Disney Food News: Big Stories of 2009

UPDATE: Read about the Opening Date for Be Our Guest Restaurant and Reservations Info!

Happy New Year’s Eve, all! It’s been a wonderful nine months since I’ve started the Food Blog, and I look forward to more exciting Disney food news, reviews, photos, history, and everything in between as we march into 2010.

Thank you for reading, sharing incredible pictures and stories, and keeping me company as I rattle on and on about one of my favorite things: Disney food!

Now, what better way to culminate the decade of the “noughts” than to remember our big Disney Food news stories from this year? Original? No. Still fun? Yes! Here we go…

KouzzinaNew Disney Restaurants Open in 2009
This has been quite a year for new restaurants in Disney parks!

  • Sanaa, a restaurant that incorporates a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, opens in Animal Kingdom Lodge’s new Kidani Village.
  • Cat Cora opens Kouzzina, her first signature restaurant, on the Disney World Boardwalk.
  • Paradiso 37, a hub of delicious tapas and tequila, opens in Disney World’s Downtown Disney.
  • Celebration Round Up and BBQ heats things up again at Disneyland’s Big Thunder Ranch.
  • Disney World’s Animal Kingdom introduces a new type of quick-service dining with the Picnic in the Park.
  • Customize your own rice bowl at the renovated and re-placed Lucky Fortune Cookery in Disneyland.
  • Disney World’s La Cava del Tequila brings Mexico’s favorite drink to the forefront in the World Showcase. The sheer number of varieties on the Cava del Tequila menu is astonishing.
Screen Shot of Online Advanced Dining Reservations System

Screen Shot of Online Advanced Dining Reservations System

Online Advanced Dining Reservations and Online Menus at DisneyWorld.com
Finally. After so many years of setting three alarms for 6:50 AM and convincing everyone in the household to call on a different phone line…we have online ADRs! [Read more…]

Dining Alone in Disney

I’m honored to bring you a guest post by one of my favorite travel bloggers, Gray at SoloFriendly.com. Thanks again, Gray, for sharing your insights and tips on dining alone in Disney World!

Counter Seating at Wolfgang Puck

Counter Seating at Wolfgang Puck

Many travelers, even those who are excited by the prospect of enjoying some alone time at Disney World, get queasy at the thought of having to eat alone. This, despite the fact that Disney has fabulous restaurants and legendary customer service.

Don’t be nervous just because you’re a “party of one”! I have eaten alone in many restaurants in Disney World and 99.9% of the time have received the most exemplary service. Go ahead and eat at Quick Service restaurants if you’re on a budget, but don’t cheat yourself out of the wonderful table service restaurants if you can afford it. A delicious sit-down meal prepared by one of Disney’s talented chefs will certainly enhance any solo trip to the World.

To overcome any solo dining jitters, you need a distraction. This could be recording your day’s experiences in a journal, catching up on a good book, or flipping through the photos you took on your digital camera. Disney even builds in some nice distractions for us solos, you just have to look for them. Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of solo dining at Disney World:

  • Have your table service meal during a less crowded time. This could mean eating at an off hour.
    Chefs de France Window Tables

    Chefs de France Window Tables

    Chefs de France, for instance, is far more enjoyable when there are fewer guests in the dining room. It’s quieter and more peaceful, and the odds of scoring a table by the window (for people-watching) are greatly enhanced.

    Resort restaurants tend to be less crowded during lunch, when everyone is at the parks. I had a wonderful meal at Sanaa on my last trip, right around noon, and I was only one of maybe three tables of diners in the whole restaurant. Again, you have a greater chance of scoring a good seat this way, but you also feel less conspicuous.

  • Eat at a restaurant with bar or counter seating. If you are a social person, this affords you the opportunity to interact with other diners.
    Todd English's bluezoo Restaurant

    Todd English's bluezoo Restaurant

    One of my favorite meals at Disney World was at Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Downtown Disney, when I sat at the counter in front of the chef’s station and had a lively and friendly chat with the chef while he prepared meals.

    Other great restaurants with bartop dining include
    Bluezoo at the Dolphin resort (a wonderfully grown-up restaurant), the House of Blues in Downtown Disney, Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the Flying Fish Cafe on the Boardwalk.

  • Enjoy a dinner show. You have many options at Disney World for dinnertime entertainment, including the Spirit of Aloha Show at the Polynesian Resort, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue at Fort Wilderness, as well as smaller-scale entertainment such as watching a movie at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater or belly dancers at the Restaurant Marrakesh.
  • Go for a great view. The Disney Food Blog recently highlighted the best restaurants for watching the Wishes and Illuminations fireworks shows during dinner; those are great choices.
    Relax with the show at the Coral Reef Aquarium

    Relax with the show at the Coral Reef Aquarium

    You could also grab a water-view window at one of the Downtown Disney restaurants or dine at the Coral Reef Restaurant, where you can gaze upon a living coral reef with 85 species of tropical fish swimming around. (For a more peaceful experience at the Coral Reef, try lunch here, when it’s less crowded; and don’t sit right next to the aquarium, or you’ll find children constantly bumping into you as they run up to press their faces against the glass.)

As with anything, practice makes perfect. The more you dine out alone, the more comfortable and enjoyable it becomes.

From the Editor: Thanks again, Gray! DFB readers, if you’re interested in more info about solo dining in Disney, stay tuned for the next post in the Walt Disney World Moms Panel Mini-Series where the moms chime in on their choices for meals if spending a day blissfully alone at Disney World!

WDW Moms Panelists on Best Dining Values in Disney World

I’m really excited about this post in the Walt Disney World Moms Panel mini-series! You’ve met some of the moms and heard about their most magical Disney dining moments, but today we get into the nitty gritty of Walt Disney World planning: what restaurants offer the best value for the money?

Looks from the answers that the Picnic in the Park at Animal Kingdom, the Flame Tree Barbecue, and Teppan Edo were big winners in this category, along with Whispering Canyon Cafe’s skillet!

From Mom Erin F.

I’d suggest any of the buffets – particularly if you go for lunch. Have a bagel or coffee breakfast, and chow at a buffet lunch; that will get you through the day. For counter service, I’ve had good experiences with Tangierine Café – you get a variety of food and great vegetables. And my kids love flame tree barbecue.

From Mom Anna S.

A Full Plate at Teppan Edo

A Full Plate at Teppan Edo

Good food at a worth it price for table service is Teppan Edo. Plus you get the show the chef performs in front of you to boot! We’ve always gotten very generous portions here, more than enough to share with each other without feeling like you’re sacrificing half the meal for the kids to each have a taste, and I can’t remember a time when we’ve eaten here and not had something leftover!

I’m not sure this technically counts as counter service, but I could talk all day about the Picnic in the Park at Animal Kingdom. My husband and I went with our two younger children, ordered the rotisserie chicken for three, and left with our desserts in the nifty bag they give you, we were so full! This was an awesome Disney dining experience, and we can’t wait to do it again!

From Mom Kara B.

I’m totally cheating here and going for the non-counter/non-table service restaurant: the picnic in the park at the Animal Kingdom. What a smashingly brilliant deal. We had a TON of food for a family of 5 — so much so that we brought nearly half of it home with us (glad we were at a resort with a fridge) and were left with a shopping bag that I still use all the time. I love having comments about it as clerks bag my groceries. The park is filled with all sorts of fun places to picnic; we opted for the secret path by the Tree of Life and nearly had the area to ourselves (just a few people walked through). Not to mention, ordering the picnic is simple and with little to no wait.

From Mom Joanne M.

Hands down, for me the best counter service for taste, selection and value is Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney. The menu selection has something for everyone, from pizza and pasta to sandwiches and rotisserie chicken. The food and service are consistently excellent. We often stop in on our last day and pick up a pizza for the flight home!

If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, Le Cellier in the Canadian Pavillion at Epcot (I’m really not biased) offers one of the best deals for one dining credit. The mushroom filet absolutely melts in your mouth, and similar meals are two credits at some of the other resort restaurants. And the chocolate moose dessert is super cute
and soooo good!

For overall value, I always recommend going to some of the more expensive restaurants for lunch. This way, you get to experience the finer restaurants at reduced prices. One of my new favourites is Epcot’s Chefs de France in France. They currently have an awesome table d’hote special for $20, which includes decadent
lobster chowder or the best French onion soup ever, a main course selection (including a rich quiche), and dessert. Service is fabulous, and the setting is very francais!

From Mom Amber V.

I think a great table service that offers good food at a value is the Plaza Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. Granted, the food is nothing fancy, but the portions are plentiful and we have always enjoyed excellent service here. You really can’t go wrong with any of the sandwiches, and there are occasionally chef specials as well. The desserts alone are a reason to visit the Plaza, and they are definitely
large enough to share!

For a great counter service value we go to Cosmic Rays at the Magic Kingdom. Their combo meals are absolutely large enough to share. I also love Columbia Harbour House. It is one of my favorite counter service restaurants at Disney. I feel that the menu selection is diverse and the food is good quality and decent portion sizes.

From Mom Heather R.

The Plaza Restaurant and the Trail’s End Restaurant both fall into that category. Really, any buffet will offer bang-for-the-buck, particularly if you have big eaters (or teenage boys!) in your family.

While not the least expensive option out there, I’d highly recommend the Canyon Skillet at the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge. It’s a family-style meal that is both delicious and bottomless! If you’re watching your budget, consider booking a late lunch for a $9 savings over dinner price.

At that same price point, for dinner I really like the clam bake at the Cape May Cafe in the Beach Club resort. It’s a buffet so you can eat till your heart is content, and I’m particularly fond of their miniature desserts (so yes, you finally can sample one of each!)

Lots of Choices at Cosmic Ray's

Lots of Choices at Cosmic Ray's

For counter service, I think that the Bacon Double Cheeseburger at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in the Magic Kingdom is a very good value. It’s served with fries and is really quite large, easily split between two people. Although the price point is higher, the 1/2 chicken and BBQ rib combo there is also a large meal, and a step up from typical counter service restaurant offerings.

I also found that I was unable to finish my counter service lunch of Honey Chicken from Yak and Yeti, as the portion was larger than I was expecting. When eating there the next time I’ll plan on sharing it with one of my children so we don’t have as much waste.

From Mom Whitney P.

I see “value” through two different lenses: the food plus experience and just the food. If we’re talking food plus experience, three top my list:

If you’re a parent, you may have been urged by friends to seek a Character Dining meal while at Disney. I’ve seen many parents get stressed over these meals, especially with the inability to get advanced reservations for last-minute trips. A comparable memory-making dining experience for many children can be found, however, at the animatronic restaurants of T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe. In fact, Rainforest is probably the most-requested restaurant by my kids! PLUS: the menu is more affordable than the Character Dining buffets.

A close third is Sci-Fi Dinner Theatre. It gets panned by many who are on the dining plan, and rightfully so, because you could spend that same dining credit on more expensive fare. But when I go to Disney without the dining plan, and I’m looking at paying for both the experience as well as the food, Sci-Fi fits the bill for creating a memorable theme with food that’s comparable in price to some counter-service combo meals! My husband loves the Reuben.

Your View From the Flame Tree Barbecue

Your View From the Flame Tree Barbecue

If we’re talking food value sans experience, I tend to lean toward the counter-service restaurants. Again, three come to mind, all in different parks:

1. Flame Tree BBQ, Animal Kingdom: Our family of six can order two 1/2 slabs of ribs and the 1/2 chicken combo and we’re good. Top this off with a seat under the tree canopy down by the water behind the restaurant and you’ve got my number one value for food and experience for family-eating in the parks.

2. We can do the same thing at Cosmic Ray’s with its 1/2 Chicken and BBQ Rib Combo, but because the food is so similar, we usually don’t eat at both Flame Tree and Ray’s on the same trip. (By the way, while my family is gorging themselves on the ribs, I’m eating all the delicious green beans–YUM!)

3. Sunshine Seasons, Epcot: What I call their “blue-plate special” line (The Grill) offers up some pretty hefty
meals that can satisfy big appetites for under $10! The rotisserie chicken can be split between two of my boys. The seared-tuna salad is large enough to share, also!

From Mom Jo Y.

We are normally on the DDP so don’t tend to choose restaurants for the best value, rather where we’d like to dine. Saying that, though, for counter service I would say Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney offers great value for money. Although you need to stand in line to order your food like
at a regular counter service a waiter actually brings your food to the table, so it feels like a table service. The portions here are huge and the choice is extensive!

For table service I’d choose the Cape May Clam Bake; for under $30 adults can eat as much as they want from a large selection of foods including soups, salads, prime rib, shrimps, clams, vegetables etc

From Mom Kay B.

My husband insists the answer is Liberty Tree Tavern for dinner, since they will keep bringing the platters of food until you say no more! He loves the turkey and roast beef and all the “fixins” that go with that! I think there are several spots in EPCOT where you get a lot for your money and those are Nine Dragons in China and Marrakesh in Morocco.

For counter service spots, Flametree Barbecue comes to the front, and then also Cantina De San Angel in Mexico….good portions, full meals, decent pricing.

From Dad Doug I.

For table service I actually think you get a lot of good food for your money at Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge.

Mosey On Down to the Whispering Canyon Cafe

Mosey On Down to the Whispering Canyon Cafe

You have to be hungry to take advantage of it, but the Skillets really work out to be a decent deal in the world of Walt Disney World dining.

For counter service I think there is no better choice than Flame Tree BBQ at the Animal Kingdom. The BBQ is fantastic, and the seating area, down in the riverside grottos complete with a dense, jungle-like tree canopy, is a real treat. I think it is a better dining experience than many table service restaurants!

From Mom Jodi G.

I think the Tangierine Cafe [in Epcot’s Morocco] is a great value — my personal recommendation for those who want to try out some new foods and fill up at a great price. As for table-service, I love the Crystal Palace buffet (especially dinner) because the buffet has some great food at a good price.

From Mom Beth C.

Teppan Edo in Japan is my choice for the best value for its price. The food is fresh, delicious and cooked to order. The food is served as soon as it is cooked, which is awesome. You have a lot of food for a reasonable price and you get a “show” for free. This is also one restaurant where everyone eats everything and we have no room for dessert (and we love dessert).

For counter-service, Animal Kingdom offers the All American Family Picnic. This is a unique idea on an American classic. Guests can preorder their lunch at Island Mercantile Shop before 1:30. You have a choice of sandwiches or roasted chicken. Everyone recieves their own sandwich, dessert and drink. The sides and roasted chicken are portioned to the number of people in your party. You pick up your lunch at the Tusker House in a reusable tote you get to keep. You can then take it to one of the many picnic spots located throughout Animal Kingdom. We ordered sandwiches for four and we had food leftover. The food is from Tusker House which buffet is very good and the picnic lunch is just as yummy.

From Mom Kim L.

We get the best value at the Boma breakfast buffet. Great food, awesome atmosphere and no one leaves hungry. For counter-service, I think Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney provides a great meal at a value price.

Liberty Tree Tavern's Pot Roast Lunch

Liberty Tree Tavern's Pot Roast Lunch

From Mom Margaret F.

I think the best deal for counter service on property has to be Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios. For approximately $10, each guest can choose an individual pizza, salad and drink and for just a few dollars more a yummy dessert,. The pizza is a great portion size and easily fills us up, plus it is actually very yummy. My kids love the salad and t is just the perfect size.

For table dining locations, we love the value of the Liberty Tree Tavern lunch menu. The menu offers a great selection of hearty home cooked favorites like pot roast, the pilgrim’s feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing and the catch of the day all under $20 and most around $15. The food is delicious and quite filling. The dinner menu is also a great selection of turkey, roast beef, potatoes, vegetbale and dessert served family style at approximately $30 per guest. Still a great price compared to some of the menu prices at other Disney dinner locations and my kids never leave food on the plate here.

Thanks again to all the “moms” who are participating in the interviews!

2009 Candlelight Processional Dinner Packages

Candlelight Processional (copyright Disney)

Candlelight Processional (copyright Disney)

Please Note: According to MousePlanet, Disneyland’s Candlelight Spectacular will be a hard ticket event for D23 Charter Members only, with an additional price tag of $275. The following information is rumored for Disney World ONLY.

Stitch Kingdom is reporting that this year’s Candlelight Processional Dinner Package at Disney World includes access to a reserved area to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth! This added benefit might just make it that much more worth it to book a Dinner Package!

The site also lists all of the specifics regarding the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package, including costs and times for the different tiers of restaurants:
Tier I: Biergarten and Garden Grill
Tier II: Nine Dragons, Restaurant Marrakesh, Rose and Crown, and San Angel Inn
Tier III: Chefs De France, Coral Reef, Le Cellier, Teppen Edo, Tokyo Dining, Tutto Italia

Word on the street (e.g. the message boards) is that booking this year will be on the regular 90-day schedule, and that Processional Dinner Packages will not be available via the online booking system.

As of right now, the Candlelight Processional will be offered November 27 – December 30, 2009, at 5:00, 6:45, and 8:15 pm.

Dessert Aux Chefs de France

It’s chocolate profiterole week at the food blog! My French may be abysmal, but we get to make another quick visit today to Epcot’s Les Chefs de France with guest poster and photographer extraordinaire, James Chapman, from DisneyfotoBlog.com. Thanks for sharing, James!

Chefs de France (c)FJFuchs

Chefs de France (c)FJFuchs

“Eating a pastry at the Les Chefs de France restaurant in Epcot is an experience and pleasure far beyond simply finishing the dessert at the end of a good meal. The French pâtissier has provided an exceptional dessert menu that offers items ranging from rich chocolate delicacies, to sorbet with elephant ear and fruits, to their signature crème brulée.

Garde Manger Caramelizes Creme Brulee

Garde Manger Caramelizes Creme Brulee

Both my wife and I enjoy dark chocolate, ice cream, and fruit, so we decided to order and share two different desserts, Profiterolles au Chocolat and Assiette de Sorbets du jour et son palmier. Both were excellent, especially on a warm (hot) summer day in July, and we would highly recommend both desserts with a slight emphasis on the Profiterolles au Chocolat for those who really crave a chocolate treat!

Assiette de Sorbets du jour et son palmier

Assiette de Sorbets du jour et son palmier

Profiterolles au Chocolat

Profiterolles au Chocolat

The Garde Manger shown in the photo above plated each dessert expertly, and after watching her caramelize the crème brulée, I knew that there would be many visits to Les Chefs de France in our family’s future! Bon appetit!”

Disney Food Post Sunday Round-Up: July 5

Animal Kingdom eat here

I’ve cheated a bit on the Sunday Round-up this week, folks. I found a couple of links that are NOT from this week, but I just had to include them; they were too good! The rest are legit and from this week; I didn’t fail you completely! Read on…

Theme Park Insider readers named Chefs de France best Theme Park restaurant for 2009.

Tasty Chomps visits Animal Kingdom’s Yak and Yeti for another close-up look and review

Yesterland remembers Boardwalk Betsy’s Strips, Dips & Chips: Boardwalk Betsy served deep-fried fish filets, deep-fried chicken strips, and deep-fried mozzarella strips — with deep-fried jumbo french fries — until Toy Story Mania drove her out in 2006. This is a great look back.

Lindsey Luscious shows us how to make a few Disney Favorites at Home: Missing your Dole Whip and Bengal Barbecue? Check this out for some great at-home recipes and photos (especially if you’re not willing to shell out the dough for Dole Whip mix…)

Clumbsy Cookie has figured out how to make Winnie the Pooh cookies and cakes quick and easy: This is perfect for the next 5th birthday party or summer picnic you might be planning.

Good Disney Food Posts Around the Web

Eat HereI’ve come across a bunch of great reviews and photos over the past few weeks and wanted to highlight a few of them. Thanks for all the good food writing, all!

Scott Joseph Orlando’s Chefs de France Review: Highlights the fascinating history of Chefs de France, including its three famous owners, along with Scott Joseph’s excellent food critique. If you’re a foodie and visit Orlando, you should be subscribed to this blog.

Touring Plans’ Research Results on When to Make your Advanced Dining Reservations for Certain Restaurants: Touring Plans releases and analyzes research here about how far in advance you’ve got to book those Disney dining reservations. Find out the theme park restaurants where you can possibly dine as a “walk up” customer, and which you need to book right at that 90-day window.

Etckt’s ESPN Club review: A great writer and Disney afficionado (who’s been quite close to the Mouse in the past) reviews his recent ESPN Club experience at the Boardwalk. Great photos.

SoloFriendly’s Coral Reef Review and SoloFriendly’s BlueZoo review: Excellent, detailed, and honest reviews of a couple of restaurants not everyone who visits Disney World knows about. And these are from the perspective of an adult, solo traveler in Disney World, which makes them even more interesting.

Laughing Place Paradiso 37 Pictures and Review: A good, thorough review of the restaurant’s opening day, including some comments from E-brands Restaurants CEO Rashid Choufani. LOTS of photos, folks!

Chefs de France–A Photo Review

Hey guys–just had a chance to chow down at Chefs de France recently and wanted to post a few food pics for ya! (Haven’t had a good “food pic extravaganza” for a while!) Here’s a “photo review” with few words thrown in for good measure!

Chefs de France seating

Chefs de France seating

The restaurant is just beautiful. It looks best, I think, from the outside, after dark. I can remember several years ago stopping into a bistro in Paris with a friend after arriving in the city on a late train; it was winter and the bistro looked so warm and inviting. The lighting and walls of windows were identical to those at Chefs…it’s a great memory that the Epcot restaurant always brings back to me.

Chefs de France Seating

Chefs de France Seating

Chef Remy

Chef Remy

Another photo of the newest chef at Chefs de France–Monsieur Remy! I can’t get over how he moves his little hands!

Pasta and Gruyere Cheese

Pasta and Gruyere Cheese

If you’re a fan of Gruyere, mac and cheese, or bubbly yumminess in any way, you probably need to treat yourself to this dish. Yes, it gets to be too rich after a few bites, but hopefully you’ve trained hard prior to your vacation to endure massive amounts of cheese and heavy cream (isn’t that standard for everyone before a Disney trip?). We got it as part of the set menu for lunch.



Another great dish. Probably not as spectacularly bad for us as the mac and cheese, but lovely all the same! (This’ll give you a little protein for the rest of your day as well…)

Orifuteroles au chocolat

Orifuteroles au chocolat

Never been a great fan of profiteroles, but these were amazing! I couldn’t get enough. The chocolate was the best part, so lucky us that they drowned the pastry with it.

Creme Brulee with Madeleine

Creme Brulee with Madeleine

A decent creme brulee; in my book, Jiko’s pistachio version and Le Cellier’s maple version beat it out, however. Would love to hear from readers how it stacks up to other WDW creme brulees.