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

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

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

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

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

Menus

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

Atmosphere

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

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

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

Wine, Anyone?

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

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

Entrance and Bank of Wine Fridges

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

Bar

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

Seating Area is Ready for Guests

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

Guest Review: Contempo Cafe

Welcome Bill Iadonisi with a review of the Contempo Cafe at the Contemporary Resort. Bill shows us all the modern features of this convenient, quick-service location. Take it away, Bill!

Disney’s Contempo Cafe, located on the former site of the Concourse Steakhouse at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, has been open since November 15, 2008.

Atmosphere

Although I really enjoyed the Steakhouse, this new Café is a wonderful replacement. In fact it makes more sense to have a table-service eatery (Chef Mickey’s) and a quick-service right next to each other. The Grand Canyon Concourse is always bustling with foot traffic, and since the Monorail station is right above, it’s a perfect place for guests to grab a quick bite or beverage before hitting the parks!

Contempo Cafe Entrance

View of Cafe

The atmosphere here is little changed from the Concourse Steakhouse. The classic tile mural by [Read more…]

Snack Series: Contempo Cafe’s Black Forest Cupcake

A couple of months ago I got an email from a reader — Callie Shrekengost — urging me to try the Black Forest Cupcake at Contemporary Resort’s Contempo Cafe in Disney World. I’d seen the cupcake before, but hadn’t ever had the stomach space at the time to try it; so I was grateful to get her reminder and put it on my To-Do list for the October trip!

Black Forest Cupcake at Contempo Cafe

So, here we have a chocolate cupcake topped with swirls of vanilla buttercream frosting. The thing is simply massive — ginormous — and could easily be shared! On the very tippy top of the cupcake is a [Read more…]

Restaurant Review: The Wave

I posted a brief mention of the Contemporary Resort’s newest restaurant a few weeks ago, but I wanted to get a full review up of the The Wave as soon as possible. It’s one of Disney World’s most recent additions, and it’s getting pretty good marks from what I’ve seen.

Contemporary Resort's The Wave Restaurant

Contemporary Resort's The Wave Restaurant

Atmosphere
The Wave is located on the Contemporary Resort‘s lobby level. (It’s tucked back into the space that used to house the Food and Fun center.) You’ll enter the restaurant through an archway and a tubular hallway — reminds me of the old Journey Into Imagination rainbow walkway after the ride — through blue and bubbles and other [Read more…]

Wine with a Twist at The Wave

When I learned last year that the Contemporary Resort’s new restaurant, The Wave, opened with one of the only (if not the only) wine programs in the country offering all screw-top wines, I couldn’t wait to explore.

The Wave

The Bar at Disney's The Wave Restaurant

The Bar at Disney's The Wave Restaurant

Choosing The Wine for The Wave
The choice to make the screw-top wine list was instituted in part as way to avoid “cork taint,” which is a chemical compound called TCA. With it, mold, chlorine, and other organic compounds can combine to produce a musty smell and flavor to the wine, which has been a particular problem with corked wines. (One interesting twist is that, while The Wave promotes a menu and spirit based on sustainable and environmentally-friendly dining, the screw-cap might not be the best environmental choice.)

Wines at the Wave

Wines at the Wave

A second twist to the wine list is that it is focused on wines from the Southern Hemisphere — bottles from Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, etc. This creates a fun contradiction to the Northern Hemisphere-focused wine list of the California Grill upstairs in the Contemporary Resort.

The Wave Wine Cellar

The Wave Wine Cellar

Another Wave Wine Fact: Keeping It Fresh
So you can bet that, as soon as I took a seat at the bar, I started asking questions! I even got a demonstration as the answer to one of my questions: How do they keep all of those wines fresh when they’re serving by the glass?

The bartender was willing to share the secret with me: vacuum-sealing! While this isn’t a new technology to keep wines fresh, it was new to me, and I was duly impressed.

Wave Wine Stoppers

Wave Wine Stoppers

Simply put in this little rubber cork, then suck out the air with the vacuum pump. Brilliant. The best part is, you can snag a wine vacuum sealer for yourself from shops like sharper image.

Vacuum Sealing Wine at the Wave

Vacuum Sealing Wine at the Wave

Relaxing at The Wave
I’ll be putting up my full review of The Wave soon, but I highly recommend heading over to the restaurant’s lounge and sampling some Southern Hemisphere favorites that you haven’t tried before. The cool, comfortable atmosphere and knowledgeable cast members make it a fun spot to unwind after a long day in the parks.

FYI, if you need a suggestion, John Blazon, master sommelier and manager of wine sales and standards for Disney, has said that the Veramonte Reserva Chardonnay from Casablanca Valley, Chile, is a top seller.