Whispering Canyon Cafe is a zany restaurant in Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World specializing in western foods. This review features food photos, our take on the atmosphere, and opinions on the ribs, chicken, beef strip loin, baked beans, corn bread, and other cuisine served here. (Last updated February 13, 2019.)
February 13, 2019 Update: After reports last year that Whispering Canyon Cafe had “gone quiet” due to complaints from guest rooms directly above the restaurant, it appears things are largely back to normal. The interactions are not quite as raucous and loud, but almost all of the fun has returned, including the ketchup, huge Cokes, extra straws, and other gags.
Once you’re seated at Whispering Canyon Cafe, it’s time to start the show…err…meal! There are a number of things you can do to get the staff to mess with you, but we recommend you don’t research these, so your experience is a surprise and more natural. Much like 50’s Prime Time Cafe, the “show” component here is very strong, but it’s not for everyone. Even if that does not appeal to you, Whispering Canyon Cafe can still be a ton of fun…
Since Whispering Canyon Cafe is an open-air restaurant with views into the lobby of Wilderness Lodge, dining here during the holiday season is an awesome way to enjoy the decorations and the iconic lobby tree.
That aside, the ambiance of Whispering Canyon Cafe itself isn’t much more than what you can see of the lobby along with a few things lining the walls of the restaurant, so its atmosphere is more or less the same as what you’ll experience in the lobby, which might be part of the reason why there’s the added theatrical component.
That theatrical component” can be a bit difficult to understand if you’ve never experienced it, so I’m going to offer a narrative here of one of our experiences so you can get a taste for what you might experience…
The first time we dined at Whispering Canyon Cafe, our waitress seemed put-out by having to serve us (in a good, hilarious way). She conveyed this disdain for us inconveniencing her by throwing a handful of straws at our table. On top of that, she told us that the tap water was from the pond, and made a few other witty remarks.
The highlight of the meal, though, was her bringing a gigantic cup of Coke for me after I rather quickly finished my first glass. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Mason Jar quite that large. Her humor was very dry (as has that of other servers we’ve had). For those curious as to how this might play with kids, we have always noticed the kids at adjacent tables to ours eat this up, and “get it” because it’s typically accompanied by visual gags.
Note that there are times during the hi-jinks at Whispering Canyon Cafe that the entire restaurant’s attention might be drawn to your table. If anyone in your party is shy or does not want to participate in the ‘show’ at the restaurant, you can turn the red/green coasters to the red side, and you’ll receive normal service. Failing that, the servers are normally pretty good at reading guests and quickly ascertaining who is or is not interested in the higher-energy experience.
Normally, there’s one–and only one–thing we order at Whispering Canyon Cafe. We’ll cover that towards the end of this review. If you’re new to Whispering Canyon Cafe, that skillet is absolutely what you should order. However, on our recent visit, we wanted to try a few new things, since we’ve ordered the exact same thing on all of our previous visits.
We started with the Gold Rush Western Chips for an appetizer. This was a hearty supply of house-made chips with chili, queso dip, and fresh salsa. This was more of a ‘quantity than quality’ type of thing, and even though it was fine, it was nothing special. It was a good option as our entire table of 6 was able to snack lightly on it while waiting for our entrees.
We also tried the Slow-smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich. This sandwich was served on a brioche roll and topped with onion rings, barbecue sauce, and western Slaw, and served with fries.
The pulled pork here was good quality, and tasted as if it actually was slow-smoked. Very tender and flavorful, which is exactly what you’d expect from a table service restaurant. The rest left a bit to be desired, with the bun and fries both seeming like akin to what you’d find at a counter service restaurant. Even though the meat here was good (and that’s the most important part), I’m not sure I’d get this again.
What I wouldget again is the Chopped Bison Burger. Wow. This bison burger is topped with sriracha aïoli, white cheddar cheese, lettuce, double-smoked thick-cut bacon, fried pickle; it’s served with a side of potato wedges.
Okay, so ignoring the fact that ‘side of potato wedges’ is literally just three potato wedges stacked as if this is some sort of fine dining establishment, this dish was amazing. The burger was juicer and slightly fattier than what you’d expect from bison, but it was incredible. It was also thicker and of a higher quality than just about everywhere on property. Ditto the bacon, which actually was thick-cut, and not the chewy-paper bacon you’ll often find at Walt Disney World.
I’m not one who buys into the sriracha hype, but this aïoli was exceptional. I ended up making a huge mess because this burger was piled high, but it was totally worth it. This burger is better than the one at Crew’s Cup, although the truffle fries make it a close call as to which I’d rather have.
The Chopped Bison Burger was so good that I’d probably order that next time we go to Whispering Canyon Cafe, rather than my normal go-to order…
That standard go-to is the Canyon Skillet. If it’s your first time at Whispering Canyon Cafe, look no further than the Canyon Skillet. This all-you-can-eat skillet contains ribs, chicken, pork sausage, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, baked beans, and corn bread. These are incredible, and I’d hazard a guess that ~90% of guests who go to Whispering Canyon order the skillet. The fact that there are other menu options is more a formality than anything else. (The ambiance plus that dish are the reasons why Whispering Canyon Cafe is awesome.)
On one visit, Sarah ordered some sort of chicken or turkey sandwich–I don’t recall, and it wasn’t that memorable. Sarah was going to get the skillet, too, but when she asked the server for a recommendation as between the sandwich and the skillet, the server said to get the sandwich, as we had already ordered the skillet and Sarah could just try food from our skillets. I was surprised that she would suggest this, but it was nonetheless nice of her. (So I guess this could serve as a tip if you want to try the same?)
Suffice to say, the Canyon Skillet is excellent. Everything–from the mashed potatoes to the ribs and the pork sausage are all standouts. Really, it was all good, except for the beans, which I did not try.
Even the corn bread, something I’d normally consider a filler to prevent you from eating too much of the meat, was very good. If you like a good homestyle BBQ, you really cannot go wrong here. I’d consider this an almost “iconic” dish at Walt Disney World, and I’m craving one as I sit here writing this.
Overall, Whispering Canyon Cafe is an excellent choice, especially at Christmas. It’s one of those rare restaurants at Walt Disney World that offers both an exceptional show and great food–usually it’s just one or the other. Guests are brought right into the wry humor of the show, which is very amusing for most, but might not be as fun for the shy. Although pricey, the Canyon Skillet is the definite standout on a menu that otherwise is fairly reasonably priced if you have big eaters in your party thanks to being an all-you-can-eat dish. If you can, dine here around Christmas, so you can see the most beautifully decorated Walt Disney World resort while you enjoy your meal.
Do you enjoy the food and hi-jinks of Whispering Canyon Cafe? What “pranks” have your servers pulled on you here? Planning on trying Whispering Canyon Cafe? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!