spring rolls were good as well; they reminded me of the venison spring rolls that used to be on the menu over at Artist Point. The wrappers were very crispy, and we enjoyed the sweet chili dipping sauce. I could have used a bit more filling — as it was, the wrappers were the predominant texture in the dish.

pulled pork spring rolls

pulled pork spring rolls cross section

For our entrees we ordered the BBQ skillet — an all-you-care-to-eat platter of ribs, chicken, sausage, beans, corn on the cob, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and cornbread — and the angus chuck cheeseburger, because I’d heard raves about it from DFB readers!

The turkey sandwich looked good as well — vaguely Thanksgiving-y; and I also liked the addition of the sauteed red quinoa cakes, which seemed like a different take on a veggie meal that what you’d normally see in a BBQ restaurant (especially a moderately-priced one).

The cornbread came first, along with some barbecue sauce for the skillet. The cornbread was more savory that sweet (I prefer sweet) and a little drier than I’d have liked, but those negatives kept me from eating too much and spoiling my dinner!

corn bread - butter - bbq sauce for skillet

The skillet arrived quickly, and we dug in. The sausage was the winner for me here, though the ribs were a close second. The chicken was a pretty distant third, sadly. Not too much taste or flavor there.

The mashed potatoes and baked beans were great, and the corn on the cob tasted fresh instead of “re-heated,” which was very nice. I have some serious contempt for restaurants that serve re-heated corn on the cob — the kind where all the kernels are starting to collapse in on themselves and that plump “just-boiled” sheen is all gone? Yuck. This corn on the cob did not suffer from the “collapsed kernels” affliction. The coleslaw was a nice, cooling addition to the skillet.

skillet

skillet

coleslaw

The burger was…perfection. Cooked to order, it wasn’t overdone, dried out, or completely raw (shocking how difficult it is to get a truly good burger cooked well these days), and the serving of meat was massive.

We both enjoyed the few bites we took, but with that much food, I’ll admit we didn’t get nearly as many bites as I wanted. Thanks to those readers who recommended the burger here!

burger

On to dessert!

Dessert Menu - click image for larger version

It was a difficult decision. I knew I wanted to try the s’mores cheesecake, but the second dessert was up for grabs. I was sold on the bread pudding, but when we asked Roxy, she told us to get the apple-caramel pie. We trusted Roxy, and we weren’t disappointed!

The s’mores cheesecake was great. I wish the marshmallows had been toasted — or even that there had been a marshmallow “frosting” type of situation like we found on the s’mores cupcake down at Roaring Fork — but the layers of graham cracker crust and delicious cheesecake filling made up for it.

smores cheesecake

The apple-caramel pie, though, my friends, was amazing. I think I owe Roxy my first-born for that recommendation. As full as we were, we were fighting over this one.

I know, I know — it doesn’t look like much in the picture, but those fresh, cinnamon-y apples; the strudel; the caramel sauce; the ice cream…absolutely incredible.

apple caramel pie

apple caramel pie inside

By the way, that extra little dish of caramel sauce doesn’t come with the pie. We ordered it on the side since we’re pretty sure that you can never have enough caramel sauce.

Overall

The Whispering Canyon Cafe, in my opinion, has stepped up its game food-wise. My last visit was a couple of years ago, and while it was good, it seemed tired. The skillet meats were overdone, the menu items didn’t read as fresh and interesting, and the atmosphere felt flat.

Whoever is running the place now, however, has breathed a bit of life into WCC. I thought the food was simple, but excellent. We were impressed with each dish, even though we’d had the skillet many times before. The new appetizers were fun and interesting, and we liked the addition of a few new entrees as well.

Interestingly, this is how I feel about the Artist Point next door, too, so I wonder if the change has to do with new oversight over the restaurants at Wilderness Lodge. I really have no idea if there even is a new manager in charge of the cuisine at the hotel, but if so, kudos to him or her! Both restaurants seem rejuvenated in terms of food and service, and I’ll be heading back over more often than before.

So if you haven’t been back to Whispering Canyon Cafe in a while, it might be time to journey back to the old West for a bite to eat. They’re doing things a little differently, but the same old fun and antics are still around!

Have you been to Whispering Canyon Cafe? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

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25 Comments

  1. Nicola says:

    How old is this review?? Why have they swapped pulled pork and brisket for sausages????? I am absolutely gutted. :-(

    kinda not looking forward to my reservation now.

  2. Nicola says:

    Ah just noticed this is lunch….. thank god!!!! Theres no way i want sausages instead of the pulled pork and brisket!!! :-)

    happy again now! *wipes brow*

  3. Allen says:

    We went two years ago (and will go again this year*), thoroughly enjoyed the food and atmosphere but we were equally disappointed by the service. Our waiter was inattentive and lacked personality and they completely missed our daughter’s birthday, even after we reminded them when we checked in!

    *I was hesitant to make reservations again this year, but we are hosting friends (celebrating their anniversary) who wanted to stay at the Wilderness Lodge and we knew they’d get a kick out of the shenanigans (plus we’ll have our three-year old with us).

  4. Jason says:

    They do have one of the best burgers on property. It was fun, and you can’t be too uptight or that just gets you made fun of more.

  5. Jenny says:

    I went to whispering canyon on my trip last january and your server roxy was our sever as well. She was definitely one of the more fun servers we have ever had! We were there for breakfest and i was celebrating my high school graduation. She went around the entire restaraunt trying to find me a boyfriend! unfortunately she couldn’t find anyone my age to bring back over but she did try to show me an older guy. after that she made me a hat like the ones they have at dicks last resort in downtown chicago that said “She’s looking for a boyfriend!” the meal was as good as ever but roxy was a definite stand out.

  6. Emma says:

    we ate here for the first time in December 2010 – and Foxy Roxy was our server too! She was really good fun – after noticing we had ‘just engaged’ on our reservation, she demanded to see my ring & made other servers come over to look at it ;) … she also convinced us to get the apple caramel pie for dessert!
    We were sat outside of the main dining room, which suited us better being a party of 2, but we still could see & hear the entertainment going on (the table next to us asked for ketchup… !)

  7. Stephanie says:

    We had a great experience here in April. We had the earliest dinner reservation, so my 6-year old got to ring the dinner bell to open the restaurant for the evening. We were also the first table to ask for ketchup-very exciting! Our charming waitress then surprised us with a champagne toast for our anniversary. Very fun, and the food was yummy too.

  8. Alan says:

    It’s good to read that AJ feels that there is some new life and freshness in this restaurant. In this age of celebrity chefs and things like Master Chef and The Food Network, this type of close attention by the folks running any restaurant is necessary. Good for them!

  9. Emma (daydreamingdisney) says:

    Oh how i can’t wait to get back to my WL next year! We had breakfast at WCC last December. Our ADR was for quite early in the morning but we still had to wait 15 mins or so to be seated. As the restaurant was only a third full it was the quietest I’d ever seen it! Our server still chucked straws at us and when I asked for ketchup (I knew I had to get the experience) she made sure I still got a little surprise ;) She found out that we were going shopping that day and spent ages teasing my boyfriend about how much money he would spend and to make sure he had his chequebook.
    We had the ‘all you care to eat’ breakfast skillet, and believe me, they just kept it coming! You know AJ how much I LOVE my breakfasts but even I reached a point when i had to say no more of this good stuff!!
    Looking forward to trying the other meal times there after this great review :)

  10. We have so many GREAT family memories (and pictures) at this restaurant. It’s one of the few that our DD (age 8) asks to go to every year. She loves the “show” that comes with the meal. My husband LOVES the BBQ. We always over eat and have a great time – the sign of a good meal in my opinion.

  11. Judy says:

    This will be our first meal when we arrive at WL in September. We’re using the dining plan and I was wondering if milkshakes counted for the included drink. Thanks for the review – can’t wait until 9/10!!

  12. We try to go each time we are there, but weren’t able to fit it in on our spring trip for the #DisneySMMoms. But, after reading this review, I am definitely anxious to go back! Great photos!

  13. Catie says:

    My 15 year old son and I ate at here in Feb 2011 and had a total blast. I loved seeing all the kids have fun. Our waitress (whose name I cannot remember) was AWESOME. She got my son to lead the restaurant in the Hokey Pokey. As a side note, when we were there my son took advantage of the bottomless shakes and they had a Peanut Butter and Jelly flavored shake that was very tasty. Our waitress was sweet enough to give him one to go too! And you can change your milkshake flavor when you order your next! For dinner, we had the skillet which was delicious.

    Whispering Canyon was the best restaurant experience we had on our trip!

  14. Anna says:

    Have an early dinner reservation here for Nov. 2011. Hope the meal is as good your lunch was!

  15. Wesley69 says:

    That are Boma’s in the Animal Lodge are our favorite places to eat. The price is high, if you get the skillet, but man, it is worth it. You need to walk around the parks for hours to get rid of the food in your belly. Watch out for Raoul, but got with his routine. He is great!!!!!

  16. John B says:

    I had both breakfast and lunch at WCC. As I remember, breakfast was good. Lunch was OK. I had the pork rolls and I totally agree they need more to them. For $10 I thought it was a poor value (and I only had 4, not the 5 you had). I had the turkey sandwich for lunch and it was good, nothing great. The apple pie, however, was amazing. Looking at that dessert menu I’d have to skip the main meal and just eat 4 desserts for lunch!

    I’m willing to give the place another try because I think I just made poor choices. I’d LOVE to get that skillet. I was dining solo for lunch last time and felt self conscious about that much food for 1 person. What was wrong with me? :)

  17. Holly C. says:

    Oh Oh…quick question…isn’t the Hoop De Do Music festival in that building? We camp in Fort Wilderness and its the best campground ever. So much to do there. Please let me know where this place is, Whispering Canyon Cafe…I’d like to check it out,sounds like lots of fun.

  18. luvmychaos says:

    I have to admit that out of all the reservations we’ve made for our 14 day Disney dining extravaganza,this is the one I’m looking forward to the most! That caramel apple pie looks DEELISH! On a side note,are last minute breakfast ADR’S easy to get? I’m a sucker for biscuits&gravy! We might have to hit up WCC twice during our trip!

  19. rhyeck says:

    Last December, we noticed an improvement with the restaurants @ Wilderness Lodge (including Roaring Forks/counter service). We even asked for a manager and told them how much we enjoyed our meals. The last time we went to WCC we got the skillet and the chicken was amazing and full of flavor!! The waitress shared their secret recipe with us (actually brought us a print out of the spices!). So, I was surprised to see your picture of the chicken… ours looked NOTHING like that. We have ADR’s in September… I hope they go back to the old seasoned recipe (fingers crossed)!

  20. Michelle B. says:

    It was nice to see the menu as I didn’t know there were non-skillet entrees. Those looked good. I was also very impressed by your aperture on the pulled pork spring rolls cross section photo!

  21. Chrissy says:

    Whispering Canyon Cafe is my favorite restaurant in all of Disney World!!! We have the same server every visit! Bob (aka, Geppetto) is fantastic, and always takes care of my girls! The food is great, and it’s always a great time!!!

  22. lucy says:

    Every year my sister and I meet at disney for a week I live in NJ and she lives in Ca the first night of our stay which is always at the wilderness villas since I am dvc member we eat at whispering canyon cafe it has become a tradition but this year I was forced to cancel neither of us our big eaters and to spend 32.99 was just to much what a shame after years we had to change our tradition

  23. patty b. says:

    Just got back from Disney and had dinner here. I can honestly say that I was truely disappointed with the food, atmosphere and service we rec’d at this place. First of all, we were seated in a small section away from the main dining area. Our waitress was barely where we were. The food was the worst we had while on vacation. To give an adult a piece of corn on the cob that was only 1 inch big was ridiculous. The meats tasted like they were pulled out of a freezer and put in a microwave. My husband didn’t want me to complain because he was afraid that if he asked for more food, that something might happen to it. Then to top it off, they don’t allow you to take the dessert that you pay for, with you. I have visited Disney 10 times and have been to numerous resturants and have never been more disgusted with this one. To think that they charge $39.99 a person and you have to wait 10 minutes for your waitress to come back for a refill on your soda( which we never got) and have crappy food and not be able to take your dessert with you is ridiculous. I would not recommend this place to anyone.

  24. Barbara K says:

    These reviews and responses are pretty old. We went in November of 2012 and our experience was just awful. The first mistake we made is reservations for 7. That guarenteed an 18% gratuity so our server, an older woman was less than interested . We got there 15 minutes before our reservation time, a reservation that had been on the books for 180 days. We waited while walkins were seated and continued to wait for over an hour. The food when it finally came was on a large platter. We had our choice of3 of 5 meats, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, coleslaw and mixed vegetables and corn bread. The platter was brought out and dropped on the table , spilling the baked beans and vegetables all over the table. The waitress said she would refill what was lost but not only did she forget us, the spilled mess remained until I found a fellow with a terry cloth towel and borrowed it and cleaned up the mess myself. The waitress never did come back until it was time for the bill. Another helper walked by and we asked if we could get refills and begrudgingly she did it but in all honesty the food was too awful to eat. The smoked brisket and bbq chicken tasted strongly of smoke and were room temp at best, the potatoes had been sitting for some time, as had the corn and coleslaw. The vegetables could have been okay but the first bunch made it on the table and we never got any on the return run. The platter contained a good bit of meat but the potatoes , coleslaw and veg were served in containers that contained no more than a cup and we got four partial ears of corn for seven people. There was no corn on the refill trip. The desserts were disqusting and not one of them was appropriate for our 7 ,5 and 2 year olds. To add insult to injury two of us ( the two that actually ate anything but corn bread were up all night with food poisoning symptoms. This might be a fun resturant for some but the fun ran out quickly. When dining at disney, especially on the meal plan, split your group into sets smaller than 5,this means the gratuity is determined by you. We’re going back in November this year and will take our own advice and avoid this place is not on the list nor will it ever be again.

  25. Louis P says:

    First off, I’m just sayings, I don’t complain about restaurants very often at all. This place is appealing on the outside and is very lively on the inside. That I did enjoy. Although it was very crowded, we were never checked on after our food was brought to us until maybe 35-40 minutes later. The food wasn’t that great either.

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