Posts Tagged ‘dining’

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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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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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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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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Disney Springs Update: The Ganachery, World of Coke, and more

by on February 3, 2016

It’s pretty clear that Disney Springs is slowly, but surely being accepted and welcomed by Disney fans. At first the concept of Downtown Disney being turned into a themed environment with a backstory and everything made many people skeptical. However now that The Landing is substantial enough to warrant a visit on its own and more business are open, it seems Disney Springs is sure to be a hit. Recently a few more establishments opened their doors and many more new buildings are in the midst of construction. It’s an exciting time to see the progress and I recently took a stroll through The Landing and The Marketplace to check out what’s new at Disney Springs.

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The Ganachery

There’s so much springing to life at The Landing that it is quickly becoming my favorite part of Disney Springs. In fact there are many times in which it is the only section that I spend any time in. Between The BOATHOUSE, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, and Morimoto Asia the dining is delectable. I am no big time shopper, but the retail locations here offer a fairly good variety and new discoveries, my personal favorite shop is Sanuk footwear.

The most recent business to open its doors is The Ganachery. Chocolate lovers rejoiced when Disney announced the arrival of this sweet shop specializing in only chocolate. However, it seems a bit repetitive that The Ganachery would open a mere five minute stroll away from Ghiradelli Chocolate.

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Think of The Ganachery as an upscale chocolate boutique. It is Disney owned and operated providing chocolate made with a supposed proprietary blend of cacao beans. The prices certainly reflect an air of exclusivity. While the prices kept my sweet tooth at bay, the décor and details are delectable. Before even setting foot inside, a sweet little detail made me smile. The door handles are large spoons, the kind used when hand mixing melted chocolate. Once inside, the décor is warm with rich brown and golden tones.

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Skipper Canteen Soft Opening Review

by on January 4, 2016

skipper canteen

The World Famous Skipper Canteen!

If you’ve ever felt hunger pangs while trekking through a tropical jungle outpost or while traveling niles and niles and niles down a dangerous river, then you know what it’s like to be a skipper in need of sustenance. Luckily for you, I’ve got just the place for you to visit the next time you’re in need – the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen!  The Skipper Canteen is a new table-service restaurant at the Magic Kingdom inspired by (and thematically connected to) the Jungle Cruise attraction.  The skippers who traverse the wild leading guided excursions through the jungle have to have a place to eat, right?

One of the biggest victories from my latest trip to Disney World was the fact that we managed to catch the soft opening of the Skipper Canteen, and I’ve got lots to share! As of the writing of this article, advanced reservations are not yet being accepted for the canteen, but it is expected that they should be available in the near future. We learned of the soft opening simply by walking by the restaurant. Skippers were outside letting people know that the Skipper Canteen was open and they were taking walk-ups. 

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Top 5 Dining Choices for Solo-Travelers

by on December 11, 2015

For the well-versed Disney traveler, it’s common knowledge that meals and snacks are also considered attractions by many Disneyphiles. In fact, one of the biggest part of the Disney vacation planning is determining when your 180 day window opens to start making dining reservations. Food is a big deal, and Walt Disney World has so many options, it’s difficult to choose!

Dining at Walt Disney World can be tricky and usually involves making reservations six months in advance in order to secure a spot at your favorite restaurant. As a solo traveler this is less important since reservations for one are easier to come by. If you travel in peak times, however, you’ll still want to make a reservation at those popular dining locations.

I like to be adventurous and take advantage of some great spots that offer a unique setting for those dining alone. Here are my top five dining options for solo-travelers:

Jiko – The Cooking Place in Animal Kingdom Lodge

Jiko is a signature dining restaurant by Disney standards, which means dining here can cost you 2 table service credits if you’re using the Disney Dining Plan, and also means the menu prices might be a bit steeper than other general table service restaurants around the resort. Don’t let this deter you though, you can easily dine here on a budget. Focusing on the appetizers and creating your own tapas-style dining experience can really help you save some cash, if needed. Jiko features an inventive menu of African, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisine that offer a change a pace from traditional menus, but aren’t so spicy or bizarre to alienate a less adventurous palate. Jiko also boasts one of the most extensive wine provisions in Florida, so if you like a glass or two, this is the place for you!

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Holiday decorations at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto

by on December 7, 2015

When Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto was announced one of my items on my wish list was that this location would get into the tropical holiday spirit in the same manner as the original Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar. I am pleased to say that holiday decorations at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto are now up and ready for all to enjoy. Here’s some highlights of the decor and special effects.

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The holiday spirit is contained within the Grog Grotto itself; the lovely outdoor Tiki Terrace does not have any decorations and remains a tranquil oasis. The live musicians may occasionally throw in some Hawaiian holiday music every so often, however, making for a nice evening. Once inside you will find strings of glowing Christmas lights and other festive decor. It is a bit mish mosh and tacky, but it fits the silly yet somehow authentic vibe of the Grog Grotto.

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“No Planning” Holiday Dining at Disney World

by on December 6, 2015

Believe it or not...sometimes not every table is filled months in advance!

Believe it or not…sometimes not every table is filled months in advance!

It is no secret that making dining plans for an entire Walt Disney World vacation can be a difficult and time consuming task. This task becomes even harder during the busy holiday seasons when Advance Dining Reservations can completely fill up months ahead of time. While we can not stress enough how important the planning process is for dining, touring, etc. (otherwise what would we be doing running a website like this?) we also must admit that there are times when it is enjoyable, and even a relief, to visit Walt Disney World with no plans and to simply “play it by ear.” So even though we can’t really recommend visiting Walt Disney World at the holidays with no planning, we can tell you that if you decide to go this route, you will not be completely out of luck  for eating a quality holiday meal. Here are three suggestions for how you might approach the situation (yes, this is a planning guide for a trip with no planning…sometimes we can’t help ourselves.)

 

Fife & Drum SignBook A Last Minute ADR

As of the morning before Thanksgiving 2015, a quick MyDisneyExperience search of all restaurants at Walt Disney World for an afternoon reservation on Thanksgiving for a family of four yielded plenty of results including restaurants in all four theme parks, Disney Springs and plenty of resorts throughout property, many of which offer special holiday menus. So even with only one day of planning, it is possible to get an ADR for a holiday meal. It should also be noted that Disney is well aware that the vast majority of its guests on Thanksgiving day will be looking for a meal that at least in some way contains turkey, dressing, etc. and some restaurants that normally wouldn’t serve this kind of cuisine add it to the menu for the holiday including Magic Kingdom’s Tony’s Town Square Restaurant and Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa. Similarly, ham is among the most common standard menu items on buffets and can easily be found on menus throughout property for Christmas and Easter meals. The point being that you may not even need to sacrifice your traditional holiday menu items by booking a last minute ADR at wherever is available.

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