The Best Thing I Ever Ate at Epcotby Roan Poulter, contributing writer
Trying to condense the culinary options at a place as diverse as Epcot is challenging. A world of dining options is literally just around the corner and Festival booths add to the overall number of dishes that might make such a list.
To be fair, not all dining experiences or dishes directly compare to each other. To try and compare a steak from Le Cellier to an avocado margarita from La Cava de Tequila simply will not do. In holding with our family ratings system, all answers were agreed upon by myself, my wife, and our two children. Therefore, I will break my favorites into the following categories:
- Best Dessert
- Best Atmosphere
- Best Drink
- Best Counter Service Appetizer
- Best Counter Service Entrée
- Best Fine Dining Appetizer
- Best Fine Dining Entrée
For those of us burdened with a sweet tooth, I find it best to start with dessert. Nothing worse than having filled up on bread and entrees when sugary goodness could be enjoyed in the truly blissful state of famishment. Adornment and pizazz will get a dish so far, but it is those few moments on the tongue that truly define a dessert. For me there is only one choice, Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie. The sheer number of choices is staggering. Chocolate mousse, strawberry tarts, Napoleons, macarons—if you can't find something to tickle your fancy, you must not like dessert.
- The Pistachio Baklava at the Tangerine Café in Morocco
- The Tiramisu at Tutto Italia
This one is tough, especially at Epcot. Each fine dining option does their best to transport us to their representative home. Many Epcot restaurants have amazing displays of artwork, engineering, music and dancing, and they all have servers from their native lands. But only one for me has elevated this to artwork, each detail so poignant and perfectly rendered to elevate it above the rest. Of course, I mean Tokyo Dining. There are so many viewing vantage points, each crafted to show a scene, draw you in, or add to the tranquility. If you find yourself in need a moment of Zen, there simply is no better place at Epcot.
- Restaurant Marrakesh is amazing because of how hard the staff works to keep guests entertained
- The tables outside Katsura Grill are abundant and with enough privacy to see us marching food from other countries back there to enjoy.
Love it or hate it, drinking at Epcot is a world unto itself. I even wrote The Gentlemen's Guide to Drinking Around the World. But if you're only going to have one, a single drink between all the wide lands of World Showcase or Future World, which would it be. Well, the best drink just happens to be served in the best bar, La Cava de Tequila. A truly World Class Tequila bar, La Cava can have wait times of a half hour or more. Once inside, you'll find more tequilas than you ever imagined existed. For me, the avocado margarita is the best of the best. A hibiscus-rimmed glass holds a blend of Aztec magic so unique you'll have to taste it a half dozen times just to find the avocado.
- Black and Tan from Rose and Crown – expert pourers make this British staple look easy.
- Viking Coffee from Kringla Bakeri – a perfect pick me up and sit me down.
Best Counter Service Appetizer
Sometimes you're in a rush, no time for a reservation or a full meal. Just some small bit of something to tide you over until a more substantial meal. This is the moment I turn to our friends at Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie once again. Bread is an under valued commodity, but the French understand it implicitly. The sandwiches, the heated Jambon Beurre most specifically, though the Croque Monsieur secondly, are a chewers fantasy. Bread that must be torn with voracious bites, the dense bread contrasting with the salty ham and fatty cheese. Make sure to ask for an extra packet of Grey Poupon mustard for your pretzel in Germany later. The best and cheapest option is the half baguette at $1.85 (be sure to ask for plenty of butter).
- Fresh Pretzels in Germany – can a pretzel be considered an appetizer, when they're this big absolutely they can.
- Ham and Apple Sandwich from the Kringla-Bakeri Norway – an interesting flavor and textural journey awaits, not exactly my cup of tea, but I know many who consider this the best bite in the world.
Best Counter Service Entree
I don't prefer counter service restaurants; let me get that out of the way. I think the wait times are often longer than sit down restaurants and the money you often spend to make a full meal feels equivalent far too often to a real sit down restaurant, only you have to hunt for a table. However there is one place in Epcot that I have always found a table, never waited more than a couple of minutes an have always been more than pleased not only with the quality of the meal, but the price I paid. Tangierine Café in Morocco has a quick and dedicated staff ensuring your meal is quick and fresh. The shawarma plates have healthy portion of greens, proteins and breads sufficient for sharing.
- Tokyo Sushi Combo and Udon from the Katsura Grill – not the greatest sushi, but a solid meal and always an outdoor table available.
- Fish and Chips from the Yorkshire County Fish Shop – just let your nose guide you. Amazing fried fish, but leaves me greased out and never able to find a table.
Best Fine Dining Appetizer
No other section of this review was set. But the first time I had this dish, I was instantly hooked. Le Cellier's Signature Poutine is a culinary masterpiece. Technically off menu, just ask for the Annual Passholders Poutine. Fresh cut french fries tossed in truffle oil with Canadian cheddar, smothered in a table ladled red wine reduction gravy. The sharp acidity and savory umami of the reduction gravy pair perfectly with the truffle oil fries and soft decadent cheddar cheese. It hits every possible flavor and texture pleasure point your mouth could ask for.
I'm sorry, nothing compares.
Best Fine Dining Entree
I might surprise or disappoint some people here, but I'm going to say that the best all around entrée is the Hacienda at La Hacienda de San Angel. We found our food perfectly prepared and ample quantities of divergent ingredients to choose your own culinary adventure. We also found that it was more than enough food for three or possibly four depending on appetite.
- Monsieur Paul – I wish I had enough money to get over the bill indigestion from here, because the food is transcendent.
- Steak at Le Cellier – amazing cuts of meat, prepared Canadian style, a bit salty for some, but nonetheless ravenously delicious.