Dining

Slow-roasted buffalo strip steak with truffle macaroni & cheese, rainbow chard, and blackberry Pinot Noir reduction. Pan-seared yellowtail snapper, tea-smoked lentils, South African lobster, and citrus-curry beurre blanc. Poulet rouge "Oscar" with Alaskan king crab and jumbo asparagus. Madeira-braised short ribs, trofie pasta, wild mushroom ragoût, and truffle crème fraîche. Just a sampling of some of the incredible cuisine found at Walt Disney World restaurants where a remarkable culinary transformation has taken place since the mid-1990s. Extraordinary choices are especially evident in such renowned dining establishments as the California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Flying Fish Café at Disney’s BoardWalk, and Citricos, Narcoosee’s, and Victoria and Albert’s at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (many time winner of the AAA Five-Diamond Award). Top-notch chefs are the norm, creating exciting menus at some of the highest-rated restaurants in the country, and first-rate sommeliers (almost 300 on Disney property, more than any other company in the world) have fashioned outstanding wine lists, particularly at Victoria and Albert’s, California Grill, Citricos, Jiko, and Flying Fish Café. In fact, Disney sells more than a million bottles of wine every year if you count the Disney Cruise Line.

Even Disney’s reputation for dreadful theme park food has changed. Once just a hot dog and hamburger haven, it’s now quite possible to find pleasurable choices ranging from fine dining to more-than-palatable and sometimes healthy quick-service food. Though you’ll always find burgers and chicken tenders, you’ll also discover restaurants with outstanding cuisine and unique ambience. My only complaint is the non-atmospherically lit dining rooms that are sometimes so bright you’ll feel as if you’re in the operating room. Children are always treated as special guests with almost every restaurant, along with all quick-service spots, offering a menu just for kids. They even feature the Mickey Check, part of Disney Magic of Healthy Living, which helps identify nutritious food choices for children. Meals are delivered quickly so if a speedy dinner is not your cup of tea stretch it out a bit by ordering an appetizer only and then your entree when you are finished with your first course.

Disney certainly gets a gold star in my book for its efforts to add whole grains and healthy choices to dining menus, and, in particular, the elimination of trans fats and the addition of healthy alternatives. Those in need of vegetarian meals will easily find at least one option in both table-service restaurants and most quick-service spots; vegetarian choices are included in the sample entrees in this chapter. Those with special needs—such as low-fat, no sugar added, and low-sodium, as well as special dietary requests regarding allergies to gluten or wheat, shellfish, soy, lactose, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, egg, and corn—will be accommodated at most table-service restaurants and select quick-service restaurants. When making Advance Dining Reservations specify your particular need either online or with a Disney Dining reservationist, and address any questions to the Allergy Hotline at (407) 824-2634.

Kosher meals are offered at most full-service restaurants; however, they do require a 24- hour notice by calling (407) 939-3463. Kosher meals are always available without advance notice at the following quick-service locations: Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe in the Magic Kingdom®, ABC Commissary at Disney's Hollywood Studios®, Liberty Inn at Epcot®, and Pizzafari at Disney's Animal Kingdom® Theme Park.

As for dress code, casual is the word. Theme park restaurants are extremely informal; however, you’ll find that in many resort Signature Restaurants dress is a bit more sophisticated. Smart-casual clothing is usually fine, but, to be certain, see my notes for the dress at each restaurant outside the theme parks. The only exception to the super casual dress code in the theme parks is at Epcot®’s Monsieur Paul where resort casual dress is requested although not always adhered to.

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