We hope you’re having an amazing time celebrating Disney World’s 50th Anniversary so far!
We’ve had a blast checking out the specialty merchandise, new details, fun snacks, and more! You might have seen our reviews of Steakhouse 71, but that’s not the only new table service offering at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. California Grill has also gotten a bit of a revamp!
We headed on up to the top floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort to check out the new 50th Anniversary prix fixe menu at this popular signature restaurant. We’ve had some enjoyable experiences at California Grill in the past, so how did this one hold up?
First up, let’s talk about the atmosphere. Check-in for California Grill is actually on the second floor of the Contemporary at the desk near the escalators. If you’re not super familiar with this hotel, it can be tricky for some to find. Ask a Cast Member for directions or follow signs posted around the hotel. You can also check-in via the My Disney Experience app.
You check in here and then head up in a private elevator to the very top floor.
Heads up, this restaurant does have a dress code, so you can’t go TOO casual.
Here’s why so many come here to eat: those VIEWS! California Grill is laid out as a large wrap-around room with HUGE windows facing the front of the building and Magic Kingdom. How else are we going to get those sweet fireworks views?
There’s another small room with just six tables that faces the back of the building. This is where you can see EPCOT and the Electrical Water Pageant (with its new 50th pieces!).
The restaurant has your standard tables and chairs, plus booths and bar seating. There’s also an adjacent Lounge here as well.
At your table, you’ll find paper menus detailing the prix fixe option with a cloth napkin and utensils.
The huge windows provide one of the best views in Disney World — overlooking Magic Kingdom and the monorail resorts. There’s also a fantastic huge balcony guests can head out on to see the fireworks each night, if they like.
So, yes, we love that view; but how did we feel about the NEW food?!
As we mentioned, you do have access to a paper menu at your table. Note the options that have a “50” next to them. These choices are specifically inspired by Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary! A good number of guest-loved classics are still available as well. The new menu offers a prix fixe meal priced at $89 per adult and $39 per child, plus taxes and gratuity. At the start of the meal, you can select a Market Inspiration (AKA appetizer) such as the California Grill Sushi Classics Trio or the Heirloom Apple Salad.
Your next course is the Chef’s Journey (AKA entree) with options like Monterey Bay Cioppino, Cast Iron-grilled Pork Tenderloin, and an Oak-fired Filet of Beef.
Your final course is the Sweet Creations with options like the Chef’s Selections of California Cheeses and the Lavendar Sugar Doughnuts.
The kids’ offering features one Kids’ Appetizer, one Kids’ Entree, two Kids’ Selections, and a Kids’ Dessert.
As always, California Grill has a wide selection of beverages. You can choose from 11 Teas…
…11 Dessert Wines/Ports/Sherries/Madeiras, five Cordials, seven Cognacs…
…a number of Whiskies plus Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskies…
…Rye Whisky, Sparkling and White Wines…
…Rosé and Red Wines…
…Signature Cocktails (like the Blackberry Sour or the San Francisco Mai Tai), Sake…
…and some Beers and Hard Ciders.
Whew, that’s a lot of drink options. There are nonalcoholic beverages as well. Now, let’s eat!
California Grill does feature a bread service at the start of your meal. This spot used to have sourdough bread but is now serving Focaccia Bread with their Signature Dipping Oil. The oil is mostly seasoned olive oil with some sundried tomatoes mixed in.
What a tasty way to start the meal!
First up, we ordered a few cocktails. There’s the Icewine Martini for $23, made with Belvedere Vodka, Inniskillin Vidal Icewine, and Flame Raisins on the Vine.
This cocktail was very sweet, but it wasn’t cloyingly so. It tasted a lot more like Icewine than it did vodka so it wasn’t very strong. If you haven’t had Icewine before, it’s exactly what it sounds like — a sweet dessert wine made from frozen grapes on the vine. They’re then pressed while frozen and the result is a sugary, concentrated juice. Icewine is a pricy ingredient, but even still, $23 felt like a bit much for a cocktail.
We also snagged the Blueberry Lemon Drop Martini for $15. This sip is made with Three Olives Blueberry Vodka, Lemon and Pomegranate Juices, and a Sugared Rim.
We liked both of the drinks, but the Blueberry Lemon Drop Martini was more of a favorite. This one goes down EASY and tastes really great. The tartness of the lemon balanced well with the strong, fruity flavor of the blueberry vodka. You’ll need to like sweeter drinks and blueberries to like this one, but if so, it’s a fun sip!
Movin’ on to the first course — the Market Inspirations. We snagged the House-made Artisanal-style Duck À L’Orange Pizza.
This option was made with Duck Prosciutto and Confit, Pickled Shallots, Orange-Black Mission Fig Jam, Aged Blue Cheese, and Arugula.
It was AMAZING. We absolutely loved this appetizer. The fig jam and the blue cheese were an amazing flavor combination and the crust was cooked perfectly. We could’ve gone for a little more prosciutto, but the pizza was delicious. Plus, it was a HUGE portion size for an appetizer for one person! This was a really wonderful combination of flavors.
If you’re hungry or love more unique flavor options, we’d recommend this starter. Blue cheese-haters might want to find an alternative though since it does play a strong role. If you’re more a cheese-and-pepperoni kinda person, might be one to skip.
We also chose the Lobster and Parsnip Bisque.
This soup is made with Lobster, Champagne, Crème Fraîche, and Parsnip Crisp. If you’re not familiar with parsnip, it’s probably closest in flavor and texture to a carrot, but typically a bit sweeter flavored.
The lobster was a VERY strong flavor here so you do need to like seafood to be a fan of this option. We thought the puree was delightfully creamy; you could really tell there was crème fraîche in it! The parsnip crisp was a wonderful garnish and we would have loved more of that (like, a bowl. To snack on. Please.)! All around, it was a good appetizer.
Our final starter was the Braised Beef Short Rib Wontons. This has been on the regular menu for a while now and we’ve enjoyed them in the past.
Expect flavors of Doenjang Miso-Cola-Onion Sauce, Crispy Garlic-Chili Oil, Radish, and Pickled Lotus Root.
Like we noted, these were a favorite from before the menu switch but be warned if you’ve had them before! This portion used to come with four wontons and now comes with just three. They are spicy in the best way and come with SO. MUCH. FLAVOR. TBH, we could eat these daily. We especially loved the garlic chili oil.
Alright, main course time. Our first Chef’s Journey was the Oak-fired Filet of Beef.
This portion is served with Black Truffle-Brown Butter Château Potatoes, Golden Raisins Vinaigrette, Cauliflower, and Roasted Tomato Butter.
The filet was really good! It had a lovely sear to the edges and went very well with all the butter. The cauliflower had an awesome flavor, as did the potatoes!
We would’ve loved larger side portions — they don’t give you very much! You really just get a bite or so of each one! The steak will please red-meat fans but be prepared for a little disappointment if you love those sides to go with your meat.
Next up, we went with the Free-range Plancha-seared Chicken.
Expect a meal made with Sunchoke Variations, Confit-studded Mousseline, Pearl Onions, Foraged Mushrooms, and Madeira Sauce.
This was an interesting dish. The chicken was cooked well (if a bit dry) and the sauces added a ton of creaminess and flavor. This felt like a very autumnal dish. The Madeira sauce was nice and kind of like a demi-glace.
If anything, we would’ve loved more chicken. There were SO MANY mushrooms and they were tasty, but we would’ve appreciated more of the meat. So basically, the opposite of the steak. 😂 Now we had a plate full of sides and not enough MEAT!
Finally, we opted for a plant-based option with the Handcrafted Wild Mushroom Ravioli.
This dish is composed of Chanterelle Mushrooms, Honeynut Squash, Herbed-Pistachio Pesto, and a Truffle-Mushroom “Cream.”
This was really good! You’ll need to love mushrooms and squash but if you do, it’s PACKED full of flavor! The pesto was unique with the addition of pistachio instead of pine nuts. Plus, we loved the onions!
Like the chicken, this had a very fall feel. For the price and compared to the other entrees, we might have liked to see a larger portion of the squash and the ravioli.
Alright, full yet? We sure hope not! We’re heading on to the Sweet Creations. We tried out the Five Magical Bites 50 Years in the Making with flavors of Honey, Lemon, Carrot, Strawberry, and Chocolate.
This dish represents five different chefs at California Grill that have had a signature dessert in the past. How cool that it’s a tribute! The carrot cake was our favorite and represented the current Chef’s dessert. It was the perfect balance of cake and icing with the added sweetness from the raisins.
The lemon cake represented the first chef and was very light. We would’ve liked a bit more of this one since it was the only tart option on the plate. The honey crunch cake was SO cute and we loved the little chocolate bee!
The cheesecake with the strawberries was good but simple and basic.
As for the chocolate? It was very, very rich. We thought it had almost a fudge texture. That one was a great option along with the carrot cake!
This is certainly a fun dish that celebrates the history of California Grill. If you want to taste a few different items, the bites are great! Just keep in mind that you might not enjoy all of them, so it’s a bit risky. (But also — it’s cake, so if you dig desserts like we do, this is a fun sampler to explore!)
Of course, we HAD to see the EARidescent Grand Marnier Soufflé. This is served with Creamsicle Ice Cream and Macerated Florida Citrus.
In fairness, they did warn us that this dessert wasn’t going to look that great. Soufflé is TRICKY on a good day. California Grill typically does a really nice chocolate soufflé but any bakers out there know this dessert is fickle and comes with a time limit. The minute you pop it out the oven, the clock is ticking until it deflates. It’s also easy to under or over cook. Ours sank and it sank fast. Not only that, but the center seemed undercooked and the batter wasn’t quite right. It was…not what we were expecting.
No worries though, our server mentioned that they are aware of the issues with this dessert and are working to fix it up. Hopefully, day one of the new menu just wasn’t a good day for this dessert. If you want this one, check with your server to see if they’ve worked out the kinks.
We wrapped up dessert with the Valrhona Chocolate Torte, served with Candied Peanuts, Salted Caramel, Nougat, and Whipped Panna Cotta.
This was a fun treat! It was kind of like a deconstructed candy bar. The torte itself was a little dry but with the whipped panna cotta and toppings, it works!
This is a pretty rich dessert and great for those who love nuts.
AND we checked out one of the kids’ meals! Remember that this one is $39 per kiddo. We picked up one of the upcharge beverages to go with our meal. We chose the Stardust Sipper for $11. This drink is made with Ceylon Tea with hints of Passion Fruit, Pomegranate, and Vanilla perfectly mixed with Sweet and Sour, Mint, and Soda Water. It comes served in a 50th Anniversary Souvenir Cup with a Glow Cube!
This was kind of a deceiving drink! It SOUNDS fancy, right? We thought the description might turn off some pickier littles but it really just tasted like fruity Sprite. The cup was also super cute and you can also pick up a regular soda in the cup if you want it.
We snagged the Hearts of Romaine as our kids’ appetizer. This one comes with Ranch Dressing, Tomatoes, Bacon, and Croutons.
Hear us out on this one: this was an AMAZING salad. TBH, we were pretty jealous of the kids’ offering with this one. The Nueske’s bacon was sooo good. Everything was fresh so it was simple and so good!
For our entree and sides, we chose the Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes and Goat Cheese Polenta.
The steak was good and cooked to order as medium-rare. The potatoes were yummy and buttery but the polenta was our favorite. It’s super creamy and not overly cheesy! So once again, SCORE one for the kids!
For dessert, we opted for the Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sundae. We snagged the brownie option so it had brownie bits instead of cookies.
The dessert was super cute and delicious! Kids will love this one! Look at the precious bowl it comes in! It also comes with vanilla ice cream and celebration sprinkles with fun little chocolate straws.
Now for our thoughts!
Nosh or Not
You SHOULD try out the 50th menu if…
- You’re celebrating a special occasion! This meal is certainly special and the fireworks help to make a great memory out of it.
- You’re willing to splurge for a nice meal. This is a PRICY experience, but it is a delight if you’re willing to splurge!
- You want to see the new Enchantment fireworks without fighting the crowds in Magic Kingdom!
You should SKIP the 50th menu if…
- You’re not wanting to spend! This meal is $100 for adults so it is PRICY.
- You’re not dressed for the dress code or not looking to get fancy. Make sure you change out of that tank top before you head over from the parks!
- Your group is full of picky eaters. A lot of the dishes here are more adventurous.
Our server was super sweet and told us that the prix fixe menu will be sticking around and the lounge menu will be available during the same operating hours on a first-come, first-serve basis. California Grill has typically been a reliably good meal for us so we didn’t mind the prix fixe of it all as we liked a lot of what was on offer anyways. That said, it seems the tides are shifting with
It’s beautiful in the dining room. The views are AMAZING. We love getting to go out on the roof to watch the fireworks. Still, the price point is really high BEFORE drinks and gratuity. A large family would be paying a high price to eat here and the portions can be small depending on what you get.
To compare it to other prix fixe meals, like Be Our Guest in Magic Kingdom, it’s a splurge. Be Our Guest is currently $62 per adult for three courses. While we think the food here was a bit better in terms of quality, it is a lot of money for a meal (and that’s before those cocktails, tips, etc!). We looked back at the menu from before the shift to prix fixe and do want to note, though, that a comparable meal here came in close to the amount spent. The Braised Beef Short Rib Wontons (though slightly larger serving) cost $18, the last version of the Oak Fired Filet of Beef cost a big $59, and most desserts came in about $15, give or take. That’s already $92. So it seems expensive seeing it as one flat price of $99 for the meal, but once you get past the sticker shock, it’s actually not too far off from what you’d spend here. California Grill is a pricier location, and the prix fixe price reflects that as well.
Another point of comparison is the Magic Kingdom firework parties. Those DO come with alcohol for adults, but most of the party options cost $99 per adult or $114 for the priciest option in the park. Yes, you get an upfront view of the fireworks, but you’re also just getting a few small sweet bites to eat. Here, you’re paying the same as the cheaper options and getting a three-course meal out of it and a unique view of the fireworks if you time your meal right (you can also return with your receipt if you dine earlier to get access to the balcony for firework viewing!). If food is an important part of your firework experience, it might be seriously worth considering, especially since you could potentially shell out the same or more for the dessert parties in Magic Kingdom.
Would you try out this meal? Tell us in the comments!