My Disney Top 5 - Walt Disney Resort Hotel Restaurantsby Chris Barry, contributing writer
Welcome back to another Disney Top 5.
I just checked our My Disney Experience page and today the official countdown to our next Walt Disney World visit is at 91 days! This, of course, means there are some excited people in the Barry household, with yours truly probably the most excited! We're taking advantage of the fact that the schools in New York close for the Jewish holidays in September and we're headed down to Orlando for another magical four-day weekend.
This will be our first time using MagicBands, our first time riding the Seven Dwarfs MineTrain, our first time seeing the new Festival of Fantasy parade and our first time in four years we'll be staying at one of our favorite places, the Yacht Club. On our previous trip last September, we traveled with some neighborhood friends for the first time and we're thrilled that they're along for the ride again this year. We definitely feel like we've found the perfect Disney traveling companions. Needless to say there's a lot to look forward to on this upcoming trip.
As we all know, one of the most important parts of planning your Disney vacation is figuring out which of Walt Disney World's more than 100 restaurants you'll be enjoying. While I still believe the idea of making dinner reservations three months ahead of time is an abhorrent practice… it is an unfortunate reality. Naturally, I've begun looking at where I think we'll be and when and where we might want to eat.
Some of my top choices are already booked 91 days out: no surprise there, but we won't suffer. There's plenty of food to be had throughout the resort. Besides, we'll be there for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Considering we're going to be walking distance from Epcot, I see us dining at festival booths throughout World Showcase for quite a lot of our meals.
Still, I'll need to make a few dining reservations just in case. I also needed a Top 5 for this week. So, I put the two together and came up with today's list. Instead of doing an all-encompassing Walt Disney World restaurant list, I thought I would break them up into different sets. I've previously listed my favorite counter service establishments. Today, I'm talking about full-service sit down meals. This time I'll focus on resort hotel dining and on a future date I'll tackle in-park dining. For the most part, they are two very different beasts with most of the finer choices existing within the Disney resort hotels. With all that set-up, let's get to it and count down my Top 5 Walt Disney World Resort Hotel Restaurants.
5 – Boatwright's, Port Orleans Riverside
That's right, I included a Moderate hotel choice on this list and there are two main reasons. The first is an entrée and the second is a dessert. One of my favorite dishes in all of Walt Disney World is Boatwright's jambalaya. It's hard to beat the Spanish rice topped with spiced chicken, Andouille sausage, shrimp and vegetables. Cool the spice down with some of the cornbread from the table and some genuine New Orleans microbrews and you will definitely be happy. But save room for my all around favorite WDW dessert—the Bananas Foster angel food cake is just divine. While you're there enjoy all of the boat making tools on the walls and maybe a seat by the fire. Boatwright's, in my eyes, is the best of the three Moderate hotel restaurants. It's never let me down.
4 – Kona Café, Polynesian Resort
Let's face it: Tonga Toast is the stuff of legend. If you've had it, you know. If you haven't tried it yet, by all means get yourself over there and have some. It's decadent. I would suggest a nice walk over to the Grand Floridian along the lagoon to walk it off. It's not all about the toast though, the Kona coffee-rubbed pork chop is excellent and so is the pan-seared duck breast and the Pan-Asian noodles. If you're a bread addict like me, beware; the complimentary sweet bread and macadamia nut butter are pretty awesome. Wrap all of this in an open, classy décor, and you've got one of Walt Disney World's unsung gems.
3 – Citricos, Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Citricos is plush and comfy without feeling like a stuffy, fancy restaurant. The service is top notch. The food is excellent. It's a Disney signature dining experience. Translate that to pricey. But trust me, it's worth the splurge. My wife and I ate here alone, so I can't comment on the more typical Disney-dining-with-my-kids aspect. There were, however, plenty of kids in the place. It is, after all, Walt Disney World so kids are more than welcome, they're expected. We, on the other hand, had a wonderful, adult's only, slow-paced, bottle-of-wine-with-dinner meal at Citricos and I remember it quite fondly.
I can suggest the seared tuna carpaccio and the cheese course trio to start. The Central Florida lemon ricotta on the cheese plate is delicious. I loved the red wine-braised short ribs and the lemon cheesecake with fresh raspberry sauce. If you're looking for a fine-dining experience in a beautifully bright and comfortable atmosphere then this is an amazing choice. See if you can get a seat by the window overlooking the Grand Floridian grounds, take your time and enjoy.
2 – California Grill, Contemporary Resort
This restaurant, perched majestically at the top of one of Walt Disney World's original hotels, is truly a dining experience. I had one of my favorite meals of all time there. That's not just a Disney all-time favorite, but also an anywhere all-time favorite. It's that good. Everything I ate here was fantastic. The service was outstanding. Our server knew so much about wines and allowed us to sample different ones until we found one that we loved. Let's not forget where this restaurant is located. The view is amazing. There's nothing quite like dining at California Grill when the lights are dimmed, the music is piped in, and Wishes fireworks show explodes in the sky next door at the Magic Kingdom. It's unforgettable.
1 – Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge
So if California Grill is so unforgettable, why is it that I put Artist Point as my number one choice, you may ask? There's a rather simple answer. When I think about meals that I just can't wait to have in anticipation of a trip to Walt Disney World, Artist Point comes to mind first. The food blows me away every time. The wine list does the same. The service is always on point. Everything is just awesome. A seat by the window overlooking the stream that flows down through the main courtyard is all I need to instantly relax me and prepare me for the great meal that I know is on it's way.
Take your pick. The artisanal cheese plate is always a must to start. The portobello soup is dreamy. Try the buffalo striploin, the sweet potato gnocchi or the seared scallops. Better yet, eat here over and over again and try everything. But no matter what you do, do not pass up the truffle fries. I could go to Artist Point and have an exquisite gourmet meal paired with a delicious Pacific Northwest wine. I could also go to Artist Point and order a cold anchor steam and an order of the incredibly, delectable truffle fries and die a happy man and that's why it's my number one.
My father-in-law is fond of saying "dining out is an adventure." To paraphrase him; "dining out at Walt Disney World is most certainly an adventure." To be honest, I can't say that I've had a bad meal on property. I've had good ones and I've had better ones. I've elevated good to great and then surpassed great going so far as to enter the "best ever" category. The Disney resort hotels have quite a few choices that either flirt with or full on deliver a meal in the latter category.
I know I've excluded many fan favorites. There will quite certainly be some vocal opposition out there from the Boma and Jiko lovers. As hard as it is to believe, I still haven't made it to either of these favorites at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Nor have I ever seen fit to bring a jacket and tie with me to Disney and spring for Victoria and Albert's at the Grand Floridian. (That may never happen.)
Having a great restaurant in your Disney hotel makes things all the more magical. Visiting one when you're staying in another hotel is almost as much fun if not more.
These are my favorites. Click on the link below; let me hear your favorite Disney resort hotel restaurants and I'll see you next time with another Disney Top 5.