Dining

Observations from Downtown Disney (Big Hero 6 Kiosk, New Stores, Construction Update, and More)

by on October 29, 2014

It has been a big week for Downtown Disney (soon to be rebranded as Disney Springs) with the news of two new dining venues coming to the area, including one from celebrated Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. A lot of progress has been made since our last photo report of WDW’s shopping district, and today you’ll be able to get a look at two new kiosks that have recently opened (Set the Bar and Sublime) along with updates on the Food Truck Park, the bridge across Village Lake, and new merchandise at the stores.

Our first look is at the status of the much needed West Side parking garage. This garage is huge and stretches all the way from DisneyQuest to Pleasure Island. The scheduled opening date is Spring 2015.

DTD_garage1

West Side parking garage.

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Disney Dining: The Smokehouse at Downtown Disney

by on October 27, 2014

With House of Blues still on double secret probation, it was time to try a new venue for lunch while on a recent trip to Downtown Disney. I had intended on trying the menu of one of the four Disney food trucks, but three of them (the ones dedicated to food representing Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and “Magic Kingdom’s around the world”) were not open until 6PM. I met photographer Brandon Glover near Cirque du Soleil on DtD’s West Side, and The Smokehouse was the first place we walked past, so we made the easy decision of just eating there instead of walking all the way back to the Marketplace, where the Animal Kingdom food truck was parked next to World of Disney. (Please note that all pictures in this article can be viewed at full size by clicking on them.)

 

Smokehouse_ribs

A half rack of St. Louis ribs at The Smokehouse (photos by Brandon Glover.)

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Menu Monday: Cinderella’s Royal Table vs. Be Our Guest Restaurant

by on October 27, 2014

Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is home to two of the most magical dining locations you can imagine: Cinderella’s Royal Table and the Be Our Guest Restaurant. Both are very popular with guests, including myself, because who wouldn’t want the chance to dine in a castle like Disney royalty, right? But which one should you choose on your vacation and which of the two offers the most pixie dust for your buck? That’s exactly what I intend to find out in this Magic Kingdom Dinner Showdown: Cinderella’s Royal Table vs. Be Our Guest Restaurant.

Copyright - Disney

Copyright – Disney

First of all, Cinderella’s Royal Table, located inside Cinderella Castle, is a character meal featuring Disney Princesses at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is standard, American fare, while lunch and dinner offer more sophisticated dishes. Touring Plans currently rates this dining destination three stars.

Be Our Guest, however, is only open for lunch and dinner; but the two different mealtimes offer different experiences. At lunch, Be Our Guest is a quick service restaurant where you order your food ahead of time with a Cast Member or at a kiosk and then choose your own table. The menu is centered around soups and sandwiches. At dinner, the dessert menu remains the same, but Be Our Guest becomes a table service restaurant offering a traditional, sit-down restaurant experience. Touring Plans currently rates this dining destination four stars.

Challenge #1: Price

Cinderella’s Royal Table is unique in that the menu is prix fixe. This means there is a set price for your meal, but you choose which selection of dishes you prefer. An average price for an adult meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table is currently around $70 per person and $45 per child.

Dinner at Be Our Guest offer a more typical dining set-up with individual prices for each menu item. To offer a price comparison to Cinderella’s Royal Table, if I were to order a soft drink, an appetizer of Potato Leek Soup, the Grilled Strip Steak, and then the Grey Stuff for dessert, my bill would average to about $50.00 per person. A kid’s dinner consisting of a drink, a garden salad for an appetizer, the Beast’s Casserole (macaroni and cheese), and the Grey Stuff for dessert would cost around $10 to $12.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons To Go On a Disney Cruise

by on October 25, 2014

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons To Go On a Disney Cruise. Earlier this month I was fortunate to be able to take my first ever Disney Cruise aboard the Disney Wonder as part of TouringPlans #Everywhere promotion. The experience was pretty amazing overall, and while before the trip I had a hard time understanding why people would pay so much for a Disney Cruise when there are some great alternatives (such as Royal Caribbean) for a fraction of the price, I now see exactly what draws people back again and again to DCL. In fact, I think for many Disney fans a sailing on the DCL is a must-do, as it provides an overall immersion in the Disney brand that even many on-site WDW vacations can’t compete with. Today we are going to look at six of the reasons you should consider popping a Dramamine and sailing the high seas with Mickey and the gang. Remember that clicking on any picture will bring it up in full size, so grab that life jacket and let’s start counting down…

# 6 – The Characters

DCL_Character_Donald

Donald Duck on the DCL Wonder.

 

We knew that there were going to be characters on board the Disney ships that you could meet, but we were not prepared for how many. There were the Fab 5 of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto. The ubiquitous Chip and Dale. Daisy Duck. Frozen‘s Anna and Elsa. Disney Jr. characters such as Sofia the First and Jake. Disney princesses including Ariel, Tiana, Rapunzel, Snow White, Aurora, Belle, and Cinderella. Lastly, there were miscellaneous characters such as Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and Stitch. These were just the ones that I personally saw throughout the cruise, as we never looked to see where the characters would be, or at what time, which leads me to believe that there are even more that I didn’t see.

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Menu Monday: Snacks from the World Showcase: China!

by on October 20, 2014

Epcot's Iconic Spaceship Earth, on our snacks from China Quest

It’s a perfect day to search out snacks! © Disney

It’s Menu Monday! Today we are looking once again at packaged snacks that are available in Epcot’s World Showcase, and we have already visited JapanCanadaUnited Kingdom, France, and Germany. Only a few stops remain on our snacking tour, so let’s check out what’s available as we explore today’s stop, China!

Snack Rules

  • No snacks over $10; preferably less than $5
  • As unusual as possible
  • Something I personally would eat

Let’s see what we can find!

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Menu Monday: Ranking Every Meal and Snack I Ate At Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea

by on October 20, 2014

Some say math is the universal language; I completely disagree with this. The one true thing that all of mankind can understand is food. On my recent trip to Tokyo, I found that the people of Japan love food as much as I do, and this is especially true at Tokyo Disneyland and its neighboring park, Tokyo DisneySea. I am especially fond of Disney food and spend quite a bit of time tweeting and blogging about it, so naturally food was a big part of my Tokyo Disney Resort vacation. Now, for purpose of record, I rank every meal and snack I ate at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea.

 #1: Eukiwa Buns from Seaside Snacks (Tokyo DisneySea)

1

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Where to Find “Real” Sweet Tea at Disney World

by on October 13, 2014

Starbucks Shaken Sweet Tea

Starbucks Shaken Sweet Tea

If you’re from the South, you know that there’s a big difference between sweetened tea and “real” sweet tea; and if you have been to Disney World, you also know that it can be quite a challenge to find this Southern staple.

Now for those of you who don’t know, “real” sweet tea is Black Tea that is brewed with sugar while it’s still hot, as opposed to adding the sugar later. This process creates a smooth, blended sweet taste and consistency that can’t even compare to fruit flavored tea or the Gold Peak Tea found throughout the parks and resorts.

But if you’re like me, and sweet tea is your go-to refreshment after spending the day trekking through the parks, I have uncovered a few places at Disney World where you can enjoy a Southern-style Sweet Tea!

Starbucks – Starbucks locations have been opening up all throughout Disney World this past year, beginning with the Main Street Bakery at the Magic Kingdom, then Fountain View at Epcot, followed by two locations at Downtown Disney, and soon, a new location at Hollywood Studios. Now I know that Starbucks is all about coffee; but for me, it’s also a go-to for a sweet tea fix. Each Starbucks at Disney World now serves a Shaken Sweet Tea, which has all the flavor of real, Southern Sweet Tea. Plus, the variety of Starbucks locations means that I can grab a sweet tea almost anywhere at Disney World now with prices ranging from the smallest size at $1.99 to the largest at $3.29. Check out the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Bakery’s menu here!

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Appetizers Only at Carthay Circle Restaurant

by on October 13, 2014

Carthay Circle Restaurant - Natalie Reinert

Carthay Circle is a gorgeous icon at the end of Buena Vista Street.

Carthay Circle Restaurant at Disney California Adventure beckons park visitors from the moment they step through the turnstiles. With its white spire soaring into the blue California sky, its historical connections to the Walt Disney Company of yesteryear (the original Carthay Circle Theater was the site of the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs movie premiere) and its gorgeous Art Deco styling, stepping through its doors is alluring whether you’re a foodie, a Disney history fan, or both.

I happen to be both, and knew from the moment I started planning my Disneyland vacation that Carthay Circle had to be a centerpiece of the trip. There was just one problem–the reviews of the entrees seemed so mixed. And the entrees themselves didn’t thrill me.

Consider the lunch entrees at Carthay Circle. A steak salad. Ravioli. Fried shrimp. A $22 burger. Granted, all of these are served with gourmet flourish: the fried shrimp are tempura-style, and come with black rice stir fry and Red Thai curry. The burger… well, the burger has house-made pickles on the side. But while all of these things might be delicious, none of them are particularly unusual or innovative. I felt like I could get any of those things within a few blocks’ walk of my apartment.

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Menu Monday: AMC Dine-In Theatre at Downtown Disney

by on October 13, 2014

IMG_0135Hi everyone! By request, I’m stopping by with another Menu Monday to tell you all about the AMC dine-in Theatre at Downtown Disney. Anyone that has read my park reports knows I’m a fan of sloshing through Disney World in the rain. It might come as a surprise that another one of my rainy day favorites is visiting the AMC dine-in Theatre. Not to mention it makes for a great date night!

This past weekend I stopped by for a movie because a storm was coming and I hadn’t packed my rain gear. Since it was before noon, the parking situation was simple, but you should know that parking can be very difficult to find these days if you stop by later. It’s very simple to park at Saratoga Springs and stroll over. At the guard shack just tell them that’s your plan and they’ll direct you to the best parking. There’s nothing sneaky about it. With the limited parking available at Downtown Disney right now they’re encouraging you to find parking at a nearby resort.

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Cast Member Chronicles: Chef Kevin Marshall

by on October 12, 2014

Photo Credit - Derek Burgan

Crystal Palace

I met Chef Kevin Marshall at a dinner party while visiting Orlando this past September. He is a friend of my Uncle Keith, and was gracious enough to share his culinary talents as our personal chef for the evening. As he prepared a scrumptious feast for us, I interviewed him about his diverse and fascinating career at Walt Disney World.

In June of 1989, he was a man fresh out of tech school. He applied at Walt Disney World, but soon learned there was a hiring freeze for positions he originally desired. Because he had previously managed a Wendy’s restaurant, he was offered a job in food and beverage at The Crystal Palace. As part of the culinary staff, he moved around to different positions, soon cooking alongside professional Disney chefs.

While working at the Crystal Palace, he and two other coworkers were asked to carve a 700 lb pumpkin for Halloween. They were told to carve and hand paint the ‘Blustery Day’ scene from Winnie the Pooh. It took two weeks of overtime and 90 man hours to complete this masterpiece. It was displayed outside the restaurant, surrounded by bales of hay to prevent guests from touching it. One day, a Cast Member saw a little boy ignoring the bales and and putting his hands on the carved image of Pooh. Originally thinking the boy was causing mischief, the Cast Member told the boy to refrain from touching the pumpkin. As it turns out, the little boy was blind. He never knew what Pooh and his friends looked like. From the carving, the boy was able to feel and learn the character shapes. It was his own personal braille pattern. Kevin said it made all his hard work truly worth it and is a memory that touches him to this day.

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