Memories: Dining at Disney
Disney World is gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary... I am sad that I will not be there...I'm sad that we (my family) haven't been there since 2016. I used to be a true fanatic of WDW and I am still a fan, life and finances (as well as some changes to the resort) have kept me/my family away.
My friend Ken has been doing a great job of chronicling Disney attractions https://www.clickorlando.com/team/CZXRUT4W3VDXBHASKA4QUZ4JS4/. He is a treasured and talented friend and as a result of the series he's been working on, I've been thinking about MY history with WDW. Specifically, my FOOD history.
If you've followed my blog, you know that I have severe and somewhat odd food allergies which keep me from dining out. It makes travel difficult too...finding a safe place to eat isn't easy. (And to be frank, it's often embarrassing, though I don't know why.) For the most part, at WDW my allergies have been understood and I've been safe and comfortable.
Of course some of my favorite restaurants not only had good food, but have great memories that I hold on to. So I thought I'd take the time so share a few of them here.
- Rose & Crown (Epcot): This was where my
husband and I had our first meal on honeymoon back in 1996. While
the internet certainly did exist, it wasn't the place that we all know and
using it for planning wasn't a thing. For instance, we sat inside
and had a very nice meal (we were on a pre-paid meal plan), but didn't realize
that we should have lingered and been able to see Illuminations from the
restaurant. It's a mistake we wouldn't make again and in 2012 while
dining on the patio a cast member had my son "start the show" by
waving a magic wand. (That was also the time we had a meal that was
specially planned for me by the late, great Chef John.) We had an
anniversary lunch there in 2007 where our friend (and chef) Amber had a
special cake made for us that I could eat (and my son stuck his fingers
right into the icing.)
Finally, the waitress told us it was good luck to give a coin in a cork (in this case a dime in a wine cork). I still have it.
- The Concourse Steakhouse: Gone but not forgotten (hopefully Steakhouse 71 will recapture the magic). Again we ate here on our honeymoon and the cast member who manned the podium totally got my allergies. (She had a daughter who was seriously allergic to pineapple...how do I remember that 25 years later?) How can you not love a good steak while monorails glide by? The same woman was NOT on staff when we returned in 1997 and I was not as cautious about mentioning my food allergies and ended up with a visit from Dan and Dan of the Reedy Creek Paramedics. Twenty plus years later and I STILL don't advocate enough for myself. (I'm trying to learn)
- Kona Cafe: I believe it was our friend Ken (mentioned above) who introduced us to this (once hidden) gem. I know we had our first meal there with him on our September 2000 trip. We loved it. We had dinner there on 9/11/2001. (I'll never forget that.) The last time I saw Ken we had lunch there in 2016. Service was slow that day, but the food was still great. I don't think we've ever had a bad meal there.
- Restaurant Akershus: We had lunch here on our honeymoon. This was pre-Princess. The place was never busy and the food was always good (and underappreciated.) Did adding characters to it ruin it? Maybe a little. Still we enjoyed the character meal; it’s where we met Chef John. And it was priceless when my son drew (on the back of the paper placemat) the sinking Titanic and proceeded to explain it to Snow White when she came around to the table.
- Spoodles/Trattoria al Forno: We discovered
Spoodles with friends who loved it. We loved it too (the lamb was so
good). The frosty adult beverage the blue spoodle was instantly a
favorite and I have managed to (somewhat) recreate it at home (an ice
shaving machine is a must for this) and it is a long tradition that I have
a blue spoodle on Christmas Eve (after church.) We mourned when
Spoodles closed, but it eventually became Trattoria al Forno. We had
one amazing experience here on our last trip because of Chef Amber (who
has become a good friend) and her incredible attention to detail.
Not only was the food amazing, but we were treated like VIPs. It was
a meal we will never forget. (Try the Insalata Caprese...trust
- 50s Prime Time Cafe: Some may say the food is no great shakes. The pot roast makes me disagree. However, I will say that the experience tops the food; if you get a good server. Thankfully, I have had predominately excellent servers who made the 1950s vibe shine. I remember when a friend had to sing "I'm a Little Teapot" for not finishing his green beans. My own son was spoon fed one. (Not forced.) I'm the proud owner of a clean plate sticker. And as a result have enjoyed the s’mores dessert which is allergy friendly for me. (For which I am incredibly grateful.) The decor makes this place and I love the kitsch. LOVE it. Which is one of the reasons why this has always been a must go to even with the long waits.
- Sci Fi Dine In: Is there anything cooler than
having a burger under the stars while watching a bad sci fi movie?
Or at least watching clips? It's especially nice when it's mid-day
and hot as blazes outside. I love sitting in a "car" (no
table for us) and having a burger, fries and cherry coke. It's just wonderful. I've heard
some of the other food is only so-so, but in my book the burgers have
always been top notch and this is the perfect place to relax. Like
the 50s Prime Time, the experience is more important than the food, but
that doesn't mean the food isn't good.
- Liberty Tree Tavern: I can no longer eat there;
I've been told it's not safe. (I'm allergic to poultry and turkey is
their mainstay.) However, when I could (or when I didn't know any
better), their pot roast was top notch. (Didn't I say that
about the Prime Time pot roast? I can't say which was better; they
are both mouthwateringly yummy.) This is also where I first met my
friend (Chef) Amber. (We've followed her around to a variety of
restaurants.) Wherever she is, I have been well treated. (She
also saved my life once when sometime tried to serve me something that was
not safe. TRUTH!) This also wins hands down for the time we dined
there with my in laws who were celebrating their anniversary and the
server made them feed each other cake. Classic!
- Garden Grill: A rotating restaurant that overlooks the hidden gem of attractions "Living With the Land," characters coming to your table to greet you AND all you can eat. It also was one of the most reasonably priced restaurants at the resort. (I saw was because it's been a long time.) However, one of my favorite memories is getting "rehitched" here. I don't know if they still offer the service, but hubby and I were presided over by a cast member who performed a "ceremony" and somewhere I still have my "rehitched" certificate. (Because you can never have too many souvenirs.)
- Whispering Canyon Cafe: I was going to leave this off, but felt like I couldn't because although we've eaten there several times, the one time that I will never forget was our first breakfast there on September 11, 2001. We had been the flag family at the Wilderness Lodge that day and then had breakfast there. The chef (Stephen) made a special skillet for me with potatoes, ham, onions and peppers. (I've tried to replacate it at home, but it's not the same.) It was one of the best breakfasts ever. We had such a good time. The place was it's typical boisterous self. The Yankees must have played the night before or maybe were supposed to play that day? I just remember a lot of "lets go Yankees" being bandied about. (Which is typical for the restaurant.) It was so much fun. The food was delicious. And then...I don't need to tell you what happened next.
- Goofy's Kitchen: My final entry into memories...only this one was not so good and it has nothing to do with the food or the service. Again, this happened on our honeymoon. Back then there were no bride and groom ears (or if there were I didn't know about it.) The two of us headed down to what is now Disney Springs. We didn't have any plans and the whole area wasn't really us. But we did get hungry and ended up at Goofy's Kitchen, which was a busy fast food type of place. While hubby got the burgers and fries, I got a seat (and saved another) at a counter that ran along the glass window that looked out. While I sat there, alone, I saw a man staring at me. Let me rephrase that. He wasn't staring at me, he was staring at my reflection in the glass. It was extremely uncomfortable and unnerving. (At the time it reminded me of the scene in "The Blues Brothers" movie where John Belushi turns to the man at the table next to him in a posh restaurant and asks "How much for the little girl? How much for your women?") It was the only time I've ever felt uncomfortable in Disney. The restaurant is no longer there and I am glad.
These are not the only restaurants we've dined in, but they are the ones that immediately come to mind when I think of my Disney experience over the past 25 years. With a little luck, I'll/we'll be back and I'll have more memories to share.