We are standing on the cusp of a brand New Year, and we can’t wait to see what 2015 holds in store for us — and Disney!
But we can’t wave goodbye to the old year without looking back on some of the biggest food news that happened throughout Disney Parks.
Most of this year’s big news happened at Walt Disney World, but we have a few memorable moments to share with you from Disneyland as well as other Disney Parks around the globe.
Today, we bring you a look back at 2014’s Biggest Disney Food News Stories! We have a LOT to cover — let’s get started!
First up, a little something I like to call…
The Beginning of Finally Doing Something with Pleasure Island
It’s the story we feel like we’ve been watching for years — what’s happening at Downtown Disney Orlando’s now defunct Pleasure Island??
Well, 2014 finally saw some solid progress, and the Disney Springs story seems to be coming to life.
Lots of changes have made a trip to Downtown Disney a challenge in the last couple of years. But as the year draws to a close, the parking garages are open, and we are seeing some of the plans take shape!
2014 kicked off with a surprise restaurant opening of sorts — the House of Blues added a new counter service offering, The Smokehouse. We say surprise because we told you about the restaurant for the first time just days before the walls came down and the doors opened for business!
The Smokehouse is strictly a walk-up window venue. But the covered outdoor seating is pleasant, and you can often take in live music as you enjoy barbecue favorites, like their Beef Brisket Sandwich, St. Louis Ribs, or Smoked Turkey Legs.
But it wasn’t all good news for Downtown Disney this year. Guests at T-Rex Cafe last Spring were in for some decidedly unpleasant dinner excitement, as one of the restaurant’s humongous fish tanks sprang a leak during dinner service!
However, no one was injured and all of the fish were reportedly rescued. We’re glad that all turned out happily in the situation, but we’ll never look at those huge fish tanks quite the same way again!
Also in the Spring, we said hello to a spot that’s quickly become one of our most favorite spots to shop in all of Walt Disney World — the Marketplace Co-op!
We have found some totally awesome stuff in the store’s Disney Centerpiece Section, including dishes, glasses, and other tableware that celebrate all of our Disney cult favorites. Whether you’re a Dole Whip fan or love memorabilia celebrating Tomorrowland, chances are you’ll find something that you’ve just gotta have!
Starbucks also continued to enrich its partnership with Disney in 2014, as 2 different locations opened at opposite ends of Downtown Disney. Guests visiting Marketplace location will find a walk-up counter that’s tucked between entrances to the mammoth World of Disney store.
But you can also grab a cup of siren-bedecked java in the other location at West Side.
The huge Starbucks includes inside and outside seating as well as a special Reserve Counter for guests who’d like to try especially rare coffees.
With the Disney Springs storyline firming up, we’re also hearing about some of the new restaurants that are planned for the area. Expect the Boathouse to offer a menu including seafood, steaks, and chops. Guests can choose from three different themed bars, including The Captain’s Raw Bar, The Admiral’s Club Bar, and The Dock Bar. Rooms within the restaurant will be nautically themed, natch.
But perhaps most interestingly, the restaurant will also serve as the launching spot for a number of boat-themed attractions. Guests can ride on a 40-foot Italian Water Taxi while they enjoy champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries. There will also be guided “Amphicar” Tours that highlight sites around Disney Springs.
Celebrity chef watchers will want to experience Morimoto Asia, a Pan-Asian restaurant. Chef Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef fame lends his name to the spot, which takes over the old Mannequins Dance Palace. The restaurant will feature dishes from across all of Asia, and will offer guests waterfront dining in a modern setting.
It has also been announced that STK is slated to open in the Landings area of Disney Springs. Expect more news about the modern steakhouse and lounge in 2015.
Finally, the long-awaited Food Truck Park has finally materialized in the heart of West Side.
While original plans for an elevated walkway seem to have been scaled back for the present, it’s still nice to know that you can predict where at least one of the four Disney Food Trucks will be at any given time.
If 2014 is remembered for anything, it will have to be the meteoric and phenomenal rise of a certain little animated feature released only about a year ago. That’s right. We are talking about So. Much. Frozen.
Indeed, as Disney watchers, we’ve seen our fair share of Disney marketing and promotion. But I think we can all agree that nothing has come close to the hold that Anna, Elsa, and the gang from Arendelle have had over Disney during the entire year.
We saw the earliest signs of the craze last Spring, as ornately decorated Frozen-themed Easter Eggs were displayed at Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel.
And no shortage of Frozen Themed Snacks and Cupcakes started to pop up everywhere. If it could be made of sugar, you could bet that sooner or later, it would have Anna or Elsa’s (Or Olaf’s or Sven’s or…) likeness on it.
Signs that the icy kingdom was here to stay, however, really blossomed just as the weather warmed up in Walt Disney World. That’s when Frozen took over an entire park.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios became awash in cool colors. A special Frozen Summer Fun Package was announced for the summer months, and included a sing along, a parade, plus a premium package, which included a Frozen Dessert Party and VIP fireworks viewing. Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Frozen Funland opened for the season, and guests could enjoy ice skating and other winter-themed fun in addition to hot cocoa and lots and lots and LOTS of Frozen-themed snacks.
And although the package and Park fun were extended by nearly an extra month, it still didn’t seem to answer all the Frozen fervor out there.
And so, as the temperatures dipped from 90 to 80, Disney once again offered a Frozen Holiday Premium Package — this time to coincide with the Winter holidays and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights.
Finally, we saw the whole gang immortalized in gingerbread at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Because. Well. It had to be done.
Will Frozen fatigue set in anytime soon? We are keeping a watch for the thaw in the film’s appeal in 2015.
Bidding Farewell to Beloved Dining Spots and Menu Items
Every year, we can expect there to be a shake up in a few Disney restaurants. In 2014, the announcement of restaurant closures brought outcry from fans. And guests also had to adjust to some major menu changes.
Early in the year, it was announced that Pollo Campero and Bodie’s All American would be closing at Downtown Disney to make way for new development. That really wasn’t much of a shock; neither of the restaurants, which shared space, had proven to be huge hits.
But the third tenant in the building, Babycakes NYC, had garnered a HUGE fan base in short order.
The New York-based bakery specializes in gluten-free and vegan baked goods, which also do not contain refined sugar. Outcry has been loud from guests who follow special diets.
We couldn’t quite believe a spot that garnered such a fan following would close permanently. And last month, we found out that there may be a replacement in the works. It seems a strong possibility that Erin McKenna’s Bakery Valentine may be opening in the near future! We can’t wait to learn more about this development.
Elsewhere, Disney’s BoardWalk said goodbye to Kouzzina by Cat Cora. The Greek restaurant, which has occupied its premium space for five years, was shuttered in September.
But Disney filled its vacancy quickly. More about that to come.
Several of Disney’s restaurants also made major menu changes — and you responded with tons of feedback to us! ‘Ohana in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort met with guest ire when they removed chicken skewers from the dinner offering. At last peek, poultry still wasn’t on offer, except in the form of Honey-Coriander Chicken Wings (which are totally awesome, by the way).
And Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion of Epcot also raised a few eyebrows when they fiddled with their signature Filet. The steak, served with Wild Mushroom Risotta and Truffle Butter Sauce, has a passionate fan base. But earlier this year, the chef started to change the sauce and risotto offered with the steak to reflect seasonal changes.
This did not go over well. (Although we tried it, and I gotta tell you, it was magnificent.)
But no sooner did we order the new version, take pics, and post a review, than we got word that the beloved old version was back. We were told that it would once again change seasonally. But it hasn’t changed in a while, so we’ll see.
The popular buffet restaurant, which already offered Donald’s Safari Breakfast and Lunch, has added dinner to the line up as well.
Welcoming New Dining Spots
While in many ways 2014 seems more like a year of development without a ton of new openings, there were still a few new spots that opened their doors this year.
January brought us the highly anticipated and long awaited Spice Road Table.
The beautiful new waterside restaurant, located in Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion, opened as a tapas-style eatery, focusing on Mediterranean food and wine. With its primo location along World Showcase Lagoon, it soon became a popular spot for catching Illuminations. As the year closes, Spice Road Table has begun accepting both the Disney Dining Plan and advance dining reservations. As a result, the menu has grown to include a list of entrees, in addition to the small plates it offered from the beginning.
It was a long wait before we saw the next restaurant opening of the year. We told you earlier about the closing of Kouzzina. While many fans of Cat Cora’s Disney outpost were sad to see the doors close, we were happy that at least Disney didn’t take forever opening up its replacement. Before the year drew to a close, Trattoria al Forno began service on Disney’s BoardWalk.
We dined there the very first night it was open, and so far, we’re inclined to have a positive impression of the Italian eatery.
And since the spot boasts delicious breakfast options as well, we’re pretty confident we’ll be dining here again in the near future.
With a newly understated aesthetic and streamlined ordering stations, we think the re-do is a beautiful addition to this value resort.
There were also some updates and new openings at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort — more about those later!
Big Changes for Animal Kingdom
In 2014, we continue to see the winds of change blow over Disney’s Animal Kingdom. And while the full vision of the updates hasn’t been shared yet, there are some things we know for sure, and plenty of speculation to fill in the blanks.
This watering hole has long been a DFB favorite for grabbing a grown up drink and people watching. But in 2014, you’ll find it in a slightly different spot. No matter. It’s still a great place to relax during a day of touring.
As we mentioned, there’s also been a bit of speculation about what else may be unfolding behind those construction walls. A new area called Africa Marketplace may provide a brand new counter service location, Harambe Marketplace.
The new restaurant will feature multiple ordering windows and will offer African-inspired cuisine. In addition, Pizzafari may soon share its location with a new table service spot, as construction has begun to convert and expand the space.
We are also hearing that the Starbucks location planned for Animal Kingdom is slated to move into Creature Comforts. The new coffee shop could be open as early as Summer 2015.
The Year of the Premium Experience
If 2014 is notable for anything — besides the complete Frozen domination of Disney (and the world?) — it can be summed up in two little words: Premium. Experience.
Everywhere we looked this year, Disney was coming up with new ways to help guests take their vacations straight over the top. While hard ticketed events like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party continue to draw big crowds, other Parks started offering their own events.
Animal Kingdom is full steam ahead for the coming of Rivers of Light in 2015 and the new area devoted to Avatar. And to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Lion King, guests enjoyed Harambe Nights this summer. With ample food spreads and a Broadway-style performance, the show brought guests something they’d never had a chance to do before — experience Animal Kingdom at night.
As we’ve mentioned Disney’s Hollywood Studios spent the better part of the year converting itself into a Frozen playground, with Frozen Summer Fun for all, and the Frozen Premium Package for those willing to pay extra. The package proved so popular that it was extended through the month of September. And beginning in November, Studios offered another Frozen Premium Package in conjunction with the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights.
In the middle of all of that frigid fun, the Studios also played with an event geared toward those Disney Villain Lovers out there. Villains Unleashed was a hard ticketed event that ran for only one night, and featured lots of evil, Disney style, as the Villains took over the park for the night. Fun food was a feature of the event; no word from Disney whether we’ll see a repeat in the upcoming year.
Speaking of Disney Baddies, they regularly make appearances around Halloween at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party.
But this year, guests who enjoy keeping company with the nefarious bunch could also purchase tickets during MNSSHP for the Villain’s Sinister Soiree. Leave it to Disney to come up with a Premium Event…inside another Premium Event! But since this one took place inside Cinderella Castle, it promised to be something special.
But some of the most remarkable premium events were introduced at Epcot. Early in the year, the Park began offering the Sparkling Illuminations Dessert Party.
We hear from you all the time, and we quite agree — Epcot is a magical place after hours. Well, Disney is listening apparently, and also introduced the After Hours Wind Down this year. Guests could choose from one of four popular spots in Epcot — La Cava del Tequila, Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room, Spice Road Table, or Tutto Gusto.
Guests would enjoy small plates and drinks during their time there, and could also purchase additional food and drink, in addition to what their admission ticket provided. (You can read our reviews here and here.)
And just in time for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, Disney introduced two new options designed to enhance guests’ Food and Wine experience. Guests staying on property could take advantage of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival Premium Package, which included a gift bag of goodies and wine delivered to your room, in addition to special reserved seating in Epcot during the Festival.
The big draw for many guests was that Cast Members would actually take your order and get your food for you in these special areas, thus eliminating your need for standing in lines.
We heard from many of you that this Premium Package made the Festival a much more enjoyable experience for you.
Not such a big hit was the other Food and Wine Festival Premium Event, Food and Wine Festival Late Nights LIVE! While this special after hours party promised to have a fun street festival feel, it fell flat for many. Ultimately, scheduled dates for the event were cancelled due to low attendance.
We’re anxious to see which, if any, of these Food and Wine premium events return for next year’s Food and Wine Festival.
Star Wars Dining at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
When Disney’s Hollywood Studios wasn’t celebrating all things Frozen, we could find the Park immersed in another popular universe — Star Wars. And as the popularity of the legendary franchise continues to grow (there’s a new movie due to be released, in case you didn’t know ) Disney offered Star Wars Themed Character Meals for a limited period of time.
The wildly popular Star Wars dining events roughly coincided with Star Wars Weekends last Spring. Guests could enjoy dinner at the Hollywood & Vine Restaurant, where they’d meet Ewok Chip & Dale, Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy, and/or Stormtrooper Donald. Here’s our review of this fun event.
Based upon their popularity, these events are returning in 2015 and are now available for booking!
Accommodations for Guests with Special Needs Piloted
Disney has a clear commitment to accommodating the special needs of guests, and we continued to see strides in this direction in 2014.
In the area of food allergies, the company is piloting the use of Allergy-Friendly Menus in some of its restaurants to make the ordering process easier for guests who restrict certain foods in their diet.
Select locations at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland also began offering braille menus for visually impaired guests in 2014.
And we’re hoping the “Allergy Kiosk” that opened in Disney’s Animal Kingdom will replicate itself in other parks. This location offers gluten-free, and allergen-free menu items as well as advice and information about dining with allergies throughout the park.
Groundbreaking Updates at Disneyland and Disneyland Paris
While it seemed like nearly all the big news came out of Walt Disney World in 2014, there were also a few interesting developments in Disneyland — and elsewhere in the Disney Universe.
Major changes to the exterior have closed off the Court of Angels for the exclusive use of Club 33 members and their guests. The interior has also been made over to incorporate Walt Disney’s original vision, according to imagineers, and to add a lounge to the location. And with Chef Andrew Sutton of Napa Rose and Carthay Circle fame at the helm, the menu has been overhauled as well.
In a move that really demonstrated the DFB motto that Food IS a Theme Park, Disneyland Paris opened a brand new combination attraction and restaurant in 2014! Seriously, I’d like to hop on a plane like, right now, and check this one out. Anyone want to come with?
La Place de Rémy opened this Summer at Walt Disney Studios Park. The ride-slash-attraction features a fun romp through the universe of the film Ratatouille — from Remy the Rat’s point of view!
The attraction, L’Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy, shrinks guests down to rodent size, and they scurry willy-nilly through a course in a rat-shaped car across the rooftops of Paris, before making their way through Gusteau’s kitchen and dining room. Once guests complete their harrowing journey, they’re delivered to their final destination — Bistrot Chez Rémy.
All kinds of awesome, yes?
Big Changes at the Polynesian
Our final big news of the Disney year comes courtesy of one of the Disney World’s iconic and original resorts.
In 2014, we found out that there was a complete re-imagining of the beloved resort underway! But instead of modernizing with the changes, they’re taking it old school! The resort has reverted back to its original, opening day name — Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort!
And sadly, as a result of the refresh, we had to wave goodbye to 24-hour-a-day Dole Whips. Still, the iconic dessert is still around, with its very own Pineapple Lanai playing host to the treat these days.
But the biggest news…the one thing that we can absolutely NOT WAIT FOR . . .Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is coming to the Polynesian!
With more than a passing similarity to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland, we are counting the days until the Grog Grotto opens. And it seems like it truly will have a theme all its own, based upon 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
And that’s a wrap! While 2014 seemed to be mostly a transition year as we await the unveiling of some huge changes in the World of Disney, there was enough new and different to keep us on our toes at Disney Food Blog!
Now we want to hear from you guys! What were your biggest Disney food news moments during 2014! Leave us a comment and share your thoughts!
Here’s to a Happy and Prosperous New Year in 2015!