Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

TOP TEN Places to Enjoy Ice Cream at WDW


1.  GhirardelliWithout hesitation, Ghirardelli makes it to the top of our list for the quality of its ice cream and its variety of options.  Located in the center of the Marketplace section of Downtown Disney, this venue entices guests with free samples of chocolate and the smell of cooking waffle cones wafting through the air.  Although more often crowded than not, Ghirardelli provides guests with a quintessential ice cream parlor experience complete with sundae cups and extra- long spoons.  Sundaes, shakes, and floats are all available here as well as a selection of baked goods like cookies and brownies.  Items are available to go or guests may choose to be seated and have their ice cream creation delivered to them.  We prefer the latter as it provides a break from the heat and shopping and prevents us from wearing our sundaes.  If you are feeling adventurous, try The Earthquake, a gargantuan sundae that includes eight scoops or ice cream, eight toppings, and more.

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2.  Beaches and Cream:  Located at the Beach Club Resort on the covered walkway that formers the northern border of the Stormalong Bay pool complex, this fifties-style eatery and ice cream parlor is a step back in time.  Guests can be served by wait staff at tables inside the restaurant or may choose to purchase to-go ice cream creations at a separate walk up counter.  Many sunbathers and swimmers avail of this second option.  Beaches and Cream also serves hearty comfort food like hamburgers, hotdogs, sandwiches, and salads, but the ice cream is the real draw for most.  Not to be outdone by Ghirardelli’s Earthquake sundae, B and C offers The Kitchen Sink, another mammoth sundae with eight scoops of ice cream ,various toppings, and a whole can of whipped cream.  Be ready for some special attention when you order this whopper and dig in before the ice cream melts into a soupy mess.  Staff members here are friendly and keep this busy place efficient.

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3.  Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream:  For us, no trip to WDW would be complete without sharing (or not) one of these ice cream treats.  Rich vanilla ice cream covered in luscious chocolate in the shape of Mickey’s iconic silhouette make this a must have!  Available from many vendor carts and several counter service restaurants, this cool snack refreshes and provides a nice burst of energy on hot days.  Create your own ritual about how to eat it.  Ears first?  Left or right?  Be sure to catch the large sections of chocolate coating which may break off, you would not want to miss a morsel.

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4.  L’Artisan des Glaces:  A recent addition to the France pavilion in Epcot, L’Artisan des Glaces serves up wonderful ice creams and sorbets with plenty of indoor seating.  The real stars of this show are the Ice Cream Martini and the Croque Glace, two unique and distinctly French creations that are luxuriously decadent.  The Ice Cream Martini features two scoops of ice cream, a shot of Grand Marnier, whipped cream, and rum or vodka.  This provides plenty to share and is a decidedly adult indulgence.  The Croque Glace is L’Artisan’s answer to an ice cream sandwich.  Ice cream or sorbet is sealed inside warm brioche bread to make for an extra sweet send up of the traditional ice cream sandwich.  Guests who are purists and select unadulterated ice cream should not miss the Pistachio, Caramel Fleur de Sel, or Coconut White Chocolate flavors.  Each is to die for!

5.  Seashore Sweets:  Tucked in between Kouzzina (soon to be a new dining venue) and the Flying Fish restaurants at the Boardwalk Resort, Seashore Sweets draws young and old alike in for candies, salt water taffy, and ice cream.  The store and parlor itself pay homage to the Miss America pageants of yester year which were brought to the Atlantic seashore to drum up business as early as 1920.  Take a few moments to enjoy the artifacts and photos displayed.  We steer away from the cloying sweet candies and head for the ice cream counter.  Although not outrageously inventive with its flavor offerings, Seashore Sweets offers both hand scooped and soft serve ice cream with a variety of toppings.  A visit here makes an afternoon on the Boardwalk feel complete.

6.  Plaza Ice Cream Parlor:  Located at the extreme end of the east of the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street, this now venerable establishment satisfies the thousands of guests who enter its doors daily.  A limited but worthwhile menu makes this a comforting stop.  We love the homemade ice cream sandwich which consists of two huge freshly baked cookies glued together with a generous helping of the ice cream flavor of your choice.  We also love the raspberry sorbet when it is available.  Two scoops can easily cool down two weary park goers.  Although Starbuck’s is a welcome addition to WDW, replacing Disney’s rather lack luster coffee of yore, the Seattle coffee company has taken over what little indoor seating the ice cream parlor had!  We are told that Disney is fast at work on a solution and that outdoor seating adjacent to the parlor should soon mirror the outdoor seating across the street at Casey’s.

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7.  Gelato at the Landscape of Flavors:  The gelato counter at the Art of Animation Resort’s Landscape of Flavors food court has become a food destination for us.  Flavors do change seasonally but many familiar favorites are always available.  This is, hands down, some of the best gelato we have ever tasted.  (We make our own and have been to Italy.)  Flavors like Pumpkin, Dulce de Leche, Coconut, and Pistachio have been our favorites.  The rich chocolate never fails us either.

8.  The FountainThe Fountain is appropriately subtitled “Sweet Treats” and serves as one of the Dolphin Resort’s casual dining venues.  A walk up counter serves a wide selection of ice cream creations in a lively, fun setting.  Located on the first floor of the Dolphin’s lobby and once known by the unfortunate name Tubbi’s, The Fountain serves floats, inventive shakes, sundaes, hand scooped ice cream, and soft serve selections.  All are available in cups or cones and can be enhanced with a seemingly endless selection of toppings.  Seasonal selections like cheesecakes and pies are also on hand.  Spend a lazy afternoon touring the Swan and Dolphin Resorts and reward yourselves with a stop at The Fountain.

9.  Captain Cook’s Snack Company:  Granted, this location is not technically an ice cream strong hold, but it is home to the only Dole Whip soft serve outside of the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland.  Located on the first floor of the Polynesian Resort toward the Nanea Volcano feature pool, this counter service restaurant warrants a visit if only for the Dole Whip.  For the uninitiated, a Dole Whip is a soft serve vanilla ice cream and pineapple concoction that is the stuff of dreams.  We are of the opinion that the only thing that could improve it is a generous shot of Meyer’s 151 or Captain Morgan.  This treat is so popular that a cast member is assigned to the self-serve dispenser to fill Dole Whip cups for guests.  For those who have never tried it, do so soon.  One bite will explain “what all the fuss is about.”

10.  Kabuki Café:  This quick service venue rests in the shadow of the pagoda in Epcot’s Japan pavilion.  Although the Café does not serve ice cream, it is home to kakigori, or shaved ice topped with syrups.  Generous portions make it easy to share and flavors like tangerine, melon, and cherry are subtle, not overly sweet, and refreshing.  The tangerine was a revelation for us.  We never miss the chance to enjoy one of these cooling snacks when visiting WDW.

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TOP TEN Places to Get a Cocktail at WDW


1.  La Cava de Tequila:  Situated inside the Mexico pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, this quaint (although often crowded) venue serves up some killer margaritas and tequila tasting flights.  Carved out of a former retail space to the right of the San Angel Inn restaurant, this snug bar offers boutique tequilas and inventive margaritas.  Try the Blood Orange, Hibiscus, or Cucumber margaritas.  We cannot decide which one is our favorite.  Although they are a bit steep in price, they are delicious.  Cava also offers a limited snacking menu with selections like chips, salsa, and house-made guacamole.  Cava has become extremely popular and long waits to get into this small space are common.  At times, a velvet rope is set up to establish an orderly waiting area.  Waits are even longer then.

2.  The California Grill:  Although it may seem out of the way for some guests, a trip to the lounge at the California Grill affords visitors the best view at WDW.  The lounge and restaurant are squeaky clean and cheery from a recent refurbishment and sightlines throughout the space have been improved.  Check-in for the California Grill sits on the third floor of the Contemporary Resort.  Guests without dinner reservations are allowed up to the lounge if there is space available.  This fairly new procedure is a much needed improvement.  Previously, guests seemed to be permitted upstairs willy-nilly, making for a crowded, unpleasant cocktail seating area.  Once atop the Contemporary, mouth-dropping views from 15 stories up mesmerize guests.  Huge floor- to-ceiling windows frame views of the Magic Kingdom and the resorts on the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon.  The monorail looks like a toy train from here and views at dusk are enchanting as lights begin to flicker on blurring the harsh lines of the waning afternoon.  This is our favorite spot from which to take in a sunset.  The full dinner menu is available in the lounge as are the creative cocktails and winning wine selections.  Countless by-the-glass offerings enable guests to try wines that are otherwise quite pricey by the bottle.  We love the flatbreads and the sushi here.  One can make a light dinner of a few appetizers and a drink.  Servers here are very gracious and accommodating. Arrive early, preferably between 4:45 and 5:00PM to enjoy the best views and the least crowded lounge, otherwise, go later.  As you can imagine, California Grill bustles around fireworks time.  If possible, dress the part.  The California Grill is a fine dining restaurant and standard tourist garb ruins the atmosphere.  Make it a special outing and break out a collared shirt or a sun dress.  As the sun slips below the horizon behind the Grand Floridian and you sip a perfect Cosmo or crisp white wine, think of us and raise a glass!

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3.  Belle Vue Lounge:  This lounge makes our list for its sheer charm, light crowds, and welcoming balcony.  Located on the second floor of the Boardwalk Inn, adjacent to the elevator banks, the Belle Vue Lounge wraps guests in turn of the century charm and casual elegance.  Wicker and over-stuffed furniture coupled with wood paneling and rich fabrics make this space feel like a private club or a salon in a decadent house.  A gorgeous wooden staircase anchors one end of the room and a bank of windows and glass doors the other.  The impossibly soft couches and chairs make it hard to resist a nap!  For a wonderful view of the Boardwalk and Crescent Lake, step out onto the adjacent balcony and enjoy your libation.  The courtyard formed by wings of Boardwalk Inn and Villas teems with guests moving to and fro and the toot of the Friendship launches adds a soothing soundtrack to the afternoon or evening.  Try an old –fashioned cocktail like a Gimlet, a Manhattan, or a Side Car and relax.  Stopping in here for a drink makes us feel like we are returning to the home of an old friend.

4.  Rix Lounge:  Located between the lobby and the Pepper Market at the Coronado Springs Resort, Rix’s Lounge has an edgy, urban, eclectic vibe not found at other Disney watering holes.  It is, in fact, the closest thing Disney has to a night club.  Rix’s often fills up with conventioneers, but we have never found ourselves without a seat here.  In fairness, many of the conventions that come to Coronado cater to a more sedate crowd.  On one visit, a Tupperware convention had the resort at capacity, but Rix’s was still inviting.  Floor to ceiling curtains form virtual walls, defining the space and creating a necessary scrim to hide the dining area of the Pepper Market.  The small groups of chairs and sofas scattered throughout Rix and copious bar stools make it easy to find a spot.  Two of the sofas are actually hung from the ceiling, suspended by chairs that make them feel as if they were the nightclub version of a front porch swing.  If you are craving the feeling of really “going out on the town,” then stop by Rix’s, order a glowing cocktail, and soak it all in.  Rix’s also features a light “bites” menu which includes items like sliders, hummus, dips, and fried calamari.  If you are craving a happy hour feel, Rix’s is the place!

5.  Crew’s Cup Lounge:  We are hesitant to include this lounge on our list because, selfishly, we want to keep it a secret.  Practically unknown to many WDW guests and even to a few experts, the Crew’s Cup serves drinks and food from early afternoon until midnight.  Tucked into a small space steps from the Yachtsman’s Steakhouse at the Yacht Club resort, this location evokes the boathouses of the Ivey League with a crew boat suspended upside down from the ceiling and other accoutrements of rowing rounding out the space.  A row of booths on one side of the room is balanced by a window into the meat preparation room of the steakhouse.  Chairs, sofas, and cocktail tables reside in the center of the room with a gorgeous wooden bar on the north wall.  Guests can enjoy regional brews or selections from the full bar here as well as meals.  The Crew’s Cup begins serving sandwiches, appetizers, soups, and salads right around the time the Captain’s Grille closes.  This lounge has saved the day for us on several occasions when we found ourselves hungry between the lunch and dinner offerings at other restaurants.  (Table service restaurants located in Disney resorts generally stop serving lunch at 2:00PM and reopen for dinner at 5:00PM.)  Not to be missed here are the fried rock shrimp, Buffalo wings, and truffle fries.  Admittedly, we would eat cardboard with truffle oil on it, notwithstanding, the truffle fries here are heavenly and go so well with a drink.  Hand cut and sprinkled with truffle oil and parmesan cheese, these fries are the stuff of legend.

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6.  The Wave:  The bar and lounge at The Wave on the ground floor of the Contemporary Resort would make the list merely for its hours were it not for the fact that staff here are exceptional.  One of the few lounges open from lunch and straight through dinner, The Wave has a neighborhood bar feel from about 2:30 to 5:30PM when most other bars are closed.  Guests waiting for their Magical Express pick up, resort guests, and those taking a break from park touring congregate here.  Although we wish The Wave had windows, the large bar here is lively and airy and service is both friendly and efficient.  There are venues with more commanding views and better locations, nevertheless, the service and generous operating hours of The Wave vault it onto our list.

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7.  Fulton’s Crab House:  The bar and lounge on the first floor of Fulton’s Crab House is charming to the ninth degree.  Located in the bow section of this re-creation of a paddle-wheeler, this U-shaped room is lined with wood-framed windows and high top tables that offer excellent views of the water and skyline of Downtown Disney as well as vistas of the Saratoga Springs Resort.  Wood furniture and a select mix of sea-faring décor surround guests and add to the nautical feel here.  The bar serves refreshing drinks and a wide selection of microbrew beers and wines by the glass.  The full menu is also available at the bar.  We usually make do with items from the raw bar or a soup and salad if hungry.  A welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of shopping at Downtown Disney, Fulton’s makes you want to linger.  We love hiding out here to avoid a fast-approaching afternoon rain shower.  Nighttime views are equally appealing, with the lights of the Westside and Saratoga Springs flickering not far away.  We also love the Portobello Mushroom Fries as a bar treat. Fulton’s is home to the best fried calamari on property.  We know their secret, but we are not telling.

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A view from the outside of Fulton's wonderful first floor bar.

A view from the outside of Fulton’s wonderful first floor bar.

8.  T-Rex:  The bar at the T-Rex restaurant in Downtown Disney makes the cut as one of our favorites.  A refreshing respite from the sometimes unbearable heat and crowds of an afternoon spent shopping, the bar here surrounds a huge salt water fish tank brimming with tropical fish.  This cool, inviting bar serves great cocktails and appetizers and offers giant frozen drinks for kids.  Served in large plastic cups, these colorful, Slurpee-inspired drinks are only $4.99 and could easily please two children.  Staff here are friendly and know the menu and drink offerings well.  We often sit here with a draft beer and snack to escape the rain or heat.  Beer here is the coldest on property.

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9.  Mizner’s LoungeMizner’s Lounge feels to us a bit like your grandmother’s secret tree house decked out in Victoriana.  Located directly behind the bandstand on the second floor of the Grand Floridian’s expansive lobby, Mizner’s serves perfect Martinis and classic cocktails.  Large windows offer views of the interior courtyards and pools of the Grand Floridian as well as the Seven Seas Lagoon in the distance.  Full grown trees stand sentinel outside the windows and many branches reach out to almost touch the panes of glass.  This makes us feel like we are in a very refined tree house!  A live band plays big band standards and Disney songs during the cocktail hour.  Mizner’s does fill up quickly, and at times guests wait quite a while to be seated.  Impeccable service and quintessential cocktails bring us back often.

10.  Victoria Falls Lounge:  Cantilevered between the lobby and the ground floor restaurants of the Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House, the Victoria Falls lounge is a destination for us, even when we are staying at another resort.  Framed by pillars and intricate railings this lounge is graced by soothing African drumming and music.  The smell of the wood burning fireplace nearby coupled with the savory smells drifting up from Boma rub all the rough edges off of your day.  Both the lounge and the lobby itself make alluring use of materials, textures, and colors to truly transport you.  Columns covered in a series of textured and colored paper and a tranquil waterfall welcome guests to Victoria Falls.  African-inspired appetizers are available here to complement your cocktail experience.  Guests may choose to sit at the bar or in the ample seating area filled with cocktail tables and chairs which afford views down to Boma and its reception area.  Although staffs here sometimes seem annoyed by the fact that they have to come out from behind the bar to serve guests in the lounge area, they are certainly still friendly and courteous.  Sample a South African wine and a flatbread and dips appetizer here as you let yourself be calmed by the peaceful, elegant surroundings.

11.  Top of the World:  We know, we know, it’s a top ten list!  We would be remiss if we did not include the Top of the World Member Lounge at Bay Lake Tower on our list.  We do not cover it in the top ten because it is only available to Disney Vacation Club members and those staying with them as their guests.  Perched high atop Bay Lake Tower, this lounge rivals California Grill for its views.  Named the Top of the World in honor of the cabaret-style nightclub that once crowned the Contemporary, this open and light-filled space provides views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom, Bay Lake and downtown Orlando, as well as Epcot and the Tree of Life in the distance.  A glass-enclosed bar and lounge serves cocktails and a limited snack menu.  Modern décor and a retractable scrim behind the bar pay homage to the Contemporary and the monorails which glide through it.  Surrounding the bar and lounge, an enormous open-air rooftop patio offers bird’s eye views of WDW and beyond.  We do wish Imagineers had raised the bar and lounge a few feet above the rooftop deck so that seated guests could see over the heads of those on the patio, but this is a minor hiccup for an otherwise stellar cocktail experience.


TOP TEN Counter Service Restaurants at WDW

1.  Landscape of FlavorsThe Art of Animation Resort’s answer to the food court reigns supreme as our first choice for the best counter service venue on site.  This locale totally revolutionized the way Disney does food court-style dining at its resorts.  Adjacent to the gift shop with floor to ceiling windows offering views of the Finding Nemo themed pool, Landscape of Flavors literally has something for everyone.  Featuring a gelato bar, Indian food station, make-your-own pasta section, pizza, a burger and sandwich section as well as a create-your-own salad station, this eatery offers variety and quality.  Drinks are paid for with food and then guests use self-serve drink dispensers once seated.  Diners also enjoy real silverware and plates here, making the experience feel less quick service and more like a sit down meal.  The Tandori chicken or shrimp with acorn squash and a side of spinach and paneer cheese is always a hit with us as is the Surf and Surf Burger which features a crab cake “burger” topped with popcorn shrimp and remoulade sauce.  Gelato makes the list as our favorite dessert option here.  Guests who buy gelato have their receipts stamped and may return for gelato within two hours of purchase.  This avoids having to eat soupy gelato.  Cast members are friendly and work hard to keep the bright, cheery dining room clean.  Musical selections from the films featured in the art work throughout the room play as diners enjoy their meals.  Landscape of Flavors serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and also serves as a quick shop spot as well with countless reach-in refrigerators stocked with prepared salads, sandwiches, hummus, fruits salads, and myriad desserts.  If you would like to visit Landscape of Flavors, hop on a bus to the Art of Animation Resort from Downtown Disney or the nearest theme park.  Your journey will be well-worth the effort.


2.  Riverside Mill Food Court:  This food court-style venue at the Port Orleans Riverside resort wins for the charm of its setting and the variety of its offerings.  Nestled alongside the resort’s check in and shopping complex and adjacent to Boatwright’s table service restaurant, Riverside Mill offers pleasant views of the waterways meandering through the resort as well as a giant waterwheel on its north side.  Guests dine in an old mill, complete with wood works and wheels that add to the homey feeling.  Mismatched chairs and giant wood framed windows welcome and sooth guests.  Despite the soothing effect of the warm wood, this venue can get frenetic at peak meal times.  Eat at slightly off times for the shortest waits and best quality food.  Riverside Mill is home to one of our favorite sweet temptations, the Magic Bar.  A sort of brownie ratcheted up to the ninth degree, these confections feature nuts, coconut flakes,  chocolate chips, and other morsels all baked into a brownie like treat that easily serves two.  Top them with vanilla ice cream for an extra extravagant indulgence.  The Mill features our favorite create-your-own pasta bar on site, a salad station, a grill featuring burgers, fries, chicken fingers and the like, and a carving station.  The dinner menu is augmented by a hot selection like roast beef, mashed potatoes, and green beans, or pot roast and veggies.  This hot selection usually changes nightly and is always quite good.  Soups of the day are crowd-pleasers as well.  The create-your-own-pasta can easily be shared and portions here are generally quite generous.


3.  Wolfgang Puck Express:  While there are two Wolfgang Puck locations at Downtown Disney, soon to be Disney Springs, the WP Express in the Marketplace is, hands down, our favorite.  The red brick and arts and crafts architecture coupled with big windows and the smell of roasting chickens emanating from the kitchen make this a must visit!  Do not be fooled, WP Express can get quite busy, especially now that guests on the Disney Dining Plan have realized that WP Express is undoubtedly the best quick service dining value on property.  Guests order at a counter and are given a number to place on their tables.  Servers deliver food in a timely, friendly fashion.  Guests can chose to be seated in either the open kitchen area or one of the main dining rooms framed by expansive windows.  Diners chow down on delicious food in comfort while watching the hustle and bustle of the Marketplace outside.  Try the flavored, fresh-brewed iced teas with your meal.  Not to be missed are the signature Chinois Chicken Salad, Roasted Vegetable Wood Fired Pizza, Butternut Squash Soup, Half Roasted Chicken, and the Oven Roasted Salmon.  The Crème Brule here is also stellar.  Consider splitting a pizza and a salad.  The Spaghetti Bolognese is a hearty choice that never fails to please.  If you know you won’t have room for dessert and it’s included on your meal plan, take home a wrapped brownie or a fruit salad for a quick snack or breakfast.

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4.  Earl of Sandwich:  Perhaps the least expensive dining option on site, Earl of Sandwich, offers great food at even better prices.  Right next door to the kitchen goods store in the Marketplace, Earl serves inventive, filling sandwiches in a casual setting.  Seating affords views of the Marketplace stores, shoppers, and cheery landscaping.  While our favorites are The Original 1762 (fresh roasted beef, cheddar and creamy horseradish sauce) and The Chipotle Chicken Avocado (Grilled chicken, bacon, sharp cheddar, avocado, lettuce and chipotle sauce), guests rave about The Holiday Sandwich, a winning combination of roasted turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce.  Once only offered seasonally, our understanding is that this creation is now a permanent fixture on the menu.  Hearty sandwiches, salads, and savory soups fill hungry bellies without breaking the bank!  DVC members and Passholders may enjoy discounts here.

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5.  Sunshine SeasonsThe Sunshine Seasons food court in The Land pavilion at Epcot is certainly the best quick service option in the parks.  With a now healthy and often macrobiotic selection, this counter service option is a clear front-runner.  Located on the first floor of The Land pavilion, this venue offers an expansive seating area that rests between Soarin’ and the Living with the Land attraction.  Guests sit under a huge atrium that features natural light from skylights.  Yellow and orange swaths of fabric represent the sun and four hot air balloons, each representing a different season, float overhead.  Essentially a very nice food court, Sunshine Seasons is divided into different service areas that each feature different types of food.  “The Grill” features rotisserie chicken, grilled fish, and a slow-roasted pork chop while the “Asian Noodles” section Mongolian Beef, Sweet and Sour Chicken, and Spicy Cashew Chicken.  “Asian Noodles” is home to one of our favorite items, the Garlic Udon Noodles, which are available as a snack credit.  We often share an order or two as a midafternoon healthy snack if we have late dinner reservations.  “Soups and Salads,” “The Bakery,” and “Sandwiches” round out the offerings here.  Honestly, we have never had a bad meal here.  The Mongolian Beef, Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad, Oak Grilled Vegetable Sandwich, and Rotisserie Chicken stand as our favorites.  An abundant selection of desserts satisfies any sweet tooth.


6.  Flame Tree Barbecue:  Located in the Discovery Island section of Animal Kingdom, Flame Tree offers fair portion sizes, great food, and wonderful seating areas, some with views of Expedition Everest and the Discovery River.  The restaurant, awash with sunset orange, teal, and blue paint, invites guests to sample excellent barbecue and refreshing drinks.  In keeping with the predator seeks prey subtle theming, the marquis sign features a crocodile (or alligator) making a snack of a fish.  Not to worry, this theme is so understated, most small children do not even notice.  A series of shaded pavilions set on a winding trail between the service counter and the river provide an abundance of seating in the shade.  Many of these sit directly on the water or adjacent to reflecting pools and fountains that attract small birds.  This, together with the lush landscaping, make the seating areas at Flame Tree feel like a temporary escape from the heat and even the crowds.  Portions here are so ample that two pre-teens or two adults who are not big eaters could easily share.  Stick with the barbecue offerings here.  The half slab of ribs, half chicken, and the rib and chicken combo are all excellent and are accompanied by baked beans and coleslaw.  Beer and wine are also featured.  Sample a Safari Amber brew.  Although we are ardent fans of Flame Tree, the desserts here need work.  Choices are limited to either Key Lime or Chocolate Mousse, neither of which is a homerun.  Crowds here can be over-whelming so, as we often suggest, try to dine at non-peak hours.  Remember that most counter service restaurants at the Animal Kingdom offer a discount for Tables in Wonderland members.

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7.  Katsura Grill:  The setting at the Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion at Epcot enchants guests and beckons them to linger.  Nestled behind the pagoda among the stepped terraces of a Japanese garden complete with koi pond, the outdoor seating at Katsura Grill transports guests to another time and place.  Large red umbrellas and strings of white and blue lanterns punctuate the serene setting of the garden.  Although only steps from the main thoroughfare of World Showcase, the Grill feels worlds away.  Indoor seating is also available for those who prefer it.  Along with the ever popular Udon, guests may choose a series of Teriyaki combos that include chicken, beef, or salmon.  Teriyaki dishes are also offered as combinations.  Several sushi and tsukumen salad combos are also excellent.  Kirin beer, plum wine, and sake round an excellent meal here.  Please try the green tea ice cream.  We love green tea, but the flavor of the ice cream may be too strong for some.  In that case, opt for the strawberry ice cream.  Somewhat annoyingly, cast members here insist that guests on a meal plan take their ice cream with their meal, resulting in melted ice cream.  Even a manager failed to see the silliness of this plan.  If not on a meal plan, wait to purchase your ice cream until the end of your meal.

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8.  Contempo Café:  This location holds a special place in our hearts, probably because it was once the Concourse Steakhouse, one of our favorite WDW eateries.  Now the quick service venue for the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower resorts, Contempo Café offers good, solid food in an exciting and storied setting.  Housed on the fourth floor concourse of the Contemporary, Contempo offers soaring views of the mainframe atrium and the kinetics of monorail trains passing through the lobby.  Guests also have a great view of Mary Blair’s mosaic installation on the outside of the elevator structures.  If visiting, be sure to look for the five-legged goat, although it is not visible from the Contempo Café dining area.  One of the first venues to offer self-service touch screen ordering kiosks, the Café’s best dishes include the Steakhouse Salad and Spice Crusted Mahi sandwich.  In fact, the Mahi sandwich is rated the best quick service fish sandwich on property be a member of our team.  Opt for the Multigrain Turkey BLT or the Honey Lime Chicken sandwich instead of the lack luster burgers here.  We have never had a burger here that did not feel like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for too long, even if it had not.  Guests procure their own drinks and desserts here.  The soft serve ice cream is a hit with our group.  As an escape from the sometimes oppressive heat and crowds at the Magic Kingdom, hop on the monorail and head over to the Contempo Café.  Food here is made fresh and is often better than some in park venues and guests enjoy the added benefit of a less crowded dining experience.  Then explore the shops in the lobby before heading back to the MK, refreshed and full!

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9.  Anandapur Local Food Café:  (Yak and Yeti Counter service) Although this location seems to have an identity crisis in terms of its name in park literature, it certainly has no trouble turning out decent food at fair prices.  Located between the Yak and Yeti table service restaurant and the walkway to Kali River Rapids, this quick service location is a hit with guests of all ages.  Anandapur serves better Asian-inspired food than does the Nine Dragons restaurant in Epcot.  Both the egg rolls and the Chicken Fried Rice make excellent afternoon snacks.  The Honey Chicken and Beef Lo Mein are the best bets as we find the sandwiches a bit dry and lacking in flavor.  Most of the entrees here are large enough to be shared.  Table seating areas are well themed and are interspersed between the shops and landscaping adjacent to the eatery.  Consider sharing a larger table with other guests, as bigger tables abound here.  Beware that shady tables are in demand so either be patient or be willing to brave the sun.  Grab a frozen lemonade with your meal to help cool you down.

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10.  Be Our Guest:  Although a tried and true favorite of ours, this venue did not make the top of our list because it is quite frankly too challenging to get seated here.  Disney underestimated the popularity of this restaurant, although in fairness to them, its location limits its size due to the utilidors underneath.  We understand that the Be Our Guest kitchen cannot be expanded to accommodate quicker service and more guests.  That being said, this is an excellent option for a quick service meal.  Guests will undoubtedly have to wait, but once inside, the experience is as soothing as it is imaginative.  Cast members do their best to move guests through quickly and make the outdoor waiting area bearable by providing large umbrellas to shade the sun and small cups of water to refresh.  Guests cross a moated bridge before entering the Beast’s castle.  A set of armored guards stand watch over guests as they enter and menus are cleverly displayed in cases.  Heraldry flags and wood work make guests feel like they have truly stepped inside a castle.  Guests are directed to one of many order kiosks where they select their meals.  A transponder shaped like a red rose allows servers to deliver food on domed trollies efficiently.  Drinks are self-serve, but all other selections are delivered to the table.  Both the Potato and Leek and the French Onion Soup are delicious and both can be purchased with a snack credit.  The Tuna Nicoise Salad, Braised Pork, and Carved Prime Roast Beef Sandwich are among of favorites here.  Vegetarians should opt for the quiche over the quinoa salad which we find to be a bit under-seasoned and uninspired.  Desserts here are either cupcakes or puff pastries filled with cream.  While we would love to see a killer chocolate mousse and a Tarte Tartin on the menu here, desserts satisfy and a few are notable stand-outs.  Try the Triple Chocolate or the Lemon Meringue cupcakes.  Be Our Guest is worth the wait as the setting and food are mesmerizing.  Guests seat themselves in the ballroom or West Wing at lunch.  The ballroom’s scale and attention to detail are a welcome respite from the hot Florida sun.  Large, curved windows  frame a snowy scene complete with falling snow and a perpetual twilight sky.  The West Wing, somewhat more foreboding and dark, is equally well- themed with framed portraits slashed by the Beast, tattered curtains, and the famed rose sheltered by a glass terrarium-like dome.  Gargoyles and pillars frame both rooms and enormous chandeliers grace the ballroom.  All of this adds up to a very special experience, especially for a quick service restaurant.

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Grand Floridian Cafe Overview

One of many delightful, welcoming cast members at the Grand Floridian Café.

One of many delightful, welcoming cast members at the Grand Floridian Café.


Almost hidden in the northeast corner of the Grand Floridian’s lobby, the Grand Floridian Cafe serves as the resort’s go-to restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the most afforadable table-service prices at the Grand Floridian.  The Cafe evokes Victorian-America with white-washed walls, formal floral arrangements, iced tea spoons, and pastel-colored furnishings.  Its large windows are framed in white wood which adds to the cozy but somewhat formal ambience.  A casual elegance pervades here with homey and familiar choices on the menu.  These include French Onion Soup, Caesar Salad, and Reuben sandwiches.  Cascades of flowers and fabric add to the “ladies who lunch” atmosphere.

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Once home to the best Reuben sandwich and Cobb Salad at Walt Disney World, the Cafe has slipped on our last few visits.  Portion sizes have shrunken.  Preparation and presentation are also slipping.  Service was once impeccable as well, with refills and condiments appearing without being requested, but apparent staff changes and some language barriers have eroded this once seamless service.  The changes are not a deal breaker, but the Grand Floridian Cafe is no longer a must-dine for us.

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The Seasonal Salad appetizer...a generous offering.

The Seasonal Salad appetizer…a generous offering.

The famous Grand Cobb Salad.

The famous Grand Cobb Salad.

Seasonal Cream of Mushroom Soup.

Seasonal Cream of Mushroom Soup.



We are happy to report after numerous recent visits in July, August, September, November, and December of 2013, that the Grand Floridian Café has once again regained its favored place with us.  Service has once again become close to impeccable and food quality and portions are much more even now.  Both the seasonal soup and salad were exceptional.  The salad features a hearty portion of heirloom tomatoes over local greens in a zesty dressing.  Soups highlights included butternut squash and parsnip and the ever-popular French Onion.  The Rueben, although not quite as grand as it used to be, still pleases.  Served along with some of our favorite French fries on property, the Rueben makes a great lunch.  The Cobb and Nicoise salads both serve as a light, delicious lunch.  We have also grown fond of the Shrimp and Grits at dinner.  Back to its former glory, the Grand Floridian Café certainly warrants a visit!

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