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…]