Dining

Restaurant Inspection Report: Magic Kingdom

by on July 27, 2015

Even though my husband and I enjoy cooking, we do tend to eat out fairly frequently. The area around Walt Disney World (and Walt Disney World itself) has no shortage of restaurants to try. Tacky tourist restaurants, fine dining, family-style restaurants, and more—we’ve tried a bit of everything. So when I hear a teaser on the news about a local restaurant so bad that it had to be shut down not once, but multiple times, I tend to pay attention. While that particular restaurant was not at Walt Disney World, it did make me wonder how Disney stacks up when it comes to restaurant inspections. Thankfully, that information is available to the public, so into research mode I went.

In a perfect world, all Disney restaurants would have no violations at every inspection. But even with all the pixie dust around, Disney still exists in the real world. In general, restaurants at Disney fare no worse than restaurants anywhere else. In fact, after reading dozens of reviews about local restaurants outside of Walt Disney World and reviews inside Walt Disney World, I am very confident in the safety at any place I eat at Walt Disney World.

There still have to be the best and the worst, however. In general, the smaller the menu, the higher the inspection rating because there is less that can go wrong. When looking at the most recent inspections for the Magic Kingdom, both Cheshire Café and Storybook Treats received perfect inspections. Here’s how some of the other places stacked up.

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SATURDAY CLASSIX: Six “Secrets” of the Hard Rock Cafe Orlando

by on July 25, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY CLASSIC looks at Six “Secrets” of the Hard Rock Cafe Orlando. Located in CityWalk, directly between Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure, the Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando is the largest Hard Rock in the entire world. With a giant collection of memorabilia that is second to maybe only the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, this particular Hard Rock venue is a dream come true for music lovers. Let’s take a look at the top six “secrets,” shall we?  (Remember, clicking on any picture will open it up in full size)

# 6– A piece of the Berlin Wall sits outside

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A segment of the Berlin Wall

This is one item that many guests haven’t noticed even if they have been to the Hard Rock Cafe many times. On the side of the building, on the walk way which leads to the Blue Man Group, sits a piece of the actual Berlin Wall. An amazing piece of history, the Hard Rock has one the few pieces of the Berlin Wall that you can see in America. There is a strong relationship between rock n’ roll and the fall of communism in the 1980s, with this slab of the Wall being a reminder of that. In related trivia, the Hard Rock Cafe in Munich, Germany has a guitar on display that was actually carved from a piece of the Wall.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Best Restaurants at Universal’s CityWalk

by on July 25, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Best Restaurants at Universal’s CityWalk. Over the last 18 months, CityWalk at the Universal Orlando Resort has undergone an amazing transformation by opening seven new dining locations. These new venues combined with the locations already onsite make for one of the best places in Orlando to experience a wide variety of unique dining. Today we are going to look at the Very Best restaurants in CityWalk and to do so we consulted a blue ribbon panel comprised of Universal podcasters and bloggers. Their votes have been tabulated, and let’s begin the countdown of good eatin’ starting with…

# 6 – Antojitos

Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food is a postmodern tribute to Mexican street culture featuring a large open kitchen framed by graffiti graphics and eye-catching neon. The downstairs area has a central bar with surrounding booths fashioned from reclaimed wood and metal. This area can get very noisy, so if you want a quieter meal, ask for one of the private rooms upstairs. Or, grab a seat on the patio or balcony to watch the CityWalk crowds go by. With the best selection of tequila this side of La Cava del Tequila, Antojitos is at it’s best while sipping on a strong margarita and enjoying house made guacamole. The restaurant has several features that are pretty much unforgettable; several tables which look like giant bird cages, a wall of tattooed plastic baby dolls, and a multi-colored mission-style facade. While I was apprehensive about that vibrant color scheme when seeing the original concept art, I find myself drawn to this area because of the eye catching colors and the huge weather vane sitting at the top. One of the most fun parts of the restaurant is the mariachi band that will alternate between traditional Mexican music and covering popular songs from today. It’s fantastic! Antojitos was the first restaurant in CityWalk to be a Universal creation and they nailed it.

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Antojitos Authentic Mexican. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Empanadas Tres Marias at Antojitos. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

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Menu Monday: Whispering Canyon Café Breakfast Review

by on July 20, 2015

Today we are visiting one of my favorite on property breakfast experiences:  Whispering Canyon Café.  I say experience because it is so much more than just a place to eat.  Whispering Canyon is a place to laugh and have a good time.  It is a character breakfast of sorts, but not with your traditional Disney characters and at no additional cost; No Princesses, Mickey, or other Fab Five member here.  The characters I am referring to are the wonderful Cast Member waiters and waitresses.  They bring the restaurant alive, and keep our family coming back for more.

What:  Whispering Canyon Café
Where:  located directly off the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge
When:  Breakfast is served every day 7:30-11:30am
“The goings-on can get a little loud, and that’s just the way we like it.”

To play or not to play.

To play or not to play.

Our last waitress, M.T., was a real hoot.  We had a blast with her sarcastic humor.  She knew how to work her “audiences” as well.  She could read the patrons at her table perfectly and acted accordingly.  The table to our left was a family with 3 children.  She joked with the children and even put one of them “in jail”.  The large table to our right was not in the mood for fun.  They had clearly just come to eat breakfast and not partake in any of the shenanigans.  M.T. reacted accordingly and they got your normal no-fun-all-business waitress.  They were perfectly content.  We have a darker sense of humor and she seemed to tune right in to it.  We were in stiches before our order was even taken.

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Menu Monday: Boma Breakfast Review

by on July 20, 2015

Boma SignLooking for the best breakfast spot in all of Disney World? Look no further than the Boma breakfast buffet at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Nestled in a quiet spot on the first floor of Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House, you will find this hidden gem. Known for its delicious as well as adventurous dinner buffet complete with the famous Zebra Domes, many guests are unaware that a spectacular breakfast is also served here. The Boma breakfast buffet offers an amazing variety of tasty foods so even the most picky of eaters, like myself, can find plenty of things to try. Boma is my family’s favorite breakfast place in Disney World and when we visited again last month, it did not disappoint!

Thinking of checking it out for yourself on your next Disney World vacation? Read on for everything you need to know about the Boma breakfast buffet.

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Reasons We Love Disney’s OLD KEY WEST Resort

by on July 18, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Reasons We Love Disney’s Old Key West Resort. One of Walt Disney World’s biggest strengths against all of its competitors is the wide variety of unique resorts it has on property to offer guests. We’ve covered several here on the SATURDAY SIX including Value Resorts such as Art of Animation and Pop Century, Moderate Resorts with Port Orleans French Quarter and Riverside, and Deluxe Resorts including the Contemporary. While our reviews on both Animal Kingdom Lodge and BoardWalk Inn & Villas included a Disney Vacation Club component, today we are going to take a look at our first DVC exclusive resort with Old Key West.

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In fact, Old Key West was the very first Disney Vacation Club resort built at WDW. Originally named Disney’s Vacation Club Resort in 1991, it wasn’t until 1996 when the name was changed to Old Key West. With its pastel colored buildings and lush vegetation throughout, the resort definitely stands out from the other hotels on property. When Walt Disney said “Here in Florida, we have something special we never enjoyed at Disneyland…the blessing of size” he may have been foreshadowing Old Key West, as the resort itself is massive.

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Welcome to Conch Flats, the mythical town of Disney’s Old Key West Resort.

 

With the sprawling size comes some downsides, including many rooms being quite far away from the check-in area and several of the resort’s amenities. There is an internal bus system, and the grounds are gorgeous to walk across, but it may be a shock to guests who have not stayed at such a large resort. Thankfully the TouringPlans Hotel Room Request will help make getting a room closer to front easier, but it is still something to consider. That said, the size of Old Key West is also a positive, as it is one of the best places at WDW to spend time at outside of the parks because there is so much to do. So sit back, grab a plate of conch fritters and an ice cold margarita and let’s begin counting down our top six reasons we love OKW starting with…

# 6 – The Sandcastle Pool Area

Anyone who travels with their family on vacation knows how important pools are when it comes to selecting a resort. For our family, pools with slides now rank above any E-Ticket attraction or dining experience at WDW. Old Key West has a total of 4 pools spread out across property, but the Sandcastle Pool located by the front of the resort is where you want to be. In this area you’ll find the main pool along with its incredible 125 foot waterslide and a plethora of  nearby activities. There are several play areas for the younger set, a whirlpool spa, a sandy beach, and even a themed sauna!

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The Sandcastle Pool at Disney’s Old Key West Resort.

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Theming around the Sandcastle Pool.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Drinks, Snacks and Food options at DIAGON ALLEY

by on July 11, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Best Drinks, Snacks, and Food Options at DIAGON ALLEY. We are still celebrating the one year anniversary of Universal’s Diagon Alley, and today we are going to look at the unsung hero of this incredible land. No, not our favorite ride the Hogwart’s Express. No, not the love of our lives Celestina Warbeck and the Banshees. Not even the glorious dragon sitting high atop Gringotts Bank breathing fire. Forget all that stuff, our unsung hero is the new themed food and beverage items Diagon Alley brought into our lives… things we had no idea we were missing but now can’t live without! As theme park foodies it’s going to be pretty much impossible to narrow our list down to just the top six, but we’re going to try anyway starting with…

# 6 – Butterbeer Ice Cream

The biggest debate in theme parks right now is not who’s better between Universal and Disney, or the Raptor Experience and Val the Velociraptor, but instead it is the hotly contested debate of which style of Butterbeer is the best? Many will stand by the traditional Butterbeer, while others swear by the Frozen version. Your humble author’s opinion is that hot Butterbeer trumps them all, but there is something to be said about Butterbeer Ice Cream that made it’s debut with Diagon Alley. Available at Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlor (but the pros know to skip that line and head over to Fountain of Fair Fortune instead) Butterbeer ice cream is mostly vanilla soft-serve with swirls of Butterbeer flavoring. Like the Butterbeer drinks, the ice cream is very sweet, but it certainly feels right eating inside the Wizarding World. Now when exactly will Universal start selling a Butterbeer float?!

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Butterbeer Ice Cream. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Menu Monday: Recreating Disney Dishes + Video

by on July 6, 2015

Photo - Angela Dahlgren

Gratin de Macaroni

Do you ever just sit and daydream about your favorite meals?

…Oh, that’s just me? Well, anyways…

One of my favorite parts of visiting Walt Disney World is trying out the different cuisines and restaurants on property. As I live in the Midwest, I’m limited in the number of times a year I can travel and satiate my palate.

So in an effort to get my Disney food fix, I’ve researched the internet and found recipes for two Disney dishes that I will be recreating for you today!

 

First up, Gratin de Macaroni which can be found at the France Pavilion in the World Showcase at Epcot.

I was inspired by two recipes from Allears.net and Disneyfoodblog.com, so here is the resulting recipe.

Ingredients – Gratin de Macaroni

  • 1 Box of macaroni
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • Gruyère cheese (I used the entire block)
  • Shredded parmesan cheese (to top the dish)
  • 4 tablespoons Unsalted butter
  • 1/3 Cup Flour
  • 3 cups Milk (I used whole milk)

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SATURDAY SIX: Six Ways Disney is Playing “Chicken” with Guests This Summer

by on July 4, 2015

This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at Six Ways Disney is Playing “Chicken” with Guests This Summer. We are little over a month away from the ultimate Disney fan event – the D23 Expo – where we will gain some insight into the future of the Walt Disney World parks. While the California parks have been blessed in recent years with a $1 Billion renovation to Disney California Adventure (bringing Cars Land, World of Color, and a new park entrance) along with upgrades to Disneyland for the park’s upcoming 60th anniversary (including the critically praised Paint the Night parade and Disneyland Forever, a new nighttime spectacular,) the Florida parks have been recipient of things less noticeable by your average guest like MagicBands, My Disney Experience, and Downtown Disney’s transition to Disney Springs. While additions like Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Explorers and Winged Encounters have drawn rave reviews, they don’t have the pick-your-jaw-off-the-ground moment like seeing Radiator Springs Racer’s Cadillac Range mountains or walking into Universal’s Diagon Alley. 

Many expect us all to be wowed by what will be announced at the D23 Expo, some even speculating a $3 Billion overhaul to DHS (for the record, we here at the SATURDAY SIX don’t expect anything approaching that number, but even “just” a Billion dollars goes a long way baby.) One thing is for certain, whatever is coming isn’t coming soon, and today we’re going to look at how Disney is all but taunting guests to open their wallets starting with….

# 6 – Disney’s Hollywood Studios outright dares guests to go to the park

What a year for Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In fact, DHS has removed so many things without replacement that Matt Hochberg – the park’s biggest defender – is rumored to be hiding in the same bunker Saddam Hussein was found in. The Sorcerer’s Hat, gone. Studio Backlot Tour, gone. American Idol Experience and The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow, gone. Recently it was announced that the Magic of Disney Animation will be closing on July 12th and those in the know report that One Man’s Dream is also on the chopping block. Every park loses stuff as its part of normal theme park operations, but the difference here is nothing has come in to replace anything. Well, to be fair, a recent Soundstage Lounge was installed at the Jack Sparrow location. Unfortunately it looks more like the filming location for a sequel in the Saw series of films than your usual WDI made ultra-detailed area. The park has a shrinking amount of attractions, and while Frozen Summer Fun will get us through the next couple months, then what?

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Need an attraction? Make us an offer! (photo by Michael Sheehy and Matt Cleary)

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The Land Pavilion Triple Play: Ride, Tour, Eat at Epcot

by on June 30, 2015

© Sarah Graffam

Epcot’s Behind the Seeds tour (photos by Sarah Graffam)

The Land Pavilion in Epcot’s Future World offers Disney World guests a cornucopia of experiences with its multiple attractions, a fantastic food court, a table service restaurant (that rotates!), and a behind-the-scenes tour. Even better is that many of these experiences are an excellent way to appreciate the original goal of Epcot—for guests to have fun while they learn. For these reasons, my family recently decided to complete a Land Pavilion Triple Play. Come along as we ride, eat, and tour at the Land Pavilion!

Creating a Touring Plan for a Triple Play

TouringPlans logoI decided that creating a personalized Touring Plan would be an excellent way to test the timing of spending an afternoon in Epcot experiencing the Land Pavilion’s attractions, taking its Behind the Seeds tour, and eating dinner at the Garden Grill Restaurant.

This plan would include a FastPass+ reservation at the Land’s Soarin’. To round out our allotment of three FastPass+ reservations per day, we would start our plan with just enough time to use FastPass+ at Spaceship Earth and the Seas with Nemo & Friends before heading to the Land Pavilion.

My first step was to book the Behind the Seeds tour. Booking the last tour of the day—at 4:30 PM—seemed like the best way to maintain a relaxed pace throughout the rest of our day. At the very latest, we would arrive at the Land Pavilion with enough time to experience the Living with the Land attraction before the tour. Living with the Land is a boat cruise through the same greenhouses where the in-depth Behind the Seeds walking tour takes place. This makes it a perfect way to get excited for the tour.

© Sarah Graffam

Guests enjoying Living with the Land boat attraction

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