Disney Food Post Round-Up: May 22, 2011

Star Wars Weekends Specialty Popcorn Bucket

We’re reporting from Walt Disney World this weekend, and over the past couple of days I’ve racked up about a hundred new things to share with you! Better get your stretchy pants, my friends!!

This week in Disney food news:

Here’s what’s happening in the World of Disney Food this week…

DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining Reviews

Thanks to Magical Kingdoms for publishing a great review of The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining! Here’s what they had to say…

The 250 pages cover pretty much everything you need to know about dining at Walt Disney World, and even those who have made multiple trips may learn something new by reading this book.

See the full review here. And get your copy of The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining right here!

And now… on to the round-up!

The Passporter Moms Podcast this week is all about Disney food, and guess who they asked to join them? Thanks to Jennifer and Sara for letting me talk about my favorite subject with them!

Yesterland bids farewell to Pizza Oom Mow Mow in Disney California Adventure.

Fatherhood…Video Games…and Ice Cream shares what it’s like to be Prince of the Day at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

DisneyContemporary.com leads us to some fun (and romantic!) Contemporary Resort dining options for grown-ups.

Main Street Gazette reviews the Steakhouse Salad at the Contempo Cafe.

All Fare’s Food Blog features a guest article (by yours truly ;-) ) about dining aboard the Disney Dream.

Around Disney highlights upgraded menus at Disneyland.

Disney World and Disneyland Dining for Valentine’s Day

Romance can be found all over Walt Disney World and Disneyland. And at these dining venues, there won’t be a single character in sight! Some restaurants feature special menus for Valentine’s Day.

Walt Disney World

Walt Disney World Sweetheart Dinners
These special meals for two are offered all year-long at Walt Disney World, and Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to splurge on this decadent dining experience.

Enjoy a 3-course, prix-fixe meal that includes an appetizer, entrée and a shared dessert. Toast your love with a selected beverage in etched champagne flutes, then take [Read more…]

Guest Review: Narcoossee’s

A big thanks to Mary Giordano, who has been kind enough to review another special dining opportunity in the Grand Floridian Resort, Narcoossee’s! You can see Mary’s other guest review for Disney Food Blog here. Take it away, Mary!

Narcoossee’s, known for its extensive seafood menu, is located at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. It is just one of the resort’s three signature dining locations (the others being Citricos and Victoria & Albert’s). While planning my recent trip, I called ahead soon enough and booked dinner reservations at a premier time during the Wishes fireworks. It didn’t take long for Narcoossee’s to earn not one, but two “Best of” awards in [Read more…]

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…]

Healthy Eating in Walt Disney World

A Great Lunch Option at Starring Rolls Cafe

A Great Lunch Option at Starring Rolls Cafe

Some of you listened to the Healthy Eating in WDW episode of the WDW Today podcast last week, but there’s still a lot of information and tips for those of you who’d like to — or have to — start eating a bit healthier while you’re on vacation.

Even if you just want “not to go overboard,” (I feel your pain.) the tips, menu options, and “eat this not that” suggestions will help!

Tips for Eating Healthy in Walt Disney World

General Advice:
First thing first. These are tips everyone already knows, but we sometimes need a reminder or two…or three.

  • Look for fresh, not processed foods: You can find fruits and veggies in every theme park. When you’re in a resort food court, consider a salad, boiled egg, or pita and hummus.
  • Learn to be a “bother:” Order sauces on the side, substitute veggies/fruit for fries, ask that your meat not be cooked in butter, or see if you can order a half-portion of an entree for less money.
  • Watch portion size: Disney likes to give you your money’s worth when it comes to food, so be aware when you order. Make a meal out of an appetizer, and when you splurge on a rich entree or huge dessert, share with someone else at the table.
  • Eat breakfast: Breakfast is going to be one of the easiest and cheapest meals to eat healthily in a restaurant, so book mid-morning breakfast ADRs and fuel up with eggs, veggies, and wheat toast. Plus, there’s no temptation of ordering dessert!
  • Call ahead: If you’re eating at a set-menu restaurant or want healthier, or no-sugar-added dessert options, call or write to Disney ahead of time (SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com, or 407-824-5967).
Sanaa's Menu is Full of Delicious, Healthy Choices

Sanaa’s Menu is Full of Delicious, Healthy Choices

No Matter Where You Eat…
…there’s going to be something there that won’t eventually kill you ;-) Here are a few menu options [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!”

WDW Moms Panelists Consider: What Are Some Underrated Disney World Restaurants?

Here’s our third post in the Walt Disney World Moms Panel mini-series! You’ve met some of the moms and heard about their most magical Disney dining moments and their thoughts about the best dining values in Disney World. Today we get to hear what restaurants the moms think might not grab the spotlight as much as they should…

From Mom Erin F.

The Wave Trio of Desserts

The Wave Trio of Desserts

The Wave – really nice stuff and good wine flights. Good tasting desserts, and they have really lovely food.

Another one that I tried – Raglan Road – had really delicious food. And I was very pleasantly surprised by the food on the plate (I had shepherd’s pie). The Strawberry Salad was poppin’ in your mouth delicious. If they can make a basic green salad so tasty, they’ve got something good going on.

From Mom Amber V.

The two places that come to mind are the Grand Floridian Cafe and Maya Grill. I think they both get lost in the shuffle, especially if you aren’t staying at the Grand Floridian or Coronado Springs. When we ate at Maya Grill, we were able to walk up and get a table without an ADR, which was a surprise. We found the menu, service and atmosphere to be really wonderful. The Grand Floridian Cafe is a great choice for a refreshing, light lunch and is also a nice respite from the parks.

From Mom Anna S.

It seems to me that the one restaurant I can ALWAYS get a reservation for is Restaurant Marrakesh at EPCOT, and I love it there. We have had some of the best, most attentive servers of our Disney dining experiences there, and there is never the feeling that you are being rushed so they can turn the tables over. The kids enjoy the music and dancing, and the food is delicious. We eat here at least every other visit.

From Mom Jennifer W.

Flying Fish Cafe! I rarely hear anyone talking about makings ADRs here, and it is one of the best restaurants at WDW! It is a bit on the pricey side but worth every dime. The chef will even come to your table to personally discuss your order if you like. The atmosphere is a calming change from the hustle and bustle of many restaurants and the food is top notch. I highly recommend The Flying Fish to all my friends who are looking for something different at WDW.

From Mom Kara B.

Walt Disney On-Screen at Sci-Fi Dine In

Walt Disney On-Screen at Sci-Fi Dine In

Disney provides a chance to experience something new and exciting around every corner, so often for us a magical Disney experience may be more about the experience rather than the actual food. For example, Sci-Fi is an absolute must see for us every trip, regardless of the constant criticism regarding the food. Stick with hamburgers and milkshakes and all is good (I’ll gladly share that their tofu entree is de-lic-ious!). However for us, it is clearly the atmosphere that makes this restaurant a must-do. In the middle of a hot trip (we visit in June), escaping into the cool “night” air is so relaxing. The kids sit in the front seat; my husband and I sit in the back. We feel like we are on a date because the kids are shockingly silent watching those campy movies. In fact, the entire restaurant is eerily quiet. Again, total relaxation. And of course, we all get those silly drinks with light-up ice cubes and use them at home for a fun souvenir.

From Mom Joanne M.

1. Fulton’s Crab House, Downtown Disney. Awesome view, fantastic food, and great selection. We love going there for lunch before heading to DisneyQuest. It’s not on the Disney Dining Plan, so we’ve never had a problem getting a table.

2. Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian Resort. The food is great, and where else can you simply turn your head and watch Wishes?

3. Kona Cafe – I have to say I’m not sure that this one is underrated, but I was so pleasantly surprised by the dining experience I have to mention it. The service was fabulous and attentive, menu varied, and great food! And the Kona Kone is the coolest dessert on Disney property!

From Mom Heather R.

In the Magic Kingdom I think the Plaza Restaurant is a real hidden gem. The location is quite convenient, and while the menu is somewhat limited, the food is excellent and the portions are quite large. My Chicken Strawberry Salad was not only delicious, but HUGE – easily shared between two people.

At the Fort Wilderness Resort, the Trail’s End Restaurant serves up home cooking style food at a very reasonable price, and since it’s a buffet (and a reasonably priced one at that!) it offers a good bang for your buck.

The Grand Floridian Cafe (guess where?) is also a real hidden gem. I can’t recommend any one particular standout menu item, but I know that every meal I’ve had there has been very good, service was attentive, and I leave intending to visit again. In a way I like it when that happens, because if I eat somewhere and have a particularly fantastic dish, I’m very likely to never try anything else! It’s good to branch out. :)

From Mom Whitney P.

Where do I begin? The Boardwalk Pizza take-out window is one of the best values, with a pepperoni pizza slice at $3.99! Its crust is like no other pizza on property! My indulgence is opening packet after packet of parmesan cheese and topping it off. I like to eat it outside at one of the nearby tables and people-watch. That, with a view of the water, is a great dining experience whether you’re alone or with your family.

If you’re looking for night-life, I recommend Kimono’s at the Swan. I’m a fan of karaoke and can sing with the best of them–from the comfort of my seat! It has the most extensive sushi menu on property, in my opinion, and if no one has the guts to get on the small stage and belt something out, you can sing along with the evening’s hostess.

From Mom Jo Y.

My family love Kona Cafe at the Poly, last trip I had the most delicious steak there, I much preferred it to Le Cellier and recommend it to everyone. I love how they have sample desserts on show as you enter the restaurant and if you time it right you can wander down to the beach afterwards to watch Wishes!

From Mom Kim L.

The Paint Room at Backlot Express

The Paint Room at Backlot Express

My family loves to eat at the Backlot Express at Disney’s Hollywood Studios when we are looking for a counter service meal. There’s always a quiet corner with fascinating props to view.

Also, Olivia’s Cafe at Old Key West serves wonderful dishes in a relaxing atmosphere. This is a hidden gem.

From Mom Kay B.

I think one of the most underrated food spots is Citricos. This is an unbelievable restaurant that is constantly being overshadowed by Victoria and Alberts at the Grand Floridian. It is family friendly yet can still be a romantic spot with a table in the inner room by the windows. The food is excellent from appetizers through desserts and the service has always been outstanding. They also have a nice wine room that can be reserved for a little more intimate dinner opportunity.

Another table service restaurant that is often forgotten and shouldn’t be is Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge. This is another outstanding location for food, service and ambiance.

In the counter service category I would say that Flametree in the Animal Kingdom park is not remembered and this is the one place we will go and not try to get dining reservations because we would all rather just eat at this counter service location. The barbecue is excellent, served in large portions, and then the area to sit in is quiet and relaxing. We take the path down to the lake and sit under the cool trees to catch a breeze on a hot day.

From Dad Doug I.

I think that Biergarten does not get it’s due as a fun dinner venue. While I can think of a few German classics that should be added to the menu, the buffet combines a lot of great choices, as well as some americanized selections for choosy kids. And the entertainment value is a nice plus. Finally, I love that you can meet people in their long table seating arrangements.

I also like San Angel Inn more than most. Having grown up in Mexico City, I think that some of the selections there are more authentic Mexican than you can typically find in the U.S., but it seems to get panned for cuisine, often by guests looking for more Tex-Mex style choices (which I love too!).

From Mom Jodi G.

I think sometimes the resort restaurants are overlooked, and the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge are top-notch.  Jiko, in particular, is my favorite restaurant on property.

Sleepy Hollow's Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich

Sleepy Hollow's Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich

From Mom Beth C.

The Sleepy Hollow in Magic Kingdom is a great spot to grab a treat. They have homemade chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches. You can watch them bake the cookies right there! Sleepy Hollow is located right over the bridge as you cross into Liberty Square. It is a great place to get a snack before the parade or fireworks or if you are walking to the other attractions in this area.

From Mom Margaret F.

One location that our family really loves and I think misses some of the spotlight is Mama Melrose at Hollywood Studios. While it is often crowded, I think it often does not get the attention it deserves. We love the feel of the restaurant, with the warehouse setting and open kitchen. It is very family friendly and comfortable. The menu slection is top notch. The flatbread choices are delicious, and the bruschetta is superb. The pasta choices have a perfect blend of herbs and spices. My favorite here is the sirloin with grilled asparagus and red wine sauce. Mouth-watering for sure!

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!”

Best Disney World Restaurants for Fireworks Viewing: Part I

One of the most enjoyable ways to spend an evening is with dinner at a great restaurant followed by a beautiful Disney fireworks display. The best way to spend an enjoyable evening is to have the great dinner DURING the fireworks display!

There are several Disney restaurants from which you can see either Magic Kingdom’s Wishes or Epcot’s Illuminations. Here in Part I of our “Restaurants for Fireworks Viewing” series, we’ll look at restaurants from which you can see Wishes.

Wishes is the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks display. It usually takes place at 9:00PM, but can be earlier or later depending on time of year and the MK’s schedule of special events. The Wishes soundtrack is piped into the restaurants, so hearing the accompaniment to the fireworks will not be a problem.

BEST RESTAURANTS FROM WHICH TO VIEW WISHES

‘Ohana
‘Ohana, one of the two table-service restaurants at the Polynesian Resort, has arguably the best view of Wishes from any restaurant. With a wall of windows facing the castle, directly across Seven Seas Lagoon from the Polynesian, the view of Wishes is head-on — just as you’d see it on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom (only farther away).

'Ohana Sign

See that blue spot in the middle? That's the Castle from our 'Ohana table.

See that blue spot in the middle? That's the Castle from our 'Ohana table.

The second picture isn’t the best — the castle looks a million miles away — but trust me that it’s a great show from ‘Ohana. Definitely worth booking. And speaking of booking, you’ll want to book a reservation about 30-45 minutes prior to the scheduled time for Wishes. When you arrive at the podium, request a “Fireworks view” table. They cannot guarantee it, but they’ll do their best. If you happen to be seated in one of the few tables from which you can’t see the fireworks, you’re free to move during the show to stand in an area of the restaurant offering a better view.

Also, note that if you don’t get a reservation for around fireworks viewing time, the Polynesian Beach is another great spot to view Wishes.

‘Ohana is a casual dining establishment; standard park-wear is acceptable here.

Narcoossee’s
Narcoossee’s, in the Grand Floridian Resort, sits over to the left-hand side of the Magic Kingdom. Several window tables offer a great view of the Wishes fireworks show.

View of Castle From Narcoossee's

View of Castle From Narcoossee's

Narcoossee’s also has an outdoor viewing area along the railing outside of the restaurant. This will offer a great view if you’ve not yet been seated at your table. Again, book a reservation about 30-45 minutes prior to the scheduled start time for Wishes.

Narcoossee’s is a bit fancier than ‘Ohana; you might want to dress up a bit.

California Grill
California Grill, on the Contemporary Resort’s 15th floor, is often thought of as the quintessential Wishes viewing spot. The restaurant offers its outdoor viewing deck in addition to the views from the wall of windows in the restaurant.

California Grill Sign

View of Castle from our California Grill Table

View of Castle from our California Grill Table

That said, California Grill isn’t my favorite location for Wishes viewing, as the vantage point is strongly to the right of the castle. As a result, many of the fireworks launched from a mile or so behind the castle are skewed and don’t appear as they would when watching the show from directly in front. However, California Grill definitely has my vote for best food of the three!

Note that if you can’t book a reservation around fireworks time (these fill up fast) but get a reservation at some other time that evening, you are welcome to return to the 15th floor observation deck to view the fireworks at their scheduled time. Also, James comments below that the bar at California Grill has non-reservation seating, so you might get lucky with a seat at the bar if you hit the Contemporary at the right time. (This seating is first-come, first-served.)

California Grill is another Disney signature dining location, so it’s pricey…and dressy.

OTHER OPTIONS FOR RESTAURANT WISHES VIEWING

While these three are clearly the front-runners in dining reservations, you can also see glimpses of Wishes from Magic Kingdom’s Plaza Restaurant, Crystal Palace, Casey’s Corner, and Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station.

Interesting “views” of Wishes can be had from Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella Castle and Pinnochio’s Village Haus in Fantasyland. While the fireworks are exploding above your head (not necessarily in your view, of course), you can see the flares being released from the tops of Magic Kingdom buildings around you. You won’t be able to truly experience Wishes, but it’s a unique view for anyone who has an interest in pyrotechnics, engineering, or fireworks in general.

Restaurants in the Magic Kingdom from which you can see very little — if any — of the Wishes Fireworks display are: Liberty Tree Tavern, Tony’s Town Square, Columbia Harbour House, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, El Pirata y El Perico, Pecos Bill’s Cafe.

Check out the other “Best Disney World Restaurants” in our series!

Cheese Plate Series: Narcoossee’s

Narcoossees Cheese Plate

Narcoossees Cheese Plate

One thing you will quickly discover is that I LOVE CHEESE PLATES. Cheese plates–especially at Disney World–are truly what I look forward to. Even more than steak and dessert most of the time.

I wanted to do a series on these because they’re beautiful, but also because I think they’re a good opportunity for the restaurants to do a nice little piece of branding. They usually serve cheeses that reflect the ethnicity and geography of their menu, and therefore what they want to be known for.

I’ll start with Narcoossees because it’s one of my favorite restaurants and serves one of the tastiest and most beautiful cheese plates I’ve seen at the World:

Extra Old Black Diamond White Cheddar, Cow’s Milk: This is “the official cheddar of Disney World” as far as I’m concerned, and since tillamook has been so conspicuously lessened on Artist Point‘s menu lately. You get Canadian Black Diamond just about everywhere cheddar is required (Le Cellier and Yachtsman to name two), and I like to believe that’s because Black Diamond is simply the best of the best. Black Diamond on a crisp with honey is absolutely delicious.

California Humbolt Fog, Goat’s Milk: This is a mild and tangy cheese. It’s got a cream cheese-like texture and an edible rind. Most distinctive is the thin layer of ash running through the wheel (don’t worry, you can eat this, too). Narcoossees serves it with dried cranberries, which I greatly enjoyed.

Rogue River Blue Cheese, Cow’s Milk: You see this in one or two other places in the land of Disney cheese plates, and it’s meant to be one of the stronger cheeses served. The wheels are hand-wrapped in grape leaves soaked in Clear Creek’s Pear Brandy, which helps to maintain the cheese’s moist texture. This is a straightforward blue cheese–you’ll have to remind your kids that eating mold is OK sometimes.