Cinderella’s Royal Table Review

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Cinderella’s Royal Table is a table service princess character restaurant inside Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. This review features food photos and our thoughts from dinner at the restaurant. Disney considers Cinderella’s Royal Table a “Fairytale Dining Experience,” which I think just refers to the fact that you can meet Cinderella and other visiting princesses here. The meal also includes a print of your party and Cinderella taken by PhotoPass photographers. The menu consists of American cuisine that is almost fine-dining caliber. This is actually quite a surprise given that it’s a character meal. It’s arguably the flagship restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, and the most uniquely “Disney” restaurant in all of Walt Disney World.

Due to some ADR-hoarding a number of years ago by a group called “Howie’s Angels,” (nothing surprises me in Disney fandom anymore) Cinderella’s Royal Table requires prepayment in full for secure an Advance Dining Reservation. Despite this, it accepts Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount  (you receive a refund when you present your card in the restaurant for the amount of the discount), and participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a 2-credit Signature meal. Due to its status as a Signature Restaurant, it is not a good use of a Disney Dining Plan table service credit if you’re trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan.

With Be Our Guest Restaurant now being the top draw in the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella’s Royal Table ADRs are now easier to score. For years we had no chance at dining here as the restaurant booked up a full 180 days in advance, and we never make ADRs that early. I found this reservation a month before our trip, so we figured ‘what the heck,’ it would be awesome to dine in Cinderella Castle. We had previously been inside the Castle, but that was for a tour of the Cinderella Castle Suite, so…not quite the same.

We cringed at the cost and the idea of paying for a photo package we didn’t really want, and for meeting characters we didn’t really have an interest in meeting. Still, we booked it because it was something new to try, and I really wanted to photograph and see the inside of the restaurant, which I’ve always thought was really cool. I can still remember looking in the Walt Disney World book I had as a kid and seeing the star-filter enhanced photo of King Stefan’s Banquet Hall, and thinking how awesome it would be to eat inside Cinderella Castle. We further justified eating at here despite the price in the name of research, as many people have asked us about this restaurant. 

So, although we figured it wouldn’t be worth the money to us, we convinced ourselves to give it a try anyway. We were downright shocked by the restaurant… (more…)

Miguel’s El Dorado Cantina Review

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Miguel’s El Dorado Cantina is a Mexican restaurant in the Lost River Delta port-of-call at Tokyo DisneySea. This is the only restaurant with a Mexican menu at Tokyo Disney Resort, so if that’s what you’re after, this is your only choice. Styled like a weathered cantina in the remote jungle, Miguel’s El Dorado Cantina is aged to look as if it has seen better days. Like most of the Lost River Delta, it seems like nature is slowly reclaiming the land occupied by the restaurant. We’ve heard that a mariachi band performs at Miguel’s El Dorado Cantina, but we have not witnessed this the two times we’ve visited.

The backstory here is that the owner Miguel went to El Dorado (the “City of Gold”) with dreams of finding a mountain of gold, but was unsuccessful in his quest for riches. I guess the logical alternative was to open this Mexican restaurant for other explorers?

One thing that boggles my mind about Tokyo DisneySea is that it has so many large restaurants with insane capacity. I understand that the park draws a lot of guests, but there are at least 6-8 counter service restaurants here with more capacity than most restaurants at Walt Disney World or Disneyland. Miguel’s is one such restaurant like this, with two levels of seating, plus outdoor seating. This is really something given that it’s located deep in the Lost River Delta, the port-of-call farthest away from the park’s entrance.

Add to that the fact that it’s one of two counter service restaurants in Lost River Delta with Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe-level capacity (the stated capacity of Cosmic Ray’s is significantly higher than these, but there restaurants appear larger to me), and you’ve really got to wonder why there’s so much capacity. We dined here on a weekend when Tokyo DisneySea was near hitting capacity, and even then the majority of tables here were empty. (The same cannot be said for Cape Cod Cook-Off a/k/a “The Duffy Restaurant,” which has a huge seating area, but had an hour-plus wait.) (more…)

Tips for Finding Good Beer At Disney World

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Walt Disney World offers a number of craft beers and microbrews in its parks and resort hotels. This post offers tips for finding delicious beer at Walt Disney World, which can be a bit of a challenge. In addition to the normal BMC options you can find just about anywhere (besides the Magic Kingdom), there are some exceptional beers throughout Walt Disney World…you just need to know where to look.

Unlike wine, which (I’m told) Walt Disney World does pretty well–even touting things like their selection of South African wines at Animal Kingdom Lodge–the same effort isn’t put into having high quality beers. Most outdoor vending carts that serve beer at Walt Disney World have Bud Light, plus maybe a token alternative. Nothing against Bud Light–they are great at convincing people their beer is worthwhile with their astronomical marketing budget–but Bud Light is awful. Okay, so everything against Bud Light. BMC are sort of like the fast food of beers: okay options in a pinch, but probably few beer drinkers’ favorites if they had to choose. If Bud Light is your favorite beer, I’d encourage you to try a variety of other beers and give them a chance.

If you haven’t gathered from the remarks towards BMC, I’m sort of a beer snob. Coming from Michigan, I came of drinking age right around the time of the big explosion in craft brewing, with Bell’s opening its brewery ~10 miles from my house about a decade ago. Add to that other great options like Founders (every craft beer aficionado should attend a Kentucky Breakfast Stout release party at some time in their life), Arcadia, New Holland, Dark Horse, and many more, and my opinions of beer have really been shaped by living in one of the greatest beer state. Not really sure how this is relevant to the topic of the post, but I like giving props to my home state when I have the chance. Moving on…

When we first started visiting Walt Disney World as adults, there was a serious dearth of craft beer options, and the selection was laughable. If you wanted a good beer, you pretty much were stuck going to Le Cellier for some Unibroue. While that’s still a great option, Walt Disney World has recognized the growing discontent with BMC, and has incorporated better options into their menus. Things have improved substantially almost every year for the last ~5 years, and continue to get better. So props to Disney for that.

If you’re looking for great beer at Walt Disney World, here are some tips… (more…)

Best Magic Kingdom Counter Service Restaurants

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This post ranks the quick service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World for 2014. Despite the Magic Kingdom’s historically poor reputation for counter service dining, there are a surprising number of good options. Sometimes these good options are in the form of a specialty at a particular restaurant, which can make dining in the Magic Kingdom with a family of diverse eaters particularly difficult. The other matter that complicates your dining choice when you’re in the Magic Kingdom is the sterling options just outside of the Magic Kingdom. Captain Cook’s, Contempo Cafe, and Roaring Fork are all a short monorail or boat ride from the Magic Kingdom, and they all rank higher than almost all of the options within the Magic Kingdom on our Top 10 Counter Service Walt Disney World Dining list.

The Magic Kingdom’s counter service restaurants are also more difficult to rank than any other park. You have three locations–Diamond Horseshoe, Tortuga Tavern, and Tomorrowland Terrace–that are only open when crowds reach a certain level, meaning they probably aren’t even going to be options for a good number of guests reading this post. Then you have choices like Sleepy Hollow and Gaston’s Tavern that are absolutely awesome if you like the handful of things they serve, but are probably better considered ‘snack stops’ than actual bona fide restaurants because of this. Because of these complications and other issues with how restaurants that only serve a specific type of food (Casey’s Corner and its hot dogs, Columbia Harbour House and seafood, etc.) this list was difficult to put together and probably is more useful for the descriptive reviews that accompany each restaurant than for its numerical rankings. That way, you can read and see whether a particular restaurant sounds like it’s your style or not.

Now, this might sound like an easy out in case you don’t agree with the numerical rankings we’ve given these Magic Kingdom counter service restaurants (and maybe that’s our devious goal!), but that’s the actual dining situation in the Magic Kingdom. We’ve separately reviewed a decent number of these restaurants. To read our full reviews and see additional food photos of each option, click the restaurant name (if it’s not click-able, we have yet to review it).

NOTE: This list was revised in August 2014 to reflect menu changes and a couple of overall shifts. 
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Restaurant Marrakesh Review

Restaurant Marrakesh is a table service restaurant in Epcot’s World Showcase at Walt Disney World. This Restaurant Marrakesh review covers lunch at the Moroccan restaurant, which seems fairly similar to dinner. Just compare the menus for yourself–the Morocco Pavilion actually has great menu pages with photos of each entree to help you decide what you might like before you visit. As you can see, there are a lot of similarities and only a few differences between the lunch and dinner menus. The biggest difference seems to be that lunch is significantly less expensive.

Restaurant Marrakesh participates in the Disney Dining Plan, and accepts Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount. It can be a good use of a Disney Dining Plan table service credit if you’re trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan, but only at dinner and only if you order one of the few expensive menu items. At lunch, it’s an incredible value when paying out of pocket, with a few items that are only slightly above counter service prices. 

Before our recent visit, we had never given this Moroccan restaurant much thought because it doesn’t really seem to be on anyone’s radar. It’s not that we have ever really come across memorable negative reviews of this restaurant…we just have never really come across many reviews of it, period, and most we have encountered have only been vaguely positive. This was easy to understand when we stepped inside, as the restaurant was 50% full, at most. The reason it’s not on anyone’s radar is because very few guests are eating there!

Since Restaurant Marrakesh is probably one of the least popular restaurants at Walt Disney World in terms of guest demand, it is a great last minute ADR of walk-up place to eat. We think it’s low popularity can probably be attributed to two factors: 1) Restaurant Marrakesh is located deep in the Morocco pavilion, which is a pretty deep pavilion; and, 2) the cuisine at Restaurant Marrakesh, while mild enough for most palates, is probably the most ostensibly adventurous restaurant in World Showcase. This much is clear when you see the photo-heavy menu on display on a table in front of the restaurant that tries to entice the limited foot-traffic inside. Given the World Showcase shift towards more dining that is “accessible” to families in the last several years, it’s actually a bit surprising that Restaurant Marrakesh still exists as it does.

“Restaurant Marrakesh is my favorite restaurant in Epcot.” I don’t think that’s a sentence I’ve ever heard spoken or seen written by anyone. Well… Restaurant Marrakesh is my favorite restaurant in Epcot. (more…)

2014 Epcot Food & Wine Festival Info & Tips

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Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World runs September 19, 2014 through November 10, 2014. During this culinary celebration, guests can taste (and drink!) around Epcot’s World Showcase.  The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is one of our favorite events at Walt Disney World, and is one reason why we love visiting Walt Disney World during the fall.

Although this article will provide tips for the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, there are a lot of things we recommend doing in the fall; make sure to read our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, the Tower of Terror 10-Miler runDisney event, and our When to Visit Walt Disney World posts to get an idea of what else to do this time of year. As you may know, fall is the perfect time to visit Walt Disney World! Well, my personal “perfect” time of year is Christmas (nothing beats Christmas at Walt Disney World for me!), but fall is a close second.

We’ve been to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival for each of the last several years, spending more money on snacks than we care to think about! While Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival can be a pricey event, it can also be an a ton of fun, and it doesn’t have to be expensive if you have the right approach (we’ll cover how to save money at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival further down this post).

If you’re looking for what’s new for the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival or what our recommend plan of attack is for the festival? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our preview of what’s new, what we recommend doing, and strategy for keeping your sanity at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival! (more…)