Review: Lunch at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

So, it had been far too long since I’d been to Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, and it was high time to head back.

Located in the Backlot area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mama’s is a hodgepodge, with all sorts of Hollywood memorabilia smooshed into an old fashioned Italian restaurant.

The food here can be inconsistent (surprise), so you never really know what you’re going to get. But my past two visits have been great, so I was excited to check it out again.

Let’s take a look at my most recent lunch here, and see where this meal falls on the Disney Restaurant Continuum. (Wait til you see the picture of the STEAK!!!)

Atmosphere

Mama Melrose’s is, well, a little strange. At first, it appears to a typical old-fashioned family restaurant that might be found in any large city’s Little Italy section.

Dining Room View From Outside

But once you move beyond the brick facade and really start to look around at the curious surroundings, you might inquire about the backstory to clear up the confusion.

The story behind Mama Melrose’s is a little “We Made This Story to Fit the Space.” But here goes.

A young girl from Italy with stars in her eyes makes her way across the US, in hopes of finding fame and fortune in Hollywood. But during her starving artist days, she found that her cooking was more successful than her acting.

Dining Room Inside

And so, she opened a restaurant at the urging of her friends in a vacant warehouse that had previously been used to store film equipment. Nicknamed “Mama Melrose” by her patrons, she gained the fame she was looking for — but it came via her authentic Italian cooking.

Since Mama was a poor, struggling actress — and a recent immigrant to boot — the dining room is set up with what she could find to make it cozy and comfortable. Low lighting from strands of lights give it a soft glow. (And who doesn’t love those little white lights?)

And chandeliers are mismatched — sometimes, right down to the glass globes around the bulbs.

Mismatched Shades

Quirky Lighting

Wall hangings celebrate Los Angeles, Mama’s new home, and her roots in Italy.

Wall Hangings

Of course, it is an Italian restaurant, and so you’ll also see foods — dried and cured sausages, cheese, pasta, and fruits and veggies — hanging around as well.

Food Decor at Mama's

Walls also hold pictures of [Read more…]

Full Review: The NEW California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Update: Scroll to the end of the Eats section (yep, waaayyy down there!) for a mini-review of opening night, courtesy of one of our favorite DFB guest writers, Julie B!

We are headed back to the fifteenth floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort today, as we take a closer look at the brand new California Grill!

The outpouring of Disney food fan love has just been astounding throughout the last eight months as we’ve continued to watch the newly re-imagined California Grill take shape. Folks who love the restaurant and its amazing menu have been anxious for news. Would it retain its panache? Would beloved dishes from the old menu make the cut? How would we survive with no Yoshie??

We are happy to report that, if possible, California Grill is even more spectacular than before. We were happy to show you a first look at all that was new after last Thursday’s media event. Today, we’re unveiling more details. If you haven’t already, get ready to make those advance dining reservations. I think you’re going to like what you see.

Menus

Settle in. This is going to be a long one!

Atmosphere

Immediately, as you step out of the elevator onto the fifteenth floor, you are enveloped by the cool vibe of California Grill. You know at once that you’re in for a special experience.

If you weren’t aware of it already, now you know: wine matters in this restaurant. A lot. Wine coolers aren’t dressed up to be anything else; they’re unapologetically part of the decor here. This makes sense, as the restaurant now boasts 1,600 bottles of wine in the state-of-the-art wine display.

You’ll find around 250 wines on the list, with 80 available by the glass. And with more than 20 sommeliers on staff, you are literally enveloped in a wealth of wine knowledge.

Wine, Anyone?

Straight ahead, you’ll find the trademark view of Seven Seas Lagoon. With any luck there will be a spectacular sunset over the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa during your visit like there was for ours.

This area continues to serve as the lounge for the restaurant. You can still score a table here with no advance dining reservation, and the full restaurant menu is available for ordering.

Entrance and Bank of Wine Fridges

The bar area continues to be highlighted by the ceiling’s circular cutout. While the shape is the same, the whole bar has been overhauled with new finishes. Comfortable seating beckons you to relax and have a cocktail or two.

Bar

To quote one of my Disney friends, nothing here is the same as it was! The lights are wonderfully whimsical. While modern, there’s still a retro feel here. In fact, the lights remind me a lot of old pictures I’ve seen of the Contemporary from the 1970s.

Seating Area is Ready for Guests

Tables are set for service. I was glad to see that the [Read more…]

Guest Review: Disney Fairy Tale Wedding Reception Food and Wedding Cake

Guest author James Armstrong first shared his Disney Wedding Tasting with us. Now, James returns with a magical review of his Disney Fairytale Wedding! We wish Meghan and James a lifetime of happiness (and fabulous Disney vacations)!

James and Meghan at their Fairytale Wedding!

The food has been chosen and the big day is here. There is nothing to do but wait. After the food tasting we waited six long months for the big day.

Rehearsal Dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant

It all started the day before our wedding day with our rehearsal dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant. They did not have group reservations open yet when we had to book, so we made a reservation for 14 and trimmed the list to the bare minimum.

They actually divided our table up into two groups of seven. We sat in the main ballroom and had an excellent meal.

The best part was they brought out six orders of The Grey Stuff for everyone to share at the table.

The Grey Stuff!

The Big Day!

The big day was here and it was starting to get real.

Disney’s execution of the wedding was excellent! They took care of everything and if there were any issues, they were never brought to our attention and were handled behind the scenes.

Bridge to the Wedding Pavilion.

Aisle Runner inside Disney's Wedding Pavilion.

Altar overlooking Cinderella's Castle!

After the ceremony, while we took formal pictures, our guests attended the cocktail hour. Our guests were more than happy to report to us that the food was excellent. They had [Read more…]

Review: Cheesecake in a Glass at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

There are so many excellent places to grab a bite at Animal Kingdom that sometimes I have a hard time choosing where to eat!

But recently, I found myself in need of a break (and a little nourishment), so I decided to head over to Tamu Tamu Refreshments.

Tamu Tamu Refreshments at Disney's Animal Kingdom

The counter service walk-up window is located conveniently en route to Kilimanjaro Safaris, making it a great place to stop and rest on your way to (or from) the savannas of Africa!

But did you know that the little unassuming spot is also home to an amazing covered eating area that will transport you? Come have a look with us!

Atmosphere

Even though you have to pass the ordering window to get to it, I’m going to start by showing you Tamu Tamu’s lovely seating area.

Just beyond the ordering window, you’ll find a little passage to a covered patio. It’s one of my favorite places to take a break within this beautiful park. And who knew there was this much shade just beyond the walkway!

Part of the patio is protected from the sun by a rustic covering. Fans mounted throughout the space move the air around and make it comfortable. This spot is often quieter than other seating areas in the park because many folks simply just don’t know about it!

Covered Patio Area

The back of the patio is bordered by a wall of carved plaster, and a large “sausage” tree with thick foliage provides shade here.

Carved Walls and Shade Trees

A sign that appears to be hand-lettered tells of the [Read more…]

Review: 1900 Park Fare Dinner at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

Today, we’re back at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa to take in dinner at 1900 Park Fare!

You  may remember that the last time we were here, we were…nonplussed…unimpressed…frustrated…should I go on? Basically, we really didn’t have a great experience. But, as I always say, the only consistent thing about Disney restaurants is that they’re inconsistent. And some guests think this restaurant is fantastic — a great alternative to hard-to-get advance dining reservations like Cinderella’s Royal Table.

So we’re back at this character buffet for another try… . While breakfast at 1900 Park Fare left us flat, this time around we’re checking out the dinner spread and hoping for the best!

Atmosphere

You’ll find 1900 Park Fare off of the ground floor lobby of the Grand Floridian Resort. As you walk in the hotel’s front doors, the restaurant is located to your left, just past the Concierge desk.

1900 Park Fare Sign

The antique carousel decor flows with the Victorian feel that you encounter throughout the resort. While you can’t see the individual items on this menu board that’s displayed out front of the restaurant, you can definitely see the attention to detail when it comes to theme.

Menu Board Outside of 1900 Park Fare

When you first arrive and check in for your reservation (you DID make a reservation, right?), you’ll be given a pager and told to wait in the Grand Floridian lobby to be called when your table is ready. Note: this often takes A. LONG. TIME. In my experience, I’ve never been seated at this restaurant within 10 minutes of my reservation time. I’m always waiting quite a while to be called to the table. So if you’ve got little ones who are starving, bring some snacks to tide them over just in case.

Once you’re called, you’ll be told to get in line to have your picture taken with this mural. No…you’re not getting your photo taken with a character. Just with the mural. This can be a fun memory for families, but you might want to skip the pic and head straight in for your meal. Be persistent and make sure they know you don’t want to take the photo. They’re pretty serious about getting you into that line.

Trompe l'Oeil Mural Outside of 1900 Park Fare

Once you head into the massive dining room, you’re greeted with more Victorian charm in pastel shades. Even without windows, the sheer size of the dining room makes it feel airy.

There is a main area with high ceilings in front of the buffet, and some smaller dining rooms surrounding it with lower ceilings. I prefer these areas for seating, since they tend to be slightly quieter.

Dining Area

Seating itself is fairly standard, with cushioned chairs and nondescript tables.

Seating

The main dining room makes the best use of the carousel theme. There are several large statues of fantasy carousel animals situated atop half walls and surrounded by plants. You should take a moment to look at these, because they’re really beautiful.

Calliope in the Background and Carousel Horse Statue

The wall overtop the entrance to the restaurant plays host to an enormous calliope, reminiscent of the intricate musical instruments that you find on antique carousels. This [Read more…]

Review: Teppan Edo in Epcot’s Japan Pavilion

It’s time to go back to a restaurant we haven’t been to in AGES, my friends!!

Teppan Edo, in Epcot’s World Showcase, is often considered a guest favorite. The upscale Japanese show + cuisine is a must-do for many Disney fans.

So why hadn’t we been back in years? Well, due to the pretty consistent menu and often similar Hibachi grill dining experience, it simply made more sense for us to spend our time and money reviewing other restaurants for you. But seeing as how we hadn’t reviewed this place in for-ev-er, it was time to take a look and see if it still held up to the hype.

Hoping that it would still be a fun and delicious experience, we arrived at the check-in booth in front of Mitsukoshi Department Store.

Guest Check In for Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining

Soon, we were headed up the wide staircase for what we hoped would be another fantastic experience and meal.

Atmosphere

Teppan Edo is a teppanyaki-style restaurant. More commonly called a “Japanese steakhouse,” the experience combines cooking and service into one fun performance, I was looking forward to a hearty meal of traditional Japanese favorites.

Once you’re upstairs in the restaurant, you enter the waiting area that’s shared by Teppan Edo and its neighbor —  Tokyo Dining.

Teppan Edo Sign

After you receive  your pager (which you’ll get from the cast members at the top of the stairs once you’re inside the restaurant), it’s time to sit a spell until they’re ready for you in the restaurant.

The decor here is sleek and unfussy. It immediately puts me at ease; there’s just something so peaceful about the uncluttered space, and I love these lights! The indirect lighting behind the benches is warm without being too bright or glaring.

Here, you also catch a glimpse into the other Japanese table service restaurant, Tokyo Dining. For more about their options, check out our recent Tokyo Dining review.

Waiting Area for Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining

Your pager will go off eventually (it didn’t take long for ours), but because Teppan Edo seats guests at communal tables,  you’ll have to wait until all of the guests sharing your table (even if you don’t know them) have presented at the podium. More on the communal eating later!

The eating area at Teppan Edo is comprised of many small dining rooms, joined together by this long hallway. I can’t get enough of this austere set up! It’s so unlike any other restaurant that you visit here.

Hallway Leading to the Dining Rooms

A peek inside one of the rooms [Read more…]

Review: Rainforest Cafe a la Disney

Welp, I finally got a chance to have another meal at Rainforest Cafe!

These restaurants often get a bad rap food-wise. While this is a really fun place to shop and explore, a lot of people wonder how good the food can actually be in such a themed restaurant. (Disney meals are precious and expensive things, and I hate to waste even one!)

But I hadn’t been to an RC for a while, and it was time to head back into the jungle! Come with me and find out how it was…

Atmosphere

This is a review of the Rainforest Cafe located in Downtown Disney District at Disneyland. However, the Disney Rainforest locations (one in Disneyland, two in Disney World) are actually quite similar.

The menus themselves — and many of the decor elements — are the same, so keep that in mind if you are only planning to visit one of the two Disney World locations.

Outside Sign - Close Up

One main difference: each location has a slightly different exterior. This Disneyland eatery has a sort of temple-in-the-jungle feeling to it.

Rainforest Cafe - Outside

As you walk in, you find yourself in a very large gift shop with all manner of [Read more…]

Review: Citricos at Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort

Come along with us on a great date night destination at Walt Disney World — Citricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa!

If you haven’t had the pleasure, there are so many reasons to give this wonderful restaurant a try. It’s a little easier to get an Advance Dining Reservation here than other, more popular spots in the Magic Kingdom area.

But with food that rivals the hottest spots at Disney World — and a quiet, comfortable atmosphere — this has become a restaurant we return to again and again. Does it continue to wow? We shall see…

Atmosphere

Citricos is tucked back behind Victoria & Albert’s (another review we’ll be treating you to soon!) on the Grand Floridian’s second floor. And with that “hidden” location, Citricos is often the overlooked signature dining spot here in the Magic Kingdom resort area. Diners often gravitate to California Grill or Narcoossee’s over Citricos in favor of spectacular fireworks views.

But don’t underestimate this place. While the fireworks viewing potential is pretty small here, sometimes being the “odd man out” can make a restaurant even more compelling. Citricos’ strengths come in the form of warmth, elegance, and a very quiet, comfortable atmosphere. I keep saying “comfortable” over and over again, and I’m pretty sure it’s because these dining chairs are some of the best on property! No kidding!

Seating Area

Warm light, sunny colors, and copper details make this an inviting space. (And did I mention the chairs? They’re comfortable.) A full bank of floor-to-ceiling windows lets in plenty of natural light during daytime hours.

Seating Area Near Windows

I like the whimsical, colorful glass touches on the tables. The candle holder and bread plates really add a pop of color to the formal place settings.

Table Setting

It’s always fun to watch the action in the open kitchen. The setting is beautiful, and the staff is poised and professional as they go about dinner service. (Don’t forget to take a peek as you walk to your table to see what items you might want to try!)

Exhibition Kitchen and Expediting Station

Off to the side of the restaurant — just next to the kitchen — is the Chef’s Domain. I’ve had the pleasure of eating in this private dining room recently for a good friend’s birthday dinner, and it’s very nice. You can order from a specialized menu or stick with the regular offerings. For events ranging from a private dinner party to a more elaborate affair, this is a great spot. This must be booked well ahead of time, and there’s a food and beverage minimum cost.

And as a bonus, you can get a really good view of the pastry specialists working at their craft – yum!

Pastry Chef Preparing Desserts

Now, back to our regular old dining room experience! Just walking to our table was enough to excite us about the meal! We were ready to get started.

Eats

The menu at Citricos focuses on [Read more…]

Review: Waldorf Orlando Bull and Bear Lounge New Menu

It’s no secret that I LURVE the Bull and Bear Steakhouse at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. This place is phenomenal, and with a location in the middle of Walt Disney World property, it’s well worth trying if you haven’t been there yet.

Entryway

Now, perhaps you don’t have time for a full, multi-course meal, but you’d still like to pamper yourself and your taste buds? I now have the perfect solution thanks to the Bull and Bear’s new lounge menu!!

Bull and Bear Bar and Lounge area

Have you ever wanted to pretend you’re Marilyn Monroe or Clark Gable, out for an evening in a luxurious Hollywood lounge? That’s exactly how you’ll feel surrounded by plush seats (pillows!!), sparkling white tablecloths, dark wood, and a fabulous staff of servers. The best part? You’re in a lounge, which means you get all of the Bull and Bear flavor with a lower check total!

Eats

The new menu debuted at the Bull and Bear a couple of months ago, and we got the chance to go in and sample some of the new dishes!

Menu - click image for larger version

Don’t be fooled; the prices reflect the quality of the food, but trust me — it’s well worth it! We started out by sampling the new-and-improved bar snacks in the lounge.

Wanting to appeal to different tastes and all of your taste buds, Chef David Sears decided on a trio of accompaniments you wouldn’t expect!

Bar Snacks

Next up on our tasting menu: the Shrimp and Grits with Tasso Ham and Tomatillo Chutney. Now, how cool is this presentation? Chef Sears wanted to include a smoked flavor, but didn’t want it to be too strong. His solution? Add a touch of smokiness by serving the plate under a dome of flavor!

Shrimp and Grits Presentation

How do they do it? Trade secret… ;-)

Shrimp and Grits Presentation

The shrimp and grits did have a mildly smokey flavor, and the touch of tasso ham gave it the [Read more…]

Review: Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater’s New Menu

At the end of Commissary Lane, nestled in an unassuming soundstage-like building, is one of the most unique restaurants at Walt Disney World — Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater.

This restaurant will get you out of the hot Florida sunshine (or downpours if you’re here this week!), take you back in time, and provide a restful setting. Stepping inside, 1950s cars and kitsch will invite you to dine in an Imagineered drive-in at night time.

After being seated in your convertible car, the welcoming car hop will take your order while you watch classic clips from silly 1950’s horror flicks, cartoons, and news reels. Check out the snack bar commercials beckoning you to visit long-ago concessions stands for a truly vintage experience!

After glimpsing the new menu that was just unveiled last week (which features a burger + hot dog in one), we had to change up our trip reservations to stop by this restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Wouldn’t you?

Atmosphere

After checking in with your reservation, you’ll start to get the idea of what this place is about. 1950’s movie references are all around you — even tucked into the nooks and crannies of the soundstage set around you!

Movie Posters in Entrance Area

Movie Posters in Entrance Area

B-Movie Props

B-Movie Props

After a (usually long, in my experience) wait, you’ll be taken “down the highway” into the main dining area and your table.

When you first walk into this incredible room, you’ll be bowled over. At least I always am! I just want to stare for a while at the realistic looking Drive-In theater environment…the sparkly shining convertible cars, the picnic tables in the back, the stars twinkling in the night sky… [Read more…]