Review: California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I met a group of friends at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill for what promised to be a memorable dinner.

It was my first trip to the hallowed culinary spot since the dramatic re-imagination of both the restaurant itself and the menu earlier this year. I’m a big fan of Chef de Cuisine Brian Piasecki, and I was anxious to see what he and his team had put together for the opening.

Having heard mostly good things about the new menu, and lots of raves about the decor refresh (see some breathtaking photos here!), I was really looking forward to this special night out. Would the restaurant deliver on expectations? Well, kind of…and kind of not. Let’s delve into the full story.

Atmosphere

If you’ve never been to California Grill, getting there is a bit of an odyssey. Although the restaurant sits high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, you’ll begin your journey on the hotel’s second floor, where the check-in desk is located.

Second Floor Check In Desk for California Grill

From there, you’ll be directed to an elevator where a cast member will escort you up to the restaurant. This way, the staff can practice a little crowd control, as the restaurant’s lobby and bar can get quite crowded at times.

You emerge from the elevator and are greeted by sleek design, accented by cool colors and rows and rows of wine fridges. Form follows function, as California Grill’s stellar selection of wines is well known.

Entrance and Wine Fridges

Time your visit just right, and another hallmark of the Grill’s atmosphere greets you —

Sunset

— A beautiful sunset through the picture windows directly ahead of you. I was lucky on this visit, as I got to see both the sunset AND the fireworks through those floor-to-ceiling windows!

Sunset

As I mentioned before, California Grill underwent an extensive renovation earlier in 2013. If you haven’t been to the restaurant since then, you will find that almost everything looks completely different from before.

We shared lots and lots of photos with you from the reno in that previous post, including pics of the private dining rooms. Be sure to pop over there if you’d like to see even more decor detail. For now, we’ll just give you a quick tour.

Step away from that glorious sunset, and you realize that you passed the beautiful bar area as you entered. It’s just to the left as you step off the elevators and head into the restaurant.

Directly in front of the bar, there’s also a limited lounge seating area. This means that you can, theoretically, score a table without an advance dining reservation, or meet here for appetizers and drinks on a whim. That said, the lounge is first come, first served, and you can imagine the scramble for seats during the fireworks. So look alive if that’s your plan!

Bar

Where the view is concerned, there are really no bad seats in all of California Grill! But the window seats on the Magic Kingdom side offer the best view if you’re going for fireworks. As part of the renovation, new windows were installed that block ultraviolet light, and electronically-controlled shades ensure that guests are never blinded by that bright Florida sunshine.

Views and Tables

A glance across the seating area gives you a good overview of the [Read more…]

Review: Tony’s Town Square at Magic Kingdom

Time for a visit to a great little table service stop in the heart of all the magic — Tony’s Town Square in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom!

This spot has it all — Disney history, beautiful themeing, and if you play your cards right, some of the best views in the entire resort!

But while I love the restaurant itself, the food hasn’t always been the main draw in the past.

We’re checking in today for lunch to see what’s new, and if my love affair with that the patio seating remains firmly intact!

Atmosphere

Tony’s is located right on the Town Square (natch) of Magic Kingdom — as soon as you pass below the train station and enter Main Street USA. You can’t miss it.

Tony's Sign

Pass by the Town Square Theater where you can meet Mickey, and you’re there!

Tony's Entrance

Inside, you’ll check in at the hostess stand and await your table. While a walk up spot isn’t unheard of, it’s best to make an advance dining reservation here — especially if you’d like to take advantage of Tony’s biggest draw. We’ll get to that in a few minutes.

Tony's Check-In

The waiting area was given a bit of a refresh last year, when the Town Square Theater opened as the new spot for Mickey’s meet-and-greet.

The space retains its turn-of-the-century charm, but the finishes are newer. You’ll also get your first dose of the restaurant’s star characters and theme! The animated classic Lady and the Tramp plays continually on the flat screen television.

Tony's Waiting Area

Once your table is ready, you’ll be shown to one of three main seating areas. The restaurant is [Read more…]

Review: Dinner at Boma in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Boma…Flavors of Africa is a tried-and-true Disney fan destination.

Many guests number it among their must-have advance dining reservations for it’s fun atmosphere, unique menu, and cult favorite dishes.

On a recent visit to Walt Disney World, we had the pleasure of eating at Boma not once — but twice…in the SAME DAY! Yep — we had breakfast and Boma AND dinner at Boma!

While I’ll be sharing the details of our Boma breakfast in a later post, today we’re taking a look at the rockin’ spread available for dinner.

Atmosphere

Located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boma is just one of three incredible restaurants at this resort — it’s a true food-lovers haven here.

Boma Sign

You’ll find Boma on the ground floor beneath the lobby level, adjacent to both The Mara and Jiko. (Sanaa is located in nearby Kidani Village.) And while The Mara is the resort’s counter service location, Jiko is a signature restaurant, and Sanaa features a table service fusion of flavors, Boma serves as the resort’s buffet offering.

But while many Disney buffets are more about character interaction than cuisine, a trip to Boma is all about the food. A sign in Animal Kingdom’s lobby provides a little background on the meaning of the restaurant’s name — and encourages you to make your ADR for Boma well in advance!

Boma Background Information

The term boma loosely refers to a fence fashioned of sticks, and you’ll see this motif throughout the restaurant’s interior. A wrought-iron version of a boma borders either side of the wide, winding path into the restaurant.

Walkway into Boma

Here, the fence borders a low wall separating the seating area from the [Read more…]

Guest Review: New Dish at Be Our Guest Restaurant in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Not only has Disney World’s Be Our Guest Restaurant just won a prestigious award, it’s also got a few new menu items!

Be Our Guest Restaurant Menu Changes Already in the Works...

Welcome Guest Author Daniel S. with his review of the new chicken dish at the Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest Restaurant! The new entree replaces the Rotisserie Cornish Hen.

See a review of the full Be Our Guest Restaurant dinner menu here!

Disney World’s Be Our Guest Restaurant recently changed up its dinner menu a bit, and I got the chance to try the new chicken dish. First of all, here’s something that’s interesting to note: the new Chicken Breast Provençal wasn’t yet on the printed menu when we visited. Our waitress said it was available to order, but the hen was still reflected on the current menu handed out.

She described it as basically Chicken Parmesan without the cheese. I would disagree. The sauce had a very distinct flavor. Do not expect an Italian essence. It was a mixture of white wine and green olive, with heavy emphasis on the olive. No hint of garlic in the sauce at all.

Chicken Breast Provencal.

The chicken was [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…]

Disney Recipe: Chicken Pot Pie From 50s Prime Time Cafe in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

I love when Disney does comfort food, and there’s no better place to get it than 50s Prime Time Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

Between keeping our elbows off the table and finishing our veggies, this is one of our favorite spots because of the homestyle foods and amazing atmosphere. Just check out some of our readers’ favorite moments from 50s Prime Time!

Last year, we really enjoyed this hearty Chicken Pot Pie, a staple on the menu at this family-themed restaurant — and I know many of you have been looking for the recipe!

Check out our full review here. You’ll swear you’ve stumbled onto the set of your favorite 50s sitcom!

Chicken Pot Pie

If this is one of your favorites, too, grab the ingredients and make this tasty dish for supper this weekend!

Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie

Yield: 1 pie

Ingredients:
2 cups chicken tenderloins, uncooked
1 cup broccoli, tops only
1/2 cup carrot, cubed
1/2 cup celery, cubed [Read more…]

Review: Pollo Campero at Downtown Disney Orlando

We’ve got a review of a slightly under-the-radar spot in Disney World’s Downtown Disney today!

So far, you’ve heard about both breakfast, lunch and fun beverage options at Pollo Campero, but I haven’t ever posted my own personal review! It’s about time, don’t you think?

Join me for a visit to the Latin-inspired chicken restaurant that provides an interesting change of pace for Downtown Disney Guests!

Atmosphere

Located in what used to be the cavernous McDonald’s at the end of Downtown Disney’s Marketplace, counter-service location Pollo Campero shares space with two other foodstops: Bodie’s All-American (formerly Fresh A-Peel) and Babycakes NYC. On this visit, we were in the mood for chicken, so Pollo Campero it was.

Outside Pollo Campero

Once inside, you’ll approach the restaurant like most other counter service stops. Choose your food at the counter, and then proceed to a central bank of registers that’s shared with Bodie’s All-American.

Ordering Area

The general set up here is a bit “food-courtish,” but it does [Read more…]

2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Debuts A Vegan Marketplace

Great news for those visiting the 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival with a special diet!

As part of the World Showcase Marketplaces serving tapas-sized portions of International foods, the Festival is introducing a completely vegan kiosk this year! We’re hoping that means that special diets will be catered to more than ever before at this year’s event.

Vegan Marketplace at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival this year will introduce the first ever vegan-only “TERRA” marketplace, which will include dishes like this Trick’n Chick’n Curry with Basmati Rice Curry with Basmati Rice.

Trick’n Chick’n Curry with Basmati Rice at the 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Stay tuned for more details about this exciting development. Here’s hoping nothing changes!

As always, Disney Food Blog is YOUR SOURCE for the most detailed information about the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Check out our 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Page for [Read more…]

Review: Bongos Cuban Cafe

At long last, we finally made it to the Downtown Disney hotspot that is Bongos Cuban Cafe!

I’ll admit, I’d been putting off my visit to this restaurant. I hadn’t heard great reviews, and I wasn’t sure I’d like the food. But I’m SUCH a giant loser — what have I been waiting for?!?

I had a great time, I had awesome food…and it’s finally time to peek inside and find out what the Big Pineapple has to offer!

Atmosphere

With architecture billed as “Old Havana” in style, this breezy, open restaurant certainly puts you in the mood for a tropical drink and a conga line. ;-) When we visited just before St. Patrick’s Day, Downtown Disney was alive with the excitement of a young, vibrant crowd, ready to get their dance on! The traditional Cuban dance music pouring out from the restaurant beckons you to come take a closer look and listen, and was perfect for a warm, breezy Florida evening.

Bongos Sign

Originally, our Advanced Dining Reservation was scheduled for much later than our 7:30 meet up time. When we checked in at the podium, though, we had no trouble getting a seat immediately. As a newcomer to Cuban food, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the fun setting hinted of some adventurous eating ahead!

One of THE most amazing features of Bongos is the wide open feel of the place. Seating is available both inside and outside, giving the restaurant an authentic Cuban or Miami vibe. After all, these are places where people “live outside,” and restaurants in these locations really reflect that.

To help with the heat, both inside and out, we noticed high ceilings and lots of ceiling fans. It really lends to the impression of cool, airy spaces.

Outdoor Atmosphere

The upstairs veranda also provides a pleasant view of surrounding hotels, the Characters in Flight balloon, and the lake beyond. VERY cool view, eh??

Upstairs Outdoor Seating

While the walls inside are painted to give an old world, weathered feel (and the stone no doubt lends to a sense of coolness on a sweltering Florida summer day), there are plenty of [Read more…]

Review: D23’s “Off the Map” Event with Dinner at Club 33

When I heard about D23’s Off the Map event, I made sure to be home when tickets went on sale. A visit to the Disneyland Dream Suite, touring Walt’s Apartment, a ride on the Lilly Belle, and a super surprise dinner at one of the resort’s most unique restaurants (hmmmm, wonder where that could be)? Sign. Me. Up. 

I sat down at my computer at about 9:50am, tickets would be available starting at 10:00am. I literally sat and refreshed for 10 minutes straight. Yes, I’m that nerdy.  It paid off, because at exactly 10:01 (according to my computer’s clock) I had two tickets in my shopping cart and was checking out, credit card in hand.  By the time I finished checking out, the event had sold out. I was surprised that they went so fast, but I then realized that it must be a very small and obviously sought after event.

NOTE: This review is long and has lots of pictures of awesome things. There’s a whole meal and a snack in the write-up (of course, this is the Disney Food Blog), but we couldn’t help including pics of the rest of the tour as well! I hope you enjoy!

Checking In

We checked in at 9:00am on a Tuesday morning and were put into groups. We soon met with our uber fabulous D23 guide, Jeffrey (you may know him as the Disney Geek)!

Guess Who???

This is where we learned that there were only 72 tickets sold for the event and that it sold out in 30 seconds. Wow, so lucky to have scored two!  The crowd was very mixed, the age range spanned from teen to senior and some people traveled from across the country to be here.  We had 11 people in our group; most were southern California Disneyland locals, others were from Las Vegas, and there was one all the way from Georgia (Hi Andy!).

Off the Map Check In

Our group was scheduled to go to Walt’s Apartment at 10:30, so we had a bit of time to kill. Disneyland had just opened at 10:00, so it was fun to watch the park “wake up” as the horse drawn carriages emerged, characters came running from backstage, and the Disneyland Band marched right in front of us.  We met our apartment tour guide outside of the Disneyland Fire Department promptly at 10:30.

Disneyland Fire Department

Touring Walt’s Apartment in Disneyland

After given some history of Walt’s Apartment, we walked backstage and headed up the stairs (holding the handrail like we were asked) and entered the Victorian style apartment. Immediately I noticed the musty smell and got goosebumps knowing that I was in a room that Walt Disney spent many a night in, entertaining friends, playing with his grandchildren, and looking out the window [Read more…]