It’s time for the holidays in a tropical paradise at Old Key West Resort. In this Walt Disney World resort report, we’ll check in on how the quiet community of Conch Flats is celebrating Christmas, with dinner at Olivia’s Cafe, and a stroll around the Hospitality House.
Although it’s not my favorite Walt Disney World resort during the holiday season, or even in the top 10, there’s something alluring about the atmosphere at Old Key West decked out for Christmas. The Hospitality House area has its normal sense of community, charm, intimacy, and laid back tropical vibe. Plus Christmas on top of all that.
Perhaps the best way to put it is that Old Key West is Walt Disney World’s best resort at capturing the essence of an authentic Floridian Christmas. It reminds me of a setting from Jimmy Buffett’s Christmas Island, which seems fitting for a December vacation at Walt Disney World…
While the decorations at Old Key West are fairly sparse and understated as compared to some of Walt Disney World’s “big” Christmas resorts, there are plenty of fun details. My favorite is definitely the ornaments on the garland along the promenade outside and tree inside the lobby. Some of these are downright weird…frisky but fun.
Ernest Hemingway would probably be proud to have Papa’s Den named after him, but even more so to have this energy setting the mood in his room. (Just wanted to draw your attention to those little gems!) The rest of the photos more or less speak for themselves, so we’ll share a quick look around the resort without commentary and then jump to dinner…
Now let’s do dinner at Olivia’s Cafe. Previously, we’ve praised it as being the Disney Vacation Club “family kitchen.” This is because of its atmosphere, decor, and longevity at the original Disney Vacation Club Resort.
It’s also due to the large “Family Album” of DVC Member photos from over the years that are on full display at Olivia’s Cafe. There are well over one hundred member photos in the lobby and throughout the inside seating area.
There’s something about the galleries of family photos that I love. They tug at my heartstrings and nostalgia. They make me think of the trips my family took, and emphasize the club component of Disney Vacation Club.
They’re also an awesome time capsule of Walt Disney World, with some dating back to the 25th Anniversary of Walt Disney World, where you can see the Cinderella Castle Cake in its full, Pepto Bismol-inspired glory!
However, for this meal, we opted to dine in the outdoor seating area at Olivia’s Cafe.
As we’ve mentioned countless times now, we’re not eating indoors at this time and likewise recommend anyone wanting to mitigate risk to dine outside. (See our List of the Best Outdoor Dining at Walt Disney World.)
The outdoor seating area at Olivia’s is lovely, offering views of the Hospitality House’s waterfront promenade, marina, and lighthouse. We dined right around sunset, and this was the perfect spot to watch day change to night at Old Key West.
The only downside to the outdoor seating area at Olivia’s Cafe is the lack of space. Due to physical distancing modifications right now, there were only 3 tables in use when we dined at Olivia’s. This could change, but it’s something to keep in mind. Alternatively, you can do Olivia’s To-Go and eat your takeout on one of the picnic tables just beyond the outdoor seating area on the same waterfront promenade.
For bread service, we received these.
These didn’t even rise to the level of “forgettable and pedestrian” like some restaurants at Walt Disney World. More like, “for human consumption or hockey?” Fortunately, the meal was all uphill from there.
For our appetizer, we ordered the Conch Fritters served with Key Lime-Mustard and Roasted Pepper Rémoulade.
Normally, I could take or leave hush puppies. They’re often too dense for my liking, devoid of flavor beyond “fried batter.” These fritters were much more to my liking, with the conch balancing out the delicious dough. Both of the dipping sauces further enhanced the taste, making these a highly recommended appetizer.
For her entree, Sarah ordered the Captain Wahoo’s Catch of the Day, which was pan-roasted salmon with romesco sauce served with seasonal harvest vegetables.
This dish was well-prepared, with a light crispiness to the exterior giving way to flaky fish. The sauce was likewise a good accompaniment, with a nice earthy and smoky flavor that went well with both the bed of vegetables and the salmon. We both liked this, but agreed that it wasn’t particularly memorable. (Salmon is almost always a nice “fallback option” on Walt Disney World menus–a safe choice that’s seldom disappointing or exceptional.)
For my entree, I ordered the Southernmost Buttermilk Chicken with Mashed Potatoes, Southern Gravy, Biscuit, and Seasonal Vegetables.
I’ve had a lot of fried chicken at Walt Disney World. A lot of delicious fried chicken. It’s actually one of the dishes that Disney has mastered, with great options everywhere from Fort Wilderness (see our post about the glorious, great value family feast) and Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin.’
With that said, I’d rank the Southernmost Buttermilk Chicken as the #2 fried chicken in all of Walt Disney World. (My #1 pick is the “hidden gem” at Grand Floridian.)
The boneless chicken breast was tender and juicy, coated in a crispy and well-seasoned breading that wonderfully complimented the creamy southern gravy (think country-fried steak). That plus the hand-whipped mashed potatoes and biscuit made for a perfectly “balanced” Floridian comfort food. I was in heaven by the end of the meal.
Having eaten most of the Conch Fritters and the entirety of my Southernmost Buttermilk Chicken, I probably didn’t “need” dessert, but “we” nonetheless opted to order the Banana Bread Pudding Sundae served Warm with Bananas Foster topping and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Zero regrets.
This was exceptional, combining the best elements of banana bread, bananas foster, and ice cream into a deliciously decadent dessert. This hit all of the right notes, and if you’re a fan of those components, it’s an absolute must-order. I also ate most of this. By the time I was done, my food coma had fully set in. Sarah must’ve wheeled me out of the restaurant because the rest of the night was a blur. I woke up three days later inside the Old Key West lighthouse wearing parachute pants, a neon green Fresh Prince shirt, and Luigi’s Flying Tires hat. Eat your heart out, Ernest Hemingway!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What do you think of Christmas at Old Key West? Do you agree that it captures a quintessentially Floridian Christmas? Have you done dinner at Olivia’s Cafe? What did you think of the experience? Do you agree or disagree with our review? Any standout menu options you’d recommend people give a try when dining at Olivia’s? Does it remind you of the “DVC Family Kitchen”? Any questions about this meal? Hearing from readers is half the fun, so please share your perspective on whether this meal is ‘worth it’ or any other thoughts you have in the comments below!