What’s New Around Disney World and Disneyland: April 1, 2014!

We have a few updates from both coasts for this round of “What’s New!” And we promise that none of these are April Fool’s jokes. :-D

Starting on the east coast, a recent trip around Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Monorail Loop has revealed a few changes in eats and treats. We’re talking property refurbishments, menu updates, tea, and cupcakes,  so hop on board the Monorail (“Your Highway in the Sky!”) and see What’s New!

We’re saving a seat for you…

Monorail Teal

Monorail Teal

Magic Kingdom

We’ll start our Monorail trip at Magic Kingdom. You may be aware that the Hub (the circular area directly in front of Cinderella Castle) has begun a major refurbishment. This project is slated to run in stages finishing sometime in 2015, with the purpose of accommodating more guests for fireworks and parade viewing, with the added benefit of relieving some of the post-show gridlock thanks to additional walkways.

Though much is covered by refurbishment walls, you can see in these photos where the water that flows towards and around Cinderella Castle has been drained for now to accommodate the construction.

Hub Refurbishment

Hub Refurbishment

Hub Refurbishment

Hub Refurbishment

Hub Refurbishment

Hub Refurbishment

Soooo… what does this have to do with food? The restaurants in the immediate area are still in operation. The beloved Main Street Popcorn Cart is, too; however, it’s now located on the bridge which connects the Hub to Adventureland.

Current location of Main Street Popcorn Cart

Current location of Main Street Popcorn Cart

Current location of Main Street Popcorn Cart

Current location of Main Street Popcorn Cart

Still an easy spot to grab some popcorn before the new Festival of Fantasy Parade!

Festival of Fantasy Parade

Festival of Fantasy Parade

Though the majority of the refurbishment to add expanded seating to Casey’s Corner is complete, we’re still noticing some small changes here and there.

The wall in the back room, which formerly housed a large-screen TV featuring vintage Disney sports-focused cartoons, was empty in the immediate weeks after the reopening. Now returning are the large pieces of artwork depicting turn-of-the-century images of America’s Favorite Pastime.

Casey's Corner Artwork

Casey’s Corner Artwork

Caseys Corner artwork (3)

Looking at the picture below, I’m sure you can’t help but notice [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week: Mickey Snacks!

Who’s the leader of the Club that’s made for you and me?

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!

Yep, we’re going a little old school on today’s edition of Disney Food Pics of the Week — our regular series where we feature reader pics posted on Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza, our Flickr group!

And nothing says Disney Food! like having the Mouse himself on your eats.

Mickey Waffle with Bacon!

Mickey Waffle with Bacon!

If you’d like to get in on the fun, head over to Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza on Flickr and join the group. We’d love to see even more of your great food shots! Let’s see what you’ve found!

Mickey Cake Pop

Photographer: Tricki Woo

Cake Pops have taken the world by storm over the last couple of years, it seems. So, of course, it didn’t take too long for a Disney version to pop up! Ha! Get it? These normally come with marshmallow ears, and the colors are gorg!

Mickey Cake Pop

Mickey Cake Pop

Mickey Beignets at Cafe Orleans

Photographer: Riniel Calaelen

Cafe Orleans in Disneyland is one of my favorite stops for a delicious, Cajun-inspired meal. And I always leave room for Mickey Shaped Beignets, which come with amazing Raspberry and Vanilla Dipping Sauces here.

Mickey Beignet

Mickey Beignet

Mickey Ice Cream Bar

Photographer: Planning WDW

But there’s no way we could write about Mickey Snacks without mentioning the [Read more…]

Dining in Disneyland: Dinner and Updated Menu Review at Ariel’s Grotto in Disney California Adventure

It has been just over a year since I’ve visited Ariel’s Grotto at Disney California Adventure. On past visits I’ve found the food just so-so. Not bad, not fabulous, but obviously it took me a year to head back… .

Because I chose to to stay away for quite some time, I was not aware that their menu had a major overhaul just about a year ago! So, on that last visit I must have just barely missed the changes.  Anyhow, I’m back and happy to report that the new menu items are actually quite fabulous! And I apologize up front for the photos. My camera died, it was dark, and all I had was my phone.  Next time I promise to be more prepared!

Ariel's Grotto

Ariel’s Grotto

Now, I know many people go to Ariel’s Grotto for the princesses, but please note that the princesses ARE NOT there during dinner service.  They are only there for breakfast and lunch, so if it’s princesses you’re looking for, make sure to dine early.

We made a reservation through Disney dining (714.781.DINE) to hold our spot for dinner, which I highly recommend. It gets very busy in the evening due to the fact that dinner includes preferred viewing to World of Color.  After dinner, you will be handed one ticket per diner, which will allow you to have a fabulous view of the show.

World of Color Tickets

World of Color Tickets

Atmosphere

When you enter Ariel’s, you descend a spiral staircase into the entryway and dining room area. Be sure to check out the bubbly chandeliers on your way!

View from entryway

Chandelier in entryway

The dining room has a great view of Paradise Pier, and “under the sea” touches can be found everywhere — including the walls!

Ground floor restaurant entrance

Wall mosaic mural

One of the restaurant chandeliers

Ceiling Decor

Once you’re seated, you’ll quickly launch into your meal… .

Eats

Now, on to the food! The menu was previously designed as family style appetizers, you choose an entree, then family style dessert.  You can read more about the old way  here.

Now, everyone orders everything individually. You choose an appetizer, entree, and the dessert is a fixed trio of treats, but it is served individually.  The current menu features soup or salad, 6 different entrees, and the dessert trio.  The dinner menu is a fixed price of $41.99 for adults (over 9 years old) and $19.99 for children under 10.

Ariel's Grotto Menu

Ariel’s Grotto Menu

The Kids’ Menu includes fresh fruit and veggies as an appetizer, 4 different entree options, and dessert.  Unfortunately, my growing every minute boys don’t order off of the kids menu any more…  And bummer, because I was really pushing them towards Ursula’s Octo-Dog!

Two of the four items on the Kids’ Menu are Mickey Check items, which means they are “healthier” choices.

Kids Menu

Ariel’s Grotto Kids’ Menu

Bread Service

Dinner starts with a basket of warm sourdough bread. It’s very tasty, but I do miss the trio of salted butter & dipping sauces from the old menu.

Hot Sourdough Bread

Hot Sourdough Bread

Dinner Salad & Soup

Upon ordering you choose whether you’d like soup or a dinner salad.  Soup options were Crab Chowder or Butternut Squash Bisque.  I’m a huge butternut squash lover so I didn’t think twice about my order. But since my kids didn’t want their soup or salad, we were able to sample both soups and the salad! Thanks, guys!

The bisque was lick your bowl (or at least mop it up with a piece of bread) good.  Fall flavors in Spring are A-OK with me! The bisque is thick, creamy, and topped with a swirl of sour cream & a sprinkle of pepitas.

Butternut Squash Bisque

Butternut Squash Bisque

The Crab Chowder was also a hit at the table. My husband — who normally isn’t a seafood chowder person — really enjoyed it. The Crab Chowder came topped with bacon and chives.

Crab Chowder

Crab Chowder

The Dinner Salad consisted of mixed greens, candied walnuts, pears, and blue cheese topped with a vinaigrette dressing.  Also, very good, but I’m a huge blue cheese & pear fan.  If this isn’t your thing, you can order the salad to your liking without the goodies!

Dinner Salad

Dinner Salad

Entrees

The menu at Ariel’s Grotto has six entrees to choose from.  Unfortunately everyone but me chose the same thing, so I don’t have a lot of entree photos to share.  Let’s start with my entree, the Citrus Glazed Chicken Breast.

Served in a bowl with Udon Noodles, Bok Choy, Edamame, Carrots, and Miso Broth this dish is such a great addition to the new (to me) menu.  I thought it was unique and very flavorful.

The noodles were cooked perfectly as was the chicken, very juicy.  The Miso Broth complemented the chicken very well.  After my last visit I went in with some low-ish expectations and was quite surprised by how good this dish was.

Glazed Citrus Chicken

Glazed Citrus Chicken

Everyone else at the table opted for the Red Oak Smoked Honey-Whiskey Barbecue Tri-Tip.  My boys were very happy to learn that they could substitute the mashed potatoes for french fries.

 Tri Tip & French Fries

Tri Tip & French Fries

The two grown-up boys (aka my husband and a friend of ours) at the table went for the Grilled Lobster Tail and Red Oak Smoked Honey-Whiskey Barbecue Tri-Tip which is served with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.  The portions were very generous and everyone cleared their plates.

Lobster Tail & Tri Tip

Lobster Tail & Tri Tip

 Dessert

The dessert trio features 3 mini desserts. Everyone receives the same dessert which includes a Chocolate Covered StrawberryS’mores Bar & Creme Brulee.

The Chocolate Covered Strawberry was sweet & juicy. They are smaller versions of the ones that are sold at Candy Palace and Marceline’s.  The S’mores Bar was the table favorite; a chocolate ganache filled crust topped with 3 dollops of chocolate mousse, a graham cracker, and toasted marshmallow.  The Creme Brulee was actually a little runny.  It tasted OK, but the other two items trumped the brulee by far!

Dessert Trio

Dessert Trio

Drinks

Because the Cove Bar is right there at Ariel’s Grotto, the restaurant serves up a full bar plus specialty drinks.

Drink Menu

Drink Menu

We sampled a few adult beverages including the Skinny Coconut Mojito and the Habanero Lime Margarita.  The mojito was SO delicious.  One of those, “Are you sure there’s alcohol in this?” types of drinks. Way too easy to drink.  Ingredients include Skinny Girl Island Coconut Vodka, coconut water, fresh lime juice, mint and agave nectar.

Skinny Coconut Lime Mojito

Skinny Coconut Lime Mojito

The Habanero Lime Margarita had some serious kick to it.  Ingredients include Patron Silver Tequila, habanero lime syrup, agave nectar, and fresh lime juice.  Interesting to taste but be prepared for a little burn!

Habanero Lime Margarita

Habanero Lime Margarita

Overall

Overall, I am 100% impressed with the change of menu at Ariel’s Grotto. I felt like the food was more flavorful and there was a more interesting variety of entrees. The soups and salad were great and the dessert was also a big improvement.

In addition to the food upgrades, I noticed a difference in service. My last visit was rather sluggish and unimpressive.  This visit started off a bit slow, but once we ordered, our server was fabulous and very attentive.

I really think that Ariel’s Grotto has brought itself up to par with the other table service restaurants in Disney California Adventure. I might even go as far to say that it’s one of the better dining options in the park (ranking just below Corn Dog Castle, 1901, and Carthay Circle, ha!).  I would definitely recommend a visit, especially if you are interested in seeing World of Color. It’s a great meal, plus you get the added bonus of preferred viewing – win win!

Have you been to Ariel’s Grotto for dinner since the menu change?  What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Heather Sievers is the Disney Food Blog’s Dining in Disneyland columnist. See more of her columns here!

Disney Recipe: Veggie Tater Bake from Flo’s V-8 Cafe in Disney California Adventure (A Vegetarian Recipe!)

It’s always a good idea to have a vegetarian meal or two tucked into your recipe box, don’t you think? And if Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie are your thing, you’ve gotta try this veggie version!

Flo's V-8 Cafe in Disney California Adventure

Flo’s V-8 Cafe in Disney California Adventure

Offered at Flo’s V-8 Cafe in Disney California Adventure’s Cars Land, Flo’s Veggie Tater Bake has been delighting herbivores and carnivores alike since the restaurant first opened two years ago!

Veggie Tater Bake

Veggie Tater Bake

Whether you’re looking for fresh ideas for Meatless Mondays or Fridays during Lent, or you have special friends you’d like to impress with your vegetarian cooking skills, we definitely think you should give this hearty casserole a try!

Veggie Tater Bake

Flo’s V-8 Cafe, Disney California Adventure
Serves 6

Ingredients: [Read more…]

Review: Breakfast at Flo’s V-8 Cafe in Disney California Adventure

“Eat at Flo’s and Get Gas!”

Yep — It’s time to head to Radiator Springs in Carburetor County, for a tasty breakfast along Route 66 at Flo’s V-8 Cafe!

Flo's Sign

Flo’s Sign

Since it opened a couple of years back, Flo’s has quickly garnered a great reputation for delicious table service-style breakfast with counter service convenience and prices. It even makes our list of favorite fast food joints in Disneyland!

Let’s head over for an early morning visit to Cars Land in Disney California Adventure!

Atmosphere

As you quickly see from Flo’s Sign out front, the restaurant is superbly themed. If you’re a fan of the film Cars, you are gonna love this place. With the backdrop of desert rock formations (a.k.a. Radiator Springs Racers!!), Imagineers have outdone themselves here. You truly feel as though you’ve stepped through the silver screen.

Flo's Sign

Flo’s Sign

And while it’s all stunning in the daytime, you should definitely make a point to visit at night, when the glow from pastel fluorescent lights brings every inch of this place to life!

Flo's V-8 Cafe at night

Flo’s V-8 Cafe at night

Flo’s V-8 in the movie is, of course, the only gas filling station in Radiator Springs…which, of course, equates to food for us humans. :-)

Outside View

Outside View

Flo’s roof is famously patterned after an oil filter. Get it?

Oil Filter Roof -- Up Close

Oil Filter Roof — Up Close

Directly in front of the restaurant’s entrance, you’ll find one of the outdoor seating areas. These are the filling stations in the film, so naturally, you’ll find gas pumps and stacks of oil cans nearby.

Motor Oil and Gas Pumps on the Patio

Motor Oil and Gas Pumps on the Patio

As you go into Flo’s, you realize the seating area is enormous. It looks much larger inside than it does outside! It’s more than just Disney magic, though; one of the seating areas is themed both inside and outside as the Ornament Valley Mechanical Clinic.

Ornament Valley Mechanical Clinic

Ornament Valley Mechanical Clinic

Head inside, and step further back in time. The round-room entrance is crowned by this [Read more…]

News!: Disney World and Disneyland to Offer Braille Menus at Select Locations Starting March 1st

Today we get to share with you one more way that Disney parks on  both coasts are becoming more user-friendly for all of us!

Both Disney World and Disneyland Resort are preparing to offer a new service for guests with visual disabilities. Starting March 1, 2014, guests may request Braille menus at select food locations across the Parks.

Kouzzina by Cat Cora Menu Cover

Kouzzina by Cat Cora Menu Cover

As always, guests may continue to request menu reading assistance from Cast Members at any location in order to interpret the menu if a Braille version is not yet available at their chosen location, or to meet the preference of the individual.

Cast Members at Flo's

Cast Members at Flo’s

Prior to visiting, more information for guests with visual disabilities ranging from restaurant and [Read more…]

Top 10 Disneyland Fast Food Joints

Most of the time when I visit Disney, I indulge in a mix of meals. I may book a table service advance dining reservation for one part of the day, and leave the rest to chance — looking to discover new things at the parks’ kiosks and counter service spots.

Top 10 Disneyland Fast Food Restaurants

Today, I’m counting down my favorite places in Disneyland Resort to grab a quick meal!

Disneyland is second to none (yep — even compared to Disney World) at putting together truly outstanding counter service, quick service, and fast food meals. And the one consistent theme that you’ll find in Disneyland counter service spots — a lot of the time, the food and venues feel like table service quality (right down to real plates!)

Let’s get started!

Plaza Inn

The Plaza Inn is legendary for its beautiful atmosphere. Located where Main Street and Tomorrowland intersect, this charming spot has been open forever — and it’s been pleasing guests in search of a good meal all the while.

Even Walt was a fan!

Walt Disney enjoying a cup of coffee at Plaza Inn in 1966

Walt Disney enjoying a cup of coffee at Plaza Inn in 1966

A character meal table service location for breakfast, it morphs into a counter service buffet (sans characters) for lunch and dinnertime.

The Roast Beef and Pasta dishes here are both good choices. But ask most Disneyland food fans what the must-have dish here is, and you’ll get a resounding response: the Fried Chicken! The huge — and I mean HUGE — platter comes with three pieces of Fried Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, a Vegetable, and a Biscuit. I shared this with a friend the last time I got it, and we still couldn’t finish!

Plaza Inn Fried Chicken

Plaza Inn Fried Chicken

Incidentally, you should try and save room for dessert, too. (I know…I know.) When strawberries are in season, I’d definitely recommend the luscious Strawberry Shortcake!

Strawberry Shortcake at Plaza Inn in Disneyland

Strawberry Shortcake

But the Carrot Cake is pretty awesome, too.

Flo’s V-8 Cafe

Dining at Flo’s V-8 Cafe within Cars Land at Disney California Adventure is an immersive experience. As with the rest of the spots in this newest Disneyland Resort section, you feel like you’ve wandered right into the animation!

But step inside the enormous restaurant, and you see all kinds of kitschy fun, inspired by the roadside diners that once peppered legendary Route 66.

Flo's V-8 Cafe

Flo’s V-8 Cafe

The name of the game at Flo’s is the kind of comfort food that you’d expect to find in such spots, with spit-fired meats dominating the dinner menu. There’s also an inventive vegetarian option here — the Veggie Tater Bake!

But it’s Flo’s breakfast that we love love LOVE the most!

For a super sweet start to your day, you’ve gotta try the Brioche French Toast with Salted Caramel Sauce and Bananas. (Dessert for breakfast? you ask? Well, yeah; pretty much! But…bananas!!!)

Brioche French Toast with  Salted Caramel Sauce and Bananas

Brioche French Toast with Salted Caramel Sauce and Bananas

Or, try the option that serves up a delicious Mexican food-inspired twist — the Chicken Tamale Breakfast with Scrambled Eggs and Salsa Verde.

Chicken Tamale Breakfast with Scrambled Eggs and Salsa Verde

Chicken Tamale Breakfast with Scrambled Eggs and Salsa Verde

And be sure to stop back by later in the day for dessert — Flo’s Signature Apple-Cheddar Pie-O-Rama is spectacular!

Apple Pie at Flo's

Pie at Flo’s

Rancho del Zocalo

The beautifully themed Rancho del Zocalo, located in Disneyland Park’s Frontierland, is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach!

Gorgeous murals and lighting fixtures dominate the walls inside, while a beautiful patio covered with gauzy awnings wins our vote for best place to sit here.

Outdoor seating at Rancho del Zocalo

Outdoor seating at Rancho del Zocalo

Following the pattern of many Disneyland counter service spots, Rancho del Zocalo is counter service with the feel of a cafeteria. Guests order their main entree, and then visit stations to pick up extra courses, like salads and desserts.

The Mexican influenced menu is small, but the ingredients and preparation are always high quality, and a cut above what we think of as fast food. One of my favorite options here is the Soft Tacos Monterrey with Fajita Chicken. (You can also get them with beef.)

Soft Tacos Monterrey with Fajita Chicken

Soft Tacos Monterrey with Fajita Chicken

The addition of Peppers as well as Sour Cream and Guacamole on the side makes this a winner for me. I look forward to having it whenever I have a chance to visit Rancho del Zocalo!

Hungry Bear Restaurant

If you like eating in a treehouse, then I have just the Disneyland spot for you! Hungry Bear Restaurant in Disneyland’s Critter Country recently underwent some renovations and [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week: Pub Grub!

We just shared our favorite Disney Pub Grub with you on Tuesday, and I thought it would be fun to check in with our DFB reader/photographers to see what they’re snapping these days!

It’s always so fun to flip through the fantastic photos that our members post on the Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza, our Flickr group. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, head over there! We think a virtual trip to Disney is a great way to take a break from your busy day. :-)

Let’s take a trip to some of our favorite Disney watering holes today for our latest installment in our Disney Food Pics of the Week Series!

Tri-Tip Sliders from Cove Bar in California Adventure Park

Cove Bar in Disney California Adventure is a great place to take a load off while you enjoy water views and a spot of shade. And while you quench your thirst with specialty cocktails or craft beers, you can also answer your hunger with some fancy apps, like Tri-Tip Sliders. Yum!

Photographer: Hilary_JW

Tri-Tip Sliders from Cove Bar

Tri-Tip Sliders from Cove Bar

Breads and Dips from Tambu Lounge in Disney’s Polynesian Resort

Who can resist ducking into Tambu Lounge at Disney’s Polynesian Resort? This open airy lounge is a terrific spot to wait for your table at nearby ‘Ohana while you nurse a world-famous Lapu Lapu! It’s one of my favorite First Day Traditions.

And don’t forget — it’s just a monorail ride away from Magic Kingdom, so it’s a great place to relax with a basket of Breads and Dips with your island-inspired drinks.

Photographer: DVC Mom

Breads and Dips from Tambu Lounge

Breads and Dips from Tambu Lounge

Chips and Queso Blanco at La Cava Del Tequila in Epcot

But no Disney pub crawl is complete without [Read more…]

News! Valentine’s Day Menus and Treats at Disneyland

Will you be spending February 14th with someone special at Disneyland Resort? If so, you may want to check out some of the special treats and menu options to celebrate the day!

Disneyland

Carnation Café will offer a Surf and Turf dish for $19.99 (Sirloin Steak, Shrimp Skewer, Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Broccoli, Sun-dried Tomato Butter and Herb Beurre Blanc Sauce).

If you’re visiting in the morning, you can enjoy Strawberry and Chocolate Chip Pancakes ($10.49).

Carnation Cafe in Disneyland

Carnation Cafe in Disneyland

Plaza Inn will be adding a Spicy Glazed Salmon with Chipotle Pineapple Glaze, Mixed Vegetables and Mushroom Quinoa for $16.99. (But why would you NOT get the fried chicken? That’s romantic, right?)

Plaza Inn entrance

Plaza Inn entrance

Café Orléans  will offer a “Bouchee of Love” :) . What’s a “Bouchee of Love,” exactly? It’s a puff pastry filled with shrimp, chicken, spinach, and tomato concasse in a creamy diable sauce with a drizzle of roasted cauliflower couli. ($19.49)

If you’ve already scored your Blue Bayou reservation, you’ll be able to enjoy Pan-Seared Hawaiian Hamachi, Spaghetti Squash, and Array of Roasted Potatoes (Sweet Potato, Yukon, Purple Potato), with Persimmon burr blanc ($36.99).

Blue Bayou

Blue Bayou View

Club 33 will also be [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week: Pie!

Happy Day After National Pie Day, Everyone!!

Seriously, even though we celebrated yesterday, this is SUCH a cool holiday, we think it deserves to be extended through the weekend, don’t you? Well, clearly you agree! Because today, we are showcasing your gorgeous pie pics, courtesy of our Flickr Group, Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza!

Care to join in the comfort food fun? I knew you would!

Mango Pie at Yak n Yeti Restaurant

One of our favorites — in fact, it made our Top 3 Disney Pie List! — is the Mango Pie at Yak & Yeti Restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I could seriously go for a slice of this on my next visit!

Photographer: Roger Weeks

Mango Pie at Yak n Yeti Restaurant

Mango Pie at Yak n Yeti Restaurant

Apple and Cheddar Pie from Flo’s V8 Cafe

I love all things apple + dessert, but adding cheese is a fun next step!

Flaky Pastry, Apples, and Cheddar Cheese ftw! If you think so, too, be sure to try this yummo combo the next time you’re at Flo’s V8 Cafe in Disney California Adventure.

Photographer: Jingorokitty

Apple Cheddar Pie at Flo's V8 Cafe

Apple Cheddar Pie at Flo’s V8 Cafe

Beef and Lamb Pie from Cookes of Dublin

But pie aficionados know that there’s more to this delightful food genre than [Read more…]