Best Disney World Restaurants for Big Groups

Please welcome Kim L. to the Disney Food Blog team! A current Disney World Moms Panelist back for yet another tour on the panel, we’re proud to have her working with us both “backstage and on stage” on the blog as well!

Last week we polled our Disney Food Blog Facebook Page for their answer to this question: “What Disney restaurant would you recommend for a large group or family reunion?” Among the many awesome answers, the three restaurants mentioned the most by our Facebook Friends were ‘Ohana, Whispering Canyon Cafe and Crystal Palace!

‘Ohana

With a resounding 20 comments, Facebook Fans raved about their group dining experiences at ‘Ohana! Located at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, ‘Ohana offers all-you-can-eat family-style meals. After all, ‘Ohana means family! In this tropical setting, groups savor the Polynesian-influenced flavors (Yummo Sticky Wings!!). With a morning character meal and evening entertainment, it’s easy to see why this restaurant was tops! You can check out our most recent ‘Ohana review here!

'Ohana Fire Pit

Kathy B. and Caroline V. raved about their post-wedding parties! Fiona L. agreed: “‎’Ohana, we had our fab wedding meal there last month. Staff were great, a bit of entertainment for the kids, but not loud and [Read more…]

2010 DFB Choice Award Winners

Around here, we believe there’s no better restaurant recommendation than the one we get from another Disney fan. So, in our quest to provide the very best information about Disney restaurants, we’ve created the DFB Choice Awards!

Over 500 readers sent in their nominations, and thousands have voted for the top nominees to create this list of [Read more…]

Disney Food Post Round-Up: September 12, 2010

Only a week left before my trip to WDW. There will be lots of updates of course, but for now, let’s go over the news…

Of course, as we count down to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, be sure to check out our helpful guide!

And now, on to the Round-Up!

What Now Kathie?! shares her updated recipe of Le Cellier’s Cheddar Cheese Soup!

Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily offer up the Frito Kid in acrylic paints!

Caribbean Beach Resort Fan Site and members from its facebook page offer a tribute to the Banana Cabana Pool Bar!

Main St. Gazette offers tips for touring the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.

Nightmare Before Christmas Gingerbread Artwork (c)Disney

Disneyland Resort Paris held a very special cookie decorating contest… (thanks to Stitch Kingdom for the heads up)

The Contemporary Resort Fan Page gives an overview of lunch at the Contemporary Resort.

Disney Parks Blog showcases the Haunted Mansion’s Halloween Holiday Gingerbread House!

Pee Dee Foodie remembers the day Tigger took his hat at Crystal Palace.

Touring Plans‘ blogger Caroline Baggerly anticipates her run and gives tips regarding the Wine and Dine Half-Marathon in Disney World.

Two Boos Who Eat offers a personal review of the 2010 Disneyland Food and Wine Festival.

Tom Bricker gave me permission to show this awesome time-lapse Beaches and Cream Kitchen Sink video! Enjoy:

The Most Popular Disney World Restaurants (And Alternatives When They’re Full)

Chef Donald

You guys remember when we covered the Top Ten Disney Dining Tips, right? Overwhelmingly, the tip that was mentioned the most by Disney Food Blog readers was making Advanced Dining Reservations for high priority meals at Disney parks and resorts.

While this might be obvious to many, not everyone knows which Disney restaurants fill up the fastest when it comes to reservations. Having a little frame of reference on this might be extremely helpful as you’re planning your Disney dining and trying to determine what meals are high priority for you. So, I’ve prepared a little primer on which Disney restaurants are the toughest to book, along with great alternatives if you don’t happen to get your favorites!:

1. Le Cellier

Le Cellier Steakhouse has been, for years, one of the toughest tickets in Disney World for both lunch and dinner. Seriously, I have heard Le Cellier cast members mention more than once that they’re continuously booked up for lunch and dinner 6 months in advance, with walk-up reservations rarely an option. In my opinion, this is due to three things: [Read more…]

Breakfast Specialty Showdown

Note to readers: This is what happens when I stay up too late before writing my blog post for the next day…especially after watching action movies…

I think it’s time to pit one favorite against another in a…

**BREAKFAST SPECIALTY SHOWDOWN**

…starring your favorites and mine, the well-known, specialty breakfast dishes from Chef Mickey’s, Akershus Princess Storybook Breakfast, and Crystal Palace!

Who will win the Breakfast Specialty Showdown Crown?! We shall see…

Contender #1: Pooh’s Breakfast Lasagna
An unpretentious mish-mosh of ingredients — delicious on their own, but outstanding when smooshed together — create the formidable Pooh’s Breakfast Lasagna. Crystal Palace knew that naming the dish after an unassuming, honey-loving bear would lull opponents into a false sense of security. Overconfident challengers beware, the collision of flavors is greater than the sum of its parts, and moves the Breakfast Lasagna fully into Breakfast Specialty Showdown contender status!

Pooh's Breakfast Lasagna

Contender #2: Pluto’s Cheese Blintzes
Don’t get the wrong idea. Even though these delectable little pockets of cheese are named after the strong, silent type, that doesn’t mean they won’t start to shout [Read more…]

WDW Moms Panel: Good Eats When Going Solo at Disney

Earlier this week, we had a guest post giving some tips and tricks on dining solo in Disney World. Today, in our fifth post in the Walt Disney World Moms Panel mini-series, I asked the moms what they would eat in Disney World if they were blissfully alone for a whole day. Get ready for some delicious answers!

From Mom Anna S.

Without children in tow, I would start my day off at the Grand Floridian Café for some lobster eggs Benedict. This is about the most delicious and indulgent way to start your day at Walt Disney World! Although I will admit, my sweet tooth would be crying out for the stuffed croissant!

Kaki Gori from Epcot's Japan

Kaki Gori from Epcot's Japan

It’s off to EPCOT to explore the shops that my children usually are too bored to enjoy, and lunch at the best location on the planet for “fast” food – the Yakitori House. A Japanese Curry for lunch, followed by a Kaki Gori at the shaved ice stand, is a perfect balance of flavors and textures – sort of a fire and ice combo.

After an exhausting day shopping, I am off for my favorite meal anywhere on Walt Disney World property – the filet mignon and macaroni and cheese at Jiko. Arguably the best meal I’ve had anywhere, my mouth waters just thinking about the level to which the Jiko chefs have elevated this simple meal.

The day does not end until I swing back into the Magic Kingdom, where I’ll enjoy my dessert – the world famous Dole Whip with fresh pineapple spears on the side. Although, with no children tagging along, I’ll have a WHOLE Dole Whip to myself, and I may not have room for the sweet juicy pineapple!

From Mom Erin F.

I’m lucky enough to go on an annual solo vacation to Disney World; I’ve been three times so far, with the fourth trip coming up in January. My dream breakfast is beignets at Port Orleans Resort French Quarter — calories don’t count on vacation! Then it’d be anything hot and fried –- mini donuts at Blizzard Beach, fried dough, etc.

One thing I really enjoyed on my last solo trip was going to the Territory Lounge at Wilderness Lodge — I got a raspberry mojito and the flatbread from Artist Point.

My dream dinner? Jiko!

From Mom Jennifer W.

If left alone for one day at WDW the choices for incredible food would be endless. It’s funny to think that when I first started going to WDW I thought the only meals available were character meals! However, over the years I have learned that there is so much more!

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace

But with that said, I honestly think I would start my day at one of my favorite breakfast spots … the Crystal Palace at the MK. It just does not get any better than biscuits and gravy, potatoes, eggs, and sausage, and of course if there is room, how can one resist the Mickey Mouse waffles?

I would then need to walk some distance before enjoying lunch! I think this would be eaten at the Cantina de San Angel in Mexico. Just a quick lunch where I would enjoy a wonderful taco salad and perhaps a tasty margarita as well. And no afternoon at WDW is complete without a Mickey Mouse ice cream. Frozen to perfection, I truly can say I love these.

Okay now dinner? Ohhhh that is so incredibly hard to choose! I think for this particular day I’m going for a fantastic meal at Jiko! On my last visit there, I was amazed by everything I tried. The seafood and steak dishes were by far my favorite. As I walked home completely full and satisfied I think I would call this a great day, but wait – on the way out of the park there are those darn Rice Krispy treats with chocolate on them! Oh well, everyone needs a midnight snack!

From Mom Jodi G.

I’d go with a light breakfast, and then have lunch at the Brown Derby. The grapefruit cake and the Cobb salad are my favorites.

For dinner, I’d just roam around the World Showcase eating the best from each country – crepes, funnel cakes, pretzels… etc.

From Mom Kara B.

After much thought, I decided the California Grill would be a great way to celebrate ME! I could spend as much time as I wanted leisurely enjoying an elegant multi-course meal with no little kids bugging me to eat fast so we can go back to the Magic Kingdom.

Goodies at the Wishes Dessert Party

Goodies at the Wishes Dessert Party

The views there are worth a million bucks, so I’d have to have a window seat so I could soak in all beauty of the Seven Seas Lagoon and its surroundings, especially the Magic Kingdom. And then there is the outdoor balcony areas, which before the fireworks are so wonderfully peaceful looking out at the entire WDW resort area; a true moment of zen to gather one’s thoughts and think of all the good in the world.

I also have to admit I was tempted to put down the Wishes Dessert Buffet, which I have yet to try. I think it would be a great way to socialize and meet people, indulge on sweets, and catch a premium seat to watch Wishes.

PS: I’d also love to have room service in Cinderella’s Castle Suite.

From Mom Joanne M.

Oooh, fun question. I would head to (or hopefully I’m already staying there) Stormalong Bay at the Beach and Yacht Club and start with a delicious cocktail at the poolside bar. Then I would head over to the Flying Fish on the Boardwalk. I have to be honest and tell you it’s not because it has my favourite dish, but because we had to cancel our August reservation because my daughter was sick. It’s long been on my list to try, and I would love to enjoy it at a relaxed pace.

From Mom Heather R.

Alone – I can’t even imagine it!

I’m not generally a big breakfast gal, so anywhere I could grab a decent cup of coffee an everything bagel with smoked salmon would make me happy. I used to say Starring Rolls in Hollywood Studios, but unfortunately the last time I was there the lox was no longer an option.

The Famous Flying Fish at Flying Fish Cafe

The Famous Flying Fish at Flying Fish Cafe

For lunch, a bowl of clam chowder at Columbia Harbor House always makes me happy.

Dinner is always my biggest meal of the day, and what a tough decision! I think I’ll go with the Flying Fish, a perrennial favorite. I’d start with the Chardonnay-steamed Maine Coast Blue Hill Bay Mussels. Although I’m not always a huge fennel fan, these are delicious. Strange as it sounds at a seafood restaurant, the Char Crusted New York Strip Steak there is fantastic and in my opinion, among ofthe best steaks to be had in Disney.

I don’t usually indulge in sweets, but if I were to make an exception, the beignets at Port Orleans are really yummy.

And a drink/treat? Definitely a Grey Goose Slush from Epcot.

Gosh, I just realized I’ve spent my whole hypothetical day running back and forth to different eateries! Now that really IS blissful!

From Mom Whitney P.

I’m always on a quest to try something new when I’m at Disney, rather than visiting old haunts, so I’d probably make a bee-line to the new Kouzzina, showplace of fellow Mississippian Cat Cora.

The Birth of a Dole Whip Float

The Birth of a Dole Whip Float

Even though I’m not much for eating table service alone (although some of my fellow Disney Panel Moms–and Dads–do), I’d have to make an exception for this restaurant. I love to make meals out of an array of appetizers, so I’d probably order her Kouzzina spreads of Chickpea Hummus, Kalamata Fig, and Harissa Yogurt along with the Spanakopita! (And that’s what I’m planning on doing when I go with my family in October!)

My favorite drink? Hands down Disney’s Pina Colava, a raspberry sauce-laced pina colada. It’s a given when I’m at Brown Derby, but I’ve also enjoyed it at Sanaa and Teppan Edo. It tends to be seasonal, but if it’s not on the menu, I’ll ask anyway!

And no visit to Magic Kingdom would be complete without a Dole Float, a favorite of mine and fellow Disney Mom Margaret.

From Mom Beth C.

I would go during the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival and sample all of the treats from around the world. I did this last September and really enjoyed myself. I finally had the opportunity to eat at the Tangierine Café in Morocco. I had been wanting to try this restaurant for years but my schedule when touring with my family never worked out. This was the perfect opportunity to try this cafe. The food was delicious and fresh and eating it out side listening to the Moroccan music was a perfect way to enjoy a lunch alone.

From Mom Jo Y.

Well first I’d have to have a funnel cake, we don’t have them here in the UK so I have to have one every single trip. Just plain though, no strawberries or ice-cream.

Earl of Sandwich

Earl of Sandwich

Counter Service would have to be Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney; I would order The Full Montagu with beef, turkey, cheese and salad followed by a delicious cupcake.

Whilst in DTD I’d nip over to Goofy’s Candy Company to make my own rice crispy treat. I would cover it in milk chocolate, rolled in choc chips and drizzled in caramel.

Dinner would be at Narcoossee’s, where I’d dine on filet mignon with potato gratin followed by key lime crème brulee. If I still had room after that I’d visit the Magic Kingdom for a pineapple Dole Whip float from Aloha Isle, and then waddle back to my resort!

From Mom Kim L.

I would begin with breakfast at Boma. I’d request a cozy table near the window. Afterwards, I would walk around the resort.

For a mid-day treat, I am heading to the Grand Floridan for afternoon tea in the Garden View Lounge. I would choose strawberries and cream along with lemon pound cake. I highly recommend the Princess Breakfast tea.

My evening would end with a delightful meal at The Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge. Dim lighting and delectable food provide a perfect way to wind down.

From Mom Kay B.

If traveling alone I would definitely choose spots that not only have great food but also good entertainment. Top spots that I would head to include 50’s Primetime Cafe in Hollywood Studios, where I would not be able to pass up their pot roast, milk shakes, and s’mores for dessert!

Teppan Edo's Sake-Rita

Teppan Edo's Sake-Rita

There are two EPCOT restaurants I would head to and those are the German Biergarten, where I can get my schnitzel and spaetzle, and of course good beer, while watching the show.

Teppan Edo is my other choice for this park since you can watch dinner being prepared right in front of you. I love all the food, chicken, and steaks and seafood, so anything goes here, but it must be accompanied by one of their specialty “umbrella” drinks to make it complete!

In the Magic Kingdom I would head to Casey’s Corner and enjoy a good dog and fries while watching the people on Main Street and listening to the piano player……all the time hoping the ducks won’t take a nibble out of my leg. :)

Absolute snack musts are a bag of popcorn and a hunk of peanut butter fudge from any of the Disney fudge spots!

From Mom Amber V.

If I had a day at Disney World all alone to enjoy my favorites, I would start with Tonga Toast for breakfast at the Kona Cafe. I would be sure to get all of my favorite snacks — dole whip float, popcorn, and Mickey Bars at some point throughout the day.

My choice for lunch would be something quick like a hot dog at Casey’s or a BLT salad from Columbia Harbor House, because I would want to save room for a fabulous dinner at my absolute favorite restaurant — Jiko. Barbecue chicken flatbread, filet mignon with macaroni and cheese, and the pistachio creme brulee is my idea of the perfect meal to end a fabulous day at Disney!

From Dad Doug I.

I do this often, as work travel and book research trips leave me solo in Orlando.

Nothin' like a little popcorn on a Solo Disney Day

Nothin' like a little popcorn on a Solo Disney Day

Typically I seek out whatever is new, but while I love many of the character meals and some of the ones that involve a show (like 50’s Prime Time or Whispering Canyon Cafe), many are ones where going solo just makes me feel a bit out of place. So some of my favorite solo dining places that I like to frequent include:

Breakfast: Kona Cafe at the Polynesian (Strictly for the Tonga Toast!)
Lunch: Flame Tree BBQ or Tangierine Cafe
Dinner: California Grill
Snack: Popcorn from the carts as you enter the Magic Kingdom. Walt would have wanted it that way!

Dirty Little Confession: While I like all that, I have to confess that I have dined, on more than one occasion, at “Snackapalooza!”. Don’t waste your time searching for it on a park map. I coined this phrase for those times where instead of going to a restaurant, I ‘surf’ the World Showcase promenade, getting a few different nibbles from the national pavilions. I love getting a bite here, a bite there, and sampling cuisines from around the globe!

From Mom Margaret F.

I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a few solo trips to Disney world, and while I was first worried that I would be lonely or look out of place, I quickly discovered how much I have still missed while rushing after my children on our family trips.

The Porch at Tony's Town Square

The Porch at Tony's Town Square

I love eating at Tony’s Town Square and sitting on the outside porch. In an odd way, with all the crowds passing by, it is remarkably peaceful to me.

While the food is delicious, it is such a great place to watch the excitement and joy of the guests as they first enter Magic Kingdom, or to listen to the recaps of their amazing day as they exit the park. Watching the kids (and mom and dad) jump in glee at the sight of Main Street and Cinderella Castle continues to remind me why I love Disney so much.

One of my favorite treats is to grab a Dole Whip Float and sit on a bench near the Castle hub and watch all of the guests stop for a picture by the Partners statute. As I enjoy the best treat on property, it makes me smile to see so many guests stop and admire Walt and Mickey hand in hand, and hopefully Walt knows how much joy he continues to bring to so many everyday.

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

Don’t forget, if you’d like to share your “most magical Disney Dining moment,” send me an email! I’m collecting stories and will post them in the next post of “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie soul!”

Dining in Disney World With Kids, Part 2: Suggestions from the WDW Moms Panel

Hooray! Our fourth post in the Walt Disney World Moms Panel mini-series! Thanks to all the moms for their fantastic stories, tips, and insights.

Today, this post also serves as Part 2 of our Disney Food Blog Dining in Disney World With Kids series, in which the moms share their top picks for age-appropriate dining experiences. Take it away, Moms!

From Mom Erin F. — Kids’ Ages: 10-13

I’ve got the tweens and young teen segments. The 10-yr-olds love Crystal Palace and Chef Mickey’s. There are so many choices at the buffets (breakfast pizza is a favorite!).

Tables for Tea at the Grand Floridian

Tables for Tea at the Grand Floridian

I also enjoy the Grand Floridian tea. So much of the dining at Disney is the experience, not just the food. Part of that experience is allowing kids to learn and experiment in a safe arena. When working in New York City, I was invited to tea at the Waldorf, and I was completely freaked out. I didn’t know what to do. This type of experience can help kids to learn how to handle fine dining situations that they might encounter in the future.

Finally, there are some spots that the kids like, which offer great vegetable options. Garden Grill at Epcot offers fresh veggies from the Land, and Teppan Edo includes veggies mixed into the chicken. So you can get slightly healthier food.

From Mom Amber V. — Kids’ Ages: 0-5

My kids are 4 and 16 months. Obviously we’re in the character dining phase right now, and there are definitely character meals that are better than others! Probably my favorite character breakfast is with Lilo and Stitch at ‘Ohana. I have to say that while I enjoy the wider variety of foods available at a buffet, there is something to be said about the food being delivered to your table. I can’t count the number of times I’ve run up to a buffet to grab something and missed seeing my kids with one of the characters. At ‘Ohana you don’t have to worry about that, and the food that they bring to you is quite good. I’m a big fan of the breakfast potatoes. They are seasoned with just the right amount of salt, and your server will always bring more! We enjoy this breakfast from start to finish – the welcome bread and fresh fruit are a great way to start. Also, Mickey waffles . . . enough said!

Another favorite character meal is the Garden Grill at Epcot. Again, served family style which makes the whole experience so much more relaxing and enjoyable for Mom and Dad! My four year old daughter got a huge kick out of the fact the restaurant slowly rotates and just loved watching the changing view. The food is great and I like how the menu changes based on the season and what types of fresh fish and vegetables are available. They bring out food for the adults and the basic kid favorites like macaroni and cheese and fries for the kids who may not be so adventurous. The Garden Grill is another great meal from start to finish, and currently the only character meal to meet Chip and Dale!

From Mom Anna S. — Kids’ Ages: 4-18

Eeyore Leads a Parade at Crystal Palace

Eeyore Leads a Parade at Crystal Palace

I have kids that range in age from 4 through 18, so we have to work with a huge range of tastes and entertainment preferences. My oldest daughter has the most adventurous palate in the group, and at 18, she thinks she’s worldly and sophisticated. She loves places like Sanaa, can’t wait to try Kouzzina (Christmas week, I hope!), and raves about Restaurant Marrakesh.

The two little ones wouldn’t think a trip to Disney World was complete without a visit to Crystal Palace or Chef Mickey’s, but they are old enough now to really enjoy the entertainment at Whispering Canyon Cafe and ‘Ohana. The one place the whole family loves and returns to often is Boma. The kids are comfortable there, they love visiting the savanna before and after dinner, we enjoy the story tellers and the parade in the lobby, and the food is amazing.

From Mom Kara B. — Kids’ Ages: 7-14

We cherished the chance to bring my father with us to 50s Prime Time Cafe. He pretty much sat there talking about the shows he had watched that were on the TV as well as all the little knick knacks and decor he remembered. An absolute nostalgic moment for him.

TV Table at 50's Prime Time Cafe

TV Table at 50's Prime Time Cafe

Meanwhile, my kids were, of course, totally absorbed by the TV shows (they are such zombies if anything is playing on a screen) as well as all the antics of the cast members. So much giggling, and I didn’t have to ask them to finish their veggies or keep their elbows off the table! The funniest thing was my son disappeared into the bathroom for a suspiciously long time — he had been washing his hands thoroughly in case they checked beforehand.

Similarly, I think Whispering Canyon Cafe is a hoot! We ate there with my family, my brother’s family, and my parents. Immediately, the cast members placed bandanna hats of various shapes on all of our heads, so we were all laughing at one another (forgetting we each had hats). Then all of those mischievous antics of the cast members; we all laughed and laughed and laughed. The kids all enjoyed the pony races, too. And I come a family of huge carnivores (I’m constantly mocked, sadly, since I prefer soybean curd), so the endless platters of meat were perfect for them.

From Mom Joanne M. — Daughter’s Age: 9

There are really too many, so here are my nine year old’s current faves. Last month we visited the 50’s Prime Time Cafe for the first time, and she still hasn’t stopped talking about it. The decor is totally cool, with old fashioned TVs and furnishings. The service totally makes the experience! You really do feel like you’re in your granny’s kitchen, and the best part was when the server fed Nicole her veggies.

Whispering Canyon Cafe has been our must do for the past several years and remains in my daughter’s top two! The food is consistently good, but we go back for the activities, antics and excitement. Be forewarned, it’s LOUD! But guests of all ages get up and dance the hokey pokey, sing happy birthday to fellow diners, and participate in wooden horse races through the restaurant. No matter what you order, be sure to ask for ketchup!

From Mom Whitney P. — Kids’ Ages: 4-13

Because we have four children, from age four to 13, three girls and a boy, I am always on the hunt for restaurants with BROAD appeal both on the menu and in the experience. ‘Ohana’s all-you-can-eat fare fills up my growing 9- and 12-year-old boys, and is varied enough for my picky 4-year-old.

Wonderful CM at 'Ohana Dinner

Wonderful CM at 'Ohana Dinner

The coconut races and limbo are fun for everyone, even hula lessons for my teenager girl. If you’re not able to time your reservation just right to watch the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from the restaurant while they pipe in the accompanying music, you can always head down to the Polynesian’s beach for the view!

Biergarten has become a perennial favorite because my kids love the buffet that’s heavy on meat and potatoes fare with familiar flavors. It’s the floor show that can get folks out of their seats, though, especially for the Chicken Dance!

If I could add a third, it would be Teppan Edo. The chefs do a fantastic job of slicing and dicing as entertainment, and with grilled chicken, meat, or seafood on the menu, there’s something for everyone.

From Mom Jo Y. — Kids’ Ages: 11-13

My girls are aged 11 and 13 and every trip they request the same 2 restaurants. Their favourite character spot is the Crystal Palace as they both adore the Winnie the Pooh characters. They also love all the food on offer; the choice is huge so everyone will be able to find something they like.

For fine dining they love Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian; they enjoy the fact that it’s a more grown up restaurant and it serves “posh” food. They also like a reason to dress up!

From Mom Kim L. — Son’s Age: 9

I went straight to my 9 year old to answer this question. My son says his two top picks are Chef Mickey’s and San Angel Inn. Chef Mickey’s is a hit because it’s fun with the characters and your family can ride the monorail after dinner. San Angel Inn is a top choice because if you request a water table, then your child is entertained by waving at people as the boats float by.

From Mom Kay B. — Kids’ Ages: Adult; Grandkids’ Ages: Toddler

First I will speak about my grandkids (toddler age): The top restaurant experience for this age is Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue in Fort Wilderness. Toddlers are hard to keep in their seats and here is a great spot where you can get them to eat some good food (same as you would get at the Hoop De Doo Revue) and where they can dance their evening away with the characters and the live country music band. This is the best up close and personal character opportunity as well, since they can choose the character to dance with and be with him/her for as long as they want. There are always a couple of characters who stand quietly off to the side for those who are more shy. Parents can sit back and enjoy a glass of wine or beer while their kids are happy and letting loose all their energy so they can go home and sleep well!

Chef Mickey at Chef Mickey's Restaurant

Chef Mickey at Chef Mickey's Restaurant

Second choice is the Chef Mickey character dining at the Contemporary resort. This is just a great place to see all the major known Disney characters all at once, and the food buffet is outstanding. You will often see more adults taking food from the “kids” section, and I will admit I have snagged some of the great mac and cheese myself. The dessert choices are wonderful, and the kids love making their sundaes topped with all kinds of unhealthy things!

Now for my kids’ age (young adults): My children have always enjoyed the opportunity to get dressed up and head out for some special dining experiences, so Victoria and Alberts is a top choice for this and especially the Chef’s Table opportunity. But for families watching their budgets this spot becomes more exclusive. So the other choices would be Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian, as their menu is sophisticated but still in touch with a young palate. It is off the beaten path for many guests and can tend to be a little more quiet then some of the other restaurants.

For entertainment purposes I have two second choices and those would be 50’s Primetime Cafe in Hollywood Studios and the Hoop De Doo Revue in Fort Wilderness. Primetime is a classic spot to remind your teens or young adults of their often forgotten table manners. They soon realize if they don’t heed your advice they could be singing “I’m a Little Teapot” to all the other guests and making that a stepping stone for their next Idol audition! Hoop De Doo Revue is just a fun and rowdy place for all ages to let down and get into the moment. If you are lucky enough to be chosen for a participating part in the show it is even more fun. Young adults can enjoy humor too!

From Dad Doug I. — 2 Princesses (not sure of the ages, Doug!)

The first is Chef Mickey’s. It has some of the best buffet-line foods, and the setting and character experience are ideal for younger children. The second is 50’s Prime Time Cafe. I think that the kids enjoy a bit of sassy fun, and the food is always great.

From Mom Heather R. — Kids’ Ages: 2-6

My daughters are younger — 6.5, 4, and 2.5 — so character meals and buffets are perfect for them right now. One of our favorites is the Play and Dine at Hollywood & Vine character meal in Hollywood Studios. It’s a buffet, so the kids can dig in immediately, which at this age is often very important so they don’t get restless waiting for food to arrive.

Little Einsteins Sign Autographs at Hollywood and Vine

Little Einsteins Sign Autographs at Hollywood and Vine

Breakfast there is good, but we prefer lunch. There are a wide variety of dishes to choose from (my girls adore the seafood pasta) and Jo-Jo, Goliath, Leo, and June (Little Einsteins) keep the kids entertained. The children are periodically invited up front to sing and dance along with their favorite characters, which is fun for the kids and gives mom and dad a chance to eat un-interrupted, if only for a moment. The only downside to this restaurant is that it shares restrooms with the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, and there is always quite a wait. I’d recommend taking your children for a potty break in the park just before you have your meal.

A fun, non-character meal for kids is dinner at ‘Ohana in the Polynesian resort. While not a buffet, the food is served family style so it arrives quickly, and service is always very attentive. You’ll also find a strolling ukulele player, leis for the kids, and fun games like coconut races and hula hoop contests to keep little ones entertained.

From Mom Jodi G. — Kids’ Ages: 3-5

My kids are age 3 and 5, and I recommend ‘Ohana (for breakfast) and the Garden Grill (for dinner) for families like mine.

From Mom Beth C. — Kids’ Ages: 11-13

Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge is one of my family’s favorite restaurants! This little restaurant tucked in the Wilderness Lodge has a simple, down home menu. Ribs, chicken, and pork chops are done with a northwestern flair. They have amazing all you can drink milkshakes. However, the fun at this restaurant is why we make it a regular on our trips! The jokes, the pony races and ketchup – trust me to ask for ketchup – make this a fun place to dine! You can be loud and get a great meal. It is near the Magic Kingdom via a short boat ride, and the Wilderness Lodge is a beautiful hotel. After a day in the park, it is nice to go somewhere else to eat. You can then go back to the park or head home for the evening.

California Grill Sunset

California Grill Sunset

Also, when my family goes on vacation, we like to treat ourselves. We do things that we would not do at home. It is also an opportunity to get dressed up and eat at fancy restaurants. While we live just outside Manhattan and have amazing restaurants near home, it is not something we do except on vacation. My husband, Jim, and I really believe that our girls will never know how to appreciate fine dining if they do not experience it. With this in mind, I would recommend the California Grill. We first visited this restaurant alone and then again when Jess and Nicole were three and five. We rediscovered it last year when we were looking for a special night out. The food is always different and seasonal – pumpkin raviolis are yummy in the fall. You can see the chefs preparing the food, which I think helps children appreciate the hard work that goes into the meal. The pastry chef even explained his dishes to my girls. The atomosphere is great, especially if you have an Advance Dining Reservation which overlaps the fireworks. Watching the fireworks from the top of the Contemporary is so cool. My husband’s only disappointment is that they no longer make the most amazing lemon chiffon souffle!

From Mom Margaret F. — Kids’ Ages: 6-12

Our top two locations to dine with our children are easily:
1. Chef Mickey’s: what could be better than dining with the big cheese himself? The location is fun and lively with the open area to the Contemporary resort and the monorail zipping though, it just has such a fun happy feeling to it. Of course the added bonus of Mickey and his pals can’t be beat, and my kids love the “dance parties” throughout the restaurant. There is a great selection of salads, fruits, vegetables, meats, and desserts, so even the pickiest eater should be able to find something to fill their stomachs. This is a great location to celebrate a birthday with the children and just enjoy the magic of Disney.

Teppan Edo Chef

Teppan Edo Chef

2. Coral Reef (and a close second Teppan Edo): While both of these locations may seem like they are better suited to an adult guest, they are very kid friendly. There are delicious choices on the kids menu, and personally my husband and I never have a problem finding an entree here. These two spots are all about the setting for our family. There is a great entertainment value here and my boys have always been mesmerized by the scenery and the “show”. Coral Reef offers an amazing view of the floor to ceiling aquarium that runs the entire length of the restaurant. My kids love watching all of the fish, sharks, and turtles (with an occasional scuba diver) swim by. It is like a science class while we eat. Teppan Edo offers a table side show performed by the very talented and entertaining chefs. The boys love watching them chop, dice, and grill our meal right before out eyes. At both locations there is never a cry of “How much longer”, or “I’m bored,” and that is priceless to us.

Thanks again to all the “moms” who are participating in the interviews! Be sure to check out the first post in this series if you missed it: Dining in Disney World With Kids, Part 1.

Don’t forget, if you’d like to share your “most magical Disney Dining moment,” send me an email! I’m collecting stories and will post them in the next post of “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie soul!”

Moms Panel Magical Memories, or “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie Soul”

For this first post in the Moms Panel Mini-Series, I wanted to introduce the panelists to you in a really fun way — storytelling. I asked the moms about their most magical dining memories at Disney World and got some heartwarming, funny, and informative responses (who knew you could rent out Beaches and Cream?!). I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I did; maybe they’ll even give you some great ideas about things to try next time you’re at Disney World! And be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of the Moms Panel Mini-Series, coming up later this week on the Food Blog!

In the meantime, if you’ve got a great Disney dining memory to share, please send it my way via the “Contact Me” button above. Once I have a good collection, I’ll post “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie Soul, Part II!”

Mark's No-More-Chicken-Pox Birthday Cake

Mark's No-More-Chicken-Pox Birthday Cake

From Mom Kara B. (Thanks to Kara B. for sending the great photos as well!)

Last year, my middle son was to come with me to WDW for the Toy Story Mania opening for his birthday, but 2 days before going he came down with the chicken pox (seriously, who gets that anymore — especially having had the vaccine?). Fortunately, we were returning as a family within a month, so we decided to go to town celebrating his birthday and these have become the most amazing memories for us. First, at the Coral Reef Restaurant, which I think is one of the prettiest restaurants at WDW, I had arranged for a diver to come down with a happy birthday sign. He was absolutely taken by surprise; I never saw him with such a big smile. We also had a specialized cake made for him; it was pure Disney magic. It had Chicken Little on it with the message “Good Bye Chicken Pox, Happy Birthday Mark.”

Similarly, at Whispering Canyon Cafe, the cast member had all the girls under 14 come up and sing Happy Birthday to him. He was mortified, but there was a little smile on the inside I’m sure to have been treated like such a prince.

From Mom Anna S.

We have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, new babies, new teeth, new shoes – just about everything happy at Walt Disney World restaurants, but I have to tell you, the most magical Disney dining memory is the one I share with the other members of the 2009 Moms Panel. On one of our nights at training, the whole group went to Jiko. We had gotten comfortable with each other pretty quickly, so by the time our dinner at Jiko rolled around, we were feeling like best friends. The meal was phenomenal, the wine was outstanding, but as the realization of the amount of Disney “magic” that had been sprinkled on all of us started to set in, the feelings that came over me surprised me! It was like old friends, sharing sips of drinks and tastes of food, talking about our kids, our vacations, our jobs and things at home. You know the feeling you get on a cold winter’s night, when you come in from a long day, slip into your flannel jammies – you know, the plaid ones with Mickey on the pocket? – wrap yourself up in your fuzzy bathrobe (or your Snuggi, if you’re so inclined), toast your toes in a pair of the ugly crocheted slippers your grandmom made for you, and enjoy a steaming hot cup of cocoa with your feet up in front of the fire place? THAT’S the magical feeling that came over me that night at Jiko. I will never forget it.

From Mom Amber V.

My favorite Disney dining memory was during my daughter’s first trip. We had breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table, and she was wide eyed and in awe. She was dressed up in her own Cinderella gown and so proud to have her very own wand and wishing star. The pictures we have of her sitting in the castle during that meal are some of the best of our vacation. While the food was good – we have certainly had better meals at Disney, but it was the experience and atmosphere that makes it such a fond memory for me. When we got home, eating in the castle was the thing that stood out most for our daughter from her first trip and for that reason I will always consider it an absolutely magical meal.

From Mom Joanne M.

My then six year-old daughter, Nicole, and I were having our first breakfast at 1900 Park Fare in the beautiful Grand Floridian Resort. The food was delicious, and Alice and the Mad Hatter laughed, danced and joked with Nicole. When Pooh Bear came by, she was struggling to drink her milk. Well, maybe it was actually me who was struggling to get her to drink her milk. Well Pooh stayed with her until she drank every drop, which took at least five minutes. You could see the handlers were eager for Pooh to move on, but he wouldn’t move. It has since become one her favourite character dining experiences that we visit each vacation!

From Mom Heather R.

This is a really hard question to answer, as I’ve been WOWed by Disney dining too many times to count. One such occasion was last summer, when we were visiting with my sister and her family. We elected to have dinner at the Cape May clambake on the evening of my birthday, and as usual it was a delicious meal for a seafood lover such as myself. What really kicked it up a notch were the special arrangements my sister had made with the restaurant to pixie dust my evening. A lovely (and quite large) tray of specialty desserts was brought to the table, complete with personalization and a very pixie-dusted special delivery. (I can’t imagine what the accompanying price tag for her might have been – ouch!) I definitely felt like a princess.

From Mom Whitney P.

Hoop Dee Doo Revue with our extended family of 19: Have you ever spent a lot of money on a meal or a concert and afterward thought to yourself, ‘Boy, it wasn’t worth it.’ ? Well, I’ve never had that thought when looking back fondly on this meal. My husband’s boss recommended we go there and hopes were high. I had encouraged the entire family to spend two of their dining plan credits (and therefore, skipping a meal elsewhere in the week), so the pressure was on. We had the latest 9:15 p.m. seating, and our lot was hungry. But the night went off without a hitch. From the cheerful servers to the finger-licking fare, our meal was a delight. And the show, filled with lots of chuckles, didn’t disappoint. Thankfully during the entertainment, I sat for a moment and just looked at everyone at our two adjoining tables, and savored the moment. All the family–from my then-two-year-old on up to the grandparents–all had smiles on their faces, enjoying themselves. It’s like a mental snapshot for me to look back on happily. The cherry on top is hearing my brother- and sister-in-laws still talk about it and wanting to plan our next reunion trip.

Also, one thing you may not know about me and my family is that we often camp when we go to Disney, and we look fondly at Fort Wilderness as our home away from home…. Some folks don’t like to cook when they are on vacation, me included, but cooking takes on a new meaning when we camp at Disney: My husband takes the kitchen reigns, and I become his sous chef. Last October, we camped at the fort and found that two families of friends would be at Disney the same week. We invited them for dinner at the camper and then afterward to Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire singalong. Taco Soup with all the trimmings was served one night and grilled brats the next, followed by our dessert specialty, fried oreos. What made both nights memorable was our introduction of both families to a slower pace at Disney, unknown to many, where you can retreat to the fort while being just a few hundred yards from seeing the Magic Kingdom fireworks!

Celebrations at Coral Reef Restaurant in Epot

Celebrations at Coral Reef Restaurant in Epot

From Mom Jo Y.

Unfortunately they don’t do it anymore but a few years ago my husband and I were celebrating our anniversary whilst in WDW. We dined at Coral Reef and I surprised him by organising a diver to hold up a banner in the tank wishing us a Happy Anniversary. The diver was fantastic picking up shells and throwing them in the air like confetti and spending time “chatting” with us through the glass, very magical!

From Mom Erin F.

Ours is the iconic family story; it has nothing to do with the food, but instead with the restaurant experience: When oldest daughter was six, we were eating at the Biergarten. She and my husband were fake dancing over by the band, and the MC asked if anyone wanted to lead the band. My daughter sticks her little paw in the air and was chosen out of the group. After a quick chat with the MC, she starts to lead the band and suddenly launches into this whole comedy routine! She was an outgoing kid, but this was our first indication that this was a kid who was a performer! It was a mirror into her soul. People were applauding and laughing, and it was the magical moment of us first seeing who our kid could be. It was a great experience for our family.

From Mom Kay B.

The answer to this is, hands down, Victoria and Albert’s Chef’s Table. It is an unbelievable experience to be able to sit in the KITCHEN of this great restaurant and not only watch the food being prepared, but also have the chance to talk with all the chefs. It is a small kitchen and to see the group back there working together to make incredible meals is a show in itself. The table setting is beautiful and the service can’t be matched. You experience about 8 courses, during which they serve you their chef choice. If there is a large group, several different choices are served so you can try them all. You can match this with wine servings making this a complete evening. In the past, Mickey and Minnie showed up to say hello, but since they are now at the Contemporary resort you don’t get this treat. You will be given a beautiful red rose when you leave.

I know this is not within everyone’s budget so I’ll also share my son’s and daughter’s thoughts (editor’s note: Kay is the self-professed “grandmom” on the moms panel, and her kids are all grown up now):

Amy says she will never forget her Food and Wine dinner at Citricos during a hurricane watching the wind and rain while eating some of the best food ever! Her second most magical experience was renting out Beaches and Cream at midnight during her wedding week and sharing their “kitchen sinks” with all her wedding party
friends and family.

Rick says his most magical Disney dining memory was enjoying a dinner at California Grill that started with fresh sushi, moving on to the barbecue filet mignon, and finishing with their peanut butter and chocolate souffle (which they don’t have anymore) while watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks in the background!

From Dad Doug I.

A few days after proposing to my wife (then girlfriend, of course!), we had our first experience dining at the California Grill. Everything combined for a perfect meal. We were given a window seat without asking, overlooking the Magic Kingdom, at twilight. The restaurant was only about 1/4 filled, so it was quiet and we could talk. Well timed, as we were basically planning out our lives together.

Our waiter was a sommelier, and he coached us through a series of wines to match each stage of the meal. He knew when to swing by and recommend something, and when to disappear into the woodwork. The sushi was phenomenal. The pork with polenta was better. We ended our meal with a final glass of wine, catching the fireworks from the outdoor viewing area.

It is, and always will be, our favorite restaurant in the entire world.

From Mom Jodi G.

My most magical Disney dining experience was our first meal as a family at Walt Disney World – breakfast at Akershus. My daughter, then 2, was so wide-eyed and excited. It was so much fun!

Being Serenaded at Whispering Canyon Cafe

Being Serenaded at Whispering Canyon Cafe

From Mom Beth C.

I think my most magical Disney dining moment occurred at Whispering Canyon Cafe. I was at Disney World with my family for a trip to watch my daughter Nicole dance in the Magic Kingdom. Besides my immediate family, my parents, mother-in-law, nephew and close friends, whose daughter Brigid happens to be Nicole’s best friend and fellow dancer, had dinner here. Since there were three birthdays in our party, we chose it to be the place to celebrate. The waiter called over all the boys and girls in the restaurant to help Brigid’s siblings, Patrick and Emily, celebrate their birthdays. All the girls lined up in front of Patrick, and all the boys lined up in front of Emily. After we sung “Happy Birthday”, the waiter then instructed the girls to kiss Patrick and the boys to kiss Emily. Well I do not know who was more surprised, the birthday kids or the other children dining that night. I never saw kids move so fast back to their tables and everyone had a great time. Of course, we asked for ketchup, spoons and more soda. But I will save those surprises for your own trip!

From Mom Kim L.

The first Disney restaurant that we ever took my son to was Chef Mickey’s when he was two years old. It was magical to see his eyes light up when Goofy walked by. Goofy was the first character he saw. It’s also where he first met Mickey. Our son danced, waved his napkin and greeted all the characters with a smile. We shared this meal with my son’s grandparents which made for a special family dinner. To this day, when I recall those moments, my heart soars. It is unexplainable because it was pure magic.

From Mom Margaret F.

My husband, sons and I have been enjoying Disney World for many years, but my grandmother has never been. We decided to take her a few years ago for her birthday. The boys selected Crystal Palace as the perfect place to celebrate. We ordered a cake and had asked the hostess if there was anyway we could celebrate with a special touch. Imagine her surprise as Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet showed up at her table with a birthday card and cake. Our wonderful server had the whole section sing Happy Birthday to her and Pooh took her hand and led her around in a “mini birthday parade.” The boys were so excited to see their great grandmother having such a great “birthday party.” The added touches the restaurant put on her birthday made it so magical and it brought tears to my eyes to see her able to share that special day with her great grandsons in our favorite place. She still talks about her special birthday years later.

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

Recipe: Crystal Palace “Pooh’s Breakfast Lasagna”

Pooh's Breakfast Lasagna (photo copyright DisneyFoodBlog)

Pooh's Breakfast Lasagna (photo copyright DisneyFoodBlog)

This breakfast lasagna has made a stir ever since it was first included in the Crystal Palace character breakfast. It’s a multi-layered miracle, and quite difficult to accomplish from what I’ve heard! Several folks suggest making the recipe in stages… . I know there are a lot of incredibly talented chefs and bakers out there — I’d love to hear how this recipe turns out for you!

Recipe credit goes to:Dr. House at RecipeZaar.com. Check out the actual recipe link, as he’s made some good notes, and others have made some really helpful comments.

INGREDIENTS

Pastry cream

* 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
* 6 egg yolks
* 1 1/2 cups milk
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 3/4 cup sugar

Pancakes

* 1 1/2 cups sifted flour
* 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 egg, well beaten
* 1 1/4 cups milk
* 3 tablespoons shortening or salad oil

Waffles

* 1 1/2 cups sifted flour
* 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 egg, well beaten
* 1 1/4 cups milk
* 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 3 tablespoons shortening or salad oil

Pound Cake

* 3 cups cake flour
* 6 large eggs
* 1 lb butter
* 1 lb sugar
* 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup milk

Custard

* 6 large eggs
* 1 1/2 pints heavy cream
* 1 pint half-and-half
* 1 ounce brandy
* 1/4 ounce nutmeg
* 1/2 ounce cinnamon
* 1 1/2 cups sugar

Additional Ingredients to Assemble

* 1 cup frozen raspberries
* 1 cup frozen blueberries
* 3 bananas
* 1 tablespoon butter

Baking and Garnishing

* 1 banana
* 1/4 cup brown sugar
* 1/2 pint your favorite fresh berries

DIRECTIONS

1. Make the Pastry Cream first.
a. In a 2 quart saucepan, combine sugar, flour, salt and milk and whisk; over medium heat, cook while stirring until mixture thickens.

b. In a small bowl with a fork, beat egg yolks slightly, beat small amount of milk mixture into yolks.

c. Slowly pour egg mixture back into milk mixture.

d. Stirring constantly, cook over medium low heat until mixture thickens.

e. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Chill cream until ready to use.

2. While cream is chilling, make pancakes, waffles and pound cake:
Pancakes: (note the 3 TB. shortening should be melted and slightly cooled)
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Mix egg, milk and shortening. Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and stir only enough to moisten. Do not beat or the pancakes will be tough. Bake on a hot griddle, lightly greased if necessary. Turn pancakes only once.

Waffles:
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Mix egg, milk, vanilla and shortening. Pour milk mixture into dry ingredients and stir only enough to moisten. Do not beat or the waffles will be tough. Bake in waffle iron following waffle iron instructions.

Pound Cake:
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Stir in sugar, using a large spoon. Add room temperature butter. Add eggs. Using a mixer on low speed, slowly add the milk, and then the vanilla extract. After thoroughly stirred, turn mixer to medium for a few minutes, then to high. Mix thoroughly. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a standard tube pan with butter, then lightly flour it, shaking the excess from the pan. Pour in the mix and bake the cake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Check the doneness of the cake with a toothpick. Allow cake to cool for 15-20 minutes in the pan, then crumble the cake into small crumbs with your hands.

3. Custard:.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until fully incorporated. Chill until ready to use. Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

Assembly:

Put a layer of waffles in a buttered casserole dish. Sprinkle a quarter of the pound cake over the waffles. Peel and slice the bananas. Layer with half of each of the following: the cut bananas, frozen raspberries, and frozen blueberries. Sprinkle half of the remaining pound cake over the fruit, then top with the rest of the fruit. Top the fruit with a layer of pancakes, the sprinkle the rest of the pound cake on top. Press down on the layers to pack firmly. Slowly add the 1 1/2 quarts custard mixture until the entire dish is saturated.

Baking and Garnishing:
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 60 minutes. (Oven thermometer placed in center of dish should register 165 degrees.) Top the lasagna with a layer of 2 1/2 cups pastry cream. Slice the banana and layer on top of cream. Sprinkle sugar on top and place casserole under the broiler until browned. Garnish with fresh fruit and serve.

Crystal Palace: A Great Reason To Get Up Early

Early Morning on Main Street

Early Morning on Main Street

The Early-Morning Advance Dining Reservation (ADR)
One of the well-known tips among Disney enthusiasts is that you should always try to book a dining reservation for breakfast in a theme park before it opens. Why? Because this means you get in before the general masses. You get the golden opportunity to wander through a practically empty Disney park. It’s magic at its finest. (Plus, if you eat quickly enough, you can make it over to the Adventureland rope and be first in line for Splash Mountain…but I didn’t tell you that.)

Empty Tomorrowland

Empty Tomorrowland

One of my favorite restaurants at which to snatch up one of these break-of-dawn reservations is Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom Theme park of Disney World. This is a character breakfast, so you get to share your noms with Pooh and the gang (usually Tigger, Eeyore, and Piglet); it’s a buffet, so you pretty much dictate how long your breakfast lasts; and it’s HUGE, so you have a great chance of getting those elusive 8:05 AM time slots.

Nearly Empty Main Street

Nearly Empty Main Street

So with all that going for it, you’ve got to give it a try! And I didn’t even mention that many guests deem Crystal Palace eats to be some of the best buffet food at Disney, scout’s honor.

...And the Castle

...And the Castle

Getting Into the Park for Your Reservation
While it may seem like a red tape nightmare to get into the park an hour early, it’s usually pretty streamlined. Bring your dining reservation confirmation number with you to the park and show up about 20 minutes before your scheduled time. You’ll simply enter through the turnstyles marked for the Breakfast crowd (usually all the way to the right, but this can change); a Cast Member might check off your name and confirmation number, and then you’re free to explore Main Street in all its empty glory. This is why I suggest arriving 20 minutes early; you get to take all of those fascinating photos. Don’t forget to make your reservation for a day without extra magic hours in the morning!

By the way, if you’re staying at a Disney resort and taking the bus to the Magic Kingdom, a “breakfast bus” usually begins running at least 30 minutes before the first reservation in any park. The monorail also starts running far enough in advance as well.

Time for Breakfast!

Time for Breakfast!

Checking In for Your Reservation
The Crystal Palace can be found between Main Street USA and Adventureland — it’s the huge, glass domed building to the left of the walkway. Simply head up the steps (past the throngs of people, most likely — the Magic Kingdom may seem empty, but almost everyone who IS in the park is at the same restaurant) and jump into line to check in for your reservation.

magickingdom1-093

Once your party is called, you’ll head into the beautiful Crystal Palace restaurant and be greeted by…

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers...

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers...

…some very familiar friends! Not to mention an absolutely stunning, light-filled atrium made entirely of clear and stained glass. For all of Disney’s signature dining restaurants designed by award-winning interior artists, I find Crystal Palace’s atrium to be one of the most gorgeous design aspects on property.

The Beautiful Central Atrium

The Beautiful Central Atrium

A Buffet With Character!
Once you’re seated in one of the two side rooms (these are beautiful, too — paneled with mirrors and filled with plants) you’re free to head up to the buffet.

There are two sides to the buffet, and these are mirror images of one another. The two sides culminate at the customize-your-own-omelet station in the center of the semi-circular buffet.

The Buffet

The Buffet

Hot Items are Identical on Both Sides of the Buffet

Hot Items are Identical on Both Sides of the Buffet

The Buffet

The Buffet

On the far ends of the buffet lines are cold items: yogurts, granola and other toppings, fruit, salmon, breads, etc. In the center you’ll find hot items: breakfast pizzas, breakfast meats, waffles, the famous puffed french toast, breakfast potatoes, and omelets.

Cereals

Cereals

In the middle of the room you’ll find muffins, cereals, and Pooh’s famous breakfast lasagne.

Pooh's Breakfast Lasagne

Pooh's Breakfast Lasagne

Baked Items

Baked Items

The food is fairly similar to most of the other Disney breakfast buffets, which is actually quite good. Here are a few more close-up foods of some of our favorites. That Mickey Waffle might look familiar to some of you! It’s my avatar on Twitter!

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza

Mickey Waffles

Mickey Waffles

Puffed French Toast

Puffed French Toast

Pooh and Friends
Once you have your food, it might be time for the first Character Parade! Hopefully you haven’t forgotten that some of your favorite friends are here, and they can’t wait to have a great time with you (and/or your kids…they’re good to go either way).

Piglet Leading the Parade!

Piglet Leading the Parade!

While Character teams (Pooh and Piglet, and Tigger and Eeyore) take turns visiting tables on either side of the restaurant, some sort of Character Parade or Celebration occurs when it’s time for the teams to switch restaurant sides. This is when you should encourage your little ones to go find a character and follow along. Cast Members will be there to help move the parades forward.

There’s usually much singing and music; napkin “twirling” is a common activity during these functions. All in all, it’s a good time!

Eeyore Being Shy During the Parade

Eeyore Being Shy During the Parade

And then it’s back to signing autographs, taking photos, and making people smile for the characters (and back to eating for you!).

Tigger Signing Autographs...Sort Of...

Tigger Signing Autographs...Sort Of...

And then, if you’re lucky, you pay the bill when the park is just about to open. I couldn’t resist posting this photo of a family following Alice (in Wonderland) as she hurried to “unlock” Fantasyland and her TeaCups ride right at opening time!

Alice is Very, Very Late in Opening the TeaCups Ride!

Alice is Very, Very Late in Opening the TeaCups Ride!

So you can see why Crystal Palace is one of my favorites for breakfast, but don’t forget that you can dine here for lunch and dinner as well! Both of those meals are buffets as well, and offer great food (in my opinion).

Enjoy!