Review: California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Time to check in on one of Walt Disney World’s most popular signature dining spots — California Grill.

Located atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the Grill has become nearly as well known for its stellar views as its market-inspired food. And those two factors can make this a tough table to book.

My last visit here, however, when the restaurant had just reopened after an in-depth refurbishment, was somewhat disappointing. At the time, I chalked it up to the kitchen having an off night; after all, I had enjoyed incredible dining here many times before.

I decided it was time to check in again. So we booked an early Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) on a recent visit, and up we went.


If you’ve never visited California Grill, then there’s one thing you should know: you don’t just head to the 15th floor. Your journey actually starts on the 2nd floor of the Contemporary where you check in. Even if you’re just heading to the first-come, first-served Lounge, this is your first stop.

Second Floor Check In Desk for California Grill

Second Floor Check In Desk for California Grill

You’ll then be escorted via a private elevator to the 15th floor. In this way, staff act as gatekeepers for the popular spot. If left unattended, it would get pretty busy up there, especially around Wishes-at-Magic-Kingdom time.

Once you make your way upstairs, a bank of Wine Fridges greets you straight ahead.

Entrance and Wine Fridges

Entrance and Wine Fridges

You walk through the Lounge and Bar to get to the restaurant’s main seating area. That sounds as though these are different spaces; they aren’t. Basically, with the exception of a few private dining rooms, the restaurant features an open floor plan, accentuating the sweeping views and retro-meets-modern vibe.

California Grill Bar

California Grill Bar

If you find yourself without an ADR, there’s still hope. You can sit in the Grill’s Lounge and order from the menu, or just enjoy Drinks, Sushi, and Appetizers. Be forewarned, though: it’s not uncommon for this area to reach capacity as the night goes on. Here at 5PM, though, it was pretty bare.

California Grill Lounge

California Grill Lounge

Wrap around to the main seating area, and you see that nearly every table commands an excellent view of the surrounding landscape, including Magic Kingdom and the Resorts situated around Seven Seas Lagoon.

Seating varies here and includes both tables and chairs and booths.



There are also a selection of tables that mix banquette and chair seating. Note that white tablecloths and cloth napkins are the norm here, lending to the upscale air of sophistication.

Table for Two

Table for Two

Booths are somewhat unique in that they are located in the middle of the floor. That means that you can enter from either side, and there will be traffic on both sides of your table, similar to what you find at Jiko. While this isn’t necessarily bad, it does mean that your booth won’t be as secluded as you might like.

But the view outside of the windows isn’t the only thing you have to look at.

California Grill Kitchen

California Grill Kitchen

The well-orchestrated, professional hustle and bustle that’s happening behind the counter in the on-stage kitchen can be fascinating as well.

Prepping for Dinner Service

Prepping for Dinner Service

Although we will focus today on the food here, the sweeping, panoramic vistas certainly bear mentioning. You can see for miles!

The View

The View

And that’s one of the biggest draws of California Grill — this view, especially when it comes to [Read more…]

Disney Recipe: Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli from the California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Today, I’m excited to share with you a recipe for one of my all-time favorite Disney dishes from the California Grill!

I enjoy going to this posh restaurant when I’m celebrating a special occasion, or just meeting friends for an extra special evening. And anytime I visit California Grill, you can bet that I’ll order the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli! In fact, I ordered it during my most recent visit (it’s still there after the menu revamp!) and it never fails to impress.

The smooth, creamy, and slightly tangy filling of the house made ravioli is the perfect combination with the vibrant tomato broth. So it’s awesome to know that if I find myself with a craving for it between visits, I have a great recipe to fall back on!

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli

And now, you can whip up a batch, too!

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli

California Grill, Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Serves 4 to 8


Clear Tomato Broth: [Read more…]

Review: California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, I met a group of friends at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill for what promised to be a memorable dinner.

It was my first trip to the hallowed culinary spot since the dramatic re-imagination of both the restaurant itself and the menu earlier this year. I’m a big fan of Chef de Cuisine Brian Piasecki, and I was anxious to see what he and his team had put together for the opening.

Having heard mostly good things about the new menu, and lots of raves about the decor refresh (see some breathtaking photos here!), I was really looking forward to this special night out. Would the restaurant deliver on expectations? Well, kind of…and kind of not. Let’s delve into the full story.


If you’ve never been to California Grill, getting there is a bit of an odyssey. Although the restaurant sits high atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, you’ll begin your journey on the hotel’s second floor, where the check-in desk is located.

Second Floor Check In Desk for California Grill

From there, you’ll be directed to an elevator where a cast member will escort you up to the restaurant. This way, the staff can practice a little crowd control, as the restaurant’s lobby and bar can get quite crowded at times.

You emerge from the elevator and are greeted by sleek design, accented by cool colors and rows and rows of wine fridges. Form follows function, as California Grill’s stellar selection of wines is well known.

Entrance and Wine Fridges

Time your visit just right, and another hallmark of the Grill’s atmosphere greets you —


— A beautiful sunset through the picture windows directly ahead of you. I was lucky on this visit, as I got to see both the sunset AND the fireworks through those floor-to-ceiling windows!


As I mentioned before, California Grill underwent an extensive renovation earlier in 2013. If you haven’t been to the restaurant since then, you will find that almost everything looks completely different from before.

We shared lots and lots of photos with you from the reno in that previous post, including pics of the private dining rooms. Be sure to pop over there if you’d like to see even more decor detail. For now, we’ll just give you a quick tour.

Step away from that glorious sunset, and you realize that you passed the beautiful bar area as you entered. It’s just to the left as you step off the elevators and head into the restaurant.

Directly in front of the bar, there’s also a limited lounge seating area. This means that you can, theoretically, score a table without an advance dining reservation, or meet here for appetizers and drinks on a whim. That said, the lounge is first come, first served, and you can imagine the scramble for seats during the fireworks. So look alive if that’s your plan!


Where the view is concerned, there are really no bad seats in all of California Grill! But the window seats on the Magic Kingdom side offer the best view if you’re going for fireworks. As part of the renovation, new windows were installed that block ultraviolet light, and electronically-controlled shades ensure that guests are never blinded by that bright Florida sunshine.

Views and Tables

A glance across the seating area gives you a good overview of the [Read more…]

Guest Review: California Grill at Disney World’s Contemporary Resort

Join us in welcoming guest author Corey Patterson with his first review on the Disney Food Blog. Corey starts off at the top of the world with his experience at the California Grill. Take it away, Corey!

Location, location, location. Every one knows these are the three most important aspects in a successful property. However, in the case of California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the food outshines even the outstanding location and takes top billing.

For a few years, I had heard that if I couldn’t eat dinner at Victoria and Albert’s (which is on my bucket list), then California Grill was a great alternative. So, when I attended a recent conference in Orlando, I made sure that eating at the top of the Contemporary was on the agenda.

And, I must say, after my first Cali Grill experience, I would wholeheartedly agree with the high praise.


As we arrived at the Contemporary Resort, we were a little unsure of how to get to the restaurant. But signage and friendly cast members quickly pointed out the reception desk on level 2. We checked in and were whisked away in the elevator to the 15th floor at the top of the Contemporary Resort.

Check In Desk

I purposefully made our reservation at California Grill at 9:20 so that we were sure to be there during Wishes, but I was still surprised to see the restaurant so busy at that late hour. I most likely underestimated the crowds for the week and really shouldn’t have been shocked since WDW is getting busier as summer approaches.

Since we made a reservation, we walked right in and didn’t wait more than 10 minutes for our table (which was enough time to grab something from the awesome bar!). A very nice young lady named Sam greeted us when our table was ready and made it a point to explain everything about the restaurant (such as the location of the Terraces and the restrooms,) and even slowly walked us by the open kitchen on the way to the table so we could witness the magic happening there.

Open Kitchen

While Sam was wonderful, we were a little disappointed when we learned [Read more…]

Disney Food Post Round-Up: July 18, 2010

Lamb From Australia Booth is Back This Year

Whew! What a WEEK! It was Food and Wine Festival-icous! You’ll have to forgive my one track mind this week, all, but here are the latest news items:

Hopefully you got a chance to check out my blog post over at Touring Plans all about the NEW additions to the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival! Also, give a listen to the recent WDW Today Podcast, where we chatted about some of the upcoming festival attractions! Thanks, Touring Plans and WDW Today!

I came across a Progress City USA post from 2009 that shows us what dining was like at early WDW. Anyone remember the Pueblo Room?

DisZine reports that the Disney World Swan and Dolphin are announcing a Personal Pantry feature.

Touring Plans blogger Kristen H. writes about her favorite counter service restaurants at WDW.

Heatherw25 has created some more amazing Disney food scrapbooking layouts!

Kerrygold Cheeses at Ireland Food and Wine Booth

Main Street Gazette compares a favorite Disney World counter-service dish at Sunshine Seasons to one of his local favorites.

A Taste of Disney shows us how to make California Grill’s delicious Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli.

The Daily Disney reports on a new Meatball Sliders and Beer menu at WDW Downtown Disney’s Portobello Restaurant.

Designing Disney looks at inspiration for the Market House Deli in Disneyland Paris.

Chip and Co wonders what makes Aloha Isle so popular.

Pee Dee Foodie reviews Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Disney Parks Blog announces that the Kona Island Sushi Bar is a permanent fixture at the Polynesian Resort in WDW!

DisUnplugged reviews breakfast at Disneyland’s Steakhouse 55.

More Dishes From California Grill

The Disney Food Blog took you to the California Grill back in April 2009, but we’ve returned since then and we’ve got more pics for you! :)

Located on the top floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the California Grill is one of Orlando’s most outstanding restaurants. It’s well known for sushi, wine, market-specific menus, and that fantastic fireworks show that happens right outside!

The Eats
We began this evening with our customary cheese plate (I can’t pass up a good cheese plate!), and California Grill doesn’t disappoint. The cheeses will change seasonally, and usually range from mild and buttery to a strong blue cheese (my favorite is the Monte Enebro, which you’ll find on other Disney World cheese plates as well). You’ll often find a variety of sources as well, from sheep’s milk to goat’s milk to cow’s milk. The plates also come with several sweet accompaniments. As you know, the honeycomb is my absolute favorite, but on this plate the candied nuts and sweet apples also were delicious.

California Grill Cheese Plate October 09

California Grill Cheese Plate October 09

Cheese Plate Listing -- Click for Larger Version

Cheese Plate Listing -- Click for Larger Version

Also for starters, we wanted to sample the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Pesto, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Basil, which is probably one of the most [Read more…]