Garden Grill is a family style character meal in Epcot’s The Land pavilion at Walt Disney World, in a rotating restaurant offering views into the Living with the Land attraction. Just to make sure you caught all of that, we have: 1) all you can eat, 2) characters, 3) restaurant rotation, and 4) views into an attraction. Does it have ALF and dinosaurs? Because if so, with those 6 things, it would be the greatest restaurant ever! In reality, it’s not quite the greatest ever, but we’ll get to that in the review. Since Garden Grill is a family style all you can eat meal, the menu options are more limited than a standard Disney buffet. It’s still fairly pricey, making it one of our top values for character meals on the Disney Dining Plan. If you’re not on the Disney Dining Plan, Garden Grill accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount.
This restaurant has existed since The Land pavilion opened, but not always as Garden Grill. It used to be The Good Turn Restaurant, and before that it was The Land Grille Room. The restaurant has always rotated (hence its first name), but it was previously a higher caliber of restaurant before characters came onto the scene. Back in the day when Kraft sponsored it, they served classy stuff…like Easy Mac! That’s not to say the character version is worse (I don’t recall our meals at The Land Grille Room, so I’m not qualified to make that judgment), it’s just different. I’m also fairly certain they used to do breakfast and lunch (I’m pretty sure we did lunch here only a few years ago), but now it’s only dinner.
As far as ambiance goes, the main selling points here are the rotation and views into Living with the Land. Otherwise, Garden Grill has fairly bland ambiance, without much in the way of decor. However, rotation and the views into the attraction are two huge selling points from the perspective of ambiance, so discounting them would be like saying “if you take away the stunning views and open air kitchen, California Grill’s ambiance isn’t so special.” The fact that it rotates and has views into an attraction is what defines the ambiance of Garden Grill. It would be difficult for it to offer much more in the way of ambiance.
My favorite part of the views into Living with the Land has to be the upstairs bedroom in the farmhouse, which looks like a “lived in” room. This room is not visible from the attraction, meaning that all of the details in there are solely for the sake of restaurant guests. Perhaps I’m easily impressed, but I think that’s pretty awesome. I wish I had captured some decent photos of it, but I guess it’s something you’ll just have to check out when you dine there. Every time I look in that room I smile–to me, this is a prime example of Disney going that extra mile with details.
There are two tiers of seating at Garden Grill: a lower level closer to the attraction and an elevated upper level closer to the inner column. In the past we’ve eaten on the lower level, but on our most recent visit, we were seated in the upper level. It’s difficult to see into the attraction from the upper level without standing up (I found myself standing up a lot!). Like Coral Reef, this is an ADR to which you want to arrive a little early to request a seat on the lower level.
The official name of this meal is “Chip ‘N’ Dale’s Harvest Feast,” so it should be no surprise that two of the characters present are Chip and Dale. Farmer Mickey Mouse is also present, as is Pluto with a country-ish handkerchief tied around his neck. Mickey’s outfit is unique here and stands out from what he’d normally wear, so he’s definitely the main draw. Note that it can take characters a long time to get to your table at Garden Grill, but this is because they seem to spend a decent amount of time at each table.
On each of our visits to Garden Grill, we’ve had ample time for interactions with the characters, including some spontaneous mischief with Chip and Dale. Granted, we usually eat early or late, so this type of experience should not be expected if you’re there during the dinner rush. It’s definitely a much better option for interactions than a large and popular restaurant like Chef Mickey’s.
As far as food goes, well…it’s an all you can eat restaurant. It’s also a family style restaurant, so the options are limited as compared to a buffet. It’s also somewhat on the pricey side. This is not to say that the food is bad–we enjoyed the bread, the salad, the filet of beef, the fish, and the dessert–but there is only 1 starter (salad), 3 entrees (filet of beef, turkey, and sustainable fish), 3 sides (veggies, potatoes, rice), and 1 dessert (cobbler).
This means if you don’t like one or two things, you’ve potentially eliminated a lot of what you can eat. By contrast, most buffets have so many options that not liking a couple of things really makes no difference. Some of this food is supposedly sourced from The Land pavilion, although I’ve never been told which items. I think the only change in the meal from the last time we were at Garden Grill a couple years ago was the fish, which was breaded last time (I preferred the breaded variety, Sarah preferred this meal’s Mahi Mahi).
Despite the limited menu, we felt the food was solid for an all you can eat meal. Not the best, but not the worst, either. We enjoyed most of the options, so the menu being limited wasn’t a huge drawback for us. The bread and salad were both surprisingly good. The filet of beef was the highlight for me, and it was surprisingly tender and flavorful. Sarah preferred the sustainable fish, which was very good for all you can eat fare, but not as good as an average plate you’d order from a standard table service restaurant. The sides were all okay, but definitely could have been better. They were nothing that really knocked your socks off. The cobbler was the surprise hit of the meal, and it was very good.
In the past, when we’ve dined at Garden Grill, I was really impressed by the restaurant. From the views into one of my favorite attractions (yes, I’m a geek), to the rotation, to the food, to the fun character costumes, it’s always been one of my favorite restaurants at Epcot. This time, when reflecting on it after the trip, I wasn’t quite so “high” on it, and I think this is in part due to other experiences on the trip.
Unfortunately (for it), we had dinner at Artist Point the following night, and their cobbler blew Garden Grill’s good cobbler out of the water. Likewise, we ate at Tusker House later in the same trip, and their buffet rivals Boma for best all you can eat experience on property, making the menu at Garden Grill seem paltry by comparison. I still really like Garden Grill, but relative to these other experiences, the standout part of the meal was the ambiance and the superb character interactions. This, obviously, is just a personal anecdote based on our other dining experiences, but everything at Walt Disney World is relative–after all, you can easily forgo a meal at one restaurant in favor of another.
Overall, Garden Grill still gets reasonably high marks, although we think it could stand a menu with a few more entree options and better-tasting sides. If high quality cuisine is your primary concern, there are a number of better options at Epcot. However, if you’re a fan of Living with the Land/classic EPCOT Center, character dining, or family style dining, Garden Grill is a strong option that we recommend.
How do you think Garden Grill rates as compared to other character meals? What about its food and ambiance, in general? Planning on going? Share your thoughts in the comments!