Tips from the DFB Guide: NEW Unique Meals for Kids at Walt Disney World

Many of us have been there — you’re trying to plan the best and most delicious vacation, but when it comes to Disney Kids’ Meals, the options can seem pretty ho-hum at first glance.


But there’s more to eating with small fry in Disney World than meets the eye! We first told you about Unique Kids’ Meals a while back in a Tip from the DFB Guide.

But times marches on, and menus evolve. And since we first visited the subject, Disney has committed to offering guests healthier eating options — and that includes Kids’ Meal reforms. We’ve fully updated the DFB Guide again this year, and I thought it was the perfect time to revisit Unique Kids’ Meals at Walt Disney World!

These tips come to you courtesy of the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2015! And if they’re helpful to you, pick up your copy of the Guide today for $4 off using code “2015” right here!

Mickey Check Meals

We can’t begin to discuss Disney World Kids’ Meals without at least touching on the biggest change to come to children’s menus in the history of the Resort. We’re talking about Mickey Check Meals.

mickey check for kids meals

Part of the Disney Magic of Healthy Living Initiative, the meals are designated on Disney restaurant menus with the “Mickey Check” Symbol. Meals earning the Mickey Check meet the Disney Nutrition Guidelines and limit the amount of sodium, sugar, and saturated and trans fats. In addition, they must also include at least three of the following:

  • fruits and vegetables,
  • low-fat dairy,
  • whole grains, and/or
  • lean protein, beans, eggs, and/or nuts.

So what’s the bottom line? The guidelines have certainly challenged Disney chefs to come up with some interesting meals as a result.

Mickey Turkey Meatloaf

Turkey Meatloaf at Be Our Guest Restaurant…Super Cute! But Not So Delicious

But how do they taste? Wellllll…my jury is still out on that one. While I commend Disney for offering healthier options to guests who are in search of them, the Disney Check Meals that I’ve seen and tasted personally…let’s just say they have a long way to go before taste catches up with the requirements.

A la Carte and Appetizers as Kids’ Meals

If you aren’t using a Disney Dining Plan, then another great idea for a Unique Kids’ Meal option is to order a la carte sides or appetizers instead of something from the Kids’ Menu.

This strategy works great for a couple of different reasons. Even with all of the improvements to kids’ meals across the parks and resorts, some Disney restaurants lag behind a bit, and the options can be a little, well, boring. After all, you can only eat Chicken Nuggets so many times. So it’s a great way to get your young, adventurous eater something tastier and more satisfying.

Smoked Chicken Quesadilla

Smoked Chicken Quesadillas, a Whispering Canyon Cafe Appetizer, is a Great Meal Choice for an Adventurous Kid

It’s also a great idea when [Read more…]

Tips From the DFB Guide: Secret, Must-Have Orders That Aren’t On Any Menu…

OK, here’s where it gets good.


I love showing you guys pictures of what you can get at Disney restaurants. It’s the best way for you to judge for yourself whether or not you think a restaurant is right for you.

But sometimes I just gotta share a few secrets that I’ve discovered. Things that aren’t actually ON the menu, exactly, but that are truly worth getting and trying.

And today, I’m sharing another great tip from the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World DiningOrdering “Off the Menu” Items in Walt Disney World Restaurants.

And if you like what you see here, there are a lot more where these came from! To see our whole list of must-have “off the menu” items for 2015, pick up your copy of the Guide today for $4 off using code 2015 right here!

Spicy Tomato Butter at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

Recently, we’ve been enjoying some truly incredible meals at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano. This quirky eatery in Disney’s Hollywood Studios has plenty of traditional Italian fare on offer, but they can also surprise with a creative twist or two.

Strip Steak

Mama Melrose Makes an Incredible Steak and Mac and Cheese Combo!

During my last couple of visits, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy their Spicy Tomato Butter! You’ll find this amazing sauce on their Oak-Fired Mussels, but if you’re not interested in ordering said Mussels, consider requesting some of the Spicy Tomato Butter with your bread.

Bread with Butters and Olive Oil

Bread with Spicy Tomato Butter and Other Accompaniments

And I’m so glad I asked the server for this “off the menu” request, because that butter is incredible! Spicy, savory, and rich, it’s delicious served with bread.

In fact, on one recent visit, the server actually brought it to me slightly melted, like a dipping sauce! Heaven.

Cranberry Sauce at Liberty Tree Tavern

Have you had the pleasure of enjoying dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom? If not, what are you waiting for?? ;-)

Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom

Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom

And if so, then you know that part of what makes it so awesome is that it looks a lot like America’s favorite meal — a Thanksgiving Day Feast!

Roast Pork, Turkey, and Beef with Cornbread Stuffing and Chutney at Liberty Tree Tavern

Roast Pork, Turkey, and Beef with Cornbread Stuffing and Chutney at Liberty Tree Tavern

But there is one key ingredient missing when they bring the family-style dishes to your table; the meal doesn’t automatically include Cranberry Sauce. And I don’t know about you, but it just isn’t Turkey Day without that little gem on the table.

Cranberry Sauce at Liberty Tree Tavern

Cranberry Sauce at Liberty Tree Tavern

But never fear — they have Cranberry Sauce — and it’s pretty fantastic! You just have to request it. It seems that not all guests love it as much as you and I, so it ended up being thrown out quite a lot of the time.

So order it with abandon if you like a little Cranberry Sauce on the side of your meal — they’re happy to bring it to you, included in the cost of the meal!

Fried Mozzarella at Via Napoli

Speaking of Liberty Tree Tavern, they used to have a wonderful Tavern Fried Cheese Appetizer that included Deep Fried Cheese Curds. They were out of this world.

Sadly, you can’t get them in the Colonial American-themed spot — but I DID find something similar at [Read more…]

New Food I Want to Stuff My Face With at Disney World this Year

You’re planning your first trip to Walt Disney World. Or your 50th. Or your 100th. And you reeeeeeeally want to know what NEW dishes you MUST try? Weeeeeeelllllllllll, we’ve got a few suggestions for you!


We’ve got about nine of our favorite you-HAVE-to-EAT-this dishes and snacks featured in our brand new DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining 2015 e-Book, which you can pick up today for $4 off using code 2015 right here!

But I wanted to take a second to share just a few of those must-eat treats here with you as well.

Must-Eat Walt Disney World Treats in 2015

Yep — here at DFB, we always like to kick off each new year with some of our favorite treats spotted during the last few months. But when I sat down to brainstorm this post…well, at first it seemed like 2014 didn’t offer a whole lot of new stuff.

That said, when I started scrolling back through everything we ate this past year, I realized there was a lot to be said for 2014 and its culinary prowess.

There is one really big difference between this year and previous years, however. Most of our crave-worthy dishes are savory this time around! I know! WUT?!??!?!?!?!? Don’t worry, though — I’ve got a few sweeties thrown in.

Here’s the New Food I Want to Stuff My Face with at Disney Parks in 2015!

Must Eat Disney World Treats 2015-002

Barbecue Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese

We thought that Mac and Cheese, that king of comfort foods, was enough. But little did we know what we had been missing, until Disney started putting additional delicious food on top of its cheesy goodness.

We first saw the dawn of Gourmet Mac and Cheese — we’re just gonna call it that if that’s all right with you — a while back. Friar’s Nook introduced the concept, and we were smitten with their Bacon Cheeseburger Mac and Cheese and Blue Cheese Mac right away.

BUT THEN — this happened.

[Read more…]

Review: Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

In my opinion, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Disney’s Hollywood Studios has always been hit or miss.

But on my last two visits, it was exceptional. I couldn’t wait to re-visit another year later and see if that was still the case. And, I gotta say, this place is still a hidden gem. I would, in all honestly, choose this restaurant over several signature restaurants on Disney property right now. Let’s take a look at the details.


When we arrived for a late night advance dining reservation during an Extra Magic Hours night, Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano was teeming with hungry guests. You get a sense of Mama’s random story before you ever enter the doors. The Mona Lisa, wearing shades, in front of the Hollywood Sign? Yeah, I don’t get it either.

Outside Wall

Outside Wall as You Approach Mama’s

The flimsy “backstory” unfolds: Mama was once an aspiring actress who began to cook her traditional dishes for friends while she was trying to become a star. Her dreams of acting fame may have faded, but she found another route into the hearts of the masses — her cooking. And Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano was born.


Entrance to Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

Even if the backstory still doesn’t make any sense to me after all this time, that doesn’t mean the restaurant isn’t kind of fun to look around. It’s a mix of old world meets Hollywood…and every year that goes by means Mama’s decor becomes even more antiquated.

One of my favorite touches is the wall-o-1980s-stars. These headshots crack me up! It’s like a who’s who of the year the Studios opened. (I always have to scout out Mary Fran.)

Podium and Entrance from the Waiting Area

Podium and Entrance from the Waiting Area

Other decor elements feature kitschy goodies from Mama’s collection.

In Vino Veritas!

In Vino Veritas!

More chances to look for your favorite late 20th century actors await you at the restroom entrance. And check out this guy we saw above the doorway…

Celebrity Pictures Outside the Restrooms

Celebrity Pictures Outside the Restrooms

These little Olafs-on-a-stick are part of the Frozen promotion in Hollywood Studios! Guess someone thought he’d be right at home here on a gondola?

Olaf -- This Guy is Everywhere

Olaf — This Guy is Everywhere

Walk through the large arch and past the kitchen, and the restaurant opens before you. Be sure to peek at the pizza oven as you walk by!

Show Kitchen

Show Kitchen

Once you’re in the dining area, pause to take a look around. The walls are covered with some fun stuff, including tons of albums. That’s right, kids — [Read more…]

Walt Disney World Steak Gallery

It’s time for another fun addition to our Disney Food Galleries!

disney world steak gallery

We just love to share photos of all of our favorite foods — and collect them into galleries for easy viewing! Whether your craving is for popcorn, ice cream, or a cupcake, there’s a gallery for you!

And today, we’re introducing a brand new gallery for all of you red meat lovers out there! Yep, we’ve gathered a whole buncha steaks from around Disney World to help you make your choices on your next visit.

Remember, some of these may drop off menus from time to time or have side dishes or preparation changed, but hopefully this will give you a good overview of what’s available! Here we go!

Yachtsman Steakhouse

Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club is one of my top picks when it comes to steak at Walt Disney World. After all, they decorate with meat — the first thing you pass en route to your seat is the Steak Trimming Room!

Chefs here pride themselves not only on the very best cuts of meat, but appetizers, side dishes, and desserts inspired by market fresh ingredients. Yachtsman combines the very best of seasonal flavors with the traditional steak experience.

My absolute favorite pick at Yachtsman is the 16-ounce Boneless Ribeye. It is always a melt-in-your-mouth choice.

Ribeye with Herb Fries at Yachtsman Steakhouse

Ribeye with Herb Fries at Yachtsman Steakhouse

But we are also big fans of the 12-ounce Prime New York Strip Steak, served here with a rich potato gratin stack.

Strip Steak

12-ounce Prime New York Strip Steak


Shula’s at Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin is the kind of place that you think of when you envision an upscale steakhouse. As your eyes adjust to the dim lighting and you check out the menu — printed on a football! — you’ll settle into the refined elegance of your surroundings.

When I have the chance to dine here, I almost always go for my favorite, the 22-ounce Cowboy Ribeye (are you sensing a theme?). The Bone-in Steak has been excellent on every visit. The flavor is unbelievable!

Cowboy Ribeye

22-ounce Cowboy Ribeye

Looking for a lighter approach to soothe your carnivore cravings? We’ve also enjoyed the Steak Mary Anne. Delicate by steakhouse standards, the 5-ounce medallions are served with a simple demi glace in this case. It’s the perfect plate for the guest who prefers all the flavor of prime, aged beef in a smaller serving.

Steak Mary Anne

Steak Mary Anne

Flying Fish

If you’re a landlubber like me, then finding a great steak at a restaurant known for fabulous seafood is a dream come true. But it’s not impossible if you’re dining at Flying Fish Cafe.

When I visit, I always order the Char-Crusted Black Angus New York Strip. The creamy Sauce Foyot is such a great accent — and they’re never chintzy with it!

Char Crusted Black Angus New York Strip

Char-Crusted Black Angus New York Strip

Can’t decide between surf and turf? You don’t have to! Try the two house specialities side by side with the Entree Duo, which features the Char-Crusted Angus New York Strip Steak and the restaurant’s most famous fish dish, the Potato-wrapped Red Snapper.

Entree Duo of Red Snapper and Strip Steak

Entree Duo of Red Snapper and Strip Steak


Jiko offers some of the most interesting food at Walt Disney World.

And while I enjoy the fusion of African, Indian, and Meditteranean flavors when it comes to appetizers and desserts, I rarely deviate from my favorite entree: the Oak-Grilled Filet.

Oak Grilled Filet with Mac and Cheese

Oak-Grilled Filet with Mac and Cheese

And even when their delicious Mac and Cheese isn’t featured as the dish’s side, you can usually score it as a special request (and I totally recommend that you do). :-)

Liberty Inn

In the mood for steak with no Advance Dining Reservation? Then head to Epcot’s Liberty Inn. Their New York Strip Steak, served with Red Wine Butter, Roasted Potatoes, and Steamed Broccoli, is surprisingly good.

New York Strip Steak Meal

New York Strip Steak Meal

Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant

Even though most of my favorite steaks at Disney World are featured at signature restaurants, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good option at moderately priced restaurants, too, like Sci-Fi Dine-In.

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised by [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week: Cupcakes With Flair!

We are back with another installment of Disney Food Pics of the Week. Thanks to all of you super talented photographers who post on Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza, our Flickr group!

Today, we’re celebrating what I think should be classified as a fifth food group. That’s right — we are all about Cupcakes in today’s post! Be sure to check out some of our favorite Disney Cupcakes in our Cupcake Gallery…but in the meantime, we’ve got some sweets to share…!

Honey Lemon Cupcake

The Honey Lemon Cupcake from Disneyland’s Hungry Bear restaurant has to be one of the cutest cupcakes I’ve seen at Disney to date. Topped with a sweet little honey bee and a sprinkle of edible gold glitter, you find the same delish frosting that crowns it also serves as a filling! (Read a review of the cupcake, plus other menu items at Hungry Bear, here.)

Photographer: Hilary White

Honey Lemon Cupcake from The Hungry Bear

Spaghetti and Meatball Cupcake

Mangia! I always look forward to digging into hearty and delicious dishes when I visit [Read more…]

Review: Lunch at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

So, it had been far too long since I’d been to Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, and it was high time to head back.

Located in the Backlot area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mama’s is a hodgepodge, with all sorts of Hollywood memorabilia smooshed into an old fashioned Italian restaurant.

The food here can be inconsistent (surprise), so you never really know what you’re going to get. But my past two visits have been great, so I was excited to check it out again.

Let’s take a look at my most recent lunch here, and see where this meal falls on the Disney Restaurant Continuum. (Wait til you see the picture of the STEAK!!!)


Mama Melrose’s is, well, a little strange. At first, it appears to a typical old-fashioned family restaurant that might be found in any large city’s Little Italy section.

Dining Room View From Outside

But once you move beyond the brick facade and really start to look around at the curious surroundings, you might inquire about the backstory to clear up the confusion.

The story behind Mama Melrose’s is a little “We Made This Story to Fit the Space.” But here goes.

A young girl from Italy with stars in her eyes makes her way across the US, in hopes of finding fame and fortune in Hollywood. But during her starving artist days, she found that her cooking was more successful than her acting.

Dining Room Inside

And so, she opened a restaurant at the urging of her friends in a vacant warehouse that had previously been used to store film equipment. Nicknamed “Mama Melrose” by her patrons, she gained the fame she was looking for — but it came via her authentic Italian cooking.

Since Mama was a poor, struggling actress — and a recent immigrant to boot — the dining room is set up with what she could find to make it cozy and comfortable. Low lighting from strands of lights give it a soft glow. (And who doesn’t love those little white lights?)

And chandeliers are mismatched — sometimes, right down to the glass globes around the bulbs.

Mismatched Shades

Quirky Lighting

Wall hangings celebrate Los Angeles, Mama’s new home, and her roots in Italy.

Wall Hangings

Of course, it is an Italian restaurant, and so you’ll also see foods — dried and cured sausages, cheese, pasta, and fruits and veggies — hanging around as well.

Food Decor at Mama's

Walls also hold pictures of [Read more…]

Review: Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

Today, it’s time to check back in on one of Disney’s more hidden eateries — Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

As I’ve observed before (and many of you have agreed), you just never know what you’re going to get when you dine at Mama Melrose’s. Sometimes it’s mundane, and sometimes it’s great — and it’s the “greats” that keep me going back for more! What will it be today? Here we go!


Not much has changed in the atmosphere department since my last trip to Mama’s. We were greeted with the same general decor that we found on previous visits: warm, cozy, inviting, and slightly bizarre.

Atmosphere in Waiting Area

…The story goes that Mama came west from Italy to make her name in Hollywood. While the actress fame didn’t pan out, she opened her “Ristorante Italiano” and gained a place in the heart of her new city that way! And so, the interior reflects the journey from Italy all the way to Hollywood. Though I feel like there’s a hearty helping of New York City’s Little Italy in there, too.

Show Kitchen

We arrived on time for our Spring Break reservation, but we had a bit of a wait before our table was ready. (Full disclosure — I asked for one of the rare window-side tables so that my photos would come out a bit better, so that might have been why the wait was longer).

While we waited, the kitchen staff were busily assembling [Read more…]

DIY Disney: Mama Melrose’s Chicken Parmesan

Today, Chef Big Fat Panda’s DIY Disney Recipes column brings us a fan favorite today! Mama Melrose’s Chicken Parmesan! Take it away, Chef!

Mickey's Ready to Make Some Chicken!

Hello! Chef BigFatPanda here!

Again, I apologize for not posting in quite some time. My friends know the reason, and I’d like to open up to you about it as well. My Mom was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer in January of this year. She passed away on August 28th. As you may have read, she was very influential in my life (as most mothers are), but even more so when it came to her passion for cooking.

While life will never be the same, it does go on. Her name was Anna, and all prayers for her are most appreciated. I know she would love knowing she was mentioned here. Thank you!

Today we are going to make an Oven-Baked Chicken Parmesan from Mama Melrose’s at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Let’s face it, most of us go weak at the knees for a good chicken parmesan, no? I know I do. I’m always looking for that crunchy outside, tender inside and balance of cheese and sauce that can even make my non-Italian friends ask for more.

Well, look no further. If you have been reading my column, you know I tell it like it is and I can absolutely give you my seal of approval on this recipe and then some (with a few alterations). :-)

Table at Mama Melrose's in Disney's Hollywood Studios

As usual, the recipe’s instructions will be bolded for easy reference should you wish to print this out and skip my commentary. I’d like you to NOT do that since I am turning 40 in a few weeks and relish my dwindling relevancy. :-)

There really are 2 parts to this recipe: you first create the breadcrumb mixture, then actually [Read more…]

Italian Food Stand Opens 12/20 in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Thanks to Studios Central for this great info!

Apparently the Charcuterie and Cheese booth from the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival has been given a new lease on life! It has now become the “Ristorante Italiano” food kiosk, located in the Disney Hollywood Studios backlot!

Serving food made at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, the kiosk is set to handle overflow crowds expected at DHS during these busy holiday weeks. That said, according to Matt at Studios Central, it might stick around after January 1st if business is booming.

The menu includes Italian favorites, but you’ll have to head over to Studios Central to get the scoop!