Whispering Canyon Cafe Review
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.
We’ve dined at Whispering Canyon Cafe countless times, doing breakfast (read our recent Whispering Canyon Cafe breakfast review here), lunch, and dinner several times. In fact, it’s probably one of the Walt Disney World restaurants at which we’ve dined more than anywhere else. (Definitely top 5 in terms of frequency.) Since Whispering Canyon Cafe is a ton of fun, we try to eat here once a year.
Usually, that meal happens during the Christmas season. With that in mind, we’ll start with our “perfect” visit to Wilderness Lodge, which is during the holidays. Since Whispering Canyon Cafe is an open-air restaurant with views into the lobby, dining here during at Christmas-time is an awesome way to enjoy the decorations and iconic lobby tree. Whispering Canyon Cafe is the perfect place to stop for a meal during the Christmas season, perhaps while doing the “Free Walt Disney World Yuletide Tour.”
We’ve dined at Whispering Canyon Cafe a couple of times this year, and want to start by noting how the experience has been modified as Walt Disney World is (technically) still in the midst of its phased reopening.
First, the hijinks are fairly muted. While your server might toss straws or bring you an oversized drink, don’t expect too much in the way of hootin’ and hollerin’. Servers are all wearing masks, so not a huge surprise there. We do not feel these modifications at Whispering Canyon Cafe have negatively impacted the experience to a significant degree.
Second, Whispering Canyon Cafe is still not filling every table. At this point, that has much more to do with staffing shortages than it does physical distancing, which is gone from Walt Disney World. However, we’ve noticed in the last few weeks that the restaurant is starting to seat more guests.
The result is that Advance Dining Reservations and Walk-Up Waitlist are now easier to score for Whispering Canyon Cafe. This is significant because demand for ADRs far exceeds available restaurant capacity, meaning you might not have a ton of choices for table service meals. Whispering Canyon Cafe is one option that regularly has availability, and we highly recommend it–especially during Christmas!
Beyond that, a lot has changed at Whispering Canyon Cafe in the last few years, and we cover all that in-depth in our Review: New Food & Fun at Whispering Canyon Cafe (that’s our most current review for skillet options). That details the changes to the antics and hijinks here, as well as reviewing all of the new dinner skillets, including one that manages to surpass the traditional skillet reviewed here!
Suffice to say, if you’ve been to Whispering Canyon Cafe previously and are thinking about going back, or are apprehensive to return based upon things you’ve heard or read, you should absolutely read that review instead of (or in addition to) this one. This review covers the restaurant more broadly, including a wider array of menu items.
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.
Our server’s 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, the servers are normally pretty good at reading guests and quickly ascertaining who is or is not interested in the higher-energy experience.
We’re going to bounce around a bit before we get to the “main event” of Whispering Canyon Cafe’s menu. This review encompasses several meals at Whispering Canyon Cafe, and we’ve added to it over the years as we’ve tried new things (and old menu items have been “retired.”)
First up is the Char-crusted New York Strip with Honey-roasted Carrots, Crispy-fried Red Potatoes, and Whiskey-Onion Butter.
This is a pretty standard menu item you’ll find throughout Walt Disney World, albeit with different sides and preparation styles.
In terms of quality, it’s generally pretty good. Arguably a bit over-salted and over-buttered, but nonetheless a crowd-pleaser. Walt Disney World’s culinary teams are adept at preparing these NY strip steaks, and they’ll rarely let you down. All in all, a safe and delicious bet.
Throughout Walt Disney World, the New York Strip Steak is quite popular with guests using the Disney Dining Plan.
This is for good reason. Objectively speaking, this steak is almost always the best use of Disney Dining Plan credits because it’s usually the most expensive thing on the menu. That’s true at Whispering Canyon Cafe, where it’s slightly more expensive than the skillets. (Personally, I’d recommend the skillets over the steak, but neither will disappoint.)
We’ve also ordered the Slow-smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich. This sandwich is served on a brioche roll and topped with onion rings, barbecue sauce, and western Slaw, and served with fries.
The pulled pork here is good quality, and tastes as if it actually is slow-smoked. Very tender and flavorful, which is exactly what you’d expect from a table service restaurant. The rest leaves 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 is generally good (and that’s the most important part), I’m not sure I’d get this again.
What I would get again is the Chopped Bison Burger, which is available on the lunch menu. Wow. This bison burger is topped with sriracha aÃ¯oli, white cheddar cheese, lettuce, double-smoked thick-cut bacon, fried pickle; it’s served with a side of potato wedges.
This burger is juicer and slightly fattier than what you’d expect from bison, but it’s incredible. The patty is thicker and of a higher quality than just about everywhere at Walt Disney World. Ditto the bacon. I’m not one who buys into the sriracha hype, but this aÃ¯oli is also exceptional.
The Chopped Bison Burger is so good that I’d consider ordering that next time we go to Whispering Canyon Cafe for lunch, rather than my normal go-to order…
That standard go-to is the Traditional or Signature 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.)
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’s 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, is 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–elsewhere, it’s usually 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.
Planning other aspects of a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Do you enjoy the food and hijinks 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!
Thank you so much for maintaining this blog. It’s honestly quite incredible!
I have a question that is very specific to my upcoming trip. I took my daughter to Disney Sept 2021 and our agent recommended dinner at Whispering Canyon. I had never heard of it but we absolutely loved our meal and the Wilderness Lodge, so much so that I decided to stay there for our trip Sept 2022 even though it’s insanely expensive at the moment, at least by my standards. I totally assumed we would eat at WC prior to taking the boat to MK for MNSSHP just like we did last year (well last year it was Boo Bash but you catch my drift) but when the ADRs opened up, even though I was up at 6 am EST, there were no WC dinner reservations! Even at 4 or 5 pm! I keep checking back but honestly I’m not sure we should even stay at Wilderness Lodge anymore because it will be so inconvenient for almost all of our plans now. Any idea why WC is unavailable? Is there a magic time frame for when I should check back and maybe see something open up? We are going 9/16-18. Thank you!
During my last two trips to Disneyworld I have gone to whispering canyon three times. Once for dinner and twice for breakfast. The first time I went was for dinner and I enjoyed the meal so much that I went back to my hotel that night and immediately scheduled a reservation for breakfast later that week. We enjoyed the lighthearted fun provided by the staff and the delicious food. We enjoy sweet tea and even though it was not offered as a drink option, our cast member went the extra mile and bought us simple Syrup to sweeten our tea. She made us laugh and always stopped on her way past our table to make sure we didn’t need anything. The skillets are amazing and I don’t think there was an item that was not delicious. My most recent trip was January 2022 with my two sisters and my ninety year old mother. We had breakfast and our skillets included the delicious biscuits and sausage gravy. My mother didn’t take a biscuit and gravy and do when our cast member asked her if she got any of the gravy , she laughingly reprimanded my sisters and I for not sharing with our mother. The next time she returned to our table she had a biscuit and gravy on a plate she told my mother she was not to share with the rest of us. We all laughed The cast member made my sisters and mothers first visit to whispering canyon a memorable one.
I’m wondering why you say Steakhouse 71 is a place you can get reservations. I’ve been trying for 45 days to get a reservation there for the week after Thanksgiving and have had no luck. What am I missing?
We did breakfast there in very late July, just as they restored the mask mandate. WE had a family issue pop up, and they were very accommodating about rescheduling us to the end of the breakfast period. Breakfast was good, one of the best we had that trip. the server read our mood perfectly, engaging in conversation with my wife as opposed to keeping up the schtick act. If you’re staying at The Lodge, you really need a good excuse not to have at least one meal here.
We went last Christmas trip and honestly won’t be going back. The service was the worst we have had at a table service. No drink refills, had to go grab utensils from the barrel because our server never came back, etc. I got one of the skillets and they couldn’t refill because they didn’t have any ready and of course everyone was already done eating their meals by the time it finally showed. Also for BBQ, I think Flane Tree is way better and at a lot better price point. Too many other restaurant options to try to waste giving it a 2nd try.
Hi. I was wondering if they include any turkey or stuffing on their menu for Thanksgiving. We’re heading to WDW the week after, but will be enjoying sea world and discovery cove beforehand, and I was planning to try and get a reservation here for THGV day. (Tomorrow I will be reserving) Or is there anywhere else at Disney resorts that has a nice THGV spread you would recommend? Thanks so much.
So excited – we’re eating here in two weeks time! I’ve never been to WDW around Christmas time and visiting Wilderness Lodge is top of my priority list to do!
We ate here once, and the food was good, but we did not love the whole ketchup routine. There was a family next to our table who had tried to squeeze about 8 people into a 4-top booth, and suffice to say there was not room for the ketchup anywhere but on the floor. Just EWWWW. But our waitress was great about not forcing that on us, and we enjoyed the meal overall. We will go back, will just keep our coasters on red LOL!
On Tuesday, November 28, 2018 we visited the Whispering Canyon for lunch. We loved it! The food was very good and plentiful. We got the platter because we wanted to try everything and walked out stuffed. Our waitress was wonderful and we loved the comedy and fun routines they do
– hey does anyone have any ketchup?We almost decided not to come here because I had read the post here stating that the shenanigans were on hold. I brought this up to the waitress who said please put the word out that we still do all of that fun stuff. She said the only thing that is different is they toned it down slightly because they found that sometimes some of the tables were competing with other tables as far as being loud and also some of the wait staff was encouraging this and it would get to raucous and people would miss out on what was going on because it was too much at once. She said the reports of the games stopping actually has caused a drop in the amount of business at the restaurant. I told her I would comment on your blog and she insisted I do. She also said we usually explain to tables when you first put down that we play games and ask if you want to participate or not.
Thanks for the comment–I’ve been meaning to do a full update to this post with similar info!
You’re very welcome. I always go to your blog first when I’m looking for info or reviews. You are thorough, do a great job and take beautiful photos .
Susanne, did you guys share a skillet or did you order multiples?
There were two of us my sister and I and we ordered one skillet which was enough for the both of us
We were recommended to eat at the Wilderness Lodge. We found the atmosphere inviting and the shenanigans the Whispering Café offered seemed right up our alley given the 5 kids we had with us. Lunch is served until 2:30pm. We were seated at 2:05pm (verified this with the hostess). We were greeted shortly after being seated and placed our drink and food order at the same time. We received our drinks, then…tick tock tick tock…45 minutes later the waiter walks buy half way across the restaurant – for the FIRST time since our drinks (no refills at this point obviously) — and says “the food is cooking guys”. Mind you we all had BBQ and the kids had a salad and grilled cheeses. Then cornbread was brought to our table by a different waiter. We then notice another table that was just sat (after lunch hours), got their cornbread BEFORE they even got drinks. At this point I was furious and went to the hostess – confirmed our seating time – and asked to speak with the manager immediately. The manager, Ashlee, asked who our waiter was and rolled her eyes as soon as she heard it was Craig. About 10 minutes later our — subpar — food arrived. The waiter tried to joke around a bit but by that point we were so disappointed with our experience — and the quality of the food — we had no interest in the shenanigans. The waiter dropped our check with no mention of any issues. The manager gave us 20% off on the bill. I asked to speak with her again and explained after our horrible service — and the fact the kids STILL had not received all of their meal (missing their carrots and hummus as well as their dessert) 20% was not acceptable. She expressed that was the only option/button for a discount in her computer with a slight attitude. I also asked for an explanation and she tried to blame it on our party size (8), then that they were busy — restaurant was almost cleared out by the time we got our drinks — then said it takes time to cook the food. REALLY??? What an hour for grilled cheese and premade BBQ and salads? Why is a manager at Disney lying to me and arguing with me about the bill? I told her anything less than a 50% discount was unacceptable — in all honesty I feel is should have been comped, but I am not the type of person to actually ask for that. She came back with a bill at 50% but required our payment immediately and we did not even get to review the bill — and still don’t have the rest of the kid’s food. While she was gone I realized why she did not allow us to look at the bill — she added 18% gratuity to the bills (we split the 8 of us in two parties) on the original amount. When she brought us our bills and cards back we both handed them right back to her and asked her to void them and rerun them without the tip since we did not feel he earned 18%. We assured her we would both tip the waiter but not 18% on the original amount based on the service provided. Once the bill was handled we FINALLY got the rest of the kid’s meals. At that point I asked the waiter what happened. I figure he just flat out forgot to put our order in or that he had our table. He denied denied denied and just said it was busy. The food we got was clearly the bottom of the lunch prep. Pulled pork sandwiches had crunchy/hard pieces like it was scrapped from the bottom. The all you can eat chicken legs and ribs didn’t have much flavor and were not worth a second round. It was all prepared food — how can you blame it on being busy and the food needing to be cooked? This is not what I expect from any resort or restaurant — Especially DISNEY!
We visited on June 12th and it was still the fun experience we remembered from the year pior. The kids rode wooden horses, the waitress threw straws at us, and screams for ketchup were heard throughout the restaurant. Great food and a fun experience. We love the Whispering Canyon!
I love this restaurant and I also love the atmosphere. Most of the families their are jolly. Its always a must do every trip plus it gives me an excuse to explore Wilderness Lodge. We generally skip the skillet (since its too much meat) but the other dishes are fine.
NAh, the overall time there was not to my liking. I did not feel the good fun vibe but rather was more for staff amusement. My family won’t be returning.