Columbia Harbour House Review
Columbia Harbour House is a counter service restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, specializing in seafood, but serving a few other options, as well. In this review, we’ll share thoughts on the food, ambiance, and theme at Columbia Harbour House.
In terms of basic background, Columbia Harbour House participates in the Disney Dining Plan, but does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card. Depending upon what you order, it can potentially be a good value on the Disney Dining Plan–that’s especially true if you order the lobster roll or salmon.
The menu at Columbia Harbour House is actually fairly diverse, well, diverse if you like seafood. Perhaps “robust” is a better term for the menu here, and mostly devoid of the standard fast food options you’d expect to find in a theme park restaurant.
For years, we avoided Columbia Harbour House because it was mostly deep fried “boat trash,” with a little bit of ocean-dwelling food covered in a lot of breading. It was basically the theme park version of Long John Silver’s, except perhaps not even as good. In the last few years, the menu and quality has improved significantly, making Columbia Harbour House one of our favorite counter service restaurants in Walt Disney World.
Why is Columbia Harbour House recommended? Let’s take a look inside…
While food quality has varied over the years, the ambiance at Columbia Harbour House has been consistently awesome. It feels like a vestige of a bygone era not just in terms of its seaside New England charm, but in a long-gone era where the Magic Kingdom felt quaint and intimate. Trinkets and bric-a-brac adorning shelves might seem like minor things, but they most definitely give it a warm, inviting vibe.
One of the worst kept secrets in Walt Disney World is the tranquil upstairs dining area at Columbia Harbour House. Despite everyone and their brother sharing this as a top “secret” for dining at Walt Disney World, this upstairs area still remains relatively un-crowded at most times.
Much like the entire restaurant, this upstairs area has a lived-in feel, as if you’re dining at a hole-in-the-wall locale in New England. I don’t know of many hole-in-the-wall restaurants that have the design sense of Columbia Harbour House or have the money to purchase so much art and other pieces on display at the restaurant, but it still pulls off this feel very well. I really love these upstairs nooks as places to get away from the crowds (and the views out into the park are nice up there, too).
The place is literally crammed with details, and although it’s nicer than what you’d find in most coastal restaurants of this type, it’s very transportive. The only thing to remind you that you’re in a theme park is the crowds on the first floor (Columbia Harbour House can get BUSY during the lunch and dinner rushes) and the views out those windows.
With its excellent nautical decor, Columbia Harbour House offers great ambiance. The excellent New England seaside atmosphere of Columbia Harbour House perfectly befits 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.
As far as food goes, Columbia Harbour House has decent variety, although some items on the menu are noticeably smaller than others (and all prices seem a tad higher than Pecos Bill or Cosmic Ray’s, but it is seafood, so that should come as no surprise). Seafood isn’t typically something most people associate with low-cost and quick preparation, so I think a lot of people are skeptical of fast-food restaurants serving seafood.
Although it’s not nearly as good as Flying Fish Cafe or a nice table service seafood restaurant at Walt Disney World, the food at Columbia Harbour House is surprisingly good for counter service seafood. Not everything is great, but there are plenty of solid options.
A good meal at Columbia Harbor House 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, is filling, and of good quality.
The first requirement, choosing something that tastes good, is quite easy, especially for those who enjoy seafood. Even the ‘fried stuff’ here is pretty delicious.
The second requirement, choosing something filling, can be trickier if you’re a big eater, especially as the higher quality items can sometimes have smaller portions. This is something to keep in mind before ordering the salmon or lobster roll.
Let’s take a look at how some of the menu items at Columbia Harbour House stack up. We’ve been here numerous times over the past several years, with the most recent visit in early 2018. Note that the menu changes from time to time at Columbia Harbour House, so some of these items might not be available when you visit.
On one visit, I had the Shrimp Basket. It contained a mountain of shrimp, plus coleslaw and fries. The shrimp were all fairly large, and not because they were overly breaded (the breading was about perfect).
The fries were your typical Disney fries (you probably already know whether you love them or hate them) and the coleslaw was also pretty good. I’d say it could have used a little more dressing, but that’s just my personal preference.
Here’s the Chicken Breast Nuggets & Fish plate. This includes a few large pieces of fish, plus a number of smaller chicken bites, and fries. This is a decent, filling option that will appeal to a broad selection of guests.
Although it’s not that ambitious, the chicken and fish are pretty good. I wouldn’t make it a point to order this as you can find these options all over the place and Columbia Harbour House has much more interesting options, but there’s nothing wrong with it.
More recently, we’ve tried a few other options at Columbia Harbour House. When its menu changed and the Lobster Roll was added, I debated getting it at length. Surely a Magic Kingdom counter service restaurant could not do a lobster roll well. Some of them can barely do a burger right! Much to my surprise, it turned out to be quite excellent and very filling. I was actually shocked that it was so good, especially given that it was a lobster roll at a quick service restaurant.
Now, if you’re from Maine and you eat lobster for 5 meals per day, this might fall flat for you. It does have a decent amount of dressing and some filler, but it also has plenty of meat, great taste, and a surprisingly high quality bun. Those of us who don’t live and breathe lobster will likely be very pleased. I certainly was impressed with mine, and on return visits with friends, I’ve noticed that the portion size has seemingly gotten larger, which is a rarity for Walt Disney World. The high price was justified, and I will definitely be ordering it again.
After seeing how well Columbia Harbour House did a lobster roll, I found myself giving serious thought to trying their grilled salmon. A counter service restaurant can’t possibly do salmon well…or can it?! Well, it turns out that it can. On my most recent visit to Columbia Harbour House, I ordered the Grilled Salmon. It had a nice, grilled lemon butter taste, flaked apart easily, and wasn’t overcooked. Quite frankly, I was shocked by how good this salmon was.
Granted, it didn’t taste like it was fresh, wild caught salmon overnighted from Alaska prepared on a cedar flank, but it also didn’t taste like someone got a big bag from the freezer aisle at Sam’s Club and microwaved them in the back of Columbia Harbour House and then stuck them under a heat lamp until ordered. It was much better than expected for a counter service grilled salmon plate. (Although I do admit I was envious when I saw the monster lobster rolls my friends ordered!)
For a healthy option (bacon is healthy, right?) or a change of pace from seafood, here’s the Broccoli Peppercorn Salad. It’s a large and interesting salad with more than just iceberg lettuce and a few vegetables to garnish, and it is tasty and filling. Definitely one of the more hearty salads available at Walt Disney World.
Overall, we think Columbia Harbour House is a gem. It has some basic menu options, to be sure, but if you dig into the menu you’ll find some stuff that’s unique and ambitious for a counter service restaurant, especially one in the Magic Kingdom. Given that it’s one of the most popular restaurants in the most popular theme park in the world, it’s tough to call it a “hidden gem,” but that upstairs seating area definitely is, as are some of the less-mainstream menu items. Ordering the “right” dishes at Columbia Harbour House makes a big difference, and enjoying your meal in a quiet spot among all that great theming makes Columbia Harbour House a restaurant that is tough to beat. It is a little pricey and there are some sub-par options on the menu, but these are minor qualms, all things considered. We highly recommend this restaurant to anyone, even those who aren’t seafood fans, as the menu offers several healthy and non-seafood items.
Want more dining tips? Check out our 101 Delicious Walt Disney World Dining Tips. If you are planning a Walt Disney World trip, make sure to also read our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
Do you agree that Columbia Harbour House is a Walt Disney World dining gem, or are you not a fan? Have you tried the glorious upstairs seating area? Share your thoughts in the comments!
We ate at Columbia Harbor House last week (just myself and two of my kids). The ambience is everything Tom describes, and we loved having the quietude of a window upstairs overlooking Fantasy Land transition to Liberty Square. The food, however, left much to be desired. One of my kids had the shrimp skewer which looked pretty good, but everything else fried was unseasoned, and fried in stale/burnt oil. The fact that it was a substantially cheaper meal than many other offerings didn’t excuse the fact that fried fish, shrimp, fries and hushpuppies were ruined by bad oil! I should have paid attention to Tom’s advice and tried the salmon or lobster roll!
We tried CHH in November 2017 after I read this review. LOVED it! We also went in April 2018 (Easter week). Both weeks were VERY crowded in the parks but we went into CHH which appeared to be packed but then I remembered Tom mentioning the upstairs dining area. We went upstairs to find it almost completely empty and nicely air conditioned. We grabbed a table and placed our mobile order using the My Disney Experience app. About 10 minutes later I got a notification that our meal was ready. My son and I went downstairs to the mobile pick-up (NO LINE!) and grabbed our two trays with no wait. We went back upstairs and enjoyed our meal and relaxed in the quiet air conditioning. Before leaving, I took my daughter downstairs to use the restroom and wash our hands only to find out from a lovely CM that there was also a restroom upstairs which was clean and EMPTY. I don’t eat meat but I do eat seafood and I loved the tuna sandwich on multi-grain bread. My daughter loved the lobster roll. CHH is by far our favorite CS at MK. Thank you Tom for your review!
My family always enjoys a lunch at CHH and we always eat upstairs. The location is perfect and the food is good. Columbia Harbor House actually ruined the Rose and Crown for me. Earlier on one of our trips I had the Fish and Chips meal at Columbia harbor house and about 4 days later we had an ADR at Rose and Crown where I also got the fish and chips. The differences: 1) no wait at CHH vs. 45 minutes at Rose and Crown ( we were on time for our reservation and still waited), 2) I ate in an air-conditioned upstairs room with a view of fantasy land at CHH and at Rose and Crown I ate outside in 90 degree heat on the patio, 3) I got more fish at CHH which was just about as good as Rose and Crown’s one piece of fish. I enjoyed their lighthouse sandwich too.
CHH is a must on every trip. I love the clam chowder and good variety for wife and kids. Nice to have a break from the CS chicken strips and burgers. We do a lot of sit down meals elsewhere throughout the World, but this is easily our fav counter service in MK. We’ll be there in 3 days!
My wife, granddaughter and I had a meal here this week. I had the salmon and it was terrific. The portions of the salmon and broccoli were quite large. Probably even more than I would receive in a local restaurant for a higher price. We were both very satisfied with the food, service and speed we were served. I will definitely put this restaurant on our list to use next visit to the Magic Kingdom.
Ahhh, so many good memories of CHH but I think my favourite be always be my daughter’s and my first ‘just us girls trip’ when we sat in the practically empty restaurant enjoying a fish ‘n chicken basket while Spectro went past outside, and then coming out (very full) and watching the second Spectro in a half empty Frontierland. Strangely we never even knew there was an upstairs (possibly because it was roped off since it was ‘down time’ and only discovered it when we stopped there on the Keys to the Kingdom tour. Now it’s a favourite spot for scoping out the scene during a rain shower.
I’ve really enjoyed the changes to the menu too, the broccoli isn’t done to death, the salmon is tasty, and the lobster roll always looks good (it’s on my must try list). I think the only thing I haven’t enjoyed at CHH in the past was the ‘apple crisp’ they used to do which we had when on the DDP once, it was like chewing an old espadrille! =P
I’ve had the salmon there as well and it was great! It is a fantastic choice when you are looking for a healthy counter service meal. As mentioned a few posts above it comes with couscous and broccoli….I was very happy with my meal choice and priced at I think $11 or so it was a very good deal. Would definitely go back 🙂
I agree with you. One of my favorite mealtime memories is when a storm was passing through and everyone was rushing to get out of the rain. We decided to try CHH, for the first time, and what a wonderful meal it was. The food was good, but getting to sit upstairs, almost having it to ourselves, and watch the rain come down was such a relaxing and enjoyable time to reflect on the day and prepare for what we would do next.
My husband and I ate there a few weeks ago for the first time and really enjoyed it. I actually had the salmon and it was delicious. It was served with cous-cous (not sure if that’s spelled right) and broccoli. Since we had the dinning plan we also had a peach cobbler for desert. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality and quantity of the food. We would definitely go back.
I must respectfully disagree with this choice. Our family had a very bad experience here. Both my husband and daughter got food poisoning after dining at Colombia Harbour House. My daughter actually ended up in Celebration Hospital. ðŸ˜
I’m sorry to hear you had a bad experience. Unfortunately, there are going to be stories like this about every restaurant at Walt Disney World (and in the real world). That doesn’t make them bad restaurants. Now, if it happened regularly, that would be a different story.
This has a special memory for me as the first restaurant we ate in at WDW on our first trip with my daughter. Yet somehow we haven’t managed to make it back here in 3 subsequent trips!
We love Columbia Harbor House – my favorite is the Tuna Sandwich – but every once in awhile I treat myself to the shrimp basket. The shrimp are great – nice size – just enough breading – and i love the cole slaw! Just as good as mine! No vinegar taste!
Of course I love eating upstairs – usually we go into the area that is the bridge that goes across the walkway below from Fantasyland to Liberty Square – Love people watching from there, while eating a nice meal. I highly recommend it.
CHH is a must do on every trip for us. The Lobster Roll is the best! It is fresh, delicious and filling. It is also refreshing as it is nice a cold, which is a plus on any hot day in FL! I love to sit and relax upstairs. *Sigh… One more week to go before I am there. How am I going to make it? LOL
There is nothing in the world quite like relaxing upstairs in Columbia Harbour House. Love that place!!!
I love to go upstairs and sit in the quiet room that overlooks the walkway below into fantasy land…..great people watching location!
The shrimp look really good and I was planning on ordering them on my next venture to the CHH, but I have to ask..kinda gross but.. did you notice if the shrimp had been deveined? I live in fear of the poorly cleaned shrimp after a very disgusting bite of tempura shrimp at a local sushi place.
Sorry, I didn’t look!
I still love CHH, but really miss the days of the clam chowder in the bread bowl, which was a reason to eat there maybe more than once a trip.
Never had a chance to try that, but I love a good bread bowl!
Have you tried the chowder bread bowl at Pacific Wharf Cafe in Disney California Adventure?
CHH was our favorite when there two years ago. We liked to sit upstairs with a view out toward the HM. It was always so quiet and relaxing. We became fond of the vegetarian sandwich. It was really big, well-made, tasty and filling. Once we discovered it we had two more lunches there and really looked forward to the lunches as much as an attraction!
I absolutely love Columbia Harbor House! Its my favorite CS restaurant at the MK. I like the menu since its different than then regular run-of-the-mill burgers. All your talk of the multi-level, quiet seating and all the details have got me intrigued…I always take my meal outside and sit at the tables with umbrellas which are nearby in Liberty Square…I find it a great place to rest at the MK and to people watch.
Next time, you DEFINITELY need to try eating upstairs. It’ll solidify CHH as your favorite MK restaurant!
CHH is my favorite counter service restaurant in MK (and probably #2 overall, after Sunshine Seasons). This is the rare occasion where ambience nearly overshadows food for me. Even as a child the various corners and trinkets to explore were mesmerizing to me.
Now, I love taking in the details and slowing down a bit. Plus, I love that they have unique and tasty vegetarian options (I’m not a dedicated vegetarian, but sometimes I like to choose veggie-only options).
CHH is my favourite Counter Service at MK by a country mile. We all tend to end up with a wide selection of foods as the kids go for fish, I go for chicken and Di is a total mystery, this just adds to the fun. The service is always really fast but its the decor and style of CHH that makes it a must-do. I love sitting upstairs and its one place we go to where its not just a case of getting food and diving out to the next attraction. Its great to sit and take stock of what we have done and then plan our next move……many, many happy memories and your shrimp pic has me drooling now
Agreed with you on all counts! The only reason we weren’t CHH fans before was the portion sizes. We eat A LOT. Now that we’ve found things that are large enough for us, it’s going to be a must-do. The shrimp sure are good, aren’t they?
Chiming in to say that CHH is our favorite, too. Though my heart broke when the menu changed and they took off the delicious and unusual Starboard Deck sham sandwich with provalone and coleslaw on 12 grain bread. I still crave it to this day, it was so yummy, filling, and different. Luckily, the tuna in the Anchors Away is delicious, so I am still a happy camper there.