While we’ve been exploring multiple quick-service and table-service restaurants that have re-opened around Disney World, it’s always important to return to an old favorite. We do this to make sure we have the most updated experience possible to share with you as you’re making your dining decisions for Disney World!
Garden Grill Restaurant has practically been a staple at EPCOT’s Land Pavilion since the theme park first opened — back when it was known as the Good Turn Restaurant and later the Land Grille Room. With its rotating dining room and great home-cooked food (some of which is grown right in the Pavilion!) it makes us feel like we’re having Thanksgiving year-round.
Right now, it’s one of the ONLY true character dining experiences available in the theme parks (you can meet several characters at Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood and Vine right now, and glimpse Beast at Be Our Guest Restaurant and Cindy at Cinderella’s Royal Table, but that’s it in the parks ATM)! We wanted to see how our past experiences at the restaurant stacked up to the new modified meal!
Garden Grill is tucked away inside the Land Pavilion in Future World, steps away from both the Living With the Land and Soarin’ attractions. The restaurant has an all-you-care-to-eat, set menu for kids and adults to enjoy on top of the meeting with everyone’s best pals Mickey, Pluto, and the gang! However, since the characters aren’t able to interact with guests like they have in the past, we’re visiting Garden Grill to see how the new experiences shape our time at the restaurant!
Since many of the restaurants around Disney World are following specific health and safety protocols during this time, Garden Grill has hand-sanitizing stations around the restaurant for guests to use.
Along with plexiglass barriers and safety signage, Mobile Dining Check-in is another new feature in use at the restaurant that allows guests to check-in to their reservation contact-free. All they have to do is scan the QR code near the entrance to be redirected to the My Disney Experience app for a questionnaire about their group’s needs including party size, dietary restrictions, accessibility needs, and if they’re celebrating anything.
Guests are free to stroll around until their table is ready without huddling around the podium area. Guests will receive a text confirming that their group’s table is ready at the restaurant with a notice to return to the host stand to be seated.
Garden Grill is set up uniquely in that it’s a rotating restaurant, meaning the layout of the tables is in the round, with an inner circle full of tables and chairs and the outer side of the circle comprised of comfy half-circle booths. Normally guests are seated on both sides of the rotating sections, though only the outer, booth side is available for seating right now.
The inner side of the circle is being used for distanced character interactions where Mickey, Pluto, and Chip and Dale visit at a safe distance from guests dining (but we’ll get back to that!).
Garden Grill also has a QR code menu to scan instead of using paper menus, so there is less contact with reusable menus.
The menu at Garden Grill is pretty easy to wrap your head around — everything is served all-you-care-to-eat family-style. This means big bowls or skillets will be brought to your table with enough food for everyone and if you want more of anything, you just ask! Breakfast (which is currently not being offered due to the park’s later opening time) was comprised of a skillet of breakfast staples along with fruit, sticky buns, and more. Lunch and dinner share the same menu and it has remained mostly unchanged from our past experiences — a hearty skillet of meats, fresh veggies, salad, shortcake, and more.
Price for adults is $55 and kids 3-9 are $36. This includes a non-alcoholic beverage as well.
We’ve visited Topolino’s Terrace for breakfast since it reopened, as it is one of the few forms of character dining available at Disney World right now. There, characters each take turns waving and parading around the center of the restaurant for guests while keeping a safe distance. At Garden Grill, we actually found the character interactions felt even more up-close and personal than what we experienced at Topolino’s! Although the characters are apart from the guests on the opposite seating area, Garden Grill is unique since they can essentially walk right up to your table with a short wall separating you from them.
Autographs and hugs aren’t an option right now but you can still grab a socially distanced selfie with Mickey, Pluto, and Chip and Dale or take all the photos you want of them since they’re obviously very photogenic.
We were happy to see Farmer Mickey and his gang strolling around the restaurant saying hi! Before the closures, we LOVED Garden Grill as a character meal due to the smaller size of the location. We often had MUCH more time with characters here than other character meals, often having Mickey and company circle around a few times to see us! That’s still very much the case now, but with even fewer guests for them to meet when making the rounds!
But, you didn’t just come to this review to read about the safety procedures and character interactions, now did you? (K, well maybe the character interactions part cause MICKEY guys!) So, let’s get EATING, folks! Also, don’t be surprised if you spot a not-so-hidden Mickey on your table. This is pretty common round these parts!
Soft rolls and butter are brought out to the table first. That butter? Yea, it’s the star of the show here. It’s an orange blossom honey butter and the bread is really just an excuse to cram as much of this butter in your mouth as possible. Ours was a bit on the softer side, but it’s seriously good stuff.
With Garden Grill’s fixed dining menu, guests will receive a non-specialty, non-alcoholic drink included in the cost of their meals. There are specialty drinks, wine, and beer available to purchase for a few extra dollars (especially if your kiddos just REALLY want those light-up drink clips)! We went with a simple iced tea (served in a mason jar!).
The full Chip ‘n’ Dale Harvest Feast comes with plenty of meat, veggies, and CARBS to chow down on while you visit with the characters during lunch or dinner.
The Harvest Garden Salad might not look like anything fancy, we think it’s worth noting that the ingredients are actually from inside The Land! Disney harvests its own plants and food just right downstairs (which you can see if you take a trip on Living with the Land). Rest assured your salad is FRESH whenever you go to Garden Grill. Note that the salad can change slightly from visit to visit depending on what’s fresh. Ours had chopped cucumbers and tomatoes, and kalamata olives — yum!
And, now to the BIG feast! The skillet brought to your table is filled with multiple ingredients that even some of the pickiest eaters should enjoy. We were dining as a party of one so our portion size represented that, but if you have a larger group, your skillet will be scaled proportionally.
Here’s the deal with the skillet here though — the meats and sides served have changed quite a bit over the years. On past visits we had grilled sausages, turkey, and pot roast. The sausages were replaced with roasted pork with applesauce on our most recent visit, and now the meal comes with just two meat options. Sides can change up frequently here too, hence the “seasonal vegetables” on the menu. One side that has stuck around has been their creamy mashed potatoes that are quite the hit with us…
…and we forgot how much we loved that Herb and Leek Stuffing! It was soft and flavorful, but there were some crispy bits in there that just made it all the better when paired with the mashed potatoes or meat options on the plate. This is good enough to remind you that stuffing is SO not only for Thanksgiving!
The grilled beef was new to us on the platter so we dove into it first. It was so tender that we were able to cut into it VERY easily as we paired it with the other dishes in our feast. But, we have to say that the garlicky herby chimichurri on top really brought out the flavors of the beef. It was served alongside corn with lima beans and red peppers. The corn was fine. Honestly, with all the other good stuff on the plate it got a bit overshadowed, but if you or your kids prefer a simpler veggie side (not counting those mashed potatoes) this should hit the spot.
The turkey also had a LOT of flavor and was quite moist, which was complemented by all that good ol’ turkey gravy. The green beans right next to it still had a great crunch to them. Although we loooove us some starchy carbs, a veggie as good as Garden Grill’s green beans are definitely welcomed.
But, our favorite part of the Harvest Feast has to be that side of mac and cheese! In a Disney World that’s full of bland mac, this stuff has some salt, my friend. And we love they still sprinkle Goldfish crackers on top! Such a fun touch we’ve come to love at this spot! This is basically irresistible to kids and adults alike in our experience. 🙂 Don’t forget you can (and should) scarf this down and ask for seconds!
Even though our dinner was great, we had to save the best part of our trip to Garden Grill for last! The Berry Shortcake is still on the menu for dessert and is topped with loads of berry sauce, strawberries and blueberries, and a giant tower of whipped cream. After a somewhat heavy lot of ingredients for dinner, the Berry Shortcake is very fresh and light (but still filled with sweet flavors).
Although you’re supposed to split it with one of your other family members or friends at the table, we won’t judge if you want the whole thing for yourself! 😉
At the end of the meal, guests are given a souvenir postcard featuring the Garden Grill characters having their own Harvest Feast on a farm! (Mickey sure does seem to have a green thumb, don’t you think??)
The back has the Mickey, Pluto, and Chip and Dale’s signatures. See, the characters can’t get close enough right now to give out personal autographs due to social distancing, so you get this cute souvenir instead.
These are fun mementos of your crazy 2020 Disney World vacation.
Nosh or Not
Consider dining at Garden Grill if:
- You want to experience character dining in a park in Disney World.
- You are looking for consistently good food in the parks, especially for character dining.
- You’re looking for an AYCE meal where you can ask for seconds or thirds if you’d like.
You may want to skip Garden Grill if:
- You’re traveling with 10 or more people. The restaurant is a bit cramped due to its size and with limited seating options, accommodating a very large group could be tricky.
- You are NOT interested in character dining, thank you very much.
- You want to experience some of the more unique dining offerings back in World Showcase on your visit to EPCOT.
We admit we have a soft spot for Garden Grill — it definitely is one of the classics, in our opinion. The location is unique and offers a special view of Living With the Land while you dine. Plus, the idea of a rotating restaurant is still just really fun for us and reminds us of our 80’s EPCOT trips when this restaurant in its previous iterations was a must. 😉
While there isn’t anything that’s extremely exciting on the menu, Garden Grill is unique since it uses home-grown vegetables and ingredients from inside The Land. This is fresh, quality comfort food done quite well. If you’re looking to tuck into a home-cooked tasting meal while in Disney World, this is the spot for you.
Even though there are spots around Disney World that can be hit or miss, Garden Grill has consistently good food, especially for a character meal. Guests can expect fresh vegetables and flavorful meals that multiple ages will enjoy. However, the price tag for $55 per adult and $36 per kid might not be worth it for the modified experience, especially without the Disney Dining Plan being offered (it’s typically a great deal if you’re on the Dining Plan, though!). For the same cost, you could head over to somewhere like Le Cellier for a fancy steak instead.
We do think it’s important to note that Garden Grill might be one of the best restaurants for character experiences right now, though. While Topolino’s Terrace allows everyone to watch characters parade around the area to lively music, guests are able to get closer to the characters at Garden Grill than Riviera Resort’s breakfast. And you’ll get much more interaction with these guys than you will with characters at Hollywood and Vine due to the size of the restaurant.
Short answer — we love it. We’ll probably always love it. It’s a small, intimate, enjoyable character meal with great food in large quantities and it’s really one of the only games in town in EPCOT’s Future World. So…book it.
What’s your favorite EPCOT restaurant to visit? Let us know in the comments below!