LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Dining at Disney is the latest E-ticket ride, as fantastic food has become an integral — and exhilarating — part of the vacation experience. Some of Florida’s finest restaurants are in the Disney resort hotels, from the five-diamond Victoria & Albert’s to the sensational cuisine at California Grill.
Walt Disney World Resort hotels offer dozens of dining options, from high-end restaurants to energetic food courts, all a delicious complement to each hotel’s theme.
Magic Kingdom Resorts
Starting at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, guests can enjoy market-inspired cooking, new wave California wines and a spectacular view of Magic Kingdom from California Grill on the hotel’s 15th floor. An open kitchen invites guest interaction with the chefs as they prepare fresh seafood and meats as well as brick-oven-baked, California-style pizza. On the first floor is The Wave…of American Flavors, a casual dining spot that features American cooking blended with world flavors. On the fourth floor, the hotel is also home to Chef Mickey’s, a colossal buffet open for breakfast and dinner, with Mickey Mouse and his friends on hand to greet diners, and the Contempo Cafe with an electronic menu with kiosks where guests can place an order by using a touch-sensitive screen from 6 a.m. until midnight.
A South Seas ambiance greets guests at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, where the energetic, casual Kona Cafe serves market fresh food with a “healthy Asian kick.” The aroma of rich Kona coffee wafts through the air as beans are ground to order throughout the day. Pacific Rim spices jazz up the many fresh fish options on the healthful menu, and the dessert chef creates a dazzling array of sweet endings.
A South Pacific Island feast awaits adventurous diners at `Ohana, the family restaurant also at Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Food is prepared over an open-pit fire, with meats roasted on long skewers and served with an assortment of fresh vegetables, salads and piping-hot homemade bread.
Across the lagoon is Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, where guests can dine in award-winning restaurants themed to turn-of-the-century Florida.
The resort’s premier restaurant, Victoria & Albert’s, is a must for those with a taste for fine dining. Central Florida’s only five-diamond restaurant, awarded by AAA, offers a menu that is customized daily using the freshest ingredients available in the market, and includes fish, fowl, veal and lamb selections. An extensive wine list and a variety of desserts including world-class soufflés tempt guests.
Next door to Victoria & Albert’s is Cítricos, a dramatic space that is at once sophisticated and casual. Modern, flavorful French dishes that change with the seasons are on the menu, such as a pan-seared Florida Black Grouper or a divine tropical fruit crème brûlée.
Narcoossee’s, which juts out over the lagoon, offers fresh seafood and regional favorites. Specialties from steamed mussels to steamed whole Maine lobster are on the menu, along with a tremendous variety of fresh seafood; recent offerings included salmon, shrimp, flounder, halibut, scallops and tuna.
For a taste of the great outdoors, it’s a short jaunt to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, located between Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Inspired by the National Park Service lodges of the late 1800s, the spirit of the early American West prevails in the resort’s two popular restaurants, Artist Point and Whispering Canyon Cafe. Artist Point features Northwestern fare, beautiful landscape art and a panoramic view of Bay Lake. Cuisine includes cedar plank roasted salmon, braised buffalo short rib and seared scallops. A more casual experience awaits guests at Whispering Canyon Cafe, a family-style restaurant offering a traditional American Western feast for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Morning fare includes scrambled eggs, waffles and sausage. Lunchtime features fresh deli meats and home-baked beans with fresh bread. For dinner, roasted chicken, pulled pork, pork ribs and smoked brisket are served with vegetables, and cheesecake, chocolate cake and apple-caramel pie for dessert.
The ultimate dining experience continues in the Epcot resort area.
Disney’s BoardWalk offers dining options that are a delicious surprise at the Atlantic seaboard-themed resort. Kouzzina by Cat Cora features dishes inspired by the Mediterranean coast and thin-crust pizza from wood-burning ovens. At Flying Fish Cafe, new American cuisine means a diverse menu of fish, game, meats and vegetables. At ESPN Club, fans can view “every sport every day,” and enjoy burgers, sandwiches, salads and specialty drinks. Big River Grille & Brewing Works offers handcrafted beers and taste-tempting pub fare. And what’s a trip to the shore without a stop for fudge or taffy at Seashore Sweets’, a freshly baked cinnamon bun at BoardWalk Bakery or, at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, a sip of something special at Leaping Horse Libations pool bar?
All the best flavors of New England await guests at nearby Disney’s Yacht Club Resort and Disney’s Beach Club Resort. At Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s YachtClub Resort, aged beef is the specialty, cooked over hardwood-fired grills in an open-air kitchen. Captain’s Grille offers chowder, fresh fish, home-baked breads and other specialities. At Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Cape May Cafe offers a daily clambake, prepared in the tradition of the late 1800s. This hearty feast features soft-shell clams, potatoes, sausages, chicken, fish, lobster and chowder.
Calypso music fills the air at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, home of Shutters at Old Port Royale, featuring pan-seared snapper and jerk-roasted chicken.
Familiar American fare — from peanut butter fluff sandwiches to sloppy joes to savory beef stew — create a trip down memory lane at the Everything Pop food court in Classic Hall at Disney’s Pop Century Resort. The food court’s five areas have everything from a bakery to an ethnic show kitchen, and easy-to-read menu boards with color photos of each dish.
At Maya Grill at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, steak and seafood take center stage, from a grilled filet mignon to salmon and other fresh catches. For a taste of Latin cuisine, order a side of sweet fried plantains or the pulled pork empanada starter.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge brings the spirit, romance and cuisine of Africa to Walt Disney World Resort. The resort’s signature restaurant is Jiko-The Cooking Place, featuring cuisines from around the globe: Swahili curry shrimp, maize-crusted Pacific halibut and spiced ostrich filet.
The 270-seat Boma-Flavors of Africa is open for breakfast and dinner, featuring an exhibit kitchen and bakery that allows guests to walk up to a half-dozen side-by-side cooking stations and have their entrées freshly prepared. Curries, chutneys and other Indian and Asian influences add fabulous flavors to grilled fish, meats and vegetables. Diners will find authentic soups, stews, tossed-to-order salads and other market-fresh fare on the daily menu.
The newest restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is Sanaa, pronounced “Sah-NAH,” the Swahili word for “artwork.” With interiors inspired by African art and remarkable views of the resort’s Sunset Savanna through 9-foot windows, diners experience “the art of African cooking with Indian flavors” in the 150-seat, family-oriented restaurant located on the ground floor just below the lobby. Entrees include the tandoori-roasted meats, curries and sides such as dahl (stewed lentils), curried crushed potatoes, stir-fried green beans and slow-cooked spinach and paneer (a mild South Asian cheese). Indian-style flatbreads including naan, roti and paratha are paired with chutneys, Indian-style pickles and raita (yogurt-based dip). For guests who prefer more American flavors, there is a grilled pork chop and club sandwich at lunch, and grilled flank steak at dinner.
Dinner Shows and Character Breakfasts
For diners who prefer an extra helping of Disney with their meal, Disney dinner shows and character breakfasts combine great food and entertainment to create a truly memorable vacation experience. “Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue” at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground is a stomp-your-feet, clap-your-hands, rollicking good time for everyone. The all-you-can-eat dinner includes country favorites such as barbecued ribs, fried chicken, corn on the cob and strawberry shortcake. “Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue” is often booked months in advance, so guests should reserve a spot early.
Those with a taste for the tropics should visit the interactive “Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show” at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, set in the beachfront backyard cabana of a Hawaiian house. Polynesian dancers entertain while families enjoy a three-course family-style feast that includes lanai roasted chicken and Polynesian wild rice.
Character breakfasts at Walt Disney World resorts are a great way to meet Disney characters. Breakfast a la Disney takes place daily at Chef Mickey’s in Disney’s Contemporary Resort, at `Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, at 1900 Park Fare in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and at Cape May Cafe at Disney’s Beach Club Resort.
More Dining Around the World
Beyond the Walt Disney World Resort hotels and theme parks, dining options abound at Downtown Disney. Starting at Downtown Disney West Side, there is Wolfgang Puck Cafe, a full-service restaurant featuring wood-fired pizzas and an array of classic Puck entrees; House of Blues, with Mississippi delta cuisine and live music every night; Bongos Cuban Cafe, created by Emilio and Gloria Estefan, featuring Cuban cuisine; and Planet Hollywood, with famous movie memorabilia and a menu of sandwiches, salads, pizzas and steaks.
Downtown Disney Pleasure Island offers Paradiso 37 with 37 varieties of tequila and cousine from North, South and Central America; Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant featuring the very best of authentic Irish food, drink, heritage and live entertainment; and Portobello, with a rustic country Italian trattoria ambience and authentic Italian cuisine.
Downtown Disney Marketplace is home to Earl of Sandwich, Cap’n Jack’s Oyster Bar; Fulton’s Crab House, featuring fresh seasonal seafood favorites flown in daily from seaports around the world; McDonald’s; Rainforest Cafe, a wild place to shop and eat with favorite sandwiches, pastas, pizzas and appetizers; and Wolfgang Puck Express, with quick service and signature treats including pizzas, sandwiches, soups and fresh salads.
For reservations or more information on dining options at Walt Disney World Resort, call 407/WDW-DINE.