If you’re a Disney Food Fan, then 2013 has been an exciting year!
We’ve had lots of change, new announcements, and brand new experiences.
So today, we thought we’d take a look back at this year, and review the Top 10 Disney Food News Items of 2013!
From new coffee to new restaurants, new technology to new ice cream, we have a ton to cover!
Let’s get started!
When Starbucks and Disney announced in 2012 that the coffee giant would be coming to Disney Parks, the news was huge! And when the first Walt Disney World locations began opening in 2013, the story once again topped the list of Disney food headlines.
The first location to open was Main Street Bakery on Magic Kingdom’s Main Street USA. While some loyal fans of the historic spot decried the chain store intrusion, many coffee lovers were thrilled that they could now enjoy their favorite brew in the shadow of Cinderella’s Castle.
And with the Main Street cinnamon rolls available at Gaston’s Tavern (at least they claim they’re the same…you can see our cinnamon roll throw down here!), well — at least not all of our favorite goodies are lost.
The reopening of Fountain View Cafe in Epcot as the second WDW Starbucks location seemed to ruffle fewer feathers, since the themeing for the futuristic ice cream parlor wasn’t as beloved as Main Street Bakery. Still, patrons were irked with the lack of seating, even if the many, many bays for ordering mean that your java arrives fresh and fast.
But Starbucks wasn’t the only coffee news we debated in 2013. Disney also announced that Joffrey’s Coffee and Tea Company, headquartered in Tampa, would become the official specialty coffee provider for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and Disney Vacation Club resorts.
We’ve been enjoying Joffrey’s products for ages at the kiosks throughout the parks, so this was welcome news to many. So far, we are hearing that you seem pleased with the switch from Nescafe to Joffrey’s.
2. RESTAURANT FASTPASS TESTING — AND MORE TECH UPDATES!
Waaaaayyyyy back in January of this year, we first wrote about how we thought My Magic+ would affect Disney Dining.
And before the year was out, we had the opportunity to see just how some of the new technology would work.
One of the most intriguing uses of MyMagic+ technology was the Touch to Pay System. We had an opportunity to put our Magic Bands to work with the new system, and Erin, our Disney Food For Families columnist, documented the process so our readers could be in the know!
And while we love the Magic Band concept, even cooler is all the Disney food bling that you can get to individualize your bracelet! I’m a sucker for the cupcake!
Another rumor that came to fruition was that FastPass would soon be available for lunch at Be Our Guest! The beautifully-themed restaurant, which opened late in 2012 as part of New Fantasyland, routinely has extremely long waits for the counter service lunch option.
So an opportunity to make what basically amounts to a reservation seemed like a pretty great option! And before the summer was out, guests had the opportunity to test the new feature. Once again, intrepid Erin gave it a try and had nothing but praise for the option, even after throwing the system a curveball!
But MyMagic+, while certainly one of the biggest new stories of 2013, isn’t the only place we saw savvy technology put to work in Disney Dining venues. Victoria and Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa began using iPads for their wine lists. Guests can choose from different starting points (flavor profile or price, for instance) to make wine selection easier to navigate. (But if you prefer paper, don’t worry; “old-fashioned” wine lists are still available as well.)
This is a great new addition to the very popular restaurant, which does tend to be a little dark (being a cave and all).
3. RFID REFILLABLE MUGS!
At least, they tried to keep it quiet. But savvy social media types immediately spotted the change overnight in fountain machines at some of the resorts, and new mug colors began to pop up. Soon, the Rapid Fill Program was coming to a resort near you.
The new program meant restrictions on how often, when, and for how long you could use your refillable mug, purchased at resorts throughout Walt Disney World. (See our complete review here.) The bottom line is that Rapid Fill means that you can no longer bring back mugs purchased on prior visits and use them during your current stay. A new mug must be purchased and your price depends on how many days that you choose to purchase on the beverage plan.
Many readers expressed outrage at the company for the program. Some insisted that their mugs were guaranteed for a lifetime when they purchased them.
Others saw the move as a way for Disney to curb abuse at the refillable drink stations throughout the resorts. Regardless of your point of view, it looks like the technology is here to stay.
4. NEW/REVAMPED RESTAURANTS!
This year saw plenty of restaurant refurbishments, as well as a few new spots opening. Let’s take a look at some of the most notable ones.
The New Kids on the Block
While Disneyland was the setting for all kinds of food news last year with the extensive facelift and expansion at Disney California Adventure, there were some modest improvements worth noting this past year.
Maurice’s Treats opened in Disneyland as part of the new Fantasy Faire expansion. And while the area mostly caters to the Disney Princess-loving crowd, the new snack cart, brought to you by Belle’s eccentric inventor father, is reason enough to venture over.
Our Dining in Disneyland Columnist Heather Sievers braved a downpour to sample all of the fun treats here, which include sweet puff pastry twists, as well as a savory cheese bagel option.
The spot also features another delicious entry into the slushy genre — the Boysen Apple Freeze.
And just in time for the hot weather to set in, L’Artisan des Glaces Sorbet and Ice Cream Shop opened in the space previously occupied by the Boulangerie Patisserie.
The spot was completely renovated and is utterly charming. But beyond awesome atmosphere, the shop features 16 flavors of from-scratch ice cream and sorbet, churned right on the premises!
Although 2012 saw unprecedented expansion in both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, Disney didn’t sit back and rest on their laurels in 2013. This year saw lots of new and revamped restaurants worth noting.
Resorts seemed to garner most of the refurb attention in 2013, as we saw several popular spots closed for updates.
California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort was closed for more than half of the year as it underwent a complete refurbishment and menu refresh. One of WDW’s most popular signature restaurants, the chic dining spot reopened in late summer. Reviews of the atmosphere were mostly positive, as the remodel captured a vibe that is at once retro and modern. Imagineers have done an excellent job here. We were super excited to bring you a first look!
Reviews of the menu are mixed, however. While many diners have continued to have excellent experiences here, others feel that the almost-new restaurant is still refining and finding its footing.
On a recent visit, I was extremely happy that I could still enjoy one of my favorite classic dishes at California Grill. And coupled with that gorgeous view, that’s enough reason for me to continue to recommend that you try it.
Possibly even more exciting for me, however, was the reopening of one of my favorite treat spots, BoardWalk Bakery at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn! I’ve always found lots of delicious ways to indulge my sweet tooth at the old fashioned spot, which also serves some hardy counter service breakfast and lunch options.
I made a point of being there on opening morning to bring you a first glimpse into the expanded location and some of the new delicious sweets available. And in short order, many of the tarts and other goodies have become some of my favorites overnight!
Changing the names up of some places seemed to be a hot trend in Disney restaurant circles in 2013. A few counter service locations also underwent renovations and menu reboots this year, and received slightly updated monikers as a result.
At Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, the Gasparilla Grill and Games became the Gasparilla Island Grill. Many guests were happy to see the arcade portion of the restaurant moved to separate location. On a recent visit there, we enjoyed the newly refined atmosphere, as well as the fresh flatbreads and hot sandwiches.
Another reopening (and renaming) worth mentioning is the newly expanded Hurricane Hanna’s Waterside Bar and Grill. True — the name here is really just a tweak — it was previously Hurricane Hanna’s Grill. And located conveniently adjacent to the 8th Wonder of the (Disney) World, Stormalong Bay, it was a favorite stop of mine.
But the name signals the more important contribution of Hanna’s — the expanded menu provides Disney’s Beach Club Resort with something it sorely needed: a real counter service option comparable to some of our other favorites, like Contempo Cafe and Captain Cook’s. (Check out a guest review of this awesome outdoor bar here.)
And the expanded menu now includes some more upscale options beyond burgers and dogs — a welcome change for those who like to mix it up a bit!
There were a few significant updates in Walt Disney World Parks too — well, in Epcot, anyway. Another spot that we couldn’t wait to see open quietly revealed its new home early in the year. The Boulangerie Patisserie in Epcot was rechristened Boulangerie Patisserie Les Halles, and moved to the very back of the France Pavilion. The expanded area replaced the tiny previous one, and offered a bigger queue space as well as indoor seating for the first time.
Club Cool, the popular attraction in Epcot’s Future World where guests can sample Coca-Cola products from around the world, also received a couple of fun new updates this year. While the attraction is still free, many of the soda flavors have been swapped out in favor of new selections.
Be sure to stop in and try Fanta Pineapple from Greece! And don’t worry…you can still get Beverly.
Over in Disneyland, one of the park’s most beloved spots, Carnation Cafe, did receive some updating. The Main Street USA table service spot added some much-needed indoor seating, making it more accommodating during periods of bad weather.
Many heavier menu options made way for healthier fare as well — a trend we continue to see throughout Disneyland.
And the Market House also re-opened as a Starbucks on Main Street USA in Anaheim! This beloved coffee house has retained some of its original charm even though it now serves the ‘bucks. You can still listen to the Party Line phones!
Even Disney Cruise Line received its fair share of refurbishment attention, as the fleet’s first ship, the Disney Magic, underwent a lengthy refresh. As a result, the restaurant formerly known as Parrot Cay morphed into Carioca’s.
The new dining spot received a facelift and a new menu emphasizing the flavors of South America.
5. DISNEY SPRINGS (PLUS FOOD TRUCKS…AND CORN DOGS!)
We began the year wondering what had happened to stall the progress over at the Randomness Formerly Known as Pleasure Island. Disney had rolled out some tantalizing concept art, but then, like magic, the hypothetical Hyperion Wharf seemed to disappear.
But wait! Just when we had begun to lose hope, Disney switched gears and lit a fire under the redevelopment of the space between WestSide and Downtown Disney. And just like that, Disney Springs and its backstory was born.
While we still await further development of this story, we do know that the first couple of announcements are actually coming to fruition. Major construction is taking place, as parking garages are being erected in the area. (Finally!)
But even more impressive — the Food Truck Row that was hinted at in Disney Springs concept art has begun to materialize!
So far, we’ve seen the rollout (!!!) of four custom Food Trucks — Superstar Catering, Namaste Cafe, Fantasy Fare, and World Showcase of Flavors. They have all proven to offer tasty options, but none has garnered more excitement than the introduction of Hand-Dipped Corn Dogs in Walt Disney World!!!!
Seriously, we’ve been hoping these babies would find their way east from Disneyland for years, so this is majorly exciting!!
But with the expansion and re-imagining of parts of Downtown Disney, it’s certain that there will be some casualties, and restaurants will very likely be among them.
There are also murmurs swirling that Pollo Campero may be on the chopping block as well to make room for a World of Disney expansion.
It’s plausible that we’ll lose a few eateries and that the food trucks were rushed in quickly to accommodate crowds as the food choices narrow, at least temporarily. This is a story we will look forward to continue following well into the coming year. Speculation abounds about what new restaurants we might see in Disney Springs. What would you like to see? Sound off in the comments!
6. THE SMALL PLATES TAKEOVER!
Disney continues to embrace the hot trend of small plates and tapas offerings with some new spots that opened in 2013, joining popular locations like La Cava del Tequila and Tutto Gusto in Epcot’s World Showcase.
Visitors to Downtown Disney Orlando can take advantage of the trend at Rainforest Cafe’s new Lava Lounge. It’s a great option if you find yourself over that way without an Advance Dining Reservation. Not only can you order from Rainforest Cafe’s full menu, but there are some Lava Lounge exclusives as well. And who can resist dining both waterfront and within view of an erupting volcano?
Not to be outdone, the Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios has also recently unveiled the new Brown Derby Lounge, which features fun cocktails, wines by the glass, and a tapas menu. The patio seating makes it a perfect place to people watch!
I can’t wait to dig into some of these sliders during my next trip to the World!
This will be another fantastic stop on your tapas tour of international food throughout World Showcase as the restaurant will feature Mediterranean-inspired small plates!
7. MINI FOOD AND WINE FESTIVALS!
Epcot continues to secure its reputation as the Festival Theme Park. And to bring even more delight to guests, they’ve begun adding what we think of around here as “Mini Food and Wine Festivals” throughout the year.
We were surprised and yet completely delighted when Epcot event planners announced that the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, held each Spring, would feature Food and Wine Festival-style Marketplace Booths in 2013! And even better — we’ve confirmed they’re returning for 2014!
One of our favorite options from the international menu of offerings was the first ever liquor-spiked Dole Whip — served with spiced rum!
Epcot also added a healthy dose of holiday cheer with its Holidays Around the World offerings this year!
Guests could partake of a number of special treats marking a myriad of holidays celebrated in the countries represented in World Showcase.
8. CLUB 33 EXPANSION!
Member of Disneyland’s exclusive members-only restaurant, Club 33, have known for a while that the space would undergo a lengthy refurbishment in 2014. Members can make reservations until January 5 of next year, but then the spot will be closed until further notice.
Some of the details of the refurbishment include moving the entrance from the original door (it will remain, but will not be used), and the closure of the Court of Angels to the public. The famed Trophy Room will make way for a brand new kitchen area, and the entire space will incorporate some of Walt Disney’s original ideas for the Club.
But most alluring is the suggestion that Club 33 may expand eastward to Walt Disney World! With reports that Disney has registered several new domain names, we are intrigued about the possibility, and we look forward to seeing what will unfold on this front in the new year.
9. DISNEYLAND HAUNTED MANSION DINNER!
One of our favorite special events to cover this past year was the Marc Davis Centennial Dinner, which took place inside the Haunted Mansion. The dinner commemorated what would have been famed Disney Animator and Imagineer Marc Davis’s 100th Birthday.
Having dinner within one of the most awesome rides ever was certainly treat enough for the Club 33 event. But Davis’s widow, Alice (herself a Disney legend) was also in attendance at the event!
Courses were themed to the Stretching Portraits that appear in the attraction’s elevator. Each course was visually delightful as well as delicious.
This thing was completely outrageous! A sugar orb encased a a chocolatey, wonderful cake. But that’s only half the story.
You’re just going to have to pop over to Heather’s review to get all of the amazing details!
10. MORE ALLERGY FRIENDLY FOOD!
Disney has been garnering awards and kudos for their attention to food allergies and sensitivities for quite some time. But in 2013, they took the customer service experience in this arena to a whole new level by introducing the Gardens Kiosk at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
The kiosk serves to educate guests about the top eight food allergens, and Cast members are available to advise guests with food allergies on the best places within Animal Kingdom to eat.
The Gardens Kiosk also offers snack items and beverages that are free from the most common food allergens!
It’s another step in Disney’s quest to make their parks and resorts safe and enjoyable for all guests.
Well, there you have it! Those are the top Disney food stories that Disney Food Blog brought to you in 2013!
And 2014 promises to be just as exciting! So stay tuned while we keep you filled in on the latest and greatest! If it’s food and it’s Disney, you can be sure that we’ll be telling you about it.
Time to hear from you: what was the top Disney Food News Item in your opinion in 2013? Sound off with your thoughts below in the comments!