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Review: Dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

It’s been FOREVER since I enjoyed a fun evening at Whispering Canyon Cafe. So I talked a friend into heading over to this supa fun restaurant for dinner the last time I was in Orlando!

Sitting just off the main lobby of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, the moderately priced table service restaurant is a can’t miss for some guests…but nothing special for others.

During our last visit, we took a look at how the lunch and dinner menus had changed drastically from what fans were used to. And guess what? In the middle of writing this review, we get word that it’s changed again!

Git yer ponies saddled up and yer vittles bag tied on! It’s time to ride on in! (Did any of that make sense? No? Hmm.)

Atmosphere

Whispering Canyon Cafe is one of the easiest Disney restaurants to find. Head into Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, hang a left, and you can’t miss it.

Whispering Canyon Sign

Whispering Canyon Sign

There’s even a good chance that you’ll hear it before you see it. That’s because there are bona fide antics going on throughout the meal. The name Whispering Canyon? Definitely tongue-in-cheek.

Warning -- Good Times Ahead -- Click to Enlarge

Warning — Good Times Ahead — Click to Enlarge

Themeing here seems ever so slightly more “cowboy and Indian” than in the rest of the lobby. Whereas the rest of that area has a slightly more elegant Mission style, Whispering Canyon is more whimsical. It reminds me of a playroom off from the rest of the grown ups’ space. :-)

Wood is all around you everywhere, echoing that lodge-y feel. Seating is mixed, with table and chair combos, as well as booths. And check out the super cool Indian chief on the backs of these chairs!

Seating

Seating

Others feature cowboys on bucking broncos.

Cowboys and Indians on the Back of Chairs

Cowboys Detail on the Back of a Chair

The servers can make or break your experience at Whispering Canyon. They have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves, though. So whatever you do, don’t drop your fork! (Unless you really want to know what the giant fork is for.)

Servers

Servers Plot Their Next Move

And speaking of the giant fork, Whispering Canyon is as well known for the crazy games and silly gags as it is for its Bottomless Milkshakes and Skillets. Ask for ketchup, and you’ll likely get a tableful. And naughty grown-ups just may find themselves competing in a stick horse race.

Hobby Horse Race at Whispering Canyon Cafe

Hobby Horse Race at Whispering Canyon Cafe

And you can count on the fact that your straws will most likely be delivered in a less than gentle manner.

Fair Warning -- Your Straws Will Most Likely Be Thrown At You

Fair Warning — Your Straws Will Most Likely Be Thrown At You

In our experience, the shenanigans — are the kids saying that these days? — are more lively at breakfast and dinner than at lunch. And of course, if you’re just looking for a quiet dinner, just let your server know you aren’t really up for the silliness and they’ll happily switch gears for you. (Though even if your server is taking it easy on you, we can’t promise that the rest of the place will be quiet.)

Overall, the atmosphere is casual, fun, and charged, so prepare yourself (and your kids if they’re with you) for that.

Eats

When it came time to check out our options, we started with the Beverage Menu, and noticed a couple of new items right away. And for the first time ever, I was aware of the less-than-expansive wine options here. I wonder if you could get something from Territory Lounge, or even the Artist Point wine menu? Let me know if you’ve had success with doing this!

Beverage Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Beverage Menu — Click to Enlarge

We made our last visit to Whispering Canyon Cafe in the wake of earth-shattering news — big menu changes removed the beloved skillets from the lunch menu, and took a la carte options off the dinner menu.

Well. That didn’t last long.

I just peeked at the lunch menu online, and there’s a “Seasonal All-You-Care-To-Enjoy Platter” for 21.99 per person. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this means that something similar to the skillet is BACK on the lunch menu! Has anyone enjoyed this option recently?

And — as we see during this visit — a la carte options have returned to the dinner hour. So everyone should be a little closer to happy than they were during the menu hatchet-job a while back.

And one of our wonderful readers just informed us that Whispering Canyon has rolled out a new menu. Well, newish. Below, you’ll see the menu that we had during our visit. It includes the Build Your Own All You Care to Enjoy Platter and a la carte options.

Starters, Platter, and Entrees Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Starters, Platter, and Entrees Menu — Click to Enlarge

Well, whimsy reigns supreme at WCC, and they have JUST rolled out this new menu as of the beginning of May. Thanks to @Iheartbiscuit on Twitter for the heads up!

New Whispering Canyon Cafe Menu -- Click to Enlarge

New Whispering Canyon Cafe Menu — Click to Enlarge

It doesn’t really look like a ton has changed food-wise actually.

Under Trailblazing Starters section the Flash Fried Navajo Bread is (sob) gone. But take heart — apparently, it’s still available at lunch. (For now, at least.)

The Loaded Yukon Gold Potato Leek Soup has given way to Ranger John’s Chicken and Corn Tortilla Soup. There’s also a new seafood starter — Mason’s Shrimp and Crab Cocktail.

And here’s another piece of big news — the name “Skillet” has returned to the menu! Interesting to note, there doesn’t seem to be any of the “pick some stuff, and then you can order more” routine that we encountered during our meal. They’ve returned to the old protocol, and you get it all. Hooray! (Fish is no longer a skillet option. In my opinion, that’s just as well. More about why in just a sec.)

Finally, what had been referred to as the Lighter Side of the Trail is now Main Claim Entrees. (This makes sense, as there was nothing really light about a lot of the offerings on the previous menu.) The biggest news in this section will interest fish lovers: you now have two options to choose from.

Whew! So some changes — and I’m betting that they’ll make many of you happy! For now though, let’s go ahead and talk about the meal we enjoyed, since everything here is available at some point in the day. :-)

We decided to start with a couple of new beverages. We just had to check out the Moonshine Flight. Featuring three different varieties of Troy & Sons Moonshine, we thought this was a really fun addition to the list of flights you can get at Disney World. And it’s pretty reasonable as flights go as well.

As for taste, it reminded my friend a bit of tequila, which we both thought was interesting.

Moonshine Flight

Moonshine Flight

But we also wanted to check out the Mountain Trail Cocktail, which included Whiskey, Chambord, Blackberry Brandy, and a little lemonade. Isn’t this gorgeous? Sweet and delicious with a little spike of tart. I have a feeling this is one of those drinks that could go down way too fast and easy if you aren’t paying attention! ;-)

Mountain Trail Cocktail

Mountain Trail Cocktail

I wasn’t in the mood for it this time, but I had previously sampled the Moonshine Margarita, and loved the perfect sweet-tart balance.

Moonshine Margarita

Moonshine Margarita

To be honest, there weren’t a whole lot of new items to try on the menu. But that was A-OK with us! It just meant that we could enjoy a repeat of some of our old favorites.

We started with Western Chips, featuring Tortilla Chips and a trio of DipsVenison Chili, Cheese Dip (!!!!!!!), and Fresh Salsa. The presentation had changed a little since the last time we had it, and the chili — which previously featured Buffalo – now stars Venison. But overall, the flavors were similar. If you like chips and dip with a Tex Mex feel (and plastic cheese), you’ll like these.

Western Chips

Western Chips

We also couldn’t pass up the Flash Fried Navajo Bread. Brushed with Citrus Honey and served with a chunky Tomato Jam, this unique appetizer is a winner. Too bad it’s no longer available at dinner service; but you can get it at lunch!

Flash Fried Navajo Bread

Flash Fried Navajo Bread

A new dish for us this time out was the Smoked Chicken Quesadilla.

Smoked Chicken Quesadilla

Smoked Chicken Quesadilla

The wedges featured Roasted Vegetables and Smoky Jack Cheese in addition to the Chicken. And they had a nice little spicy kick! They were really good, with complex flavors and just the right amount of spice. Still, not too much going on here that the kiddos wouldn’t like it.

Smoked Chicken Quesadilla --  Up Close

Smoked Chicken Quesadilla — Up Close

I chose the Platter — thereby setting myself up for an endless parade of food!

The odyssey began with the Platter Salad:Mixed Greens tossed with the fan favorite Apple Vinaigrette Dressing. I thought it was pretty impressive, with the Blue Cheese and Candied Pecans on top.

Platter Salad

Platter Mixed Greens Salad

I also enjoyed Cornbread with my platter. It’s not DISNEYLAND cornbread, which is ah-mazing; but at least it’s in the ballpark.

Cornbread

Cornbread

Building your own All You Care to Enjoy Platter means that you’ll start with three of the protein selections, and then you can try the other two (or have more of something you especially liked.) Somehow, I managed to score four options on my first go-round.

To begin, I went with my favorites — Western-style Sausage, Pulled Pork, Kansas City-style Smoked Pork Rib, and Hand-carved, Oak-roasted Beef Strip Loin. Everything was decent, but the pulled pork and pork rib weren’t as flavorful as I expected. The sausage was the winner here. (Remember, you now get the “skillet” again, which includes everything on the list.)

Build Your Own Platter

Build Your Own Platter

The serving of each meat was plentiful — definitely more than enough for one person!

Build Your Own Platter

Build Your Own Platter — Kansas City-style Smoked Pork Rib, Hand-carved, Oak-roasted Beef Strip Loin, and Cowboy Style Baked Beans — Up Close

Normally, the sides are served family-style for the table to share, and are replenished as needed. However, I was the only one enjoying the platter on this visit, so I got cute little individual sides instead.

Platter Sides -- Corn and Mashed Potatoes

Platter Sides — Corn and Mashed Potatoes

Even though I was more than satisfied with everything we had sampled up to this point, I wanted to at least see the other meat options. I mean, you guys need to know! Right? And so I asked for a serving of the Citrus Crusted Market Fish as well as the Roasted Chicken.

I joked with our server because I just knew that the chicken was going to be dismal — dry, overcooked, and tasteless. But I was so wrong! It was AWESOME!!!!! Seriously; I would totally order that chicken alone the next time I’m there.

I didn’t have high hopes for the fish, however, and that prediction bore out. My friend sampled it, and said that it was wholly forgettable.

Seconds -- Platter Fish and Chicken

Seconds — Citrus Crusted Market Fish and Roasted Chicken

But wait! In addition to the platter bounty, we also sampled an a la carte dinner item. Ya-hoo! We’re nothing if not thorough.

My friend was in a comfort food frame of mind — how could you not be, sitting in a cowboy chair? — and chose the Griddled Western Buffalo Meatloaf. Served with crisp Green Beans and rich Mashed Yukon Gold Potatoes, she thought the dish was pretty heavenly.

Griddled Western Buffalo Meatloaf

Griddled Western Buffalo Meatloaf

You may find this hard to believe, but dessert was still calling our name. Not a lot is different here in the dessert category. You will note, though, that dessert is no longer included with the platter, as it was following the menu change.

Desserts and Dessert Beverages -- Click to Enlarge

Menu — Desserts and Dessert Beverages — Click to Enlarge

Welp, it’s not much of a surprise. But anytime I’m in Whispering Canyon Cafe, there’s probably going to be a slice of Apple Caramel Pie involved.

And tonight, it was enormous! Definitely big enough for sharing. Oddly, though, it wasn’t warm like it usually is. We asked our server about it, and she assured us that it was warmed up (and in her defense, the ice cream had sort of become a pool of vanilla sauce on the plate, so she’s probably right.) I’m not sure where the disconnect was. But it’s definitely a dessert that should be warm. So make sure yours is. And I promise, you will love it. (And if you don’t, call me. I’ll happily help you finish it.)

Apple Caramel Pie

Apple Caramel Pie

We also ordered the Seasonal Fruit Cobbler, which is meant to be shared. And it’s pretty enormous, too, so there was no problem with that. The Peach Blueberry filling definitely had the taste of something that was prepared in house, and not emptied from a can. The cake was the perfect foil for the tangy fruit and melting ice cream.

Seasonal Fruit Cobbler

Seasonal Fruit Cobbler

So simple, and so yum.

Overall

My great track record with Whispering Canyon Cafe still holds. This is still an excellent place to get better than good food in hearty proportions. And with a few different “bottomless” options, it’s a good non-buffet choice when you have a table full of big eaters to accommodate.

Our server was attentive and read the situation well; we had fun with her, but she didn’t go too far with it. And actually, a few dishes that we weren’t expecting to be all that great turned out to be the winners of the night!

And so, Whispering Canyon Cafe continues to get high marks from me — for a fun atmosphere, good service, and tasty food.

Is Whispering Canyon Cafe one of your favorite dining destinations? Leave a comment and tell us your thoughts!

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14 Comments

  1. Angela from Ohio says:

    We like to eat here at 4:45 for a fun meal before heading over to Magic Kingdom ( they have a boat) on a Christmas party night. Usually one you can get a reservation for only a few days before

  2. Jenn says:

    I’m so glad to see that the a la carte items have returned to the menu! I went in there two years ago looking for the meatloaf, and my husband wanted a skillet. However, the only option we were given was the platter of meats and sides served family-style. The food was not very good (though it was plenty expensive), and we left that meal very disappointed. We weren’t going to go back, but now I think we’ll give it another try.

  3. David says:

    Ate here on my last trip in December of last year and really enjoyed it. Great atmosphere, the food was delicious, and I loved the all-you-care-to-enjoy milkshakes. I would definitely go back.

  4. Steven says:

    The hidden gem at Wilderness Lodge and of that matter of Disney World is Artist Point. The food at WPC is good but Artist Point is incredible. Trust me go there!!

  5. Robin says:

    We wouldn’t think of staying anywhere BUT the Wilderness Lodge, and we always have at least one meal at the Whispering Canyon Cafe. We have had our straws tossed on our table, ended up with a table full of ketchup bottles, waved our napkins in the air when asked and even pulled some pranks of our own on servers. You are sure to have a good time here as well as good eats!

  6. MJ says:

    We went to Whispering Canyon in November of 2012 when we stayed at Wilderness Lodge. The food was pretty good and the kids loved their bottomless milkshake. Although it wasn’t my favorite meal at Disney, the kids loved it. We are planning another trip in November 2014 and when asking my kids where they want to eat, their first response is “We need ketchup!” My daughter was only 4 1/2 when we went and she still remembers this meal over all the other ones, including character meals. That goes to show what a great dining experience Whispering Canyon provides.

  7. Sue says:

    In answer to your question about getting alcohol from the other food places, yes, you can. We ate there a few weeks ago & I asked about getting a beer that was served in the bar. The server told me it was not a problem.

  8. Heather says:

    My husband and I ate here for the first time in 2008 (before we had our kids). We will be returning this fall for our first trip since 2008 and this was the first restaurant on our list. We think our 2 year old and 5 year old are going to love this restaurant!

  9. Venessa Hinojosa-Wright says:

    My husband and I had our wedding lunch rehearsal here and let me tell you, it was one of the best decisions we had made! There was 17 of us and everything was amazing! The food and entertainment was great for all ages. :) We will forever have a special memory of the day before we got married thanks to the amazing cast members that were working there. Hidden gem indeed.

  10. Bryan Galloway says:

    I was in WDW for business recently and i got the opportunity to take a few co-workers ( and my boss) to the Whispering Canyon. We had a very good meal, the server was excellent and we had a terrific time. I tricked my boss into asking for ketchup and also got him to ask for a large soda…
    My family and I are big Wilderness Lodge fans, we love the resort and its a tradition for us to eat there, but it was good to introduce others to the experience.
    I must say the food was plentiful and very good, i actually had not had an opportunity to get the sausage before this last visit and i really liked it alot !!

  11. Jon says:

    My parents and I recently visited Whispering Canyon at the Wilderness Lodge for lunch a couple weeks ago. It was our first time there and I was pleasantly surprised to see the skillet as a lunch option (since the last blog post about this restaurant said that they had taken the skillet off the menu) and I just had to order it. I have to say that the skillet was pretty good.

    Ribs were nice… too much sauce for my third reorder but I just scraped it off and enjoyed it. Chicken was nice and moist. Pulled pork was nice and substantial feeling. You know how some places that have pulled pork somehow overcook it and reminds you of those bad memories of having cotton balls and gauze stuck in your mouth after a trip to the dentist? No trace of that here. Good flavor and like I said… substantial. Sausage was ok. Kind of reminded me of kielbasa. Potatoes? YUM. Cornbread? A little dry (really. just a smidge) for my liking but nothing a little butter couldn’t fix. Btw. I wish they had honey butter. Anyways. It was pretty addicting. I mean. who hates cornbread?

    Couldn’t say that about the rest of the food… the herb marinated grilled chicken sandwich just tasted of smoke and little else. And the house smoked turkey sandwich was just ok. Nothing memorable… almost forgot we ordered it until we looked at the pictures we took that day. Oh. and the bread was too crumbly. But that happens with multi-grain bread.

    Lesson learned. Just order the skillet for everyone next time around. And ask for ketchup. =)

  12. Lulu says:

    Silly question… Can you go eat at Disney Resort restaurants even if you’re not staying at one? Like if you live in the Orlando area, could you just go for dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe?

  13. Brooke says:

    Lulu — Yes, absolutely. Anyone can enjoy any of the Disney restaurants. Be sure to make an advance dining reservation, though. Many of them tend to book up ahead of time.

  14. Lori Kelley says:

    Hi

    We ate at Whispering Canyon on June 16, 2014. The tortilla soup was wonderful. It was so different with a dark brown color. Wondering if it was made with beef broth and tomatillos? Is there a way to get the recipe? Would love to have it to enjoy – in between Disney World trips!

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