There are over 450 places to grab a bite to eat on Walt Disney World property. From quick-service kiosks to small plates in small places to a 10-course dining extravaganza, when it comes to food, Walt Disney World really does offer something for everyone. In this article, we’ll focus on the restaurants that will appeal to the professional eaters, those feeders that are constantly attempting to push their palates into parts unknown. What follows is a list tailored to marry budget and legacy in your search for compelling haute cuisine – Disney-style. Let’s begin.
Chef Paul Bocuse: You’ve probably heard of him. If not, look him up. Widely considered to be the greatest chef of the 20th century, his accomplishments are far too many to detail here. Whether you’re familiar with him or not, you’ve most certainly seen (and tasted) his influence. Gusteau’s façade from the film Ratatouille is a carbon copy of Monsieur Paul’s legendary restaurant, Bocuse, in Lyon, France. His Disney connection far predates this, however. Chef Bocuse actually opened Monsieur Paul (then called Les Chefs de France) in Epcot in 1982. It is here that you can still dine on plates inspired by the late, great chef. Dishes like Escargot in Puff Pastry and Soupe aux Truffes are the kings of the Hors d’oeuvres service. The beacon of the entire menu, however, is the incomparable Black Sea Bass. Swimming in a dream-inducing rosemary sauce and dressed with a Pommes Anna – sliced potatoes cooked in butter – made to mimic the scales of the fish, it’s a soaring feast for the senses. This is a must-try for everyone who deeply loves dining.
Along with Monsier Paul, Tiffins is the only other restaurant on our list that is actually within a Disney Park. Located in Animal Kingdom, this establishment is an unapologetic love letter to the adventures that helped Joe Rodhe, the park’s lead Imagineer, shape Animal Kingdom into what it is today. The name, Tiffins, refers to the containers used by working men in India to carry their meals for the day. The bread service is the most iconic and exotic on property, featuring multiple chutneys and a delightful baba ghanoush. The charcuterie board is loaded with countless outlandish options, frequently ranging from venison chorizo to rabbit sausages and just about everything in between. The bulk of the menu changes on a frequent basis, with only staple plates maintaining their resilience. It makes for an expressive dining experience with endless replay value. You’ll almost always find something new.
Much fervor surrounds Le Cellier, the premier steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion, with reservations often filling up 180 days out. Artist Point, located in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, by comparison, often has walk-in availability. How do the two compare? If Le Cellier is the high school jock, Artist Point is the college graduate. For a comparable price, you’ll discover a gastronomic gold mine that will lead you on a trip across the Pacific Northwest you won’t soon forget. Artist Point answers Le Cellier’s famed cheddar cheese soup with an unctuous, deeply smoked mushroom bisque that exceeds all expectations. The menu also offers up other surprises, like the Venison Osso Bucco or the Duck Ragoût Pappardelle. Every dish offers an unexpected flash of freshness and inspired plating.
Wine Bar George
Headed by Master Sommelier George Miliotes, Wine Bar George offers over 130 different wine selections, nearly all by the glass. This location, near the heart of Disney Springs, is far and away the most affordable restaurant on our list. The theme here is wine and small plates, none of which cross the $20 threshold. With an extensive wine list featuring many strange grapes from lesser known regions, it’s an exposé into the world of wine. You can taste fantastic glasses at a fraction of the cost you’ve probably come to expect from a location in Disney Springs. Single ounce pours also allow you to run the gamut, tasting some of the greatest wines the world has to offer without breaking the bank. Order the house-made meatballs or some porchetta-spiced pork cheeks. Pair those, perhaps, with a glass of Monastrell.
What makes a memorable meal? Dining is about the food to a certain degree, but set and setting take a great dish, a great meal, and make it the experience of a lifetime. Restaurants not mentioned on this list – Victoria & Albert’s, Bull and Bear and Ravello – to name a few, certainly outperform California Grill when it comes to cuisine alone, but California Grill offers something no other restaurant on property can: a great meal with a jaw-dropping view of Magic Kingdom’s fireworks. Don’t assume, of course, that the food here isn’t worth noting. The Florida Corn Soup with Dungeness Crab is a hero of the menu, alongside Meyer lemon-poached shrimp, Rack of lamb with Punjabi eggplant and PEI mussels with frites. Coupled with a sunset from atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, California Grill is the meal you’ll be bragging to your friends about for years to come.