LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – From a stellar line-up of celebrity chefs at Disney Springs to trend-setting creations from Disney’s new global test kitchen, the Walt Disney World culinary team exceeds expectations of food-savvy guests. Here’s the buzz for 2016:
Celebrity eats and fast bites: Coming this summer: Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming – Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar; Chef Rick Bayless’ Tablas Frontera; and STK, a modern steakhouse mixed with the ambiance of a sleek lounge. They join recently opened Morimoto Asia by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and The BOATHOUSE starring seafood and dream boats from the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. Also look for a re-imagined Planet Hollywood at Disney Springs by summer as the flagship venue is transformed into a star-themed Planet Hollywood Observatory to match the look and feel of Disney Springs. By fall, Fulton’s Crab House reopens with a new concept.
Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza opens this summer, a modern “pizza joint” known for custom-built artisanal pizzas. Guests will flip for Disney’s D-Luxe Burger featuring gourmet burgers made from a signature blend of beef, plus all-natural chicken and vegetarian burgers, hand-cut fries and gelato shakes in a relaxing Town Center location with outdoor seating overlooking the Spring. Also look for three new Disney kiosks: Aristocrepes, with sweet and savory crepes; The Daily Poutine, with hot fries and four different toppings, and B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co. featuring artisan sausages. Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar opened in 2015 along the waterfront at Disney Springs with 150 seats inside and out. The bar cleverly features salvaged equipment, spare airplane parts and travel mementos collected by Jock, Indiana Jones’ pilot in the first film.
Next gen of sweets: Recently opened, The Ganachery showcases the beauty of chocolate, with Disney’s proprietary recipe for the custom-made ganache, a luxurious mixture of melted chocolate and cream. Opening in May, Amorette’s Patisserie will feature classic and contemporary pastries by the Disney chefs, with custom cakes that are works of art. Also coming this summer is Sprinkles, serving up handcrafted cupcakes, slow churned ice cream and homemade cookies. (Their innovative Cupcake ATM will satisfy sweet-toothed epicureans 24/7.)
In the Disney Resorts
For those who brunch: For those who like a leisurely Sunday morning, Disney added two new brunches. The new Brunch at the Top at California Grill atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort features both a buffet (with an extraordinary Bloody Mary bar) and table service, plus a remarkable view from the 15th floor. Narcoossee’s Waterfront Brunch at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is a three-course delight with Mimosas, Champagne or Bloody Marys. For reservations, 407-WDW-DINE.
New lounge for small bites, original cocktails: At Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a favorite of Disney fans, with more than 1,200 pieces of memorabilia. Hand-crafted cocktails and small plates are a hit with guests.
Redux: Flying Fish Café at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort temporarily closed at the end of January, but reopens this summer with a whole new look – and while the kitchen is working on new menu items, the chef promises that potato-wrapped snapper and the popular New York strip steak will be back.
New in the theme parks
Global cuisine at two new restaurants: At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tiffins opens Memorial Day weekend, featuring food from places that inspired the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Open for both lunch and dinner, Tiffins has waterfront views and is situated at the entrance to Pandora: The World of AVATAR, opening in 2017. (“Tiffin” is an Indian English word for a midday meal or a type of container used to carry food while traveling). Adjacent to Tiffins, Nomad Lounge features hand-crafted cocktails with African, Asian and South American flavors; beers, and sustainable wines from those regions, plus specialty non-alcoholic beverages and small bites.
The new Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom is the first restaurant inspired by a classic attraction. Just steps from the legendary Jungle Cruise attraction in Adventureland, the 222-seat restaurant features bold, flavorful tastes of Asia, South America and Africa for lunch and dinner. Great Food Among the Flowers and More of The Best Food Fest: The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival has expanded to 90 days, and Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kicks off Sept. 14 and runs through November 14 this fall. That means almost two additional weeks – from 53 days to 62 – of deliciousness, foodie fun, culinary events, celebrity chefs, seminars, music concerts and more.
What Disney does best: Allergy-friendly menus are found in more than 120 quick-service and table-service locations at both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, along with more ways to make the special-diet-request process easier. Guests are still able to consult directly with a restaurant chef or special diets trained cast member. Walt Disney Parks and Resorts is the recipient of a FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) Award for dedication to providing a safe and enjoyable dining experience for vacationing families and Disney chefs have been recognized for their commitment to food allergy awareness, education and management.
Where it all starts: Ever wonder how a new dish makes it on the menu? Or how a cocktail comes to life? The Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Flavor Lab brings the chefs, front-of-house managers, sommeliers, mixologists and more together in a state-of-the-art research and development facility. The new 7,000-square foot Flavor Lab serves as a hub of new product, packaging and equipment innovation for food and beverage programs across Walt Disney Parks and Resorts around the globe. While not open to the public, Disney guests will be the ultimate benefactor of all the testing, measuring and collaborations that will happen in the expansive new space.