Note: I originally intended to do all the dining in one post, but this post got really long really fast, so I’ve decided to split it into three sections, each covering the food for two days. Otherwise this is going to be a monster post!
In our September trip to Disney World, one of the things we did in excess was eat. We got the Deluxe Dining Plan because we didn’t want to have to worry about any food or drink needs, period. Prepaid, and done. I will start out by saying: that is way too much food. I will not do that again.
We tallied it up and honestly, we got a good value. Matt and I took advantage of the dining plans offerings. We knew we wanted to make it count, and we stuffed ourselves trying. As far as all those snack credits – lets just say we brought home delicious rice crispy treats and scones that kept us happy for a couple weeks after returning.
I wanted to talk a little about each of the restaurants we visited, to give you an idea of our experience in case you are planning a Disney trip yourself! Disney has some truly delicious food, but not all the restaurants are made equally. As a general takeaway:
- I loved the breakfasts.
- Character meals are super fun (even if you’re an adult).
- Disney restaurants > outside-owned restaurants at the resorts.
- Buffets are best for breakfast only.
Garden Grill (Lunch)
Location: Epcot (The Land Pavilion)
Style: Table Service (Family-style), Character meal.
I had very high expectations for the Garden Grill. I loved the idea of the sustainable food, and this family-style meal includes a bunch of stuff I liked. Plus, as a general rule, you can’t go wrong with table service meals at Epcot. I stand by this – in my opinion, Epcot has the best food at the resort.
Salad was served up first – all mixed and with dressing already on it – followed by mac & cheese and a huge cast iron skillet of turkey, pot roast, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pork, cranberry sauce… just about every down home cooking thing you can thing of. Perfectly cooked green beans and carrots. Everything, everything, was positively delicious. For desert was pound cake with a mixed berry compote and Mickey Mouse sugar cookies. Matt loved the sugar cookies, and I was crazy for the berry compote.
Oh! And I had an absolutely delicious frozen lemonade. My favorite drink in the park. It was fresh and just SO SO GOOD. Does not compare to any other frozen lemonade I had, including elsewhere in the parks.
As far as the character interactions go, we saw everybody probably six times. The Garden Grill is a circular restaurant, and characters walk the path the entire time. Here, we saw Farmer Mickey, Chip and Dale, and Pluto. Chip was my favorite – an absolute hoot. He say down with us every time he walked by and made things awkward and funny. We had a good time with them. If you or your younglings like a lot of character face-time, The Garden Grill is a great place to get it.
As far as atmosphere and aesthetics go, The Garden Grill was my second favorite in the parks. This is a slowly rotating ride (not enough for motion sickness, because trust me… I would have been there). We were lucky enough to sit on the outer edge, and as the ride rotated, we were treated to the view within The Land ride. You make a full rotation over the course of the meal (a little more if you savor it) so you end up across farmland, rainforests, and deserts. The sights and smells and sounds were all really cool for a restaurant.
So – The Garden Grill? I’d go back, but not every visit. The food wasn’t the MOST incredible, and the character interactions were a little too frequent for my tastes, but as an overall experience, I really enjoyed this one.
La Hacienda de San Angel
Location: Epcot (World Showcase, Mexico)
Style: Table Service
The food at La Hacienda was INCREDIBLE. I actually book this restaurant accidentally – I was trying to book the one across the street that’s inside the Mexico pavilion because the aesthetics are awesome and I’ve always wanted to eat there. As it turns out, the food over there supposedly isn’t so great, so we kept our reservation at La Hacienda de San Angel and NO REGRETS.
I had a cheese and chorizo appetizer (above) that was so gooey and cheesy and honestly, almost a meal in itself. The dining plan came with an appetizer, entree, beverage, and dessert per person per meal so we tried to order everything everywhere.
For my entree, I had this incredible blackened chicken with rice and peppers (below). I loved blackened chicken, and it’s pretty hard to mess up, so while this was a safe choice, it was still really good. Between the appetizer and the entree, both were absolutely amazing, possibly the best flavored dinner food I ate on the entire trip. I also love this cuisine, so that probably helped.
As far as service goes, La Hacienda had probably the best service we had for dinner, in regards to both attentiveness and personality. I wish I could remember our server’s name, but he was chatty and personable without being intrusive, and was ready with drink refills a heartbeat before you realized you wanted them. It was a great experience, and considering how late our dinner was, I’m extra impressed.
A piece of advice – if you want to see the fireworks show, don’t do it here. La Hacienda has an incredible view of the lagoon and the staff are all very accommodating, but every single person at Epcot is trying to get in this restaurant between 7:00pm and 10:00pm, and if you’re lucky enough to get a window seat (we were!) you will have all the patrons who were not that lucky practically climbing on your table. Disney guests are ruthless. Come to La Hacienda de San Angel to enjoy the delicious food, and snag a spot on the lagoon’s edge outside to fully enjoy the show.
IllumiNations view from our table. We were on the edge of the lagoon, so we couldn’t always see it. I’m still grateful we got this seat at all – we had a 9:00pm reservation.
Donald’s Dining Safari @ The Tusker House
Location: Animal Kingdom (Africa).
Style: Character Buffet (Table-Service credit)
I have a few mixed feelings about the Tusker House. On one hand, it was really cool to be able to go into the park early and see it when it was so empty, but on the other hand, it was just okay? This was our first breakfast at the resort, and at the time I was reasonably impressed with the food and the atmosphere, but as the week went on, we had much more interesting breakfasts.
It was all pretty standard fare – Mickey waffles, scrabbled eggs and meats. I’m picky about my eggs, so I was all about my carbs here. The jalapeño cornbread was really good, though. I had a lot of that. I love jalapeño cornbread.
I will say that the Tusker House was the only place where we saw Daisy Duck! She’s also a Pete’s Silly Sideshow in the Magic Kingdom, but this was the easiest place to see her. And being in the park was super convenient because we didn’t have to travel then walk from the parking lot yada yada after breakfast. Disney made me feel like the laziest person ever, I swear, because I was so tired of walking.
Tusker House was the only character dining we had where we didn’t see all the characters. Mickey Mouse never came down to our half of the restaurant. Now, if that happens to you, you’re supposed to tell the waitress and she’ll go grab him but 1.) we don’t have kids so that seemed petty; and 2.) We saw Mickey at two other breakfasts, so no big deal. Still, it was the only restaurants where the characters didn’t make it all the way around, which was kinda a bummer.
As for the aesthetics, they were fine. It had the feel of a lodge, I think. There were signs and art and other such loveliness, but it was all pretty basic. I did like how wide open it was! It was also roomier than I expected. In some of the videos we watched leading up to the trip, the tables looked like they were smooshed really close together, but that was not the case.
This was definitely one of those restaurants where people got up and grabbed the character away from your table when they were overexcited. The could just be the crowd, though! It only happened to us at one other place.
I don’t know that I’d go to the Tusker House again. There are a couple other options for eating breakfast inside Animal Kingdom, so I may try those first. I wouldn’t shun it, and I would say if you’re looking for an easy character breakfast, yes, go! But it wasn’t anything special.
Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming
Location: Disney Springs
Style: Table Service
I had really high expectations for Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming. It was the most difficult reservation for us to get, being available only one day for lunch during our trip. I figure you can’t go wrong with Southern cooking, and you really can’t go wrong with celebrity chef style southern cooking in the South. So I was certain it would be delicious.
It was… alright? I gotta be honest, my mother-in-law makes way tastier fried chicken. Flavor is so important to me, and this fried chicken was pretty lacking. I thought their biscuits were really good, and the hot honey was a treat, but otherwise, I was completely unimpressed with the meal. If we hadn’t been using the Disney Dining Plan, it also would have been the most expensive meal we had the entire time we were there. I even tried the “famous” hummingbird cake and while it was yes, tasty, it definitely felt like something I could easily make at home, and again… with more flavor.
Add on the service, which was horrible. It was impossible to get a drink refill and the server we had seemed perpetually annoyed with our existence. We are not generally demanding people and we don’t ask for complicated custom orders and we tip well, especially for outstanding service, so I’m not really sure what this guy’s problem was? All I can think of was that we got thrown into his table at the last minute and he wanted to go on break or something.
We were there for Sunday Lunch, but Sunday Brunch was still running so the place was crowded, and loud. That was just an instance of poor timing, but it did affect our visit.
Honestly, I wouldn’t go back. I haven’t read or seen a single negative review of Chef Art Smith’s homecoming, so I know I’m in the minority here. I just really didn’t feel like the meal we had was worth the price, and that’s even discounting the atmosphere and the server, which are luck-of-the-draw.
Yak & Yeti
Location: Animal Kingdom (Asia)
Style: Table service.
Poor Yak and Yeti.
This honestly may be an amazing restaurant, but by the time Matthew and I got there, we were so exhausted and so dehydrated that we just wanted to go to sleep. It was hot in the waiting area and generally not the best air conditioned restaurant we were in, so we were super cranky.
The aesthetics here were really cool. I was an exhausted fool, though, so I didn’t take any pictures. There were statues and figurines everywhere, and framed photos on the falls. It really felt like it fit in with the Asia-themed section of Animal Kingdom, and especially with Expedition Everest. I appreciated that.
The food, too, seemed really tasty, but we were so dog tired we barely ate anything. Matt ordered some sort of calamari he said was amazing, but I don’t eat fish so I can’t speak for it. We both had bowls – I had a rice bowl, he had a noodle bowl. It was really, really tasty. I think I had four bites. It was such a waste, honestly. If we weren’t on the dining plan, we would have skipped dinner that night and just gone back to the hotel.
I have to give our waitress props – she was amazing. She wasn’t the most attentive waitress, but she was juggling a lot of tables and she was really kind and understanding. She gave us extra desserts to go (on top of what we ordered) in case we were hungry later. A really nice girl. She got a big tip because we were honestly the worst.
We didn’t give Yak and Yeti a fair go, so I think I’d try it again. Even sitting here two month later remembering the experience is making me exhausted, so I know we would have enjoyed that restaurant more if we had been more alert.
So, like I said at the start of this post, I decided to split up the dining reviews. This post is already really long and this was only the first third of our trip. Next week, we’ll do restaurants from days 3 & 4, then the following Saturday will have days 5 & 6. Next week will have some of our FAVORITE restaurants, and the next week has some awesome aesthetics, so it’ll be a blast. These were probably the least exciting as a group.
But La Hacienda de San Angel? Seriously y’all. DELICIOUS.
The Garden Grill: ★★★★
La Hacienda de San Angel: ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
The Tusker House: ★★★
Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming: ★
Yak and Yeti: ★★★