pay a lot of attention to food when I travel. Considering it, eating it, photographing it, and ultimately judging it.
While one wouldn't expect Disney World to be a really exciting culinary adventure, the free dining plan included in our vacation package (a special offer only available only on select travel dates) provided us with the ability to sample many of Disney's food offerings, without completely blowing the budget.
For $91 per person, we upgraded our free quick service dining to the regular plan for the entire week, which included:
1 Table Service Meal (1 entree, 1 dessert, 1 single serving beverage). Or use 2 Table Service credits for 1 Signature Dining Experience.
1 Quick Service Meal (1 entree or combo meal, 1 dessert, 1 single serving beverage)
First off, let me assure you that this is MORE than enough food for anyone. It felt like we were constantly stuffed and we still had a number of snacks remaining at the end of the week.
Let's start with the snacks.
We typically used these credits for breakfast items. Bagels and fresh fruit were readily available at our hotel food court, but finding healthy options in the parks was trickier. It would be very easy to load up on sugary snacks like muffins/cupcakes/etc. if you don't do some research in advance.
Oatmeal with fresh apple and cranberries - Pizzafari, Animal Kingdom
Yogurt, granola and fresh berries - Main St. Bakery, Magic Kingdom (photo courtesy of DisneyFoodBlog.com)
I'm a fan of baked goods, but some items in the snack category were just waaay too intense for my taste. I nearly went into sugar shock after a few bites of this:
Butterfinger cupcake - Starring Rolls Cafe, Hollywood Studios
As we strolled through the World Showcase at Epcot there were many tempting food and drink options. We opted for beer and pretzels in Germany. The Radeberger Pilsner was refreshing enough, but the pretzel was a little ho hum.
We used most of quick service meals for lunch. There are many opportunities to clog your arteries in this category, as most of the restaurants offer only fast food.
I went for the most ridiculous thing on the menu for my first Disney meal, and it turned out to be pretty good!
Slaw dog - that's a hot dog topped with pulled pork, coleslaw and bbq sauce - Casey's Corner, Magic Kingdom
Lunch at Epcot's Morrocan pavilion was very tasty, and offered a nice break from the regular routine of deep-fried something or other.
Lamb and chicken schwarma platter (with tabbouleh, hummus and pita) - Tangerine Cafe, Epcot
Some shredded cabbage and carrots accidentally found their way onto this heart attack inducing tray from Columbia Harbour House. This meal did have one benefit though, I discovered that I like tartar sauce, which was one of those icky things I would never eat as a kid.
Fried fish and shrimp platter, as well as chicken breast nugget platter, with apple crisp for dessert - Columbia Harbour House, Magic Kingdom
Now on the main event - table service meals. Disney provides a wide range of options to suit every palate in this category. There are plenty of nice meals to be had for a single table service meal credit, but if you really want a special dining treat, you can opt for a signature dining experience for 2 table service credits.
We used 2 table service credits for dinner at Jiko - The Cooking Place
, at Animal Kingdom Lodge. I had high hopes based on the reviews I had read and was not disappointed.
Jiko fuses African, Indian and Mediterranean cuisine and offers the most extensive list of South African wines in North America. Beyond the impeccable food, the warm decor, top notch service, and buzz of the open kitchen make a meal at Jiko a real treat.
Flax seed foccacia, with curry pumpkin butter (I think...)
African spiced fire-roasted chicken flatbread - with four cheeses, bacon, arugula, peppadews and zough
Seared barbarie duck breast with potato and spinach masala, royal trumpet mushrooms, and port emulsion
Parsnip creme brulee with holiday spices and topped with crispy, fried parsnip bits with cinnamon sugar
The most disappointing meal of our trip was at Wolfgang Puck Cafe
in Downtown Disney. We were so impressed by Jiko that we chose to forego a regular table service dinner one night in order to save 2 credits for another signature dining experience. I was assured by the lady at Disney dining reservations that the Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck would be sure to live up to our high expectations.
Upon arrival, the host claimed a Disney mix up and said the Disney Dining Plan didn't apply to the fine dining portion of the restaurant, but offered to seat us in the Cafe. We had our first inkling that the experience would be less than stellar as we watched a row of 10 entrees get cold in front of us, as 5 servers milled about nearby.
Plenty of confusion followed about the white wines available, and my suspicions were fully realized when my "panko and macadamia nut crusted chicken, sho-yo cream sauce and garlic mashed potatoes" tasted like soggy no-name chicken nuggets with orange marmalade. Fail, Wolfgang Puck.
The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater warrants an honourable mention. The restaurant concept is pretty neat, guests get to dine in cars and watch clips of B-list sci-fi and monster movies from the 50's and 60's. However, the most noteworthy thing about the restaurant in my view is that it is home to the craziest thing I ate on the trip, the All-American Picnic Burger.
This baby consists of a flame-broiled Angus burger patty, 2 grilled hot dogs, sauerkraut, sauteed onions, ketchup and a pickle and definitely produced an Adam Richman - Man vs. Food
moment. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that didn't taste nearly as bad as I expected.
Just in case you're wondering, no, I didn't manage to finish it, but it was a solid effort.