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. (Updated November 9, 2021.)
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. (To that point, we have an ADR for December 2021!) 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 wouldget 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.
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!