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Old 12-17-2004, 12:08 PM   #1
erikthewise
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thewise family's restaurant adventures 12/4-12/5 and 12/9-12/13

Other than myself, my family are not adventurous eaters, so we usually stick with mainstream dining. DW does not like seafood, but I do! DS11 and DS8 usually stick to traditional kid’s menu items, though DS11 will often order an adult meal, especially if it’s a burger. Keep in mind I’m a fairly tough grader, A’s mean truly exceptional food or service. An asterisk means this was the first time we’d eaten there. Although our WDW stay was short (due to a 4-day cruise), we made an effort to eat at new places.

I’ll admit right now we didn’t have enough desserts. This was at least partly because we had just been on the cruise and had plenty of desserts there, plus we were eating two sit-down meals each day, we usually average about 1.5. So you can compare our prices, we don’t drink alcohol but usually have 2-4 beverages other than water.

12/04 Lunch: Whispering Canyon Café* (Wilderness Lodge) Server: MT
I had read in advance about this place so we were prepared for strange things. We were not disappointed. Our server seemed to be the ringleader; she had a voice so loud it would make a drill sargeant wet his pants. Fortunately she only used it when addressing the entire dining room, when talking to us it was almost a whisper by comparison. The servers were almost constantly trading insults and often giving a hard time to the customers as well, all in good fun. But occasionally it seemed like they carried it a little too far; DS8 was put off by the intensity of it after a while. Our server’s badge said “MT” and on the receipt it said “MT Wallet”. I have to wonder about a restaurant where the servers can’t even use their real names…

I had the all-you-can-eat skillet “just for the experience” (“looks like you could use some experience!”), DW had the Little Nutty chicken salad (which drew the obligatory remark from our server), DS11 had an adult burger, and DS8 had grilled cheese. I didn’t hear any complaints and didn’t have any myself. We all had a beverage as well. I had “birch beer”, which I was shocked to hear they had. I used to get birch beer at Royal Castle restaurants (a cousin of White Castle) in the Cleveland area back in the 70’s, and have had it maybe once since, if at all. It was a very welcome nostalgia trip; it’s similar to root beer but distinctively different. I ate and enjoyed nearly everything on the skillet, and didn’t hear any complaints from anyone else.
Summary: Good food and lots of fun but don’t even think about it if you’re looking for a quiet meal!
Total: $61. Tip: Try the birch beer.
Food: B, Value: C+, Service: B, Atmosphere: B+

12/04 Dinner: Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue (Fort Wilderness)
Since we were staying at the Villas at Wilderness Lodge our first night, and it was the last chance for DS11 to go at the child rate, it seemed like a good year to give this a try. We booked it five months in advance and ended up 2/3 of the way back in the exact center, which was fine.

The show is unrelentingly corny, but the performers were excellent and carried it off with aplumb, not a cherry – that’s how corny it was, people! Quick, write down the first five puns on “bear” (the animal) that you think of. I assure you that they are used in the show, probably in the order you wrote them down. There were some high points and nice songs as well. The low point is at the end when they hand out washboards for children to play with their spoons; the racket is unbelievable. It was at this point that DS8 had to go to the bathroom, but I could hear neither him nor DW across the table so I couldn’t figure out what he was upset about; DW finally took him out herself; it was only afterward that I found out what had happened.

Food? Yes they do have food. It’s pretty basic fare, but keep in mind this is Fort Wilderness, and the food comes from the same kitchen as the Trail’s End buffet, so you have to restrain your expectations. You’re paying $10 or so for the food; the rest is for the show. The fried chicken is pretty good, even if you don’t eat the skins. The ribs aren’t nearly as good. The “corn-off-the-cob” was good enough to make me imagine they actually cooked it on the cob and then sliced it off, but it was probably frozen. It was a disappointment as I was expecting actual corn-on-the-cob. As I had beans at Whispering Canyon for lunch, I only had a few here. The strawberry shortcake was very good, made from sponge cake and actual frozen strawberries.
Summary: Mediocre food, better than average show. Definitely worth a try!
Tip: If you want to sit up front, book your children as soon as they are conceived. You can book two years ahead, but you now have to pay in advance.
Total: $151 for 2 adults, 2 children
Food: C-, Value: C, Service: B-, Atmosphere: B+

12/05 Breakfast: Roaring Forks* (Wilderness Lodge)
A mini-food mart with fast food, groceries, and limited seating. Not as good as Mara at AKL, but comparable to Captain Cooks at the Polynesian. We carried the food back to our room. Two bottled waters added $4 to our bill.
Total: $26
Food: C, Value: B, Service: N/A, Atmosphere: N/A

Interlude: Four-Day DCL Cruise

12/09 Lunch: Garden Grill (Epcot) Server: Sean
We go here every year! It’s not the best restaurant in WDW, but it may be the best fit for our family. We all enjoy it and look forward to it; the characters are a bonus. There is macaroni & cheese, chicken tenders and fries for the boys, the standard meal for me with flank steak, catfish, stuffing, potatos, and vegetables, and a vegetarian plate for DW. This year the vegetarian plate was Pasta Primavera rather than the Roasted Vegetable Stew. Non-alcoholic beverages and desserts are included in the fixed price.

The last couple years we’ve arrived at Beach Club Villas in the morning and headed to Epcot. After spending the morning in Future World, it’s very convenient to have a sit-down lunch without having to walk over to World Showcase or the resorts.
Summary: Good basic American-style food in a sitdown restaurant, served family style.
Tip: You can get a vegetarian plate just by asking your server; advance request is not necessary.
Total: $78
Food: B, Value: C+, Service: B, Atmosphere: B+

12/09 Dinner: Spoodles* (Boardwalk) Server: Holli
DW was not feeling up to dinner tonight so the boys and I went to Spoodles. The boys had a burger and hot dog from the children’s menu. I had the Lamb Skewers appetizer; it was delicious, and a generous portion! I’m still not sure that it wasn’t really steak – maybe they ran out of lamb that night! But things did not go as well with the entrée. I decided to try the Gnocchi but the first bite told me it was a mistake; the pasty texture of the gnocchi together with the gorgonzola just didn’t agree with me. I told the server I wasn’t going to enjoy that dish and she was very good about bringing me something else. I probably should have gone with the salmon or chicken but chose the Seafood Paella. Once I extracted the calamari and got past the mussels and oysters (not my favorites) it was reasonably good, though it was more than I wanted to eat at that point; I don’t think I’d order it again. I’m an adventurous eater, but the selection of entrées here seems to be a minefield. If I came back I’d get the lamb skewers and a flatbread, or maybe just two orders of lamb skewers!
Summary: Good well-prepared food but I haven’t found the right entrée yet.
Tip: You guessed it – get the lamb skewers!
Total: $66.
Food: B-; Value: C; Service: A-; Atmosphere: C-

12/10-12/13 Breakfast: Our Room (Beach Club Villas)

12/10 Lunch: Mama Melrose’s* (Studios) Server: Ronald
The Sci-Fi Dine-In has become a lunch favorite for our boys, but I wanted to try Mama Melrose’s as we’d never been there before. By the time we got there we were all tired and hungry, DW had a difficult morning in the park, DS8 was cranky, and DS11 wanted to go to Sci-Fi or Pizza Planet, so the stars were aligned against poor Mama Melrose. Given that, things didn’t go too badly. DS11 said he wanted bread. I told him this was an Italian restaurant and we assuredly would be getting bread. (Even Palio in the Swan brings bread with pizza!)

DS8 said there was nothing he wanted on the kids menu. He loves macaroni & cheese, and we tried to convince that “pipette pasta with 4 cream cheese” was just that, but he wouldn’t believe it until it showed up. DS11 courageously ordered a four cheese flatbread from the adult menu, and DW and I also ordered flatbreads, the Portobello Mushroom and Grilled Chicken respectively. We hadn’t received any bread, and when it was delivered to a table near ours, DS11 pointedly said “THEY got bread!”. Apparently our server overheard him as he asked if we would like him to bring some bread. “Yes!” we said in unison.

DS11 didn’t enjoy the “adult” taste of his pizza – he probably would have been better off with a pizza from the children’s menu. But DW and I enjoyed ours (they were comparable to those we had at Palio last year) and DS8 was happy with his pasta, even though he didn’t eat much of it.
Summary: Although our experience was tainted, this seems to be a good restaurant, and I hope we can go back for dinner sometime.
Tip: If you want bread, ask for it!
Total: $51 with 10% DVC discount. (A lot cheaper than Sci-Fi!)
Food: B, Value: B-, Service: B, Atmosphere: C+

12/10 Dinner: Beaches & Cream (Beach Club) Server: Susan
This was the one meal for which we didn’t have a PS. We were eating about 6:30; my strategy was to try Beaches & Cream, and if it was busy, go to Yacht Club Galley. The CM at the B&C podium said “There’s an hour wait for a table (“We’re outta here!”), or you can be seated right away at the counter.” (“Wait a minute – what did she say?!”) 30 seconds later we were seated at the counter.

Where else in WDW can you get a good burger for $7? I didn’t say great, as I think there are places where the burgers are better, but you’ll pay $11-12 at those places. Also a large pile of good onion rings for just $4! Not to worry, there are healthy alternatives here too: a veggie burger, turkey and grilled chicken sandwiches, and you can substitute fruit for french fries. I’ve had the veggie burger in the past, but this year I had a real burger along with DS11. I did however get fruit instead of fries. DW had turkey, and DS8 had the grilled cheese kids meal; eerily these were precisely the same choices as last year. No dessert this time other than cookies for the boys. I know, it’s sacrilege, but the onion rings did us in. Susan brought us two cookies even though we only had one kids meal. This was very thoughtful, preventing two children from fighting over one cookie!

The seating here is very limited, but there was one more table than last year, bringing the seating capacity to an astounding total of 53. For some reason, our server Susan was a real sweetheart. It was either those fetching frocks they wear or her infectious enthusiasm, or both. Or maybe just that my brain was addled by the onion rings.

Summary: An annual tradition and an essential part of the Beach Club experience.
Tip: If you want dessert, you should probably skip the onion rings.
Total: $44 including two lemonades
Food: B, Value: B+, Service: B+, Atmosphere: B

12/11 Snacks: Mrs. Potts Cupboard*, Aloha Isle* (Magic Kingdom)
I was with the boys in MK this morning while DW was doing the Yuletide Fantasy tour (based in Epcot). We had a late lunch reservation so I knew we’d need some serious snacks to hold us over. We decided to get something on the way from Buzz Lightyear to Tom Sawyer Island. We stopped at Cosmic Ray’s but DS11 was being picky – no ice cream. We settled on the chocolate chunk cookies at Mrs. Potts. On the way out of the park, we stopped at Aloha Isle.

On my eighth trip to WDW, I finally had a Dole Whip!! Yum! Even after hearing so much about it on the DIS, it was as good as everyone said. I was confused though, when the CM said “What flavor?”. “What do you mean, what flavor?” “We have chocolate, vanilla, and pineapple.” “Pineapple, pineapple, pineapple”, I clarified. In my excitement I hadn’t even looked at the menu. Who would have thought Dole Whips came in chocolate and vanilla?

12/11 Lunch: Chefs de France* (Epcot) Server: Lidio
We met here after DW returned from her tour. Our server was somewhat aloof, but I actually enjoyed it! I just took it as his style and part of the theming, and the service was actually very good. DW and I both had “The French Menu”, with French onion soup, toasted ham and cheese with green salad, and crème brulee. The only disappointment was that the soup didn’t have actual pieces of onion in it as I am used to. DS11 had the “Ground beef steaks in a brioche bun” from the children’s menu, which we were convinced was just a standard burger. But when it arrived, sure enough there were two small, thick patties on the bun. He managed to eat it anyway, along with the obligatory French fries. DS8 had the chicken strip, which was supposed to come with pasta, but we requested fries instead.

The restaurant lets in lots of sunlight and does feel like a Paris café (or so I imagined, I’ve never been there). A pleasant setting and a relaxing lunch. I’d like to go back and explore the menu further.
Summary: Maybe the best lunch value in World Showcase (especially for DVC members), now that Akershus no longer serves lunch.
Tip: You can’t go wrong with “The French Menu” for lunch at $14.95.
Total: $43 (with DVC 20% discount), 40 cents less than Beaches & Cream!
Food: B, Value: B+, Service: B+, Atmosphere: B+

12/11 Dinner: Restaurant Marrakesh* (Epcot) Server: Jalil
I had wanted to eat here the last couple years, and finally did so. It was nearly full on Saturday night, which was good to see, but we had no problem being seated. The restaurant is beautiful on the inside, which DW mentioned had been discussed on her tour that morning. Apparently the Moroccans feel that beauty should be found on the inside, with regard to both people and architecture. (No doubt this belief extends to other things as well, and is held in other Arabic/Islamic countries, but I’m not qualified to say which.)
Of course this belief did not prevent a display of external beauty on the part of the belly dancer. Somehow the meal was timed so that the belly dancer performed between my appetizer and entrée, which was good because otherwise my entrée would have been cold before I touched it.

I ordered the Royal Feast, which offered a sampler of appetizers, entrees, and dessert. The quality was variable but overall it was a satisfying meal. I did not plan to eat everything but it turned out this was not a problem. The high points were the Lamb Meshoui, and the Crepes Atlas for dessert. The disappointment was the chicken bastilla. The pastry was somewhat tough, and the chicken inside was dried out dark meat. The salad, seafood bastilla, lemon chicken, and couscous were all fine but not outstanding. DW had vegetable couscous, the boys both had chicken breast with fries. DS11 also had a chicken bastilla appetizer. Many of the dishes contained almonds. If you are allergic to almonds or don’t like them, you would have to order carefully.

For what it's worth, we would have paid $106 for this meal if it were a Candlelight Processional Package. That's $10 admission per person. No thank you.

Summary: Unless you have a North African restaurant at home, this is a unique opportunity to experience a different cuisine.
Tip: Sit facing the open area in the center so you can see the belly dancer while eating.
Total: $65 (with 20% DVC discount)
Food: B-, Value: B-, Service: B, Atmosphere: A-

12/12 Lunch: Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom) Server: Alexis
We ate here two years ago and really enjoyed it. This time we did not get a window table (didn’t expect to), and the novelty has worn off a little, but it was still a welcome sit down lunch after a busy early entry morning in MK.

I had the shrimp and chicken pasta, and DW had the Chicken Caesar salad which she enjoyed. My dish was adequate but I think it could have been tastier. The boys had their usual burger and grilled cheese, though DS8 grumbled about everything coming with corn and mashed potatos (no fries). But I noticed several tables had paper cones containing what appeared to be waffle fries. I didn’t see them anywhere on the menu, and didn’t ask for fear our boys would want some too.
Summary: An underrated choice for lunch at MK.
Tip: If you make a PS for opening time, you have a better chance of getting a window table.
Total: $51
Food: B-, Value: B, Service: B-, Atmosphere: B+

12/12 Dinner: Kona Café (Polynesian) Server: Mei
We had a 5:05 PS at Liberty Tree Tavern before the Christmas Party, but during lunch it became clear that we were not going to get enough nap time in between. So we cancelled LTT and got a 5:20 PS at Kona Café instead. It may not seem like a big deal but it allowed us an extra 45 minutes rest in our room.

DW had come down with a cold that day, so she just had chicken noodle soup (thank you, Kona Café, for having this on the menu!) and dessert. I had the Kona Chowder and Vegetable Rice Bowl (stir-fried veggies with rice in a wonton bowl). Both were excellent! I never thought I’d be gushing over a rice bowl, but the execution was impeccable and the result delicious. I gobbled down every bite (except for the wonton bowl). The boys had their usual fare. DW had the Kilauea Torte for dessert at my urging. I only ate one bite of hers; I wished I had room for my own but I just wasn’t hungry that day.
Summary: You just can’t go wrong with Kona, any meal of the day!
Tip: Skip the appetizers so you have room for dessert!
Total: $48 (with 10% DVC discount)
Food: A-, Value: B-, Service: B, Atmosphere: C+

12/13 Lunch: Fresh Mediterranean Market* (Dolphin)
This turned out to be a disappointment. We had an 11:30 PS for lunch, which is when they begin serving lunch. They weren’t quite set up for lunch yet, so for the first 5-10 minutes there wasn’t a lot available. The idea of this restaurant is to shake up the traditional idea of buffet. Some items were available in traditional buffet style, such as salads, pizza, and desserts. But entrée items were to be prepared at your request. For lunch that usually meant that someone behind the counter would assemble your dish from stuff in casserole pots, etc., so the quality was still short of a freshly cooked dish, but it’s still somewhat better than buffet quality, at least in principle. In practice this probably works better for breakfast when one can get freshly prepared pancakes, omelettes, french toast, etc.

DS8 complained accurately that they didn’t have any kids stuff. In fact the restaurant is aimed squarely at “adult” tastes (and not picky adults either). I had not anticipated this. The result was that DW and DS8 left to eat at Tubbi’s Buffeteria, a short walk away. (The Dolphin Fountain is another nearby alternative.) I was confused as I thought DW was planning to come back and eat at Fresh, but she wasn’t. DS11 bravely stayed with me; we managed to find a few things he could eat. They had pizza but it was “adult” pizza and he picked off the strange toppings, leaving not much for him to eat. He ate the chicken off a chicken gyro and some of the pita bread, then had some lemon chicken. I did somewhat better with a prepared salad, lamb curry, pizza, and a couple other dishes. Pizza at a buffet just doesn’t cut it though. The desserts were worthwhile, though not nearly as good as at Cape May.
Summary: An interesting variation on the traditional buffet, but it doesn’t work well for families, at least not at lunch.
Tip: Picky eaters not welcome here.
Total: $29 for one adult, one child (with 20% DVC discount)
Food: C, Value: B-, Service: C-, Atmosphere: C+

12/13 Dinner: Chili’s Too* (Orlando Airport)
OK this isn’t Disney World, but it is of interest to WDW travelers. The last couple years we’d had late flights, and had been frustrated by the difficulty in getting decent food at our terminal after going through security. This time we arranged to arrive at the airport somewhat earlier to eat at Chili’s Too, an airport version of the Chili’s chain with a reduced menu. We had a couple burgers, a cheesesteak, and a child’s grilled cheese. DW and I substituted salads for fries for $1.79 extra. No beverages.
Summary: A good family place for a sitdown meal at MCO.
Tip: A little hard to find as it’s not in the food court. Ask someone how to get there; it’s all by itself at the top of an escalator on level 4.
Total: $34
Food: C, Value: B+, Service: C-, Atmosphere: D+
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Last edited by erikthewise; 12-20-2004 at 06:03 PM.
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Old 12-17-2004, 03:44 PM   #2
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Great reviews! I'm glad you wrote them. I think I'm going to have to try Chef de France when we go there next month!
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Old 12-17-2004, 04:36 PM   #3
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Great reviews. Thanks for taking the time to write such an extensive thread. Very enjoyable read. :D
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Old 12-17-2004, 07:16 PM   #4
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Enjoyed your reviews.

On our last trip, we too were grateful that chicken noodle soup was on the menu at Kona. :D It is a wonderful restaurant isn't it?

We really enjoyed Fresh for breakfast but it is interesting to read about lunch there. I have to agree that pizza at a buffet might not be such a good idea. I wonder if teenagers love it anyway?

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Old 12-18-2004, 05:14 AM   #5
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Great reviews ~ Thanx for sharing.
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Old 12-18-2004, 06:33 AM   #6
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Excellent set of reviews. Your take on Fresh is pretty much on target. I don't recall ANY children there when we had breakfast(twice). I would imagine the "wait" for fresh omlettes, etc would prove too much for many kids.
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Old 12-18-2004, 08:54 AM   #7
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Thanks for the reviews!
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Old 12-19-2004, 02:15 PM   #8
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Fantastic reviews, thanks for sharing them
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Old 12-20-2004, 05:28 PM   #9
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Thanks for the reviews!! We loved the Kona on our last trip (OK, our only trip!!) Glad to hear a good review of the rice bowl. It is new on the menu. DH is vegetarian and would be getting that next trip!!
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