New California Grill Prix Fixe Menu in April 2023

Walt Disney World has announced a new prix fixe menu at California Grill in Contemporary Resort. Starting on April 2023, the rooftop Signature Restaurant will replace its 50th Anniversary Celebration Meal with a fresh dining package. This post covers dates, details, pricing, and some of what’s on the menu.

In case you’ve missed it, California Grill replaced its normal a la carte menu for the 50th Anniversary Celebration prix fixe menu back in October 2021. That menu is priced at $89 per adult (ages 10 and up) and $39 per child (ages 3 to 9), plus tax and gratuity. This special menu will conclude on March 31, 2023 along with the rest of the World’s Most Magical Celebration.

In addition to that, there has been the “Celebration at the Top: 50th Flavors & Fireworks at Disney’s Contemporary Resort” at California Grill. That’s a cocktail party featuring fine food, simmering sips, and beautiful music while awaiting the new Disney Enchantment fireworks spectacular. It cost $129 per person.

While we were never able to book the Celebration at the Top (and eventually just gave up trying), we did do the prix fixe menu at California Grill. We actually really enjoyed that experience and found the value for money to be sufficient given what we ordered. If you revisit our California Grill 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner Review, you’ll notice it’s quite positive.

Despite that, California Grill has not been high on our list of restaurants to revisit at Walt Disney World. Even though we enjoyed that experience and meal, we favor flexibility when eating “for fun” (rather than the sake of reviews) at Walt Disney World. During any given meal, we might order 3 appetizers, 1 entree, 1 dessert–or 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, 2 desserts–and so on. Really, whatever catches our eyes on the menu. California Grill’s 50th Anniversary menu didn’t really allow for our preferred dining style. But I’m getting ahead of myself–we’ll circle back to this in a bit.

Walt Disney World has announced that beginning April 1, 2023, California Grill will offer a 3-course selection menu featuring contemporary, market-inspired cuisine.

Advance Dining Reservations open on January 31, 2023 for the beginning of the new three-course menu at California Grill. Future dates will open consistent with ADR rules at Walt Disney World.

Walt Disney World has yet to release a full menu for California Grill’s 2023 prix fixe menu, but select items that will include Fire-Roasted Venison, Goat Cheese Ravioli, and Lemon Chiffon Cake.

I’m not sure about the Lemon Chiffon Cake, but the first two menu items are not new. The Fire-Roasted Venison is on the current menu and the (Sonoma) Goat Cheese Ravioli is a standout item from the old menu. Don’t let its underwhelming appearance fool you–this is a first-ballot California Grill hall of famer.

My guess is that a number of other menu items will carry over from the current California Grill menu, with others brought back from the pre-50th menu. Obvious candidates to stick around include the sushi, wontons, and duck pizza from the current appetizer menu.

It’s safe to say the Oak-fired Filet of Beef will stick around from the entree menu (another hall of famer), but I’m not sure what else. I really hope the Cast Iron-grilled Pork Tenderloin also sticks around–that is fantastic. Everything else can change, as far as I’m concerned. I’d also hope for the return of the Grand Marnier Soufflé–but only as long as the kitchen can make a non “deflated” version.

January 29, 2023 Update: Walt Disney World has released more details ahead of the ADR drop date. They’ve also shared that the new menu will consist of Californian cuisine celebrating fresh, seasonal ingredients and the international, melting-pot culture of the Golden State. The chef de cuisine creatively blends new flavors, textures and techniques, delivered in a 3-course selection menu, which Disney says is “a continuation of the highly-successful 50th Anniversary celebration offering.”

You may choose:

  • One appetizer
  • One entrée
  • One dessert

Adult price: $89 per person (ages 10 and up), plus tax and gratuity
Child price: $39 per child (ages 3 to 9), plus tax and gratuity

To complement their dining experience, Guests 21 years of age and older can select from an extensive collection of hand-picked wines—most of which are from California. Sommeliers are on hand to offer the perfect pairing suggestions, in addition to the thoughtfully selected 3-course wine pairings available for purchase.

I know someone (or several someones!) will ask, so to preempt your questions: no, we do not know when the beloved Brunch at the Top will return. This was far and away our favorite meal at California Grill, and we will book that ASAP once it returns. (Actually, I should probably hedge that a bit in light of Monsieur Paul and Takumi-Tei pricing. If Brunch at the Top returns at a significantly higher price, we are out.)

The impediment to Brunch at the Top returning is…drumroll…staffing shortages! Same as has been the case for nearly two years, at this point. I know some of you are getting sick of the staffing “excuse,” but that doesn’t make it any less true. The issue does continue to improve, but apparently not to the point to bring back more specialty or niche options.

As always, a highlight of the meal will undoubtedly be California Grill’s views. This includes windows overlooking Magic Kingdom out of the main dining room and the observation decks.

We always make sure to time our Advance Dining Reservation so that it coincides with the fireworks. In an ideal world, we’re wrapping up desserts about 30 minutes before the show starts, but it doesn’t always work out that way. California Grill is bound to be an even hotter ADR with Happily Ever After returning, too!

In terms of commentary, I can already anticipate the complaints about Walt Disney World doing another prix fixe menu.

As intimated above, I empathize with these, especially as California Grill is of less interest to us given the prix fixe menu. We favor the flexibility of being able to order a la carte, mixing and matching appetizers, entrees, and desserts as the mood and appetites compel us. Without question, an a la carte menu is the more guest-friendly option.

When California Grill’s full menu for April 2023 and beyond drops, Walt Disney World will inevitably explain the permanent move to prix fixe as a way to “enhance” the dining experience with “exquisite and delicious cuisine” or see the culinary team’s creative vision realized. (Those were the purported rationales Disney gave for other shifts to prix fixe.) That is BS, and I don’t know Disney offers such condescending explanations that can be “refuted” with guest complaints.

In actuality, the issue is that it became a common “hack” among cheap locals and others to book California Grill ADRs and only order appetizers or dessert, slowly nursing plates while awaiting fireworks. It was a low-cost way to experience a nice restaurant and have a great view of the fireworks. I don’t know about you, but I’m actually more sympathetic to the real reason for this change that the guest-friendly justifications Disney usually offers.

Walt Disney World’s shift to more prix fixe menus began with Be Our Guest Restaurant’s “cupcakegate,” and I don’t see it letting up anytime soon. That’s especially true with restaurants that have an experiential component. Aside from Be Our Guest Restaurant and California Grill, another example is Space 220 Restaurant.

Almost every other restaurant with an entertainment element of some form already serves something other than an a la carte menu. Most of those are character meals, which are all buffet or prix fixe. About the only notable exceptions that come to mind are 50’s Prime Time Cafe, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, and Coral Reef. Those are popular, but don’t have the same issue with many guests only ordering appetizers or desserts.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Narcoossee’s reopens with a prix fixe menu for the same reason. It’s not quite as necessary there as at California Grill, but it is another popular fireworks spot–and could become more so with the ‘cupcake crowd’ if it’s the next best option due to California Grill doing prix fixe. (Honestly, I’d be more surprised if Narcoossee’s does not do prix fixe for that very reason.)

From what I understand, per guest spending has increased significantly at California Grill since introducing the prix fixe menu. That’s not even remotely surprising. Prix fixe guarantees a minimum spend, blocking those who would book to only do appetizers or desserts as a nice way to see the fireworks.

Personally, I wish there the option for a prix fixe menu or a la carte menu with a minimum spend. We have no problem hitting whatever requirement might exist; we just want the flexibility to eat as we wish. However, I can also understand why Walt Disney World would not want to go this route–and also isn’t transparent about the real motivations for these prix fixe menus.

Many fans may not like prix fixe menus, but even more would not like being told they need to spend $X in order to dine at a restaurant. Even though they’re effectively the same thing, it’s a matter of optics. Imagine all of the clickbait blog and vlog headlines: “Disney DEMANDS Guests Spend $$$ To Step Inside This Restaurant!” It’s really the same deal here, but a softer way of saying the same…albeit a less flexible one.

Ultimately, the “solution” if you don’t like things like the proliferation of prix fixe menus is not to loudly complain online, but to vote with your wallet. So long as Advance Dining Reservations are snapped up quickly and Walt Disney World has no problem filling tables at California Grill, words are meaningless with this one. Demand tells the tale. If that changes, so too could the prix fixe policies.

That might seem snide, but it is what it is. From Disney’s perspective, their current approach allocates limited capacity to those who actually want to do full meals as opposed to the local or ‘Disney on a Dime’ crowd, which is savvy from both a business perspective and guest satisfaction among a more coveted demo. That might mean that we (and maybe many of you) dine at California Grill less or not at all, but that’s the favored outcome from the company’s perspective. If popularity changes, so too will Disney’s approach.

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Your Thoughts

What do you think of the California Grill sticking with a prix fixe menu after the 50th Anniversary ends? Disappointed there’s no a la carte option? Will you be attempting to book this Advance Dining Reservation? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!

27 Responses to “New California Grill Prix Fixe Menu in April 2023”
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