When Must Haves are Can’t Haves – Disney Dining Alternatives

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It’s here – your day that is exactly 180 days away from your Walt Disney World vacation, when you can get up at the crack of dawn and make the dining reservations you’ve been planning for since your last Walt Disney World vacation.  But your alarm doesn’t go off, and you’re dreaming of a Club Level room at the Yacht Club – who wants to wake up from that?  You over sleep, and your best laid dining plans crash and burn.  What’s a Disney vacation diner to do?

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Believe it or not, there are restaurant options at Walt Disney World.  I know when people talk to me about making dining plans, they all have the same restaurants on their list – Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, ‘Ohana, Chef Mickey’s, and Le Cellier.  Not being able to get these restaurants can really ruin a vacation for some people.  Let’s see if we can save the day by recommending some alternative dining options.

1 – Can’t get dinner at Be Our Guest?  Grab lunch.  There are no reservations necessary for lunch at the Beast’s Castle, and if you don’t mind going early or late for lunch, you may not even have a very long wait.  The best thing about lunch here is that it feels very table service, even at lunch.  You’ll order as you go in, sit down, and the restaurant does the rest.  Lunch options also include some very “sit down” dining food.  Go for the French onion soup and braised pork, and you’ll feel very much like you’re at a table service meal.

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2 – No room at Cinderella’s Royal Table?  Happens all the time.  This has always been one of the most coveted reservations to secure, so weigh your reasons for wanting to eat there.  Is it the castle experience? Do lunch at Be Our Guest in Beast’s Castle.  Is it meeting Cinderella?  You may also find her at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian for dinner, and she may also appear at breakfast, lunch and dinner at Restaurant Akershus in EPCOT.  Want early entry to the Magic Kingdom?  Try Crystal Palace.  Is it the food?  Nah, it’s never really about the food here, but hopefully, one of the other options will satisfy your reasons for wanting to dine there.

3 – Le Cellier is Le Sold Out.  You’re obviously looking for a great steak dinner.  If you want to stay in EPCOT, try Monsieur Paul, where you’ll get an amazing beef tenderloin.  Jiko has my most favorite filet mignon anywhere, followed closely by the California Grill.  For a great selection of steaks, hit up the Yachtsman Steakhouse.

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4 – ‘Ohana means family, and if you don’t book early, your family may be waving to your cousins from outside this wildly popular restaurant.  I can almost always get a breakfast reservation here – even at the last minute.  I know, you want the all you can eat grill.  Keep calling – up to the day you leave.  And if that fails, turn up at the podium as soon as the restaurant opens for dinner.  They may be able to squeeze you in.

5 – Chef Mickey’s – I hate to say it, but I got nothing.  You can see each of the characters that appear there at other restaurants, and there are other buffets.  But there’s just something about Chef Mickey’s that you can’t get anywhere else.  You’d better set a backup alarm so you can snag this one!

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Dining – The Real Disney Challenge

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So much to choose from!!  Am I the only one that gets overwhelmed when my 180 days draws near and I have to start planning my dining reservations for an upcoming Walt Disney World vacation?  It’s a bigger challenge than the New York Times crossword puzzle!

How will I know six months in advance if I’ll feel like Japanese or German when I’m standing in EPCOT waiting for the Candlelight Processional to begin?  How can I choose between the fun and family friendly 50s Prime Time Cafe or the upscale and delicious Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?

I spend hours poring over reviews at http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/ – where the team of fantastic foodies tempts me with cupcakes and pastries, new menu items and must try snacks.  Then I hit http://allears.net/index.html, where I spend an equal amount of time checking out the menus at each restaurant that I’ve put on my short list (how did my short list come to include 40 restaurants??).

After thinking I had all my dining in place and ready to go for our Christmas vacation this December, I’m rethinking everything.  I’m trying to accommodate different palates, different personalities, and different pleasures.

Set in stone is Christmas dinner at Artist Point at Wilderness Lodge.  And yeah, pretty much nothing else.

So, what are some of your favorite holiday time dining experiences at Walt Disney World?  How about any other time?

Disney Dining – A Few Family Favorites

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If there were ever two topics I had to choose as my areas of expertise, it would seriously be Disney and food.  I have eaten my way around Walt Disney World to the tune of over 300 pounds, and I’ve eaten my way back down by 150 pounds, so I’ve pretty much tasted and sampled everything there is Disney to eat.

There are some Walt Disney World dining experiences that my family absolutely loves – and I think you’ll be surprised to find that even with three daughters, our favorites don’t tend to be the character meals.  Our vacations at Walt Disney World are often just as much about reconnecting with each other as they are about reconnecting with our favorite Mouse.  Here’s where we enjoy eating the most:

Afternoon Tea – Garden View Lounge at the Grand Floridian

Having all daughters, it seems like a no brainer that we’d eventually have to do tea.  You might be surprised to learn, however, that this tea is not only a favorite meal of my husband’s, but my decidedly anti-tea father-in-law can’t wait to go back, either!  You’ll find numerous dining options here – everything from an a la carte light afternoon tea to the full, fit for British royalty, how dare you still have room for dinner after this high tea experience.

For the littlest teetotaler, you’ll find Mrs. Potts tea – a variety of kid friendly sandwiches (and if they don’t like a particular variety, you’ll find they are very willing to accommodate a picky eater with all of one type of sandwich or another), chocolate milk (served in a tea pot, of course!), and pastries or strawberries.  It’s a big hit with our littlest tea lover.

The adult offerings almost rival that which you will find at Harrod’s in London – although with a much more reasonable price tag.  We never leave the table hungry, and we always leave the table happy.  We’ve enjoyed at least an hour long meal together where we’re talking, laughing, and telling stories – the same as we did when I was a kid at my Irish grandmother’s table for afternoon tea at her house.  I love this experience.

Teppan Edo – EPCOT

We have never shied away from taking our kids to eat someplace that didn’t offer burgers, fries, and chicken nuggets.  Thankfully, you’ll find quite a few options at Walt Disney World to take your children where they can veer off the beaten path that leads them to fast food type of choices and right to where good food can be fun – even if it doesn’t come with a toy!

The kids are so fascinated and entertained by the chef – not to mention sitting at the grown up table (aka grill) – that they hardly notice there are veggies being tossed in with the chicken or shrimp!  I love taking the kids here and watching them enjoy eating a little healthier and enjoying it even more than if we’d stopped for a burger.

The restaurant is not quite as conducive to conversation as some other options, but it’s fun for me to just sit and watch the kids spellbound by the chef.  I’d like to see that creepy looking Burger King catch a shrimp shell in his crown.

Restaurant Marrakesh – EPCOT

Seriously, I don’t know why this restaurant gets such a bad rap.  I can almost always call and get a dining reservation for this restaurant – even if I’m calling at 4:59 on Christmas Eve for dinner at 5:00 with a Candlelight Processional dinner package.  Why is that?

Here’s one reason I love this place – you can sample pretty much everything on the menu!  It can be hard, especially with kids, to go eat at a restaurant with unfamiliar cuisine.  At Restaurant Marrakesh, there are several “sampler” type options that allow you to get a taste of several delicious menu items on one plate.  That way, if there is something your kids don’t like, you haven’t ordered them a whole entrée of it, and now have to grab a turkey leg somewhere because they didn’t eat dinner.

My girls also enjoy the music and the belly dancing.  The atmosphere is fun, it keeps the children entertained, and they never make you feel rushed, so you can sit and wait for the belly dancer at pretty much any time you decide to dine.

And the food – well, I really can’t say I’ve ever had anything I didn’t love.  I’m a big soup fan, especially since my gastric bypass surgery, and I love the Harira soup.  Packed with proteins in a delicate tomatoey broth, it’s a favorite even in the summer.  The kids could eat bastilla – a pastry wrapped portion of chicken or seafood – until they collapsed – and the chicken variety (sprinkled lightly with cinnamon and powdered sugar) is almost like getting dinner and dessert on the same plate!

 

These are just a few of our favorite Disney Dining Experiences.  We have had so many through the years, that it’s hard to pinpoint so few.  I hope these are meals you may not have tried before that you’d be encouraged to try now!