Dining

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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Details About D-Luxe Burger at Disney Springs

by on March 22, 2016

One of the new restaurants slated for the upcoming Town Center portion of Disney Springs is called D-Luxe Burger. This new dining establishment that will be opening in May is going to offer to Guests gourmet burgers and unique shakes.

Burgers will include unique toppings and fresh baked buns. Menu items include:

©Disney

©Disney

 

  • Classic Cheeseburger – Beef patty topped with cheddar, lettuce, tomato and pickle
  • Barbeque Classic Burger – Beef patty topped with a fried onion ring, smoked Gouda, bacon, barbeque sauce and lettuce
  • El Diablo Burger – Chorizo-and-signature-blend patty, fried banana peppers, pepper jack cheese, lettuce, tomato and chipotle mayonnaise
  • Southern Classic Burger – Beef patty, topped with fried-green tomato, pimento cheese, lettuce and bacon
  • Cluck Burger – Ground chicken patty, garlic herb sauce, avocado, lettuce and tomato
  • Veggie Burger – house-made patty topped with Tzatziki, green bean salad, lettuce and tomato

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Not-So-Fancy Dining: A Review of Diamond Horseshoe

by on March 22, 2016

For the next few months (March 13-May 30), Magic Kingdom guests have a chance to dine once again inside the beautiful Diamond Horseshoe restaurant located in Liberty Square, just adjacent to Liberty Tree Tavern. This restaurant has operated seasonally over the last few years as a quick service dining location, but has added a new table service menu available for lunch and dinner for late spring this year. Signage outside indicated I was in for all-you-care-to-enjoy “fancy dining”, and while I certainly didn’t leave hungry, I’m not sure the experience could be described as all that “fancy”. I was greeted by a gaggle of friendly Cast Members in a fairly empty restaurant (not terribly surprising, given it’s a new offering), and promptly taken to a table where I got a gander at the menu for this “fancy” feast. Prices are exactly the same as Liberty Tree Tavern’s next door ($33 for adults, $19 for children; Disney Dining Plan and Tables in Wonderland discounts accepted), but here you’ll receive salad, choice of an entrée (more on that in a second), and choice of a dessert, along with a non-alcoholic beverage.

In reading the menu through before arriving at Magic Kingdom, I expected family-style entrees, like Liberty Tree’s dinner service, but every entrée actually comes in individual portions – I was, however, allowed and encouraged by my server to order seconds or a new entrée at any point. First up, though, came Frontier Salad – tossed greens, tomatoes, onions, roasted corn, and corn bread croutons with house-made chipotle ranch dressing, served alongside a few pieces of corn bread and honey butter. The salad was exactly as explained on the menu – typical salad greens and fixings tossed in a slightly spicy, creamy dressing. Most diners will find this salad just fine – not too spicy, hits all the bases to make you feel like you’re checking off the “vegetable” box in the meal, and it’s not overly heavy, either. The cornbread on the side was very similar to what you’ll find at Trail’s End or Boatwright’s – sweet, dense, and very cakey, served with an even-sweeter honey butter. Overall, I found the side of bread a nice compliment to the spice in the salad dressing, but a little too sweet for my taste at the beginning of the meal.

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The SATURDAY SIX News Desk: A Look at Recent Stories From Disney, Universal, and SeaWorld

by on March 19, 2016

This week’s SATURDAY SIX is undoubtedly a special one as we once again dust off the blue blazer and step behind the SATURDAY SIX News Desk. It has been a whirlwind of theme park related news lately. Our long national nightmare is over as purple MagicBands are available for your WDW resort stay, Disney started a new subscription service themed to the Haunted Mansion for the low low price of just $200 (oh, and it has already sold out), the Orlando Eye did its first baby reveal, and a worker at Art of Animation was caught on video using a dirty mop to clean a table. That was just the tip of the iceberg.

So – as usual – we took a page out of our old college playbook, chugged down a case of 5 Hour Energy, and pulled an all-nighter, cramming as much information as we could into our tiny brains so that we could report back to you, Dear Reader, with all the relevant facts (and before we forget it all tomorrow). So sit back, know that you are getting all the news that’s fit to print (and plenty more that’s not), and let’s begin our countdown starting with…

# 6 – That sound you hear? KONG IS COMING.

As Donald Trump would say, it was a yuge week of King Kong news over at the Universal Orlando Resort. As theme park merchandise fanatics, we loved that a whole bunch of new merch arrived for the upcoming Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction. Then, Universal dropped a bombshell with their reveal of the incredible ride vehicles along with a couple other tasty tidbits: This would be Universal’s first trackless ride system, and the vehicles would be “driven” by one of five characters. While Universal hasn’t released an official opening of the attraction yet, we have a sneaking suspicion we may hear something around the time the Syfy show Face Off features an entire episode (the season finale no less) dedicated to creating characters for the attraction. Stay tuned Wednesday, March 30th at 9PM EST on Syfy.

NEWSDESK_kong

Universal’s Kong is almost here, but Disney has Avatar and Star Wars in the near future…. (photo by Matt Cleary)

# 5 – SeaWorld Admits to Ordering Employees to Spy on Animal Rights Groups

Readers of the SATURDAY SIX may remember one of  last year’s annual Turkeys of the Year awards went to a SeaWorld employee who was caught spying on the animal rights group PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). At the time, SeaWorld management was shocked, SHOCKED at this behavior and put out the story that the employee had gone rogue. Fast forward to this month and during another disastrous investor’s conference, SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby admitted that employees did go undercover in animal rights groups and, more importantly, did so per order of the company.

Believe it or not this was the most “wow” SeaWorld story of the week until the atomic bomb the company dropped Thursday morning announcing they were ending the breeding of Killer Whales and will also be ending all the theatrical shows featuring orcas (to be replaced by exhibits).

NEWSDESK_shamuplant

Disguised as famous YouTube personality Tim Tracker, Shamu himself was able to go completely unnoticed within the PeTA ranks. (photo by Michael Sheehy)

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The Basics: Dining at Walt Disney World

by on March 16, 2016

This is a continuation of our Back to Basics Series. Scroll to the bottom to see our other Basics posts.

With four theme parks, a couple dozen resort hotels, and thousands upon thousands of guests on any given day, it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of places to eat at Walt Disney World. To a first time guest, when and where to eat is likely something that isn’t thought to be a big deal. You’re hungry, you see somewhere that looks good, and you go eat there. Unfortunately for most first time guests, getting a table at a restaurant at Walt Disney World is not as simple as going to your local Olive Garden on any given evening. Disney has a great many mouths to feed every day and only so many tables from which to feed them. Toss on top of that the great theming and Disney character presence at many restaurants coupled with “free dining” promotions driving guests to eat three-squares every day and what you have is a recipe for crowded and fully booked restaurants, seemingly year-round. So yes, like most things at Walt Disney World, where and when you are going to eat is a decision you need to make months in advance.

Disney’s restaurants all generally fall into one of a few categories. First are the carts and stands. These are vendors around the park selling everything from ice cream bars and popcorn to craft beer and eggrolls. Enjoying the offerings from these stands requires no advance planning and as such they are from whom you will be purchasing most of your meals if you pay no attention to the rest of this article. Even this comes with a caveat…during Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival in the fall (and to a lesser extent the Flower & Garden Festival in the spring) booths are set up throughout World Showcase featuring international cuisine and libations. They are equal parts a great option for people who don’t have advance dining reservations and something people need to plan to wait in line at, especially on weekends.

As far as actual restaurants, there are two basic styles: Quick Service (or “counter” service–think fast food) and Table Service (sit-down, with waitstaff) restaurants. Quick Service are the most casual and allow for no advance reservations (with one exception that I will mention below). They are located all around the theme parks, in the water parks, and at the resort hotels. Cuisine ranges from standard American theme park fare like hot dogs and pizza to gourmet macaroni & cheese and sushi.

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Where To Eat At Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on March 14, 2016

Disney's Animal KingdomIf you’re like me, you’re probably really excited about all of the new offerings on the way at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (nighttime Kilimanjaro Safaris? Rivers of Light? Count me in.). We’ll finally get the chance to see this park come to life after dark every night, spending a whole day exploring new and old attractions alike. Along with that extra exploring, though, comes a few practical considerations – mainly, where to eat. I’ve certainly enjoyed some great meals in Animal Kingdom over the years, but now I, like many of you, am faced with deciding where to eat multiple meals in one longer touring day at this park. To help tackle this problem, I recently dined with a few friends at the big three quick service locations in the park – Pizzafari, Flame Tree Barbecue, and Restaurantosaurus. Here, you’ll find a quick overview and dining review of all three locations (including some of the recent menu changes), and then a look at how the three compare to each other and the park’s various dining offerings to help you best decide where to head on your next trip.

First, I’ll address the elephant in the room – why only these three restaurants? It’s pretty simple: they’re the most popular, centrally-located, and accessible (menu- and price-wise) eateries in the park. I love the current table service offerings at Animal Kingdom, and really enjoy snacking my way around the park. More than likely, though, you’re going to find yourself looking to grab a quick and relatively cheap meal before taking in the park’s upcoming nighttime entertainment. Dining at these three restaurants doesn’t require a lot of pre-planning and they cover a pretty wide variety of cuisines suitable for palates of all levels of adventurousness. I’m skipping Harambe Market in this review, as it’s been pretty widely covered recently, and is located a bit further back in the park. Same for Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafe – it’s pretty remote, featuring Asian cuisine not unlike what you’d find at Lotus Blossom Cafe at Epcot. That’s not to say either of these aren’t great options for you to consider, but if you’re looking for food in a pinch (as you arrive to the park for the evening, or running between attractions on a longer touring day), the three restaurants outlined here are your most likely options.

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Julia’s Best Week Ever, March 10, 2016: Springtime in Epcot

by on March 10, 2016

 

A topiary representation of me in spring.

A topiary representation of me in spring.

If you have seasonal allergies, you may have a love-hate relationship with spring. When I lived up north, I was thrilled to feel the warmer temperatures and know that snow shoveling season was ending. Of course that meant cars covered with yellow pollen, itchy and watery eyes, and sneezing, but it is a small price to pay for warmth again.

In Florida, where seasonal differences are more subtle, sometimes it is nice to have a reminder of the awesomeness that is spring. For me, the biggest reminder of spring is Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival. As soon as it opens, that’s where you’ll find me.

Opening weekend for Flower and Garden also was opening weekend for Epcot’s Easter Egg hunt. We had a blast doing it last year, so we knew we wanted to do it this year as well. It seems the word has gotten out about this fun event, as it took about 10 minutes in line to get our map.

2016-03-05 11.58.23

The map also comes with stickers that look like the giant eggs hidden around World Showcase. Simply walk to a country, find the hidden egg, put the correct sticker on the map, and take the completed map back to the redemption center for a souvenir character egg.

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Disney Dining Plan Rates Increasing

by on March 9, 2016

New Disney Dining Plan rates for Walt Disney World have been made available, and we hear they may go into effect as early as today, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. This is a 3% increase across the board with no apparent change in service inclusions. Here’s a breakdown of the changes (prices include tax):

Plan Inclusions (per night) Current Price
(per night)
NEW Price
(per night)
Quick Service Dining Plan 2 Quick Service Meals
1 Snack
1 Refillable Mug
Adult $42.84
Child $17.47
Adult $44.13
Child $19.04
Regular Dining Plan 1 Table Service Meal
1 Quick Service Meal
1 Snack
1 Refillable Mug
Adult $61.84
Child $20.96
Adult $63.70
Child $22.85
Deluxe Dining Plan 3 Table (or Quick) Service Meals
2 Snacks
1 Refillable Mug
Adult $111.73
Child $32.56
Adult $115.08
Child $35.49

 

If we notice anything else that has changed, we will let you know.

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Dining Review: Is It Fair to Throw Shade At Electric Umbrella?

by on March 8, 2016

Ordering stations at Electric Umbrella

Ordering stations at Electric Umbrella

We’ve all been there – rushing between FastPass+ reservations, suddenly realizing it’s been eight hours since your character breakfast and hunger starts taking over. If you happen to be in Epcot’s Future World, you may be drawn towards the bright, shining beacon of neon that is Electric Umbrella. Located just outside of Innoventions East, this quick service location offers variations on standard theme park fare in a central location (burgers, chicken nuggets, flatbread pizzas, etc.). Here, I take a look at a recent meal I “enjoyed” here to see if this restaurant is worth a stop to solve your next food emergency (spoiler alert: it’s not).

Menu board with photos

Menu board with photos

A friend and I dropped in pretty close to opening (11:00 AM) in order to beat the lunch rush and sometimes long waits common at popular Walt Disney World quick service restaurants. We were greeted by neon, so much neon, a set of helpful menu boards, and a cheerful Cast Member who directed us to an ordering station after only a few minutes in line. We decided to tackle the French Dip Burger and Vegetarian flatbread (who can go wrong with a burger and pizza, right?), and added on a chocolate cupcake for dessert. All told, with one soda and a cup of water, two entrees, and one dessert, our bill was a little over $30 – not a jaw-dropping total if you’re used to tourist prices, but definitely something to keep in mind when budgeting for a meal here or elsewhere at Walt Disney World.

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