Please join us for dinner at the Grand Floridian Cafe!
Grand Floridian Cafe
The Grand Floridian Cafe doesn’t garner the headlines of the Grand Floridian Resort’s signature restaurants — Narcoossee’s and Citricos — or the AAA 5 Diamond experience, Victoria and Albert’s. And, of course, there is always the unique-to-the-Grand-Floridian experience of Afternoon Tea in the Garden View Tea Room. And though 1900 Park Fare, like the Grand Floridian Cafe, is also a 1-Credit Table Service restaurant on the Disney Dining Plan, it’s better known for being a character meal and buffet option.
The Grand Floridian Cafe offers guests an opportunity to spend some time at Disney World’s flagship resort at a more modest price point than its counterpart table service restaurants. But since it tends to get a bit overshadowed by the other options (even though we think it’s a hidden gem), we’re back for a visit to take a look around and explore the current dinner offerings at the Grand Floridian Cafe.
It’s quite a “grand” stroll through the entire lobby to find the Grand Floridian Cafe.
Head left at the back of the lobby, pass one of the merchandise shops, and its entrance is one of the last things you’ll see before your next step is outside.
The trademarks of the atmosphere remain the restaurant’s pastel color palette and the gorgeous windows providing plenty of natural light along with some really nice views of the grounds, and particularly the rose gardens. (Please forgive the variance in lighting between the photographs above and below — the sun was setting into the evening when my Advance Dining Reservation took place, which changed the lighting up a bit!)
We’ve used the word “airy” to describe the Grand Floridian Cafe before, but it remains the best descriptor of this open and inviting place.
The occasional decorative turn-of-the-century style weather vane completes the Victorian scene.
While most tables are surrounded by standalone chairs, those that line the wall provide a mix of chair and booth seating.
No matter the seating, though, the final touch at each table is a single flower, providing a small hint of luxury in an otherwise casual and welcoming setting.
To sum, it’s a pretty nice spot to escape from the busy parks (it’s just a monorail or boat ride away from the Magic Kingdom) and settle in for a meal…
The Grand Floridian Cafe serves American classics. However, though you may not be able to tell by a quick glance at the menu, some of the options have a unique Floridian or east coast touch as you’ll see throughout our meal.
Before the main event, though, it’s time to enjoy a bit of complimentary fresh baked bread with salted butter.
As an aside, from the beginning of the meal, our server’s fun and helpful style of service was a great example of how the Cafe is not even remotely stuffy, even within its upscale setting in the Grand Floridian.
But it was drinks first, and I went with the Florida Sunshine made with Peach Schnapps, Chambord, Skyy Vodka, and orange and cranberry juices.
Pretty simple, really. Nothing that particularly stands out, but fruity, refreshing, and nicely relaxing nonetheless.
Along with the specialty cocktails, a few selections from the Disney Family of Wines are served here.
You may remember these from our recent visit to the Alfresco Tasting Terrace at Disney California Adventure.
As per usual, we laid low on the bread because we knew we wanted to try a new appetizer listed on the menu, Old South Minorcan Chicken Wings.
The chicken wings are coated in a Key Lime-Datil Pepper Sauce and topped with some salty, crazy-addictive crispy pickle chips.
I wasn’t familiar with Datil peppers, but our server shared that most are grown in St. Augustine, Florida. The overall effect was only slightly less spicy-hot than a buffalo wing, with a mildly sweeter taste.
They were delicious, but I have to admit it that eating something as wonderfully messy as chicken wings felt a little out-of-character for a restaurant in the Grand Floridian — which I think made me like them all the more! And, of course, the fact that we were presented with warm hand towels to clean up still gave it that Grand Floridian touch.
It was difficult not to overdue it with such a hearty appetizer, but I knew exactly what I was saving room for from the entree choices… primarily because it’s the same entree I order anytime I have a chance to visit the Grand Floridian Cafe.
Though I took a quick glance at the other options, I happily placed my regular order for the Surf and Turf Burger. You may be familiar with this dish by its previous name, the Grand Floridian Burger, which has seen a few changes over the years. With the name change came a few additional tweaks; for starters, it’s now topped with Gruyère cheese in addition to the other toppings, and served with Sweet Potato Fries instead of chips these days (a pretty decent upgrade, in my opinion).
At its core, though, the thing that makes the Surf and Turf Burger a memorable entree is still part of the deal: butter-poached Maine Lobster is the star topping of this decadent burger, which is also topped with a red onion marmalade, arugula mayonnaise, and the previously mentioned Gruyere cheese. It’s all served on a soft brioche bun.
The onion marmalade has been part of this dish for some time, and even though the lobster remains the showstopper, I think the marmalade really completes this burger, cutting through what might otherwise be an overly-salty dish with just the right amount of tang and sweetness.
An added bonus is that each time I’ve had this burger in whatever form it’s currently in, it has been nicely prepared to my medium preference.
This burger is so rich that — and I can’t believe I’m writing this, either — I actually don’t think it needs the cheese. (Gasp!) Though, again, the Grand Floridian Cafe is not a signature restaurant, I consider this a “special occasion burger.” I’ve enjoyed it in its previous form on New Year’s Eve and my birthday. But, hey, if that special occasion is simply the fact that you’re in Disney World, then have at it!
Clearly, I could talk about that burger all day… but we’ve got more to try! My husband ordered a Southern favorite: Shrimp and Grits topped with six jumbo shrimp.
My husband really enjoyed the shrimp, and the grits were so creamy they almost resembled mashed potatoes in texture (I credit that to the mascarpone cheese in the mix). The pool of rich cheese sauce covering everything had an unexpected hint of pepperiness to it.
Though it’s difficult to spot in the picture (what with being covered in the yummy cheese river, and all), a mildly spicy chorizo sausage completes the dish and adds more variety to the flavors.
As you can tell, these are two seriously rich entrees. But press on, we must ;). Time to check out the dessert menu!
I mentioned earlier that certain dishes served here have some sort of Floridian twist, and there is definitely one with the Chocolate Fondue that we ordered for dessert, though you can’t tell from the menu write-up or the photos.
Here’s the touch: the chocolate fondue has the slightest hint of orange citrus. If you’ve ever had one of those wrapped chocolate oranges popular around this time of year (the kind you have to whack on a table to break apart for part of the fun), it tastes a LOT like that in liquid form.
Here’s a look at the dippers, down the line.
Brownie bites (my favorite on the plate) and strawberries…
… along with pineapple, banana, and campfire marshmallows.
I know you’ve seen them already, but I couldn’t resist a closeup of the perfectly charred and just-gooey-enough marshmallows. Sorta impressive!
You can also typically check out a display of the Dessert Sampler on a couple of tables throughout the restaurant to see if you’re interested in the options. Meant to serve two, it comes with four miniature desserts, and on our visit it featured a Fresh Berry Tart, Wild Strawberry Cheesecake, Chocolate Timbale, and Mocha Pot de Creme.
And, of course, the signature Chocolate Mickey!
Seems to me that those chocolate ears would be a pretty good way to end another really nice meal at the Grand Floridian Cafe.
And, as usual, the sentiments on the sign outside the merchandise shop sums up our latest visit to the Grand Floridian quite nicely!
I think the Grand Floridian Cafe offers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the Grand Floridian — even if you are staying elsewhere — at more moderate prices than the signature opportunities that abound at the flagship resort. Fortunately, though, I don’t think you are sacrificing quality with a visit here. True, it’s not the high-end dining you’ll experience with several of the other options, but what the Cafe does offer is a very relaxed, welcoming experience with — from what I’ve experienced — wonderful service and great food, along with a few special touches that still help it feel like a Grand Floridian experience.
No need to dress up; in fact, you would be perfectly fine coming over by a quick hop on a boat or the monorail from Magic Kingdom in your theme park wear and feel right at home. Just come as you are, and enjoy the Grand Floridian Cafe!
What is your go-to dish at the Grand Floridian Cafe? Let us know in the comments below!