Love Affair with Walt Disney World Food
By Danielle Friend, ALL EARS® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the May 9, 2006, Issue #346 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
When I think back at all the typical comments Disneyholics get about their love of Walt Disney World, I think the one that took me by surprise the most (and quite honestly, even slightly offended me) was when a relative stated that WDW had the most awful food they had ever had on any vacation. Of course I quickly jumped to the defense of my dearly beloved's cuisine. What — how could this be? Where did you eat? What did you have? Did you try Le Cellier? How about a Dole Whip? Well, naturally, they couldn't really remember and mentioned some burger stops at the Magic Kingdom and had no idea what Le Cellier or a Dole Whip even was. And thus, my friends, are the lunatic rantings of a WDW-food junkie.
Each trip I have taken with my husband or family has always had hours spent planning our days around where we are going to eat, because, of course, we must make our Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs)! We linger over menus from Allears.net, check out guidebooks, read message board reviews, and try to incorporate new places and items with good ol' standbys. The best part is that my most frequent companion to the parks is my dear husband, who also shares a love of WDW food, although our top choices and picks sometimes differ. We are by no means culinary experts. My husband eats (to my dismay) Chef Boyardee and his cooking skills are limited to Kraft Mac n' Cheese. (He does make the best, though!) I consider myself a very good cook, having grown up in an Italian family with everyone cooking all the time. Now, as an adult, I create my own culinary masterpieces and, yes, sometimes disasters. So when I hear someone on a message board say one of my favorite places or items was horrible, I gasp in disbelief (much like the response to the relative above).
It has even come to writing down "must-haves" for each trip. On our last trip this past February, we stayed at Animal Kingdom Lodge, so naturally we had to dine at Boma and Jiko (both pretty darn good) and had to have zebra domes (again, pretty darn good). Our list also included some classics like our Pineapple Dole Whip Floats in Adventureland, ANY pastry at Boulangerie Patisserie in France, and wine tastings in Italy. We added some new adventures to our plans this past trip, which included our first trip to Le Cellier, which stood up to all the hype, in our opinion. Of course we HAD to have the cheddar cheese soup and pretzel breadsticks — a meal in itself! Our meal at Le Cellier was among our top three of all time. I can visualize the amazingly tender petit filet mignon. Ah, pure beauty, that Alberta beef!
My husband has now gotten used to, though I think he is still slightly embarrassed by, me taking pictures of every meal and snack we have. The number one rule is: NO TASTING UNTIL A PICTURE! He even has gotten the hang of angling the dish just so. We now have a library of delicious photography.
I recently found myself out to lunch with relatives, two sets of aunts and uncles who had all been to Walt Disney World in the last few years. The thing we all had in common about our trips was our fabulous dining experiences. It was great to hear their suggestions for our next trip (Victoria & Albert's) and to share our recent insights (including the recipe for that tasty little drink called Kungaloosh!).
Dining at Disney always ends up being the center of conversation among family and friends when we discuss Walt Disney World. We associate our memories with specific food experiences, good and bad. My 13-year-old sister, whose last trip was when she was 10, always brings up her horrible memory of the waiter who teased her at the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue. Dear Sis is NOT a lover of baked beans and wouldn't touch them. The fantastic waiter came back to our table numerous times to tease her about the beans and to tell her she was going to have to eat them. It's hard for me to relate because I loved those beans!
Some of my favorite trip memories stem from my dining experiences. These include a romantic, fun-filled anniversary dinner at Rose & Crown Pub, where the waitstaff sang "All You Need Is Love" while we enjoyed the complimentary dessert sampler of warm apple crumble, delicious toffee pudding, and the most unique use of Guinness ever in a delectable chocolate cake, all while watching IllumiNations. Then there was the all-girl trip that had my sister and sister-in-law heading to Test Track at Epcot while my mother and I had an enjoyable lunch at Tangierine Cafe in exotic and beautiful Morocco at World Showcase. Our mother-daughter lunch included scrumptious Mediterranean wraps that were so huge neither of us could finish. And on the same trip we four girls gathered under an umbrella outside of Casey's at Magic Kingdom to watch the fireworks, and devour those awesome hot dogs and French fries. Perhaps my fondest memory from my last trip was on our last day at the parks — my dear husband and I sat behind Sleepy Hollow, and lingered while we ate our giant tub of caramel popcorn. We sat there, sticky-fingered, on a sunny, breezy February day, people-watching, admiring the castle, and taking in the last moments of our trip.
Now, when I ask my dear husband his favorite food memories, he has so many related to food that I have to force a favorite out of him! His best experience occurred at Raglan Road on our trip this past February. We wandered over to Downtown Disney one night and had no reservations, but were starting to get hungry. I suggested that we go to Pleasure Island and try Raglan Road. Naturally, my Irish-Guinness-loving husband did not put up a fight. We actually had wanted to try Raglan Road since we heard about it and were happy to find out there was only a 20-minute wait. Once we got in, my husband was truly in his element. We both had a blast, enjoying the incredible Irish band and step-dancer. The food was pretty decent, in my opinion. Dear hubby also enjoyed his meal, but I think the Black & Tans coupled with him singing along to some Irish tunes made his fish and chips all that much tastier. We stayed at Raglan Road for almost three hours; we were having such a great time.
I truly believe that on some level you have to be a foodie (i.e., a person who has a passionate or refined interest in food) to think like this. I categorize us as the passionate foodie, since I expect the refined foodies wouldn't share our enthusiasm for a turkey leg or Dole Whip. When I visit message boards about Walt Disney World, my favorite forums are always the dining ones. I love reading about other people's reviews and experiences. Now, it's time to start thinking about our next trip, whenever that may be. We already have some places we must try. Our plans include eating around World Showcase — we're halfway there already. Until then, we'll linger over our food pictures and daydream about crepes in France, Pineapple Bread from 'Ohana, and Potato Gratin Casserole with Tillamook Cheddar from the Garden Grill.
Danielle Friend's first trip to Walt Disney World was in the 1970s as a small child. She has returned many times since with her family and her husband, including for her honeymoon. She loves all things Disney and collects all types of Disneyana including snowglobes, pins, art, and 1970s park merchandise. Danielle works in corporate communications and is also a freelance writer.
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.