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Guest Review: California Grill at the Contemporary Resort

Today, we’re welcoming Alex F. with a signature dining review. Alex takes us with her to the top of the Contemporary Resort for dinner at the California Grill! Let’s go…

I have been to Disney World over 20 times and I have always wanted to write a review. So, finally I decided that on my latest trip, I would take pictures and review California Grill at the Contemporary Resort. I hope that this review is helpful and enjoyable!

Atmosphere

California Grill, a signature dining restaurant located on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort, features unique views through the walls of windows and the two observation decks.

While dining here, you can either have close up aerial views of the Magic Kingdom from one side of the dining room, or distant views of Epcot and Hollywood Studios from the other (you can see Spaceship Earth, the Swan and Dolphin hotels, and even the Tower of Terror).

Table by the Window with Magic Kingdom View

To access the California Grill, you must check-in on the 2nd floor to the right of the escalators. Years ago, you were able to simply go straight upstairs and check-in, but that has all changed. Now, once you have checked in, you can head over to a special elevator just for California Grill guests.

Entry from Elevators

When you arrive upstairs, feel free to head over to the lounge/bar area to wait until your table is ready. At the lounge, you can order drinks and enjoy the 360 degree views of Walt Disney World.

My family and I went upstairs and sat in the lounge for a few minutes until we were ready to be seated. We had barely ordered drinks before our pager went off. This was probably the quickest we have ever been seated at the California Grill.

California Grill Bar

When seated, we were one table away from the window, towards the middle of the restaurant with a wonderful view of the Magic Kingdom.

California Grill Seating

In between courses, I went outside onto the observation deck to look at the Fantasyland expansion and to enjoy the Magic Kingdom view. I couldn’t get a great picture of the view, but you could see the crane, the Beast’s castle, and some of the Little Mermaid attraction.

Magic Kingdom Construction

Eats

Once we were seated, I could not wait to start looking over the menu and ordering food!

The menu at the California Grill is constantly changing, so even if you have looked at the most recent menu on the Disney World website it may be different than the one at the restaurant when you arrive.

Dinner Menu - click image for larger version

While looking at the menu and deciding which enticing appetizer and entrée to order, we enjoyed eating some of the bread and salted butter. The bread has a sourdough taste, but it is not too strong. And the salted butter is the perfect accompaniment.

Bread and Butter

The bread and butter is so good, that you cannot just eat one piece!

To start our meal, my family chose three different appetizers; Handmade Potato Gnocchi, Hearts of Romaine, and the Southern Style Crab and Tomato Salad.

My mom ordered the Southern Style crab and tomato salad. The fried green tomatoes were perfectly coated, which made the taste of the dish! The crab sat atop the fried green tomatoes with a drizzling of the remoulade sauce, which was spicy but not too overpowering.

Southern Style Crab and Tomato Salad

My youngest sister ordered the potato gnocchi. She greatly enjoyed it and said that the gnocchi was “pillowy” and not tough, which can be a problem with some gnocchi. With the poached egg was separated, it made the dish very filling and rich.

There were a lot of mushrooms, but overall this dish was a huge hit with my sister and everyone who tried it at the table!

Finally, I ordered the Hearts of Romaine salad. It comes with a Roasted Garlic dressing, Olives, and Marinated Anchovies. I had the anchovies removed only because I simply do not like them. But, the salad itself was enjoyable.

I am not a huge fan of olives and the flavor at times penetrated the taste of the salad. But, overall, I find this one of the best salads in Disney World.

Hearts of Romaine Salad

After enjoying our appetizers, we were ready to enjoy our entrees! At the table, we ordered the Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Oak-fired Filet of Beef, and the Local Black Grouper. The Pork Tenderloin and the Oak-Fired Filet of Beef are two entrees that never leave the menu. The Filet of Beef will change the side dishes at times, but for as long as I can remember the pork tenderloin entrée has not changed its side dishes.

My youngest sister and I ordered the Grilled Pork Tenderloin. I have had this entrée many times and every time it is exactly the same and completely delectable! The Zinfandel glaze is a perfect sauce to put with the pork.

The polenta that comes with the pork is good. I do not usually like polenta, but the goat cheese polenta has a good flavor and it compliments the pork and the Zinfandel glaze. Even though I always order the Grilled Pork Tenderloin, I wish they put potatoes with it instead.

Pork Tenderloin

My dad and my other sister ordered the Oak Fired Filet of Beef. Even though I have never tried this entrée, I have heard multiple times that this is the greatest beef dish! The filet of beef was cooked perfectly to order. The Teriyaki Barbecue sauce was tangy and memorable, but a little sparse. The truffle potatoes had a very rich flavor to them. The asparagus were cooked a little softer than al dente, which he considered perfect.

My mom ordered the Local Black Grouper. The fish was delicious and was perfectly crusted, which added a good amount of crunch to the dish. Unfortunately, the shrimp dumplings were described as chewy and not having a great deal of shrimp flavor.

Local Black Grouper

Finally, it was time to order dessert. We were completely full, but we decided to order two desserts; the Valrhona Chocolate Cake and the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding.

Dessert Menu - click image for larger version

The Valrhona Chocolate Cake was delicious! The cake itself was moist and had plenty of chocolate. This is the California Grill’s most popular dessert. It was so delicious that I forgot to take a picture before we began digging in!

The Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding was incredible. It was accompanied by Chocolate Malt Ice Cream and pieces of Toffee Pretzel. The bread pudding itself was chocolatey and moist. The toffee pretzels added a crunch to the otherwise smooth dish.

The dish was much more beautiful before I took the picture, but it was too enticing that I took a bite before I remembered to take a photo!

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding

Overall

After finishing our entire meal, we decided that this was an absolutely delicious trip to California Grill. The new dishes were just as good as the staple ones.

The restaurant offers amazing food with incredible views. While the price does not allow for multiple visits for most people, it is a must-go restaurant! I will always recommend it to anyone who wants a signature dining experience.

Have you been to California Grill? Let us know your feedback in the comments below!

REMEMBER: This restaurant will be closing temporarily in 2013, so book your reservations soon for the remaining days!

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12 Comments

  1. Jason says:

    Looking forward to going back soon. This is a great place. We have been going there for 12 years every couple of months and sitting with the same server (Walter). This is truly a magical experience.

  2. Sherri Erwin says:

    I’ve always had great meals at California Grill, and I’m always happy to read about more– thanks! My favorite dishes: the Sonoma goat cheese ravioli, the sushi, lobster risotto, and I had an incredible ostrich dish there once. The valrhona chocolate cake is so good! Which flavor gelato did they serve with it this time?

  3. Neil says:

    I had a nice tasting meal but a poor experience at the California Grill. So much so that we won’t be going back this October. I think it will be Shula’s for our blow-out meal this time.

  4. Alan says:

    Back in the “old” days, when there were only three Disney hotels, this was the absolute go-to place for a special meal. It used to be a supper club with dining and dancing. It also had big time entertainment with the musical stars of the era. Even with the explosion of choices at WDW, I still get a nostalgic feeling up there but I wish there was a way they could celebrate their past a little bit. Maybe they could have an occasional “night club” evening.

  5. A Newton says:

    Regarding checking in to go upstairs – any experience with going up to eat in the bar/lounge (no reservation)? Last time we did this we went to the 2nd floor desk, and they looked at us like we were weird for even asking there, and told us to go on up.

  6. Angela says:

    I remember the old days too, Alan, and I miss them. California Grill is just not as special as it used to be, and I found the service to be extremely lacking the last time I went. So many other signatures to choose from has really pushed CG down the list for me. Thanks for the nice review, though. Glad they haven’t lost it altogether!

  7. Galloping Gourmand says:

    I was 7 the last time I visited the California Grill. That was 1980 for a character breakfast. The food was a standard buffett but the view was womderful. My brother almost destroyed the place, kicking a wheel off his chair, tipping I’ve a table, bumping in to a man carrying a tray of glasses, sliding a ham off a carving station, and making some gipuys toupee fall off. All by accident.

    The Disney moment was when he ran outside to the balcony crying and Micky himself followed him out there, hugged him, and they walked back in together. There is a reason we all love Disney, after all!

    (i know I’ve told this story before, but our family has an epic 10 minute version of this we bring out every time we want to embarrass him and he reads this blog so… If you have siblings, you understand.)

  8. Paula B. says:

    The dinner sounded very special, all the dishes seemed wonderful. Yes, Alan, I remember what a “big deal” it was to eat at the “top” of the Contemporary, back in the early years. On my first trip to DW, with some girlfriends, we found out that Frankie Avalon was going to be performing a few days after the Disney part of our Florida vacation was over; we ended up droving up for the evening from Fort Lauderdale, just to catch the show. A Disney memory, indeed!

  9. Peggy says:

    I have been trying to make reservations for Sept.2013 from my the first day of my 180 days..have had NO luck any ideas? Any help will help. It is for my son and his wifes aniv. dinner. Please HELP

  10. william says:

    I have eaten at the California Grill over a half dozen times. What happened to the square low ball glasses?!!!

    William

  11. Kathy WESTER says:

    Used to be called Top of the World

  12. Kathy WESTER says:

    I was there in the 70′s, and saw Barbara Eden perform. Wonderful memory!

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