I wanted to try some of Disney’s Signature Dining restaurants for my recent trip with my husband to celebrate our anniversary. I thought the ambiance and experience would make it worth the price tag even though we aren’t foodies. But when I looked at the menus, I was worried. It all seemed so fancy and definitely not my style. It seemed kind of intimating. Would a picky eater like me find anything to eat? Would the staff be nice enough to adjust a menu item a bit for me?
I’m happy to report I didn’t go hungry and in fact found the Signature restaurants we tried very happy to try to accommodate my requests. If you or someone in your party is a picky eater like me, my advice is to check out the menus online ahead of time so you know what you’d like to order and how you’d like to ask to have it simplified before you get to the restaurant. I also like to check out what is on the children’s menu, so you can see what else they have in the kitchen (or dessert freezer). This can help you feel prepared. Here is my experience at some Disney fine dining establishments.
1. Le Cellier
Le Cellier is the steak house located in the Canadian pavilion in Epcot. For our dinner reservation here we did have a little bit of wait despite having an advanced dining reservation (ADR), but the wait was worth it. Our waitress was very nice, perfectly fitting the stereotype of Canadians all being nice. I’m glad this was the first signature we went to, since it helped make me feel at ease about asking for simplifications of a menu item at other signatures later on.
I asked if I could get the filet mignon without the sauce. She said of course. Then I asked if I could switch out the risotto for something else for a side and she provided a verbal list of other options, of which I choose French Fries. My husband decided to have his filet mignon also without sauce and with mashed potatoes. We both agreed that this was the best filet we ever had and that we’d pay $52 dollars for this filet again, on a special occasion. It was so good. For dessert, I had plain chocolate mousse. I asked for this since I saw they had it on the kids’ dessert menu. I think I was given an adult size though.
We really enjoyed the ambiance and the service of this restaurant. The restaurant is small and the tables are tightly packed in there but getting to talk to our table neighbors didn’t bother us too much. Our ADR was at 7 and our meal ended at a great time, because we were able to come out and grab a spot for Illuminations to top off the evening.
California Grill is the restaurant located at the top of the Contemporary hotel, within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom and on the monorail. Before we went to dinner here we treated ourselves to a ride around the monorail to check out all the monorail hotel lobbies and enjoyed the piano playing at the lobby of the Grand Floridian for a few minutes. This helped set the mood for a nice evening. Once we arrived at the Contemporary we had a little bit of trouble figuring out where were supposed to go but found the signs that directed us to the check in stand, where a cast member then brought us upstairs in an elevator. This gave the restaurant a sense of exclusivity before we even entered.
Our seats had a great view of the sun setting over the Magic Kingdom slowly throughout our meal. This was even beyond the view and ambience we had been expecting. Our waiter was pleasant, not quite as nice as the woman at Le Cellier, but that’s a high standard to live up to. He was similarly helpful in letting us order the Oak-fired Filet of Beef again without sauce, butter, or risotto. He also let me get plain vanilla ice cream for dessert.
After dinner, we were able to explore the top floor deck to see the nighttime view of the Magic Kingdom and Epcot and the other parks in the distance. We could even see some of the Hollywood Studios fireworks far off. Then we got to experience the Magic Kingdom castle projections and fireworks, definitely an experience worth having. It made me very happy I faced my fear of signature dining to experience it.
3. Brown Derby
We did the Fantasmic dining package at Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The seats for the show were great, so that was a good way to end the evening. We found the dinner at the Brown Derby our least favorite signature dining experience. However, this wasn’t because it was particularly bad, just that the others were so great.
The Brown Derby does have a serious old Hollywood vibe which was a cool experience. We were given a great round booth that definitely increased that old Hollywood sense. I also enjoy the little touches, like bringing out a whole wooden box of tea from me to choose from.
Our waiter was nice enough but not that attentive. I asked again for a plain filet of beef, they made it without the butter, wine reduction, and all that fancy stuff for me. I don’t know if other picky eaters are like this, but I have no problem having a great plain steak multiple nights in a row. The Fantasmic package came with a set mini dessert trio and they weren’t willing to substitute it out. We didn’t enjoy the dessert trio but the filet was good.
4. Be Our Guest
Be Our Guest, in New Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, is not a signature restaurant (yet). But the dinner menu (the only table service meal time) is French-inspired and a little pricier than some other table service restaurants. It might be a great option if you don’t want to go all the way to a signature. The atmosphere of this restaurant is great. The decor is amazing and you really feel like you are dining in the Beast’s castle. The tables are close together but that was true at the other restaurants I’ve talked about as well.
At this restaurant my plain steak was right on the menu. I had the “Grilled Strip Steak with Pommes Frites,” that is french fries for those who don’t speak fancy restaurant. I did ask for it without the Garlic-Herb butter, which came on the side. The steak and fries were great. Be careful not to knock over the fries and their holder though, that happened to the table next to us. The father seemed embarrassed it was him not the kids making the mess. I enjoyed the “Grey Stuff” for dessert, it’s cookies and creme flavored mousse. Some might even say it’s delicious.
After the meal, you get to wander around and look at all the rooms of the restaurant and then on your way out take a photo with the Beast. We had to wait a few minutes for him to arrive, but that way we got to see his grand entrance walking across the ballroom. To me this whole dining experience, while a little less “fine dining” than the signatures, was worth the expense and the booking an ADR right at 180 days.
My overall take away message is to try out the signatures and other fining options, if it is in your price range. Don’t be scared off by fancy menus if you want to try out a nice dining environment, even if you are picky eater like me.