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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!

News and Review: Corn Nuggets at Golden Oak Outpost in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

It sure is spring here at Disney World! The sun is high and strong, and the spring break crowds at the parks are rising a bit. The great thing about that is there are some really fun food finds cropping up around the Parks.

Certain food locations that aren’t always operating are opening their ordering windows and doors… and – in some cases – bringing some new snacks with them. Woo!

Take, for example, the Golden Oak Outpost in Magic Kingdom’s Frontierland.

Golden Oak Outpost (4)

Golden Oak Outpost Sign

It’s not altogether unusual to find it open and offering some quick eats; in particular, a tasty Chicken Sandwich and Chicken Breast Nuggets (a six-piece version at a slightly lower price point, as opposed to the standard eight-piece… good to know!).

Golden Oak Outpost (7)

Golden Oak Outpost

However, it’s also not unusual to see a sign suggesting that hungry cowpokes should stop by Pecos Bill’s because the spot is not currently serving.

So while I wasn’t super-surprised to see it operating, I was surprised to see a recent addition to the menu: Corn Nuggets Dusted with Powdered Sugar.

Golden Oak Outpost Menu

Golden Oak Outpost Menu

Nope — not Corn DOG nuggets; just corn nuggets. Upon asking one of the Cast Members about this snack, she informed me that Continue reading →

News!! Star Wars Themed Character Meals at Disney World During Star Wars Weekends

Yes. You heard us correctly.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will feature new Star Wars themed character meals for a limited time only!

When Star Wars Character Meals begin on May 4th, dinner at the Hollywood & Vine restaurant and breakfast at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater will offer these galactic experiences through June 15, 2014. Note that the character meals are available all week — not just on weekends!

Star Wars Themed Character Meals

Meet These Awesome Friends at Star Wars Themed Character Meals This Year!

Booking begins March 26! These will be popular so we recommend dialing (407) 939-5277 at lightspeed.

The Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine

At Hollywood and Vine, dinner will feature Disney characters wearing their Star Wars best! You may get the chance to meet Ewok Chip & Dale, Jedi Mickey, Leia Minnie, Darth Goofy, and/or Stormtrooper Donald. Dinner seatings start at 4:15pm and go until park close (8pm-9:30pm) for $55.99 adults and $33.99 kids 3-9.

Make your Star Wars experience extra special with a Fantasmic dinner package for adults $59.99; kids 3-9 are $36.99. The meals include a digital download of a photograph with Chip and Dale! Sweet.

Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast

Sci-Fi will offer breakfast reservations from 8am until noon — so fun! The cost is $47.99 for adults and $29.99 for young padawans. This also includes a digital photo of your party on a commemorative PhotoPass card.

Characters for breakfast include Stormtroopers, Jawa, Greedo, Boba Fett, and DARTH VADER.

Share yer waffles with this guy!

Share yer waffles with this guy!

Instead of the usual science fiction movie clips, the restaurant’s big screen will feature

Continue reading →

News: ‘Perfect Petals Brunch’ at Epcot to Launch New Disney Vera Bradley Line

If you’re a Vera Bradley fan, you’ll want to take note of this fun event!

Disney World will hold the Perfect Petals Brunch on Sunday, May 4. The special ticketed event will celebrate the launch of the latest Vera Bradley Disney pattern coming this Spring — Mickey’s Perfect Petals.

Mickey's Perfect Petals by Vera Bradley

Mickey’s Perfect Petals by Vera Bradley

Guests who register for the event will have the first chance to purchase seven items from the collection, which include new styles like the campus backpack and tablet hipster.

Registration for the event opened Thursday, March 20, but as far as we know, seats are still available!

Perfect Petals Brunch Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Perfect Petals Brunch Menu — Click to Enlarge

Perfect Petals Brunch

Where: Continue reading →

Six Secret Disney Dining Deals

Everyone’s looking to save money and to wring just a little bit more enjoyment out of their Disney dollars. We’re right there with you!

Six Secret Disney Dining Deals

So today, we’re bringing you the details on some of our favorite Disney Dining Deals!

These little-known tricks and tips could save you big on your next Disney World vacation, so let’s get planning!

Prix-Fixe Menus

One of my favorite ways to save a little dough around Disney World is by taking advantage of Prix-Fixe Meals — specialty multi-course menus that let you choose from a variety of the restaurant’s popular dishes for a discounted price.  While you’ll find them here and there in a number of places, lots of Epcot World Showcase restaurants offer them.

For real savings, check out the prix-fixe offering at Les Chefs de France in the France Pavilion.

This beautiful spot is one of my favorite places to dine in all of Disney World anyway, so saving money is a great perk.

Les Chefs de France in Epcot

Les Chefs de France in Epcot

Prix-Fixe Menu at Les Chefs de France -- Click to Enlarge

Prix-Fixe Menu at Les Chefs de France — Click to Enlarge

When you compare the price with the a la carte prices for each item, you can really see the savings!

Appetizers -- Click to Enlarge

Appetizers — Click to Enlarge

Entrees -- Click to Enlarge

Entrees — Click to Enlarge

With desserts set at $8.99, that’s a $7 savings!

Enjoy fan favorites, like Bisque de Homard and the Croque Monsieur. And you have your pick of dessert! We love the Profiteroles here!

Save Room for the Profiteroles!

We Pick Profiteroles!

The savings are a little slimmer at Continue reading →

Disney World’s Kouzzina by Cat Cora To Close September 30, 2014

We got a little bit of news from a DFB reporter today that you may love or hate:

Cat and Mouse to Part Ways in September

Cat and Mouse to Part Ways in September

Kouzzina by Cat Cora, the Greek/Mediterranean restaurant located on Disney’s BoardWalk in Walt Disney World, will be closing its doors in September 30, 2014. Kouzzina replaced former Mediterranean restaurant, Spoodles, in 2009.

Kouzzina Open Kitchen

Kouzzina Open Kitchen

The spot will be closed in September and re-opened at an unspecified date as another restaurant. No word yet on what type of food will be served, but Cat Cora’s name will not be attached to the new dining location.

Waffles topped with Mascarpone Cheese at Kouzzina

Waffles topped with Mascarpone Cheese at Kouzzina

While we weren’t huge

Continue reading →

Review: Breakfast at The Wave… of American Flavors in Disney World’s Contemporary Resort

This morning we’re enjoying breakfast at The Wave… of American Flavors!

Located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, The Wave is unlike any other restaurant at Disney World due to its emphasis on sustainable eating – many of the ingredients used in the dishes here are sourced locally.

The Wave also has the added benefit of being a mere stroll away from the Magic Kingdom, making this a great and convenient place to start the day when you’re headed into Disney World’s original park!

Atmosphere

You’ll find The Wave on the Lobby Level of the Contemporary. As you enter from the front, you’ll notice a faint blue glow coming from the end of the concierge services desk and to the left.

The Contemporary Lobby Level

The Contemporary Lobby Level

That blue stems from the unique “tunnel entrance” that lights the way to the eatery. Something about this reminds me of the Contemporary when I was a kid way back in the day.

The Wave Entrance

The Wave Entrance

For one of the resort’s more recent additions, the entrance is retro Disney World, and I love it for that. (Does anyone else remember watching Disney movies in a small theater on this floor, by the way, or has my memory stored that incorrectly? I’m more certain of my memories of the Air Hockey table in the old Game Room… .)

After walking through the tunnel you’re greeted at the check-in counter. There is a sign to remind guests that The Wave is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Check-in Counter

Check-in Counter

The Wave Hours

The Wave Hours

We were seated very promptly, even though we arrived prior to our scheduled Advance Dining Reservation.

Upon entering the dining room, the vibe changes entirely. Decor changes from cool blue to warm earth tones, and the theme of “waves” is echoed throughout the chairs at the tables — and even on the ceiling and in the lighting.

Dining Room

Dining Room

Table Seating

Table Seating

Ceiling Lanterns

Ceiling Lanterns

There is little else in the way of detailing, in favor of simplicity. However, the artwork that has been selected brings the focus back to fresh ingredients.

Artwork at The Wave

Artwork at The Wave

Eats

Upon being seated, our server came to greet us right away (and he remained attentive throughout the meal). After walking us through the menu, he invited us to view the breakfast buffet prior to making our decisions.

I’ve enjoyed The Wave’s buffet a few times, so for this visit I chose from the menu for a change of pace. But because the buffet here is noteworthy, I’d like to give you a peek before going into our entrees.

Where lunch and dinner entrees can change fairly frequently at The Wave due having a sustainable menu, several of the breakfast buffet offerings remain consistent. From right to left, the buffet begins with a cold section featuring, among other items, salmon and hard-boiled eggs, and fresh fruit.

Salmon and hard-boiled eggs

Salmon and Hard-boiled Eggs

Fresh fruit

Fresh Fruit

Fresh fruit

Fresh Fruit

An assortment of pastries is Continue reading →

Guest Review: Snacks at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea

Welcome back guest author Zachary Ott with a photo review of the snacks found at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea!

Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea offer some fun and unexpected eats for guests! Check out what we uncovered!

This is one of the many Disney-branded vending machines selling an assortment of soda, tea, and juice drinks.

Vending Machine.

Numerous popcorn carts dot the landscape of both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. This particular cart, found outside the Winnie the Pooh themed attraction, sells popcorn flavored with honey and matching popcorn buckets.

Other popcorn flavors included: Curry, Sea Salt, Strawberry, and Maple.

Popcorn Stand.

These were two of the bakery options available off of Main Street. On the left is a Mickey Icon shaped banana bread and on the right is a semi-sweet melon bread baked to look like Mike from Monsters Inc.

Breads — Banana and Melon.

Here are more examples of fake Continue reading →

What Disney Snack Are You?

We’ve all got our favorite Disney snacks, but have you ever wondered which one most closely matches YOUR personality?

Take our quiz to find out which Disney snack YOU are!

DFB Reader Questions Answered: Celebrating Your Child’s Birthday at Walt Disney World

Today, we’re reaching into our mailbag to answer another reader question! Since we often get the same question from several of our readers, what better way to share the answers than in a post for all of you to see?

Today’s question comes from a mom who plans to celebrate her young son’s birthday in style during an upcoming trip to Walt Disney World.

I was interested in having my son’s 7th birthday in Disney World. I want an awesome cake and I would like Mickey as well as some other characters to be there. Do you have any information regarding how to arrange this?

When it comes to celebrating a birthday (or any special occasion) at Walt Disney World, you have lots of options!

BIrthday Party at Disney World for a DFB Reader!

BIrthday Party at Disney World for a DFB Reader!

Character Dining

You could choose to make a reservation at a character meal experience, like Chef Mickey’s, 1900 Park Fare, or Crystal Palace. Character dining spots such as these feature interaction with several Disney characters, who will visit with you at your table as you dine for no extra charge. It’s a great opportunity for photo ops. And no standing in line — they come to you!

In many Disney restaurants, if you mention that you’re celebrating a birthday to your server, they’ll arrange for a special birthday treat!

Spontaneous Birthday Treat at Citricos

Restaurant Cakes

Most table-service restaurants at Walt Disney World can accommodate an on-the-spot birthday cake request. Simply let the host or hostess at the restaurant’s podium know that you’d like a cake for your celebration, and they can provide you with a choice of a basic vanilla or chocolate cake.

Customized Cakes

Customized birthday cakes are available throughout Walt Disney World at most table-service restaurants.

Chip 'n Dale Cake at California Grill

Chip ‘n Dale Cake at California Grill for a DFB Reader

The resort asks that you provide 48 hours notice to create your custom cake. To arrange for a Disney bakery cake, call 407-827-2253. For all the skinny on ordering your Disney special occasion cake, be sure to check out our Disney World Cake FAQ page.

Don’t forget to check out our Disney Birthday Cake Gallery for Continue reading →