2016 is nearly upon us, and so we find ourselves looking back at all that 2015 had to offer. It’s been an exciting time, full of huge announcements about new venues and attractions and lots of progress on previously announced projects. Before we bid goodbye to one year and welcome a new one, let’s review where we’ve been and see a glimpse of what’s to come!
Star Wars Lands Coming to Both Coasts — And It’s Bringing Lots of Food From a Galaxy Far, Far Away
There was a HUGE disturbance in the Force — the Disney Force, that is — this summer when Disney announced that Star Wars Land would be coming to both Disneyland AND Walt Disney World. The crowds went wild!
But, of course, our first question was, “Super! But what are we going to eat there?”
While details remain scarce about food offerings in the new Lands, we do know that they will feature Cantinas. And we suspect that this venue will bear more than a passing resemblance to its namesake in the films.
Fortunately they aren’t making us wait until the attractions open to speculate about what the food might look like. We are already getting plenty of looks at Star Wars-inspired food, thanks to a couple of spots that have already served themed fare. Hollywood Studios restaurant Hollywood and Vine has featured foods from the Star Wars universe at their Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine, as has Sci-Fi Dine-In at the Star Wars Galactic Dine-In Breakfast.
Even though it’s been announced that Star Wars Weekends will be on hiatus for now, a look back at the food options from 2015 is still fun, and may foreshadow what we see in the future.
We saw the addition of Rebel Hangar this past spring, as half of Backlot Express was transformed into the intergalactic hangout. Intriguing Star Wars-themed decor surrounded, and dishes ran the gamut from Chips and Sith to Yoda Key Lime Cake. The spot proved to be so popular that they started taking Advance Dining Reservations.
Disneyland hasn’t been left out of the fun. There, we’ve enjoyed a new menu at Galactic Grill, which has been introduced as part of the Season of the Force celebration. With specials like the First Order Burger and Jedi Order Chicken Sandwich, you can’t go wrong!
Not to be outdone, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has also introduced menu items celebrating Season of the Force at Backlot Express. Try Corellian Spice Fries, Padawan Dark Side Chicken And Waffles, or save room for a Blue Panna Cotta!
Of course, with this incredible announcement (along with the announcement that Toy Story Land would also be coming soon), we knew we’d have to bid farewell to a few things. In 2015, as we celebrate the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights and say goodbye to this incredible display, which has become a tradition in its own right for many guests.
Disneyland’s Diamond Celebration — And It’s Still Going Strong!
Disneyland, the Park That Started It All, also marked its own very special milestone in 2015, as we celebrated the Park’s 60th Anniversary.
The Diamond Celebration, which kicked off in May, is still going strong. And our favorite way to salute this special spot is with a beautiful array of special snacks and treats, of course!
Disney has made a new tradition of a 24-hour celebration to kick off summer for the last couple of years. And in 2015, the Diamond Celebration served as the focal point for the West Coast Party.
I spent a glorious 24 hours (no joke, actually 24 hours of Disney awesomeness) eating, partying, and enjoying the attractions at Disneyland. Dining in Disneyland columnist Heather was along for the fun, and we had an AMAZING time! We enjoyed special drinks at Jolly Holiday, and even enjoyed a few extra treats along the way!
Happy Birthday, Disneyland! We look forward to celebrating for the rest of the year, and for many many years to come!
New Life Comes to Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland
One part of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has received a good bit of attention in 2015, and that’s Adventureland. Rumors swirled forever that the land would be getting a table service restaurant. For a while, we were hearing that the new spot would be Princess and the Frog-themed. (Think Tiana’s.)
Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen is born. The Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen (or Skipper Canteen for short) is officially open now. We’ve had our very first look around the spot as well as a FULL review! As usual, the attention to detail is incredible here. Longtime fans of Jungle Cruise will see lots of references to the ride — and the running gags.
The menu also represents a clear departure for the normal Magic Kingdom food, with a heavy emphasis on Asian, South American, and African cuisine. We especially love the S.E.A. Shu Mai!
And no meal is complete without a Punch Line Punch or a Schweitzer Slush.
But be sure to save room for dessert. The Coconut Bar with Pineapple-Basil Compote and Vanilla Cream is our favorite!
Aloha Isle and Sunshine Tree Terrace Pull a Switcheroo. In the months leading up to the big reveal about Skipper Canteen, we also heard a few rumors that Aloha Isle would be closing to make room for the new restaurant.
The rumors started when Dole Whips joined Citrus Swirls on the menu at Sunshine Tree Terrace. But the rumors turned out to be unfounded, even though something interesting did happen — Aloha Isle and Sunshine Tree Terrace switched places.
At press time, both continue to be in operation, and we haven’t heard that anything would be changing soon.
Downtown Disney Officially Becomes Disney Springs — And the Major Updates and Announcements Continue
We’ve been reporting on the changes at Disney Springs for a while now — the news of the eventual re-branding first surfaced in 2013 — but in 2015, the vision finally began to take shape when the official name change happened.
We continue to see progress of the transformation, making it seem as though Disney’s anticipated completion date of sometime in 2016 will be accurate. In the meantime, let’s look back at all the ginormous changes that have taken place. We’ll also review some of the announcements that give us a vision of what we can still look forward to.
Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC. We kicked off the year with confirmation of a rumor that had swirled for ages. When BabyCakes NYC first closed in 2014, we had a suspicion that the move was temporary. We weren’t too far into 2015 before our guess was confirmed, and Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC opened!
The spot specializes in allergy-friendly, vegan baked goods, offering goodies in their storefront, but also providing specialty cakes at venues throughout Walt Disney World.
The new eatery also features a raw bar where walk-up patrons can enjoy a drink and a bar menu that’s heavy on seafood.
But there’s also an entertainment component here. In addition to dining, BOATHOUSE also offers rides in iconic Amphicars — vehicles which start out on land before launching into the Village Lake. You will pay extra for these, though. A LOT extra.
There had been speculation about what the structure, which stands adjacent to BOATHOUSE, would become. The boat seemingly in dry-dock next to it definitely threw us for a bit. But when the announcement came that the bar would pay homage to the Indiana Jones franchise, everything made sense!
And the food was pretty interesting too, as dishes like the sweet and spicy Lao Che’s Revenge Wings caught our attention. And the dry-dock boat?
Turned out to be some of the best seating in (or rather, outside) the house! Named for Jock’s pet snake, Reggie, this is an awesome place to relax a bit.
There was tons of speculation about whether or not the man himself, Chef Masaharu Morimoto, would be on hand for the opening. And he was!
The restaurant, which features a Pan-Asian approach with dishes such as the Tuna Pizza and the Morimoto Peking Duck, has been well received thus far.
While both Starbucks and Joffreys have upped the coffee game in all of Disney by giving java drinkers a better quality cup, it was still nice to see tea get its due too. A visit to Joffrey’s Tea Trader’s Cafe is an exploration in the popular beverage. Enjoy special tea ceremonies, talk to tea smiths, or just grab a drink (frozen, iced, or hot) to go, along with a pastry.
And don’t forget to check out teas for purchase to take home with you.
The Ganachery. Boutique goods and “buying local” are all the rage these days, and Disney is capitalizing on that trend in Disney Springs. While they’re bringing you tastes from all over the world, they’re also showcasing their very own “local” talent at The Ganachery.
The little shop comes complete with an interesting backstory that the space was once an apothecary, and now serves as a chocolaterie. You’ll find custom ganache creations, plus lots of prepackaged goodies to take home.
If you’re a chocolate lover, this is the place to be.
Dockside Margaritas. Another spot with local flair is Dockside Margaritas. Located in the Marketplace section of Disney Springs, the stand has been around for a while, but in 2015 it received a refresh.
Along with a facelift and expanded seating, the space now emphasizes Florida flavors.
Head here in the evening to enjoy live music on Dockside’s patio as you sip on refreshing cocktails and mocktails.
Vivoli Il Gelato. If you prefer frozen treats with an international flair, you’ll be interested in another new spot that opened in 2015 — Vivoli Il Gelato. With the original shop in Florence — yep, that’s Italy, folks — you can bet that the gelato that you’re getting here is the real deal.
And there’s more to come! Even though a ton has already happened, it seems that’s just the tip of the iceberg! In addition to all of these openings, announcements were made about several other coming attractions. Look for more news soon about other new restaurants, like STK and The Edison.
There will also be new eateries helmed by celebrity chefs Rick Bayless and Art Smith. And we’re intrigued by teasers confirming Neverland Tunnels and Walt’s Restaurant. Cupcake lovers are excited about Sprinkles Cupcakes. And we are definitely excited to see the newly-reimagined Planet Hollywood.
Lots of Updates to Animal Kingdom
Another corner of Walt Disney World that’s getting lots of attention these days is Animal Kingdom. The park has always been a “half day” experience to many Disney guests, especially since the animals who serve as the park’s main attractions are not available for exhibit into the evening. But with two major announcements — Avatarland and the Rivers of Light spectacular — seem designed to extend that park’s hours past nightfall.
We believe that many of the expanded offerings that we’re seeing are as a result of these coming changes. In 2015, Starbucks completed its pledge to bring stores to every Disney park as the final outlet opened in the Creature Comforts space near the entrance of Africa. (You can check out a photo tour here.)
As the year is coming to an end, we’re already seeing what’s on the horizon for 2016. Existing kiosks and stands are being rebranded with new names and logos. For instance, you’ll find The Smiling Crocodile where you once enjoyed The Garden Kiosk. Thirsty River Bar and Trek Snacks opened in the Asia section of the park, and offers an interesting selection of counter service eats.
R.I.P. Plastic Cheese
But few things made as many waves this year in the DFB home office than the announcement that Plastic Cheese would be no more at Walt Disney World.
Not familiar with the concept? It’s simple really. You know that wonderful cheese sauce that you just know in your heart has very little to do with actual cheese — but you can’t help yourself? Yah. That. (For even more details, read this homage.)
We can’t help loving the golden delicious condiment. We’ve smothered and dipped everything into it that we can get our hands on — Fries, Corn Dog Nuggets, and Tortilla Chips to name a few of our favorites.
Thank goodness we’ve found a few notable favorites to replace it. And even better, items like the Irish Vintage Cheese and Bacon Dip at Cookes of Dublin and Raglan Road, and the incredible Fondue at Territory Lounge are actually both real cheese.
Like really real. So everybody wins.
Continued Commitment to Serving Guests with Food Allergies and Sensitivities
Disney has often been heralded as a leader when it comes to serving guests with food allergies, sensitivities, and those who follow an alternative diet. In 2015, we continued to see that commitment deepen across the company.
In part, Disney has acted as a bit of an umbrella, welcoming other companies committed to this focus. With Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC getting its own standalone spot at Disney Springs, guests who have diet sensitivities and allergies have a place where it’s “safe” to eat nearly everything. But McKenna’s bakery also offers specialty cakes for celebrations all over Walt Disney World.
Chocolate and sweets shop Ghirardelli has also signaled its commitment to serving guests with allergies. In April, we brought you news that the shops, located in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, would no longer offer peanut products.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom also signaled its position as a leader among the parks in this area in 2014 with the addition of the Allergy Kiosk. This year, the kiosk received a name change to Terra Treats, and it looks like it will be a permanent fixture in the expanding park.
Finally, while Disney has offered alternative snacks for guests with allergies and sensitivities in the past, they now have Disney-branded snacks that meet these criteria.
Look for Snacks with Character at retail spots throughout the parks and resorts.
Popcorn Frenzy and an Update to the Official Disney Popcorn
We’ve always seen its status as a bit of a frenzy in Tokyo Disneyland, but now the craze has fully bloomed stateside. Disney is courting this love in big ways with tons of seasonal popcorn buckets. We can’t get enough of this Mickey Balloon Popcorn Bucket, a special to celebrate Disneyland’s 60th Anniversary!
In other popcorn news, Pop Secret was named the official Disney popcorn during 2015. The move was met with outcry from many hardcore popcorn fans, but at the end of the day, it appears that the company only provides the kernels, so the flavors should be similar to what was available before.
River Belle Terrace Announces Changes
Late this year, we also received some news that a Disneyland breakfast legend would be changing things up a bit.
You’ve seen it right here — one of our absolute favorite breakfast spots in Disneyland has been River Belle Terrace.
We’ve loved it for some of its iconic dishes, like the Mickey Pancake and Cinnamon Roll French Toast.
But it also offers beautiful views and a serene way to start your day at this busy park. And it gets extra points for being a favorite breakfast stop of Walt Disney himself.
It was recently announced that River Belle Terrace will be changing from counter service to table service, and that the restaurant will serve only lunch and dinner. Rancho del Zocalo will fill the counter service breakfast void left by River Belle Terrace, and will even offer some of the spot’s most famous dishes.
We’re still going to miss enjoying our eggs with that beautiful view, though.
Restaurants Announce Expansions to Service
Finally, 2015 has seen an unprecedented number of Walt Disney World restaurants expand their hours into previously unchartered territory. Across the resort, lounges like Territory Lounge in Wilderness Lodge have begun hours as an early morning coffee spot.
And this fall, two signature restaurants have announced that they would begin serving brunch. Both Narcoossee’s and California Grill will offer prix fixe meals on Sundays; Narcoossee’s has already begun while California Grill’s Brunch at the Top rolls out next February.
On the character dining front, Epcot’s Garden Grill has expanded from dinner only to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (See our review of Chip n’ Dale’s Harvest Feast Breakfast here.) All three meals offer family-style service and character interaction.
Hollywood and Vine Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will also expand character dining offerings with its Minnie Seasonal Dine parties. This celebration will change in theme seasonally — here’s our review of Minnie’s Holiday and Dine Dinner!
And that’s a wrap! It’s been a big year in the ever-changing world of Disney food, and we love keeping up with all of it and sharing it with you. And we can’t wait to see what new, fun, and delicious experiences 2016 will bring!
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What was your favorite Disney food moment in 2015? Leave a comment and share with us below!