Walt Disney World has announced new food coming to the parks and resorts this month. In this guide, we’ll dispense with dish details, photos, and thoughts about the decadent desserts, savory snacks, and “controversial” mixed alcoholic drinks being added to menus in Magic Kingdom.
Before we get into the details of the menu additions, let’s quickly recap the Walt Disney World dining ‘scene’ as of mid-September 2022. We’ll start with the good news: almost all restaurants have reopened (aside from a few of our favorite World Showcase options), to the point that the number of locations that are unavailable is fairly insignificant in the grand scheme of Walt Disney World’s dining capacity.
Additionally, restaurants that have been open for months have continued to scale up operations, expanding menus, bringing back breakfast, buffets, or other missing meal services. Although some readers have reported otherwise going forward, Advance Dining Reservations have been much easier to score in the last couple months.
Let’s kick things off with what’s new at Walt Disney World Resort. Starting today (September 13, 2022), Gasparilla Island Grill over at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa has some new bites for you to try.
There are a couple of new breakfast dishes to start off your day in Grand (Floridian) fashion.
For those looking for a lighter, healthier option, you’ll be delighted to find two selections–the plant-based Açai Bowl with a house-made açai sorbet, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, granola, and agave as well as the Egg White Breakfast Wrap with egg whites, spinach, roasted tomatoes, and feta served on a flour tortilla.
Moving on to lunch and dinner options at Gasparilla Island Grill, the Italian Sandwich features ham, salami, capicola, provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, banana peppers, Italian dressing, and olive aioli served on a sub roll. You can also enjoy the Caprese Sandwich featuring red, yellow, and fire-roasted tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, arugula, lettuce, basil, sherry vinaigrette, basil aïoli, and balsamic reduction served on a roasted tomato focaccia.
There’s also a Cuban Sandwich with mojo roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickle, and mustard served on Cuban bread and the Blackened Chicken Sandwich with blackened chicken, pepper jack, and coleslaw served on a brioche bun.
The Broccoli & Roasted Tomato Flatbread is topped with roasted garlic, mozzarella, broccoli, fire-roasted tomatoes, and ricotta served on house-made dough. Plus, all the breads for these sandwiches and flatbread are made right in the Grand Floridian Bakery.
For dinner at Gasparilla Island Grill, there are two new additions to the menu featuring some classic Florida flavors. The Mojo Chicken Bowl is a tasty option that includes mojo chicken, jasmine rice, sweet potato, cilantro-scallion aïoli, and black bean and tomato salad.
For a plant-based option, the Mojo Seitan Bowl combines mojo seitan, jasmine rice, sweet potato, cilantro-scallion aïoli, and black bean and tomato salad.
It’s tough to judge any Walt Disney World food based on the styled stock image–I’ve had plenty of dishes that didn’t look even remotely like what was posted online. (I guess that’s just the Disney magic in creating idealized versions of reality!) Regardless, these are welcome additions.
We dined at Gasparilla Island Grill a few times during our recent stay, and it was incredibly underwhelming. Ditto the previous time we ate there…and the time before that. I can’t recall the last time we had a truly good meal there (definitely pre-closure), but it’s been a while.
This is unfortunate, as Gasparilla Island Grill wasn’t reimagined that long ago, and when it was, the menu was truly ambitious. Scott Hunnel was actually there around reopening supervising the kitchen and talking up specific desserts, which were absolutely fantastic. At that time, Gasparilla Island Grill was briefly the best counter service restaurant in all of Walt Disney World.
Hopefully these additions restore some of its former glory. Now, I’ll await a menu overhaul at another counter service restaurant that was previously the #1 in all of Walt Disney World, Contempo Cafe.
On a positive note, the Fall Flavors Cupcake (Maple Cupcake with Apple Pie Filling topped with Vanilla Buttercream in Festive Fall Colors) is back at Gasparilla Island Grill and it is highly recommended.
Like all Walt Disney World cupcakes, it’s really sweet–but the maple and apple flavors gives it more of a natural “earthiness” (for lack of a better term). The typical Disney cupcake tastes more like a color than actual flavors, whereas all of the flavors here are distinct. It’s pretty far from all-natural, but it doesn’t taste like it was made in a lab.
Over at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, the Backstretch Pool Bar has some new offerings joining the menu beginning September 16, 2022.
The New York-style Hot Dog features an all-beef hot dog covered in New York-style onions. The Buffalo Chicken Nachos combine shredded chicken in buffalo sauce with creamy blue cheese queso and celery served with Saratoga house chips.
EPCOT also has some updates at Sunshine Seasons. This quick-service restaurant found in The Land Pavilion features fresh fare packed with flavor, and these new additions are no different.
The big news here: breakfast is back! Kickstart your morning with one of the new breakfast options including the Ham, Egg, and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich on a kaiser roll served with fresh fruit, tasty Overnight Oats, or a classic Greek Yogurt.
For lunchtime, there are three “new” sandwiches that you won’t want to miss. (Air quotes because Walt Disney World is calling these new, but they’re at least a month old.) The Roast Beef features chilled roast beef, chimichurri aïoli, cheddar, arugula, and red onion on a flour-topped kaiser roll and served with potato chips.
The Plant-Based Mediterranean Vegetable Sandwich includes roasted red pepper, red onion, tomato, arugula, hummus, and balsamic vinaigrette on herbed focaccia and served with potato chips. Lastly, the Fish Tacos combine fire-roasted corn salsa, creamy jalapeño Piri Piri sauce, radish and accompanied by plantain chips too.
Sunshine Seasons has come pretty close to overhauling its menu over the course of the last several months, and we’ve been (very gradually–it’s tough due to festival season) buying and trying everything on the menu with the aim of writing a full review. That’s still a work in progress, but we’ve been pleased so far. Sunshine Seasons is another restaurant that fell from grace even pre-closure, but seems to be getting better. Still nowhere near what it once was, but heading in the right direction!
Finally, there are new mixed alcoholic beverages coming to Magic Kingdom for those above 21 at select table-service restaurants. Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen will now offer both the Jungle Bird Cocktail and the Golden Haze Margarita. The Jungle Bird Cocktail features Gosling Black Rum, Campari, cane syrup, and pineapple and lime juices while the Golden Haze Margarita contains Teremana Blanco Tequila, Grand Marnier, agave syrup, lime juice, and smoked chili bitters.
Over at Liberty Tree Tavern and The Diamond Horseshoe, more alcohol is also being added to the menu. At those restaurants, you’ll find the Gold Rush–a new cocktail with Elijah Craig Bourbon, lemon juice, and honey garnished with crystalized ginger–and the Magical Beacon Cocktail–a special offering to celebrate the 50th Anniversary Celebration featuring Empress 1908 Gin, Bols Blue Curaçao, Minute Maid Premium Lemonade, almond orgeat, lemon, hibiscus grenadine, and souvenir glow cube.
We focused primarily on the hypocrisy of the decision by a company that is usually eager to invoke Walt Disney quotes to justify decisions that it knows could be unpopular with diehard fans. We pretty much glossed over the impact to the guest experience, noting that it should be minimal because the sales are constrained to a few table service restaurants.
That more or less remains my perspective. While I do think there are valid concerns about the company gradually expanding the presence of alcohol at Magic Kingdom until it’s like the other three parks, that’s something we’ve yet to see. Be Our Guest Restaurant started serving alcohol a decade ago, and four other restaurants joined it 6 years ago.
Other expansions have occurred in the last few years, but nothing extreme. (The biggest most recent one was probably the addition of alcohol to fireworks dessert parties back in early 2020.) If Disney is playing the long game to minimize outrage, they are really slow-rolling it. This strategy puts the snail’s pace of construction on TRON Lightcycle Run to shame!
At this point, I’m skeptical that Magic Kingdom will ever have the kind of alcohol presence of the other three parks. For one thing, it’s not all upside for the company’s financials–beer carts and walk-up mixed drink counters would likely hurt the park’s reputation.
For another, I just don’t see there being a “drinking culture” at Magic Kingdom like there is in World Showcase. Even Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom typically don’t have problems with overly-intoxicated guests. (This is something we notice a decent amount at EPCOT, but I can’t even recall the last time I saw someone sloshed at the other two.)
Ultimately, I think there are far more pressing issues when it comes to Walt Disney World. A few restaurants that already sell alcohol now selling a different type of alcohol is just not even on my radar. I could not care less. Being upset about everything has gotta be exhausting, and the practical reality is that this makes no difference.
If someone is dead-set on getting wasted at Magic Kingdom, they will find a way. (Grand Floridian and Contemporary Resort are each ~10 minute walks away.) My biggest gripe is Disney’s selective use of Walt Disney as its corporate mascot to justify decisions, but even then, I’d rather focus my energy on the things Disney is doing wrong that actually impact me…and there’s no shortage of those right now.
Thoughts on these new snacks and menu items debuting at Walt Disney World in September 2022? What are your thoughts on mixed alcoholic drinks in Magic Kingdom? Big deal or non-issue given past precedent and the limitations on sales? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!