Posts Tagged ‘dining’

Tokyo Dining: A Hidden Jewel in Epcot Dining

by on October 3, 2017

One of my favorite places in Epcot to dine is one of the places that I don’t hear people talk about very often – Tokyo Dining. Located on the second floor of Mitsukoshi in the Japan pavilion, Tokyo Dining offers interesting food options, and you can often snag a dining reservation at the last minute. I’ve never had a disappointing meal here. So, what makes Tokyo Dining so special?

Tokyo Dining menu

Tokyo Dining is a great restaurant for a last-minute ADR.

First, the atmosphere in Tokyo Dining is top-notch. The décor is sleek and contemporary, yet comfortable. The restaurant also offers fantastic views of World Showcase with gigantic floor to ceiling windows on one side. Don’t feel like gazing out at the torii gate? Request a table next to the sushi counter and watch the chefs work their magic. Another thing that I really love about this location is that, since it is on the second floor, I feel much more removed from the chaos of World Showcase. To me it is a nice, quiet(er), getaway from the hubbub of people.

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Walt Disney World Ice Cream Crawl

by on August 28, 2017

ice cream crawl passport cover

Leave it to artist Donna Yan’s adorable Dole Whip couple to make us simultaneously want Dole Whip and a Mickey Bar!

I don’t know about you, but one of my absolute must-have indulgences at Walt Disney World is ice cream. Add into that my love of coming up with themes or challenges for our Disney trips, and you get a recipe for success. (Specifically, you get a Walt Disney World Ice Cream Crawl!) My husband and I are apt to try a variety of challenges on our trips. We might focus on only getting snacks from places we’ve never been to before. Or we might make all of our table service reservations for restaurants we’ve never visited. Or we’ll do a trip dedicated to resort dining. (I’m just now noticing the theme of food in a lot of our planning…) For our upcoming trek, we decided to crank it up a bit and focus on ice cream.

I knew from the very beginning that not only did I want to do an ice cream crawl, but I wanted it to have its very own passport. I was inspired by the Epcot festival passports that detail out what food items you can find where. Seriously, what better way to keep track of all the amazing ice cream options than to have a dedicated ice cream passport?! (You can download your very own passport later in the article.) Let’s back things up a bit and discuss how the ice cream crawl was formed.

Simply put, the ice cream crawl was born out of an intense desire for ice cream. (Okay, it was actually as a result of the Whole30 we were in the middle of, but don’t tell anyone else that. It’s not like we were dying for sugar or anything…) First, I needed to decide what locations would be fair game for inclusion in the passport. All four theme parks were obvious, but what about resorts? Water parks? Disney Springs? At the end of the day, I went with locations that we would be reasonably likely to frequent. This included all four theme parks, Disney Springs, and the area around Crescent Lake. It’s so easy to pop out of Epcot and over to the Crescent Lake resorts that including those seemed appropriate. (And we really needed Ample Hills Creamery in there!)

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Disney Tests Disney Dine-on-the-Go at Magic Kingdom

by on January 12, 2017

Disney Dine-on-the-Go at Cosmic Ray's Beginning today, a brand new test is taking place until February 22 at the Magic Kingdom called Disney Dine-on-the-Go. Guests can purchase Disney Dine on-the-Go, which provides each Guest with two one-day, quick-service meals.

This new meal deal includes one lunch quick-service entrée and one non-alcoholic beverage that’s good until 4:00 p.m., and one dinner quick-service entrée and one non-alcoholic beverage that’s good after 4:00 p.m. (Keep in mind that with both meals, dessert is not included). Lunch certificates may only be used before 4:00 p.m. and dinner certificates may only be used after 4:00 p.m.

Participating restaurants include:

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Highway In The Sky Dine-Around: A Memorable Monorail Meal

by on December 6, 2016

Private fireworks viewing overlooking Magic Kingdom ends the Highway In The Sky dinner.

Private fireworks viewing overlooking Magic Kingdom ends the Highway In The Sky dinner.

Last week, Disney announced a new upscale special dining event modeled after the popular “monorail crawl” many Disney fans love, called the Highway In The Sky Dine-Around progressive dinner. Offered Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (with a short break for the holiday season), this event highlights dining offerings at Disney’s Contemporary, Polynesian Village, and Grand Floridian Resorts in a four hour experience priced at $150 plus tax per person (gratuity included, no discounts of any kind offered).

I was lucky enough to book a spot for the first night of this event last Friday on a whim. As it turns out, there really was a bit of luck involved here, as the event is already nearly sold out through the initial booking period currently running through March 2017 (sporadic parties of 1 and 2 are available on select dates as of the date of this article)! Here, I’ll walk you through the logistics and food/beverage I enjoyed during the event, which I’m sure will change over time as this event settles into permanent status, but it will give you a good idea of how it all works and whether it would fit your dining preferences.

Booking and Arrival

First, a few notes about booking: Many guests attending Friday’s dinner noted that some Cast Members assisting in booking by phone had no clue what the event was (which can sometimes happen with new events). I was able to book online directly through the Disney site without hassle (by searching for the Highway in the Sky event page). On Thursday, I received a call from a Cast Member confirming my attendance and checking if I had any food allergies or accessibility concerns, as the event includes a set menu and several sets of stairs and standing throughout. I was also reminded that valet parking was included at the Contemporary Resort. All of these items were touches I’d expect of any upscale dining experience, so I was happy to see they hadn’t been lost in the shuffle of it being a new event.

I was told to check in to the podium at The Wave… restaurant around 6:30 PM (event start times will vary based on the time of Magic Kingdom’s fireworks on any given night). Several Cast Members were around to welcome me, and once all the business was settled, I was led into the lounge area in The Wave’s lobby, where one of the blue alien-spaceshippy trippy rooms had been reserved for our group. If you’re acquainted with these lounge areas, you’ll know they aren’t particularly huge, so I was curious to see how big our dining party would actually be. As everyone filtered in, the group grew to about 25 guests – a reasonable size that seemed intimate but not so small that you couldn’t socialize with lots of different people.

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PizzeRizzo: Classic Disney Pizza Under New Management

by on November 30, 2016

Neon and classic pizzeria signs welcome you to PizzeRizzo.I have a secret. It’s kind of shameful in the eyes of many Disney fans. It’s definitely shameful in the eyes of those who enjoy good food.

Are you ready?

I was really sad when Pizza Planet closed earlier this year at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, because I actually liked the pizza there.

I’m sure many are now completely questioning any dining reviews I’ve ever written, but it’s true! It’s not the best pizza at Walt Disney World (which I’ll rank in an upcoming post), but it served its purpose – fast, relatively cheap, and meets the cheese-sauce-bread ratio that qualifies it as “pizza”. I wondered, therefore, whether changes made in the transformation of the Toy Story-themed Pizza Planet to the newly opened Muppets-themed PizzeRizzo would also affect the pizza.

In short: no, it’s still the same pizza (and side salads, and meatball subs). For many of you, that’s probably enough of a review to know what you’re getting into (same food, new themed area surrounding The new ordering area at PizzeRizzo is much bigger than before.your dining table). I will say, though, that a few things about PizzeRizzo pleasantly surprised me, which I’ll share below.

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Disney World Swan and Dolphin: A Foodie Paradise

by on November 11, 2016

The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is a resort that evokes lots of curiosity. It is unlike any other resort on Disney property because it straddles the line between being a Disney resort and being a Starwood property. Its history is rich and intriguing, but this post is not about the ins and outs of this whimsical resort. Besides the architecture, décor, and infrastructure there is something else that really sets this resort apart from all of its neighbors: the food and beverage.

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Photo by Brandon Glover

The quality of their food and beverage operation is not just evident in their variety of restaurants and dining options, but also showcased once a year on a grand scale. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic is an incredible event that puts this resort at its best. I’ll share some of my experience at this magnificent event as well as an overview of the variety of dining options found at this resort.

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Photo by Brandon Glover

Variety of dining options

In the beginning the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin operated as two separate hotel companies. The Swan is a Westin and the Dolphin is a Sheraton. During the first years of operation these two brands were separate entities, not part of the same parent company like they are now under the Starwood Hotels banner.

Model of the vast resort - photo by Brandon Glover

Model of the vast resort – photo by Brandon Glover

This initial separation between the two hotels helped set the foundation that the Swan and the Dolphin could be complete destinations on their own and thus provide enough dining variety among themselves. Each wing has at least one quick service option, one casual sit down restaurant, and one signature restaurant. Plus there is in-room dining and a personal pantry delivery service, oh and don’t forget the authentic sushi restaurant with a lively late night karaoke scene.

The best dining options

The signature dining at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin is bar none the standout experience of the resort. Each restaurant is distinctly different from the next. It’s hard to decide which of the signature restaurants is best for a romantic date night or an impressive night with colleagues.

Todd English's bluezoo's creative cocktails - photo by Brandon Glover

Todd English’s bluezoo’s creative cocktails – photo by Brandon Glover

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What makes I-Drive 360 and Tin Roof worth a visit?

by on November 2, 2016

I-Drive 360 will soon enter its second year in operation, but what makes it worth a visit? There are some hits and misses here, that’s true. The misses, like a gift shop selling the same mugs and t-shirts you can find along less desirable strips of highway, make it difficult to be on the level of Universal Orlando’s CityWalk or Disney Springs. The hits, however, make it a worthwhile destination.

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Photo by Brandon Glover

The hits

Though Madame Tussaud’s Wax Figures don’t appeal to me all, not a day goes by that I don’t see someone in my social media feed posting selfies with their favorite wax celebrities. It looks to be a fun, inexpensive attraction. Secondly, SeaLife Aquarium appears to have some beautiful settings and lots of great photo opportunities.

Combine these two attractions with a breathtaking ride aboard the Orlando Eye and now you’ve got a great afternoon mapped out. I’ve been aboard the Orlando Eye twice. I felt a swell of pride as we rose above and gazed out over the attractions area. On a clear day, Fall is a great season to hop on board and enjoy the views from the Orlando Eye.

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

I-Drive 360’s best feature is actually their dining offerings. I appreciate that there is a range of options to fit practically any budget. Most of the restaurants are popular chains, but there is one in particular that is my favorite reason for visiting I-Drive 360. Tin Roof is the place! Every night live music can be heard pouring out of this place. It is vibrant and friendly. Best of all, the food is fantastic and a new menu has elevated Tin Roof to an even higher level, making it a must-visit for anyone who likes good music and great food.

Tin Roof’s new menu

Let me first say, I enjoyed Tin Roof’s previous menu so when they announced that a new menu was coming I got a little worried. Thankfully the revamp has taken a good thing and made it great! A group of local social media and blogging enthusiasts were invited to try out the new menu, but many of us were already regulars at Tin Roof, so this was a real treat!

Appetizers

On a night out, especially with friends, I tend to gravitate towards ordering 2-3 appetizers and sharing them as a group. So it’s important to me that this part of the menu have some stand outs. In fact, one of the items has now become something I crave on occasion.

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

Dixie Biscuits ($9.00)

These little bad boys became the hit of the table. Love at first bite! Three sliders are presented on the plate and I would have a hard time sharing them. A new star of the menu is the house smoked beef brisket. It is served in a few ways, but in this case it is sandwiched in between a deep fried biscuit – yes, that’s right a deep fried biscuit, then topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, and peach jam. Everyone at the table loved these!

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

Bacon Mason ($5.00)

For those that enjoy the simple things in life, this one’s for you. A nice stack of crispy bacon is served alongside peach preserves. The end. For $5.00 this is a quick and easy snack to share.

Photo by Brandon Glover

Photo by Brandon Glover

Poppers ($7.00)

Confession: I love pimento cheese. It is a slightly spicy creamy, cheese spread that nearly every Southerner knows from their childhood. These little croquettes are filled with peppadew and pimento cheese, then wrapped in bacon. My one qualm with these poppers is they can be difficult to eat without being messy.

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Sanaa Breakfast: A Solid Addition To Disney Dining

by on October 27, 2016

Hot grab-and-go options are available, in addition to standard cold fare.Recently, Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa added a new breakfast service to supplement their already great lunch and dinner offerings. In a resort without a quick service immediately available for breakfast (at least without taking the shuttle to Jambo House to hit up The Mara), it seems like a smart move. Families in search of something more substantial to eat than what’s available in Johari Treasures’ refrigerated section can now wander just downstairs from their room to sample Sanaa’s options (both hot and cold, grab-and-go or not). It’s rare we see a new addition to resort dining that sticks around for very long, so I wanted to give this meal a shot in case it’s short-lived (though, based on how good it was, I hope it’s here to stay!).

Standard hand fruits and muffins/bagels/toast available for purchaseAll in all, Sanaa breakfast is a pretty simple set-up: once you arrive downstairs to the restaurant (anytime between 7am-10am daily), you’ll be greeted by a Cast Member with a menu of offerings, and led to the front dining room just to the right of the restaurant’s entrance. Here, all of the hot and cold grab and go options are available to peruse and purchase, along with bottled juices, milk, water, and sodas, plus disposable cups for coffee. Once you decide on your items, or choose from the menu, you just let the cashier know, where they’ll ring you up and give you a number to place on your table (painted on a cute wooden animal carving).

A variety of bottled drinks and cereals supplement your meal. When I arrived towards the end of breakfast hours one day recently, the grab and go area wasn’t super well-stocked – a few of the items had run out, but Cast Members refilling items let me know that I could just ask if I wanted anything that was missing. Notable options include a beautiful fresh fruit platter, muffins, hot oatmeal, and slices of bobotie pie (African-style quiche). One other note – I was a little sad that you couldn’t get a fountain drink or cup of water here, like you’d find standard at a normal quick service. Be prepared that if you want water, you’ll have to pay for one of the small bottles that comes with the kid’s meals. Coffee was the only self-serve drink available. I realize this is a result of a restaurant not necessarily equipped for this kind of service, but it was still a little bit of a surprise to me, and different from what you’ll see elsewhere.

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Nomad Lounge is now better than ever before

by on October 5, 2016

Nomad Lounge, along with Tiffins Restaurant, is the place that Disney’s Animal Kingdom needed. It is casual yet sophisticated, incredibly detailed and inviting, and offers a great selection of inventive cocktails. And now, Nomad Lounge is even better with a new menu that is more approachable and provides better value.

I recently visited with my parents, who hadn’t been to Animal Kingdom in a few years. We sat at the bar, soaking in all the details, discussed the past and the future of this, my favorite park. We made a meal out of four of the dishes on Nomad Lounge’s food menu. Here’s a quick review of some of the new menu items.

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img_4329Wagyu Beef Sliders ($14.00)

Sliders are a popular small plate on many a lounge menu. Easy to share, easy to eat, and typically satisfying, they make a great choice. Two sliders are presented with a handful of small roasted potatoes. The patty is seasoned well and very juicy and tender. A rich tomato jam is spread on the top bun, adding a savory flavor, and an inexpensive way for Disney to add a vegetable element to this slider without the cost of actual fresh veggies. The bun is dense, with a sweet flavor.

These three flavors: the seasoned beef, the tomato jam, and the sweet bun come together to make a nice blend. However, I would prefer the patty to be regular ground beef rather than Wagyu because to me this high quality blend of beef gets lost in slider form, and I’d rather pay $10 – $11 for two sliders as opposed to $14.

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Top 6 Overlooked Restaurants

by on September 23, 2016

One of the toughest choices to make regarding a Walt Disney World vacation is deciding where to eat. With all the options available at this amazing resort, it’s overwhelming for anyone planning their trip, whether they’re first-time visitors, or seasoned annual passholders. If you’ve done your research, you’ll see the pattern of some of the same names coming up over and over again in reviews and recommendations (Be Our Guest, Chef Mickey’s, Le Cellier, etc).

Disney Dining DonaldBut hopefully, after reading this article, I can introduce to some of Walt Disney World’s unsung restaurant heroes. I have selected my own top six overlooked restaurants at Walt Disney World. Each of these offers great food, value, and even atmosphere but somehow seem to get left out of the top popular recommendations. The plus side, is that because these are often overlooked, that means they are often less crowded and have open reservation availability. These aren’t ranked in any particular order, and range between table service and quick service, but you’ll find one selection from each park, a resort, and Disney Springs.

 

 

Animal Kingdom

First up, the overlooked restaurant in Animal Kingdom, Yak and Yeti. With all of the publicity of the newly opened Tiffin’s and the standing popularity of Rainforest Café, Yak and Yeti often gets forgotten as a wonderful table service option. As far as atmosphere, there are two levels to the restaurant with multiple rooms on each level, and each room is adorned with unique, ornate decorations. Every detail leaving the guest of an experience of actually eating in a quaint restaurant in Asia.

As for the menu, it definitely offers some unique Asian fusion options that you find everywhere. Some guests may pass by Yak and Yeti because the menu seems too ethnic or daunting for their taste buds. Any guest who does venture in will be richly rewarded.  I can honestly account that the Kobe Beef Burger I had here was the best burger I’ve had anywhere. So, if you’re in Animal Kingdom, or looking for a fun and rewarding dining experience, be sure to not to overlook Yak and Yeti.

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