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Chef Interview: New Kids’ Menus Debut in Downtown Disney Orlando

Can healthy kids’ menus also be fun and interesting?

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Richard, executive chef of Downtown Disney’s Portobello Trattoria in Walt Disney World. Portobello and its sister restaurants, Fulton’s Crab House and Wolfgang Puck Cafe, have debuted some brand new children’s menus that aim for healthy as well as fun.

Since healthier — and more grown-up — kids’ eats is a growing trend among Disney-area restaurants (for example, check out the kids’ menu at the new Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom), I was interested to hear all the new menus and the impetus behind them.

Portobello Trattoria

Portobello continues to offer freshly-prepared rustic Italian fare, with an emphasis on slow cooking and local ingredients. And the family-friendly atmosphere provides a cozy-yet-refined alternative where families with children can relax.

Portobello

Though I’ve seen some negative reviews for Portobello, my experiences here have pretty positive. And the new kids’ menu focuses on freshness and whole foods, without sacrificing kid pleasers, like pizza.

It seems that choice really was the driving motivation for the recent updates to the menus at all three restaurants. “We wanted to offer choices,” said Chef Steve. “People are on vacation and they might be inclined to be indulgent. With all the menus, we feel it’s important to offer healthy choices as well.”

Portobello Dining Room Seating

The choices emphasize a balance between indulgence and smarter eating. “We think the best approach is to offer healthy meals for kids as well as something that mimics the adult dining experience,” he explained.

“We are trying to offer things that are indulgent, like the option to have an ice cream sundae made with locally-made gelato at Portobello. But then we also have grilled meats and fresh fruits, as opposed to things we normally see on children’s menus.”

Chef Steve and his team have also included fresher choices for beverages, like 100% juice options and low-fat milk.

Portobello Kids' Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Fulton’s Crab House

Fulton’s Crab House has retained many of their classic dishes, while offering a new flair featuring sustainably and responsibly harvested seafood.

Fultons Crab House Bar area and Dining Room

They continue the emphasis on fresh and healthy on the new kids’ menu. Some of the newer options available for smaller diners include fresh fish of the day served with corn and chicken tenders that are grilled, rather than fried. They also offer a sautéed shrimp pasta and fresh veggies and fruits as sides.

Fulton's Crab House Kids' Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Wolfgang Puck Cafe

The upbeat and colorful atmosphere at Wolfgang Puck Cafe offers a terrific option for parents and kids who enjoy an exciting, somewhat sophisticated dining experience.

Live Love Eat at Wolfgang Puck Cafe!

Puck’s continues to offer a unique California-Pan Asian menu, and has extended that influence to the kid’s menu as well. While Puck’s offers some grilled fare for kids, they also offer a fun and unique option for the small fry: kid’s “sushi”.

Wolfgang Puck Crispy Chicken Finger Roll

You’ll find delicious pizza here as well.

Wolfgang Puck's Cafe Kids' Menu -- Click to Enlarge

But Will Kids on Vacation Really Eat Healthy Food?

As we all know, getting kids to eat healthy food — especially on vacation — can sometimes prove to be challenging. I asked the Chef about the often-chosen route to avoid restaurants that offer “mature” kids’ menus, which may not have the staples their children want.

Chef Steve stressed that a combination of healthier options, together with more traditional “kids’ fare,” was the goal of Levy Restaurants. “Certainly there are kids out there who might not find grilled fish all that appealing. So we’ve kept the things that are traditionally associated with children’s menus,” explained Chef Steve.

“There are still hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, and chicken nuggets. Pizzas are great at Portobello and Wolfgang Puck. The reality is, kids eat pizza. Right now, it wouldn’t make sense for us to take pizza off the menu. We don’t have any intention to take them off.”

As he sees it, Portobello, Fulton’s Crab House, and Wolfgang Puck Cafe offer good variety and fine dining in a family-friendly atmosphere, with an emphasis excellent quality. “This is the kind of cooking that you don’t see in every restaurant, and we’re committed to making the food a focus.”

What do you think of the healthier menu options? Weigh in below!

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7 Comments

  1. Kim says:

    While I love that Disney is getting better choices on the kids meus, but I have warn you about Portabello. This is the same kids menu they had when we ate there in early November. My son is allergic to pecans so we avoid all nuts. Just about everything on this menu is made with nuts or cross-contaminated with nuts. All their bread, rolls and pizza dough are now made with a flour which contains nut flour (meatballs were also out due to breadcrumbs). Really, with all the awareness around food allergies, they decided to use flour that contains nuts? My 9 year old son was very unhappy all night. My other issue was that they didn’t really offer any alternatives like we found they do at Disney owned restaurants.

  2. Steph says:

    My kids eat healthy things all the time so they will certainly eat those things on vacation. They don’t eat that way strictly but they don’t eat chicken nuggets for every meal, either. We have a rule that they can’t have fries more than every other day. Disney is finally catching up to what parents like me want for their kids. I love the new Be Our Guest menu. Out with chicken nuggets and fries! Last year when we did the counter service dining plan (BIG mistake) my 10-year old grew quickly tired of Disney’s limited and repetitive kids’ menus. She is thrilled to be 11 on our upcoming trip so she gets grown-up choices. We got the free dining so we are also happy not to be stuck with only counter service choices. I look forward to even more changes to kids’ menus in the future :)

  3. Niki M says:

    Anyone know what the pink stuff is wrapped around the outside of the chicken finger “sushi”? This is a really cute idea.

  4. Jill says:

    Wow, here’s what I saw when I looked at those menus…..$$$$$$$$!!! An average entree, drink and dessert is about $14!! I think that’s pretty pricey for a kids’ meal.

  5. Heidi says:

    Jill, I agree with you but I suspect many people are on the dining plan so they probably don’t even consider the price.

    I’m glad to see there are more options for kids.

  6. Jill says:

    I know. The Dining Plan has really ruined it for people who live here and are annual passholders. We find it nearly impossible to take our kids for a sit-down meal without spending over $200 which is unreasonable for random weekend. It’s nice for the Dining Plan people to see that they’re getting a lot for their money but I do think the prices are inflated because of it, hurting those who are not on the plan.

  7. Lori says:

    The pink wrapping on the chicken finger roll is soy sushi paper. It’s basically a lower-sodium nori substitute made from soybeans that comes in many colors, but pink seems to be the most popular.

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