What’s New, What’s Next in Walt Disney World Dining

Filed in: Dining

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – From small touches such as special allergy menus to big ideas like new celebrity restaurants, the world of Disney dining continues to expand.

“Our guests are well-seasoned world travelers, they’re savvy and they do their homework,” says Beth Scott, vice president of Food & Beverage for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “We have guests who come every year just for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and to dine in our award-winning restaurants.”

With more than 450 places to eat, Walt Disney World Resort offers everything from on-the-go quick bites to a AAA Five-Diamond dining experience. Special finds include the largest South African wine list in the United States at Jiko—The Cooking Place, restaurants focused on locally sourced seafood and produce, and a tucked-away eatery dedicated to the famous French Chef Paul Bocuse. And coming soon: Morimoto Asia from world-renowned Chef Masaharu Morimoto and the Patina Restaurant Group.

What’s new:

20 Years of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. A global culinary journey celebrating 20 delicious years will tantalize taste buds from Sept. 25-Nov. 16 with celebrity chefs, new marketplaces from around the world and favorite festival traditions. Growing in scope each year since 1996 and lauded by the Travel Channel as one of America’s top food festivals, the 53-day Epcot event features global bites and sips nightly Eat to the Beat live concerts, signature dinners and featured tasting events. www.epcotfoodfestival.com

Special Allergy Menus. Allergy-friendly menus are now offered at more than 120 quick-service and table-service locations at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort, along with more ways to make the special-diet-request process easier. The new allergy-friendly menus provide allergen content by menu offering, making informed choices easier. Menu selection will include appetizers (where applicable), entrées, side items, desserts and kids’ meals, and will focus on the most common allergens: gluten/wheat, milk, peanut, tree nut and fish.

Harambe Market at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Food plays a starring role with African-inspired street food at four walk-up windows and plenty of shaded seating – 200+ seats. Built around a Colonial-era train depot design complete with a 1960s water tower, the marketplace re-creates a bustling center of commerce. Quick bites include skewered chicken; beef flatbread sandwich; corndogs with curry-infused batter; pork ribs, and South African wines, cocktails and craft beers. With shaded tables and merchandise shops, the new marketplace, together with the recently opened Harambe Theatre (home to “Festival of the Lion King”) doubles the size of the original Harambe Village.

New 10-Course Menu at Victoria & Albert’s. With the distinction of being the only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in Central Florida (and one of only three in the state), Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa continues to raise the bar. The award-winning dining room added a new Chef’s Degustation Menu, a series of 10 small courses featuring some of Chef Scott Hunnel’s favorite dishes inspired by the seasons and by his world travels to Asia, Spain, Italy and France. The seven-course Chef’s Tasting Menu will remain. Other big changes include a focus on food-and-wine pairings in the adjacent Queen Victoria Room. With just eight seats, diners will be offered Chef Hunnel’s 10-course menu paired with exclusive wines from Victoria & Albert’s impressive wine cellar, exclusive to the private room. The popular Chef’s Table, tucked in a cozy kitchen alcove with a front-row seat for watching the action in the kitchen, continues to offer 10 to 13 courses, small tastes of everything from caviar to Japanese Wagyu beef, paired with wine and spirits.

Newest Starbucks at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The summer 2015 opening of Starbucks in Creature Comforts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the fifth location at Walt Disney World Resort. Other locations are in the Main Street Bakery in the Magic Kingdom; Fountain View at Epcot; Trolley Car Café at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney Springs.

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Bar at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. A riff on the original Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at Disneyland Resort, the Walt Disney World version has its own story and more than 1,200 pieces of memorabilia. Inventive cocktails and small plates are served in an interactive setting. Walt Disney Parks & Resorts recently won a VIBE VISTA Award in the category of “Best Spirits Program in Hotels” for “exemplary creativity, execution and results in an extremely competitive field,” as judged by the faculty at Johnson & Wales University. This new Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto helped land the prestigious award, along with an expanded lounge The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the new Dockside Margaritas at Disney Springs’ Marketplace.

What’s Next

Joining Raglan Road, Paradiso 37, Portobello and Planet Hollywood at Disney Springs are The BOATHOUSE seafood-centric restaurant (open); Sprinkles, the world’s first cupcake bakery (open); Tea Traders Café by Joffrey’s (open); Morimoto Asia with world-renowned chef Masaharu Morimoto (opening fall 2015); Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, with a storyline centered on the pilot from the “Indiana Jones” films (opening fall 2015); The Edison restaurant and bar (opening 2016); Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza (opening 2016); STK Orlando, a modern twist on the traditional American steakhouse (opening 2016);  and “The NBA Experience at Walt Disney World Resort” that will feature a restaurant (opening 2016).

Jungle Cruise fans will have even more to look forward in late 2015 when the new Skipper Canteen restaurant opens in Adventureland. At the Jungle Skipper Canteen, guests will be able to experience “World Famous Jungle Cuisine” in one of several unique dining rooms, including a crew mess hall and a once-hidden secret meeting room of the famed Society of Explorers and Adventurers. The restaurant will be staffed by Jungle Cruise Skippers.