Dinner and a Show at World Showcase

We talk a lot about food around here (can’t imagine why), but we don’t pay nearly enough attention to some of the great entertainment that Disney provides in and around its restaurants during mealtimes. I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at a few of the Epcot World Showcase restaurantsChefs de France, Restaurant Marrakesh, Biergarten, and Teppan Edo — that offer not only great food, but also fun entertainment!

Chefs de France
One of my favorite “acts” in World Showcase is just outside Chefs de France in the France Pavilion. This hilarious duo has a couple of different “schticks” — one in which the acrobat is dressed as a tourist and comes into the act from the audience, the other in which he’s dressed as a Chefs de France server as he is in the photos below. The basic gist is that he’s just trying to clean the chairs, but the Chef continues to push him into climbing higher and higher onto the balanced mountain of furniture! The finale is breathtaking!


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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…]

Tables in Wonderland Adds New Restaurants

Tables in Wonderland Membership Card

Tables in Wonderland Membership Card

Just got an email specifying new restaurants being added as of January 2010 to the Tables in Wonderland discount program!

Epcot®: Tokyo Dining Location Only (Not Teppan Edo)

Disney’s BoardWalk Resort: Kouzzina by Cat Cora (formerly Spoodles)

Disney’s Wide World of Sports: ESPN® Sports Cafe

DOWNTOWN DISNEY® Marketplace: Fulton’s Crab House

DOWNTOWN DISNEY® Pleasure Island: Portobello

DOWNTOWN DISNEY® West Side: House of Blues®, Wolfgang Puck® Cafe

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort: Il Mulino New York Trattoria, Kimonos, Shula’s Steak House, Todd English’s bluezoo

For more information about Tables in Wonderland and for a full list of participating restaurants, visit our Tables in Wonderland Reference Page.

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 on Best Dining Values in Disney World

I’m really excited about this 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, but today we get into the nitty gritty of Walt Disney World planning: what restaurants offer the best value for the money?

Looks from the answers that the Picnic in the Park at Animal Kingdom, the Flame Tree Barbecue, and Teppan Edo were big winners in this category, along with Whispering Canyon Cafe’s skillet!

From Mom Erin F.

I’d suggest any of the buffets – particularly if you go for lunch. Have a bagel or coffee breakfast, and chow at a buffet lunch; that will get you through the day. For counter service, I’ve had good experiences with Tangierine Café – you get a variety of food and great vegetables. And my kids love flame tree barbecue.

From Mom Anna S.

A Full Plate at Teppan Edo

A Full Plate at Teppan Edo

Good food at a worth it price for table service is Teppan Edo. Plus you get the show the chef performs in front of you to boot! We’ve always gotten very generous portions here, more than enough to share with each other without feeling like you’re sacrificing half the meal for the kids to each have a taste, and I can’t remember a time when we’ve eaten here and not had something leftover!

I’m not sure this technically counts as counter service, but I could talk all day about the Picnic in the Park at Animal Kingdom. My husband and I went with our two younger children, ordered the rotisserie chicken for three, and left with our desserts in the nifty bag they give you, we were so full! This was an awesome Disney dining experience, and we can’t wait to do it again!

From Mom Kara B.

I’m totally cheating here and going for the non-counter/non-table service restaurant: the picnic in the park at the Animal Kingdom. What a smashingly brilliant deal. We had a TON of food for a family of 5 — so much so that we brought nearly half of it home with us (glad we were at a resort with a fridge) and were left with a shopping bag that I still use all the time. I love having comments about it as clerks bag my groceries. The park is filled with all sorts of fun places to picnic; we opted for the secret path by the Tree of Life and nearly had the area to ourselves (just a few people walked through). Not to mention, ordering the picnic is simple and with little to no wait.

From Mom Joanne M.

Hands down, for me the best counter service for taste, selection and value is Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney. The menu selection has something for everyone, from pizza and pasta to sandwiches and rotisserie chicken. The food and service are consistently excellent. We often stop in on our last day and pick up a pizza for the flight home!

If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, Le Cellier in the Canadian Pavillion at Epcot (I’m really not biased) offers one of the best deals for one dining credit. The mushroom filet absolutely melts in your mouth, and similar meals are two credits at some of the other resort restaurants. And the chocolate moose dessert is super cute
and soooo good!

For overall value, I always recommend going to some of the more expensive restaurants for lunch. This way, you get to experience the finer restaurants at reduced prices. One of my new favourites is Epcot’s Chefs de France in France. They currently have an awesome table d’hote special for $20, which includes decadent
lobster chowder or the best French onion soup ever, a main course selection (including a rich quiche), and dessert. Service is fabulous, and the setting is very francais!

From Mom Amber V.

I think a great table service that offers good food at a value is the Plaza Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. Granted, the food is nothing fancy, but the portions are plentiful and we have always enjoyed excellent service here. You really can’t go wrong with any of the sandwiches, and there are occasionally chef specials as well. The desserts alone are a reason to visit the Plaza, and they are definitely
large enough to share!

For a great counter service value we go to Cosmic Rays at the Magic Kingdom. Their combo meals are absolutely large enough to share. I also love Columbia Harbour House. It is one of my favorite counter service restaurants at Disney. I feel that the menu selection is diverse and the food is good quality and decent portion sizes.

From Mom Heather R.

The Plaza Restaurant and the Trail’s End Restaurant both fall into that category. Really, any buffet will offer bang-for-the-buck, particularly if you have big eaters (or teenage boys!) in your family.

While not the least expensive option out there, I’d highly recommend the Canyon Skillet at the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge. It’s a family-style meal that is both delicious and bottomless! If you’re watching your budget, consider booking a late lunch for a $9 savings over dinner price.

At that same price point, for dinner I really like the clam bake at the Cape May Cafe in the Beach Club resort. It’s a buffet so you can eat till your heart is content, and I’m particularly fond of their miniature desserts (so yes, you finally can sample one of each!)

Lots of Choices at Cosmic Ray's

Lots of Choices at Cosmic Ray's

For counter service, I think that the Bacon Double Cheeseburger at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in the Magic Kingdom is a very good value. It’s served with fries and is really quite large, easily split between two people. Although the price point is higher, the 1/2 chicken and BBQ rib combo there is also a large meal, and a step up from typical counter service restaurant offerings.

I also found that I was unable to finish my counter service lunch of Honey Chicken from Yak and Yeti, as the portion was larger than I was expecting. When eating there the next time I’ll plan on sharing it with one of my children so we don’t have as much waste.

From Mom Whitney P.

I see “value” through two different lenses: the food plus experience and just the food. If we’re talking food plus experience, three top my list:

If you’re a parent, you may have been urged by friends to seek a Character Dining meal while at Disney. I’ve seen many parents get stressed over these meals, especially with the inability to get advanced reservations for last-minute trips. A comparable memory-making dining experience for many children can be found, however, at the animatronic restaurants of T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe. In fact, Rainforest is probably the most-requested restaurant by my kids! PLUS: the menu is more affordable than the Character Dining buffets.

A close third is Sci-Fi Dinner Theatre. It gets panned by many who are on the dining plan, and rightfully so, because you could spend that same dining credit on more expensive fare. But when I go to Disney without the dining plan, and I’m looking at paying for both the experience as well as the food, Sci-Fi fits the bill for creating a memorable theme with food that’s comparable in price to some counter-service combo meals! My husband loves the Reuben.

Your View From the Flame Tree Barbecue

Your View From the Flame Tree Barbecue

If we’re talking food value sans experience, I tend to lean toward the counter-service restaurants. Again, three come to mind, all in different parks:

1. Flame Tree BBQ, Animal Kingdom: Our family of six can order two 1/2 slabs of ribs and the 1/2 chicken combo and we’re good. Top this off with a seat under the tree canopy down by the water behind the restaurant and you’ve got my number one value for food and experience for family-eating in the parks.

2. We can do the same thing at Cosmic Ray’s with its 1/2 Chicken and BBQ Rib Combo, but because the food is so similar, we usually don’t eat at both Flame Tree and Ray’s on the same trip. (By the way, while my family is gorging themselves on the ribs, I’m eating all the delicious green beans–YUM!)

3. Sunshine Seasons, Epcot: What I call their “blue-plate special” line (The Grill) offers up some pretty hefty
meals that can satisfy big appetites for under $10! The rotisserie chicken can be split between two of my boys. The seared-tuna salad is large enough to share, also!

From Mom Jo Y.

We are normally on the DDP so don’t tend to choose restaurants for the best value, rather where we’d like to dine. Saying that, though, for counter service I would say Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney offers great value for money. Although you need to stand in line to order your food like
at a regular counter service a waiter actually brings your food to the table, so it feels like a table service. The portions here are huge and the choice is extensive!

For table service I’d choose the Cape May Clam Bake; for under $30 adults can eat as much as they want from a large selection of foods including soups, salads, prime rib, shrimps, clams, vegetables etc

From Mom Kay B.

My husband insists the answer is Liberty Tree Tavern for dinner, since they will keep bringing the platters of food until you say no more! He loves the turkey and roast beef and all the “fixins” that go with that! I think there are several spots in EPCOT where you get a lot for your money and those are Nine Dragons in China and Marrakesh in Morocco.

For counter service spots, Flametree Barbecue comes to the front, and then also Cantina De San Angel in Mexico….good portions, full meals, decent pricing.

From Dad Doug I.

For table service I actually think you get a lot of good food for your money at Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge.

Mosey On Down to the Whispering Canyon Cafe

Mosey On Down to the Whispering Canyon Cafe

You have to be hungry to take advantage of it, but the Skillets really work out to be a decent deal in the world of Walt Disney World dining.

For counter service I think there is no better choice than Flame Tree BBQ at the Animal Kingdom. The BBQ is fantastic, and the seating area, down in the riverside grottos complete with a dense, jungle-like tree canopy, is a real treat. I think it is a better dining experience than many table service restaurants!

From Mom Jodi G.

I think the Tangierine Cafe [in Epcot’s Morocco] is a great value — my personal recommendation for those who want to try out some new foods and fill up at a great price. As for table-service, I love the Crystal Palace buffet (especially dinner) because the buffet has some great food at a good price.

From Mom Beth C.

Teppan Edo in Japan is my choice for the best value for its price. The food is fresh, delicious and cooked to order. The food is served as soon as it is cooked, which is awesome. You have a lot of food for a reasonable price and you get a “show” for free. This is also one restaurant where everyone eats everything and we have no room for dessert (and we love dessert).

For counter-service, Animal Kingdom offers the All American Family Picnic. This is a unique idea on an American classic. Guests can preorder their lunch at Island Mercantile Shop before 1:30. You have a choice of sandwiches or roasted chicken. Everyone recieves their own sandwich, dessert and drink. The sides and roasted chicken are portioned to the number of people in your party. You pick up your lunch at the Tusker House in a reusable tote you get to keep. You can then take it to one of the many picnic spots located throughout Animal Kingdom. We ordered sandwiches for four and we had food leftover. The food is from Tusker House which buffet is very good and the picnic lunch is just as yummy.

From Mom Kim L.

We get the best value at the Boma breakfast buffet. Great food, awesome atmosphere and no one leaves hungry. For counter-service, I think Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney provides a great meal at a value price.

Liberty Tree Tavern's Pot Roast Lunch

Liberty Tree Tavern's Pot Roast Lunch

From Mom Margaret F.

I think the best deal for counter service on property has to be Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios. For approximately $10, each guest can choose an individual pizza, salad and drink and for just a few dollars more a yummy dessert,. The pizza is a great portion size and easily fills us up, plus it is actually very yummy. My kids love the salad and t is just the perfect size.

For table dining locations, we love the value of the Liberty Tree Tavern lunch menu. The menu offers a great selection of hearty home cooked favorites like pot roast, the pilgrim’s feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing and the catch of the day all under $20 and most around $15. The food is delicious and quite filling. The dinner menu is also a great selection of turkey, roast beef, potatoes, vegetbale and dessert served family style at approximately $30 per guest. Still a great price compared to some of the menu prices at other Disney dinner locations and my kids never leave food on the plate here.

Thanks again to all the “moms” who are participating in the interviews!

2009 Candlelight Processional Dinner Packages

Candlelight Processional (copyright Disney)

Candlelight Processional (copyright Disney)

Please Note: According to MousePlanet, Disneyland’s Candlelight Spectacular will be a hard ticket event for D23 Charter Members only, with an additional price tag of $275. The following information is rumored for Disney World ONLY.

Stitch Kingdom is reporting that this year’s Candlelight Processional Dinner Package at Disney World includes access to a reserved area to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth! This added benefit might just make it that much more worth it to book a Dinner Package!

The site also lists all of the specifics regarding the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package, including costs and times for the different tiers of restaurants:
Tier I: Biergarten and Garden Grill
Tier II: Nine Dragons, Restaurant Marrakesh, Rose and Crown, and San Angel Inn
Tier III: Chefs De France, Coral Reef, Le Cellier, Teppen Edo, Tokyo Dining, Tutto Italia

Word on the street (e.g. the message boards) is that booking this year will be on the regular 90-day schedule, and that Processional Dinner Packages will not be available via the online booking system.

As of right now, the Candlelight Processional will be offered November 27 – December 30, 2009, at 5:00, 6:45, and 8:15 pm.

Teppan Edo!

Sign

We recently had the opportunity to again dine at Teppan Edo, a teppanyaki-style restaurant in Epcot’s Japan pavilion. We always have a great time here, as CMs are friendly and engaging, and sitting family style with 6 other people is usually an interesting experience. We also love the food!

Hibachi-embedded Dining Tables

Hibachi-embedded Dining Tables

Most everything is cooked teppanyaki-style, meaning foods, usually steak, other meats, and vegetables in the Western version of teppanyaki, are grilled using a hot plate in the middle of the table.

Japanese restaurant chain, Misono, was the first to introduce Western-influenced teppanyaki-style dining in Japan back in 1945. Since then, the “Japanese Steakhouse” genre has been more popular with tourists than locals in Japan; locals tend to prefer fish, noodle dishes (like Yakisoba), and flour- and vegetable-based dishes for their teppanyaki.

Staff Greeting Ceremony as Restaurant Opens

Staff Greeting Ceremony as Restaurant Opens

Long Hallway of Dining Rooms

Long Hallway of Dining Rooms

At Teppan Edo, you and your table mates are brought to and seated at your table, soon to be welcomed by a CM taking drink and food orders. You’re then welcomed by your table’s chef, who explains the process of teppanyaki and confirms the orders.

Me? I had to try a Sake-rita! It came highly recommended by our waiter, and who am I to turn down an opportunity to imbibe a sake-based margarita?

Sake-rita

Sake-rita

And then, the show begins! Our chef expertly delivered on the standard teppan chef tricks–the onion volcano, the shrimp tail throw-and-catch, the knife tricks. She did a great job.

Our Talented and Funny Chef

Our Talented and Funny Chef

onion volcano

onion volcano

The appetizers we’d ordered soon came out of the kitchen (these aren’t the table chef’s job, luckily!), and we enjoyed a tempura selection, miso soup, and a salad while watching the show.

Tempura Selection with Dipping Sauce

Tempura Selection with Dipping Sauce

Miso Soup and Garden Salad

Miso Soup and Garden Salad

Chef Action!

Chef Action!

Wondering about the name, Teppan Edo, I did a bit of reasearch and found the following:

According to Wikipedia: The Edo period (江戸時代, Edo jidai?), or Tokugawa period (徳川時代, Tokugawa jidai?), is a division of Japanese history running from 1603 to 1868 and is the premodern era. The period marks the governance of the Edo or Tokugawa shogunate, which was officially established in 1603 by the first Edo shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. The Edo period is also known as the beginning of the early modern period of Japan.

The Teppan Edo menu also sports a map of Japan during the Edo period, and the main dishes are named after cities in the country. We orderded the Nihonbashi, which included both steak and chicken, with noodles.

Nihonbashi--Steak and Chicken

Nihonbashi--Steak and Chicken

The meal was delicious, as usual, and I’m always amazed by the relative healthiness of these dishes. Soybean oil is used to grill, so although there is some fat, it’s not exactly artery-clogging stuff. Don’t be fooled, however–the portions are large!

You can find Teppan Edo in the large building on the right-hand side of the Japan pavilion in Epcot–just head up the stairs and you’ll come across the entry for both Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining.

To make a reservation, call 407-WDW-Dine, or book online by clicking this link.