Dining

SATURDAY SIX: 6 Drinks You Must Try At Disney Springs

by on May 14, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at 6 Drinks You Must Try At Disney Springs. Tomorrow, May 15th, is a gigantic day in the evolution of Disney Springs. The Town Center will officially be opening with a whole bunch of new restaurants and retail stores. The Lime parking garage will also start accepting guests, joining the Orange garage, dedicated ramps from I-4, and multiple pedestrian bridges that have been built over the last several years. Disney Springs, which was once the absolute worst place to get to on Disney property (and there wasn’t even a close second) has now become the easiest. We here at the SATURDAY SIX want to make a toast to this momentous occasion, and to do so we’re going to take a look at some drinks you need to try next time you go to Disney Springs. So sit back, remember to always use a coaster, and let’s start our countdown with…

# 6 –  P37 Swirl (Sangria Margarita) at Paradiso 37

The 37 in Paradiso 37‘s name references the 37 countries that make up North, Central, and South America. During the last couple years that Disney Springs has expanded, Paradiso 37 has also increased in size with a large amount of indoor and outdoor seating. You’re going to find a very large drink menu to choose from, but the restaurant’s specialties are tequila, sangrias, and the “coldest beer in the world.” One of their signature drinks is the P37 Swirl, which combines a frozen margarita mixed with frozen sangria. Very tasty, with neither drink overpowering the other, making it a solid choice while dealing with the Florida summer.

Our frozen P37 Margarita swirled with our famous Red Sangria. $10

P37 Swirl at Paradiso 37 in Disney Springs

P37 Swirl. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Now, longtime SATURDAY SIX readers know we certainly weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to try a unique beer. Pardiso 37 has the P37 Lager, which is served at 29 degrees Farenheit (for our non-American readers, that’s like minus 100 degrees Celsius, give or take.) It’s actually a great tasting beer. Not sure how much the temperature adds to it, but it’s a neat gimmick.

P37 Lager in Disney Springs.

P37 Lager, the coldest beer in Orlando. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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P37 Lager, the official beer of Mr. Freeze, (photo by Brandon Glover)

While watching us act like lunatics taking pictures of beer (only the best for you, Dear Reader) a manager showed up with a trio of drinks to try. These included the Prickly Pear Margarita (Don Julio silver tequila, prickly pear syrup, fresh lime juice, and sour mix,) Red Sangria (Premium red wine and brandy combined with pomegranate, guava, and cranberry juice) and White Sangria (Sauvignon Blanc wine, Club Caribe pineapple rum combine with mango and orange). Because of how many tequilas and sangrias that Paradiso 37 has, it’s your go to place at WDW for either.

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Margarita and sangrias (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Dining Review: Big River Grille

by on May 6, 2016

If you’ve ever spent any time strolling along Disney’s BoardWalk or Crescent Lake area, you’ve probably seen my next dining location along the way. Located on the Atlantic Dance Hall end of the BoardWalk, just adjacent to the resort’s merchandise locations, Big River Grille & Brewing Works offers standard family restaurant fare (think: burgers, steaks, salads) with a view of Crescent Lake and the surrounding resorts. I dropped in recently for a quick lunch and then returned a few days later for dinner to see if this restaurant was worth adding to my regular Disney dining rotation.

Big River Grille's Hickory Bacon Burger

Big River Grille’s Hickory Bacon Burger

Both of my visits to Big River Grille were on a whim – I didn’t make a reservation prior to arriving, either on OpenTable or the My Disney Experience app, but it didn’t matter. I was quick to be seated inside both times (choosing the comfort of air conditioning inside over the humidity on the outdoor patio), and my first impression of the restaurant was definitely that of substance over style – inside here, there’s very little theming or space, with tables pretty close together and almost no decoration. If the weather allows, I’d certainly request outdoor seating – far less cramped, less noisy at peak dining times, and with a really fantastic view for lake- and people-watching. Servers were all very prompt in greeting me and offering a few recommendations from the extensive beer and bar menu – one of their biggest draws for diners – and their food menu. It’s also worth noting here that Big River Grille itself is a chain restaurant popular outside of Walt Disney World, which servers said helps to draw in repeat visitors due to familiarity.

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Dining Review: Liberty Tree Tavern Lunch

by on April 27, 2016

A mainstay of dining in Magic Kingdom, Liberty Tree Tavern has always been a favorite for my family and friends for a filling mid-day meal. Recently, the kitchen underwent a few improvements in connection to the construction of nearby Skipper Canteen, so I thought it was about time to head back to the Tavern to see if this spot was still worthy of a stop. The lunch menu features slightly elevated versions of American classics like burgers and sandwiches, pot roast, and an individual portion of the popular Pilgrim’s Feast (Thanksgiving turkey dinner) offered as an all-you-care-to-enjoy dinner here. After a little investigating, I realized the pot roast entrée on the lunch menu is pretty much the same as what I sampled a few weeks ago at Diamond Horseshoe next door (the two share many similar menu items, so if it sounds the same, it probably is). I knew that a few items looked new to me, and after talking with my very friendly server, I decided I’d give the three newest dishes on the menu a shot: sweet corn fritters for my appetizer, the updated Liberty Boys Sandwich for my entree, and the Boston Cream Pie for dessert.

First to arrive were the sweet corn fritters ($7), five fritters served alongside a pepper jelly made in-house and atop a schmear of creamed corn (a nice plating touch, but altogether unnecessary – I appreciated the effort, though!). The fritters had a crispy fried coating sprinkled with a bit of salt, and a creamy and sweet corn flavor inside. Some of the fritters were more like hushpuppies in texture, with one or two a bit softer (I got the sense these weren’t quite cooked long enough, and the cornbread/hushpuppy texture was meant to be the real deal). Overall, I found these fritters sweet and savory, with a touch of warmth from the jalapenos inside the batter. The sweet and slightly spicy pepper jelly served on the side cut through the dense flavors of the fritters, but was a bit tough to use as a dip, practically speaking. I should also note that spicy-food-averse people shouldn’t necessarily write this dish off altogether, as the flavors from the fritters overall are relatively innocuous. I’d probably suggest these to anyone on the deluxe dining plan in search of a different kind of appetizer compared to other restaurants, but unless you’re absolutely starving, I’d probably skip appetizers altogether here and save room for dessert (you’ll see why shortly).

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Dining Review: Il Mulino New York Trattoria

by on April 15, 2016

If you’ve ever had a craving for Italian food at Walt Disney World, you know there certainly isn’t a lack of choices, particularly in the Crescent Lake Resorts/Epcot corner of the World. Recently, I took a trip to the Swan resort’s Il Mulino signature Italian eatery to see what it had to offer and how it compares to its neighbors.

I’d never been to Il Mulino before (but had always heard rave reviews), so I brought along a friend who had – as it turns out, this was an excellent decision, otherwise I never would’ve found the restaurant! The Swan hotel has two “lobbies” of sorts, so you have to walk through the main hotel lobby to the other central lobby to get to the restaurant. Once you’ve found it, you have to walk through the bar to get to the hostess stand (though I have occasionally seen a hostess outside the restaurant helping direct guests inside). After a few minutes of confusion about where to seat us in the bustling restaurant, we headed to a table in the main dining room. My first impression was that of an upscale modern eatery in a big city – a loud dining room with bare bones décor, filled to the brim with large parties of conventioneers and only a smattering of families. Our server was very quick to greet us (and introduce his serving partner), but then took a bit of time to come back to take our order. We were pretty overwhelmed by all the options on the menu; it’s probably twice as large as most signature dining options, with appetizers, salads, soups, pizzas, pastas, seafood, and meat entrees along with the family style dining section (available for parties with four or more people). Our server didn’t offer up any recommendations at first, but I had no idea what to order – so many options, many of which sounded fantastic. After a little prodding, he recommended a few of the pasta dishes and the steak entrees. We went against the grain and ordered a few items from several sections to try to get a representative sampling of the large menu.

Our drinks arrived in due time – I tried the “Piano Piano” ($13), basically an aviation cocktail you’d find at many other restaurants. After sampling this lightly-poured drink, I’d hazard a guess that most of the cocktails here follow suit – meant for conventioneers and tourists who rarely drink, so think light on the liquor, heavy on the sweet fillers. Sangria was recommended by one of our servers, as was the extensive wine list, but at convention prices (think: slightly higher than most Disney signature restaurant wine list), I was reluctant to order selections I’ve seen all around property for a few dollars cheaper per glass. I eventually caved and tried the red sangria, but it was, rather predictably, cloyingly sweet and lacking in any nuance. Along with our drinks, we received the restaurant’s bread service – several slices of crusty Italian bread, a few pieces of tomato herb focaccia, and a plate on the side with a few slices of salami and a healthy portion of eggplant caponata (a pretty standard mix of eggplant, garlic, tomatoes, with a few olive slices here and there). The salami was odd – very little flavor, no spice, no savory twang; but the caponata was excellent – not overly salty, and it brought out the sweetness of the tomato flavor in the focaccia.

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SATURDAY SIX: The Six Best Bars and Lounges at the WDW Resorts

by on April 9, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX looks at the Six Best Bars and Lounges at the WDW Resorts. When we here at the SATURDAY SIX headquarters set out to do an article on the best bars and lounges at Walt Disney World, we didn’t want you – Dear Reader – to just take our word for it. So we conducted our patented top secret, double blind, exhaustively comprehensive scientific poll by reaching out to some of the biggest names in the blogging industry. A veritable theme park Who’s Who responded, and today we are here with the results.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!  For this article we contacted a bonafide theme park drinking expert in Drunk@Disney to give his thoughts on each bar and lounge. You will find Drunky’s thoughts at the end of each write-up. You will also hear from Rhiannon, Drunky’s better half and co-author on an upcoming book about drinking at WDW. So sit back, stir that swizzle stick, and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – Territory Lounge (Wilderness Lodge)

Inspired by the national park lodges of the early 20th century, Wilderness Lodge is the type of resort that is distinctly Disney. Designed by Peter Dominick, who was also behind Animal Kingdom Lodge and the Grand Californian, Wilderness Lodge has a certain warmth and coziness to it that you just can’t find in than any other hotel in Orlando. It also happens to contain three underrated gems in the area of WDW dining: Whispering Canyon Cafe, Artist Point, and Territory Lounge.

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Northwest Exposure. Vodka, Kahlua, half and half, Amaretto, splash of Coke. (photo by Brandon Glover)

With a good amount of seating and an appetizer/dessert menu filled with unique options, Territory Lounge is going to be a spot you will fall in love with. There is even a fireplace to sit by! At SATURDAY SIX HQ two things go over like gangbusters when it comes to bars and lounges, themed napkins and swizzle sticks, so you can imagine our heart was a flutter seeing the Wilderness Lodge swizzle.

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How bout that swizzle stick?!!!  It makes even a Vodka cranberry look magical. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Oregon Pinot Gris Fondue. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Tusker House Dining Review

by on April 8, 2016

As we continue to wait patiently for all of the new nighttime offerings at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we also carry on in our look at dining options at the park. I recently reviewed many of the park’s popular quick service options, and today, we continue our dining adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s popular character meal at Tusker House Restaurant. I dropped in for late solo dinner a few days ago to see how the food compares to other dining options around the park and Walt Disney World, and was pleasantly surprised with the meal from start to finish.

First step: getting to the restaurant. If you’ve never been to Tusker House, it’s not super intuitive – the check-in desk is hidden just behind the covered seating area next to Dawa Bar, adjacent to the walkway to Festival of the Lion King, and just across from Tamu Tamu Refreshments in the Africa section of the park. Luckily, Disney has placed a few signs along the path to help guide you to the desk, where a cast member will greet and check you in, then give you a buzzer or take your phone number to text you once your table is ready. At that point, I was led to the outdoor waiting area just behind the desk, full of chairs and benches (and complimentary water to help cool you off on a hot day!). After a short wait, my phone alerted me that my table was ready, and I was led from the second check-in desk to the inside of the restaurant, where the seater acquainted me with the sprawling (and gorgeous) buffet area and led me to my table in a neighboring room. Both the Cast Member who seated me and my server helpfully explained from which direction the characters (Mickey, Daisy, Donald, and Goofy) would come and how they’d move around the room to reach my table, which was really great to know – I could better plan when it was safe to leave the table to grab a plate of food without missing anything.

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, April 7, 2016: All Good Things

by on April 7, 2016

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In a perfect world, all days in Florida would be rainbows and sunshine, right?

First and foremost, a huge Xiè xie (thank you) to the people of Shanghai and especially the Command Center team at The Walt Disney Company (Shanghai) and on-site park personnel at The Shanghai Disney Resort for being such awesome hosts to my husband for his month over there. Special thanks for letting him have a once-in-a-lifetime experience there that he’ll be telling his grandkids and great grandkids about in years to come.

All good things must come to an end seems to have been the general vibe in the Disney universe, whether you’re talking about the massive changes at the Studios, the shakeup in Disney brass, or Mickey finally waking up from his decade-long dream. For me, my spring break trip to the mid-Atlantic had come to an end, and I was ready to hit the parks once again. Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn’t agree.

 

 

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Apparently spring break this year was a pretty wet one. One benefit of living here is that when the weather is bad, we’re able to stay home and do the parks another day. The only place I went out during that rainy Saturday was to hit Tijuana Flats for lunch. Technically, Tijuana Flats is a chain, but it is a local one, and every place has its own unique personality. This is in the one on “Restaurant Row” in Doctor Phillips (near I-Drive and between Disney and Universal).

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Washington DC Dining: DGS Delicatessen and Oyamel Cocina Mexicana

by on April 1, 2016

There are literally thousands of restaurants in Washington, D.C., even if we don’t count the fast food and chain dining. Trying to review every one of them is nearly impossible, but the Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. gives you a pretty good baseline. On my research trips to Washington I plan on eating at as many different places I can; some will be from the guide, some will not.

The two restaurants I tried on my most recent weekend in D.C. are representative of what I look for: simple and moderately priced. I enjoy food and the dining experience, but I still have a hard time justifying the price of the expensive fine dining found in a city like Washington. I prefer a simple dish, perfectly prepared in a casual environment. Since I think that’s something that’s more relatable than a $400 meal, I’ve decided to log my dining choices on the blog.

2016-02-14 at 17-57-46DGS Delicatessen

There is presumably a lot that you don’t know about me, but one of the many things that I love is a good corned beef sandwich. I happened to be in the Dupont Circle area visiting the Phillips Collection (blog post upcoming on that) and noticed that there was a well-reviewed deli/restaurant nearby so that was an easy dinner choice to make. DGS Delicatessen has two locations–Fairfax, VA and the 1317 Connecticut Ave one I visited–and is named for the District Grocery Stores that used to blanket the area.

DGS naturally serves all manners of sandwiches from pastrami to burgers as well as entrees like chicken schnitzel and braised brisket. Their dinner menu is small, but that didn’t matter to me because I was there for one thing. Well, okay, two things because DGS also has a full bar with several interesting cocktails.

Like many city restaurants, the space is long and narrow with few actual tables. DGS makes good use of the space by adding an upstairs area and having some counter and bar seating, but it’s still a small place. The decor also isn’t particularly memorable, but the exposed brick and white-tile floor are meant to evoke an old deli so they get a few points for having a purpose (*points are useless and will not matter to any rating).

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5 Disneyland Quick Service Items For Under $10

by on March 28, 2016

Disneyland Resort just finished another round of quick service dining price increases. This happens a few times a year so that’s not exactly big news. But if you don’t follow Disney dining prices as closely as we do then some of the prices may surprise you. A basic “Classic Cheeseburger” (found at Hungry Bear Restaurant and other quick service restaurants) is now $11.49, up from $9.99. The Burrito Sonora with Marinated Beef from Rancho Del Zocalo was raised to $12.99 from $11.49. This one hurts: the fantastic Fried Chicken from Plaza Inn is now priced at $17.49, up from an already expensive $15.99. I can go on and on but I figured it would be better if I shared some good Disneyland quick service dining entrees for under $10. Yes, some bargains do still exist.
Corn Dog (Little Red Wagon Corn Dogs – Disneyland, Corn Dog Castle – DCA) – $7.99 

corndog

Judging by the length of the lines at Little Red Wagon and Corn Dog Castle, everyone has heard about Disneyland’s legendary corn dogs. Their fame is well deserved and thankfully the price hasn’t  gotten too high yet. A giant hot dog covered in a deep fried batter shell probably isn’t the healthiest option in the world, but there’s something about devouring one of these while touring a busy theme park that feels so right.

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Dining Review: Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe

by on March 25, 2016

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the Walt Disney World landscape in recent months has been Disney Springs – new shops and restaurants galore, with many more still on the way. Recently, I dropped in for a meal at one of the mainstays of the West Side portion of Disney Springs, Wolfgang Puck Grand Café (located just across from the AMC theater and next to Bongo’s Cuban Cafe) to see if it was still worth a visit with all the new competition. This restaurant is divided into three portions – an outdoor Express location with a limited menu, the main downstairs area (the Grand Café itself), and the Dining Room upstairs. An easy way to think of these three portions: Express is like the quick service-y option, Grand Café is the standard table service (think of The Wave at Contemporary Resort), and Dining Room is a little like the signature table service – this should help understand the offerings (and prices) available at each. Conveniently, they place menus for each of the three outside the restaurant, so you can sneak a peek before committing to your chosen location.

Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe’s exterior draws in guests with a facade reminiscent of the 90s.

The Grand Café is 90s décor heavy, and looks much like the gaudy exterior on the inside – you’re definitely not here for the ambiance, though there are nice views of the water through the large window walls on the back side of the restaurant. My first impression of the restaurant upon being seated for my early dinner reservation was one of utility – based on the worn carpet and tables, it’s pretty clear this restaurant sees a lot of people every night. That made me pretty hopeful for great food. I was a little worried I’d never find out, though, as it took about ten minutes for a server to greet my table (odd, considering there was only one other table seated in the entire dining area – clearly not very busy at that time). Eventually, a very nice server came over to take my drink order and offer a few recommendations. I was pretty excited that she was clearly not just trying to sell the most expensive thing on the menu to me by suggesting it as her favorite dish, like you often see at other restaurants. I was selecting my meal from the dinner menu, which features moderately-priced, simplified American and Italian classics and sushi. I chose the Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with mashed potatoes, crispy onion strings, & port wine sauce and one of their famous pizzas, Pepperoni Pomodoro with caramelized onions, basil, & parmesan. Pizzas are available all day (as well as at the Express portion of the restaurant), and the meatloaf dish makes an appearance on the lunch menu as a sandwich (and was recommended by my server), so these seemed to be pretty representative of the food most diners would get from this location.

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