Review: Lunch at Crystal Palace in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Welp, boys and girls — it’s time to head into Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and take in lunch at Crystal Palace! This is a beloved character spot for many Disney fans, and a must-do character experience for lots of you.

Me? I hadn’t been to Crystal Palace in foreva…not since an ill-fated late-night visit a couple of years ago when the food was AW-FUL! Yep, it was the end-of-the-night dregs of the buffet and we were pretty much just grossed out. (Have you ever seen a buffet about 15 minutes before a restaurant is about to close? Not pretty.) We ate very little and left as soon as we could. Sad, since we do love dining with Pooh and friends.

But it was time to revisit the 100 Hundred Acre Wood — after all, we’d had lots of great meals here previously — and I made reservations with some friends for lunch.

We have tons of shots to show you, so let’s get started!

Atmosphere

You’ll find Crystal Palace to the left of Main Street USA’s end, just as you approach Cinderella Castle. The beautiful glass building, inspired by ornate conservatories of the late Victorian Age, is a slice of Disney history as well. The restaurant has been around since opening day in 1971.

Entrance to Restaurant

Entrance to Restaurant

And here’s a tip if you’re looking for an extra-special experience during your Disney vacation: try and book Crystal Palace for an early breakfast. You’ll be one of the first guests into the Park when you do this, and visiting a nearly empty Magic Kingdom is an event to remember.

Once you step inside, you’ll see whitewashed walls that carry the bright, light decor throughout. Artwork depicting inspiration for the architecture as well as photos of lush palms cover the walls.

Artwork and Framed Photos

Artwork and Framed Photos

The soaring atrium above is gorgeous — especially on a sunny day!

Crystal Palace Atrium

Crystal Palace Atrium

After you check in, you’ll wait for your table outside on the shaded veranda. But once you step in, pause a moment to take it all in.

Dining Rooms

Dining Rooms

Tons of windows and glass domes allow for plenty of natural light in the two dining areas.

Dining Room from Another Angle

Dining Room from Another Angle

And really — look up. Because the windows are really stunning. I love the beautiful stained glass detail.

Stained Glass Windows

Stained Glass Windows

The decor puts you in mind of a Victorian conservatory, with its outside-but-inside feel. Lush flowers and what reminds me of patio furniture finish the area.

Evening Light

Afternoon Light

Crystal Palace is, of course, a character dining experience, and you’ve stumbled onto a party!

Center Atrium -- Up Close

Center Atrium — Up Close

In fact, visit here, and you’ll take part in a Friendship Day Celebration with Winnie the Pooh and his friends.

Banner -- Up Close

It’s Friendship Day!

Just check out these gorgeous flower topiaries of the whole gang!

Pooh and His Hunny Pot

Pooh and His Hunny Pot

Eeyore Topiary

Eeyore Topiary

The sweet little figures appear to be made of dried roses, and foreshadow the characters you’ll meet while you dine.

Piglet Topiary

Piglet Topiary

Bouncing Tigger Topiary

Bouncing Tigger Topiary

And beautiful hanging arrangements of tropical flowers complete the classic conservatory feel.

Fresh Flowers

Fresh Flowers

Seating is standard and fairly comfortable. Heavy, padded chairs share the space with booths, but some tables are situated a bit too closely for our comfort.

Seating for Two

Seating for Two

Seating along windows gives you a glimpse of guests waiting to be seated! But beyond them, you’ll also see a beautiful view of [Read more…]

Review: Storytellers Cafe at Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

I was recently back in Disneyland for a visit, and I couldn’t resist booking lunch at one of my favorite locations, Storytellers Cafe.

storytellers cafe

We visited anticipating a delicious and relaxing experience, as we often have at Storytellers. The fact that I had a mad craving for that Charred Nebraska Corn Chowder and had been dreaming about it was just a happy coincidence. ;-)

Won’t you join us?

Atmosphere

You’ll find Storytellers at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, which certainly lives up to its name. It is simply a gorgeous place to spend some time.

With design that typifies the American Craftsman style, you are surrounded by larger than life, simple warm accents that make grand use of natural materials, like wood and stone. You find the same style carried through Storytellers Cafe.

Fireplace and Atmosphere

Fireplace and Atmosphere

Two major design elements tend to dominate the decor of Storytellers Cafe: you’ll find murals and large paintings covering the walls. Paintings depict…storytelling, of course — featuring classic stories with California as their setting.

One of the Many Large Paintings in Storytellers Cafe

One of the Many Large Paintings in Storytellers Cafe

But you also find ample use of silhouettes in many places throughout the dining space. And check out the beautiful post and beam construction on the ceiling while you’re looking up. (Disney World fans will get a definite Wilderness Lodge vibe from this place!)

Lighting and Ceiling Detail

Lighting and Ceiling Detail

Stained glass with warm swirls of color are a hallmark of Arts and Crafts design, and the stained glass softly filters the indirect light, which provides the perfect backdrop to these working man silhouettes.

And be sure to notice the detail on the hanging lights as well! They’re really something special.

Storytelling Lighting

Storytelling Lighting

Lanterns hung from copper stands distribute light throughout the dining room, and give the sense of bringing the outdoors inside.

Lantern

Lantern

And as is often the case — don’t forget to look down! Even the carpeting conveys the theme and story of this spot with letters and more silhouettes.

Carpet

Carpet

Throughout Storytellers Cafe, the art of storytelling shares the stage with [Read more…]

Guest Review: Trail’s End Restaurant at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort

Join me in welcoming back guest author Julie B.!

She returns with a review of Trail’s End Restaurant in the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The journey to this restaurant is part of the experience, right?!

Howdy folks! Even though we’re on vacation, sometimes you just want the comforts of a home-cooked meal. Trail’s End Restaurant at Fort Wilderness Campground brings all the happiness of home to its dinner buffet.

Remember, this spot is a little distant from some parks and resorts. You can reach Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness by taking a boat from Magic Kingdom, Contemporary Resort, or Wilderness Lodge; or by taking a bus from any park or Downtown Disney to Fort Wilderness. Note that if you take a bus, you’ll have to transfer to the Fort Wilderness internal bus system to get to Trail’s End. (DFB recommends taking a boat if possible — so much easier.)

Trail's End Sign

Atmosphere

Trail’s End is a cute little restaurant, featuring the theme of a cabin in the woods. It blends perfectly with the campground!

Welcome Mat

The walls are adorned with the best of the outdoors and the back country. Large wooden beams finish setting the scene for your meal in the wilderness.

Holiday Decor

Dining Room

On the lower level (just down a small half-flight of stairs), Trail’s End is also home to Crockett’s Tavern.

The bar is themed the same way as the restaurant and even features a [Read more…]

Review: Trail’s End Dinner Buffet (and NEW Baked Potato Bar!)

Trail’s End in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort has gone through a few changes over the past year. A new a la carte menu at lunch is winning raves, and now a new baked potato bar at the dinner buffet is heartily praised as well! Can’t wait to hear your comments!

The Trail’s End restaurant is especially fun because of the journey it takes to get to Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Whether you arrive via bus, boat, golf cart or bike, you’ll find yourself naturally immersed in this far-away setting.

Trail’s End is nestled in the Settlement area of the resort, which is also home to the popular Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue dinner show, Crockett’s Tavern, and the Settlement Trading Post, which serves as the general store.

Trail's End Sign

Atmosphere

Trail’s End, Crockett’s Tavern, and the Hoop-Dee-Doo share space in Pioneer Hall, where visitors can sit for a spell in a rocking chair or play checkers on the porch.

Cozy Porch

Inside, the rustic atmosphere invites guests to unwind while savoring a buffet comprised of down-home good eats.

Lower Seating Area

Eats

Once seated your server will offer beverages. I just love [Read more…]

Review: Storytellers Cafe at Disney’s Grand Californian Resort

Tucked into Disneyland Resort’s premier Grand Californian Resort is a restaurant eager to pay tribute to the art that made Walt Disney and the animators who followed him so critical to our lives today: storytelling.

Atmosphere

Just as the Grand Californian is themed in the Craftsman architecture style, Storytellers Cafe boasts broad, dark wood-scapes, milky stained glass and metal cut-out decor, earthy colors, and solidly [Read more…]

Food Post Weekly Round-Up: October 18th

backlot noticeAnother jam-packed week of Disney updates this week, including the good news that Liberty Tree Tavern will be offering character meals during the Crystal Palace refurbishment, January 3 – February 14, 2010!

Check out the links below to see more about Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival Party for the Senses, the Children’s Miracle Network Classic Wine and Dine Walk, a fun Portobello Restaurant promotion, the brand new Wine and Dine Half-Marathon, and more!

Orlando Sentinel reminds us why this year is a great year to try the Epcot Food and Wine Festival Party for the Senses. Scott Joseph Orlando also might be able to convince you with his review of a recent Party for the Senses.

The Disney Blog shares a fun promotion at Portobello Restaurant in Downtown Disney.

Disney Geek Dad highlights one of my favorite counter service restaurants, Casey’s Corner.

WDW Daily News shares the good news that the audioanimatronic of Ratatouille’s Remy will remain at Epcot’s Chefs de France.

The Disney Parks Blog shares the announcement of the new Wine & Dine Half Marathon, debuting October 1-2, 2010.

The Disney Chick walks you step-by-step through the Liberty Tree Tavern Apple Cobbler Recipe! Yum!

Theme Park Insider shares some deeelicious-looking pics of theme park barbecue, including Disneyland’s Celebration Barbecue at Big Thunder Ranch.

MousePlanet shares the details and menu for the upcoming Children’s Miracle Network Classic Wine and Dine Walk along the fairways of Disney’s Magnolia Golf Course from November 12-15, 2009. Remember that if you’re a Disney Visa Cardholder, you can get free admission to the tournament!

New Menu Items at Disney World Restaurants

While I’ll always have my favorite Disney World restaurant menu items, I always like to hear about new things to try. And while this is by no means an exhaustive list (menus are changing all the time), I wanted to share with you a few changes I heard about and experienced during my recent WDW trip.

If you’ve heard about or experienced other menu changes, let me know! You can contact me via twitter, facebook, or email!

Liberty Tree Tavern
You might have read the Liberty Tree Tavern menu changes blog when I posted it a couple of weeks ago, but I figured I’d get all the info in one place!

There are two brand new dishes at LTT: Chicken and Dumplings and Salmon Cakes!

New Liberty Tree Tavern Menu Items

New Liberty Tree Tavern Menu Items

The chicken and dumplings was not what we expected, and almost tasted like a very hearty, VERY peppery chicken soup. A bit too homogeneous a taste for an entree (we like some sides with our meals), but not a bad dish.

Liberty Tree Tavern Chicken and Dumplings

Liberty Tree Tavern Chicken and Dumplings

Unfortunately, the pasta dish has been taken off the menu.

Le Cellier
There have been a few changes over at Le Cellier as well, but one that we tried and loved was the Poutine. Although I grew up very close to Canada, I’d never heard of this French Canadian delicacy! Luckily, our server explained it perfectly. Fries. Cheese. Gravy. Sounds good to us! I asked for the gravy on the side (sorry, Canada!), so that’s what you get in the photo.

Le Cellier Poutine, with gravy on the side

Le Cellier Poutine, with gravy on the side

Now, let me pay homage to all of the twitter-ers who commented on my Poutine twitpic that it didn’t do justice to real Canadian poutine. For example, in most Canadian poutine, the cheese is not usually yellow, and it is always in curd form — not melted. (Our server DID mention that he considered this Le Cellier version to be “American” poutine, but it doesn’t make it any less delicious!)

We also tried a few new desserts over at Le Cellier: the Le Cellier Mont Blanc Semifreddo with chilled fruit soup, the Chocolate-on-Chocolate Whiskey Cake, and the Warm Apple Tart with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Maple Syrup.

Le Cellier Semifreddo

Le Cellier Semifreddo

Le Cellier Semifreddo Inside

Le Cellier Semifreddo Inside

Le Cellier Warm Apple Tart

Le Cellier Warm Apple Tart

Le Cellier Chocolate on Chocolate Whiskey Cake

Le Cellier Chocolate on Chocolate Whiskey Cake

While none of these desserts wowed us, the chocolate cake would have been the best of the three. Our suggestion: forget dessert and head over for a Kaki Gori! ;-)

Rose and Crown Dining Room
The Cottage Pie makes a re-appearance on Rose and Crown’s menu! I can recall Cottage Pie on the menu years and years ago, but it’s back again for all of you Anglophiles (including me…).

Rose and Crown updated menu

Rose and Crown updated menu

Rose and Crown Cottage Pie

Rose and Crown Cottage Pie

Rose and Crown Cottage Pie Inside

Rose and Crown Cottage Pie Inside

We also sampled the brand new Lemon Pie at Rose and Crown. It’s pretty much your standard lemon meringue pie, so if you love it, order it. Otherwise, stick with something else.

Rose and Crown Lemon Pie

Rose and Crown Lemon Pie

California Grill
California Grill, as always, is playing around with the “market-inspired” menu as it should, but the dessert menu has really been changed up this time around.

California Grill dessert menu 10-1-09

California Grill dessert menu 10-1-09

We sampled the Valrhona Chocolate Cake, which used to be paired with cherries and is now coupled with salted caramel ice cream and roasted pineapple. They’re riding the salted caramel train down at The Wave as well, so I think it’s a “Contemporary” thing. Either way, we loved it.

California Grill Valrhona Chocolate Cake

California Grill Valrhona Chocolate Cake

We also tried their “Sweet Celebration” item, which is a Fall Apple Cobbler, with Walnut-Oatmeal Streusel, Calvados Ice Cream, and Apple Caramel Drizzle. Our waiter kindly let us know that the cobbler wasn’t a standard “gooey” item, but instead was more of a dry dish, with the apples well-formed and not mushy. We’re BIG cobbler fans, so ordered it anyway. We loved the dish, but were glad for his warning as we would have expected something different without it.

California Grill Apple Cobbler

California Grill Apple Cobbler

Yachtsman Steakhouse
Yachtsman Steakhouse is doing all kinds of fun things with its menu — a couple of raviolis to try (including Potato and Leek Ravioli!), escargot, and a Cowboy Steak (my favorite!).

But what I’ve got to rave about here is the new Mushroom Risotto side dish. I really dislike mushrooms, but because I was so taken with Le Cellier’s Mushroom Risotto I knew I had to try the new Yachtsman version. And as a result, I have two comments: 1.) They are completely different dishes, and 2.) Yachtsman’s mushroom risotto is unbelievable.

Yachtsman Steakhouse Mushroom Risotto

Yachtsman Steakhouse Mushroom Risotto

I couldn’t stop eating it, and probably would have ordered a whole bowl if I could. It’s just that good.

Sanaa
Finally, although I didn’t get a chance to dine there this trip, Sanaa, one of Disney World’s newest restaurants, has changed up a few menu items as well (thanks to Amanda Tinney for the tip).

While many things on the menu remain, the Dum Biryani has been removed as an entree (replaced with a Lamb Kefta, at least at lunch), and the “Slow-Cooked in Gravy” section has been divided into a meat section and a vegetarian section (no more mixing!). Stewed Lentils and Spicy Cauliflower, Onions, Tomatoes, and Mint have been added as options on the vegetarian list, along with the old Paneer Cheese and Spinach.

Be sure to keep me updated on the new things you sample on your next trip! Bon Appetit!