Wolfgang Puck Cafe

by Sue Holland, contributing writer

Photo by Sue Holland.

Anyone who enjoys eating has probably heard the name Wolfgang Puck. Besides being a world-famous chef, the man owns restaurants, has a line of cookware and has cooked for the rich and famous. Ordinary people can enjoy his food, as well, and at Walt Disney World (WDW) we have four locations in which to do that.

All four eateries are located at Downtown Disney, with one at the Marketplace and three at the West Side. In the Marketplace there is a Wolfgang Puck Express located next to the Disney's Days of Christmas store. Food is prepared fresh at this counter service location and the menu is terrific. When guests order their food and are given a beeper. As they continue along the line picking up beverages, they might find their food ready by the time they get to the end. If not, the beeper will light up soon. Seating is mostly outdoors, with a few tables inside.

At the West Side there is another Wolfgang Puck Express location, with a more limited menu. From my experiences, the Marketplace location is superior and well worth the extra steps. Also at the West Side are two full-service restaurants—Wolfgang Puck Café downstairs and the Bistro upstairs. This article will focus on the Café, which is the more moderately priced of the two.

Sushi bar in Wolfgang Puck Café. Photo by Sue Holland.

Wolfgang Puck Café is open for lunch and dinner, and does not close at all between those two meals. People seeking sushi have the option of a sushi bar located just inside the restaurant. Sushi can also be ordered at any table, which makes it nice for parties where not everyone might want to eat it. The sushi is on a separate menu, so be sure to ask for it if the host does not leave one at your table.

The kitchen is on display. Photo by Sue Holland.

A popular feature in recent years is having the kitchen open to customers' view. At Wolfgang Puck Café everyone walking to their table passes the kitchen, and a limited number of seats are available at the counter. These are especially nice for solo diners, or anyone who enjoys watching food being prepared. It's certainly a great way to see what the different menu items look like when served!

The menu is the same at both lunch and dinner, and it has been quite a while since they made any changes to it. In fact, changes almost seem overdue; given the frequency they have changed the menu in the past. Some of the signature items Puck is famous for remain constant throughout the years, while other items disappear to make room for new choices. Everything is prepared fresh, and the quality of ingredients is high. The food is presented beautifully, as well.

The décor is bright and attractive. Photo by Sue Holland.

The décor is vibrant but not overbearing. This is not a subtle dining room, but rather gives a sense of fun. Appetizers can be a meal, particularly for lighter appetites, and there are many excellent items to choose from. The Crispy Calamari ($11.99) was the best my party had tasted anywhere—lightly fried, with delicious marinated English cucumbers and a sweet curry aioli. Even I thought it was excellent, and I normally do not like seafood items. The portion was plenty for three people to share as an appetizer, and could easily be a meal for a single person. The Barbecue Chicken Quesadilla ($10.95) was also very good, and came with pico de gallo, chili sauce, and cilantro aioli.

Other appetizer choices are as follows.

  • Blue Lump Crab Cakes with sweet corn relish and roasted red pepper remoulade – $14.95
  • Asian Style Hoisin BBQ Ribs with crisp Asian slaw and spicy honey mustard dressing – $8.95
  • Steamed Mussels with white wine lemon garlic broth (1/2 pound) – $7.95
  • Spinach and Five Cheese Dip served with Parmesan flatbread – $8.95
  • Asian Style Vegetable Spring Rolls with plum and Japanese mustard dipping sauce – $8.95.

In addition to the appetizers, there are a number of soups and salads available. The most popular choice is the Butternut Squash Soup ($6.95), which has been on the menu as long as I can remember. It comes with a roasted red pepper swirl and comes in a fairly large portion. A number of people who do not necessarily like squash swear by this soup, saying it is wonderful. My personal favorite Puck soup is the Tortilla Soup, which currently can only be purchased at the express location in the Marketplace. Each day at the Café there is another soup du jour, which is also $6.95.

Salads are generally large and are a meal by themselves. The smallest salad is the Field Greens Salad ($7.95), which comes with a sherry vinaigrette and goat cheese crostini. I order this salad quite often, and it is always delicious. There is a Caesar Salad ($9.95), a Cobb Salad for ($10.95) and two more unusual salads. The most popular is the Chinois Chicken Salad ($12.95), served with spicy honey mustard dressing and crispy wontons. This can also be had at either express location at a lower price. The Young Spinach Salad ($11.95) is another excellent choice and contains spinach, radicchio, blue cheese, apples and caramelized pecans. A party of two could easily share one of these salads and, if paired with a bowl of soup, makes a very satisfying meal.

Puck is also famous for his pizzas, which are also sold in the frozen food section of many grocery stores. The pizzas can also be had at both express locations (for a lower price) and all are made fresh when ordered. If a particular pizza is wanted but is not on the menu, simply ask your server and the kitchen will most likely create one to your specifications. The two signature pizzas on the menu (each $12.95) are the BBQ Chicken Pizza (with tomatoes and onions) and the Spicy Garlic Chicken Pizza (with sweet peppers, leeks and tomatoes).

Other pizza choices are:

  • Pepperoni Pizza with roasted garlic, roma tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms – $11.95
  • Mushroom Mushroom Pizza with wild mushrooms, goat cheese, caramelized onions and rosemary – $11.95
  • Four Cheese Pizza with pesto sauce, tomatoes, mozzarella, fontina, parmesan and creamy goat cheese – $11.95
  • Margherita Pizza with roma tomatoes and basil – $10.95
  • House Made Fennel Sausage & Pepperoni Pizza with roma tomatoes, roasted peppers, sautéed mushrooms and red onion – $12.95
  • House Smoked Salmon Pizza with red onions and dill cr?me fraiche – $14.95.

Entrees include several pastas and a selection of meat, poultry and fish. There are three signature entrees in addition to several others. Pan-seared Salmon ($17.95) is served with garlic-mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach and an artichoke broth. Florida Grouper ($20.95) is served with cous cous vegetable salad, sundries tomatoes, garlic and caper sauce. For non-seafood lovers there is a Herb Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast ($16.95), which comes with steamed asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes and wild mushroom ragout. A less-commonly seen entrée is Wiener Schnitzel Kartoffelsalat ($23.95), which is a crispy veal cutlet served with warm Austrian potato salad. Although I have not tried this dish, I imagine Puck's version is excellent! .

Other entrees are:

  • Wolfgang Puck's Adventures in the Kitchen Meatloaf, which is bacon wrapped veal, pork and lamb, garlic mashed potatoes, port wine sauce and crispy onion rings – $16.95
  • Roasted Whole Chicken with garlic mashed potatoes and lemon rosemary sauce – $14.95
  • Zwivelrostbraten Wolf's Steak is a 12-ounce rib eye with herb butter, french fries and crispy onion straws – $24.95
  • Asian Hoisin BBQ Ribs with crisp Asian slaw and spicy honey mustard dressing – $15.95
  • Grilled Angus Filet Mignon with green peppercorn sauce, steamed asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes – $31.95
  • Puck Burger (1/2 lb) with Vermont cheddar, smoked bacon, house made pickles and french fries – $11.95.

Pasta dishes are quite popular here, particularly the Wolf-fredo Fettuccini ($17.95) with chicken and pancetta in a parmesan cream sauce and the Pumpkin Ravioli Mezzaluna ($14.95) with brown butter, port wine glaze, pine nuts, parmesan and crispy sage. Pumpkin ravioli might sound strange, but it is actually very good! The portions of most pasta are large, and can easily be shared by two people (particularly if paired with an appetizer, pizza or salad). Other pastas include:

  • Wolfgang's Meatball with bucatini, tomato basil garlic sauce and parmesan – $15.95
  • Grandma Puck's Bolognese is fettuccine and classic meat sauce with veal, pork and beef – $14.95
  • Spicy Chicken Penne with chili flakes, spinach, fresh tomatoes and sun dried tomatoes – $16.95
  • Bucatini Pasta with tomato basil garlic sauce – $12.95
  • Shrimp and Black Mussel Fettuccine with fresh tomato and garlic herb white wine broth – $18.95.

Desserts are on display. Photo by Sue Holland.

If there is any room left for dessert, there are several delicious options to choose from—any of which can satisfy a number of people. The host generally points them out when leading people to their table. Cr?me brulee lovers will enjoy the Cr?me Brulee Sampler ($7.50) with vanilla bean, chocolate and butterscotch. The Warm Dark Chocolate Cake ($7.95) comes with double chocolate ice cream and rich chocolate sauce and rivals a warm chocolate lava cake found elsewhere. Chocolate lovers will be quite happy with this choice! For a more unusual choice there is the Chocolate Fondue ($7.50), served with assorted fruits and pastries for dipping. There are also Sugar Free Low Carb Assorted Chocolate Truffles and Berries ($7.95). To round out the offerings there is also Key Lime Pie, New York-Style White Chocolate Cheesecake and Chef Marian's Carrot Cake, ranging from $6.95-$7.50.

There is also a fairly wide selection of wines available, with many available by the glass as well as the bottle. Children can choose from the usual selections—pizza, chicken tenders, burger and macaroni and cheese. The kids' meals are approximately $7 each and do not include beverage or dessert. Service tends to be pretty prompt here, most likely because they are trying to accommodate as many of the people waiting as possible. During the evening this is a very busy place, but during the afternoon it is generally very easy to get into without a wait.

One of the two outdoor dining areas. Photo by Sue Holland.

When the weather is nice (which is most of the year in Florida) eating at an outdoor table can be especially pleasant. At Wolfgang Puck Café there is a large outdoor seating area along the side of the building, but the views are better from the tables outside the back of the restaurant. From there, diners have a view of the lake and nearby Saratoga Springs Resort. The outdoor seating areas are shaded, and heaters are sometimes used when the temperature is a bit chilly.

Wolfgang Puck Café remains one of my top choices for a good meal at a reasonable price. The service has always been excellent, the atmosphere is casual yet upscale and I've yet to find a dining companion disappointed in anything that was ordered. The quality of the ingredients, preparation techniques and presentation all combine to make a meal here a very safe bet, and an enjoyable part of any WDW trip.