And if wine is your passion, Walt Disney World Resort has more sommeliers than any other company in the world – more than 300 at last count – to help you navigate the outstanding wine lists.
At Disney’s Wilderness Lodge in a setting inspired by historic national park lodges from the early 1900s, Artist Point focuses on the cuisine of the Pacific Northwest with creations like cedar plank roasted salmon, braised Penn Cove mussels and thick slabs of grilled buffalo sirloin. The wine list, exclusively from the Pacific Northwest, includes smaller producers and unusual grapes, and complements Chef Lenny DeGeorge’s beautifully presented dishes. Finish with the fresh berry cobbler with housemade ice cream – flavor depends on what berries are in season.
Bistro de Paris.
Tucked upstairs from the bustling Chefs de France restaurant in the France pavilion in Epcot World Showcase, this quiet dining room offers the classics, from foie gras and escargot to roast lamb and lavender-scented crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e, with an impressive roster of French wines. Chef Paul Bocuse, one of the superstar owners (along with Roger Verge and Gaston LenÃ´tre), makes an occasional stop to check on the kitchen, while his son, Jerome Bocuse, manages both dining rooms.
Atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Chef John State heads a team of award-winning chefs in one of Disney’s most talked-about dining rooms, with a view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. The sushi is tops, and longtime favorites like grilled pork tenderloin with polenta and zinfandel glaze and Sonoma goat cheese ravioli have been on the menus since opening day 1995. But Chef State continues to wow diners with interesting New American fare that matches the impressive collection of mostly California wines.
Trips to Catalonia and the South of France inspired Chef Gray Byrum at sophisticated CÃtricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Byrum’s New American cuisine includes bold starters like rich foie gras ravioli and pan-seared quail, and specialties like seared tuna with perfectly sauced saffron pappardelle or tender braised veal shank. The menu makes wine pairings easy, suggesting a perfect match with each dish. And diners get to watch the chefs at work in the restaurant’s stylish on-stage kitchen.
Coral Reef Restaurant.
Take a trip under the sea at this unusual restaurant with the world’s largest saltwater aquarium as a backdrop in The Living Seas pavilion at Epcot. Chef Roland Muller trained in France before coming to America, and his inventive seafood specialties have a continental twist, like grilled shrimp with smoked bacon, ratatouille and basil or grilled salmon with pea mousse and fennel sauce. Or opt for his buttery filet mignon with green peppercorn demi-glace. The wine list is diverse and user friendly, with perfect pairings for each dish.
Flying Fish Cafe.
Chef Jens Dahlmann adds his own signature dishes to longtime favorites at this lively restaurant along Disney’s BoardWalk. The crispy potato-wrapped red snapper has never left the menu, but Dahlmann favors seasonal favorites, “whatever is freshest,” so there’s always something new. The on-stage kitchen is a high-energy dinner show for guests, with a handsome gold-tiled countertop for casual dining right in front of the oak-fired grill where a team of busy chefs turns out nightly specials. An extensive wine list offers more than 50 selections by the glass, with suggested pairings.
Hollywood Brown Derby.
At Disney-MGM Studios, tuxedoed waiters and live piano music add to the ambience of Hollywood’s heyday in a dining room inspired by the original restaurant. And while you’ll find original recipes like the addictive Cobb salad and the dense grapefruit cake, Chef Tim Oakley puts an all-American spin on the menu with creations like pan-fired grouper with roasted asparagus and onion marmalade or tender rack of lamb with a stone ground mustard crust. Superb wine pairings are recommended on the menu.
Jiko-The Cooking Place.
African-inspired dishes like seared scallops with spicy tomato-onion “chaka-laka,” berbere braised lamb shank and maize tamales with truffle oil are on the eclectic menu in this AAA Four-Diamond restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Chef Anette Grecchi Gray’s fare is creative and satisfying, paired with an impressive list of wines exclusively from Africa – the largest collection in any restaurant in the United States. After dinner, take a stroll alongside the resort’s own savannah with wildebeests, zebras, giraffes and more African animals.
Shula’s Steak House.
The theme for this popular restaurant at the Walt Disney World Dolphin is the ’72 Miami Dolphins’ 17-0 perfect season, the NFL’s only unbeaten team, with menus hand-painted on NFL footballs. But no one’s there for the dÃ©cor, but for the generous portions of Certified Angus Beef, including a signature 48-ounce porterhouse. Start with the classic Caesar salad with a generous sprinkle of fresh Parmesan, or a sweet lobster cocktail. Steak is the star of the show, with classic sides like hash browns and creamed spinach. Fresh seafood options round out the menu, with wines for every taste.
Todd English’s bluezoo.
Chef Todd English opened his first Florida restaurant at the Walt Disney World Dolphin, where the signature “dancing fish” grill features seafood roasted over an open rotisserie. Chef English takes a global approach in the kitchen, with everything from miso glazed Chilean sea bass to a roasted pork chop with honey-glazed sweet potatoes and brown butter apricot chutney. Try a side of shake & bake fries with grated Parmesan and crushed garlic. Stellar wines pair nicely.
Victoria & Albert’s.
Chef Scott Hunnel at Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is at the top of his game with Central Florida’s only AAA Five-Diamond Restaurant and one of only two with Mobil’s Four Stars. The intimate restaurant also won the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence, with 700 selections on the menu and 4,200 bottles in its cellar. And the 50-seat restaurant is one of just 800 restaurants in North America to receive the DiRōNA Award of Excellence. The menu changes almost daily, with signature dishes like Australian Kobe beef, African pheasant and seared Hudson Valley foie gras. The best seat in the house is at Hunnel’s Chef’s Table in the kitchen.
Diners get to see the steaks aging in a refrigerated display, then peek in the open kitchen to see them sizzling on the oak-fired grill. A classic menu includes starters like oysters Rockefeller and lobster bisque, and you can ask for just about any cut of expertly cooked meat, from a first-rate filet mignon to porterhouse and Chateaubriand for two. There are plenty of bold reds on the wine list, but food-friendly whites are there, too.
For reservations at any Walt Disney World table service restaurant, call 407/WDW-DINE (939-3463).
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