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Category: Disney Dining Plan (page 1 of 3)

Skipper Canteen Review


The Jungle Cruise is a funny thing:  you either love it or hate it. The same can be said for the Skipper Canteen, the Magic Kingdom’s newest table service offering. Themed after the Jungle Cruise, the restaurant, which is located in Adventureland across from the Swiss Family Treehouse, echoes the theming of the long lost Adventurers Club in the former Downtown Disney.  If for that reason only, it’s bound to be a fan favorite among a small, niche group of Disney fans, but what about the menu? That’s the tricky part.  Let’s take a look.

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Best Disney Snacks & Treats

SAM 3297 300x400 Top 10 Disney Foods I Never Get Tired Of %tag

Please welcome Melissa from Picturing Disney.
If you are anything like me, Disney food can be as enticing a reason to plan a return trip as the ambiance and the all-inclusiveness of the resort.  I tell people all the time that it’s because Disney cooks and bakes some magic right in every dish.

One of the most overlooked and delicious ways to enjoy Disney food is the amazing and unique snacks. Everything has that Disney touch.  Do you have a favorite? I couldn’t choose just one so here are my top 10:

1.  Mickey Premium Ice Cream bars.  There are no words for my love for these crunchy, sweet, mickey-shaped ice creams.

2.  Dole Whips.  Obviously, these make the list, but for me its the Dole Whip float that steals the show. What is your favorite treat from Aloha Isle?

3.  Pretzels. I’m a sucker for Mickey Shaped foods and soft pretezels are no exception.

4.  Practically Perfect Punch.  This is availabe at Jolly Holiday in Disneyland and I can’t get enough of it  (Jungle Juice and Ohana Juice may be a tie for 4th on second thought).

5.  Mickey Waffles.  I know, again with mickey shaped food! These are just perfect.

6.  Main Street Bakery Cupcakes or Boardwalk Bakery muffins.  When a muffin is a meal that keeps you completely stuffed for hours you know you’re in Disney.

7.  Rice Krispy Treats. I love how these come with so many quick service meals and I’ve sometimes been known to hoard a couple in my room and take them home with me to enjoy Disney magic after the trip.

8.  Cotton Candy/Popcorn.  Even though these are very different I have to group them together because I love them for not just their taste but for the awesome containers they often come in!

9.  Churros.  I adore Disney churros from the Mexico pavillion in Epcot and the carts in Disneyland.

10.  Orange Citrus Swirl.  I had to make this #10 because I know I WILL love it but have not tried one yet.  Wishful thinking?

Whats your most favorite Disney treat? Did it make the list? Let me know in the comments below and be sure to come and check out my photoblog, Picturing Disney!

Quick Bites: The Butterfinger Cupcake

Who doesn’t love chocolate and Butterfinger?

Walt Disney World has no shortage of specialty cupcakes, with the different parks and resorts each offering a variety of flavors for one to try. And at under $4.00, or one snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan, they are a great value. 

Having heard legendary stories about one particular cupcake though, I had to  try it for myself -the Butterfinger Cupcake, at Starring Rolls, inside Hollywood Studios. This decadent dessert/snack/breakfast item (don’t judge me) consists of a chocolate cupcake, fudge filling, whipped cream icing, and a hard chocolate ganache covering, all topped with crushed Butterfinger pieces.

This thing is dense! I actually felt the weight of it when they put it onto my tray, which you can’t say for many snacks. As for size, the pictures are no exaggeration, it really is easily enough for two (or more) people to share. 

Can you ever have too much of a good thing? In this case, yes.

If there’s a downside to this cupcake, it’s that it’s too rich, as if it’s trying to be all things to all people. While the cake itself is moist, the fudge creamy, the whipped topping fluffy, and the Butterfinger crispy and crunchy, the combination of everything makes it all too much to handle. My wife and I couldn’t even manage more than a few small bites each before both saying it was too sweet; the combination of flavors was simply overkill.

If however, you think you’ve got a big enough sweet tooth, or perhaps a large group traveling with you you can share this with, this cupcake might just be for you!

Quick Bites: Roasted Chicken Breast at Citricos

As wonderful to eat as it is to look at. 


Located within Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort you’ll find Citricos, a signature restaurant featuring the cuisine of Southern Europe. 

As this is a favorite dining destination for my wife and I, I’ve had the opportunity to try a variety of dishes, such as the roasted chicken breast ($29.00).

This dish consists of a free-range chicken served with saffron and green pea risotto, mojo picon and garnished with micro cilantro. There are a number of ways to ruin chicken, but I am happy to say that this was expertly prepared. The skin was left on during roasting, which preserved the moisture, leaving the meat juicy and succulent (there’s nothing worse than a dried out piece of chicken); it also gave the skin a hint of crispiness. 

The mojo picon (a type of garlic sauce cooked with paprica, cumin seed and dried chilies) lent a hint of spice to the dish without being overpowering, while the saffron and green pea risotto complimented the chicken perfectly, the peas adding a subtle, summer flavor. 

Like everything served here, the presentation was elegant, even if the course itself was simple. The contrast of color on the plate and the simple garnish for an added touch left no doubt that I was eating somewhere special. 

Citricos is two table service credits on the Disney Dining Plan; they also gladly accept the Tables in Wonderland card. Advanced dining reservations are strongly recommended.

Authors note: The menu changes frequently at Citricos, typically with each season, so some dishes may not be available year round.

Quick Bites: The Anchors Aweigh Tuna Sandwich At Columbia Harbour House

The sandwich is a good size and really fills you up!

Tucked away between Fantasyland and Liberty Square you’ll find Columbia Harbour House, a busy counter-service restaurant that is a lot bigger than it looks from the outside. 

On a recent visit, I decided to stop in and try their tuna fish sandwich, aptly named the Anchors Aweigh ($8.99), considering they serve almost all fish dishes. Unfortunately, the sandwich left me walking away disappointed. 

It’s is described on the menu as “white tuna with lettuce and tomato served on a toasted multi-grain bread. Served with chips.” I loved that the lettuce and tomato were both crisp and fresh and that the sandwich is a very good size that easily fills you up. But the bread was over toasted, making it dry on top of an already dry tuna which needed extra mayonnaise. It also appeared to not have been seasoned at all and just tasted “flat” on my tongue. I suppose if you’re used to a more bland tuna sandwich you would enjoy this, but most people would do better choosing something else from the extensive menu.

Despite my disappointing experience with the Anchors Aweigh, I like this location for a quick bite and would return again.

Columbia Harbour House is one quick service credit on the Disney dining plan. 

The Last (Maybe) Word on Using Children’s Credits for Adult Quick-Service Meals.

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that the whole issue of using children’s quick-service credits to buy adult meals caused quite the brouhaha to erupt.  Briefly, all quick-service credits are pooled, so Disney has no way of knowing whether or not you’re buying a quick-service meal for an adult or a child. Now, Disney is a big company. It’s a very innovative company. And if they wanted to know, you can bet The Mouse is more than smart enough to add that option to your dining plan information, but so far, that hasn’t happened. The whole business got so messy that I decided to call Disney several times, the result of which was always the same answer: Disney doesn’t care if your child orders from the adult or the children’s menu on the meal plan. This was verified up the chain of command.

As recently as December, my children ordered from both menus and we weren’t stopped once. The reason behind this is simple: After a couple of days of nuggets and burgers, even picky eaters like mine want something a little different. Further, if you have older “little” kids, they might still be hungry after a kids’ meal. And since Disney didn’t care, well I certainly didn’t care if my 9-year old ordered a turkey sandwich instead of another round of chicken nuggets.

Since returning however, I’ve been hearing a lot of reports that Disney is putting a stop to this practice.  The tickets are still pooled with no difference between the adult and the children’s credits, but your card indicates how many children and how many adults are on your plan, so if you’re a mom with one child under ten-years of age and you attempt to buy 3 adult meals, you’ll probably be stopped. 

Just a quick heads up. I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything different. Meanwhile, here’s hoping that the introduction of new kids’ menus in some of the parks gives us more choices for little ones.

Quick Bites: The Mammoth Pecan Pattie

Perfection, covered in chocolate.

I love eating treats while visiting Walt Disney World. With such a wide variety to choose from – Mickey ice cream bars, caramel apples and sinful cupcakes, just to name a few, you never run out of options. My current favorite, however, is the beauty you see pictured above, the Mammoth Pecan Pattie.

This delicious treat, which can be found in candy shops in every park as well as in Downtown Disney at Goofy’s Candy Company and at the Candy Cauldron, features, rich, silky milk chocolate on the outside. Inside, you are met with an abundance of chewy caramel and a plentiful amount of fresh pecans. 

They didn’t skimp on the caramel or pecans.

This ooey, gooey snack can be yours for just $3.95 or one snack credit (well worth it) on the Disney Dining Plan. It’s mammoth size means it’s big enough for two, but the deliciousness of it all will mean you’ll want one entirely to yourself!  

Bongo’s Cuban Cafe: A Dinner Review

Co-owned by Emilio and Gloria Estefan, Bongo’s Cuban Cafe is a 2 story restaurant located at Downtown Disney Westside serving lunch and dinner daily. I had the opportunity to eat dinner here last Saturday. Is it worth it? Read on to find out. 
Bongo’s is described as “recreating the feel of a 1950’s Havanna nightclub offering authentic Caribbean flavor.” It’s certainly got a tropical feel, from the greenery, the intricate and detailed mosaic on the wall, and even the (fake) parrots over the bar. I’d previously only eaten lunch here, and found it largely empty. That is definitely not the case at night. The restaurant is packed with people at the bar and waiting for tables in line, and every table inside and outside was occupied. However, the biggest negative for me, and what will keep me from returning, is that loud music was BLASTING from speakers the entire time we were dining, and only stopped to allow a band to take a stage at night who were equally loud. I’m all for having music in a restaurant, but when it is to the point where it is impossible to have a conversation without screaming, or even order your food without screaming, it’s too much. 
The dress code is theme park casual.
Check out the cool bar stools!
Our server, Ali was good, though I think in an effort to be personable, she lingered too long at our table and tried too hard to herself into our conversation. I don’t mind a little friendly banter, and in fact prefer when a server smiles and makes good eye contact and is outgoing, but it got to a point where my table-mates and I were exchanging awkward glances wondering if she would go away. The speed in which food was brought out from time of ordering was excellent though drink refills took a little longer than I would have liked. To be fair, this may have been in part due to the large number of tables she seemed responsible for.
Just part of the interesting mosaic adoring the walls.
Not being of Cuban heritage, I suppose I’m at a disadvantage as to whether Bongo’s is truly authentic or not. Plus, to me it seems like it would be pretty hard to mess up cooking something like shredded beef over white rice, or chicken over yellow rice. However, I have seen mini reviews and heard comments from people who are Cuban who say this is a “must go to” location each trip, so I take that as a positive sign.
The varied menu features a wide selection of entrees ranging from the El Churrasco, a tenderizedskirt steak grilled to perfection and served with a side of Chimi-Churri sauce, white rice and green plantains ($19.95) to the Chicarrones de Pescado,lightly floured and fried marinated fish chunks served with a side of homemade tartar sauce accompanied by white rice and sweet plantains ($17.95). 
For my meal, I went with Ropa Vieja, shredded beef in a light tomato sauce with onions and peppers served with white rice and sweet plantains ($15.95) while my wife was a little more daring and tried the Camarones al Ajillo, tiger shrimp sauteed in a garlic and olive oil sauce served with white rice and green plantains ($22.95). The food was okay, but it didn’t wow either of us. Though the portions were generous, the food seasoned and flavorful, there was nothing about the meal that made us eager to return. For me, Bongo’s is a place I would eat if I couldn’t find availability anywhere else within the Downtown Disney area. 
The Ropa Vieja. Presentation isn’t a strong point of Bongo’s.
Prices for entrees range from approximately $15.99-$35.99, and a childrens’ menu is also available.
Bongo’s Cuban Cafe is one table service credit on the Disney Dining plan (a new addition for 2012), and they also accept the Tables in Wonderland card. Reservations are recommended before you go.

Grand Floridian Cafe: Lunch Review

 Walk ups can be easy to get here.
I’ll admit that when I hear the words cafe, I don’t think of a small coffee shop in Paris, where lovers sit outside drinking espresso out of small cups and ogling one another. Maybe it’s from what I was exposed to living in New Jersey, but “cafe” was usually code for “run down diner with perpetually sticky floor and wobbly tables that owner is trying to make sound upscale in an effort to attract business.” Luckily, the Grand Floridian Cafe is not code for anything but a delicious lunch (or breakfast or dinner). Read on for my review.

Located towards the back of the first floor of the main building of the Grand Floridian, the Cafe is easily overlooked by many guests. This, coupled with its surprisingly large size meant that my wife and I were easily able to get a walk-up table for lunch, even though it was both the Princess Marathon weekend and the NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando, and crowds were noticeably heavier.

I’m not in love with the decor -the flowery wallpaper and curtains remind me of a grandmother’s home. But it does fit the overall Victorian theme of the hotel and certainly isn’t out of place in that sense. And I do love the high trey ceilings, as well as the fresh flowers throughout the restaurant, including a fresh rose at each table. My wife and I had a table near the window with a beautiful view of the grounds and the pool. 
I love the trey ceiling and how bright and airy the Cafe feels!
The dress code is theme park casual.
Our server, Robert, was excellent. He was friendly and personable not only with us, but with all the tables he was helping. He was prompt with our drink and food orders and was always there checking in and making sure we had enough to drink and didn’t need anything else. I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for him again or recommend him to others.
Ask for a table by the window and get a great view of the grounds.
For lunch, the Cafe offers a variety of soups, salads and sandwiches. My wife had the Grand Sandwich, an open-faced hot ham, turkey, bacon, and tomato with a rich Boursin cheese sauce and fried onion straws, served on Focaccia bread ($12.49), while I had the Reuben Sandwich, which includes corned beef, Thousand Island dressing, and sauerkraut on rye bread ($10.99), though I substituted the rye for Focaccia as well. It comes with a side of chips, fresh fruit, or a cucumber salad, I chose the salad.
The Grand Sandwich.
We both liked the Focaccia bread, finding it crispy, yet still soft. Our only complaint was that it seemed a bit too salty, especially when combined with the ham on the Grand Sandwich. The sandwiches themselves were extremely tasty though, and the meats fresh and flavorful. We both ate up every bite. The cucumber salad was a nice compliment, the oil and vinegar mixture proving the right balance of sweet and tart, while refreshing on the palate.
The Reuben comes on rye but I substituted Focaccia bread.
While we didn’t save room for dessert, there were a number of smaller offerings to satisfy any sweet tooth, ranging from a Key Lime tart to a Boston Creme pie. 
Who’s up for some dessert?
Prices for lunch range from $15.99-$35.99, and there is a kid’s menu. The Grand Floridian Cafe is one table service credit on the Disney Dining plan, and they also accept the Tables in Wonderland card.

Some Common Dining Plan Complaints and Easy Fixes.

If you see this sign, it’s on the plan.
But will it work for you?

Let me first say that you don’t need the diing plan.  In fact, you can sometimes save money by not getting it.  While most of my clients get the plan and feel that it benefits them to do so, it clearly doesn’t work for everyone.  Here are some common concerns and easy fixes to help you determine if the dining plan will work for you.

1.  “It’s too much food.”

I don’t think it’s too much food. I think it’s sometimes too much the wrong kind of food. None of us eat at buffets and consume countless sugary snacks daily at home, but at Disney it just feels okay to do that. The problem of course is that after a couple of days of eating this way, you start to get bored.  Where’s the fun in that?

What I usually suggest when a client has too many buffets scheduled (particularly character meals, where the food tends to be fairly heavy and kid-oriented) is that they try out a signature restaurant.  Yes, you’re using two credits, but these meals are an experience meant to be savored and enjoyed.  You’re also lot less likely to feel stuffed after eating an elegant meal at Citricos than you would at a buffet. 

Another idea is to save some of your snack credits for the end of  your trip and then buy items for friends back home.  Bags of chocolate coins with Disney characters on them, rice-crispy Mickey ears, and hard candies make great small gifts (or even stocking stuffers at Christmas) for teachers and your kids’ friends back home.

Finally, quick-service meals can be a lot of food. Consider asking for a bottle of water or some fruit instead of dessert and then save it for later.  You might also consider splitting a meal and saving your credits for another day.

2.  “You have to stick to a schedule.”  It’s true that sometimes the dining plan can feel like a forced food march through the parks.

Again, I’m going to suggest going to a restaurant that takes two table-service credits.  By choosing two-credit meals, you get a more upscale dining experience and you’ve cut out one day of sit-down dining.  You can eat lighter on your “off” day.

On a week-long trip, consider making dining reservations for 4 out of 7 sit-down restaurants only. Try walk-ups with the other three. You can usually get a walk up at most World Showcase restaurants except during the most busy times of year. This gives you the flexibility to eat when the mood strikes you.

3.  “What if I miss a dining reservation?”

Try to make a new reservation right away.  You should be able to find an alternative during all but the busiest weeks (Easter and Christmas), although the time might not be ideal.  Remember that you can also use your table-service credits at quick-service locations. This isn’t the most idea use of your credits, obviously. If you makes you feel better, head over to Wolfgang Puck Express where dinner for a family of four can easily set you back $90 out of pocket.
4.  “My ten-year old is a Disney adult; he doesn’t eat like one.”

This is a tough one and one that I’ve struggled with as well, but did you know that your adult table-service credits are pooled among your entire group? This means that you can pay out of pocket for your 10-year old to eat some meals (even from the kids’ menu) and you can use those table-service credits for the grown ups.  That way, your child is still getting all the value out of the quick-service meals and snacks but you’re not wasting the more valuable table-service credits on meals your kid might not eat.

This works particularly well if you’re eating a signature restaurant that takes two credits but your child is clearly not ready to eat off the adult menu.  You might even consider using those extra table-service credits at a signature restaurant so that mom and dad can have a nice meal out.

5. “I’m not sure how to make it work.”

There’s a lot of flexibility with how you use your credits. A lot of clients think they have to use a certain amount of credits per day, but this isn’t the case.  Make sure you follow the golden rule of snack credits: Use them for more expensive items, usually $3 and up. Make your dining reservations as far in advance as possible so you can get the restaurants you really want.  And do your homework. Study menus online to get an idea of whether or not the plan will work for you. 

Ultimately, only you can determine if the plan will work for you.  If you’re struggling a lot with the decision, there’s a good reason for it:  It might just be that it doesn’t work with how you travel.  However, if you still want the convenience of the plan, you can always take this suggestion from the folks over at Touring Plans and purchase a pre-paid gift card and put the amount you would spend on the plan on the gift card. Then just use your card in the parks the way you would use the dining plan. 

What about you? Do you use the plan? Or have you tried the Touring Plans option or some variation thereof? If you did, I would love to know how that worked.

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