Everything Walt Disney World

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Category: Food–On Site (page 2 of 7)

Best Disney Snacks & Treats

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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 Pork Shank at Gaston’s Tavern.

By now you’ve probably seen the pictures of Gaston’s Tavern in the Magic Kingdom, part of the new Fantasyland expansion, but have you seen the pork shank?  Gaston’s Tavern, decorated with comically masculine touches like antlers and pictures of the man himself, has only one real entree, the pork shank. And while it’s tempting to compare it to that other theme park staple, the smoked turkey leg, it’s so much more than that.

My mission to try the pork shank was a covert one:  My husband had the kids and I was “on my way” to Tom Sawyer Island to meet up with them when I noticed that the Fantasyland expansion was open.  Knowing that the expansion was only open sporadically at the time and that I might not get a chance later, I did what any curious blogger would do and detoured into Gaston’s and ordered a pork shank. 

I mean look at this. Can you blame me?

To give you an idea of how large it is, there’s more meat here than on a turkey leg, making it a great deal at $7.99 if you’re looking for a substantial snack. But then again, you’d expect a manly snack at Gaston’s right? The question is, does it taste good? In a word, yes. But you’d better like pork, because this is a lot of porky goodness and, considering it doesn’t come with any sides or even a sauce to dip it in, nothing else. 
The pork shank is heavily seasoned with a salt, pepper and garlic-based rub and then slow roasted in a way that keeps it moist and tender.  I caught hints of smoke flavoring as well, but it wasn’t as strong as it is with the turkey legs you’ll find elsewhere in the parks.  People who complain that the small bones and gristle keeps them from eating turkey legs will be happy to hear that this is mostly just meat (plus a little fat) and one large bone. Coming from North Carolina where we’ve perfected pulled pork, I thought this meat was somewhat similar in taste, although the texture was very different.
Of course, it’s not the healthiest treat, but look at it this way: It’s low carb, deliciously greasy, and quite filling. No question, it’s high in fat, but you could do a lot worse.  I only wish they offered some sides to go with it.
In the end, my mission to try the pork shank wasn’t all that covert after all since I dropped part of it on my shorts, leaving a predictably greasy stain. In my defense, it’s really messy and difficult to eat with a plastic fork.  I ended up confessing my mission to my husband, who told me it served me right sneaking off and getting one without him, and I spent the rest of the day with the pork stain of shame on my pants. Next time, I plan on sharing a pork shank with him. Probably.

Epcot’s Le Cellier: Worth the Hype?

Le Cellier, located in the Canadian pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase, is easily the most popular restaurant on Disney World property, but is it worth the hype? In a word, no. Perhaps a caveat is in order here:  It depends on when you go.  While Le Cellier is a delicious bargain for lunch, it feels like letdown at dinner, where the quality of the food doesn’t match the prices.

Earlier this year, Disney made some interesting changes to Le Cellier, which goes from being a standard table-service restaurant at lunch to a signature restaurant at  dinner.  If you’re on the dining plan, that means you’ll pay one table-service credit for lunch and two for dinner. Plenty of restaurants have a less expensive menus for lunch, but the change from a standard restaurant to signature dining is more than just the price. When you eat at a Disney signature restaurant, you expect a more high-end experience comparable to one you’d find at a better restaurant in a larger city, so I was curious to see how this translated with Le Cellier. Did dinner live up to the change in name?

Atmosphere:

Le Cellier, which means “the cellar” in French, is designed to look like a wine cellar in an old French Canadian town. After all the hype you’ve probably heard about this restaurant, the entrance at the back of the Canadian pavilion is a bit of a letdown, especially compared to the elaborate, themed settings you’ll find in most Disney restaurants. Inside, the restaurant is small and cozy, with low ceilings, dark lighting and touches of red and dark wood and while the pictures may scream “Canadian Mounty Lunch Room” it’s actually a very pretty restaurant.  The only drawback is that the tables are close together and you may find yourself wishing for a little bit of elbow room. 

You may miss some of the usual touches that you see at Disney signature restaurants. Little things like tablecloths don’t make an appearance, but that’s a minor thing and I’ll give them a pass on that one. Does it “feel” like a signature restaurant at dinner? No, but it’s still unique enough that it works for a date night or a special occasion meal.

Le Cellier is more quiet than a lot of Disney restaurants, but I wouldn’t hesitate to bring younger children here.  The atmosphere is informal and your overall dining experience is relatively quick. This isn’t to say you’ll be rushed out:  Feel free to enjoy a more leisurely meal. But if you’re visiting with children who have difficulty staying still for more than an hour, you’ll do fine here.

Food:

You’ll start your meal with a delicious bread basket full of pretzel, sourdough, and multi-grain rolls served with salted butter. Disney uses a European-style butter in most of its restaurants; this has a higher fat content, so you’ll notice a more pronounced taste of cream than you do in regular butter. It’s addictive and spread over the warm rolls, you’ll be in carb-heaven.  In fact, I could have been happy with a basket of these rolls and nothing more!

Since I was reviewing this for the site, I wanted to start with the quintessential Le Cellier appetizer: The Canadian Cheddar Cheese Soup. Made with Moosehead beer and bacon, this soup is thick, creamy, and a little bland. I was disappointed in the flavor, which had very little actual cheddar taste and was dominated by the bacon and beer. Don’t get me wrong: I love bacon. But this soup has the word “cheddar” in its name so I was hoping for . . . a little cheese, perhaps?

Despite the rather boring soup, which in fairness my table mates loved, Le Cellier shines when it comes to appetizers, in particular its seasonal offerings such as the Heirloom Tomato salad with macerated red Onions, Minus “8” Vinegar, and smoky blue cheese. This healthy combo of sweet, vine ripe tomatoes contrasted with tangy blue cheese and a touch of balsamic vinegar is big enough to share and a bargain at only $12.

Other standouts include seared scallops and the “deconstructed” steakhouse Caesar salad. The scallops are always on the menu but the presentation changes seasonally. This time they were offered with an apple slaw, but the winter months bring heartier adaptations.  Always perfectly cooked, the portion is just right to wet your appetite for the star of the show: Your steak.

Le  Cellier’s Mushroom Filet.

Sadly, the steaks are where our meal fell apart for us. Everyone at our table ordered either the filet with the mushroom risotto or the ribeye with a maple and pink peppercorn butter and herb-parmesan potato wedges.  Now, it should be mentioned that both steaks were delicious. They were evenly seasoned with a nice salt and pepper rub that didn’t mask the flavor of the meat. The sides were also good, particularly the creamy, earthy mushroom risotto that could convince even the most ardent mushroom hater to give it a try.

The thicker of the two ribeyes, pefectly cooked and delicious.

The problem was with the quality of the meat. If you’re going to call yourself a steakhouse and sell a $43 steak, you should be selling good quality meat.  Sure, Le Cellier is in the middle of a theme park. But Disney has never “dumbed down” their food just because of the location and some Disney restaurants are the best of their kind in Central Florida. Not so with Le Cellier.  Two of us ordered the ribeye and as I mentioned, it tasted fantastic. The problem was that both steaks were thin, which makes it difficult to cook, resulting in some chewy, overdone areas. The parts that were good were very good, but you shouldn’t have to describe a steak that way.  One steak in particular was under under an inch thick, little more than a thin strip of beef with a thin line in the center that could be called “medium rare.”  If I’d wanted a schnitzel, I would have gone to Biergarten over in the German pavilion! 

The poor cut and quality of this steak was something that the kitchen should have noticed and not sent out to a customer.  To give you something to compare it to, the quality of the meat wasn’t as good as you would find at an Outback Steakhouse, which is sort of a middle-of-the road steakhouse chain that you might be familiar with. In fact, I would actually put the quality of the steaks at Le Cellier somewhere around a Texas Roadhouse or a Logan’s, both side-of the-highway, inexpensive steakhouse chains where you can get a decent meal for around $16.

Service:

Like most Disney restaurants, Le Cellier has excellent service, but it was a far cry from the usual signature dining experience you’d normally find at restaurants like Citricos and Yachtsman, both of which are known for their exemplary wait staff with decades of experience.  The problem possibly lies in the fact that Le Cellier moves from being a regular restaurant at lunch to a signature restaurant at dinner. Something is lost in the translation, that little extra touch that separates the two types of restaurants. It’s not that the service wasn’t good. It was. It was that it was lacking that extra care you expect at better restaurants.  It was the little things that hurt, like the fact that they simply forgot we were there, causing us to wait nearly an hour to be seated, or the fact that when were were finally given our table, it was a table for four. Once seated, it was obvious that we were not going to be able to eat at such a small table, so we asked for a larger table. Our server, who was great, did find us one. But at these prices, we shouldn’t have had to ask.

Getting a Reservation:

Le Cellier is famously impossible to get a into, which only adds to the allure of the place. If you’re trying to make a lunch reservation, you’ll want to make it the morning that reservations open up at the 180-day mark. Even waiting until that afternoon will make it difficult to get a reservation, so be up at 6:00 a.m. eastern and make your reservation online. If you have difficulty with the system, call 407-WDW-DINE when it opens up at 7:00 a.m. eastern.  Like most signature dining, reservations for dinner at Le Cellier are easier to get due to the price, but you’ll want to book that as early as possible as well just in case.

I probably spend way too much time thinking about Disney food and during my meal, I had a real epiphany about eating on property.  Quite often, my best meals are at one table-service credit restaurants, not because the food is better than at the signature restaurants, but because I never leave feeling like I paid too much. My meal at Le Cellier was good, it just wasn’t worth the money. If I had paid less for this meal, it would have been hands down one of the best bargains on property. But paying what I did? Not even close. And maybe not everyone cares about that on vacation, but I think for most of us, we don’t want to feel like we’ve been overcharged.

Part of the problem with Le Cellier is that I want it to live up to the hype. If it was just another World Showcase restaurant, I’d let it slide a little, but when your expectations are set so high, and when you’re paying signature dining prices, it’s hard not to be disappointed by a meal that’s just so-so.  Ultimately, if you’re looking for a great steak, there are far better available on Disney property: Yachtsman Steakhouse, Artist Point, and California Grill, just to name a few. Next time I’ll try Le Cellier for lunch, but when I want a steak for dinner on Disney property, you’ll find me at Yachtsman Steakhouse.

Quick Bites: Art of Animation’s Buffalo-Style Turkey Sandwich.

Last week I was fortunate to try the Buffalo Turkey Sandwich with house-made chips at Art of Animation’s Landscape of Flavors, the resort’s quick-service location. Designed like a mall food court with various counters serving everything from the usual chicken tenders and burgers to vegetarian tandoori options, Landscape of Flavors is a step above what you’ll find at most resort quick-service locations with healthy, innovative options. It’s bound to be a favorite among guests and sure to bring visitors from the Pop Century over the bridge for a nice meal.

The Buffalo-style Turkey Sandwich comes with real slices of turkey, blue cheese, arugula, and a very spicy buffalo sauce-mayonnaise.  It’s served on two slices of nutty, multigrain bread.  I loved this bread and while kids probably won’t care for it, adults will appreciate the departure from the usual “white bread colored to look like whole grain” that seems to be the norm in most sandwich places.  Nice effort here to deliver something different, both with the bread and the sandwich itself.  This is a delicious sandwich with fresh ingredients, a real departure from a bland, quick-service burger and fries. The only downside is that it’s so big you may need to use a fork to eat it.

I’m not a fan of potato chips in the least, but I ate every one of these fresh, still-warm chips and would have happily eaten more.  I hope that Landscape of  Flavors continues to offer them, because they’re a delightful change from the usual bagged chips. Next time I might ask for something to dip them in so I can enjoy them even more.

Art of Animation itself is a resort where Disney’s Imagineers have outdone themselves. Bravo to them for creating an experience that delivers in terms of both value and enjoyment. If my first visit to Landscape of Flavors is any indication, that trend continues right down to the quick-service offerings at the resort.

Quick Bites: Churros from La Cantina de San Angel.

Want to save yourself some time (reading this article) and money?  The churros from La Cantina de San Angel in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion are bad. It’s that simple. You really don’t need to continue. Still there? Okay.  My goal on my last trip was to try snacks I’d skipped in the past. Some were hits, some were misses. This one?  Soggy, limp, lifeless circles of dough that had been fried and left to sit. I doubt they ever had any crispness or texture to speak of, but sitting around under a heat lamp certainly didn’t help matters. A definite miss.

Perhaps if they’d had an interesting taste the texture would have been forgivable, but sadly, there was little there to offer as well. The dipping sauce, a thin dulce de leche, was boring and insipid, almost without flavor and so runny that it barely stuck to the churro. Even though calories don’t count in Disney World (this is a verifiable fact), these still aren’t worth the energy it takes to chew them.

At around $4 per serving and with so many great options in the World Showcase, you’d do well to keep walking at least until Norway. Or, you could just throw your money into the World Showcase Lagoon. Your stomach will thank you.

A Photo Tour of Disney’s New Art of Animation Resort

Disney’s newest resort, Art of Animation opened to the public last week, and this weekend, I was lucky enough to get a personal tour from one of the floor supervisors and got lots of photos. By the way — they are currently running group tours at the resort in the morning. While it likely won’t be the nearly 2 hour in-depth look I got, if you’re going to be visiting soon and they are offered, I would encourage you to take advantage.



Bright colors and large icons welcome you inside.

When fully finished, this $350 million dollar resort that has been three years in the making will feature 4 distinct wings – family suites modeled after Finding Nemo, Cars and Lion King, and standard rooms based on Little Mermaid. Currently, only the Finding Nemo portion of the resort is open to the public. The next section, Cars, opens June 18th, followed by Lion King, and then Little Mermaid. 

Upon entering the lobby, the first thing you notice is this huge wall that features actual sketches from animators of the four films the resort is known for.

The sketches are set up in such a way that they run right to left –

  
From early concept drawings (fish are friends, not food)…






To finished color. You really do see the progression and transformation. Even the floor underneath is set up the same way, though you might not notice. It starts out gray/black as you enter, and ends in full color at the other end of the wall. And if you’re wondering if the film animators had a hand in putting all this together, the answer is yes. They played a very big role in deciding how things around the resort should be laid out, and their influence is seen everywhere, not just in the lobby.

  
Speaking of the lobby, instead of one long check-in desk, cast members work at open stations that allow them to freely walk around and better interact with guests – especially children. It’s getting rave reviews so far. Oh, and see all the colors on the wall? Those represent all the colors an animator uses. And, in keeping with the theme of the resort, cast members who work the front desk aren’t called cast members, but rather “concept artists.”



This interesting chandelier hangs in the lobby and “draws” people to it (see what I did there)? It features 18 animator drawings from each represented film except Lion King, which has 17.

When John Lasseter was at the resort several weeks ago, he even personally signed one of the drawings.
 





The gift shop, cleverly named the “Ink and Paint Shop” features a good assortment of Disney items, including exclusive Art of Animation merchandise. 










Like the other value resorts, there is one main food court for all the buildings. This one just happens to be much, much larger.

There are four generously sized seating areas like this one. Artwork on the walls are again drawings and paintings done by animators who worked on the films. 

The wide open space means guests aren’t on top of one another. Because Art of Animation is focused on the environment, you’ll find other nice features used here as well, such as real silverware instead of plastic, and the floor tiles are recycled concrete. 

Unlike the food courts at other value resorts, this one features various stations with food items you can’t find anywhere else. From the surf and surf burger to the Mongolian beef, there’s something for everyone. 

With so many choices, you might just have trouble deciding – no worries. Large refrigerators hold an assortment of beverages plus prepared foods such as fruit cups, sushi and sandwiches.
After you’ve checked in and maybe walked around a little, it’s time to head to your room. 

Follow the EAC (Eastern Australian Current) to your room. Another difference between Art of Animation and Disney’s other value resorts is that the Finding Nemo, Cars, and Lion King Family Suites will all have interior corridors, just like what you see in a Disney deluxe resort. The Little Mermaid rooms will have exterior entrances.  Oh, and if this hallway looks dark to you, it’s not my camera — the hallways are purposely dark because you’re supposed to be in the ocean. When the Cars section opens in a couple of weeks, the hallways will be much brighter and lighter, because it mimics Route 66 and the desert. That same attention to will carry over to the Lion King and Little Mermaid sections as well.  

 

Here you see the table and chairs and seating area from the doorway, and the master bedroom in the background. The furniture is laminate meant to (hopefully) withstand years of abuse from guests. Instead of key cards that go into a key reader, Art of Animation uses cards with an RFID chip built into them (Disney’s already using that technology on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy). Simply wave your card in front of the door and it opens. This RFID card also controls the in-room safe and access to the pool.  Disney has recently announced they intend to convert all rooms at all their properties to this same technology by the end of next year.

The master bedroom features a queen bed while the sofa folds out into a double bed and the Inova table bed also folds out into a double, allowing up to 6 guests to stay in one room! By the way, there are two hidden Mickeys on that bedspread, but I’m not telling you where. 

This master bathroom was really nice, and the shower was large enough for even my 6’6″ frame. Notice the lights above the mirror? They are again a nautical design, to fit with the ocean/sea theme. 
The second bathroom features this awesome shower curtain, perfect for a lawyer’s office. It’s sold in the Ink and Paint gift shop. Nice features include lights that go on automatically as you walk in (perfect for a child that may need to use the restroom in the middle of the night and can’t find the light switch) and pocket doors that slide open and closed. So, you can slide the pocket door closed for the shower/toilet but keep the area for the sink open to allow another person to brush their teeth/get ready. 

The kitchenette includes a microwave and over sized fridge -great for a gallon of milk and other perishables. You’ve also got your coffee maker, sink and a few plastic cups and plates.

Yes, Virginia, that table does turn into a bed.

I bet you thought I wasn’t going to show you the table bed, right? I wouldn’t do that to you. It’s remarkably easy to use. Slide the chairs out of the way, grasp the table from the top and pull down. It folds out quickly and easily. Our awesome guide, Jacob, did it in about 15 seconds, total. It folds into a double bed, complete with overhead nightlights which can be dimmed or turned off. I was told all of the beds in the rooms are “firm”, though I didn’t lay down on any.
Because this is the “Finding Nemo” section of the resort, Imagineers were really striving to make guests feel like they were Nemo, traveling under the sea. To that end, there are numerous details large and small, like the HUGE icons on the buildings.

And, plants were purposely selected to mimic the type of vegetation you might see if you were swimming under the ocean, including the way it moves as it blows in the wind, similar to how sea vegetation is affected by ocean current. You might also notice that in some areas, shale is used instead of mulch.

While Art of Animation will have 3 pools when fully open, the largest of these is the “Big Blue Pool” by Finding Nemo. It is the largest pool on property outside of the water parks, even bigger than Yacht and Beach Club’s Stormalong Bay by 12 feet. The maximum depth is four feet, so I can get wet up to my thighs, yay. The pool has some other great features too — go underwater, and you may hear sounds from Finding Nemo, such as Mr. Ray, or Marlin. The water play area for kids features a soft rubber landing area. To encourage kids who might be scared of the water to use the pool, the water play area is designed to get kids wet in stages. As they walk up to Pearl the Octopus, she “inks” and sprays water. From there, they can move over to the jellyfish sprayers which drip water from overhead, before finally using the zero entry to climb into the water. 
Oh, and here’s a fun fact. See how some of the palm trees around the pool in the photos are bent? After Hurricane Charlie hit Central Florida in 2006, those trees were damaged and were due to be destroyed, so Disney World took them and has been taking care of them all this time, waiting to use them somewhere on property. Finally, the opportunity arose to use them at Art of Animation Resort. So, most of the trees around the Nemo pool are curved or bent in some manner, and that’s why. 
This play area includes a really soft and cushioned recycled rubber material. And yes, that’s me on the right hand side of the picture slouching. The Lion King section won’t have a pool, but will have the largest play area on property, when it opens.

From the depths of the ocean, we move onto Ornament Valley and Radiator Springs, along Route 66. You can really see the transformation from ocean life to desert.

The Sheriff and Doc Hudson greet you out front. You can see one side of the Finding Nemo wing in the background, but even though the buildings are so close to one another, the great design makes it seem worlds away.

The sidewalk looks just like Route 66, and leads you straight to your rooms at the “Cozy Cone Motel.” At night, the neon signs will all light up, which will look very impressive. Here you can see Filmore, and Ramone, who was under a spray tent because workers discovered a chip in the paint, so the entire car was going to be repainted in preparation for opening day. Off to the left, not pictured here, is Luigi’s Tires. The cones you see in the background are actually pool cabanas. No word yet on whether they will be offered at an additional cost or available first come first serve.

Lastly, as you can see, whenever Disney builds a new resort, they try to incorporate new features, things that guests have asked for and things they believe will make a guest’s stay more enjoyable. So, I wanted to share with you a few more of those things.

First is covered parking. No more waiting in the broiling hot sun for your bus. Speaking of bus service, I was told that right now, Art of Animation is in fact sharing buses with Pop Century (though the buses I saw pull up were all empty), but that as more of the resort opened, they would be getting their own independent bus transportation.

 

Within the business center – which was very nice by the way – is a screen that lists all the flight times for airlines at Orlando International Airport and updates regularly throughout the day. 

And finally, airline check-in for guests is nothing new at Disney resorts, but at Art of Animation, it’s inside. Drop off your bags and print out your boarding passes and go enjoy the resort or parks some more before you have to leave to return home.
Thanks for joining me on this photo tour! As other sections open, you can rest assured that I’ll be there to get more photos and report back.

Cosmic Ray’s Restaurant Review


At last count, there are seven quick-service eateries at the Magic Kingdom, with a few more open seasonally.  With that many choices, it can be a tough decision to decide where to eat. While there are some locations we avoid like Pinocchio’s Village Haus, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, where you can get the usual standbys like burgers and chicken nuggets, plus rotisserie chicken, ribs, and healthy sandwiches, is a favorite among the writers here at Everything Walt Disney World.

Atmosphere:

Cosmic Rays is a large, sunny space with plenty of seating. There are three “bays” where different types of food is served. Although we really like the food and the atmosphere, the three bay approach is a real turn-off. Here’s why: if your family wants different types of food from different bays, then you have to split up to order, pay and wait for the food or make several trips. Imagine trying to keep up with several kids.

You almost need a matrix to decide which bay to visit and why! On a recent trip, we marveled at the choices available in some lines but not others.

  • Angus Burger: Bay 2 (Burgers) or Bay 3 (Sandwiches)
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich: Bay 1 (Chicken) or Bay 3 (Sandwiches)
  • Barbeque Pork Sandwich: Bay 1 (Chicken) but not Bay 3 (Sandwiches)

Food:

Kids meals at Cosmic Ray’s are the same as everywhere on property: Nuggets, smaller burgers, and fries or fruit (usually grapes).  Adults can get the usual burgers and nuggets as well. We are not huge fans of fast food burgers anywhere on property: They’re usually tasteless hockey pucks that require you to pile on toppings to make them remotely flavorful. If you do decide on a burger, the toppings bar is huge, with all the usual fixings, plus sauteed mushrooms and onions. Disney being Disney, the toppings bars are usually immaculate despite the crowds that throng this location.

The simple turkey and cheese sandwich is quite good. While we sometimes marvel at how bad the bread and rolls in Disney quick-service locations, can be, this bread actually had flavor and tasted fresh. This sandwich is large and filling, so if you don’t have a huge appetite, consider splitting it with someone else.

One of my favorite things on the menu is the chicken and ribs plate, but sadly, it’s no longer being served as of a couple of months ago. (Edited to add) It’s back! Thanks to one of our readers for pointing it out. You can still get the same tender, flavorful rotisserie chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and crispy green beans for just under $10. It’s an excellent buy on the dining plan and big enough to share, but we certainly hope to see the ribs return some day.

The grilled chicken sandwich is a decent choice for people that are tired of burgers. It’s served plain but you can add lots of toppings at the self-service bar. When I dug into this sandwich, I was a little disappointed in the flavor and the bun was very dry. It looked fluffy but it was not. I ended up using more condiments than normal.

As always, if you’re on the dining plan, we advise against getting the dessert that comes with you meal and opting for a cold bottle of water, fruit, or a container of yogurt instead. 

Entertainment:

Cosmic Ray’s is the only Magic Kingdom eatery (until Fantasyland opens) with entertainment. Sonny Eclipse, an audio-animatronic space lounge lizard performs in the enclosed dining area that faces the Tomorrowland Speedway. He performs a 25-minute loop with a small break between. The songs are charming and based off of familiar standards with different lyrics. The jokes happen to be pretty corny, too.

We’ve been going to Cosmic Ray’s for years and will continue to go: It’s consistently one of the better quick-service locations on property. 

Ohana for Dinner.

Located on the second floor of the Polynesian Resort, just steps from the monorail, Ohana is a large, family-style restaurant serving grilled meats with pan-Asian flavors that borrow from the cuisines of China, Hawaii, and Japan.  Think soy sauce-based sauces with hints of sugar, coriander, and garlic. The effect can range from delicious to cloyingly sweet, but there’s plenty of it, all in a festive, family-friendly atmosphere.
Food:
As soon as you’re seated your server will bring you bread and butter. The bread is a sweet, Hawaiian-style bread and that’s warm and fresh, but try not to eat too much of it: There’s a lot more to come.
A simple tossed salad of romaine, radicchio, and spinach comes drizzled with a light, honey-lime dressing.  The crisp, fresh taste of the dressing makes this salad one of my favorite parts of the meal.

 After the salad your server will bring you chicken wings with a honey coriander sauce and pork dumplings

The wings are meaty and tender with perfectly crisp skin, however the pork dumplings don’t fare quite as well. On every visit, I’ve found the dumplings to be overcooked to the point where the wonton is hard and crunchy, which is a shame given that  the spicy filling has a pleasant, gingery kick.  I’d love to see these dumplings gently steamed and then given a quick sear in the pan.  Lo mein noodles round out the appetizer portion of your meal. They come with steamed broccoli florets which, if my observations are correct, are largely ignored.

The lo mein noodles are so addictive you might find yourself reaching for multiple portions, although by now you’ve probably noticed that just about everything on the menu, including the noodles, is sweet. I love sweet and salty foods but if you don’t, you might want to pass on this restaurant.  Fortunately, you can cut what starts to seem like an unrelenting parade of sugar with the sauces that are brought to your table.

After the appetizers, you’re ready for the meat portion of the meal, which your server brings out on a large skewer, using a knife and pushing your serving into a bowl (which serves to anchor the skewer as well as holding your food) at the base of the skewer.  There’s no order in which meat is brought to you table; it’s based on when they come off the grill, although shrimp seems to arrive last. On our last visit we started with the oak grilled chicken. It’s not easy to keep chicken breast juicy but they’ve managed it here with this marinated grilled chicken.  It’s the least sweet of all the meats, with the deep, nuanced flavor of a soy sauce and sesame oil marinade.

Of all the meat, the pork fares the least well. On each visit it was slightly dry and too sweet. I enjoyed the beef, but the majority of my table mates thought it was too sweet.  At this point, I may have stopped  noticing since at that point, everything had started to taste the same.  The shrimp was a welcome change, as it was still juicy from being cooked with the shell on and was not overly sauced or spiced; you could actually taste the flavor of the shrimp itself. It’s wildly popular judging from the piles of shells on some guests’ plates, so if you want to indulge, you’ll need to  ask your server to bring more.

Everyone enjoyed dessert, which was a bread pudding with caramel sauce (most often with sliced bananas) topped with scoops of ice cream. I’m a huge fan of caramel and this sauce, which was a simple brown sugar sauce with cream, butter and vanilla, was delicious. I could eat this every day and not get tired of it. The pudding is very sweet (shocking, I know), so you may want to ask for extra ice cream to cut the sweetness a bit.

Ohana means “family,” but my husband and I always joke that it actually means “meat.”  Obviously, this can be an issue for some guests. Fortunately, the kitchen is very accommodating.  Kids who are picky eaters will do fine here as chicken nuggets, fries and macaroni and cheese are also available.  They can even get a separate dessert. Vegetarians or those with dietary restrictions should consult with the chef for a separate entree.  Regardless of your preferences, you won’t leave Ohana hungry.

Service and Atmosphere:

Ohana is loud and fun, making it ideal for an end-of-trip celebration dinner when you’re feeling just a bit sad about leaving Disney World. The room is dark, with small, very bright, overhead lights punctuating the darkness and creating an unpleasant spotlight effect on some of the guests. Almost all of the tables have views of the pool and the Magic Kingdom and Cinderella Castle beyond through a large bank of windows.  If you’re dining later at night, ask for a table near the windows so you can see the fireworks, but even tables in the middle of the room have a great view.

Service is both enthusiastic and haphazard. We recently waited 45-minutes for a glass of wine and drinks were never refilled, but the steady stream of food was unrelenting, at least until we got to the “meat” portion of the meal.  Your server will bring out skewers of chicken, beef, pork and shrimp to your table throughout that portion of the meal, but there can be very long waits between servings. This is particularly true if you have a large table. On a recent visit there were eleven of us, all adults. Our server ran out of meat halfway through each visit to our table, so one side of the table was always watching the other eat. 

After dinner, consider going down to the beach to watch the Electrical Water Pageant or the fireworks. This resort comes to life at night, with gorgeous lighting illuminating the exotic landscaping.  There are plenty of places to sit and have a quiet drink from the bar or for a romantic stroll. 

This photo is the property of Tom Bricker.
You can see more of his work at

Getting a Reservation at Ohana:


Guests love a good bargain and at one table-serice credit on the Disney Dining Plan, Ohana is fits the bill. This is part of the problem. When Le Cellier, easily the most popular restuarant on Disney property, went to two table-service credits for dinner, Ohana took its place as the number one table-service dinner location.  Make sure you get your reservation as close to the 180-day mark as possible. If you’re planning late, don’t give up hope. You can still opt for a late seating (say, after 9:30) or keep calling close to travel in the hopes that there will be cancellations. Finally, Ohana requires a credit card guarantee to reserve a spot. Your card won’t be charged but there is a $10 per person fee for no-shows so make sure you cancel one-day prior to your reservation.

Ohana is a restaurant with some occasional bumps, but like a lot of guests, the pluses outweigh the minuses for us, making it a must-do every trip. It’s the kind of place that feels special enough for date night, but still casual enough that you won’t have to worry about rambunctious kids–your own or someone else’s. The fun atmosphere could easily easily bring anyone out of the end-of-trip blues, at least temporarily.  And while it’s true that I would love some savory additions to the menu, I still love the food.  In fact, I’m wishing I had some of that bread pudding right now!

Quick Bites: The American at the Grand Floridian Cafe

During a recent trip, I had the opportunity to experience the Grand Floridian Cafe for breakfast. A few friends have always talked about the Cafe as one of Walt Disney World’s better kept secrets and now I know why. On a Friday morning during the crowded Spring Break time period, our group was able to get a walk-up reservation. As we walked through the eatery, I noticed that it was no more than a third full.

It only took me a few minutes to decide on my choice. The American is two eggs served with bacon, sausage, biscuits, breakfast potatoes and a choice of juice for $13.49. It has all of my favorite breakfast foods! I added a pot of coffee and waited for my meal.

I had the eggs sunny side up. The yolk wasn’t runny and mixed well with the egg whites, which were solid without being fluffy. The bacon was standard, if bacon can ever be called standard, but it seemed a little dry. The breakfast sausage was really a surprise. I am used to a very spicy (and smaller) sausage with breakfast. This sausage had a bit of spice but went well with the eggs and the biscuits.

By far, the standout of the meal was the breakfast potatoes. I am used to greasy hash browns and the breakfast potatoes were nothing like that. They were thick, buttery and delicious! The potatoes are served in a wedge shape, like corn bread, which misled me into thinking it would be dry and crumbly. Next time, I am going to order extra breakfast potatoes. And no, I do not have a carb problem, thank you!

The Grand Floridian Cafe is a great choice for breakfast even if you aren’t staying at the hotel. It is a quick jaunt on the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, so if you want a solid breakfast without any characters, then you will enjoy the Grand Floridian Cafe.

And save me an order of the breakfast potatoes!

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Trail’s End Lunch and Dinner Buffet

Sometimes a dining experience at Walt Disney World is more about the journey and the experience than the food. For years, the Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness was a hidden gem known only by the campers and Magic Kingdom visitors that ventured beyond the theme park to eat. Reasonable food was offered at very reasonable prices. Unfortunately, the prices have risen and the food has become increasingly homogenized.

Still, it is a fun trip to get to Fort Wilderness from the Magic Kingdom, Wilderness Lodge or the Contemporary. You can drive to the campground, but you will have to take a Fort Wilderness bus to get from the parking lot to the restaurant. By far, taking one of the boat launches is the most enjoyable way to get to the eatery. The boat will take about 20 minutes from the Magic Kingdom and the Contemporary to get to the Fort Wilderness Marina.

I’ve circled Pioneer Hall, where Trail’s End, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Crocket’s Tavern are located. 

I’m Bringing Nerdy Back
Fort Wilderness opened on November 19, 1971, almost two months after the grand opening of Walt Disney World. Trail’s End Buffeteria opened in 1974. Some time in the late 1980s the Buffeteria name was dropped.

About the Restaurant

Located in Pioneer Hall, Trail’s End is next to Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. This can cause a bit of congestion when people are lined up for the show since the checkin line for Hoop-Dee can stretch in front of the Trail’s End. You might want to inquire about show times if you are making an ADR in the evening. If there is a wait for your table, spend a few minutes relaxing on the rocking chairs on the porch.

The restaurant is rather plain, but not without its charms. As you enter, you will see a photograph of Fess Parker as Davy Crockett. For the most part, the decorations follow suit with items that you would expect that a settler would use: wagon wheels, pots, lanterns, etc.

Breakfast

A traditional Disney buffet is served for breakfast. Adults can expect to pay $17.00 to $19.00, based on the season, while kids will pay $10.00 – $12.00. The fare is pretty standard and includes: Mickey Waffles, eggs, breakfast pizzas, bacon, sausage, fruit oatmeal and hot cinnamon spiced apples (a treat).

The breakfast is enjoyable but not worth the trip due to the crowds and travel time. There are similar buffets that are located closer to the theme parks. It is a great place for breakfast if you are staying at Fort Wilderness, though.

Lunch

Lunch at Trail’s End has changed over the past year. Instead of being a buffet, they are offering a normal menu. Surprisingly, there are some great choices for lunch, including: fried chicken and waffles, Angus chuck bacon cheeseburger (very good) and a fresh berry salad with chicken. The price is pretty standard; expect to pay $12.00 to $15.00 for an entree.

The kid’s menu is as uninspired as most restaurants at Disney. Macaroni and Cheese, a cheeseburger and chicken strips are the primary offerings.

Dinner

This is where the Trail’s End shines.You will pay around $25.00 for an adult and $14.00 per child.

There are the standard buffet options, but there are two standouts: the macaroni and cheese and the chili.

The chili is hearty with the right mixture of beef and beans. Once I discovered it, I had to pace myself. Much to my chagrin, I am a macaroni and cheese aficionado. I spent my time between the chili and the mac and cheese. I found the mac and cheese to be very heavy, which is good and it had just the right amount of cheesy tang. It was the most food that my finicky eight year-old ate all week.

Trail’s End is a great choice for a late lunch or for the buffet if you want to add something different to your vacation. It is a lot of fun getting to Fort Wilderness and exploring the environs. Time it right and you could take part in the campfire program (7pm or 8pm, depending on the season) which is free to all Walt Disney World guests. You can roast marshmallows, take part in a sing-a-long, get some great character time and watch a Disney film under the stars.

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