Foto Face-off Friday – Food Fight!

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Congratulations on making it to the conclusion of another work week! With your long holiday weekend about to start, hopefully this eases you into relaxation mode. In this edition of Foto Face-off Friday, the weekly blog that features photographs from our TouringPlans Flickr Group that are an extension of the Disney Debates we’ve been holding on our Twitter Account, @TouringPlans, we will attempt to resolve one of Walt Disney World’s “biggest controversies,” which is the best dining option at Walt Disney World. There are several images of delicious cuisine to follow, so if you’ve yet to go to lunch, we suggest you do that before proceeding (we disclaim any liability for your hunger-induced actions that occur as a result of reading this post). Since pictures speak louder than words we’ve decided to seek definitive resolution photographically for this especially hotly contested Disney Debate!

In the online Disney community, food has taken center stage. It’s constantly on the brain of one of the most prominent podcasters, it’s the subject of countless threads on discussion forums, heck, there’s even a blog devoted to it! With the Disney fan community collective driven by our stomachs, we fully expected some interesting responses to this face-off. Here is what some of our followers on Twitter had to say:

@blueline29 Le Cellier, mainly for the steak, but we’ve also never once had bad service there. Love Canadians!

@crashmore The California Grill is one of my favorites when looking for quality food.

@sdrazzirg Plaza. Good food, comparable to CS prices, and great service. Very easy to get into.

@dmathanas Boma & Raglan Road are our 2 must stops. It’s all about the quality/taste of the food, tho with Raglan also atmosphere.

@danielwanderman Sci-Fi for ambiance, Le Cellier for cuisine, Boma for an delicious stomachache! #Disneydebate

@FastPassDad Tony’s at MK. Time it right and you can see the parade during the meal. #Disney

@stilwell as far as quick-service – Pecos Bill’s because of the fixin’s bar.

@shoppnmom Chef Mickey’s- fun, good food, great character interaction, unique, best all around for our family #DisneyDebate

@alexmace Jiko! Best service, ambiance and cuisine on property. Love the beef short rib + cheese dessert platter.

@scottebarnes You can’t beat the ambiance at San Angel Inn. The setting makes it the best. Food and service are good by park standards.

With answers ranging from Pecos Bill to California Grill, you know it’s a divisive issue. Nothing really came as a surprise, as we expected a full litany of responses, but one thing stood out as unusual: the number of people who indicated a preference for the Plaza at the Magic Kingdom. It’s not a restaurant you normally hear mentioned as a top choice, but with these responses, it piqued our curiosity. Guess it’s something to add to the list!

Along with their photo entries, we asked for an explanation as to why each poster preferred their respective choice. Their reasons may pertain to photography, general enjoyment of the choice, or both. Their personal thoughts are provided below their photo-entry. To view more of their photography click on their respective submission, which will direct you to their Flickr photostream. It was such a good week in the Flickr group with great photos and thoughtful explanations that I just felt I couldn’t limit it to the best ten.

Scottwdw:
Narcoossee's Maine Lobster
As the creator of the PS Calculator (see my profile for link), I have eaten at most of the restaurants at the Walt Disney World resort. Asking for the best is hard as people have all kinds of tastes and needs. Families will love the character buffets or dinner shows while couples will find the quieter resort restaurants to their liking. Park restaurants are busy and can be a little cramped, however, their ambiance is hard to match. Okay…having said that, I did enjoy my best meal (so far) a couple of years ago in Narcoossee’s. The circular restaurant on the water at the Grand Floridian resort you see as you ride the resort monorail to the Magic Kingdom. The restaurant is elegant but not stuffy. The cast members are very personable and helpful with suggestions and answers to any menu related question. The food…well, you be the judge. I know not everyone is a seafood person. The turf part of their menu is just as good as this steamed Maine lobster meal looks. The steak ordered by my wife was melt in your mouth tender. So, for my money, Narcoossee’s would be my choice for the best restaurant at Walt Disney World. So, bring it on!

Alis0nMarie:
Casey's Corner
I chose Casey’s Corner for a couple of reasons. No, hot dogs are certainly not a delicacy. HOWEVER, this is one restaurant that my husband and I visit time and time again when we visit WDW. One of the main reasons is the cost. It is probably one of the most affordable restaurants on Disney property. You really do get a lot of food for your money here. The second reason I vote Casey’s Corner to be the best restaurant at WDW is the theme. Baseball is about as American as you can get. Where else can you sit down and watch baseball games on bleachers and enjoy a big ol’ hot dog, fries, and a Coke besides at a baseball game? Casey’s just screams Americana to me. It’s family friendly, the ragtime music is a great addition, and the hot dogs are just delicious. .

Ralph.Anseus:
V&A Seal
There’s no real competition here, honestly. I’ve eaten at every signature restaurant on property, and it’s not close. Victoria and Albert’s, in the Grand Floridian, is one of three five diamond restaurants in Florida (the other two are in Palm Beach), and is far and away the best dining experience anywhere on property. This is the gold emblem from the back of the personalized keepsake menu.

Kristopher Michael:
Disney's Ohana restaraunt @ Polynesian Resort
No real competition? It’s easy to choose a Diamond restaurant because its, well, Diamond rated. But as far as overall atmosphere and quality of food, Ohana @ the Polynesian takes the cake, hands down! Every single trip now REQUIRES a stop at Ohana for their delicious grilled meats, succulent seafood, and amazing desserts (ask the chefs for their special “funnel cake” dish that’s covered in warm chocolate dressing.. trust me!).

scottoliver:
'Ohana Bread Pudding
Of all the restaurants I’ve eaten at in Walt Disney World, none has pleased me more than ‘Ohana. The Polynesian atmosphere, the never-ending delicious food including the chicken wings, the skewers of beef and pork, and the incredible bread pudding a la mode with bananas foster sauce all make for a wonderful meal. Seriously, how can you resist this? It was so good that we asked for a second helping and the server was more than happy to oblige. So delicious is this bread pudding that I tried to make it at home and was reasonably successful (next time I will make the ‘Ohana breakfast bread first instead of just using bread from the store). If you’re looking for delicious food that will keep coming until you have to roll yourself out of the restaurant, look no further than ‘Ohana.

Corsey21:
Ohana
I’d have to go with what seems to be a crowd favorite here. Not only is the food delicious at Ohana’s, but it is also never ending which is a huge bonus in my standards. It wasn’t an easy decision though, the Hoop-Dee-Doo review holds a special part for me since I used to work there and I knew a lot of the performers.

Peter E. Lee:
Flying Fish - Strawberry Dessert Trio
You know we’ve stayed at the Polynesian twice over the years and never eaten at ‘Ohana? We have eaten at the Kona Cafe several times, but the last time we went it just didn’t seem as magical as we remembered. You guys are definitely making me curious about the main restaurant at the Poly…In any case, for me it was a tough call between Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, one of the few restaurants we return to year after year, and the Flying Fish. In the end I’m going with the Flying Fish, partly because I have a better picture from there, but also because the seafood and desserts are superb, with many seasonal specials. The open kitchen is great, too.

Finally, my entry and commentary:
Planetary Boogie

That we received a wide spectrum of responses on Twitter, from Pecos Bill to California Grill, one of the cheaper Counter Service locations to one of the most expensive Signature Dining Options on property, speaks volumes to me about the dining at Walt Disney World. It also demonstrates how “best” is a subjective term. While some people may consider best to mean simply the quality of the cuisine, for others, theming, value-for-money, quality of service, and other factors might come into play. The Signature Restaurants certainly can be amazing, but if your criteria is theming, value-for-money, and quality of service, perhaps they aren’t the best, due to that little document that concludes every meal: the bill.

For me, all of the factors come into play and this is what made this week’s challenge so difficult. On our recent honeymoon, my wife, Sarah, and I ate at many different restaurants and had some of the best dining we have ever experienced at Walt Disney World. Based on this trip alone, I can narrow down my top two choices, and they closely parallel the full spectrum. The first choice is rather obvious: Victoria & Albert’s. Although I’m reasonably articulate (well, at least I hope so, for your sake), I cannot articulate the quality of the dining experience we enjoyed at Victoria & Albert’s. The food was thoughtfully crafted, the ambiance a perfect blend of understated romantic theming, and the service exquisite without being overbearing–and without being condescending towards two young looking twenty-somethings. In any objective determination, Victoria & Albert’s would win hands down. However, as I stated in the beginning, “best” is not so objective.

And Victoria & Albert’s is not my choice, although you probably gathered that much from the image preceding my commentary; that is, unless you haven’t visited Tomorrowland recently and thought maybe Victoria & Albert’s had some nifty audio-animatronics! Rather, as difficult as it may be to believe, for me, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe trumps Victoria & Albert’s. Here’s the blow-by-blow of how the stout keyboard-playing alien comes out ahead of the royal duo.

First, Cosmic Ray’s wins in ambiance. While this may not be true at noon in the middle of June, head there at 2 a.m. on an evening Extra Magic Hour the same day, grab the booth on the far right of the upper level, and stay for around 23 minutes. In those 23 minutes in the super galaxy franchise, you will experience Sonny Eclipse’s full show, which is out of this world. The songs are catchy, the humor great, and the magic of an original park creation performing is unparalleled. I love watching and hearing Sonny perform so much that his full show is one of the “songs” I listen to most in iTunes. At this late hour, the restaurant will be practically empty and the lights and bustle of Tomorrowland will be right over your shoulder outside making Cosmic Ray’s the perfect setting.

Second, while Cosmic-Ray’s does not win in service or cuisine-quality, there is nothing quite like that toppings bar. Many a time, I have returned from that bar only to see Sarah with a bewildered look on her face, wondering where my burger disappeared to, or if it’s under all those mushrooms. It’s gotten to the point where I have to subdue my fixins’ acquisitions when we meet up with friends, as there seems to be a direct causal link between an increase in toppings and an increase in the barbaric nature of my manners, or lack thereof. I devour my burger similar to a lion tearing into a wildebeest carcass. It’s not a pretty sight. Although some claim that these burgers aren’t all that great (perhaps I simply mask the taste with toppings?), I crave them throughout the year, thinking about the next time I’ll return to my favorite Cafe. I enjoy many of the other dining locations at WDW, but I never have a similar feeling for any of those establishments.

Finally, and probably the real nail in the coffin for Victoria & Albert’s, is the value-for-money. Now, I am not so simple-minded to misconstrue value for low prices. Despite being extremely expensive, we thought Victoria & Albert’s did offer reasonable value, given the types of food we were served and all other things considered. The foods are delicately prepared at Victoria & Albert’s and the accompanying service is great. However, the value is still greater at Cosmic Ray’s, where we can each eat lunch for about $11 and not be hungry again until around 1 a.m.. I know it has taken a bit of rationalization here to try to offer an explanation as to why Cosmic Ray’s is better than any other restaurant on property, but I think it makes sense.

What are your thoughts on the face-off? Am I absolutely mad picking Cosmic Ray’s?! Let us know in the comments!

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Next week’s Disney Debate subject of the Foto Face-off Friday is going back to the normal format as we ask the question: Splash Mountain or Space Mountain? We’re hoping you can provide adequate resolution! So check back next Friday afternoon for the definitive results! Please help us settle the debate on Twitter by voicing your thoughts to @TouringPlans and entering your submissions in the TouringPlans Flickr Group discussion entitled “TouringPlans’ Foto Face-off Friday Blog – Space Mountain v. Splash Mountain!” You could have your comments and picture chosen to be featured in next week’s blog, so get to Tweetin’ and Postin’!

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Posted on September 3, 2010

4 Responses to “Foto Face-off Friday – Food Fight!”

  • Well you have officially peaked my interest even more so in Cosmic Ray’s now! It sounds wonderful and the value for your money is unbelievable! It’s actually on my itinerary this year for an early lunch November 22nd so I’m excited! (We are doing Cali Grill for a later dinner so as to enjoy the fireworks from the 15th floor observation deck) — Thanks so much for the wonderful insight. Appreciate it.

  • by leefromhouston on September 6, 2010, at 11:47 pm EDT

    I only had one thought- this is a foto face off….. so which restaurant has the best-looking food? There are so many different choices and tastes that choosing the best place to EAT is impossible. But pizza at Vila Napoli would make a better photo than anything at Pizzafari.

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