Welcome back to another My Disney Top 5. School is almost over and our thoughts are turning to the joys of summer vacation. Let me just make it official and say it for the record right here in cyberspace. We did look into vacationing someplace else this summer. Perish the thought! Not vacationing in Walt Disney World? How could that be?
We were actually interested in going somewhere else this summer. We did the research. We checked out some other places. We looked into flights and hotels. All of this, once again, led us to make a very familiar decision; a Walt Disney World vacation is just the best-bang-for-your-buck vacation out there. Check out my Top 5 Ways That a Trip to Walt Disney World is a Bargain that I wrote back in 2009 if you need any more proof. I stand by my reasoning and this summer I was proved right again. Another one of those pin codes came our way via email. It’s a great deal and we are, once again, Polynesian bound this August.
I know for many of you readers out there, the planning of a trip to Disney is a huge part of the fun. Where are we staying? What do we want to see or not see this time? Which building or room is the best location for us? All are important decisions to be made for sure. Of course, one of the biggest and most important decisions you have to make ahead of time, especially nowadays, is where to eat. Food at Disney runs the gamut from hot dogs and burgers in the parks all the way up to 5 star gourmet cuisine and everything in between. Making your reservations way ahead of time is crucial. The online reservation system on Disney’s website has made this easier than ever. However, the decision still remains: where do we go to eat?
When you’ve been to Walt Disney World as much as we have, you develop your favorites. I don’t think we could start a trip without breakfast at The Crystal Palace with Pooh and his friends. Although, I must say, the loss of the breakfast lasagna in recent years has been a huge disappointment. It was one of my favorite things on any menu and I hope it returns someday. We also love to eat in the San Angel Inn in the Mexico pavilion in Epcot. Those two are booked each trip for sure. That said, we are looking to hit some new places this time around. That thought led us to make a few different reservations this summer. One of the joys of Disney World is, despite our frequent visits, there are still so many things that we haven’t done and still so many restaurants left to try – which brought me to today’s list. Here are my Top 5 Restaurants I Still Haven’t Experienced in Walt Disney World.
First of all, I’m not a fan of the Swan and Dolphin hotels. Perhaps that’s unfair, because I haven’t actually stayed there, but I have my reasons. My wife and I don’t really like big high-rise style hotels. We prefer hotels that are smaller in height and more spread out like the Polynesian or even Port Orleans Riverside. More importantly though, we think they seem out of place in the otherwise quite charming Boardwalk area and stick out like sore thumbs. Plus, I really don’t like that you can see them from Epcot. It goes against the whole Disney design scheme. There’s a reason you can’t see the Contemporary from Main Street U.S.A. and the same logic should apply to seeing the Swan and Dolphin from Epcot.
I don’t have to stay there, but I would like to eat there. My wife and I ate at Todd English’s Tuscany at the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut and it was fantastic. Everything I’ve ever heard about bluezoo has been extremely positive. The pictures of the décor that you can find online seem very cool. I’d like to see how the underwater-like setting plays out in person and I hear the food is excellent. Perhaps a trip over to this corner of the Boardwalk is in our future?
The Animal Kingdom Lodge is an amazing place. The architecture, the African art and, of course, the savanna full of animals make it a truly unique experience. Unfortunately, we can never stay here because we have a family of 5 and until we’re in the mood to splurge for a large enough suite, for us it’s just a place to visit. When a cousin of mine was staying there we came to see the hotel and walk the grounds, but we have yet to dine in any of their wonderful restaurants. My dear friend Robert and his wife Paula were particularly fond of Boma and always emphatically suggested it to us. I think, since Robert’s passing 2 years ago, I might have trouble actually dining there without him, but I’m sure he would want me to try the Watermelon Rind Salad and a Zebra Dome. It’s actually not on our list for this summer, but we intend to hit at least one of these fine restaurants someday soon.
This was a tough choice and maybe too obvious of a selection for the number one slot. It’s obviously in Disney’s flagship hotel and is undoubtedly Walt Disney World’s finest dining experience. Victoria and Albert’s is in fact the only AAA 5-Diamond restaurant in Central Florida. In the sweltering Orlando heat, the last thing I want to do is put pants on instead of shorts, never mind wear the required jacket and optional tie. But, everything you hear in every guidebook, on every website, and even from Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel, is that this is a gastronomic paradise. Top of the line service, Wedgwood china, Riedel crystal and a 2 ½ hour six course meal consisting of some of the finest work of art dishes you’ll ever get to experience is what Victoria and Albert’s apparently delivers. Maybe for my 50th, which thankfully is still 7 years away, I’ll book the private chef’s table and bask in Chef Scott Hunnel’s personally chosen 13-course meal for my whole family and myself. You only live once and I guess for a once in a lifetime meal I can put on a jacket in Disney World…maybe. We’ll see. That’s a fairly tough request.
The great thing is that this list still leaves off places like Flying Fish on the Boardwalk, Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian and The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There’s plenty for us to still experience. We love our Pooh breakfasts and our San Angel Inn dinners, but there are at least a dozen or so places that we still haven’t checked out in the World and more are added as time goes on.
I guess we’ll just have to keep going back over and over again. We owe it to ourselves to see…and eat…everywhere we can, don’t we?
Let me know if there are any restaurants that you still haven’t managed to dine in at Walt Disney World, but are looking forward to trying and what’s keeping you?
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(Send an email to Chris Barry)
Chris Barry lives on Long Island in New York with his wife and three kids. He has had a lifelong love of cartoons, comics and animation. Those who know him well say he has truly, "earned his Disney PhD." Chris has been involved with Television Production for 20 years and began his career working with The Muppets at Jim Henson Productions in NYC. Currently teaching TV Production to high school students, Chris has been writing about many different facets of The Walt Disney Company for several years now.