In May 2011, Sarah and I visited Columbia Harbour House in the Magic Kingdom for the first time since 2009. Before that, we hadn’t been since 2006. This might be understandable if we didn’t care for seafood, but we do. We also love the ambiance at Columbia Harbour House. It had been so long because Sarah and I are frugal, “value for money” type people and we didn’t feel we were getting adequate value for our money at Columbia Harbour House. Part of the problem is that I can spend $9 on a double cheeseburger and fries, and thanks to the toppings bar, I can make the burger more substantial and thus, more filling. Since seafood costs a premium to begin, I get less at Columbia Harbour House, and then get hit with the double-whammy of there being no toppings bar.
Everything changed in May 2011. On our third visit to Columbia Harbour House, in a time period during which we visited Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe more times than I can count, we finally ordered reasonably sized menu items and found Columbia Harbour House to be a new hit for us.
Success at Columbia Harbor House, for us, clearly boils down to choosing the right menu item. By that, I don’t just mean something that tastes good. I mean choosing something that tastes good and is filling.
The first requirement, choosing something that tastes good, is quite easy, especially for those who enjoy seafood. Many of Columbia Harbour House’s menu items are delicious, and even though fried, they don’t taste excessively unhealthy. The second requirement, choosing something filling, isn’t quite so easy.
On our previous trips, because of our frugality, when confronted with the high prices at Columbia Harbour House, we elected to choose cheaper menu items, like the Fried Fish Basket, which saved us a whopping one dollar over the menu items we purchased on this trip and contained only about three pieces of fish. Other “$7 items,” such as the Chicken Breast Nuggets similarly offered poor value.
In either a moment of clarity or during a reckless spending spree (okay, in actuality, since we’ve graduated from college we make more purchases based on what we actually want–especially when only around a $1 in price difference is at issue), we decided to order what looked best to us this time. It was a tough call for me. The Shrimp Basket looked great, but at so many places, you don’t get all that many shrimp. I decided to order it anyway. Sarah, wanting to eat animals from the land and sea, opted for the Chicken Breast Nuggets and Fish. While our meals, including drinks, each exceeded $10, we were both quite happy with the results.
My Shrimp Basket contained a mountain of shrimp, plus coleslaw, plus fries. The shrimp were all fairly large, and not because they were overly breaded (the breading was about perfect). The fries were excellent and the coleslaw could have used a little more dressing, but I still enjoyed it reasonably well.
Sarah similarly enjoyed here land/sea meal. Her basket included a few large pieces of fish, plus a number of smaller chicken bites, and fries. It was more than she could eat, thus ‘forcing’ me to assist her in earning her “clean plate” award. Having tasted both, I’d say the shrimp was the better option, but the chicken and fish were quite good, especially for a counter service restaurant, too.
With its excellent nautical decor, Columbia Harbour House offers great ambiance. Perhaps not as good as Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe and its singing Yew Norkian, Sonny Eclipse, but it’s nice, and offers an excellent colonial atmosphere perfectly befitting of Liberty Square. On top of the ambiance, the multi-room and multi-story cozy design of Columbia Harbour House makes it fun to explore. These rooms also offer a nice respite from the legions of loud crowds, as you can often find a quiet room upstairs in Columbia Harbour House, even at lunch. The same definitely cannot be said for Cosmic Ray’s!
Overall, Columbia Harbour House now has our stamp of approval and it’s a restaurant to which we’ll be returning often. Ordering the “right” options made all of the difference for us, and allowed us to finally appreciate the wonderful atmosphere of Columbia Harbour House without being agitated by our still-restless stomachs. The quiet upstairs seating was huge for us, and we’d highly recommend this restaurant to anyone, even those who aren’t seafood fans, as the menu offers several healthy and non-seafood items.
Overall Score on the Disney Dining Brick-o-meter: 8.5/10