Restaurant Reviews

California Grill Review

Walt Disney World (and Disneyland) has no shortage of special experiences.  One of those special experiences sits high above most everything else in Disney, in the top floor of the Contemporary Hotel.  This is the California Grill.  A signature (fine-dining) restaurant that gives stunning looks of Magic Kingdom.  Today, we’ll head there and review a recent meal I had.

California Grill is all about ambiance.  When going to the restaurant, it feels as if you are in on a secret club.  An elevator set on one of the bottom floors of the Contemporary takes guests to the top where the restaurant resides.  Entering California Grill, there are hundreds of wine bottles on display.  Even if you aren’t a big wine drinker, like myself, this is impressive.  The lighting of the restaurant gives it a nice vibe.  There is an airiness to the restaurant and even though tables are pretty close to one another, the restaurant feels pretty open.  Like the Contemporary Resort, California Grill goes for a modern look and succeeds.  There is an open kitchen to look at if seated on the left side of the restaurant.

California Grill Kitchen


California Grill seating


Location can help a good restaurant become a great one and that may be the case here.  The view is unlike anything else you can get at Disney World.  The California Grill has observation decks that guests can wander out on while waiting for their food to arrive or after their meal.  They also pipe in the music to Wishes as the show is going on in Magic Kingdom so getting a late reservation here close to fireworks time is pretty special.  Even if you have a meal earlier in the evening, keep your receipt, and then they will let guests back in to the restaurant (on the observation deck) to see the show.  It’s a unique and really enjoyable place to watch Wishes, in my experience.

California Grill Napkin_edited-1

Once we were seated, our eyes turned towards the food.  If I’m being honest, my eyes turned toward the food long before this point.  California Grill is a Disney World signature restaurant.  If on the Disney Dining Plan, this restaurant will take 2 credits.  If not, entree prices range from $35-$50.  It’s not a cheap restaurant but you pay what you get for in this instance.  A link to the menu is here.  Like most signature restaurants at Disney, the menu at California Grill does get tweaked seasonally.  With that being said, it doesn’t appear to be very different today than it was when I had this meal.  We looked over the menu but I didn’t have to mull over my decision for too long.  I had heard great things about the Oak-Fired Filet of Beef so that’s what I went with.  That’s what most of my family ordered, as well.

After placing our order and wandering around the observation deck for a few minutes, the bread service came.  The bread service was delicious.  There were quite a few varieties of rolls.  They were all soft, warm and fresh.  The butter came with a garnish and sea salt sprinkled on top, as you can somewhat see in the picture.

California grill bread


A view of the Grand Floridian from the California Grill

A view of the Grand Floridian from the California Grill

After the bread service was devoured, our entrees came shortly after.  In other words, a whole bunch of meat came to the table.  Is there a more beautiful sentence in the english language than ‘a whole bunch of meat came to the table’?  The answer is yes, there probably are better sentences but I can’t think of any at this moment.  Back to the beef, the meat was extremely tender and flavorful.  The sauce that they put on top of it was a tomato butter.  It was delicious and added flavor to an already juicy steak.  The meat was very thick and is the best steak I’ve ever had at a Disney restaurant not named Napa Rose.   The Tomato Risotto that the beef came with was easily the best risotto I’ve ever had.  Now, that’s not saying a lot.  I haven’t had a bunch of risotto in my life but I did enjoy it the couple of times I’ve had it before.  As I said, this risotto was easily the best.  The flavor was incredible, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t like tomatoes.  The flavors of the beef and risotto went extremely well together.  All in all, it’s probably the best entree I’ve ever had at a Disney restaurant.

California Grill steak
What’s a meal at Disney World without dessert? Non-existent if you have the dining plan.  So, we dug our noses back into the menu to choose what dessert we should top off our meal with.  This was no small task.  There were quite a few fun and tasty options.  Melissa ended up with the Warm Homemade Fritters.  They were banana-stuffed and came with 3 dipping sauces, caramel, chocolate and (if I remember right) a cream sauce.  She liked them pretty well and so did I.  The caramel dipping sauce was delicious but didn’t think the others were great.  The fritters themselves were tasty but not out-of-this-world.  For my dessert I chose the Sundae Sampler.  This came with a reverse root-beer float (root-beer ice cream and vanilla soda), Toffee, and a banana split.  Everything was in sample or mini sizes.  It was a fun and very creative dessert that went together nicely.  I liked all of the option really well but again, it wasn’t quite up to the same level that our entree was.  It was still a very fun dessert with more unique choices than a typical restaurant.

California Grill doughnuts


California Grill dessert trio


After our dessert, it was just a few minutes until Wishes so we went out on the observation deck and enjoyed the show from there.

California Grill star fireworks


California Grill Fireworks


California Grill fireworks ball


A lot of restaurants at Disney World are about the experience just as much as the food.  That is definitely true at the California Grill, even though the food is delicious.  No other restaurant gives a view of one of the most famous theme parks in the world quite like California Grill.  The only downside to this is that you are definitely paying for the experience.  It’s an extremely expensive restaurant.  We thoroughly enjoyed our meal there though.  If you are looking for a unique or romantic experience to take someone special, this restaurant definitely fits the bill.  The price is the only thing that brings California Grill’s rating down just a little bit.

Restaurant Rating – 9.5/10

– Andrew



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