Dining Out and About: The Official All Star Cafe
by Jack Spence, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the
March 7, 2006, Issue #337 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
When I first moved to Orlando and bought my Annual Pass, one of my goals was to dine at every eatery on Disney property. This included counter and full service restaurants, as well as all snack food windows. Of course, over the years while vacationing here, I had already sampled my fair share of meals throughout Walt Disney World. Cinderella's Royal Table (King Stefan's Banquet Hall in 1973) was one of the first restaurants I tried. After Epcot opened, it took several vacations, but I eventually ate at all of the restaurants in World Showcase. And when the Disney-MGM Studios opened, there were the obvious choices of the Sci-Fi Dine-In and the '50s Prime Time Cafe. In addition, I always ate at least one meal at the hotel where I was staying. But still, there were many more restaurants than I had time to sample while visiting on vacation.
Soon after moving to Orlando, I realized that in order to keep track of my experiences, I needed to make a list of every eatery on property. I opened up Excel and created a spreadsheet of my experiences, where I could enter the date and meal (B,L,D). This worked well, and often my restaurant choice for the day was determined by what was not checked off on my list.
As time went on, my list of untried restaurants grew shorter. I was narrowing in on my goal. However, there was one glaring exception, the All Star Cafe. Since I'm not into sports (I don't know the difference between a shuttlecock and a birdie), I had little desire to eat here. In addition, unless you're attending a sports event at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, there is little reason to be in this remote area of the property. But my restaurant list was continuing to narrow and it was becoming increasingly obvious that I would eventually have to bite the bullet and eat here. And I'm glad I did. I've been back many times since my initial visit and have been pleased every time.
The All Star Cafe is located at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, which can be found at the south end of the Walt Disney World Resort property, off of Victory Way. Unlike a number of Disney restaurants, this eatery is relatively easy to get to. No admission tickets to buy, guards to pass, or reservations to make. And unless there is a major sporting event scheduled, there is usually plenty of parking. However, if you do happen to arrive when there is an event going on, don't let this scare you off. Most of the participants are busy with their given activities and are not eating at the restaurant.
After you park, you will walk up a wide pathway toward the sports complex. The first time I visited, I was amazed at how beautifully Disney had designed this venue. (Silly me. This is Disney; of course it was done well.)
The first building you come to on the left is a retail shop selling sports-related items emblazoned with Disney branding. Beyond this is the baseball stadium. It was designed with Floridian-style architecture circa 1920. Immediately across from the stadium is the All Star Cafe — or the Official All Star Cafe — both names are used. The hours of operation are from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
The lobby is filled with sports memorabilia and a "check-in" desk that is no longer used. A short walk down a hallway and past the bar brings you to a podium where you will be greeted and then escorted to your table.
The restaurant portion of this facility is one large room with a very high ceiling. The lower portion of the walls are decorated with more sports memorabilia while the upper portion of the room contains 16 large and nine small television sets — all tuned to numerous sports events and sports-related interviews. Many of the channels are repeated on different sets, so no matter where you sit, everyone at your table should be able to see the same broadcasts. Mercifully, the sound on these TVs is not turned on. In order to listen to a particular broadcast, you must use a small speaker box, which sits on your table.
These boxes have a dial that allows you to select which show you would like to listen to — or turn off completely. Unless a major game is being played and the restaurant is filled with enthusiastic fans, this restaurant is no noisier than any other eatery on property. Contemporary music plays at a nice volume and it's easy to have a conversation without having to shout across the table.
In addition to the sports shows, several of the TVs broadcast a trivia game. Every several minutes, a new question is displayed with five possible answers. You can play casually, like I do, or ask your server for a game box that actually keeps track of your score and the score of others playing the game. The quicker you answer a question, the more points you receive, and these are periodically displayed. The categories of the questions are all over the map, not just sports trivia, so anyone can play.
Several of the booths in the back of the restaurant are shaped like large baseball gloves — great for families. If you want to sit at one of these special tables, just ask the host or hostess when you check in.
The food at the All Star Cafe is "comfort food." You will not find anything exotic here. We're talking buffalo wings, hamburgers, ribs, and the like — just what you'd expect to find in a sports bar/restaurant. Since I have eaten here a number of times, I have tried a fair share of the offerings. I've never been disappointed. The lunch and dinner menu are the same, including the prices. Here are some of my thoughts and recommendations:
The Chili Cheese Nachos are great. They have plenty of "goodies" besides the chips. Once I paid extra to have chicken added into the mix. It really wasn't necessary as the nachos already have so much chili and cheese that the chicken was lost. This is large portion. Three or four people could share them as an appetizer or you can do as I do and get them as a meal. You will likely be full if you finish them.
Their Chicken Caesar Salad is also a good bet. They'll be happy to "blacken" the chicken upon request. One thing to be aware of is that sometimes they put on a little too much dressing; however, the dressing is really good so I never complain. You can also get a Chicken Caesar Salad Wrap. It's the same salad as above, just wrapped in a flour tortilla. It comes with a side of cucumber salad, but like most restaurants across property, you can substitute the side for something else.
The Smoked Pork Ribs are meaty, tender, and served with fries and cole slaw. I've had this entree a couple of times and have been pleased. The hamburger is large — a 1/2-pound (before cooking) and juicy. Additional toppings of onions, mushrooms, and bacon can be added for an extra charge. Like most burgers served in table service restaurants at Walt Disney World, they are served dry and you must request mayonnaise and mustard. Catsup is usually served with fries without having to ask.
In my opinion, the best hot dog on property can be found here — or I should say, the best Chili-Cheese Dog. It's big and meaty.
Alcoholic beverages are also available from a well-stocked bar. If you choose to sit at the bar, a limited menu is available when the restaurant is busy, but at slower times, they will bend the rules and serve you anything from the menu.
If no sporting event is taking place during your visit, you can usually walk around the complex before or after your meal and see some of the various sports venues. However, if an event is taking place, most of the sports complex is located behind a gate and a ticket is required to pass through.
Editor's Note: All Star Cafe was closed September 20, 2007. It was replaced by What's Next? Cafe which opened on November 21, 2007. It operated as that generic name until it was re-opened under the ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill in 2010.
Disney's Wide World of Sports: http://allears.net/btp/dwws.htm
Wide World of Sports Photo Gallery: http://allears.net/btp/dwws_pho.htm
Wide World of Sports Review: http://allears.net/ae/issue211.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.