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October 1, 2012

A History of Dinoland U.S.A. and Restaurantosaurus - Part One

Jack Spence Header


When I started writing this article, my intent was to review and describe Restaurantosaurus, the counter service eatery located in Dinoland U.S.A at the Animal Kingdom. However, the more I got into the piece, the more I realized you can't write about the restaurant without discussing the backstory of Dinoland. You see, the two are united in a pseudo-history that Disney created to add realism to the area. It would be difficult to tell the story of one without telling the story of the other. So what you will receive over the next two days is a linear account of both Dinoland and Restaurantosaurus and how they grew together over time. I also might take a side trip or two in order to cover other bits of Disney history semi-related to the area.

In 1946, a rustic fishing lodge could be found along U.S. Highway 498 in Diggs County, somewhere in the heartland of America. Nestled in a grove of trees, this spot provided local and visiting anglers a place to relax and tell tall tales about the one that got away. Nearby, a gas station own by an elderly couple, Chester and Hester, provided the basic necessities of travel.


Highway Sign

Fishing Lodge

Gas Station


In 1947, an amateur fossil-hunter found a few old bones near the lodge. He took them to some of his paleontologist friends who verified their authenticity. Realizing the importance of the find, the group banded together and purchased the lodge and much of the surrounding land. This was the humble beginnings of what would eventually become the Dino Institute.

Professors and grad students soon took up residence here and created a makeshift dormitory. Needing a place to eat, a cafeteria was added within the old lodge. Since research programs are always looking for funding and grants are hard to come by, the students decided to open their cafeteria to the public and make a few additional bucks to help subsidize their various digs. Not being too particular about what to call their eatery, they simply erected a large sign on the roof that said "RESTAURANT."


Restaurant Sign


At the same time, the students also opened up a small, walk-up counter where motorists could purchase an ice-cream cone, cookies, and a refreshing beverage. They called this location Dino-Bite.


Dino Bites


College students being college students, monkeyshines and mischief began to ensue shortly after their arrival. It soon became the fad to add the suffix "osaurus" to signs throughout the lodge.


osaruus suffix

osaruus suffix

osaruus suffix

osaruus suffix


Of course, pranks must be "topped" and one particularly mischievous young man decided to add a huge "osaurus" to the "RESTAURANT" sign to the delight of his classmates - and the name stuck.


Restaurantosaurus Sign


As word of the dinosaur find spread, tourists began to stop by to see what all of the hubbub was about. They would visit the dig site, known as the Boneyard, then head over to the lodge to see what else they could learn.


The Boneyard

The Boneyard

The Boneyard

The Boneyard


Since money was tight, it was not possible to build a proper tourist information center, so the professors and grad students opened their home and created a makeshift visitor's center within the lodge. Now the travelers could stop by and receive a proper education as to what was going on in Diggs County.

As more and more relics were unearthed, the paleontologists displayed them on the walls and shelves of the lodge. Eventually, the visitor's center was transformed into a mini-museum. Many of these early artifacts can still be seen today.


Lodge Museum

Lodge Museum

Lodge Museum


When the lodge grew too small to house all of the dinosaur bones, a tent was erected on Chester and Hester's land and some of the larger creature's skeletons were displayed fully assembled. This exhibit was called Dinosaur Jubilee. Nearby was the Fossil Preparation Lab where one of the paleontologists could be seen cleaning debris and dirt from recent finds. The map (below) shows the various sites.


Dinosaur Jubilee

Dinosaur Jubilee

Dinoland U.S.A. Map


On the walls of the lodge-museum are numerous pictures of team members, unearthing new discoveries.


Museum Photographs

Museum Photographs

Museum Photographs


Also found on a wall in the lodge's main room is a portrait of Clarence P. Wilkerson. This gentleman believed in the project and was a major benefactor.


Clarence P. Wilkerson


As the needs of the dig site grew, so did the needs of the support facility. First to be added was a Quonset hut. Erected adjacent to the lodge, this structure would serve as the maintenance bay for the various field vehicles.


Quonset hut

Quonset hut

Quonset hut


Inside the Quonset hut you can still see engine parts, tools, hubcaps, and other automobile paraphernalia. Also, take a look at the walls. The imaginative mechanics have used their greasy hands to create some rather creative dinosaurs.


Car Engine

Auto Tools

Hubcaps

Grease Dinosaur

Grease Dinosaur


It seems our mechanic is also a sculptor. He created this dinosaur out of wrenches, nuts, bolts, and other metal odds and ends found in the garage.


Metal Dinosaur


Our artistic mechanic also has a sense of humor as can be seen on this wall sketch. In case you can't read the small print the dinosaur says "Hey Harry, Have you got somethin' for my U-joints"."


Dinosaur Cartoon


Notice the cans of oil on one of the shelves. The brand is Sinclair. This is the same brand of gasoline that Chester and Hester sell at their service station.


Sinclair Oil

Chester & Hester Gas Station


Sinclair is a real oil and refining company that was established in 1916 by Harry F. Sinclair. Its distinctive green dinosaur silhouette (brontosaurus) logo was a fixture on U.S. highways for many years.


Sinclair Advertisement


Sinclair sponsored a dinosaur exhibit at the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair. The exhibit pointed out the supposed relationship of petroleum deposits and dinosaurs. The display included a two-ton animated model of a brontosaurus - an early and crude AudioAnimatronics.

At the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, Sinclair sponsored another dinosaur exhibit. "Dinoland" featured life-size reproductions of nine different dinosaurs.


Sinclair at the Fair

Sinclair at the Fair


Of course Walt Disney was also at the New York World's Fair with his own dinosaur attraction. On "Magic Skyway," guests road in Ford convertibles (the humble beginnings of the PeopleMover) and progressed in time from the day of the dinosaur to the modern era. After the fair, the AudioAnimatronics dinosaurs were moved to Disneyland and installed along the route of the Disneyland-Santa Fe Railroad.


Magic Skyway

Magic Skyway


The names "Sinclair" and "Disney" were united in 1991 with a joint venture by Michael Jacobs Productions, Jim Henson Productions, and Walt Disney Television. A TV show titled "Dinosaurs" premiered and ran for four seasons. The comedy revolved around a group of anthropomorphic dinosaurs whose last name just happened to be Sinclair.


Sinclair TV Show


Back at Restaurantosaurus, we find a tribute to Walt and his dinosaurs. First, there are several sketches from "The Rite of Spring" section of his movie Fantasia. Put to the music of Igor Stravinsky, this piece chronicles the rise and fall of dinosaurs. If you'll notice, the title "Concert Feature" can be seen on the two sketches. This was the working title for Fantasia.


Concert Feature

Concert Feature


Nearby, a photograph of Walt, surrounded by his AudioAnimatronics dinosaurs, can be seen.


Photo of Walt Disney


With more and more finds being discovered every day, the research facility continued to grow. However, money was still in short supply. To expand the facility again, semi-permanent tents were constructed next to the Quonset hut. The lower walls of these structures are built of wood while the upper sections are made of canvas.


Tents


This latest addition was used for auxiliary storage. Inside you'll find provisions and camping gear as well as bones and other fossils excavated at the nearby Boneyard.


Tent Interior

Tent Interior

Tent Interior

Tent Interior


You will also find another student prank in this room - a classic. Over one of the doors is a bucket of water just waiting to find a target. Some poor, unsuspecting sole is going to get drenched.


Bucket of Water over the Door


As time marched on, the lodge became the first home of the Dino Institute which was formed to help promote this site and encourage a better understanding of paleontologists and dinosaurs. In addition, classroom studies became available to students for the first time. A sign of this can be seen on a flag hanging on one of the walls.


Dino Institute Flag


Hoping to generate cash for the struggling Institute, the trustees hired Dr. Helen Marsh sometime in the early 70's. Dr. Marsh had a reputation of rescuing cash-strapped museums and bringing them back from the brink of disaster. Within days of her arrival at the Dino Institute, she purchased Chrono-Teck Inc which had recently lost its government grant. Six months later, she announced to a stunned scientific community that her company had invented the "Time Rover," a vehicle that could travel back in time.


Dr. Marsh

Dr. Marsh


Things changed dramatically for the Dino Institute after this invention was announced. Now scientists could visit the prehistoric world for themselves. In addition, it brought the Institute prestige and funding to build a state-of-the-art facility to assist in research and house classrooms. The "new" Dino Institute was dedicated on April 22, 1978.


Dino Institute

Dino Institute

Dino Institute

Dino Institute


Dr. Marsh, calls the skeletal remains of dinosaurs, "quaint exhibits." She also claims that this "bare bones" approach is about to become extinct. Capitalizing on this ideology, she insists that tours to the Cretaceous period be offered to non-professionals to help subsidize the costs of the new facility.


Tme Travel


However, her announcement did not set well with the World Paleontological Society. Its president, Dr. Vladimur Borontsky, cautioned that thorough testing be conducted before the general public be allowed to ride. Dr. Marsh brushed these comments aside and stated, "Our staff has taken the 'rover' through an extensive 'test-and-adjust' phase and they all say the same thing. 'It's fast, it's a blast, and it's in the past.'"

Dr. Marsh's superior attitude has become contagious and most of the others working in the main building are intent on maintaining a "dignified" decorum. On the other hand, the professors and grad students of the lodge realize that the unearthing of fossils will continue to be a wonderful source of knowledge and they've retained their down-home sense of humor. This is evident by the many pranks and shenanigans perpetrated in the lodge and around town. Their carefree attitude greatly distresses Dr. Marsh and the Institute leaders, but there is little they can do about it.

Meanwhile, Chester and Hester could see others getting rich while their profits had only risen mildly with the influx of tourists. Determined to cash in on the area's new found wealth, they started selling souvenirs as well as gas. It wasn't long before their tacky merchandise was raking in more money than the gas they sold, so they converted the entire service station into a large shop called "Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures."


Dinosaur Treasures


As profits started to grow, Chester and Hester decided to build a small amusement park across the street from their souvenir shop. Since their land bordered the main highway, this would be the perfect spot to attract passing tourist aiming for the Boneyard and the Dino Institute. However, this expansion would also require the removal of the Dinosaur Jubilee and the Fossil Preparation Lab which had been erected to showcase full-sized dinosaurs.


Chester & Hester's Dino-Rama


Fortunately, no hard feelings ensued with the forced removal of the exhibit. In fact, the students even paid homage to this entrepreneurial couple by hanging their photograph in the lodge.


Photo of Chester and Hester


That's it for Part One of my Dinoland/Restaurantosaurus article. Check back tomorrow for the conclusion.


November 16, 2010

Pollo Campero - Fresh A-Peel

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of McDonald's. So when their contract expired and they pulled out of the four Disney World theme parks, I was thrilled. Disney offers decent counter service fare and McDonald's fries weren't really needed.

However, I've always felt that McDonald's filled a void at Downtown Disney. Although there are several kid-friendly spots like Rainforest Café and T-Rex, there is a severe lack of eating establishments that offer inexpensive options for the entire family. So when McDonald's closed their doors at Downtown Disney earlier in the year, I was concerned -- but I didn't need to be.

Several days ago, Pollo Campero - Fresh A-Peel opened in the vacated McDonald's building in the Marketplace section of Downtown Disney.


Pollo Campero Exterior

Pollo Campero Exterior

Pollo Campero Sign


The first Pollo Campero restaurant opened in Guatemala in 1971 by the Gutierrez family. Their chicken was hand-prepared every day and marinated with a special blend of Latin herbs and spices - a tradition that continues to this day. The restaurant was an immediate success and additional locations began to spring up. In 2002 they opened their first U.S. location in Los Angeles. Today there are over 320 Pollo Campero restaurants in a number of countries around the world.

I stopped by today with my friend Donald for a look around. For those of you familiar with the old McDonald's, you can see that the basic floor plan is much the same, but the restaurant has received a makeover and has a completely new and fresh feel.


Ordering Stations


There are two food-ordering stations. Pollo Campero serves the traditional Latin chicken recipes and Fresh A-Peel has healthier choices. Pollo Campero offers four individual meals, traditional fried chicken, citrus grilled chicken, chicken strips, and a fried or grilled sandwich. These come with one side. Or, a family-size serving is available (feeds 3-4) and comes with several side orders. Here is a picture of their food counter.


Pollo Campero Food Selections


Fresh A-Peel offers healthier selections. Here you can order a hamburger with hormone-free ingredients and a fat-free "secret sauce," an all-beef hot dog on a multigrain bun, and a number of freshly made salads and wraps.


Fresh A-Peel Food Selections


I ordered the mini-burgers (with a side of fries from the Pollo Campero counter) and Donald ordered the traditional fried chicken with a side of black beans served with tortilla chips. We were both pleased with the taste. Donald said the fried chicken had a distinctive flavor that he enjoyed. And I would never know that the "secret sauce" on my burger was fat free. My only complaint was the size of my beef patties. I felt they could have been a little larger.


Chicken Meal

Burger

Small Beef Patty


A topping bar is located in the middle of the dining room and offers Onions & Cilantro, Roasted Chipotle Salsa, Pico de Gallo, Jalapeños, and Green Tomatillo Salsa.


Topping Bar


Soft drinks (Coke products) are ordered at the cash register and filled at the beverage station.


Cash Register

Drink Station


A Latin Drink Bar offers such delights as fruit smoothies, watermelon sangria, and beer. An adjacent outdoor bar offers table service for al fresco imbibing.


Latin Drink Bar

Outdoor Latin Drink Bar

Outdoor Seating


Another truly unique offering in this establishment is the Bakery sponsored by Babycakes NYC. All of their mouth-watering vegan/kosher desserts are:

Refined sugar free
Gluten free
Wheat free
Soy free
Casein free
Egg free

Here it's possible to be bad and good at the same time! No permanent menu is posted as the selections change daily.


Bakery

Bakery


Here are few pictures of the dining room.


Restaurant Seating

Restaurant Seating

Restaurant Seating


Pollo Campero is open daily from 8am to 11pm. At the moment, I do not have their breakfast menu, but I'm working on it. Currently, this establishment is NOT on the Disney Dining Plan or Tables in Wonderland. This may come about in the future, but I can't give you any timetable.

Donald and I enjoyed our meals and would return in the future. The prices are reasonable and I think picky kids would enjoy the chicken strips and fries. So next time you're at Downtown Disney and would like a quick meal without sacrificing flavor for convenience, give Pollo Campero - Fresh A-Peel at try.



September 16, 2010

La Hacienda de San Angel & La Cantina de San Angel

Hi all,

Before I discuss La Hacienda, I need to let you know of a change in the way you will be posting comments. Because we have been getting a lot of junk email, we have had to implement a new procedure. After sharing your thoughts, there is one more box that needs to be completed before you press "Post." At the moment, you need to write the word "blog" (without quotes) in this field (this word could change periodically). This will let the computer know that a real person is writing us and not some automated program that generates spam. If you don't complete this field correctly, your comment will end up in a "junk" folder.

Thanks for your help and understanding.

Jack



If you've visited Epcot during the last year, you may have noticed that the counter service restaurant in the Mexico Pavilion (Cantina de San Angel) has been surrounded by decorative plywood while this establishment underwent a transformation. Construction is now complete and today, September 16, 2010, two restaurants now stand were there was once just one. A newly designed La Cantina de San Angel will continue to serve counter service meals and a new La Hacienda will offer table service dinners starting each evening at 4pm.


La Hacienda and La Cantina


The entrance to La Cantina is located near the bridge that brings guests into the Mexico Pavilion. Just inside are five windows where you can place your order. Although the menu is new, it still offers some of your favorites like Tacos de Carne, Nachos, and Empanadas de Queso. Three varieties of Margaritas and Dos Equis beer can also be purchased here. To see the complete menu, click here.


Counter Service Windows

Counter Service Window


The outside seating area takes advantage of the view of World Showcase and a breeze from the water is refreshing. La Cantina can accommodate 150 guests. However, from 11am until 3ish, guests can also sit in air-conditioned comfort inside the adjacent La Hacienda. The following pictures are of La Cantina only.


La Cantina Seating Area

La Cantina Seating Area

La Cantina Seating Area

La Cantina Seating Area


But the real excitement comes with the opening of La Hacienda de San Angel. This 250 seat table service restaurant will open each evening at 4pm. Designed to resemble different living areas of a hacienda, one room creates the feel of a living room while others capture the charm of a grand salon, pantry, and artist's studio. Original pieces of art adorn each room and unique chandeliers hang from the ceiling. The entrance is located across from the pyramid.


La Hacienda Logo

La Hacienda Entrance

La Hacienda Seating Area

La Hacienda Seating Area

La Hacienda Seating Area

La Hacienda Seating Area

La Hacienda Seating Area

La Hacienda Seating Area

La Hacienda Seating Area


The restaurant is beautiful and that in and of itself is worth a visit. But many will want to plan their meal here to coincide with the presentation of IllumiNations. The Imagineers knew this so they designed large and tall windows to give everyone in the restaurant a great view of this nightly spectacular.


Views of World Showcase

Views of World Showcase


The menu will feature starters like queso fundido (warm cheese with poblano pepper and chorizo) accompanied by fresh homemade tortillas. Entrees include a mixed grill for two with flank steak, chicken, chorizo and vegetables or a seafood version with grouper, shrimp and scallops; roasted shrimp in pepper garlic broth; flank steak with spring onions, refried beans and cactus leaves; and grilled red snapper with roasted corn and cactus leaves. Dessert specialties include chocolate churros, sweet tamales and fruit empanadas. To see the complete menu, click here.


Chef with Food


Last night I attended a press event to kick off the opening of these two new restaurants. The evening began on the deck of La Cantina where we were treated to amazing margaritas and samples of many of the dishes that are served in La Hacienda.


Margaritas

Samples of Food

Samples of Food

Samples of Food

Samples of Food

I sampled several different tequila drinks (they were small and I quit drinking well before IllumiNations so I could drive home safely). All were very good, but I think the "Classic Margareta" is by far the best. It had a good strong flavor that made me pucker and smile.

I also enjoyed the many food samples that were being distributed by smiling waiters and waitresses, but without a doubt, the "Tacos de Camarones" were the best - outstanding in fact. The menu describes this dish as follows: Fried shrimp, chipotle-lime aioli, cabbage, lime and salsa verde, all served over flour tortillas. I had seconds and thirds of this taste treat.


Tacos de Camarones


I have to be honest with you. I've had hit-and-miss experiences at the San Angel Inn, the restaurant located inside the Mexico Pavilion. I think the atmosphere is fantastic, but the food just misses for me. However, I have every intention of returning to La Hacienda de San Angel. If what I sampled last night is any indication of my future meal, I'm going to be a happy camper.

All three restaurants in the Mexico Pavilion are run by Palmas Services LLC. Their founding began in Mexico City in 1963 when they converted a seventeenth century hacienda into an internationally acclaimed eatery, Restaurante San Angel Inn. The Palmas group also operates the restaurants and lounges at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort. Here, I really enjoy the Pepper Market but I have marginal feelings when it comes to the Maya Grill.

I have created a short video that highlights both La Hacienda and La Cantina. However, since this was a press event, I was not able to shoot people-free shots. You'll have to look through the guests enjoying their appetizers and cocktails to see the restaurant.



As the evening progressed, we ventured inside of La Hacienda for more socializing and opening ceremonies. The speeches ran for almost twenty minutes but I have edited it down to a mere six. The last two minutes show the official ribbon-cutting complete with Donald and Mickey.



As I said earlier, I have every intention of returning to both La Cantina and La Hacienda. The views are spectacular and the food that I sampled was delicious. Reservations are strongly suggested for La Hacienda and can be made online or by calling 407-929-3463.


September 11, 2010

Pecos Bill – Tall Tale Inn and Café

Hi all,

Before I discuss Pecos Bill - Tall Tale Inn and Café, I need to let you know of a change in the way you will be posting comments. Because we have been getting a lot of junk email, we have had to implement a new procedure. After sharing your thoughts, there is one more box that needs to be completed before you press "Post." At the moment, you need to write the word "blog" (without quotes) in this field (this word could change periodically). This will let the computer know that a real person is writing us and not some automated program that generates spam. If you don't complete this field correctly, your comment will end up in a "junk" folder.

Thanks for your help and understanding.

Jack


Many fairytales have become so associated with Disney that it's hard to imagine that they ever existed before the animators brought them to life. Ask anyone the names of the seven dwarfs and they'll struggle to recall Grumpy, Dopey, Doc, Sleepy, and forget the other three. But as we know, it was the Grimm Brothers that first took this folktale and publicize the story of Snow White back in 1812. It's interesting to note, Walt was not the first to give the dwarfs names. This actually occurred in a 1912 Broadway play when author Jessie Graham White came up with his own set of monikers for this band of men. And Walt was not the first to make a movie about this sweet heroine and her protectors. This occurred in 1902 when a silent film was produced by Siegmund Lubin. And other Snow White films were made before and after Disney's 1937 masterpiece debuted. Yet it's Disney's version that we remember.

Pecos Bill has a similar history. Folktales circulated for years about the roughest, toughest cowboy that ever lived. It was Edward O'Reilly who first published an adventure of Bill's in a 1916 edition of "The Century Magazine." Later, a number of his exploits were collected and reprinted in a 1923 book titled "Saga of Pecos Bill." As time went by, other writers added new feats of daring-do to Bill's credit. Between 1929 and 1938, Edward "Tex" O'Reilly and Jack A Warren co-authored a cartoon strip about Bill that was published in "The Sun." But it was Walt who created the character of Pecos Bill that sticks in our brains.

On May 27, 1948, "Melody Time" opened in theaters. This collection of seven "shorts" contained a number of stories including the legend of Johnny Appleseed and the tale of Little Toot. The movie ended with a rip-snorting finale of Pecos Bill's adventures sung to us by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers.


Melody Time Poster


It's interesting to note, when the DVD of "Melody Time" was released on June 6, 2000, the cigarette that Bill smoked throughout the segment, and an entire verse from the song which talks about smoking, had been electronically removed.


Pecos Bill with Cigarette

Pecos Bill without Cigareet


Pecos Bill is remembered at the Magic Kingdom with his own restaurant in Frontierland, Pecos Bill - Tall Tale Inn and Café. Its main entrance is located at the far end of town and is housed within a saloon facade. However, this restaurant uses several styles of architecture as the building rounds the corner. Classic Western clapboard construction gives way to that of adobe used in the American Southwest. This was necessary so that the transition between Frontierland and Adventureland would be seamless to the guests as they pass from one land to the next.


Tall Tale Inn and Café Front Entrance

Tall Tale Inn and Café Side Entrance

Tall Tale Inn and Café Back Entrance


Tall Tale Inn and Café is a counter service establishment that serves burgers, wraps, salads, and BBQ sandwiches. This eatery opens at 10:30am and becomes very busy by 11:30am. If you want to avoid crowds, it's best to arrive early. This is also one of the few counter service restaurants that allows guests to place their order with a cast member or via a computer terminal.


Counter Area

Computer Ordering Station


I actually have a love-hate relationship with one of the features in this restaurant, the topping bar. My "love" is generated by the fact that I can garnish my burger, sandwich, and taco salad with all the lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, cheese, and peppers that I like. And I especially like the freshly sautéed onions and mushrooms that are cooked right before my eyes. But I "hate" the crowds this station generates. It can become maddening, jockeying for position as I move from topping to topping - which is why I always arrive early if I'm planning on making Pecos Bill's my lunchtime destination. But in the end, it's worth the hassle.


Topping Bar

Toppings

Grill


There are several seating areas in the restaurant. One section is themed like the old west while another is modeled after a Mexican patio. Outdoor tables are also available and a pleasant place to dine when the weather is good.


Western Seating

Western Seating

Mexican Seating

Outdoor Seating


If all of the indoor tables are occupied at Pecos Bill's, there is a hallway that leads to the dining rooms of El Pirata y el Perico located in Adventureland. You can usually find empty tables in this area.


El Pirata y el Perico Seating


The restaurant's namesake is prominently displayed above a rock fireplace and the legend of this establishment can be found written on a nearby piece of rawhide.


Fireplace with Bill's Picture

Rawhide Legend


Since I'm pretty sure none of you have ever taken the time to read it, I'll present it for you here. And if you're not in the mood to read the entire tale, then just read the second paragraph.

Considered by many as the meanest, toughest, roughest cowboy of them all, Pecos Bill has been credited for inventing all things western, from rodeos to cowboy dancing, to spurs, hats and lassos. He can draw faster, shoot straighter and ride a horse harder than any man alive. Unfortunately, we don't know when and where he was born, just that he was raised by coyotes and that his name comes from the river in Texas. Over the years, Pecos Bill along with his trusty horse, Widowmaker, have made quite a name for themselves forging new trails and taming others. Legend tells us several tall tales, like the time Pecos Bill jumped on a powerful twister and road it like a bucking bronco. Then there was the time when Pecos Bill dug out a path to create the Rio Grande river during a severe drought that hit his beloved Texas. And then there was the day Pecos Bill was so bored he took his handy six-shooter and shot out all of the stars in the sky except for one. That's why they call Texas the "Lone Star State."

In 1878, with the encouragement of his friends, Pecos Bill decided to open his own watering hole, a restaurant whose motto very much reflects its one-of-a-kind owner. "The tastiest eats and treats this side of the Rio Grande." Pecos Bill called it the Tall Tale Inn and Café and it quickly became a popular hangout for some of his legendary friends. As time went by, it became a tradition when each friend paid a visit they would leave something behind for Pecos Bill to remember them by. As you can see from the articles and artifacts that don the walls, many of which carry inscriptions, Pecos Bill had some mighty impressive friends. Seems that every trail eventually led to the Tall Tale Inn and Café.

If you pay attention, you'll notice the building is dated 1878, the year Bill opened Tall Tale Inn and Café.


Building Date


Also, if you check the restaurant walls, you discover the objects left behind by Bill's many friends. Each artifact has been carefully displayed and is accompanied with the donor's name engraved on a nameplate. Pictured here are Johnny Appleseed's pot-hat, Kit Carson's scouting tools, and Davy Crocket's satchel and powder horn.


Johnny Appleseed's Pot-Hat

Kit Carson's Scouting Tools

Davy Crocket's Satchel and Powder Keg


I especially like the artifacts displayed in the next picture. If you notice, the nameplate is intentionally left blank. If you don't get the joke, think about it.


Mystery Friend


While you're in the neighborhood, be sure to check out some of the signs that are posted on the outside walls of the Frontierland buildings. Some are quite clever. I especially like this one.


Frontierland Sign


So there you have the story of Pecos Bill - Tall Tale Inn and Café. Like everything at Disney, it's teeming with details if you take the time to look.


June 22, 2010

Sand Trap Restaurant

One of my favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World for lunch is the Sand Trap located at the Osprey Ridge Golf Course. I would venture to say that the vast majority of you have never heard of this restaurant, and I'm not surprised. The intent of this establishment is to offer a bite to eat for the golfers of this course. Originally, this restaurant served two golf courses, but the Eagle Pines Golf Course was closed sometime ago when the acreage was sold to the Four Seasons Resort that is being built on this land. In essence, this deprived the Sand Trap Restaurant of half of its customers and Disney has recently made some adjustments to compensate for this lack of business.

First, the menu has been simplified. Most cooked/hot items have been eliminated. All china and glassware have been replaced with paper and plastic products. In addition, this is no longer a table service restaurant - but it's not quite a counter service restaurant either. The new format requires that you order your drinks and food at the bar. At that time, you will be given your drinks which you will carry back to the table of your choice. From that point on, service will be like any other table service restaurant in that the bartender will bring the food to your table and take care of your refills.

Please remember to tip accordingly as the bartender is the only person taking care of the entire establishment.

I was actually concerned when I learned that the Sand Trap was changing, but when I ate there yesterday, my fears were laid to rest. This is still a wonderful place to escape the crowds, noise, and general hubbub that is associated with most of Disney World. When dining here, you feel miles away from everything - and the view is most lovely.

Although the menu is not quite as extensive as it once was, it still offers a nice variety - enough to satisfy most lunchtime diners. I ordered the Stack Sandwich which comes with salami, smoked provolone cheese, lettuce and tomato served on Ciabatta bread accompanied with homemade potato chips. My friend Donald ordered the hot dog (see below). We were both very pleased with our meal. The manager showed us pictures of the Caesar Salad and Cobb Salad and both looked worthy of any Disney restaurant - except they are now served in plastic bowls.


Stacked Sandwish

Hot Dog


The Sand Trap is open for lunch daily from 10:30am to 5pm. The bar remains open longer depending on the golf reservations for that day. There is no designated Disney transportation to this location so a car is helpful. The restaurant is located at the north end of property near Fort Wilderness.


Sand Trap Entrance

Sand Trap Bar

Sand Trap Restaurant

Sand Trap View

New Sand Trap Menu

Rate and Review the Sand Trap!


February 20, 2010

Crew’s Cup Lounge

Crew's Cup Lounge Logo


The other afternoon, I was bored and wanted something to do -- I needed to get out of the house for a while. I didn't feel like going into a theme park; that would require too much effort. But I was in the mood for something at Disney. I finally decided that a diet coke and a snack at any of the resorts would fill the bill. But where? Many of the hotel restaurants close between lunch and dinner and I wasn't in the mood for any of their counter service eateries. These would be much too frenetic for my leisurely mood. I needed something quiet.

After a lot of thought, I remembered the Crew's Cup Lounge located at the Yacht Club Resort. For those of you who aren't familiar with this spot, it's located next door to the Yachtsman Steakhouse. Its entrance is rather inconspicuous and easily missed.


Crew's Cup Lounge Entrance

Crew's Cup Lounge Sign

Yachtsman Steakhouse


The atmosphere is decidedly dark and intimate. In fact, I had to brighten my pictures so you could see what the place looks like. There is a counter at which you can sit and enjoyed the bartender's company, four cozy booths, and a number of tables and chairs scattered around this comfortable hide-a-way.


Full Service Bar

Four Booths

Tables and Chairs


Although this lounge's primary purpose is to provide a spot in which to wait for your table when dining at the Yachtsman Steakhouse, this is wonderful place in its own right. As you might conclude from the name, the theme here is rowing. An abundance of wood furnishings, mirrored and textured walls, and rowing memorabilia create a sporting atmosphere that is inviting to both men and women. A large screen TV is usually tuned to ESPN, however, it doesn't intrude.

The Crew's Cup Lounge opens daily at noon. Last call is at 11:45 and closes at midnight. Appetizers are served all day. They are as follows:

Buffalo Chicken Breast Nuggets - served with Celery Sticks and Blue Cheese Dressing - $7.99
Nachos - with Beef Chili, Cheddar, Cheese, and Salsa - $8.49
Spinach Dip with Chips - $7.49
Honey-Ginger Chicken Wings - $8.49

I had the Nachos and was very pleased. There was an abundance of chili and this dish would provide one person a full meal or could easily be shared with two or three.


Nachos


On a subsequent visit, I ordered Spinach Dip with Chips and Buffalo Chicken Breast Nuggets. I believe the Spinach Dip is the same "side dish" that is served at the Yachtsman Steakhouse. Regardless, they're delicious. The Buffalo Nuggets were very spicy, but if you dip them in the accompanying blue cheese dressing, it cuts the fire.


Spinach Dip and Chips

Buffalo Chicken Nuggets


A limited lunch menu is offered and served from 2 pm until 5:30 pm. Featured are two sandwiches, a burger, and clam chowder. These items are prepared in the Captain's Grill kitchen and are identical to what you would receive at that restaurant.

A scaled-down dinner menu is available at the Crew's Cup Lounge from 5:30pm to 10pm. Filet Mignon, Beef Sirloin, and Beef Ravioli are offered along with a number of side dishes. Four different cheese platters and two desserts also tempt during the evening hours. These meals are served out of the Yachtsman Steakhouse kitchen and would be comparable to what you would receive there.

A large window on one wall of the Crew's Cup Lounge looks into the aging/cutting room of the Yachtsman Steakhouse. In the evening, it's fun to watch the chef preparing the various cuts of meat.


Window into Yachtsman Steakhouse

Aging and Cutting Room


Disney World can be hectic and finding a peaceful spot away from it all can be difficult at times. If you're looking for a quiet spot where you can enjoy a cocktail, light bite, or a full meal, this is the perfect place. Although children are welcome, they are usually not in abundance. Evenings are busier than afternoons as many have a drink here before heading next door for dinner. In the afternoon, you can often enjoy the Crew's Cup Lounge with just your party and the bartender. I highly recommend this hidden Disney treasure.

This restaurant does NOT accept reservations and is NOT on the Disney Dining Plan, but it does accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount.

RELATED LINK:
Crew's Cup Menu


January 4, 2010

Teppan Edo

No visit to Epcot would be complete without dining at one of the restaurants in World Showcase. Each country offers a unique experience and an opportunity to learn about another culture. Today I'm going to write about Teppan Edo, one of the eateries found in the Japan Pavilion.


Teppan Edo Sign


Your adventure begins on the second floor of Japan's main building. If the stairs are a bit intimidating, an elevator can be found next to the front entrance of the Mitsukoshi Department Store.


Japan Pavilion Main Building


At the check-in desk, you'll be given a pager and asked to wait in the adjacent seating area. This area also serves as the waiting room for Tokyo Dining, a table-service restaurant that shares this floor.


Check-in Desk

Waiting Room

Tokyo Dining


The restaurants open at noon. If you can arrange your meal at this time, you're in for a treat. Before business commences each day, all of the servers and chefs line up in formation, as if waiting for inspection. Then two hostesses welcome you to Japan and their restaurants. The ceremony is charming and worth seeing. It helps set the mood for your meal to come. I don't have any "still" pictures of this, but I did capture it on video (see below).

When your table is ready, you will be escorted down a long hall to one of five dining rooms. Each room has four tables that seat eight. So unless you're traveling with a large group, you will be sharing your meal with other guests. But that's okay. Teppan Edo isn't about intimate dining. It's about fun and showmanship. In no time at all, you'll be conversing with your fellow tablemates. And if you're shy, there is a surefire opening question you can ask to get the conversation going, "Where are you visiting from?"


Teppan Edo Hallway

Teppan Edo Dining Room


Shortly after getting settled, your server will appear and introduce herself. Drink orders will be taken and hot towels handed to each guest. Besides cleaning your hands, feel free to wipe your brow. If you're like me, nothing is so refreshing as a clean face.


Hot Towels


Each place setting has a pair of chopsticks waiting for you when you arrive. However, forks are offered for those of you who need them. Also, your waitress can devise some "training" chopsticks if you'd like to try to learn how to use them.

The restaurant features teppanyaki style cuisine. Teppan means iron plate and yaki means grilled, broiled or pan-fried. Here, a chef entertainingly prepares your meal at the table, while you watch. The concept originated in 1945 as a way of introducing western-style foods to the Japanese. However, the concept quickly became more popular with foreign visitors than with the Japanese themselves. So as time progressed, the chef's performances became more elaborate and amusing to continue attracting tourists.

Appetizers such as sushi, miso soup, soybean pods, and tempura are available. These dishes are not prepared at the table, but are brought out just prior to the chef arriving to cook your meal.

Shrimp, scallops, chicken breast, and sirloin steak are the meats offered here. They can be ordered individually, or in a number of different combinations. Accompaniments include Udon noodles, mushrooms, zucchini, and onions. In addition, everyone is served a bowl of steamed white rice. (Feel free to ask for seconds of rice.)

When the chef arrives, he or she is introduced to you by your server and then the show begins. As you can tell by the next picture, they are usually pretty jovial and ready to have some fun.


Jovial Chef


The first order of business is to give each guest some dipping sauce. These include ginger, mustard, and cream which the chef deftly pours into serving dishes.


Dipping Sauce


With that bit of business taken care of, the vegetables and noodles are introduced to the grill. The way these chefs handle their knives and forks make the hucksters on TV selling Veg-a-Matics look like idiots (not that they needed any help in this area). The chefs at Teppan Edo can slice and dice like nobody's business. They have this technique down to an art form.

But the best part is the building of the onion volcano. Here, the chef skillfully separates ring after ring of onion and layers them one on top another, creating Mount Fuji. Then oil and water are poured into the center to create a smoking volcano.


Preparing Onion Volcano

Onion Volcano Eruption


Next, the meats are introduced to the grill. Once again, we see the magic of these talented individuals as they toss pepper grinders, fling bits of meat into the air, and continue to slice and dice -- all the while keeping us entertained with a steady stream of chatter.


Slice and Dice

Seasoning

Tossing Shrimp


The vegetables will be ready first and the chef will use a spatula and dish a portion onto your plate. It always amazes me how they can accurately divide the large amount of steaming food into equal portions for each guest. Since your meat is still cooking, don't hesitate to start eating or else your vegetables will get cold.

Once the meat course has been served, the chef will clean the grill, say goodbye, and leave. Shortly thereafter, your server will offer dessert. These include Soft Serve Ice Cream, Green Tea Pudding, and Chocolate Ginger Cake. Although obvious on the menu, I want to make sure I haven't given you the wrong impression, appetizers and desserts are an extra charge.

I want to remind all of you with special dietary needs to bring this fact to your server's attention. At my table, one gentleman had a severe allergy to shellfish. Our waitress relayed this information to the kitchen staff and the restaurant manager came out to our table to discuss his concerns. In this case, his meal was cooked in the kitchen to make absolutely certain that no shellfish contamination could take place on the show-grill. ALL Disney restaurants, including counter service establishments, will work with you to make sure you and your family's needs are met.

Would I recommend Teppan Edo? Absolutely! I think this restaurant is a lot of fun and should be on everyone's Epcot "must do" list. However, I think Teppan Edo needs to be experienced in moderation. Personally, I only need to visit every three to four years. Any more than that and the experience becomes old hat. I need time to forget all the little nuances that took place so it will be fresh on my next visit.

Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made online or by calling 407-WDW-DINE. The restaurant opens at noon and remains open during the remainder of the day.

I have prepared a four minute video highlighting the experience. Enjoy.



Related Links:

Teppan Edo Reader Reviews

Teppan Edo Menu

October 8, 2009

‘Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Resort

'Ohana means family in the Hawaiian language. And when you eat at the 'Ohana restaurant located on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian Resort, the cast members will do their best to make you feel like you belong to their clan as everyone is called "cousin."


'Ohana Sign


I hadn't eaten at 'Ohana for at least five or six years, so when my out-of-town guest suggested this restaurant, I was more than happy to return. And for the most part, everything was as I remembered it. However, I do have some words of caution for those of you who aren't familiar with this establishment.

Let me start by telling you who I think this restaurant is perfect for: Parents (and grandparents) with children between the ages of five and twelve. If your kids are outgoing and like to join in the fun, then you're all going to have a fantastic time here.

Also, if you have a big appetite for grilled meats, then you're well suited for 'Ohana.

Who should avoid this establishment: Adult couples looking for a quiet, relaxing meal. It's just not going to happen here. However, I do have a partial solution for you if you want to give this unique establishment a try and still enjoy a somewhat less raucous time. But I'll get to that later.

Your evening begins when your pager buzzes and your host or hostess escorts you to your table. Along the way, you stop by the kitchen window were tonight's dessert is pointed out and a loaf of coconut bread is secured.


Kitchen

Coconut Bread


The restaurant is large and a number of tables are situated next to the windows. Those lucky enough to be seated here have wonderful views of the lush landscape and some of the tables can even see the Magic Kingdom fireworks. When the nightly spectacle begins, the restaurant lights are dimmed and the music is piped into the room.


Window Table

Window Table

Window Table


Window tables are seated on a first come, first served basis. You can request a table when you check in, but you will probably be required to wait (sometimes significantly) past your reservation time before a window table opens up. If you want to make this wait a little less boring, have a drink at the adjacent Tambu Lounge.


Tambu Lounge.

Tambu Lounge.


There are a few tables situated next to the show kitchen. This is where all of the tasty meats are grilled for your pleasure.


Table next to the Grill


For those of you looking for a slightly quieter evening (as I mentioned above), request a table behind or to the side of the show kitchen. Although the entertainer's talking and singing can still be heard through the speaker system, the children's activities will not intrude.


Quiet Table

Quiet Table


At some point during your evening, it would be worth your while to stop by the show kitchen and watch the chefs work their magic. It's amazing how many skewers of meat they can simultaneously prepare.


Show Kitchen

Show Kitchen

Show Kitchen


Also, take a gander around the restaurant and you'll see the mesquite wood used on the grill.


Mesquite Wood

Mesquite Wood


Shortly after being seated, your server arrives and welcomes you to 'Ohana. Drink orders are taken, then it is explained that this is an all-you-can-eat restaurant and your meal starts out with a mixed greens salad with honey-lime dressing.


Salad


For appetizers you receive Pork Dumplings topped with a Pineapple Sweet-and-Sour Sauce and Honey Coriander Chicken Wings.


Pork Dumplings

Chicken Wings


Also brought to your table are moist, hot towels. Although you can use these to clean your hands before you start eating, they're really intended to be used after you consume the finger foods.


Moist Towels


For the main course, bowls of Steamed Vegetables and Stir-Fried Udon Noodles are served as side dishes.


Steamed Vegetables

Udon Noodles


All of this is nice, but the real reason you eat at 'Ohana is for the skewered meats. Offered each night are Asian Barbequed Pork Loin, Spicy Grilled Peel-n-Eat Shrimp, Marinated Sirloin Steak, and Mesquite Grilled Turkey. Accompanying these meats are three dipping sauces, House-made Peanut, Chimichurri, and Pineapple Sweet-and-Sour.


Dipping Sauce


The meats are presented to you on long skewers from which your server skillfully slides several portions onto your plate. This is an all-you-can eat meal so don't hold back. Seconds and thirds (and fourths) are available.


Skewered Meat

Skewered Meat


When you've had your fill of meat, it's time to force down dessert. The only thing that makes this possible is that the Bread Pudding, topped with Vanilla Ice Cream and Banana and Caramel Sauce is out of this world. Your stomach will ache, but you'll keep shoveling it in.


Bread Pudding


All of the food tastes great and no one can leave this restaurant hungry.

I would have to say, I was disappointed with the pacing of our meal. The server told us that the dinner would be served in courses. However, I wasn't into my second bite of salad when the appetizers arrived. And I doubt that I'd taken my fifth bite of greens when the steamed vegetables and noodles were served - soon to be followed by the meat. The next time I dine here, I will definitely make it clear that I don't want to see any portion of the following course until I'm finished with my current selections and I give the okay. I don't mean to be difficult, but it is a pet peeve of mine when I'm "rushed" in a restaurant.

You might be wondering why I said 'Ohana is perfect for families. Well, I'm about to tell you. Each evening, a performer entertains the diners. On Sunday and Monday, either Kahula or Lopaka are hand and the rest of the week Lipoa charms the audience. They chat with various guests as they circle the restaurant, occasionally breaking into a Hawaiian song accompanied by their ukulele. My friend Randy thinks Lipoa is the tops and only dines at 'Ohana when she's performing.


Kaleo

Randy and Lipoa


Roughly every twenty minutes, the children are invited to join Kahula, Lopaka, or Lipoa in the center of the restaurant for game time. After a song, the fun begins. The first event of the evening is the coconut race. Each child is given a small broom and coconut, still in its outer casing. Using only the broom, they must maneuver their tropical seed around the restaurant to the cheers of their friends and family.


A Song for the Children

Coconut Race


Another event is the limbo dance. Each participant, with maracas in hand, is invited to bend backwards under a bamboo pole as they travel by. The pole is positioned rather high so it's pretty easy for the kids to pass beneath it.


Limbo


I would have to say that there are more parents out of their seats taking pictures than children participating in these games.

During other portions of the entertainment, newlyweds and couples celebrating their anniversary are asked to take center stage and partake in a romantic dance. Birthdays and other celebrations are also acknowledged. All of the games and remembrances take place along an aisle-way that circles the main dining room. If you want to participate, this is the best place to be seated. If you don't want to be bumped by a stray coconut, then request a table away from this thoroughfare.


Busy Thoroughfare


'Ohana is also open for a character breakfast. Lilo and Stitch visit each table and happily pose for pictures. This is also an all-you-can eat meal which features scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, sausage, ham, and an assortment of breads. In addition, unlimited juice, milk, and coffee are on tap.

Breakfast:: 7:30am - 11:00am
Price: Adults $18.99 Children 3-9 $10.99

Dinner: 5:00pm to 10:00pm
Price: Adults $30.99; Children 3-9 $14.99

'Ohana is one of the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World. It is practically mandatory that you have reservations. While I was checking in at 4:45pm the other evening, the hostess was questioning everyone behind me in line. Anyone without a reservation was turned away as they were accepting no more walk-ups.

Reservations can be made online or by calling 407-WDW-DINE.

If you plan on eating at 'Ohana for dinner, skip lunch and don't forget to bring your camera. As I said at the beginning of the article, 'Ohana means family and you're in for some down-home fun - Hawaiian style.

Related Links:

Breakfast Menu

Readers Review 'Ohana Character Breakfast

Dinner Menu

Readers Review 'Ohana Dinner

September 17, 2009

Kouzzina by Cat Cora - Disney's Boardwalk

Today, (September 17), I attended a press event to kick off Cat Cora's new restaurant. Located on the Boardwalk, Kouzzina replaces Spoodles and offers Greek food with a home-cookin' flair.


Kouzzina Exterior


Guests were greeted by cast members offering glasses of Pellegrino and lime.


Cast Member with Pellegrion


As soon as I entered the restaurant, I could tell a good time was in store. Greek music filled the air as a live combo entertained. (This was for the press event only.)


Greek Combo


Before finding my table, I wandered the restaurant. I was able to snap several of the chefs preparing today's selections in the show kitchen.


Show Kitchen

Show Kitchen

Show Kitchen


A real wood-burning brick stove is on hand to provide authentic flavors to the breads and other oven dishes.


Wood Burning Stove


Eventually I found my table which was set for the abundance of food to come.


My Table


The afternoon started off with Al Weiss (President of Worldwide Operations for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts) welcoming Cat to the Disney family.


Al Weiss


After his opening remarks, Cat took center stage and thanked us all for joining her on this special day. She also introduced her parents, her partner Jennifer, and their children.


Cat Cora


Next, Cat introduced Chef Dee, an eighteen year Disney veteran who will oversee the day-to-day operation of Kouzzina. We were then all asked to lift our glasses of ouzo and drink a toast to the success of this new venture.


Toast to Success


Today's event was intended to give the press a sampling of many of the delights available on the menu. Please remember, the pictures I'm showing you here may or may not be served to you as you see them photographed.

Our first dish was Spiro's Greek Salad. This contained vine-ripened tomatoes, arugula, cucumbers, red onions, Kalamanta olives, and feta cheese. This was a refreshing starter, simple, yet satisfying.


Spiro's Greek Salad


Served with the salad was Kouzzina Spreads. Here we had grilled pita bread with three toppings, Harissa Yogurt, Kalamata Fig, and Chickpea Hummus. Several of us agreed that we could make a meal out of this appetizer.


Kouzzina Spreads


Another appetizer served was Spanakopita. This is a traditional Phyllo Pie filled with spinach, feta cheese, leeks, and dill. It was light and flakey, just like Phyllo should be. Sorry, I was so caught up in the moment I for got to take a picture.

Our first entrée sample was Pastitsio. This is a Greek-style lasagna with Bucatini pasta, cinnamon-stewed meat sauce, and Bechamel. When I saw the word "cinnamon" I was concerned, but needn't be. I could certainly taste this flavor, but it didn't overwhelm. I definitely think that this dish would be enjoyed by picky, younger eaters. Once again, I was caught up in the moment and forgot to take a picture.

Cat said she wanted to include a burger on her menu, but she wanted to do it with a twist. To that end she created the Oak-grilled Lamb Burger served with olives and feta. Now I'm not a fan of lamb, but this burger was okay. I could certainly taste the distinctive lamb flavor, but the garnishes made it more than palatable. Considering my feelings about this meat, this is high praise. Be forewarned. This sandwich has a spicy kick. We all said "whoa" and wiped out brows after the effect set in.


Oak-grilled Lamb Burger


Fisherman's Stew was next. This contained a generous helping of scallops, seasonal fish, shellfish, fennel, grilled bread, and Ouzo butter. I found this stew to be very good, so good that I went back for seconds. However, I can't say that there was anything out of the ordinary about this dish. It was tasty, but something that I might find in any seafood restaurant.


Fisherman's Stew


Our final entrée was the Cinnamon Stewed Chicken. Combined with tomatoes, herbed orzo, and Mizithra cheese, this was my favorite of the main dishes. Once again, the cinnamon added a nice flavor and the orzo was to die for.


Cinnamon Stewed Chicken


A number of side dishes were also presented during the meal. The first was Chilled Salt-roasted Beets on Skordalia (a thick puree). If you like beets (I do), you'll like this sampling. The Skordalia had a mild flavor that complemented the stronger taste of the beets quite nicely.


Chilled Salt-roasted Beets on Skordalia


When the Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with capers and lemon were served, Cat made an announcement. She assured us that if we didn't like the Brussels sprouts that our mothers served us as a child (me), there was a good chance we'd like her recipe - and she was 100% correct. They were excellent. I went back for seconds.


Sautéed Brussels Sprouts


The final side dish served was the Oven-baked Gigantes Beans with tomato sauce and olive oil. Think big white-beans. I was pleased with this offering, but given a choice, I'd pick the Brussels sprouts.


Oven-baked Gigantes Beans


For dessert we were given a sampler plate that contained Chocolate Budino Cake, Baklava, and Greek-style Yogurt Sorbet. The Chocolate Budino Cake didn't do a thing for me. Maybe you have to be a chocoholic to really appreciate it. The Greek-style Yogurt Sorbet was good and lite. I could see myself ordering this. But the stand out was the Baklava. I was in heaven.


Dessert


Also for dessert we were served Tableside Frappe. This drink contains coffee, milk, and natural sugar served over ice. I'm not a coffee drinker so any opinion I would offer would be meaningless. But it was served nicely.


Tableside Frappe


Cat also offers her own wine label called Coranation. These include Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley, Chardonnay from the Russian River, and Pinot Noir, from the Sonoma Coast. All had nice bouquets and discernable flavors.

The afternoon ended with the servers, cooks, and Cat's mother taking to the floor and dancing around the tables while waving napkins. The mood was festive to say the least.


Dancing

Dancing

Dancing

Dancing


Cat Cora and Kouzzina are a nice addition to the Disney line-up of restaurants. I'm looking forward to coming back here and trying some new selections and some of the treats I learned about today.

For those of you who know little or nothing about Cat, here is a very brief synopsis of her career.


Cat Cora


No stranger to Disney Magic, Cora has hosted instructional cooking demonstrations for Disney Video on Demand and has been a featured chef at both the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival and Disney's California Food & Wine Festival at Disneyland.

It's no surprise Cat Cora has become a world renowned chef. Her culinary aspirations began at an early age, and by 15, she had developed a business plan for her own restaurant. In 2005, she made television history on Food Network's Iron Chef America as the first and only female Iron Chef, and in November 2006 Bon Appetit Magazine bestowed her with their Teacher of the Year Award, an award she calls, "the greatest recognition she could achieve as a chef." That month, she was also honored with another great culinary distinction when she was named Executive Chef of the magazine. With a new restaurant recently opened at Macy's South Coast Plaza and Kouzzina at Walt Disney World, Cat has brought a taste of her culinary influence to both coasts.

July 3, 2009

McDonald’s

This blog is primarily for those of you who stay at the All Star Resorts. The McDonald's located on Buena Vista Drive was built specifically to cater to these three hotels.

As you might recall, this McDonald's once had enormous caricatures of a hamburger, fries, and a shake on its roof. For whatever reason, the powers-that-be decided it was time for a change and both the exterior and interior of this restaurant received a major makeover. Here are a couple of pictures of the new exterior. Gone are the fanciful figures to be replaced by sleek, modern lines.


McDonald's Exterior

McDonald's Exterior


The outdoor seating area has been given a casual feel complete with some comfortable wicker chairs and palm trees.


Outdoor Seating Area

Outdoor Seating Area


The ordering station and beverage bar received only minor changes.


Ordering Counter

Beverage Station


The seating area is more festive than its predecessor. This is accomplished by using white tables and chairs of primary colors. In addition, the overhead panels now display sporting scenes, also in colors that coordinate with the chairs.


Indoor Seating

Indoor Seating


Two "group" seating areas are clustered together under light colored wood canopies. Four flat-screen TVs can also be found within this setting.


Group Seating Area


The inside ordering counter and dining room are open daily from 5am to 1am. The drive-thru is open 24 hours.

Note, this McDonald's is extremely busy for breakfast and dinner. At lunchtime, it's practically deserted.

November 9, 2008

Trail’s End Lunch Menu -- Revised

Trails%20End%2001.jpg


Back in August, I reported that the Trail's End lunch buffet had stopped serving "hot" entrees in favor of "make your own" sandwiches. I actually liked this change, but apparently I was in the minority - a very small minority. It seems that Disney received numerous complaints about this scaled-back menu. Many guests quipped, "If I wanted a sandwich, I could have stayed at my campsite and fixed one." To remedy this problem, the Trail's End Restaurant has removed the sandwich portion of the buffet and once again offers hot items for lunch.

However, things aren't exactly as they once were. The buffet does not offer as many selections for lunch as they once did. One noticeable omission is pizza, a kid's favorite. However, Mac & Cheese has returned. I also felt that there weren't as many entrees as before. Here's what was on the lunch menu today (November 9, 2008) when I ate there.

Three premade salads: Caesar, Chinese, and Strawberry and Blue Cheese.
Make-your-own salad
Potato Salad
Soup du Jour
Chili
Fried Chicken
BBQed Pork and buns
Mac & Cheese
Vegetable of the day
Rice
Cookies, brownies, and soft ice cream bar

Breakfast is served from 7:30am to 12 noon
Children: $7.99
Adults: $11:99

Lunch is severed from 11:30am to 2:30pm
Children: $8:99
Adults: $12:99

Dinner is served from 4:30am to 9:30pm
Children: $10:99
Adults: $18.99

From 11:30 to 12noon, both breakfast and lunch are served. If you arrive before 11:30 (check the time-stamp on the receipt the hostess gives the server), you pay the breakfast rate for both meals. If you arrive after 11:30am, you pay the lunch rate.

I have some good news and bad news for those of you waiting for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue. First the good news. A number of oversized games have been added to the area to amuse kids (and adults) while waiting to be let into the show. These include Ring Toss, Horseshoes, Jenga, Dominos, Chess, and more.

The bad news is this. Several of the rocking chairs have been removed from the porch to make room for these games.

October 15, 2008

Ghirardelli - Downtown Disney Marketplace

I used to live in San Francisco. My apartment was within easy walking distance of Ghirardelli Square. Occasionally I would take the cable car home from work and stop by Ghirardelli for an ice cream cone before heading home. Or walk over on a foggy Sunday morning for a steaming cup of hot chocolate. I have very pleasant memories of this place and this is definitely a "must see" location for tourists visiting The City.


Ghirardelli%2011.jpg


When I moved to Orlando I was happy that I wouldn't have to go without these wonderful taste sensations, for located at Downtown Disney Marketplace is a branch store. Although not as extensive as their San Francisco site, you can still delight in their marvelous chocolate.


Ghirardelli%2001.jpg


But before we discuss this shop, we need to talk about pronunciation. It's "Gear-ar-delly" NOT "Jeer-a-delly." It's a hard "G" NOT a soft "G." Don't believe me? Check out the sign on the side of their building. Many people have trouble with this name.


Ghirardelli%2003.jpg


The Ghirardelli building is divided into two sections, each with its own entrance. The smaller section is a shop that's devoted to selling chocolate in all forms.


Ghirardelli%2005.jpg


A host or hostess is usually on hand to pass out samples. I always stop by, even when making a mad dash through the area, for a freebee.


Ghirardelli%2004.jpg


Ghirardelli is one of the few American manufacturers to oversee their chocolate making process from cocoa bean through to the finished product. They reject up to 40% of the beans they're offered in order to assure that only the best are used in their product. They roast their beans in-house and remove the shells first to insure better temperature control. And finally, they grind their chocolate to 19 microns (a human hair is 100 microns in diameter) to ensure there is no grainy feel in their product.

Yum!

The larger half of the store is devoted to ice cream. Luscious ice cream. In my opinion, some of the best ice cream you'll find anywhere.

This section was recently remodeled and I feel that the new arrangement facilitates better crowd control. Yes, there are still lines on a hot afternoon, but they seem move more quickly.


Ghirardelli%2006.jpg

Ghirardelli%2007.jpg


Once you've ordered your Hot Fudge Sundae, Banana Split, or other tempting decadence, you are given a number to be placed on your table so your server can find you later.

When the weather is hot, the indoor seating area fills up quickly.


Ghirardelli%2008.jpg


Outdoors, you'll find a covered seating area along the side of the building. When the weather is nice, this is an especially pleasant spot to sit and enjoy your dessert.


Ghirardelli%2009.jpg


The tables have also been redesigned to look like Ghirardelli chocolate wrappers.


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Additional seating is available across the promenade under Ghirardelli umbrellas.

Please remember to tip the host or hostess who brings you your ice cream. The way this entire operation is arranged, it's easy to forget that these folks are serving you to some degree.

For more information about Ghirardelli, check out their web-site. You can order many of their products online.

http://www.ghirardelli.com/

September 26, 2008

Epcot's Nine Dragons Restaurant in China

The Nine Dragons Restaurant in the China Pavilion reopened yesterday after an extensive rehab. Since I was at Epcot today, I decided to stop by for lunch and check things out. My friend Donald and Allears photographer Linda Mac joined me.


Nine Dragons Epcot


The first thing guests will notice is that the atmosphere has been toned down a bit. Gone is most of the traditional "red" color in favor of more muted tones. I feel the designers did a nice job of modernizing the motif without forgoing the time-honored beauty of this restaurant.


Nine Dragons Epcot

Nine Dragons Epcot


Along the back wall of the dining room is a showcase that displays magnificent pieces of glass art. One of the cast members did his best to explain their meaning, but unfortunately, I just wasn't able to understand what he was telling me. But even without an explanation, these works of art are stunning.


Nine Dragons Epcot

Nine Dragons Epcot

Nine Dragons Epcot

Nine Dragons Epcot


I have eaten at the Nine Dragons Restaurant a number of times over the years. I have always been satisfied with my food and the service has been good. But other than the beauty of the restaurant, there wasn't anything offered that differed from my neighborhood Chinese restaurant - except that I was paying three times the money. Today I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Everything offered now has a contemporary flair to it. I felt like real chefs had created the food rather than something you'd find at your local shopping mall. For appetizers we ordered the following:

Shrimp and Taro Lollipops - delicious and playful take on a traditional dim sum favortite $9.98


Nine Dragons Epcot


Shrimp and Chicken Egg Rolls - tender shrimp, roast chicken and fresh vegetables served with plum-chili and ginger-soy sauces $7.98


Nine Dragons Epcot


Spicy Beef -sliced thin and tender, then tossed with Cilantro-Chili dressing $8.68


Nine Dragons Epcot


For entrees we ordered the following:

Honey Sesame Chicken with white rice - $16.98


Nine Dragons Epcot


Peppery Shrimp with Spinach Noodles $17.98


Nine Dragons Epcot


Sweet and Sour Pork with Spinach Noodles $13.98


Nine Dragons Epcot

When I ordered the Sweet and Sour Pork, I was told that it came with noodles. This didn't sound good to me so I requested white sticky rice. I wish I hadn't. Linda let me try the Spinach Noodles that accompanied her Peppery Shrimp and they were very good. Plus, the green noodles would have contrasted nicely against the red/orange Sweet and Sour for a better presentation.

Before our food arrived, our server appeared at the table with a lacquered box full of chopsticks and offered them to us.


Nine Dragons Epcot


All three of us were pleased with our selections and feel we might visit more often now that the restaurant offers a more upscale menu. Starting tomorrow, September 26, reservations can be made by calling 407-WDW-DINE.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Related Links:

Nine Dragons Photo Gallery

Nine Dragons Lunch Menu

Nine Dragons Dinner Menu

August 7, 2008

Construction Photo Updates - Walt Disney World

While I was out and about, I took a few pictures of the Bay Lake Tower under construction.

This is a rumored DVC that sits prominently next to the Contemporary Resort. It appears that the structure has reached its ultimate height as finishing touches are being added to the top of the building.


Bay Lake Tower Construction at Contemporary

Bay Lake Tower Construction at Contemporary

Bay Lake Tower Construction at Contemporary

Bay Lake Tower Construction at Contemporary


At the Contemporary, I took a few pictures of the construction going on where the Concourse Steakhouse once stood. The Tempo Grab & Go will be permanently located in a portion of this space and Chef Mickey's will expand into the remainder of this area.

Old Concourse Steakhouse Area Under Construction at the Contemporary Resort

Old Concourse Steakhouse Area Under Construction at the Contemporary Resort

Old Concourse Steakhouse Area Under Construction at the Contemporary Resort


And finally, I drove over to Downtown Disney and snapped a few pictures of the T-Rex restaurant that looks ever closer to completion.

TRex  Restaurant Construction at Downtown Disney

TRex  Restaurant Construction at Downtown Disney

TRex  Restaurant Construction at Downtown Disney


August 6, 2008

Trail End New Lunch Menu - Walt Disney World

Just yesterday, I finally finished writing my last Tokyo Disneyland blog. It won't be posted for at least another week or so, but now I'm free to return to Disney World and look for local things to report on.

SIDE NOTE: The Tokyo Disneyland blog will resume in several days. If you need to catch up, here's the start of the Disneyland blog.


Today I decided to check out the new lunch menu at the Trails End Restaurant at the Fort Wilderness Campground. It seems that a decision was recently made to stop serving a full "hot" buffet at lunch in favor of a simpler "cold" buffet which includes soups, salads, and sandwiches. I wanted to see exactly what was going on here and find out why this change was made.


Lunch Buffet Trails End Restaurant at the Fort Wilderness Campground


Lunch service now begins at 11:30 and I was there 11:31. Upon being seated, my server Lynda explained that breakfast is served until noon so there is an overlap of 30 minutes where both menus are available. Breakfast and lunch both are priced at $11.99. (Lunch with the hot buffet has been $12.99). I decided to take advantage of this overlap and helped myself to a small serving of scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage. I also ordered a glass of orange juice that is included in the price, along with refills.

At 11:30, all of the breakfast items are consolidated into one area to make room for the lunch items.


Breakfast Buffet Trails End Restaurant at the Fort Wilderness Campground


Be aware, this "overlap" is an experiment on Disney's part to see if this might entice additional guests to eat here. At the moment, the jury is out so don't be surprised if this feature is extended or discontinued.

As I was taking pictures of the new lunch buffet, Chef Bob approached me and quizzically asked me if I had any questions. So I was blunt and asked why they had changed from a full "hot" buffet to a simple "cold" buffet. His answer, "To assure better food quality for our guests."

It seems that lunches at the Trails End Restaurant can be patronized by as few as 40 guests to as many as 200 - and they have no way of knowing from day to day what their head-count might be. Because of this, a lot of food was being thrown away at the end of lunch or they might not have enough of a given item because larger than expected crowds materialized out of nowhere. A simpler buffet allows for less waste and easier replenishment when things get busy.

Personally, I have no problem with the scaled down lunch menu. I usually didn't want that much food for my mid-day meal anyway. And rest assured, the breakfast and dinner menus have not changed.

First let's start with the soups. Three different soups are offered daily along with their delicious chili. Today's offerings included Chicken Noodle, Vegetable, and Beef Barley. I tried the vegetable and enjoyed it.


Soup Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


As you would expect, the salad bar is more extensive than on the old lunch menu. First, three premade salads are available, Caesar, Blue Cheese & Strawberry, and Chinese. The Caesar was excellent and the Blue Cheese & Strawberry was also quite good. I did not try the Chinese Salad.


Salad Bar Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


If you want to create your own salad you can choose from iceberg lettuce or mixed greens. Toppings included beats, cheese, mushrooms, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, olives, garbanzo beans, radishes, bacon, and croutons. Five different dressings were on hand along with cottage cheese. I've seen more elaborate salad bars, but there were certainly enough choices here to satisfy the vast majority of people.


Salad Bar Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


The sandwich bar offers the following breads, white, wheat, multigrain, hamburger bun, and French roll. Also included in the bread section were several breakfast style sweet rolls.


Bread Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


The sandwich toppings included beef, ham, turkey, tuna salad, and three selections of sliced cheese. Mayonnaise and mustard are available along with several side dishes like pasta salad, potato salad, and coleslaw.


Meat Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

Side Dishes Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


The fried chicken at Trails End has always been a perennial favorite so "picnic" chicken is being served at lunch. Picnic chicken translates to cold fried chicken. This is the same chicken that is served at the Hoop Dee Doo next door.

Chef Bob told me that all of their fried chicken and BBQed ribs are prepared right there. Approximately 1,200 pounds of each meat are served every day. He went on to tell me that one cast member arrives daily and starts breading the chicken and will do nothing else for an entire eight hour shift. Shortly thereafter another cast member arrives to start frying the chicken for his entire eight hour shift. Wow! This preparation is for both the Trails End and the Hoop Dee Doo.

The dessert bar at Trails End has been expanded for both lunch and dinner. Now available is a soft-serve ice cream machine with a decent topping bar featuring Gummi Bears, M&Ms, nuts, cookie crumbs, chocolate chips, and several sauces. Also available for dessert are several varieties of cookies, Rice Crispy Bars, and brownies.


Soft Serve Ice Cream Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground

Dessert Bar Trails End Lunch Buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground


I have heard a few parents are unhappy that the new lunch menu isn't "kid friendly" since pizza and mac & cheese are no longer available. I don't have kids so I can't say, but I would think that there is enough variety available here to please even the pickiest eater.

Personally, I like the new lunch menu. Because of its reduced price and lighter fare, I'll be tempted to eat here more often. However, I can certainly understand that if you weren't aware of this change and showed up expecting a full-scale buffet, you might be disappointed. But I left today completely satisfied!

June 8, 2008

The Wave at Disney's Contemporary Resort

The California Grill is the Contemporary Resort's signature restaurant, offering upscale dinners, sophisticated atmosphere, and spectacular views of the Magic Kingdom.

For many years, the Concourse Steakhouse, on the fourth floor of the Contemporary, was their casual dining spot, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Although I liked this restaurant, I always felt it lacked a true identity. Since it was open to the cavernous Grand Canyon Concourse, you could never achieve any intimacy here, no matter how hard you tried. So I was happy to learn that this eatery would be replaced by The Wave on the first floor of the hotel, occupying what used to be the Food and Fun Center.

Last night (June 7), The Wave opened its doors for dinner and today it opened for breakfast and lunch. My friend Donald and I were on hand today to sample lunch.

To begin with, I like the entrance. The Disney Imagineers have taken what was once dead space and created a modernistic tunnel that leads to a stylish check-in desk.


The Wave Entrance at the Contemporary

The Wave Entrance at the Contemporary


To the side and behind the check-in desk are two lounges where you can wait for your table or sample a refreshing drink. These lounges are decorated in deep blues with fabric-covered walls, plush bench seating, and black cocktail tables. The lighting is very low and the atmosphere cozy.


The Wave Check-in Area at the Contemporary


Also behind the check-in desk is a stylish bar with seating for approximately 36. Overhead "stars" twinkle. Even the cocktail glasses have "The Wave" etched into them.


Bar at The Wave in the Contemporary

Bar at The Wave in the Contemporary


One might think that with a name like "The Wave," everything would be decorated in shades of blue (like the lounge), but in trying to avoid the obvious, the designers chose a pallet of browns for the main dining room. Instead, the "wave" theme is carried out in the chair's seat backs and the ceiling's lighting.


Dining Room at The Wave in the Contemporary

Dining Room at The Wave in the Contemporary

Dining Room at The Wave in the Contemporary


I spoke to one of the managers and she told me that the restaurant's "punch list" is still being worked. There are a couple of areas that still need to be tweaked, such as they are adding sheer curtains over the windows that separate the bar from the dining room.

At the back of the restaurant is an area that can be closed off to create one large or two smaller, private dining rooms. Also, hidden from the main eating area is a sizeable buffet that can be used when booking a banquet style conference.


The%20Wave%2015.jpg


At night, the overhead lights are turned down to create a more intimate dining atmosphere. Also, the salt, pepper, and sugar containers are removed from the table and presented on a "request only" basis. In addition, votive-style candles are placed on each table.


The%20Wave%2008.jpg


I was never enthused about eating dinner at the Concourse Steakhouse. Even though they served very good food, I wasn't willing to pay the prices they were asking to be seated in a restaurant with so many distractions and so much noise. I don't feel that way about The Wave. With the lights turned down low and candles on the table, I think this would be a nice spot to enjoy a casual meal.

Overall, I very much liked the décor of The Wave. It has an intimate and relaxing feel about it. However, I do have one negative comment. The pillars and the overhead soffits appear to be covered in a wood-grain laminate instead of real wood. I thought this was a little tacky. I don't suppose it will be obvious at night, but during lunch, it can easily been seen.

Being our first visit, Donald and I wanted to try several items, so for appetizers, Donald ordered the Lettuce Wraps and I ordered the Avocado & Citrus Salad. We were told that the Lettuce Wrap is big enough to share, and I suppose it is, but it would be rather messy. The wraps come with sautéed lamb, bay scallops, and red bell pepper in a soy-rice wine vinegar sauce. The menu did not mention the bell peppers, which Donald hates, so he traded with me.

I'm not a big fan of lamb, but I have to admit, I really didn't notice the gamey flavor that I dislike. In fact, I would have no problem ordering this item for myself sometime. It was a little spicy and my lips were tingling when I finished.


Lettuce Wrap Appetizer at The Wave in the Contemporary


The Avocado and Citrus Salad comes with a nice variety of greens, grapefruit sections, and plenty of avocado in an orange vinaigrette. I had one bite before I traded with Donald and I was very pleased with the flavor.


Avocado and Citrus Salad Appetizer at The Wave in the Contemporary


For entrees Donald order the Spice-crusted Chicken Salad and I ordered the Italian Chef Salad. The Spice-crusted Chicken Salad is an assortment of greens, chicken, apples, and polenta croutons. I stole a bite from Donald and both of us agree, this salad is excellent! I've always touted the Colony Salad at the Liberty Tree Tavern as being the best salad at Disney World. I think it has competition.


Spice-crusted Chicken Salad Lunch Entree at The Wave in the Contemporary


I think the name "Italian Chef Salad" is a misnomer. I feel it really should be called "Italian Chef Deli Plate." There were far too few greens to call this a salad. That's not to say I didn't enjoy my meal. There was an abundance of prosciutto, cappicola, provolone, salami, and shaved parmesan, sprinkled with red wine vinaigrette - all of it very good. But if you were expecting a green salad, you'd be disappointed.


Italian Chef Salad Lunch Entree at the Wave in the Contemporary


I love the way desserts are served here. There are four selections, each costing $7.99. Within each selection are three offerings.

For example, the "Creamy Indulgence" includes a small serving each of Cheesecake, Coconut Panna Cotta, and Chocolate-Passion Fruit Mouse. The "Crisp & Crunchy" offers Vanilla-braised Pineapple Spears, Baklava, and Zucchini-Carrot Cake. But if you don't like one of the specific offerings, you can pick and choose from among all twelve taste treats.

I had the Creamy Indulgence and was very happy with my selection. Donald had the selection of sorbets and he said it was a refreshing way to end his meal. He especially liked the Lemon-Basil Sorbet.


Desserts at the Wave in the Contemporary


Two other new items on the menu are Coke-Zero and Sprite-Zero. As I like Coke-Zero better than Diet Coke (which is still available), I'm hoping that other restaurants will also start to offer these beverages.

Our server was Agueda. She has waited on us several times in the past at the Concourse Steakhouse. When we walked into the lobby today, she immediately recognized us and arranged for us to be seated at her table. As always, she gave us exceptional service. In addition, it is obvious that the management of The Wave has gone to great lengths to make sure their staff is current on the new offering as Agueda was very knowledgeable and was able to answer an array of questions I had for her.

I also inquired about vegetarian meals and sugar-free desserts. I was told that the Seasonal Vegetable Stew is normally finished with a pat of butter, but this could easily be omitted if requested. Likewise, the Vegetarian Sandwich can be tweaked to suit the needs of the diner.

The chef came out to talk to me about sugar-free desserts. After some consultation with others in the kitchen, he told me that the Braised Pineapple and Baklava have no sugar added to them.

I had a very good experience today and I hope to be back soon and try their dinner menu.

Reservation can be made by calling 407-WDW-DINE. The Wave is open for breakfast from 7:30am-11:00am, lunch from 12:00pm-2:00pm and dinner from 5:30pm-10:00pm. The lounge is open from 12:00 noon to 12:00 midnight.

The Menus:

Breakfast Menu
Lunch Menu
Dinner Menu
Child's Menu

While I was at the Contemporary, I snapped a few pictures of the Kingdom Tower aka Bay Lake Tower , the new, rumored DVC to the north of the hotel.


The%20Wave%2016.jpg

The%20Wave%2017.jpg

May 3, 2008

Contemporary Resort Update -- The Wave & Construction

I decided today to eat at the Concourse Steakhouse one last time before it closes at the end of the month. When I was handed the menu the waitress told me that for the last several weeks, and for the few remaining, the chef is testing various new appetizers, entrees, and desserts that will be featured at the Wave Restaurant when it opens in June.

Today I tried their Roasted Corn Chowder. It was delicious. The roasted kernels gave the soup a nice smoky taste and the Applewood Bacon also added a rich flavor. Served on the side was a jalapeno corn muffin which was also tasty. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to dunk the muffin or eat it by itself, so I opted for the latter. Later, a manager told me the idea was to dunk it. Maybe next time.

Corn Chowder

I also tried one of their new desserts, the Crisp and Crunchy Trio. This consists of almond-pineapple-raisin baklava, vanilla-braised pineapple slices, and zucchini-carrot cake with vanilla panna cotta. I very much enjoyed the baklava and pineapple slices, but I thought the zucchini-carrot cake was rather dry. I think if they can add some moisture to the cake, they will have a nice dessert that satisfies one's sweet tooth, but doesn't overwhelm you with sugar.


Crisp Crunchy Trio

Also new on the menu were two new entrees. First, Linguini with Florida Littleneck Clams and Rock Shrimp, fresh Thyme, and chucky Tomato Broth. And, Spice-crusted Chicken Salad with Apples and crispy Polenta Croutons. I did not try either of these items so I can't comment on them.

Reservations are now being accepted for The Wave Restaurant starting on June 30th. It is possible that a "soft" opening may commence a few weeks prior to this date. My understanding is that the new menu is mostly complete, but they are testing and fine-tuning items in the Concourse Steakhouse until then. The Wave will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I hope to be there on opening day so watch for my review.

I also snapped a few pictures of the Kingdom Tower (a suspected, yet to be announced DVC property) under construction north of the Contemporary. Other than the fact that the building continues to climb higher and higher, the only new feature of interest is the walkway that will connect the Kingdom Tower to the fourth floor of the Contemporary. It's clearly visible and seems to snake around four giant pylons and looks like it will eventually be suspended by large cables. Time will tell.


Walkway at the Contemporary

Walkway at the Contemporary

Kingdom Tower at the Contemporary

April 24, 2008

Favorite Restaurants at Walt Disney World

A reader asked me for a list of my ten favorite Disney World restaurants. He also asked me for a list of my LEAST favorite Disney World restaurants. I've decided to answer half of his question, sort of, by telling you my favorite counter service and full service restaurant for each park, Downtown Disney, and the resorts as a whole. Now there are some Disney World eateries that I don't like, but for the moment I'm going to keep that list to myself.

Of course, this list is purely subjective and could change tomorrow, depending on my mood. Also, since I'm listing restaurants by location, some selections might make this list, but wouldn't necessarily make a true, "top ten" list. But here are my choices as of this moment.

Magic Kingdom:

Counter Service: Columbia Harbour House
Table Service: The Plaza Restaurant

Epcot:

Counter Service: Yakitori House
Table Service: Bistro de Paris

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Counter Service: None of them
Table Service: Brown Derby

Disney's Animal Kingdom:

Counter Service: A tie between Flame Tree Barbeque and Pizzafari
Table Service: Yak & Yeti

Downtown Disney:

Counter Service: Earl of Sandwich
Table Service: Portobello Yacht Club or Raglan Road

Disney Resorts:

Counter Service: Everything Pop Food Court
Table Service: Flying Fish, followed closely by Citricos

Best Buffet Property Wide: Boma, followed closely by Cape May Café

Best Character Meal Property Wide: I don't do Character Meals!

You may have wondered why I didn't select Victoria & Albert's as my favorite resort table service restaurant. There's a reason I didn't. You see, I put Vickie & Al's (as I like to call it) in a class all by itself. You can't begin to compare this restaurant to anything else at Disney World it is so outstanding. I try to restrict my visits to once every three years or so. The reason, I want to keep this experience extra special and if I ate here too often it would lose some of its charm.

Now remember, my list of restaurants is just that, MY list. If you don't agree with some (or all) of my choices, that's great. Your selections are every bit as valid as mine.

April 3, 2008

Yakitori House - Epcot's Japan

Yakitori House Sign

I'm currently remodeling my kitchen (among other projects). Anyone who has ever undertaken a home improvement project knows there are good days and bad days. Today was a bad day. First, the tile man called and cancelled. He had a legitimate excuse, but I was disappointed, none the less. Since I now had the day free, I decided I'd buy paint and embrace a brush and roller. To make a very long story short, I ended up with the wrong color. It was now approaching 5pm and I was frustrated and hungry. My instinct was to sit in front of the TV for the rest of the night and fume, but I decided this wasn't my best course of action so I forced myself into the car and I headed for Epcot.

When I reached one of the outer parking lots, I was directed to the far end of a row - naturally. I just missed the tram so I walked to the main gate. After entering the park, I practically sprinted through Future World. Fortunately, I timed my arrival at the Canada Friendship Boat Landing just as they were loading. I climbed aboard and we set sail. I exited at Morocco and once again took up power walking as I headed for the Yakitori House in the Japan pavilion - which is the point of my blog.

The Yakitori House is my favorite counter service restaurant in Epcot. I like the food, but more than that, I like the atmosphere. It's quiet and serene - the perfect place to go when you need to clear your head and relax.

Yakitori House


If the weather is too hot or too cold, I sit in the indoor dining room. Rough-hewn logs hold up the thatched roof while faux shoji screens make up three walls of the restaurant. The ordering counter makes up the fourth. Most tables are long, seat six, and are meant to be shared with strangers, but rarely are. The views from here are peaceful as you look out over much of the Japan Pavilion.

Yakitori House


If the weather is nice, as it was this evening, I sit outdoors. Here you'll find approximately ten tables that seat two or four, generously spaced, under Japanese lanterns. Manicured gardens and a lovely rock waterfall and pond surround you. Sitting out here, you feel miles away from everything. Even when all of the tables are in use, it's relatively quite as the waterfall seems to absorb the voices. The only break in this tranquility is when the drummers are performing under the pagoda.

Yakitori House

To be honest, I can't tell you too much about the menu since I always order the same thing: Shogun Combination - teriyaki chicken thigh, sukiyaki beef, and steamed rice (hold the ginger). But I've always been happy with this selection so I like to think I'd enjoy some of their other offerings. I guess I'm in a rut.

Now I realize that most of you cannot dash off to Epcot for dinner when you've had a bad day. But I would like to suggest the Yakitori House when you're here on vacation. Epcot is big and it can be stressful. You need to take a break now and then and this spot is the perfect place to do that. Even if it's not meal time, stop by and have a soda (or something stronger) and sit for a spell.


I stretched out my simple meal tonight to around 35 minutes. I ate slowly, enjoyed the atmosphere, and made silly faces with the cutest baby in a stroller seated at a table next to me. By the time I left, I had (almost) forgotten my hectic day and was fairly relaxed. I strolled through the rest of World Showcase instead of my previous frenzied walk.

There are other peaceful places to be found in Epcot, but for me, the Yakitori House is hands-down the most delightful.


Reader Yakatori House Reviews

Yakatori House Menu

March 22, 2008

How the Flying Fish Cafe Got Its Name

Recently, I wrote an article for the Allears.net newsletter about the Flying Fish Café. In it, I mentioned that I wasn't exactly sure how the restaurant got its name. Two of my readers (Debbie and Mehran), did a much better job of research than I did and were able to find the answer. My thanks to them both.

This is an excerpt from "Nation's Restaurant News" dated July 19, 1999 and authored by David Mack.

The inspiration for the Flying Fish Cafe came from a classic Coney Island roller coaster called the Flying Turns; one of the cars on that coaster was called the Flying Fish. The coaster was part of Coney Island's heyday during the 1920's, the so-called "Golden Age of roller coasters." Coasters built during that time reflected a daredevil attitude on the part of their designers, and were integral to the spirit of Coney Island, which architect Martin Dorf described as "its heightened sense of reality, its sense of joy, its mystique, with grotesque shapes and rides like fish that swallowed you whole."

To read the entire article, check out this website:

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3190/is_29_33/ai_55221635

March 15, 2008

Wolfgang Puck Express – Marketplace

When Wolfgang Puck's first opened at the Marketplace in Downtown Disney, they had no indoor seating. This simply wouldn't do in hot, humid, and rainy Florida. Eventually, they rearranged what little indoor space they had and added a few tables. This helped, but it wasn't the solution they needed. So a couple of months ago they closed up shop for a major rehab and reopened today, Saturday, March 15.

Wolfgang Puck Express Entrance

I visited their remodeled venue for lunch today and was happy with what I saw. The first thing I noticed was a new, large, indoor dining room had been added. Approximately fifteen tables are spaciously arranged in an airy room surrounded on three sides by floor to ceiling windows. The atmosphere has a clean modern feel but the wooden tables and chairs add some warmth.

Wolfgang Puck Express Indoor Seating

Wolfgang Puck Express Indoor Seatingpg

Wolfgang Puck Express Indoor Seating

Wolfgang Puck Express Indoor Seating

Wolfgang Puck Express Indoor Seating

Wolfgang Puck Express Indoor Seating

Outside you'll find another twenty or so tables, most under a large roof. The tables here are made of brushed metal and the seats are wicker.

Wolfgang Puck Express Outside Tables

Wolfgang Puck Express Outside Tables


The area where you order your food has also been completely redesigned and continues this modern theme. To the right of the ordering area is another, smaller seating area with two large tables for eight, a beverage station, and an open kitchen.

After ordering, you're given a plastic table-tent with a number printed on it. You are also given flatware that is wrapped in a high-quality paper napkin. If you've ordered beverages you're given plastic (not paper) glasses and told to get your drinks, find a table, and display your number.

As it was opening day, every cast member was working and it would be impossible to complain about service. Shortly after Donald and I were seated, we were greeted by a young man who told us he would be our server. A few minutes later, he brought our food to the table and asked if we needed refills for our drinks.

I ordered the Roast Beef & Cheddar Sandwich on Focaccia for $9.95. It was quite good. The serving of beef was more than adequate and it was topped with cheese, tomato, and greens that have been tossed with a light vinaigrette dressing. A side of home-made Yukon Gold Parmesan potato chips rounded out the meal. I was please with my choice.

Roast Beef & Cheddar Sandwich on Focaccia

Donald ordered the Rosemary Rotisserie Chicken for $11.95. He couldn't have been happier. He has always enjoyed Wolfgang Puck's rotisserie chicken and he wasn't disappointed today. First, the serving is large - a half chicken. Next, the finished product was attractive to look at. And finally, it was juicy and delicious. It was served with a side of garlic mashed potatoes smothered in butter.

Rosemary Rotisserie Chicken

Another thing I liked was that the entrees were served on plastic (not paper) plates. This helps give a slightly more upscale feel to the place.

Since your order is brought to your table and drink refills are also fetched by a cast member, I would say that Wolfgang Puck Express at the Marketplace is a cross between a counter-service and table-service restaurant. When we finished our meal, we left our server a tip as it was certainly warranted.

I didn't frequent the old restaurant because of their lack of indoor seating and I didn't feel their food and atmosphere warranted the prices. But I would certainly rethink this opinion as I was most pleased today.

I asked a manager if the Disney Dining "Card" was accepted and was told yes. I forgot to ask about the Disney Dining "Plan" - sorry.

Wolfgang Puck Express is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Takeout is also available.


February 24, 2008

Liberty Tree Tavern Pagers

A very old tradition has died at the Liberty Tree Tavern at the Magic Kingdom. In the past, when guests checked in at the podium, they were asked what state they were from. Then, when it was time to be seated, the host or hostess would call out in town-crier fashion, "Hear ye! Hear ye! Now seating the Spence party (family) from the great state of Florida. But those days are gone.

Now when guests check in at the podium, they are given a pager with no question about their home state. On the plus side, the pagers do allow guests more freedom of movement as they are now allowed to wonder outside while waiting for their table. But on the downside, the restaurant has lost some of its charm with this new system.

And if my experience today is any indication, their system needs some work. After my pager was activated and I handed it back to a hostess, I was all but forgotten. Other parties were being seated while I was left standing there. After I brought this to their attention, I still waited several minutes while they tried to figure out what had happened to my reservation. When they finally found it, a new hostess asked me for my pager - which I had to explain had already been given to someone else several minutes earlier.

Bottom line" Pagers are now the norm in restaurants - which is probably a good thing. But isn't there someway to do this without giving up the charm of old traditions?

February 22, 2008

Yak & Yeti Update

Last week, I had lunch at the Yak & Yeti table-service restaurant for the second time. I'm happy to report that every thing is still top notch. The food was tasty and beautifully presented and the service was attentive and friendly. My only comment is that the prices are a little high for lunch. It's difficult for me to spent between $16 - $23 for lunch, especially when no starters or bread is included.

I also had a key learning. I was seated in the very first dining room that you come to after leaving the lobby. In the future, I will request a table somewhere else in the restaurant. This "first" dining room shares its space with the bar and an elevator. Also, all of the people seated in the rest of the restaurant must pass thru this area to get to and from their tables. All of this is much too distracting and detracts from an otherwise quaint atmosphere. The rest of the dining rooms are fine, but skip this first one.

Next door to the Yak & Yeti table-service restaurant is the Yak & Yeti counter-service restaurant (Anandupur Local Food Cafes). I ate here today for the first time and wanted to share my thoughts. The first thing you will notice is the prices. Once again, they are high, especially for a counter-service restaurant. Entrées run from $8-$11.

Anandupur Local Food Cafes

I ordered the Sweet & Sour Pork for $9.99. After paying, I approached the pick-up window and my order was already waiting. Obviously it had been prepared in advance and was just waiting to be picked up from under the heat-lamp and placed on a tray. I stopped by the condiment station, picked up napkins and a fork, and then found a table.

The entrees are served in cute "Chinese-styled" cartons that are themed appropriately to the venue.

Anandupur Local Food Cafes

However, upon opening up my container, I found that the rice was on the bottom and the pork was on the top. This made it somewhat difficult to eat. I had to do a lot of "stirring" to find everything.

Anyone who reads my restaurant reviews knows that I'm not particularly harsh when critiquing the food served at Disney. Well today will change all that. The Sweet & Sour Pork was bad. First, it was only warm, not hot. Since this is a "counter-service" restaurant I can be somewhat forgiving in this area, but I suspect that it lost a lot of its original warmth sitting under a heat-lamp.

The breading on the pork was mushy. Blah. And the taste was practically non-existent. I don't normally salt my food but I had to make another trip to the condiment station to pick up a packet to try to eek out some flavor.

Since I was alone, I was only able to try one item. I will make subsequent trips in the months to come and try some of their other offerings. I truly hope that what I sampled today was the exception, not the rule.

I also have a comment about the seating area. Although authentically correct to the area, I see a real problem as the summer months approach. Only a handful of tables have umbrellas. The vast majority of the seating area is not protected from the elements. I don't know who will want to sit out here when the hot August sun is beating down on them. And it should be lots of fun to watch several hundred people scurrying for cover when the summer thunderstorms open up. Disney really needs to rethink this area.

Anandupur Local Food Cafes

In the meantime, if you're looking for good counter-service food at the Animal Kingdom, try the Hot Italian Style Sandwich at Pizzafari or the ribs or chicken at Flame Tree BBQ. Pizzafari offers indoor (air conditioned) seating and Flame Tree offers a number of cozy, covered dining areas. Both are superior to Yak & Yeti and the prices are more reasonable.

Yak & Yeti is not operated by Disney, but by the same folks that run Rainforest Café.

February 21, 2008

Diamond Horseshoe

The Diamond Horseshoe in the Magic Kingdom is currently serving lunch from 11am to 4pm during the busy President's week. Premade sandwiches, a Caesar Salad, and drinks are available. I asked a cast member if this was a permanent arrangement and I was told that this venue would be used occasionally throughout the year during busy times. The Disney Dining Plan is accepted here.

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January 16, 2008

Disney Dining Experience - Heads Up

Heads Up - Disney Dining Experience

As of January 1st, an automatic 18% gratuity will be added to checks when guests use their Disney Dining Experience card *.

In the past, tipping was left up to the guest's discretion. Now that the policy has changed, I wanted to give all of you who use this card a friendly "heads up." I have used my DDE card four times since the beginning of the year. On every occasion, the server has NOT informed me that the gratuity has been added. Instead, I'm presented with three pieces of paper. The original, itemized bill. A second, itemized receipt that also displays the discount and the tip. And a final draft that ONLY has the total and a place to add a tip and sign my name.

When I'm presented with the final bill, the first two pieces of paper have been neatly placed (sometimes folded up) on one side of the server's folder. The receipt that requires my signature is placed on the other side of the folder and is eagerly pointed out to me. Of course, the TIP section of the bill has been left blank so that I can add an additional amount if I wish. However, since the server doesn't tell you that the gratuity has already been added, I believe that many guests will mistakenly tip an additional 15%-20%, not realizing that they have already been charged for this service. I realize that the automatic gratuity is printed on the second receipt, but I feel its being hidden from me when I'm presented with my bill. And unless you read you're receipt carefully, it's easy to overlook.

I'm not saying that anyone is trying to get away with anything. But I feel the servers should be upfront and inform the guest that the tip has already been added.

* Disney Dining Experience is a dining discount program for eligible Florida Residents and Annual Passholders 21 and older and is good for 20 percent off food and beverage at a number of Walt Disney World Resort hotel and theme park restaurants and lounges. The discount is good for up to 10 persons in your party.

ADDITIONAL COMMENT FROM DEB WILLS: To reinforce what Jack has stated, I just returned from a weekend at WDW and used my Disney Dining Experience card many times. Only one server talked to me about the new policy and explained that the tip was automatically added.


Disney Dining Experience Receipt

Disney Dining Experience Receipt

January 11, 2008

Pizzafari

I ate at the Pizzafari restaurant in the Animal Kingdom January 10th.

When I got to my table I noticed a small plastic card on the tray along with my order. The card featured Timon and Pumba with the inscription, "Do not feed the animals. Your yummies are not good for our tummies."

Don't Feed the Animals Safety Card


I thought this was a very cute way to remind us not to be tempted to share our meals with the creatures around us. The other side of the card said, "Disney's Wild About Safety. Safety Tip 14. In cooperation with Underwriters Laboratories." I'm guessing that Disney has a new corporate sponsor and additional safety tips will be passed out in other areas.

Disney's Wild About Safety.  Safety Tip 14


Speaking of Pizzafari" Did you know that this restaurant has four dining rooms, each with its own theme? (Not to mention Hidden Mickeys)

One room features animals that use camouflage to hide from one another.

Pizzafari Camaflage Room

Pizzafari Camaflage Room


A different room has animals that carry their home with them in some way.

Pizzafari Animals Carry Their Home Room

Pizzafari Animals Carry Their Home Room


The third dining area displays creatures that prowl the night.

Pizzafari Night  Animals

Pizzafari Night  Animals

And the fourth room exhibits animals that live much of their life upside down.

Pizzafari Room Animals Live Upside Down

Pizzafari Room Animals Live Upside Down

Also, listen to the music that is played here. All of the songs are about animals. Here is the song list.

Baby Elephant Walk
Black Bird
Feed the Birds (from Mary Poppins)
High Hopes
Mr. Ed
Octopus Garden
Ol' McDonald
Puff the Magic Dragon
Rockin' Robin
Skylark
The Lion Sleep Tonight
Tie Me Kangaroo Down
Tiki Room (from Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room)
Whale of a Tale (from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)
Yellow Bird


Pizzafari Menu

December 5, 2007

Epcot Changes

Over the last several years, Disney has tried several concepts at Epcot to best implement baggage check as you enter the park. It appears that they have finally hit upon a design that works. Temporary stanchions have been replaced with stainless steel fences. Even the flowerbeds now have security fences running through them. This looks much better (and I'm sure is much more secure) than the temporary stanchions that have been used during this testing period.

Two new, permanent quick-service structures have been built along the promenade around World Showcase. The first, Promenade Refreshments, is located just to the right as you enter World Showcase (across from the Port of Entry shop).

The second eatery is located to the left of the American Pavilion. Both serve turkey legs, hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, ice cream, and smoothies.

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November 26, 2007

All Star Cafe Reopens at Disney's Wide World of Sports

All Star Café Redesign

When I heard that Disney was changing the All Star Café from a table service restaurant to a counter service restaurant, I was disappointed. I always enjoyed this spot. In fact, the first review I ever wrote for AllEars.net was for this eatery. However, I realize that it was a business decision to make the change. Often, this place was deserted, especially if there were no events scheduled at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex. Disney needed to do something to increase business here.

I visited the new restaurant on Sunday November 25th. According to one cast member, this eatery does not have a new name yet so it's still being called the All Star Café until one is selected. This is evident by the missing sign over the entrance and on the posted menus.

Exterior Entrance

Speaking of the entrance, it has been moved inside the gated area. The old entrance was outside the gated area so anyone could eat here, whether they were attending an event or not. When I visited today, several ticketed events were in progress and cast members were guarding the gates to the sports complex. I approached one of them and explained that I just wanted to eat lunch at the new restaurant. She told me to come on in and pointed the way.


Directions Sign


Current Hours Sign


Later, I spoke to a manager about this and she told me that the entrance policy is in flux. At the moment, anyone can eat at the All Star Café. All you have to do is inform a cast member at one of the gates and you will be granted admission. Supposedly, Disney is keeping track of how many "non-event" guests are eating here, but I didn't see anyone counting me as I entered. It is possible that in the future, this restaurant will only be open to guests attending a ticketed event. The manager compared this policy to eating at the Brown Derby in the Disney/MGM Studios. You must have admission to the park in order to eat at its restaurants.

Lobby Counter Area


The new entrance to the All Star Café is a cavernous room with a decided lack of decor. There is a large counter with menus overhead along the back side of this room. It is here that you place your order.


Order Counter


After you pay, you are given a plastic number and told to find a seat in the restaurant. Off to the side of the counter is a queue if a line should form (which it did by the time I was leaving).

When I arrived at my table I found an interesting electronic box. Instructions on the side told me to place the plastic number I was given into a slot on the top, then remove it and set the number to the side. This action electronically notifies the kitchen where you are seated so they can easily find you when it comes time to deliver your food. This was a nice gimmick.

Table Identifier

Guests are given a paper cup when they order a drink. Beverages are dispensed on an all-you-can-drink basis while dining in the restaurant. Soda fountains, tea, and coffee can be found along one side of the dining room along with condiments, napkins and straws.

Beverage Station


The décor of the dining room is the same as it used to be, yet different. All of the personal sports memorabilia has been removed which gives the room a cleaner look.

Dining Room


Dining Room


Also, a wall separating a private dining room has been knocked out, opening up more seating and exposing several large windows that lightens the room considerably.

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The bar is in its same location and basically unchanged.

Bar

Many of the large TVs are still mounted high above the seating area. However, I was disappointed that they hadn't been upgraded. These are old, rear-projection televisions and they look bad by today's standards. The pictures are not sharp and the color is dubious at best. In this day and age, it's a shame Disney didn't upgrade these sets with LCD or plasma.


Dining Room


Dining Room

Also gone are the little black boxes that could be found on every table. These boxes could be used to tune in the audio on any given station being broadcast. When I asked a cast member what had happened to them, I was told that they were no longer available. Audio was a thing of the past. In fact, even if there is a "big game" on, you will not be able to watch it with sound. I can only guess that Disney is trying to encourage a fast turn-over rather than promote a "sports" restaurant atmosphere. The only non-human sound was the piped-in music.

In one corner of the room was a television tuned to one of the Disney resort stations promoting DVC membership. This was pretty meaningless with no audio.

Another possible change from the old policy is the days of operation. The new restaurant may be closed when no sporting event is scheduled at the complex.

One of my complaints about Disney restaurants over the past several years is the homogenizing of their menus around property. They offer the same food everywhere you go. One glaring example is the Reuben Sandwich. Well, it just so happens I don't like corned beef. I keep asking anyone who will listen, "Why can't they serve pastrami & rye at just one restaurant?" Well at last, they do. And that's what I ordered. And it was good. Sandwiches come with your choice of baked potato chips, melon-cucumber salad, or coleslaw.

Pastrami Sandwich

My friend Donald ordered the clam chowder and a chicken Caesar salad. He said the chowder was better than he expected for a counter-service restaurant. He said the Caesar salad was fine - nothing to complain about, but nothing to write home about either. Note, the food is served in plastic boxes.

Chicken Caesar Salad

Also available on the menu was ice cream. I asked what would happen if I ordered ice cream at the same time I ordered my lunch. Would it all arrive at my table at the same time and sit there melting as I ate my sandwich? I was told, no. If you order ice cream, you retrieve it at a later time at a counter inside the dining room. Just show them your receipt and you will be given your dessert. One cast member told me that next week guests will be given a plastic coin when they order ice cream that can be redeemed later.

When we had finished eating, I wasn't sure if I was expected to bus my own table so I asked a cast member. He told me that Disney expects guest to leave the tables dirty and their staff will take care of cleaning up the mess.

This restaurant is definitely a cross between table-service and counter-service. The fact that your food is brought to you and then Disney cleans up after you is a nice touch.

Because of the blurry distinction, Disney is still trying to decide if this restaurant should qualify for the Disney Dining Experience 20% discount. At the moment, it does, but things could change.

This restaurant does honor the Disney Dining Plan. And if you're confused between these two plans, read Anita Answer's column dated November 19th.

Would I go back? Yes. I live locally and as long as I can get in without buying a sporting event ticket, sure, why not. I eat at Disney World five times a week and even with the vast number of dining choices available, I still need all the variety I can get. The meal I ordered was fine and I liked the fact that my food was brought to the table and I didn't have to clean up after myself.


Should you eat here? If you're already attending a sporting event at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, yes.
The food is basic, but good. And if you're hungry, there is no reason to jump in your car and travel someplace else. But should you make a special trip if you don't already have a reason to be here? Not really. Unless you're a true Disneyphile like myself and want to experience everything at Walt Disney World, I wouldn't bother.


November 17, 2007

Tusker House Restaurant

The first change you'll notice about the new Tusker House Restaurant is that Disney has positioned the check-in over near the Dawa Bar and the entrance is now located behind the restaurant.

Tusker House New Entrance


This has its pluses and minuses. The plus, it can get crowded over near the Kusafiri Coffee Shop & Bakery (the old entrance). If Disney had added a check-in booth in this area, it would be a nightmare logistically.

Tusker House Check-in Podium


The negative thing about where they did position the check-in is that it's located adjacent to the stage area where drummers and acrobats perform several times a day. In fact, when I checked-in, I had to yell to be heard. After checking-in, I was asked to stand over near the Dawa Bar. The crowd of people milling about is sure to detract from the bar's atmosphere. When the host called my name, he too had to yell to be heard over the beating drums.

A hostess took me to my table and as she did, she did her best to describe the hotel upstairs (wink, wink), and the African artifacts found throughout.

The restaurant's seating area has not changed at all.

Tusker House Restaurant Seating


The only difference you will find is that the tables are now set with silverware and wine glasses. I noticed that the tables for four only had two wine glasses - assuming that most parties of this size would have children in tow. There are no soft objects in the seating area so there is nothing to absorb the sound. It can get noisy in here.

Tusker House Table

My server Dorothy greeted me promptly and explained that many "venders" had created tempting dishes for sale in the marketplace. This storyline was a nice touch.

The old counter-service area has been beautifully redesigned into a lovely buffet. You'd never know that it had been converted. Happily, Disney did keep the wonderful rotisserie and it can still be seen roasting chickens.

Tusker House Buffet Area

Tusker House Buffet Area


Also, the quaint shops that line the second floor of the buffet/marketplace are still there. Take the time to look up sometime, the detailing is wonderful.

Tusker House Detailed Artwork

Everything I tasted was good. If I had to sum up what I thought of the buffet, I'd say it was a mini-version of the Boma buffet at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The only complaint I had was the plates available at the carving station were cold - thus, when I got back to my table, so was my meat. On subsequent trips to the buffet, I found the plates to be warm.

A quick rundown of the food available: A bread station with non-typical offerings. A cold-cuts table with sliced ham, turkey, and cheese. These offerings were very pedestrian - there to please picky eaters. A number of salads - both leafy and not. A carving station with pork and sirloin. Curried chicken, a seafood casserole, salmon, rotisserie chicken, and an assortment of potatoes and vegetables round out the meal. A children's table is also available.

Tusker House Buffet Arrangements

Lunch costs $19.99 and I thought it was worth the price. Dinner costs $26.99 - the only difference being that prime rib is added to the menu. I'm not so sure prime rib is worth a $7 increase.

Breakfast Menu

Lunch Menu

Bottom line - I would definitely return for lunch. I enjoyed myself and the food.

November 14, 2007

Yak & Yeti Opening Day Review

I had heard that the Yak & Yeti restaurant in the Animal Kingdom was opening today. Since I had just been there a couple of days earlier and the construction walls were still up, I was a little dubious, but decided to check it out.

My friend Donald and I arrived a little before 11am. There were already about thirty people in line ahead of us. We confirmed with a cast member outside that the restaurant would be opening in about 5 minutes for "walk-ups" only.

During the first several minutes after opening, seating went slowly. Management was definitely giving the hosts and hostesses, servers, bartenders, and chefs plenty of time to get acclimated to their new surroundings before bombarding them. Eventually, they started taking names and told us approximately when we could expect to be seated. We were taken to our table around 11:20.

The restaurant is beautiful - just like you'd expect a Disney restaurant to be. Actually, I'm not sure beautiful is the right word. The restaurant is themed beautifully, but it's not beautiful. I'm not exactly sure what region of Asia this eatery is supposed to reflect, but I'd have to say the areas in and around Nepal.

The building looks like it's been here for many, many years and has seen the ravages of time. Floor tiles are broken, chandeliers are missing crystals, and the window pains are made of imperfect glass. Also strewn around the various rooms was Asian bric-a-brac - an assortment of stuff from all over. In other words, it looks authentic.

As our hostess took us to our table, she pointed out some of the details of the restaurant, telling us that the "proprietor" had selected this piece and that while on his travels.

The restaurant has a number of small dining rooms located on two floors. I doubt that any one room has more than ten tables in it. This gives guests a very cozy feel. Also, there are a few tables on each floor situated next to windows that look outside. I'm sure these window tables on the second floor will be in high demand.

The restaurant was promoting the Yak Attack, a concoction of Mango Daiquiri, Bacardi Light Rum, and Wildberry Flavors. Donald and I each ordered one and were happy we did. It certainly had a tropical taste about it, but was like nothing we'd ever tried before.

For appetizers we split the Dim Sum Basket. It arrived at our table in a bamboo steamer basket. Our waiter, Jay, set it down between us, then lifted the lid and positioned it just off to the side of the main bowl - a very attractive touch.

Dim Sum Basket

Later in our meal a manager stopped by. He asked us if Jay had presented the Dim Sum Basket correctly. When we said that he had, the manager was pleased and said that they are striving hard to serve several dishes with a flair. The Dim Sum Basket contained Pork Pot Stickers, Shrimp Siu Mai, Cho Su Bao and Pork Siu Mai. All was good and plenty for two to share.

For entrees I had the Baby Back Ribs .

BBQ Ribs


Donald had the Maple Tararind Chicken. We were both pleased with our selections.

Maple Tamarind Chicken

For dessert I had the Sorbet which consisted of three different flavors, raspberry, lemon, and mango. It was beautifully served and tasted even better.

Sorbet

Donald had the Chocolate Brownie Sundae. There wasn't anything particularly Asian about it, but it was big and delicious.

Chocolate Brownie Sundae

Overall the menu is fairly tame. There is nothing so exotic as to send guests running for a hamburger. Even the pickiest eater would have an easy time finding something to their liking.

While dining, I saw Joe Rhode wandering through the restaurant with some other big-wigs. For those of you who don't know, Joe Rhode pretty much designed the Animal Kingdom and was the primary guy when it came time to design and build Expedition: Everest.

I called his name across the room and he was kind enough to come over to our table. I introduced myself and complimented him on this wonderful restaurant. He then introduced me to another gentleman who was the lead architect on this project - unfortunately, I can't remember his name. Joe was then kind enough to pose for pictures. I was jazzed!


Jack, Donald, and Joe Rhode

At the moment, it hasn't been decided if the Disney Dining Experience card will be accepted here. This restaurant is operated by Landry's, the same company that operates the Rainforest Café, which does not accept this card.

Ever since the Animal Kingdom opened, I have said that it needs a waiter service restaurant inside the park. The Rainforest Café is too far away being all the way at the park's entrance. The Yak & Yeti Restaurant is a welcome addition to the Animal Kingdom. The theming is wonderful and the food is good.

At the moment, reservations are not being accepted. They are only taking "walk-ups." Beginning December 3rd guests can make reservations for January 4th and beyond by calling 407-WDW-DINE

Yak & Yeti Restaurant - Animal Kingdom

I visited the new Yak and Yeti Restaurant today in Animal Kingdom. Here are the photos.

Descriptions, menus and a narrative to come later.

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October 25, 2007

Yak & Yeti Restaurant

Construction continues on the Yak & Yeti Restaurant in the Animal Kingdom. Instead of bricks, mortar, and plywood, Asian themeing is starting to become apparent. Windows on the second floor are clearly visible and I'm hoping this will be seating for either the full service or the counter service restaurants. The building site is starting to have a completed feel about it and looks good!

Yak & Yeti Restaurant Construction

Yak & Yeti Restaurant Construction

Yak & Yeti Restaurant Construction


Yak & Yeti Restaurant Construction

August 7, 2007

Pecos Bills - Magic Kingdom

Pecos Bill's  Express Ordering Menu

Several years ago, the Pecos Bill Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom tested a couple of automated "ordering" stations where guests could place their meal order via touch-sensitive screens instead of interacting with a cast member. For whatever reason, these stations were removed after a month-long test period.

Pecos Bill's Ordering Station Kiosks

Last month, they appeared again, this time with a more user-friendly design. On the previous version, it was almost impossible to find the slot to slide your credit card through. On the new models, it's very obvious how to pay. The sign above the machines says that you can only pay using a credit card or the Disney Dining Plan. It does indicated that you can use your Disney hotel room key. Cash transactions mush be made with a cast member.

Pecos Bill's  Touch Screen


After you order, a receipt will print out which you take to the counter and wait for your food to be delivered.

Pecos Bill's Ordering Screens

Pecos Bill's Ordering Screens

July 3, 2007

Le Cellier Steakhouse - Canada - Epcot

Le Cellier Sign Recently, I called to make reservations at the Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion. I wanted to eat sometime between 5pm and 7pm. I didn't care what day.

The operator checked every day starting on June 25. It wasn't until October 31st that he was able to secure a table for me at 5:45pm. Along the way, he was able to offer a couple of 8:30pm and 4:00pm reservations, but the prime dining times were completely booked up.

The operator told me that the Le Cellier is the most difficult restaurant to book at Walt Disney World and guests need to be willing to make reservations 120-180 days in advance to eat here.

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About Dining

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to The “World” According to Jack in the Dining category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Downtown Disney is the next category.

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