Review: Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast Dinner at Garden Grill in Epcot

Today, we’re sharing with you our latest visit to Garden Grill Restaurant for Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast Dinner!

Garden Grill is basically one of my favorite character meals. First, it’s a character meal with really great interaction. And while Chip ‘n’ Dale are the headliners, here, you also get to hang out with Farmer Mickey and Pluto!

But beyond the characters, we enjoy the unique ambiance that Garden Grill offers. If you’ve never visited the restaurant, wait ’til you see what it does! Yes — DOES!

We’ve also had some pretty fantastic meals here. Breakfast is virtually a tradition for my family.

But today, we’re visiting in the evening. We’ve enjoyed past dinners here. Let’s see if the trend continues.

Atmosphere

Looking for Garden Grill Restaurant? Hang a right after Spaceship Earth and head toward The Land Pavilion in Future World West.

The Land Pavilion

The Land Pavilion

Walkways line the perimeter walls inside the building and lead you down to the pavilion’s three levels, which host The Circle of Life film on the right, and Living with the Land, Soarin’, and Sunshine Seasons (one of our favorite counter service spots) on the bottom. There’s also an elevator if you’d prefer it to walking.

The Land Ceiling

The Land Ceiling

You’ll find the Garden Grill directly across from the entrance.

Garden Grill Sign

Garden Grill Sign

And here’s where we talk about what Garden Grill does: it rotates. In fact, it’s the only restaurant in Orlando — and only one of a handful in the world — that spins.

Now, just in case the thought of a rotating restaurant doesn’t sound all that appetizing, we promise you that Garden Grill spins at a snail’s pace. We aren’t talking spinning teacups here.

Garden Grill Wide View

Garden Grill Wide View

Why does it spin? Well, there’s more than one way to check out the attractions within Living with the Land! As the restaurant rotates, guests are treated to scenes from the ride. This mural acts as sort of a gateway.

Garden Grill Mural

Garden Grill Mural

You’ll visit a farmhouse — or see it from above, anyway. I think this scene is particularly fun, because you get to look inside one of the windows from this vantage point!

Farmhouse Scene in Living with the Land

Farmhouse Scene in Living with the Land

You’ll also see extremes in landscapes. As you view a rainforest scene, and watch it morph into a desert scene as you travel.

Rainforest

Rainforest

Transition from Rainforest to Desert

Transition from Rainforest to Desert

Living with the Land as seen from Garden Grill

The Desert

Your vehicle for sightseeing is your table, of course.

Tables are arranged in a sort of stadium seating pattern on two levels around the restaurant. Top tier tables are your garden variety rectangular tables, like you see here.

Table and Seating

Table and Seating

On the lower level, semi-circular booths face out, giving you the best view of the scenes you pass.

Garden Grill booth

Garden Grill booth

Larger Booth -- Family Side

Larger Booth — Family Side

And did you notice? Mickey makes an appearance before your meal ever starts! :-D

Mickey Table Setting :)

Mickey Table Setting :)

And that brings me to Reason Number Two that you might want to visit Garden Grill: the characters. Let’s check ‘em out.

Characters

One of my top reasons for visiting Garden Grill is the character interaction. In fact, it’s one of my Top Two Favorite Character Meals in Walt Disney World! Of course, I love when I can see Mickey during a character meet and greet. And here, he’s dressed in his farmer finest.

Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse

Mickey is joined by his faithful pup sidekick, Pluto.

Pluto

Pluto

But this is, after all, Chip ‘n’ Dale’s gig. So you’re sure to see the playful pair as you enjoy your dinner.

Chip

Chip

Sad Dale

Sad Dale

And that’s one of the coolest things about Garden Grill — it’s not just the stellar character interaction, but the amount of interaction you get. The restaurant is fairly small in size, so that means you normally have the chance to visit with characters more than once during your meal.

Eats

So we’ve talked about the fact that Garden Grill rotates, thus making it something kinda special. And, of course, any day that you can share your meal with Chip ‘n’ Dale and Friends is gonna be a good one.

But how about the food? Well, the good news is — that’s pretty great, too.

Garden Grill serves its meals family style, meaning that shareable platters are brought to the table, and you can ask for more of anything you like. That also means that everyone dining has the choice of a non-alcoholic beverage as part of the prix fixe price of his or her meal. But if you’d like, you can also order from a list of special drinks, including cocktails, mocktails, beer, and wine.

Special Drinks Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Special Drinks Menu — Click to Enlarge

Wine Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Wine Menu — Click to Enlarge

You don’t really choose what you’re getting at Garden Grill (unless you have special dietary needs; talk to your server in that case). The offerings are pretty much standard. You’ll start with warm Dinner Rolls, served with a side of Whipped Butter.

Rolls with Whipped Butter

Rolls with Whipped Butter

Next comes the Harvest-Inspired Farmer’s Salad. During our visit, the salad included greens, hard boiled egg, radishes, and grape tomatoes. It’s lightly dressed with a creamy dressing.

Harvest-Inspired Farmer's Salad

Harvest-Inspired Farmer’s Salad

The main course is the combination platter with sliced Homestyle Pot Roast, sliced Turkey Breast, and Italian Sausage served with sautéed Peppers and Onions. Sides on the platter include Mashed Potatoes and Bacon and Leek Stuffing.

The Italian Sausage is new, having replaced the previously served Sustainable Fish of the Day.

Platter of Meats, Mashed Potatoes, Dressing, and Gravy

Platter of Meats, Mashed Potatoes, Dressing, and Gravy

But that’s not all. You get additional veggie sides, like Green Beans and Sweet Potatoes, plus Macaroni and Cheese.

Platter of Sides -- Mac & Cheese, Green Beans, and Sweet Potato Fries

Platter of Sides — Mac & Cheese, Green Beans, and Sweet Potato Fries

For dessert, it’s a shareable Short Cake topped with Fruit Compote and Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream.

Short Cake

Short Cake

Some folks may call this a cobbler. Whatever name you give it, the rich cake and super saucy berry topping is a winner with everyone at the table.

Nosh or Not?

You’ll enjoy Garden Grill if:

  • You’re looking for a great character meal that combines great food, MICKEY, and more fun aspects
  • You have a nostalgic affinity for Epcot (Living with the Land!!!)
  • You’re touring Epcot with small children. The rest of the table service restaurants in Epcot can be ho hum for little kids.

You may want to skip Garden Grill if:

  • You’ve got a busy touring day and would rather stick to counter service
  • You’re in an adults-only party and nobody much cares about characters

Overall

After lots of visits, I still love Garden Grill Restaurant.

I think I’ve laid out a pretty convincing argument. When you visit Garden Grill, you’re getting a three-way combo of unique environment, great characters, and excellent (and plentiful) food. And when it comes to characters and kids, I personally lean toward a character meal where the food comes to you, because it’s so much easier to juggle kids, characters, and food when you don’t have to worry about visiting a buffet.

But even beyond the convenience of Garden Grill, the characters, and the novelty of the place, I think this place just offers really great food. It may be kind of standard fare, but it’s thoughtfully prepared. And when you’re paying Disney prices, it’s great when you can enjoy a character meal as much for the food as for everything else.

If you haven’t tried it before, book an advance dining reservation for Garden Grill Restaurant. I think you’ll be pleased.

Read Our Review of Garden Grill’s Breakfast Options Here!

Now, I’d love to hear from you! Is Garden Grill Restaurant one of your favorites? Let us know in comments!

Disneyland Must-Eats: Fried Chicken at the Plaza Inn

I’m not sure how to emphasize how good the Plaza Inn‘s Fried Chicken is. Let me just say this: it is the best fried chicken I have ever eaten. (Yes, that includes Homecomin’, which is incredibly tasty as well.)

Fact: Plaza Inn’s Fried Chicken — literally — is the best.

Plaza Inn Sign

Plaza Inn Sign

Plaza Inn is located on Disneyland’s Main Street, U.S.A., and its exterior is quintessentially Disney. So many great details on the awning and posts, not to mention the swirls of wrought iron on the sign. [Read more…]

Review: Dinner at Homecomin’ in Disney Springs

We’re back at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen for another visit today!

So…I’m noticing we’ve been there kind of a lot. It’s turning into my go-to restaurant — the place that pops to mind if I have a meeting, or a date night, or just get kind of hungry. And, you know…that’s saying something.

From the surroundings, to the service, to the food (and drinks!), this place is…pretty great.  They offer fantastic cocktails and a decent counter service menu; and their table service options are some of the best in Walt Disney World.

I was recently in Disney Springs on a family trip, and decided that my traveling companions needed to check out this place for themselves. Wanna come along? I thought you might. :-)

Atmosphere

And oh, hey, it’s Homecomin’ now, y’all. Not Homecoming. To drive home that down-home, rural Florida feeling, Chef Art Smith officially decided to drop the “g”. Just FYI.

Outside View

Outside View

We’ve shown you around a couple of times, so I’ll just give you the highlights during this visit. For a full look at the space, inside and out, be sure to check out our very first review of Homecomin’ that shares our first impressions from our first two visits. [Read more…]

Review: Jalapeno Poppers and Sides at ABC Commissary in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Today, we’re in search of a few supporting actor dishes at ABC Commissary in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

This spot is pretty easy to overlook if you’re just wandering through DHS. It’s located along a walkway that appears to house buildings for the studio backlot.

In other words, it looks like a bunch of offices and a cafeteria. Except it’s not. But it kinda is, since it was themed after…a bunch of offices and a cafeteria. ;-) And besides, with not much of a backlot left these days, this area really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense anymore.

While I’ve never been all that excited about the food here, you can find some solid choices for lunch and dinner. Also, it’s worth noting that, while lunch is your garden variety Disney counter service concept, dinner switches over to a fast casual service model.

That means for the midday meal, you order your food and collect it at the kitchen counter. But for dinner, you order, take a pager, find a seat, and your meal finds you.

It’s dinner that we’re taking a closer look at today, as we explore some of your options for sides and appetizers — and Disney Dining Plan snack credits! — when you dine at ABC Commissary for Dinner. Let’s take a look.

Dinner Appetizers and Sides

While the lunch menu at ABC Commissary offers fairly straight forward fast food (think burgers, sandwiches, nuggets, and salads), dinner is a slightly more refined experience — at least in terms of some of the menu offerings.

Ordering stations at ABC Commissary

Ordering stations at ABC Commissary

There is some overlap. You’ll find the barbecued chicken and ribs combo platter on both the lunch and dinner menu as well as the Mediterranean salad. But dishes like the Chimichurri sirloin steak and the seared lemon pepper salmon are solely the domain of the evening meal. And it’s a few of the sides that are offered with these dishes that we want to explore.

Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Menu — Click to Enlarge

We also noticed on our most recent visit that the spot is offering a few appetizers. [Read more…]

Review: Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Florida Kitchen at Disney Springs

We’re back at Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Florida Kitchen for another visit today!

You might be scratching your head and wondering, “But AJ, you guys were just there a little bit ago. Why a return so soon?” Well, lots of reasons, actually. But the primary one is this: Once is never enough when it comes to reviewing Disney restaurants. Restaurants in the ‘World are notoriously inconsistent, and while Homecoming impressed us initially, I always like to duck into a new spot after it’s been open for a bit, just to see if the shine and sheen are still around. In fact, we review spots over and over, so we can always make the best recommendations for our readers.

In addition, dear friends of mine invited me to tag along for a catch up session, and Homecoming was the agreed upon choice for dinner. And like I’m gonna say no to Fried Chicken? Not likely.

Besides, there’s plenty to cover on this menu, and a follow up visit gave me a chance to show you a few new things.

Let’s check out how Homecoming is doing, a few months along in the journey.

Atmosphere

The premise of Homecoming Florida Kitchen (HFK) is pretty cool, actually. Chef Art Smith is a native Floridian, who even spent some of the early years of his career as a Cast Member at Disney. So it’s befitting that the restaurant’s name is Homecoming, as he returns to his home state.

Sign

Sign

The restaurant is a celebration of Old-Meets-New Florida in so many ways. The architecture echoes Florida Vernacular style, with lots of windows to let the light in, and deep overhangs from the hip roof to keep the heat out. [Read more…]

News: ABC Commissary Offers New ‘Fast Casual’ Dining and Dinner Menu

ABC Commissary at Disney’s Hollywood Studios hasn’t often wowed us in the past. But that may be changing.

The dining spot has previously been strictly counter service in the classic Disney sense of the word. (Check out a recent review here.) You know the set up — order your food from the overhead menu boards, and then step forward with your receipt to collect your tray of drinks and food.

These days, however, ABC Commissary is trying a slightly different approach.

Billing the spot as “fast casual” for the dinner hour, the restaurant takes the same tack as one of our favorites, Wolfgang Puck Express in Disney Springs. The concept is pretty simple: order your food from a cast member and receive a pager. But unlike spots that expect you to come collect your food when the pager goes, off, your food will find you.

Ordering stations

Ordering stations

Guests choose a seat once they’ve ordered their food, and cast members will deliver the food and drinks to their table. Cast members are also available for other needs during your meal. Flag them down for condiments or anything else you might need. [Read more…]

Best Restaurants for Thanksgiving and Christmas in Walt Disney World

Will you be celebrating Thanksgiving or Christmas in Walt Disney World?

mickey-christmas-holiday-santa-krispy-treat-2016-1

Lucky you! What a fun way to spend the holiday season — with so much to be thankful for in such a cool place!

As you can imagine, the crowds tend to swell at Disney during holiday weeks like Thanksgiving and Christmas as lots of Disney fans choose to celebrate their holiday there. And Disney answers the call with tons of Thanksgiving spirit throughout many of their restaurants.

Whether you’re looking for a traditional meal, a gourmet twist on familiar favorites, or something that’s a complete departure from established customs, you’ll find lots of options for celebrating these special food days. Let’s check out a few of our favorites.

The Traditional: Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom

We all know it’s true. When you’re craving Thanksgiving dinner at Disney, there’s one spot you can always count on to deliver: Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square.

Liberty Tree Tavern Entrance

Liberty Tree Tavern Entrance

And we’re not just talking about on Thanksgiving Day, or merely around Thanksgiving. You’ll find the traditional feast on the lunch and dinner menu, every day of the year. [Read more…]

Review: Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe at Magic Kingdom

We are heading to one of Walt Disney World’s busiest park counter service locations to see what’s new for lunch — Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe.

Located on the edge of Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland near where it transitions to Fantasyland (it’s just to the right of the castle), Cosmic Ray’s is an excellent bet for finding something to please everyone, especially if your party includes members who are less adventurous in their tastes.

But if you do like more interesting fare, don’t be afraid of this intergalactic hotspot! In addition to tried and true favorites like Chicken Nuggets and Bacon Cheeseburgers, you’ll usually find some outta this world (see what I did there?) options as well.

Besides, Cosmic Ray’s is home to one of Disney’s legendary toppings bars. And you KNOW how much I love a good toppings bar.

Wanna see what I’m talking about? Let’s head in.

Atmosphere

Much like the rest of Tomorrowland, Cosmic Ray’s is at once retro and futuristic — although the retro vibe is more 1980s than anything. Purple, teal, and silver will send you searching for your Swatch Watch.

Cosmic Ray's Sign

Cosmic Ray’s Sign

We’ll get to the ordering set up in just a sec, but first, let’s check out the seating. There’s a reason I want you to see this area first — one of the galaxy’s most famous acts takes center stage while you enjoy your meal. [Read more…]

Review: The BEST (and Some Not So Great) Burgers at Disney Springs’ D-Luxe Burger

Today, we’re heading back to Disney Springs for a lunch break at D-Luxe Burger!

With so many options newly opened at Disney Springs, sometimes it can be hard to make a decision. But we LOVE LOVE LOVED D-Luxe for their delicious Burgers, Hand-Cut Fries, interesting array of Dipping Sauces, and Gelato Shakes from our very first visit opening day.

Pricey? Yes, a bit. But we thought the uptick in quality made it WAY worth the pricetag.

The quick service spot has been open for a few months now, and you might not be surprised to know we’ve been back a few more times ;-)

Join us as we share photos and impressions of our follow up visits!

Atmosphere

If you’re looking for D-Luxe, you’ll find it centrally located in Town Center, Disney Springs’ newest neighborhood. Park in the Orange or Lime Garage; the walk is about the same distance from both.

D-Luxe and That Gorgeous Florida Sky

D-Luxe and That Gorgeous Florida Sky

As you’re looking at Guest Services in the heart of Town Center, D-Luxe is just to the left.

D-Luxe Burger

D-Luxe Burger

Step inside and you’ll see rustic finishes and lots of “evidence” to support D-Luxe’s backstory as the former site of a Florida cattle ranch. You can read more details and see a full tour here. [Read more…]

Review: New Menu at Liberty Tree Tavern at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom

Editor’s Note: The Patriot’s Platter is now available as a lunch, all-you-care-to-enjoy option. Also, the Platter now includes Turkey Breast, Sliced Prime Rib, and Carved Pork Roast once more, as of late October 2016.

Hear Ye, Hear Ye! It’s time to head back to one of our favorite spots — Liberty Tree Tavern!

Ah, how we love thee, Liberty Tree. Located in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square, there are plenty of reasons why this park original is still one of our favorites. First of all, although we can embrace and even enjoy change (within moderation ;-) ), Liberty Tree Tavern has literally been around since the beginning. And that makes it a shoe-in for a spot in some of our collective earliest memories. A show of hands out there — how many of you recollect this Colonial-inspired dining room as one of your first Disney meals?

But then, it keeps us coming back as grown-ups for delicious comfort food! The a la carte menu served at lunch features one of DFB’s Favorite Burgers, the Angus Chuck Cheeseburger! And who could possibly resist the Pilgrims Feast at lunch? Because Thanksgiving Dinner served all year ’round is A-OK with me!

Recently, we learned of updates here (what?!?!) to the dinner menu. And while I don’t usually need an excuse to make an advance dining reservation at Liberty Tree, I figured it was the perfect reason to visit.

Join us to see what’s new — and what remains the same — when you dine at Liberty Tree Tavern for dinner!

Liberty Tree Tavern Entrance

Liberty Tree Tavern Entrance

Atmosphere

To step into Liberty Tree Tavern is to step back in time. The restaurant offers seating in six different rooms (none of that modern open floor plan stuff here).

Seating and View

Seating and View

Of course, an argument could be made that the throwback nostalgia here is part Colonial, part 1970s. But you know what? We’re totally fine with it. While some rooms offer paneling a plenty…

Decor

Seating and Wood Paneling Decor

Others are awash in white. Still, ample wood accents and parquet floors lend warmth and a feeling of antiquity. [Read more…]