Grand Floridian Cafe is a table service restaurant at Walt Disney World, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a 1-credit restaurant, and also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card. Thanks to the heavy hitting restaurant line-up in the Grand Floridian, consisting of Victoria & Albert’s, Citricos, and Narcoossee’s, you don’t normally hear much about Grand Floridian Cafe.
Given how much we’ve enjoyed other under the radar restaurants that are overshadowed by their big name counterparts (like The Wave and Sanaa), we figured we’d give it a chance…hoping it would be a similar hidden gem. Before we get to whether it was, those looking for value on the Disney Dining Plan may should consider this only if some people in your party plan on ordering the NY Strip Steak. It’s on our list of restaurants to visit to “Maximize Your Value on the Disney Dining Plan,” but mostly because of that steak.
In terms of ambiance, Grand Floridian Cafe is nothing special. There’s nothing particularly disappointing about it, and part of this might be my dislike of the style of the Grand Floridian, in general. Overall, I can’t really complain about the restaurant: it feels bright and airy with great views outside into the garden. In terms of the decor inside, I think some things feel dated–and not in the way a Victorian design is inherently dated-looking–as some decorations look like they were pulled from the style pages of a 1993 issue of Country Living Magazine. Overall ambiance is not bad, but not great. I really wouldn’t have given it a second thought were it not a Walt Disney World restaurant where I have more exacting standards about ambiance.
Our server started us out with bread, which was good, and we ordered a couple of appetizers. A friend who was with us ordered the Carrot-Ginger soup of the day. I didn’t get a chance to try this, but he enjoyed it, describing it as rich.
We split the Shrimp Cocktail. This was fine. For the price, I would have liked more shrimp. The best part of this appetizer was the Fresh Tomato-Horseradish Cocktail Salsa below the shrimp. This had a bit of kick to it, but was fresh and delicious. It perfectly complimented the shrimp, and made the dish more unique and less like an ordinary shrimp cocktail. Still, the appetizer wasn’t all that memorable, and nothing something I’d order again.
I like to lead with the bad news, so let’s start with Sarah’s entree. I love a good burger, so I asked our Facebook fans what they’d recommend for burgers at Walt Disney World. Someone suggested the Grand Floridian Burger, with angus beef and butter poached lobster. It sounded so good that we ‘fought’ over which of us would get to try it. Sarah won in terms of who got to order it, but lost in every other regard. When she described the burger to me as dry, flavorless, and with sub-par meat, I was a bit surprised and had to try the burger myself. She was exactly right.
The burger lacked any semblance of flavor, and the beef patty tasted like something you’d find at a below-average counter service restaurant. The lobster by itself was good, but there was so much bun and the beef was so bland that the flavor of lobster got lost in the mix. It wasn’t as if our burger was just overcooked or anything, it seemed like it was all around a bad item. It seemed conceptually good, but in terms of execution, ours was flat out bad. It was one of the few menu items that neither of us ended up finishing. I’m hoping it was just an outlier, but as it stands, it’s not something I’d chance ordering again. Nor would I recommend any DCC (Disney Carnivore Club) members try it, as there’s a much better option for you brilliant folks…
That ‘much better’ item is the New York Strip Steak. It may not look it, but this steak was the real deal. It may not look it, but if I were writing the article today, this would displace the #5 steak on my list of the Top 5 Steaks at Walt Disney World. The rub was fantastic, the meat was a great cut that was cooked to perfection with just a hint of char on the outside, and the peppercorn sauce was the perfect touch–not too much or an attempt to mask otherwise deficient meat. Sarah tried this and said she thought it was a bit too salty, but was otherwise great.
I wouldn’t call it too salty (although the combination of the sauce and the rub did make it a bit salty), but that’s something worth considering if you’re sensitive to salt. Overall, this was definitely the highlight of the meal. At $27 when we dined here, it was also by far the most expensive item on the menu, so it’s worth knowing that if you plan on ordering this, you won’t be having an inexpensive meal at Grand Floridian Cafe. (But, as mentioned above, this is a great entree for those on the Disney Dining Plan.)
An entree worth trying if you don’t want the steak is the Orecchiete Pasta. Our friend ordered this, and it was reasonably priced, especially for the large portion size. This was a blend of rich asiago sauce, pasta, and peas. It looked great, but not enough that I would order it instead of my steak next time. Others seem to agree with regard to this pasta being excellent.
The entrees Sarah and I ordered were each priced at above $20, making our meal at the Grand Floridian Cafe about what a meal at a “moderate” table service restaurant would cost, but it’s worth noting that there were numerous items priced between $13 and $15. Considering those prices and the inexpensive desserts, Grand Floridian Cafe is a way to eat at a table service restaurant while paying prices slightly above counter service levels. This is especially true if you have the Tables in Wonderland card. From this perspective, Grand Floridian Cafe is an exceptional option.
We elected not to order dessert at Grand Floridian Cafe. Not because we weren’t hungry, but because when the dessert platter was brought around to us, it looked underwhelming. Everything is small and very basic looking. Fortunately, the desserts are priced accordingly, with only the sampler costing more than $5. Still, for the money, we’d rather have something interesting from a counter service bakery. As counter service desserts improve across the board, these table service options just didn’t seem to cut it. Perhaps someone who has tried these desserts can contradict us by sharing how they actually taste. We don’t recommend not ordering them if you really want dessert; it’s not as if you’d be out a whole lot of money if they are as plain as they look.
This won’t be getting a separate review since I forgot my camera the morning we dined here for breakfast (oops), but I think it bears mentioning that we had an excellent breakfast at Grand Floridian Cafe. My entree, the Lobster Eggs Benedict, was particularly good. The lobster was tender and plentiful, and complimented the eggs benedict well without overpowering it. In addition to the great balance of flavors, everything tasted fresh and real. This last part is a big deal with regard to breakfast, as we find that often Walt Disney World breakfasts taste like they contain “plastic” eggs and bacon. Although we enjoy some of the breakfast buffets, this was probably the best breakfast we’ve ever had at Walt Disney World. Beyond what we got, there are numerous items on the breakfast menu that sounded good to us.
Overall, Grand Floridian Cafe has a lot going for it. Despite having several well-prepared dishes that taste great, it’s reasonably priced as a whole and doesn’t have a hint of pretension to it. You can grab a table here at the last minute, as it is seldom booked to capacity. This also means that the restaurant usually has a nice, relaxed ambiance with plenty of empty tables. However, even with all of these things going for it, frankly, we don’t think it rises to hidden gem status like The Wave or Sanaa. Grand Floridian lacks the extra something to push it over the top and into that class, and instead is better described as a restaurant that can offer great value (if you order the right things). We recommend Grand Floridian Cafe to those on the Disney Dining Plan who enjoy steak, anyone staying at the Grand Floridian looking for a quiet and inexpensive meal, and anyone else wanting a taste of table service at the Grand Floridian at counter service “plus” prices. It shouldn’t be considered a destination restaurant like many others in Walt Disney World resort-hotels, but it’s easy-enough to access from the Magic Kingdom via the monorail that it’s a nice way to escape the crowds for a quiet lunch. We will definitely be back, but it will probably be for $13.50 entrees or that delicious breakfast–not an expensive meal.
Overall Score: 7.5/10
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If you’ve been, what do you think of Grand Floridian Cafe? Is it a great place to dine for counter service “plus” prices, or is it the ugly duckling of the otherwise sterling Grand Floridian Resort & Spa dining lineup? Planning on going? Share your thoughts in the comments!