Ten of the best restaurants to visit at The House of Mouse…
Planning a Walt Disney World (WDW) holiday can consist of equal parts excitement, anticipation and complete terror. With so much to do and see, and over 300 restaurants to consider for your mealtimes, the sheer amount of attractions to take a look at can be very daunting indeed – even more so when you consider that many of the top restaurants can need booking up to six months in advance! Still, if you know which eateries offer the best in memory-making experiences and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious dishes, you’ll be one step ahead of the crowd.
So, without further adieu, let this blog post be your guide…
Beaches & Cream Soda Shop
There are a lot of spots to grab a burger at WDW, but few will match up to the gourmet patties served at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop at the Beach Club Resort. Many will also visit this retro hot-spot for a cooling ice cream, but if you really want to explore the menu – and you should – it’s worth getting that table reservation.
The truly brave will order the Kitchen Sink dessert: an outrageously large pudding that contains damn near everything that is available on the menu that contains sugar. Multiple scoops of every ice cream flavour, an entire can of whipped cream, a whole brownie, multiple cookies and cupcakes and every available topping is chucked into, you guessed it, a kitchen sink, and delivered the table with aplomb. Unsurprisingly, there’s a recommendation to share.
Be Our Guest
Many of WDW’s restaurants offer the chance to dine with beloved characters or in famous settings, but Be Our Guest arguably outdoes them all in terms of scope and scale. You may have guessed from the title, but this restaurant recreates Beauty and the Beast’s castle with astonishing detail across three dining rooms.
First is the grand ballroom, where Belle and Beast danced in the film; second is the mysterious west wing, complete with wilting rose; and third is the castle gallery, which is decorated as if it were Belle’s private library, complete with stunning statues of Belle and Beast. The theming and fun continues on the menu. Guests can, for example, try a dessert of the ‘Grey Stuff’ (it’s delicious.) Preceding main courses like the herb-crusted lamb, pan-seared salmon and layered ratatouille shouldn’t be overlooked, mind.
California Grill is a one-of-kind restaurant: one that combines an unrivalled location with equally stunning gastronomy. Many visitors rush to book a spot here because it’s situated on the top floor of Disney’s flagship hotel, the Contemporary Resort, which affords guests views over the Magic Kingdom Park, the iconic Cinderella Castle and even the Wishes fireworks display. Because the restaurant is situated outside the theme parks, guests don’t need to pay admission to view one of WDW’s most popular nightly events.
Now picture the scene: you’ve finished your oak-fired fillet of beef with a Florida heirloom tomato risotto, aged balsamic and tomato butter; your partner has devoured some of the fresh sushi; and your waiter schedules your dessert to be delivered to the table after you return from appreciating one of the most beautiful pyrotechnic displays the World (and, indeed, world) has to offer. Evenings like this makes California Grill the must-visit spot it is.
When considering character dining, it’s unsurprising that many of WDW’s guests and diners want to meet Mickey first and foremost. After all, as Walt himself said, “it all started with a mouse”. One of the best places to meet the CEO (Chief Ear Officer) is at Chef Mickey’s, which happens to be another dining destination in the Contemporary Resort.
While choosing from a huge hot and cold buffet, you can rub shoulders with the fab five of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto. They’ll be happy to pose for photos and sign autographs as you go on to chow down on a plate of eggs and turkey sausages at breakfast, or, at dinner, the likes of Caesar salad and oven-roasted pepper chicken. The food might be on the simpler side, but a meal with Mickey and the gang is something you’ll never forget.
Cinderella’s Royal Table
If California Grill is famed for views of Cinderella Castle with your meal, then Cinderella’s Royal Table (CRT) is famed because your meal is in Cinderella Castle. Yes, this restaurant opens its doors and invites you as a guest of the court to dine amongst Disney royalty, with many of the Disney princesses (not just Cinderelly) making appearances throughout mealtimes.
There’s never really a bad time to imagine yourself as a prince or princess when you’re dining in such grandeur, so, thankfully, you’ll find that CRT opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Royalty and luxury extends throughout all menus, with lobster and crab crêpes for breakfast, fish of the day at lunch and many seasonal delights at dinner, whilst the little ones, if not enraptured by the setting, can enjoy a fine cheese frittata in the morning, roasted chicken leg in the afternoon and turkey pot pie in the evening. Yum.
Coral Reef Restaurant
Found in a unique spot underneath the Seas with Nemo & Friends attraction at Epcot, a table at Coral Reef will allow you to gaze into an enormous aquarium tank that’s full of sharks, stingrays and exotic fishies over your dinner. The dichotomy of dining on seafood choices like the rainbow trout, salmon and mahi mahi can feel unusual considering the surroundings, but there’s plenty else to try and it would be remiss to pass up the opportunity to sit back, relax and really appreciate all that swims past your table.
The Hollywood Brown Derby
Decorated in the style of early 1900’s Hollywood, the Brown Derby fits the style of Disney’s (soon to be renamed) Hollywood Studios perfectly. The modern American cuisine served within wows with its superb flavours, and, in particular, the Cobb salad is a house specialty that’s become a legend in its own right. Supposedly, it’s named after the original Brown Derby’s owner, Robert Cobb, after he mixed a whole bunch of leftover ingredients together one night when he hadn’t eaten and happened upon a recipe that really worked.
Elsewhere on the menu, the pan-seared black grouper with half a herb-crusted lobster tail atop an orzo salad with a Cognac and mushroom beurre blanc, and the noodle bowl with wok-fried coconut tofu, soy beans, sugar snap peas, pak choi and shiitake mushrooms in a red curry brother are akin to Disney humble brags. “Oh, did you see the kind of things I decided to put on my menu?”
Another asset to The Hollywood Brown Derby is the associated Fantasmic! Dinner Package, which reserves you a table at this fine restaurant but also VIP seating for the evening’s show. After you’re done eating, you’ll be in line for the best seats in the house to watch 50 performers perform classic Disney tunes against a backdrop of fireworks, laser lights, water projections and more.
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
The Hoop-Dee-Doo is a dining show that’s a Marmite kind of experience. For some, the idea of (literally) buckets of chicken, corn-on-the-cob and a ‘yee-haw’ musical show in a spit ‘n’ sawdust kind of atmosphere is like a living hell. For others, it’s riotous fun with hilarious audience interaction, all accompanied by mountains of good food in Disney’s authentic Fort Wilderness setting.
Between Boma, Sanaa and Jiko, Sanaa stands as the comfortable middleground for many in which to explore Animal Kingdom Lodge’s African and Indian fusion food. What makes it for some is the good value pricing; for others it’s the chance to keep one foot in familiar territory with dishes like the tandoori shrimp or chicken. Whatever your preferences, there’s a lot to enjoy on Sanaa’s menu, whether you go head-first into the Indian-style bread service (a selection of breads and dip accompaniments that comes highly recommended owing to it being a specialty of the restaurant) and sampler selections of main courses or not. Whatever your preferences, everybody will get a kick out of seeing the roaming giraffes, zebras and ostriches that reside on the Sunset Savanna that the restaurant overlooks.
Victoria & Albert’s
There’s not a lesson in luxury that Victoria & Albert’s hasn’t mastered. That reads as opinion, but, as it’s the only restaurant in central Florida to have been awarded a AAA Five Diamond Award (this is a bit like the AA rosette system, but American. Only 0.2% of AAA’s 30,000 rated restaurants have achieved the Five Diamond Award), which it has maintained every year since 2000, it can be taken as fact.
As you might expect, every detail is considered here. Luxury Italian linen, crystal glassware, silver cutlery and a live harpist are only some of the details that make up the restaurant’s exquisite finery. This attitude continues through to the kitchen, too.
Many say it, but, truly, chef Scott Hunnel uses only the finest ingredients. An example fish course could be the masago-crusted Maine scallop with coconut curry broth, or Virginia black bass with cauliflower, whilst meat courses offer the chance to sample genuine Japanese Kobe beef. Vegetarians are looked after, too, with a dedicated menu that offers dishes such as potato cannelloni with Zellwood corn foam, although every and any dietary requirement is catered for with the kind of ease that will make you feel like the team have known you all your life. There’s a cost, to say the least, but with a very limited number of tables, this is the kind of exclusive experience and special destination restaurant that one would throw caution to the wind for.
If Disney World is a little far, try these dining holidays a little closer to home:
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The UK’s top hotels for foodies
Dining out in the European city of Rome
Yoga retreats and fitness getaways with a foodie twist