California Grill, located in Disney’s Contemporary Resort, is truly a magical dining experience. We were fortunate enough to reserve a table for our celebratory, post-race dinner after this year’s Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend. My sister and I always like to plan on eating somewhere new or special after race day so we can celebrate our hard work. This year, since we ran all three races, totaling 22.4 miles, we decided that we needed someplace extra special to celebrate and the newly renovated California Grill was the perfect spot. Everything about this restaurant screams, “signature dining”—from the sleek check in desk on the second floor to the attentive service you receive from the staff. This is truly one dining experience you don’t want to miss!
Our dining party consisted of myself, my husband, my five kids (ages 2, 5, 8, 10 &13), my mom, dad, and sister, Becca. Whenever we all dine together, I always have this sinking feeling that nags in the back of my brain. Larger parties tend to get less than stellar service. It can be overwhelming for wait staff to meet the needs of so many people at once (and people with vegetarian diets, too) and the kitchen staff always has trouble making sure the food comes out together. So what usually happens when we eat out is that either we get to eat in shifts or half of our dining party gets food that has been siting around for a while. And most of the time, we sit with empty glasses, awaiting a refill. So while I was incredibly excited to dine at California Grill, I was a little worried that despite it’s signature status, we would get less than signature food and service despite the signature prices. Much to my (and my family’s) amazement, California Grill lived up to its status, even with our party of 10!
The evening began when we checked in at the restaurant’s check in desk, located on the second floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort promptly at 5 p.m. After just a short wait, Nick escorted us to the 15th floor via the “secret elevator”. So the secret elevator part was pretty cool. It makes the whole experience seem much more mysterious and exclusive. The elevator doors open up to the reception desk where several friendly cast members were awaiting our arrival. The restaurant is actually quite spectacular with its modern décor, wall of wine, and the entire west side of the restaurant is composed of windows. The hostess showed us to our table that was on the west side of the restaurant—right against the windows.
This offered us an incredible view of Disney’s Magic Kingdom® and the Seven Seas Lagoon. Once we were seated and had our menus in hand, our waiter appeared to offer guidance on choosing our entrees. One of the things I loved the most was the fact that our waiter used the word “we” when describing what the restaurant had to offer—as in “We have the best sushi” or “We make our steak……”. It clearly demonstrated his enthusiasm and his sense of ownership within the restaurant. That, to me, really shows the superb quality of the establishment. The waiter also noted the “food allergy” that was attached to our reservation. While we do not have an allergy, we do have several vegetarians in our group and unfortunately, Disney has yet to offer this as one of the choices under dietary concerns when making the reservation. You have to simply select the “other” option and then explain things once you get to the restaurant. It can be a little bit of a hassle, but making sure our food does not contain meat or cooked on surfaces that have previously cooked meat is important. Our waiter was so great and was able to offer several choices for both kids and adults that were entirely meat-free.
With such a large party we were able to sample a good portion of the menu. Since this restaurant is known for its sushi, my husband decided to order the Spicy Kazan Roll as an appetizer to share. I, obviously, did not partake, however it was beautifully presented and those who did sample it, said it was not only delicious but tasted very fresh. I chose the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli. The waiter was able to offer this as an entrée portion, even though it is listed as an appetizer. Filled with goat cheese, this ravioli was served in a tomato/fennel broth and topped with crispy mushrooms. This was probably the BEST entrée I have ever eaten while at Walt Disney World®. It was filling without being heavy and the flavors worked so well together.
Other entrees enjoyed at our table included the Seafood Stew, the Atlantic Swordfish and Atlantic Flounder, and Oak Fired Filet of Beef. Our table was silent for a full 15 minutes while we devoured our meals. Everything was delicious and most importantly came out of the kitchen together while still hot and fresh. Plus, our water and wine glasses were never more than half empty during our entire visit. Perfect!
Once our dinner plates had been cleared, it was time to talk dessert. Even though we were not using the Disney Dining Plan (my parents and my sister were), I was not going to pass up on sampling one of these delectable treats. My husband and I decided to split the Chocolate Pudding Cake. It was incredible. It was more of a truffle texture rather than a cake-y taste, but it was unbelievable. It was served with meringue kisses and homemade mint marshmallows. My sister ordered the Sundae Sampler, which consisted of three mini deserts: a Frangelico toffee, a reverse root beer float (served with home made cream soda—in a cute little bottle) and a banana split. My sister said it was wonderful. There is something about the mini deserts that is so very appealing. I thin k it is the fact that you get a taste of a couple different things and the kid in me likes the idea of being able to have three desserts. My dad ordered the Vanilla Crème Brulee. I’m guessing he thoroughly enjoyed it as he had the dish cleaned before anyone even had a change to ask him for a bite.
While California Grill offers great food in a spectacular atmosphere, part of the draw to the restaurant comes well after the plates have been cleared. The restaurant offers an incredible view of Wishes from both the restaurant and the observation deck. Guests dining during Wishes will be able to enjoy the show right from their table, as the restaurant lights are dimmed and the music is piped in. Guests who have reservations before or after the show are invited to watch from either the observation deck or the California Grill Lounge. Since our reservations were for 5p.m. and Wishes began at 8 p.m., we had a little time to wander around Disney’s Contemporary Resort before heading back up to the restaurant for the show. Unfortunately for me, my daughter wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go back to our resort, so I did not get to see the fireworks that night. The rest of my family, however, did get to enjoy the show from the observation deck. Although it was a bit windy and chilly that night, they said it was a phenomenal view and made for a perfect ending to the most marvelous meal.
California Grill accepts the Disney Dining Plan and it is two table service credits per person. They also accept Tables in Wonderland discount. Reservations are recommended and can be made up to 180 days in advance. If you are looking for a great way to celebrate or maybe just to try something unique, I highly recommend reserving a table at California Grill. Great food, relaxing atmosphere, and spectacular view make this restaurant one that I cannot wait to visit again!