We’re back with Part 1 of our new Walt Disney World tips & tricks post, this time focused on dining and new construction developments in the parks. If you haven’t read it, check out Haphazard Walt Disney World Tips – Part 1, which covered transportation (primarily Uber and Disney buses) and hotels (mostly high-end off-site ones).
Consider that post, along with this one, a cut and dry look at our recent Walt Disney World trip with info that will hopefully prove useful for those planning trips. If you, for some inexplicable reason, yearn for the tangents and random musings of my trip reports of yore, the good news is that I’m currently posting The Brickers’ Fall 2015 Walt Disney World Kinda, Sorta Trip Report over on the forums. Follow along there if have spare time at the office. 😉 For this post, we will dig right into dining.
Given that our visit was in the fall, of course we had to partake in Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival. One thing I’ve been grumbling about for the past few years is the number of obnoxiously drunk people–particularly college-age people–at Food & Wine Festival. We have no problem with drunk people, but there’s a difference between respectfully feelin’ good and loudly shouting the lyrics to a Wu Tang song while scaling the side of the Mexico pavilion. There’s a time and a place for both kinds of inebriated, but the latter probably doesn’t belong in the family setting of a Disney theme park.
The good news is that we spent several days at Food & Wine this year, and didn’t see a single person who was visibly wasted. The bad news is that even on weeknights (we only did weeknights, which is perhaps why we didn’t see any crazy drunks), World Showcase is absolutely slammed. It’s like a herd of blood-thirsty walkers shuffling along, elbow-to-elbow. Except worse, because this is sweaty, stinky tourists instead of well-mannered zombies.
Earlier in the day, the ambiance in World Showcase is much more pleasant, and we really enjoyed partaking in Food & Wine Festival. Disney has really stepped things up in terms of the design of the booths, and the layout and placement of locations outside of World Showcase is very well done. In previous years, it has felt like a temporary event shoehorned into the park, but this year, there is definitely a polish to the event that I have not seen in the past. Kudos to Disney on that.
From a culinary perspective, the snacks we tried were mostly good. I wouldn’t describe any of them as exceptional or truly inspired, but they are mass-produced items pre-prepared (out of necessity) to serve to a large number of people, so what do you really expect? Well, for the prices, I have to say I honestly expect a little more. Were it not for the fact that I write a blog about Walt Disney World, I could not have justified how much we spent on very small portions.
Even with the blog, I tried to sample as few and inexpensive items as possible. If I were on the Free Dining promo, I’d stock up and use them at the booths at Food & Wine, but the value proposition is awful if you’re paying out of pocket. If I had oodles of disposable income, perhaps I’d feel differently (doubtful–even if I won the lottery, I’d probably still be thrifty).
Aside from and despite that, we really enjoyed Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival this year. Just wandering around, sipping and snacking around World Showcase, chatting with friends about the different options, seeing the Festival Center, and getting mad amounts of Coke Freestyle at the Chase Lounge made it fun. Despite never having heard of “The Chew” prior to this, I also really liked its integration into F&WF.
Overall, we came away thinking that Food & Wine added something to the Epcot experience, rather than detracting from it, and that would hold true if you spent $0 on the event. Whereas it most definitely had “take it or leave it” status after our last visit to Food & Wine Festival, the experience was sufficiently positive this year that it’s back to “try to ‘take it'” status, and I’m thinking about finding a way to do the Wine & Dine Half Marathon next year as a way to get more–and something new–out of the experience.
As for the rest of our experiences with food at Walt Disney World, we ate at a bunch of restaurants. Here are my quick notes about those meals:
Electric Umbrella – I was eating here again after a good meal on a recent trip thinking maybe Electric Umbrella had improved. Yeah, definitely not the case…
Studio Catering Co. – Not sure why I ate here since it’ll likely be closing (better get that review up soon!), but with their new-ish menu, this might be the best counter service restaurant in the Studios. Not that that’s saying much.
Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory – Takes the cake for Walt Disney World restaurant with the creepiest theming, but there are some real gems on this menu. Had multiple meals here, was very pleased with them all.
Riverside Mill Food Court – My meal here was fine, but that was partly my fault since I showed up 10 minutes before closing with them serving a limited menu. I’ve found it to be slightly above-average in the past.
Whispering Canyon Cafe – Ordered my go-to, the Canyon Skillet, and it was excellent as always. First time with the red/green interaction cards, which I think are lame (on the part of the guests necessitating them), but whatever.
Jack Lindsey’s Hangar Bar – I touched upon this one and The Boathouse in our trip report on the forums, but the ambiance and theming here were great, but I can’t comment on anything else…
The Boathouse – Ate here with friends, and this might have just replaced Raglan Road as my Disney Springs go-to. Maybe. Probably depends upon the mood.
Morimoto Asia – Braced for an expensive meal here, and it definitely could have been, but I was surprised by the variance in entree pricing. My meal here was very good, and not all that expensive. This feels like a very classy restaurant–much moreso than most Walt Disney World Signatures. Hopefully they keep the Disney Dining Plan out, and it stays that way.
Contempo Cafe – Tried something new here, and this spot once again delivered, demonstrating why it’s one of my favorite counter service restaurants.
Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe – The new menu here is a considerable improvement, and this is now a go-to restaurant for us in the Magic Kingdom…for now. I say for now because the new toppings bar has some high quality stuff, including guacamole. UNLIMITED GUAC?! Yeah, I don’t see that lasting too long.
Sunshine Seasons – I had a new “temporary” item, the Lamb Skewers, which were incredible. Sarah was less impressed with her meal.
ABC Commissary – It is what it is. Come for the air conditioning, stay for the…air conditioning!
I think that about covers it. We also had several meals at Universal Orlando Resort, and a few at our off-site Walt Disney World hotels, none of which really bear mentioning here.
Now, let’s take a look at construction updates and changes on Page 2…