I’m all about eating well on vacation. That’s what it’s all about – isn’t it? And at Disney, I truly believe you can be spoiled by amazing meals. Sometimes I get the feeling that “non-believers” think Disney is all about hot dogs and hamburgers but I can honestly say that I’ve had some of the best meals of my life while on vacation in WDW. Of course, for many of those trips, my parents were treating (thanks guys!) and since I’ve started traveling on my own, I’ve had to make some amendments, unfortunately. I still feel like I manage to eat really well despite the occasional budgetary constraint.
For our honeymoon, we decided to splurge. Even when we thought we were still paying for the majority of the trip on our own, we wanted to go to the fancier restaurants (plus get a drink and eat dessert in ALL of them). So we planned out an exciting adventure of restaurants we could have only dreamed about on previous trips (and that we probably wouldn’t be visiting for a long time afterward).
And really, except for one restaurant, we were not disappointed. At all.
new for me.
La Hacienda in Epcot: This certainly set a precedent as our first dinner on the trip. OMG. I was so taken with the atmosphere – I’m a total sucker for the Lagoon – and the food was just to die for. Any meal that begins with a margarita flight is pretty awesome as well. I thought the wait staff was attentive and perfectly nice, and James and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal of tacos de camarones and pollo as pastor. We were so full we had to leave without dessert, which only means, we have to get back there as soon as possible!
Via Napoli in Epcot: Ah, the disappointment I mentioned above. I had high hopes for this restaurant. James and I believe ourselves to be pizza connoisseurs and in the end, we didn’t feel like the food was worth the money. For the expense, I’d probably make Via Napoli a dinner spot instead of a lunch one but at the same time you are sacrificing the intimate feel of La Hacienda or even the San Angel Inn. It was loud and bustley, and our waiter hardly even looked at us. It was sort of depressing to throw 85 dollars on a lunch (YES you heard me right) that was lacking in just about everything. We did order two separate personal pizzas, which didn’t help things. But the waiter seemed to seriously discourage sharing. (I saw him tell this to a family of five.) I’m not sure if we’ll go back; we would probably just opt for the pizza counter service instead. (For beer lovers, it is particular nice that they serve La Rossa, a specialty beer served exclusively in their restaurant)
Tusker House at Animal Kingdom: When James became insistent we make a last minute reservation for a character breakfast on our first trip to WDW together, I got the feeling that attending one would become a ritual of some kind. (I hadn’t been to a character breakfast since eighth grade, maybe?) This time we decided to try Tusker House and hang out with Donald. Although, you didn’t really get to HANG OUT with Donald, just take a picture with him before you are seated. (You must know I reminded James not to get suckered into buying the photo package when they came around because it was just SO expensive, and we ended up buying it anyway because the picture was TOO cute. I also had a similar one on my camera. Ha!) While the characters came and went pretty quickly at this breakfast, our waitress was pretty awesome and made sure she came back to take a picture of us together when a new friend joined our table. (That was a first. Normally we get individual pictures with each character.) I’m also pretty sure I drank enough Jungle Juice (orange + guava + passion fruit juices all together) for all the people in the park that day.
Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge: Visiting the Lodge is a treat all in itself, and I never had the opportunity to visit Kidani Village before. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Sanaa, although I had wished our waiter would have been more forthcoming with presenting the menu and her drink recommendations. I had brought a drink to the table from the bar, and finished it a bit into my meal, which was on the spicy side. I had to flag her down and ask for any white wine because I no longer had the menu and didn’t want to wait for her to get another one. However, our meals were fabulous – James had the Slow-cooked Chicken with Red Curry Sauce and Beef Short Ribs. I had the Tandoori Shrimp. We also shared the bread service as an appetizer and didn’t resist dessert this time. The dessert trio — Chocolate Cake, Tropical Fruit Kulfi, and Chai Cream — was one of the best post-dinner snacks I had on the whole honeymoon. I would certainly go back to Sanaa, but maybe for a lunch meal so we could see out into the savannah. (After dinner, we did use the night vision view finder out on the safari and shared a nice conversation with the cast member.)
Kona at the Polynesian Resort: This was a last minute addition to our itinerary. We realized once we found out what time the Disney Cruise Line shuttle was picking us up that we didn’t have time to go to the park, and instead decided to see what was available for breakfast. Kona was it! I haven’t spent a lot of time exploring the Polynesian so I was looking forward to that, and I liked how Kona was very simple and relaxed. (Although all the kids around the place because of the character breakfast at Ohana got a bit annoying.) I had the Macadamia Pineapple Pancakes and James had the Tonga Toast. The fresh-pressed coffee was amazing, and I got to have more of the Jungle Juice (seriously, I need to buy stock in this stuff!) We must have really liked it because we’re going back for dinner on our next trip!
Top of the World at the Bay Lake Tower: We left a dinner open during one of the nights we were staying at Bay Lake because we wanted to take advantage of Top of the World, the rooftop bar exclusive to guests of the BLT. You actually have to be accompanied by the lobby clerk to the top floor. This was a lot of fun. We both had flatbread pizzas, and sampled the drinks. It was amazing how dead it was up there. And it stayed that way until it got closer to Wishes time. That’s when the kids came up, and I sort of didn’t love that, especially these particular children. Crawling all over the floor and the cushions? Ugh. So much for some adult time. We stayed inside for Wishes, where they dimmed the lights and streamed in the audio. Great views and romantical too (kids were outside by then). Afterwards, the place cleared out again and we ordered a delicious dessert sampler and a coffee martini. I really loved this little spot, and it would definitely be a factor in staying at BLT again!
Sci-Fi at Hollywood Studios: This is an old favorite of mine and James’. We had just never dined there together. I love the constant loop of the movies, and sitting in the retro car. It’s just so much fun. I ordered the Italian Grilled Chicken Sandwich and James had the Smoked Turkey Sandwich. I also had to have a milkshake – best shakes I have ever had – and I went with the Cookies and Cream. Our waiter was fun, and at the end of the meal we got a “speeding ticket” – which means we got Sci-Fi cups filled with caramel corn!
Narcossee’s at the Grand Floridian Resort: The last time I dined here was a few years ago with my parents for their wedding anniversary. I actually flew down for a long weekend just to celebrate. It was an awesome day because there was a huge thunderstorm, and we could see the lightning and the churning of the water from our window seats. (I also had champagne with a strawberry in it – yum!) James and I didn’t get a window seat but we still enjoyed our meal. We especially loved the little honeymoon menu we got as a souvenir. There isn’t a lot on the menu for a non-seafood lover (James) so we ended up with a cheese plate for an appetizer. James had the Filet Mignon for dinner, and I had the grilled swordfish. Thoroughly enjoyable meal, with some dessert – although we can’t remember what we got. We left before Wishes started, jumped on a boat to the Magic Kingdom and got to see the fireworks while on the water. Pretty magical night, I would say.
Yak & Yeti at Animal Kingdom Park: I dream about this restaurant. I first dined there three years ago on a trip with my best friend, and since then, I haven’t been able to say no to it whenever planning. It’s seriously “a feast” as my best friend puts it. No big surprise that James and I dined there on our previous trip, and felt we had to go again . I really loved our waitress and basically let her pick my meal. When I love something, I’m used to going back to it but for some reason, at Y&Y, I am always trying something new. I have not had the same meal twice. She recommended the Maple Tamarind Chicken which I loved, and James had the Sweet & Sour Chicken. For an appetizer, we had the lettuce cups which are A LOT for two people. Needless to say, we were stuffed after dinner and couldn’t manage any dessert. Our wonderful waitress did suggest taking some Safari Ale to go. I’m telling you — this lady was a genius. How could we say no to that?!
Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom: For some reason, I never loved this restaurant as a kid. I didn’t start scheduling it on my own until James told me it was one of his favorites. Since our first meal there together, it’s become another one of our constants. I do really enjoy it now. Who knows why? On this particular trip, our waiter was really awesome and had a great personality. He even took a picture of us at the table! (This shouldn’t be a shock, but it really is. Maybe you only notice after more and more duo trips.) James had a burger and I had the king salmon cakes which were so yummy (I could have done without the tartar sauce.) Best of all was the dessert. Apple tart with butterscotch ice cream – so good.
California Grill at the Contemporary Resort: It’s hard to believe the last time I dined here was more than 10 years ago. I was a sophomore in high school; my journal came with me everywhere and I was missing my boyfriend back home. My family and I were looking forward to this dinner and they seated us very far from the windows. My mom, who rarely does this, made a big stink about it and we had to wait another 45 minutes for the seat she wanted. My parents still laugh about that time. I knew this could happen going in, and sure enough, James and I got a seat pretty far from any windows. In order to see Wishes at all, we had to go outside where it was super windy but it was still worth it for that view. Our dinner was amazing, but I wasn’t too impressed with our waitress. I’m a huge sushi fan, and knew I couldn’t leave CG without trying theirs (especially after hearing so many rave reviews!) I ordered the VERY spicy kazan roll sushi plate for an appetizer (delicious!) after the waitress convinced me it wasn’t enough for a meal, and I was almost completely full by the time my artic char arrived. I still ate most of it though, but to the point, I felt uncomfortably full. Luckily, I could still move in time to go out to the view deck and watch Wishes. While James and I both enjoyed the food better at California Grill, we liked the environment of Narcoosee’s more. In the end, these two will remain in the “VERY special occasion” column because the prices are just too high for visiting on any normal trip.
Mama Melrose at Hollywood Studios: Just by the trick of scheduling, Mama Melrose has become a special haunt for James and I. We celebrated our 3-year anniversary there on our first trip to WDW together, and when we found out Fantasmic was playing on the last night of our honeymoon we knew we had to make a stop here. This time, without the Fantasmic package, we were able to choose from the regular menu. The penne pasta is to die for, and I couldn’t even finish the whole thing. James devoured the Carne D’Italia Flatbread. The only disappointing thing about this dinner was the fact that we couldn’t find room for dessert. I really wanted James to try the Chocolate Cannoli Cake. Oh well. We’ll definitely be back!
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James and I ate so well during our honeymoon, I wasn’t sure how we would ever revert back to our real world dinners. (For once, we didn’t miss our pizza Friday tradition.) Sure, James makes a mean marinated chicken on the grill but, sorry husband, it doesn’t top my love of Yak & Yeti or Mama Melrose.
When you think about it, Disney’s restaurants can be seen as another attraction within the parks. An Adventureland of its own. It’s true. The attention to detail in the menus and the decor. The quality of service. The excitement and pleasure experienced by guests. Disney dining serves as a portal of magic for the grown up kids, especially if some of them don’t like riding Dumbo. Everyone wants to be able to relax, enjoy a good conversation, and have a good meal. Sometimes these restaurants end up providing some of the more memorable experiences you have on a trip. Breaking bread brings people together, and Disney understands the importance of this.
I think it might be a good time to chat about what made a lot of these superb meals possible. The Disney Honeymoon Registry. After we made our initial reservation for the trip, I had trouble signing up for the registry because Bay Lake Tower was not part of the hotel list. I had to call the assistance line, and they were really helpful. In a few days, it was added to the drop-down menu. (How they did not have this problem before is a mystery to me. I’m sure we were not the first couple who honeymooned at BLT.) Basically, you go through a catalogue and pick the restaurants and activities you may (or may not) want to do on your vacation. They have some sort of system for dividing up how many “shares” it would take to cover the meal – making it affordable for your friends and family to contribute to something. I ran into a similar problem time and again – the website was not updated for new restaurants and the excursions we were interested in for our cruise were not listed on the website. So after not finding La Hacienda, I used San Angel Inn and with Sanaa, I used Boma instead. The truth is, if you wanted to spend all the money you received for the registry on souvenirs and Mickey Mouse ice cream, you could. All the money is transferred to a gift card so you could use it as you please. We kept track of our spending on James’ iPhone and managed to have a little bit left to go toward drinks and our excursions on the cruise. I would certainly recommend using this for a wedding registry. I just wish that Disney kept it updated …I found it a little odd that it was ignored.
Now that I am sufficiently craving Disney dining, let’s sail on… (hint hint)