has been a staple of fun family dining at Walt Disney World’s Wilderness Lodge for years.
And I’ve enjoyed a meal and the overall atmosphere many times over the years. This has been the place to go for raucous hijinks like wooden pony races, massive straw drops, and tables overloaded with ketchup bottles.
That’s all to say: there has never been much whispering going on at Whispering Canyon Cafe. But it’s a place where fun was front and center, food was decent (although never particularly inspired), and diners knew they’d have a good time.
But that history of silliness and play was all in jeopardy last year when Whispering Canyon Cafe got a bit quieter. That’s because — for reasons unknown — Whispering Canyon Cafe toned the fun way down last May.
Or did they? After we posted about the major changes coming to the Cafe, our readers reported a lot of variation in their dining experiences. Some found the quieter setting, while others still witnessed hijinks. So I headed back to see how things were going.
And I’ll say this: the old hijinks were back… sort of. Ketchup bottles still piled up on tables, giant glasses of soda were still being delivered to unsuspecting diners, and ponies were raced. But there was something missing — like the restaurant’s spirit was deflated. The sense of lighthearted fun just wasn’t the same.
The food, on the other hand, pretty much was. And that means it was fine. Not great, not awful — just hovering in the realm of mediocre and filling. One standout of the meal, however, were the Prospector Nachos. Maybe it’s the flood of queso coating the beef brisket and barbecue pulled pork. All of this (and salsa) top freshly fried tortilla chips. These were good: drippy, hearty, crunchy. What you want from a nacho.
The Prospector Nachos aren’t expressly needed, of course, because the most popular member of the menu is the All-You-Care-to-Enjoy Skillet (now available in a plant-based variety,too!). The skillet begins with golden cornbread with butter. Nothing spectacular here, this is basic (slightly sweetened) cornbread.
The mixed greens with apple vinaigrette is a decent salad. The sweet and tangy dressing makes it a little more interesting that the usual bowl of lettuce.
The skillet is, of course, the star. It consists of meat: herb-roasted chicken, barbecue pulled pork. smoked pork ribs, western-style sausage, and oak-smoked beef brisket. And there are plenty of sides: mashed Yukon potatoes, seasonal vegetables (ubiquitous green beans), buttered corn, and cowboy-style baked beans.
And look, everything is *okay*. The meats were decent, but borderline dry; the sides were filling but basic (the mashed potatoes were the star here). And I was left feeling a little meh. There’s a lack of thoughtfulness to the food that just doesn’t feel special. And maybe that’s okay if what you’re at Whispering Canyon Cafe for is the entertainment.
Dessert was quite good, actually. The Granny Smith Caramel Apple Pie is a thick wedge of pie packed with large chopped apples topped with clumps of cobbler/streusel style topping and drizzled with salty/sweet caramel.
I’ve had it multiple times, and it’s always good. The buttery crust and streusel topping makes all the difference here, offering a counterpoint to the tart apples (plus that giant scoop of ice cream).
So dessert is good. But the meal and the overall experience at Whispering Canyon Cafe just isn’t what it used to be…at least for me…and on this particular visit. As I always say — the only consistent thing about Disney restaurants is that they’re inconsistent. For those visiting for the first time, entering without expectations, it will still be a novelty — a fun meal with silly pranks and filling menu items. It could be really satisfying in that context. And maybe on other nights with different servers it’s still exciting. But for me, it just didn’t hit the mark this time.
What’s your memory of Whispering Canyon Cafe? Will you still give it another shot in the future? Let us know in the comments!