We have a guest post on the blog today. Loyal Wanderers probably get tired of my dining reviews so today I’ll make way for someone else’s food opinions – my brother, Matthew Long.
At the end of June, my family and I visited Disney World. It was the first time my wife and I had gone in nearly ten years, and my four year old son’s first trip. If you’ve been reading Andrew’s recent trip reports on this blog, we were three of the thirteen people on that trip.
Andrew has posted extensive rankings of all the Disney World restaurants, so I’m going to also do that, but only for the places we ate on this trip. I figure everyone has different tastes, and I like restaurants. I’ll say now that none of these places were bad, but some were much better than others. Today is table service, and counter service and some noteworthy snacks will hopefully follow soon.
I should note that we had the Disney Dining Plan for most of these restaurants. People who know more about it than I do can debate the value of this expense, but if all you care about is eating well, the Dining Plan is the way to go. I love being able to order anything on the menu with no regard to price, and getting a drink and a dessert I usually wouldn’t order is a nice treat. Okay, on to the rankings!
1. Flying Fish
Located on the Boardwalk, Flying Fish is the only signature restaurant we ate at, and it was well worth it. It’s modern and upscale, but the service was warm and welcoming to our large group and especially to my young son. The menu focuses on seafood, with a handful of steaks and other meats. I ordered the swordfish, which was phenomenal, probably my favorite meal of the trip. My son ordered his own steak off the kids meal, not a sentence I expect to type very often in my life. While the only downside here to me would be the price, I’ll note that my wife was very unimpressed with her salmon. But these are my rankings, not hers, so I’m leaving it at the top. It should maybe also be noted that there’s little Disney theming, and little theming overall. Some may not like that, but it doesn’t bother me. Flying Fish is a nice, calm restaurant that’s slightly swanky but completely comfortable. It was a haven from the metaphorical storm of Disney World as well as a literal storm that blew through while we were mid-meal.
2. Via Napoli
While the swordfish was my favorite entree, it barely beat out my steak from Via Napoli. I’ve eaten a lot of steak, and this was one of the most flavorful I’ve had in years. I was chewing on the fat and bone, just because I didn’t want to miss any flavor. My drink here was also excellent, some type of play on a Moscow Mule that I can’t find on the current online menu. My only complaints with Via Napoli were our seating area, which was loud and a bit cramped, and service that wasn’t bad but still took an extremely long time. Those are small complaints though, and likely wouldn’t recur often. Via Napoli is a choice that should please a wide variety of people, with a diverse menu and a pleasant but fun atmosphere.
There’s a pretty good gap from the first two to the rest of this list, but that’s more of a reflection of how much I liked Flying Fish and Via Napoli than any dislike of the rest of these. Anyway, Homecomin’, in Disney Springs, is a big, open, Southern-inspired restaurant that specializes in fried chicken. I did not get the chicken, but instead got a delicious short rib. Homecomin’ was just good all the way around. The list of drinks was extensive and satisfying, and the desserts were great. I went with a chocolate pecan pie (no regrets), but would have happily ordered any of the options on the menu. Homecomin’ is nice and comfortable and a relaxing place to spend an hour for lunch outside of the parks. The food may not be quite as good as a few of the spots further down this list, but there’s something to be said for southern comfort, especially when you’ve been walking around in 100 degree heat all day.
I’m not really a big fan of buffets (more on that below), but Ohana presents a nice alternative. Reminiscent of a Brazilian steak house, Ohana delivers unlimited food without ever having to leave your seat. Your table shares a few sides, including noodles and wings, and then the wait staff brings around giant skewers of chicken, steak and prawns. I wouldn’t say any of it’s amazing, but it’s all very good and unlimited. We didn’t have the optimal seating location (a common theme when you have thirteen people in your group), but there was a relaxed, family-focused atmosphere here. This is another pleasing experience that will likely satisfy anyone in your group, except for maybe vegetarians. I think my memory of Ohana has grown. We had a bit of a race to make it to our reservation on time, so it wasn’t the best start to the meal, but once we settled in it was quite enjoyable.
Jaleo, an upscale tapas restaurant in Disney Springs, was by far our most adventurous meal. Their menu is extensive, which was good and bad. There was plenty to choose from and plenty that looked good, but given the strong Spanish influence, it took quite a while to wade through and decide what we wanted. It was also hard to know how much to order for a large group, since everything is in small sharing sizes. We ended up doing pretty well on that front (about a dish per person plus one or two), but I’m still not sure how satisfied everyone was. To my tastes, the food was excellent. I don’t remember everything we got, but I don’t think there was anything I disliked. I’m a pretty adventurous eater though, whereas my wife and some others in our group were less into it. The restaurant itself is open and modern. It was quite nice and the service was good, but I didn’t feel totally comfortable. Still, the quality of the food and the fact that it was completely different from anything else we had leads to a fairly high ranking. I’d highly recommend it if the menu doesn’t cause you concern. I’d also recommend coming in a smaller group to make everything less confusing.
I mentioned above my ambivalence to buffets. I don’t hate them, but I just don’t eat that much and would rather order what I want than try a bunch of dishes that might be just okay. Boma is a really solid buffet with more interesting items than most, but it was still a buffet. For some, that would probably put it at the top of the list, but not for me. The food quality was definitely higher than most buffets. Nothing had been sitting for too long, and there were African-inspired dishes that were new to me that I liked a lot. The dessert section was big and fun to pick through. Nothing really blew me away, though. Located in Animal Kingdom Lodge, the atmosphere and room get a similar review. There was nothing to complain about, but nothing had me raving either.
7. Frontera Cocina
Frontera Cocina is a hip Mexican spot in Disney Springs from renowned chef Rick Bayless. It is not your local Azteca (or whatever your local run-of-the-mill Mexican place happens to be). Frontera Cocina is bright and modern, with upscale food focused (if I remember right) on meats and tacos. And it’s quite good. We started with chips and guacamole, and it was maybe the best guacamole I’ve ever had. I went with carne asada for our entree, as did a majority of our party, and it was great. The problem here is I eat a ton of Mexican food, and I’ve had a lot of really good Mexican food in my life. FC fits solidly into the upper third or so of that lengthy list, but I don’t know that I’ll really remember it. Mexican food is a funny thing. Some of the places that get the most buzz are nothing special food-wise, and you never know where you’ll find something amazing. The small local chain next to my work, for example, has the best carne asada I’ve ever had, and it’s not even close. Frontera Cocina is great, and if you like Mexican food you won’t be disappointed, but it’s not cheap and it’s only very good, not mind-blowing.
8. Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen
Skipper Canteen is basically Jungle Cruise, minus the animals and boat, plus food. In other words, the Jungle Cruise tour guide and Skipper Canteen waiter may be one and the same. Lots and lots of bad puns. Some in our group seemed overly annoyed, and some didn’t care. I enjoyed it for a bit, got tired of the jokes, and then was back into it when our waitress seemed to sense the growing annoyance and doubled down on the jokes. It was an impressive performance. Anyway, Skipper Canteen is a big and roomy restaurant in Adventureland, with food that leans slightly Asian but should have something for everyone. I believe I got a noodle dish, but I honestly can’t remember, as this was our first day in the parks. The food was good, but obviously not super-memorable, since I don’t really remember it. Still, this is a fun restaurant, one of the few table service options in Magic Kingdom I would consider. It gets bonus points for being a cool and comfortable spot to take a break on a hot day.
9. Yak & Yeti
In some ways, Yak & Yeti feels like the Animal Kingdom cousin to Skipper Canteen. The menus are similar, although Yak & Yeti leans further to the Asian side. Both have loose explorer themes. Where Skipper Canteen is calm and open, however, Yak & Yeti is more crowded and busy, at least where we sat. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not always what I want while hot and tired in a theme park. I had no complaints about Yak & Yeti, but it didn’t stand out much to me. The meal was good, but it was the worst I had at a table service restaurant on the trip. Still, Yak & Yeti is a fun experience with solid food, especially for a restaurant in a theme park.
I’d happily recommend any of these spots to anyone. If we were planning another trip in the near-ish future, I’d try to go to Via Napoli again, but not necessarily any of the others. I’d be happy to visit any of them, especially in the top half of this list, but there are lots of other places I’d like to try too. Flying Fish was amazing and I’d eat there anytime, but it’s expensive and I’d be inclined to try another signature restaurant before going back again. Chefs de France in Epcot was the only other place I got a real hankering to go to as we wandered in Disney, but there are tons of others that look good too. Hopefully it won’t be another ten years before we go again!
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Categories: Restaurant Reviews
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