Worst of 2018 Epcot Food & Wine Festival
The 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival has some snacks and desserts that you should skip. Dishes that are not worth your money, time, or limited stomach space. In this post, we’ll cover the booths and items you should avoid at Walt Disney World’s flagship culinary event.
We’re not trying to be ‘Debbie Downers’ here. By and large, the food at the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is solid. Given that our Best of the 2018 Epcot Food & Wine Festival list opted to name several entire booths rather than just individual dishes, there’s a lot to try that’s excellent. However, we think you’re going to need a list of things to avoid, too. There’s simply not enough time, money, or appetite for most people to taste it all.
We offer this preface because our post last year about the worst items was met with a lot of agitated comments that we’d suggest anything was less-than-excellent. To be sure, it stinks when someone pans something you enjoy, and we get that. Opinions vary, and we’re hardly the ultimate arbiters of what’s “good” or “bad” at Walt Disney World. (If we were, Country Bear Jamboree would have a 240-minute wait and Primeval Whirl would be bulldozed.) That’s why we invite readers to offer their own opinions in the comments, even (especially) those who disagree with us.
The good news is that there are not many truly awful things this year at Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival. There are plenty of items that are poor values, but very few dishes that are terrible, taste-wise. In fact, there isn’t really anything at the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival that can be described as culinary crimes.
Mostly, the things we didn’t enjoy at the 2018 Epcot Food & Wine Festival were unambitious, executed with mediocrity, or just sat under a heat lamp too long. With that said, here are my picks for the worst dishes and booths at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival…
Shrimp Quesadilla (Mexico) – This was one of the very first dishes we tried this year, and it was also easily one of the worst items. (I was honestly a bit worried after this.) This tasted like someone defrosted a frozen corn tortilla, some frozen shrimp, tossed in some cheese, and microwaved it all.
For a dish that should be pretty simple to execute, Mexico’s Shrimp Quesadilla is a surprising dud. Unfortunately, the other food at the Mexico booth is only marginally better.
Beef Nigiri (Japan) – Like Mexico, the Japan booth doesn’t exactly have the best track record. The last couple of years, it seems like we’ve seen improvement, but this one dish appears hellbent on singlehandedly undoing all of that.
While the idea of beef sushi may sound interesting, the way it comes together is far less appealing. You’ve got sliced beef topped with shrimp sauce and diced pickled jalapeÃ±os sitting atop rice. It’s a really awkward combination of textures and flavors, and isn’t even remotely good.
Taste of Greece – While the Chicken Souvlaki here is fine–perhaps even good–the other two items are meh at best; the Lamb Sausage is too bland and the bite-sized pita is only okay.
Worst of all, the portions here are impossibly small. When you factor in the $8 price tag, that’s honestly a bit insulting. Unlike other pricey items that can be okay options on the Disney Dining Plan, this is something everyone should skip.
Artist Palette of Wine and Cheese (Wine & Dine Studio) – We end up getting this every year, and although I don’t think it’s ever made past incarnations of this list, I’ve never been pleased or even ‘pleasantly surprised’ by this artist palette of wine and cheese.
The cheese is the real problem here, as it all could be summarized as gooey. I know ‘melt in your mouth’ is a positive colloquialism, but this cheese was just melting on the tray when handed to us. Trying to get beyond that (a difficult task), none of it was anything noteworthy. You could buy a few significantly better dishes with your $11, including 2.5 of the exceptional Maple Bourbon Boursin Cheesecakes from nearby Cheese Studio.
Energy Bar Bites (Active Eats) — If we’re being optimistic, these are definitely better than the bargain-bin protein bars I sometimes buy at the grocery store. If we’re being pessimistic, they are the worst “dessert” (air quotes) at the 2018 Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
Why anyone would compare a dish at a food festival to utilitarian protein bars is beyond me, so I think the pessimistic approach is appropriate. With a loaded dessert lineup at this year’s Food & Wine Festival, there is absolutely no reason anyone should order the Energy Bar Bites.
New England Lobster Roll (Hops & Barley/America) – This one might be a bit of a stretch. The real Maine lobster featured here is far preferable to lobster salad, but you’d think the lobster here is Iranian Beluga Caviar given how conservative Disney is with the portion on this $8 mini lobster roll.
The good news is that if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, rolling the dice here and hoping you get something that isn’t minuscule is actually a smart use of a snack credit.
The Italy Booth – After skipping the Italy booth entirely last year because it has historically been so bad, we decided to give it a second twelfth chance this year. This was mostly driven by comments on our version of this post last year, and to those of you who chided us for writing it off without trying it last year, I’m slightly bitter that I gave in to your ‘peer pressure’ and did this booth again, dropping $27 in the process.
Our experience this year with Italy, reaffirmed our belief that this is the most disappointing booth of the entire Food & Wine Festival. Italy’s food is bland and uninspired, and even though minor improvements have been made over the abysmal offerings of previous festivals, it’s still pretty bad. This is clearly a case of targeting first-timers to Walt Disney World or guests who find Italian cuisine familiar and comfortable. I can’t imagine this booth does much repeat business.
Earth Eats (Maybe) – We prefaced our ‘Best of’ list with a couple paragraphs about how many dishes are very much dependent upon how long they’ve been sitting under a heat lamp and whether they’re under or overcooked. The same also applies with this list, which is why Earth Eats earns a heavily-emphasized maybe next to its name.
We didn’t enjoy the Steakhouse Blended Burger or the Impossible Vegan Burger, but we’ve heard from plenty of readers who have raved about both. Unlike Italy, this is a scenario in which we could’ve been unlucky with two burgers that were way over-cooked and not perfectly prepared. The Kombucha, on the other hand, is unredeemable.
Light Lab – It’s really unfortunate that such a cool environment that fits the spirit of Epcot (and the neon nineties aesthetic of Innoventions) serves drinks that are glorified sugar water, but that’s exactly the case with Light Lab.
We were really hopeful that the debut of Light Lab was a matter of first-year hiccups, but this year confirms that the drinks are just bad.
Hopefully this list provides you with a good starting place for what not to order at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. As you can see, there aren’t a ton of truly bad options at the 2018 Epcot Food & Wine Festival. If you skip the Italy and Light Lab booths entirely–and maybe also Japan and Mexico, you’re in a good position. At that point, you can try almost anything you want, and good or bad results will be more dependent upon luck of the draw with the heat lamp and portion sizes than anything else.
Check out our Epcot Food & Wine Festival Booth Menus post if you want to see and read more about every menu item we recommend this year! You’ll also want to read our full Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival Guide before you go to get an idea of what to do, strategy for the festival, and much more. For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles. Also make sure to read our other Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews and Disney Dining Plan Resources.
If you’ve already visited, which items did you think were the worst of the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Did you try any items that were downright awful? Anything you’re actively avoiding this year based on poor experiences in the past? 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!
Thanks great article. I’m going next week and what I will miss most about Light Lab was the chance to cool off! A dark cold room was nice even if the drinks are sticky sweet. Epcot for sure needs to add some more fans and shade for the festival! Tough to enjoy the cheese plate in 95 heat 95% humidity.
The entire Italy booth is a no way for me.
Loved your article. Hope you write the 2019 one before we get there! You were spot on about all those foods and sadly I had tried most of them!
Chocolate pairings… When the chef doesn ‘t know where the chocolate cones from, ie, part of the world or the company/origin, how can one appreciate it? Might as well be Hershey’s being served. The artistry was excellent, but I want to know what I’m tasting and where it came from!
I will be there in 9 days and plan on reviewing things from the dairy free side of things. I love Epcot and plan on enjoying it and the BCR regardless of the drinking around the world that will take place.
Wish they would bring back the Yard Bird with greens. One of the Best! Haven’t seen in in two years now.
I think what you had was the last-minute kombucha replacement of Suja juice flights? Which have been pretty widely panned. I hear the kombucha flight is back in, which might be worth a try!
Food & Wine, my quick review “Stay Away From It”.
A few years back it was fun and not super crowded now it’s a huge mess with people everywhere and lots and lots of Orlando locals drinking around the world. Hey I am not against drinking it’s just the Disney Vibe is missing at Food & Wine for me anymore. We just left Disney last week after an 8 day trip and Food & Wine was just to crowded with Booths crammed every where, strange smells everywhere, Lots of “Fishy smells this year”. We are done with food and wine.
My Thoughts,, Flower & Garden is way better, less crowded, food booths never really leave Epcot anymore, sure Food & Wine has more but more isn’t really better. And the Flower and Topiary displays are simply beautiful. Way more relaxing that Food & Wine.
Aw no, the lobster roll is my top choice! As someone on the dining plan who doesn’t look at prices, and as a Brit who finds American portion sizes hard to take, the lobster roll is just right for me – the only snack I had TWICE. (Nitro chocolate thing has second place!)
I agree. I went a month ago and mine was loaded with lobster. We went back for seconds, it was so good. Best part of food and wine if you ask me 🙂
So this is scary lol as I am going with a bunch of girls in November%. What is good?
Out of this list we only had the blended burger (it was ok) and the lobster roll (it was not ok). The Greek nachos in Greece was probably our favorite item.
The pop-up ad accompanying this article in my browser was for Pepto-Bismol which cannot be mere coincidence. I assume there were some key words which cued the associated product. I certainly hope it wasn’t Primeval Whirl that did it. Tom, I doubt you will ever see the beauty in that thing but it is really there. Fresh eyes!
Why couldn’t you have published this before I tried the Phospherescent Phizz at Light Lab??????? I took a phew () sips and dumped it down the sink! So sweet it made my teeth hurt!
On the plus side, your teeth would’ve fallen out on the spot if you finished the drink, so at least you learned your lesson quickly! 😉
It would be a crime to call that thing a lobster roll in Maine. That’s two pieces of tail meat!
If I could choose it would only be pincer claw meat.
Well, there’s a reason it’s on the ‘worst of’ list and not the ‘best of.’
In fairness, I’ve had some lobster rolls at Walt Disney World that are mostly salad and mayo, so this is at least less egregious than those–it’s “just” undersized, overpriced, and lacking in meat.
(Stops preparing torches)
We will be there next week. On the topic of the Primeval Whirl – I really do enjoy that ride, so don’t bulldoze it! 🙂
I know I’m in the minority but I feel this way towards majority of the booths. I just don’t think the small bites for the price are worth it. I haven’t had one thing in the past few years that I leaves me thinking, “that was amazing”. Each year I have I hopes Disney will step up the quality. I’ll be going in two weeks so we’ll see….
“I just don’t think the small bites for the price are worth it.”
I’m not sure you’re in the minority on that. I preface a number of our posts about Food & Wine with warnings about prices and portion sizes, and also say it’s our least favorite festival.
The event does occur during Free Dining, which means some guests are paying for their food with credits rather than actual money, and I think it works nicely for them. Fall is also a popular time of year for convention-goers and local college students, two other demographics that tend to pay for things with others’ money.
As someone paying out of pocket, I always cringe when I look at our folio after this annual trip. It’s still fun, but it’s overpriced.
It is fun, I agree with that. And I can’t say too much…I keep going back lol
I’m going to give it a try in a few weeks. Fingers crossed.
I feel the same way! Just there a week ago and the comments are right on. With that said I am going back in November and try some more foods and wine. Didn’t go in the light lab and I am good I didn’t go in. Will comment late on that the next trip there.
The worst dish for me was Thailand’s chicken in peanut sauce…took 2 bites and threw it out…sauce was awful! My brother disliked all of Italy’s options
Wow, the beef nigiri isn’t what I expected from the name at all. Definitely does not look appealing!
I really appreciate the “balanced coverage” you give by sharing both positive and negative experiences. It is more realistic than nothing but accolades that tend to inflate expectations and lead to disappointment!
Everything you said you hit the nail right on the head.
The best Lobster Roll I have ever had, was the “Linda Bean Perfect Lobster Roll” they had in 2013. Lots of lobster, flavor, perfect mix, it was amazing. The next year when Disney did it themselves is went downhill and has kept going ever since.
Some of really is though “your millage my vary” scenario. I went last year on a weekday at the end of the day, got a lobster roll and they were piling on the lobster into the roll. My guess is when it’s busy and in the middle of the day, they might try to stretch it. Not exactly 5 star chefs putting those things together.
while I agree with your worst dish on the Japan beef, its not because of the flaver which I found enjoyable (note I did skip the jalapenos). The price was exorbitant for the maybe .2 oz of beef you got. Also the chocolate croissnought was expensive and mine was simply a grease pit. I’ve never had one before, and after eating that, I never will get it again.
By “real Maine lobster” do you mean “real frozen Maine lobster”? It was better than I expected for an $8 theme park lobster roll but that’s definitely frozen grocery store lobster meat. I wish it were lobster bisque or ravioli or something instead so that would be less noticeable.