Artist Point Dinner Review and Wilderness Lodge Update – 9/24/13

With the madness that is Food and Wine Festival coverage commencing shortly (I have reviews and pix of every food item, beer, and mixed drink available), we’ll take a trip out to the Wilderness Lodge for a bit of pacific northwest tranquility.

The Lodge is my second favorite resort to visit, just slightly below the Polynesian. Animal Kingdom Lodge occasionally transplants both depending on mood.

Despite quick access to Magic Kingdom via bus or boat, the Lodge tends to see far less foot traffic than the Monorail or Crescent Lake Deluxe resorts.

That tends to make for a peaceful evening away from much of the hustle and bustle of the theme parks.

Whispering Canyon Cafe is the exception, of course.

Dinner menu:

A dinner review is available here and a lunch review here. You may recall last year around this time, Whispering Canyon moved to a skillet-only menu with exactly one entree – the skillet (or “family platter” as the case may be). Three other entrees were added recently in case you don’t want to take them up on their all-you-CAN-eat challenge. You could easily make a meal out of two of the appetizers as well.

Roaring Fork is the small quick service outlet you’ll find inside the main building closer to the pool. Menus for all three quick service meals are available here.

Territory Lounge is one of the better resort lounges on property. In fact, I think I’d put it second, only behind Crew’s Cup at the Yacht Club.

It offers a fantastic food menu along with dark, usually quiet quarters to enjoy a drink and/or a snack. If you’re not up for a table service meal and don’t want to deal with Roaring Fork, you can easily make a meal out of one or two of the options here. Take note of the Artist Point Cobbler as well. Widmer Hefeweizen and Redhook ESB are available on draft.

And if the dark bar scene isn’t for you, there’s always the fireplace.

But dinner tonight is at Artist Point, the Lodge’s signature restaurant. That means it’ll cost you two table service credits on the Dining Plan and out-of-pocket prices are a little higher than most other restaurants. Like most signature dinners, there is almost no scenario where using dining plan credits “makes sense” from a cost perspective. There’s a lot more value in choosing some of the more expensive single credit meals.

Here’s the menu:








Several of the menu items have been here forever. Your server will probably explain to you that they’ve been preparing the salmon exactly the same for 19 years. The cobbler and buffalo presented in one way or another are also mainstays. Otherwise, the menu changes more often than most restaurants, including the other signatures. I guess we’ll give them a pass on spelling “Samuel” wrong on the beer menu and “vegetables” wrong on the Pacific Northwest Trio, among other things. We are all not perfect bloggers after all. With about 9,000 cocktail reviews for Food/Wine upcoming, I will not bore you with more here.

The restaurant’s atmosphere does not do much for me.

According to Disney:

Relax in the warm ambiance of this charming restaurant, inspired by the dining rooms of cherished National Park lodges. Dramatic murals capture the spirit and romance of the American frontier, and ornate iron lanterns are suspended from tremendous timber columns.

Dine indoors as you enjoy panoramic views of Bay Lake and Silver Creek Falls, or retreat to the outdoor terrace to soak in the beauty of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

This was my view for the night – half a window pane with frosted glass and an unfortunate view of people traipsing to the pool via the walkway down to Roaring Fork.

I admittedly did not think of it to request a view at check-in and probably could have protested before we were actually seated, but the table seemed fine initially. But with at least half of the restaurant empty, including an entire section with the best views in the house sitting dormant, I was a bit annoyed by our placement once I realized there was nobody seated at the choice tables.

Anyway, request a window table with a view of the lake at check-in or you risk being stuck next to the entrance with a view of the unfortunately topless on their way to the pool.

Dinner starts with fresh sourdough bread, butter with black salt, and oil. Disney generally does bread well, perhaps with the exception of Coral Reef and this is no exception – a slightly crisp crust and chewy sourdough center.

Lisa ordered the Washington White Flight – Milbrandt Riesling, Cadaretta “SBS,” and Charles Smith “Eve” Chardonnay – $17. Each pour looks to be about three ounces and I’m assured each tasted like wine.

Not really knowing what to expect, we started with the Confit Natural Bacon – Sunny-side Up Quail Egg, Chow Mein Noodles, and Blood Orange Glaze – $12.

Lighting was a problem, so the pictures are not great. This was more pork belly than your typical “bacon” – fattier than I was expecting without much pork flavor to speak of. On the plus side, the exterior had a bit of crunch to it and the middle was fork tender. The blood orange glaze was extremely sweet and the tang seemed out of place on top of a few strands of cabbage. For a long time, the bacon was served over crab with a cider reduction.  I prefer that preparation, but this does seem to get rave reviews, so I may have been doing something wrong. The fatty texture was not to my taste and the slippery egg on top didn’t help things.

Lisa ordered the Pan Roasted Alaskan Halibut – Blue Crab Pierogi, Truffle Butter, Toy Box Squash, and Meyer Lemon Emulsion – $37.

The halibut was cooked perfectly – flaky and it retained moisture with the help of the lemon emulsion. Unfortunately, the flavor was not consistent throughout the hunk of fish. One bite would be extremely lemon-y, while the next would have a hint of lemon with the natural flavor of the fish shining through. Overall, the fish was on point, but it was not a particularly interesting flavor profile or preparation.

The Blue Crab Pierogi sat underneath the slice of halibut. With its flaky crust and creamy crab center, Lisa ended up enjoying it more than the fish that lay on top. It seemed kind of random to include it with the halibut, but I guess they needed something in addition to the fish to command the $37 price point.

I ordered the Pacific Northwest Trio – Slow Roasted 64°C  Buffalo Strip, Venison Loin, Wild Game Sausage with Herbed Spaetzle, Late Summer “Vegitables,” Red Onion Marmalade, and Berry Gastrique – $49.

The Buffalo Strip is a menu mainstay in one way or another, though this is a relatively new way of presenting it. For years, a larger portion of strip was served alongside a cup of truffle macaroni and cheese for $43.

This is about twice as much buffalo strip as it looks, cooked to a perfect medium rare as recommended by the kitchen. Despite being a lean piece of meat, the buffalo was as tender as California Grill’s filet mignon and had a rich, natural flavor without being over-seasoned or salted.

Two bites of venison sausage (if memory serves) sat on top of a large mound of herbed spaetzle and spinach. The sausage was gamey with a bit of a spicy kick to it. I would have liked a bit more than the two bites offered, especially considering the heaping mound of flavorless, gummy dough that sat underneath it. The spinach was superfluous considering everything else going on, but maybe it makes people feel healthy.

The venison loin was the best part of the meal I thought and it was really the only thing that made me prefer this dish over the previous version accompanied by the macaroni and cheese. I did end up pushing the overly sweet red onion marmalade on top off to the side. The dish ended up being a lot of food – just the venison loin or the buffalo strip would have been enough for most appetites.

Dessert:



Having skipped a drink (or four) with the meal, I was interested in trying a dessert and a glass of ice wine.

This is the Artist Point Cobbler – Seasonal Berries and House-made black raspberry ice cream – $12 paired with a glass of King Estate Vin Glace Pinot Gris Ice Wine – $11. I don’t think I have the food-describing-vocabulary to properly describe how good it was. The homemade ice cream was creamy and naturally sweet with small bits of blackberry mixed in. The berries on top were large and ripe. The cobbler underneath was sweet and served piping hot without being mushy or overcooked. We loved it and it was just right to share. Speaking of menu updates also, the creme brulee trio had just been added that day.

For the money, the food should have been excellent. It ended up being quite good, but didn’t stand out versus the similarly priced California Grill from a couple weeks back. There was virtually no ambiance as far as I could tell from our table. We could have been dining inside of a brown cardboard box and it would have been a similar experience. There was some art in the distance and apparently tables in the back have nice views of the Lodge’s backyard, but that didn’t do us much good seated near the entrance. I would give the restaurant more of a pass if it had been busy, but they didn’t seat more than five or six additional groups in the entire two hours we were there (if that). And the half of the restaurant with the rustic surroundings sat empty all night.

Service was competent, though it seemed like our server would have fit in better yodeling along at Whispering Canyon Cafe. I mean that as nicely as possible. When he went over the menu with us, he basically just read the entire thing out loud, item by item. There was otherwise not a lot of personality, charm, or professionalism. Considering the person taking care of you will likely be different, the fact that ours wasn’t great shouldn’t have much of an impact on whether you choose to visit the restaurant. On the plus side, it was a relaxing, meandering meal that ended up taking nearly two hours. We weren’t in any hurry, but I ended up commenting that it took a while for the entrees to come out.

Anyway, I preferred the “vibrant and charged atmosphere” at California Grill from a couple weeks ago and I was not expecting to return from Artist Point with that sentiment. You may have a better experience.

We ended up catching the end of HalloWishes from the resort’s beach area. The view is not great and the music isn’t piped in, so it certainly isn’t a destination spot for fireworks viewing like the Contemporary’s 4th floor observation deck or Polynesian’s beach.

But if you find yourself at the resort with nothing to do, it night be fun to head down at show time with a mug of cocoa or eight ounces of moonshine in your draconian Rapid Fill Mug.

Of course, you might instead choose to spend your time dragging a trash can down poolside to snap a picture.

Sorry I ate you <3

Lots more updates.

Comments

  1. Marianna says

    Everything sounds so good, it’s a shame the meal just turned out to be good, not great. I’ve never understood why Disney has such inconsistent results in their signature resorts.

  2. Dawn H says

    You are too cute! “sorry I ate you”
    Lisa, you are a very lucky girl to be able to spend time with Josh and have all these wonderful experiences together!! ENJOY!
    .Artist point looked like tables in a corridor!
    I cannot believe you guys ate that appetizer..ewww! LOL (guess my culinary tastes need to mature!)…I actually noticed you skipped a drink or four…hope your ice cream was worth it!
    Thanks for another great review!

  3. keri says

    Artist Point is a favorite restaurant of mine, but not for the entrees!

    I don’t think your photos really do justice to the interior, but it is kind of boring. I like it a lot, though. The ceiling is really high and has the paintings up the walls, but it still feels somewhat cozy and I like that it’s quiet and subdued. I got a pretty nice table in June along the windows as you enter, next to a little outdoor patio. It was rainy and nasty, so there was no view, but I could see a bit of the fake mountain/waterfall (not the waterfall itself, of course, since you’re at the wrong angle entirely).

    But, really, I’ve never had a really good entree there. I don’t do seafood and I’m allergic to shellfish, so my options have been limited, but so far, it’s only “okay” at best (but better than the pork chop I had at the Brown Derby last week, which was bordering on too many weird flavors – that was one of my worst meals on Disney property, tbh). I had some kind of fried chicken in June which was good, but too peppery (no warning on that, I can’t handle black pepper) and too complicated to pull apart. The mashed potatoes and whatever the green veg was were what I ended up eating.

    I mostly go to Artist Point because of the mixed green salad with the apple slices and granola, which is usually really nice after a day or two of theme park food, and the sunflower granola adds an interesting crunchy flavor. The other reason I go is the cobbler, which I now know is available at the Lounge. That is SO good. It’s 100% the reason I went to AP for my birthday this June (and they gave me a cannoli, too, but I didn’t get to eat it – it looked delicious).

    As for the wine flight that Lisa said tasted like wine – I tried that this last time and thought it was interesting in how each of the wines was a different fruity flavor, one more tart, one more sweet, &c., but you probably have to like wine to enjoy it. A table nearby saw me with it and decided to try it, too, but not really being interested in wine, they ended up just switching to one of the beers.

    I’m taking another multi-day trip in November and I can’t wait to go back. I’ll probably skip the entree and just double up on the appetizers, unless they bring back the one entree that I had a few years ago that wasn’t too bad (it was pretty basic, hard to screw up – filet + asparagus, I think?)

  4. MrsNick says

    Our only experience at Artist Point was Christmas Eve 2011. Having read about it online for several years I was excited to give it a try. While the service was very good and the food was very good, I have to agree that the experience was not great. Both my DH and I enjoyed the meal but we are unlikely to return. For the price point, we were expecting better.
    A day or two later we had dinner at The Wave and I’m almost ashamed to admit that we thought it was a better experience. Comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges but somehow, we enjoyed our dinner at The Wave more.
    It may simply be that our expectations for Artist Point weren’t in line with reality and that our lower expectations at The Wave were exceeded.
    Living in the NY metropolitan area we can try different cuisines whenever our schedule and budget allow. Like anywhere else, there are good and bad restaurants. Our first dining experiences at WDW seemed to have been better than those of the last few years. For both these reasons we don’t feel compelled to schedule meals that aren’t convenient to our location unless it serves a purpose such as fireworks viewing or meeting characters.

  5. Marianna says

    By the way, I really like the shot of the two chairs facing the courtyard. Your shots all look great. That cloudy sky filmed beautifully.

  6. pfalcioni says

    The pictures of the lodge exterior are even more delicious than your wonderful description of the food at Artist Point.

    I can’t believe they have Rogue Ale Voodoo Doughnut Beer, that stuff is NASTY. The actual doughnuts, however, are delish. I recommend the bacon maple bar.

  7. Anonymous says

    We haven’t had a traipsing in awhile. I asked you on twitter if you have had a cholesterol check recently and I meant it, eating out so much can take a toll on your health. Sorry to be a downer, I worry.

  8. Ellie says

    Yeah! You tried everything I would have liked myself – the trio, the cobbler, the ice wine. Have had good things about the mushroom soup. 4 weeks to our reservation. Will ask if we can sit in a better spot. Thanks fo the review.

  9. Hillarie says

    My favorite meal was at Artist Point when we were there in late August. You didn’t get our server, apparently, as he was very colorful and enthusiastic. Also, the mussels are divine. Y’all missed out. I recommend any appetizer/entree with mussels!

  10. Bob says

    I always take a look at the wines lists which makes my hair stand on end. Their prices are generally 3x retail or more and per glass price covers their cost of the bottle. Being the wine geek that I am, I almost can never bring myself to order wine at WDW. But if you know where to look you can avoid getting gouged too badly. That means avoid Cabernet, Merlot, and Chardonnay.

  11. cupcake says

    I hated that blue crab pierogi when I had it last month…it was crusty and greasy. Enjoyed the halibut though. And Mr. Cupcake LOVED that voodoo donut beer.

  12. RebeccaMcK says

    “Sorry I ate you,” lol. Great pics! I’m saving one of the fireworks shots, the one that shows the Contemporary/Bay Lake Tower – it could be my desktop wallpaper (replacing one of your great Castle photos btw) to keep me excited about maybe staying there around a year from now (or at the Polynesian, or at Art of Animation). I didn’t comment on the F&WF post, but kudos on that, too – great info as always. I forwarded the link to my local friend who’s about to move there – she’s looking forward to exploring F&WF. I didn’t read all the food reviews too thoroughly there because it will make me spend $ and head back to WDW sooner than planned, and I can’t do that to Hubby just yet, lol. Looks like Artist Pointe has a moscato wine on their menu, and that’s a plus for me (it’s among the very few wines I drink – yes, I know it probably doesn’t “go” with much but I like it anyway). Never dined there, although I stayed at Wilderness Lodge once – we tried to get into Whispering Canyon one night during that trip (my first ever trip to WDW in 2010) and couldn’t. No reservation that time.

  13. angela says

    Is it just me, or are buffet/family style prices getting wayyyyyyy out of hand? I can’t believe they charge $30 for the platter for a 10 year-old at Whispering Canyon.

    We paid $36 pp at Boma last weekend, with no characters, no view, tables so close together you couldn’t get out without your neighbors standing, etc. The food was okay (I loved the special peanut rice they had that night), but overall only okay (I don’t recommend the dry, flavorless Durban chicken). My family enjoyed it, but $107 (plus tax and tip) for two adults and a 10 year-old is just nuts. I know lots of people probably think it’s a great value and love it, but the value just isn’t there for us at that price point, which is a bummer. Maybe if we were bigger eaters…

    Last year at ‘Ohana was the worst. So much wasted food! The waitress simply would not listen when we said no, or “only one piece”, to the meat and kept dumping it on our plates. On the way down for this most recent trip my dad said, “We’re not going to that restaurant again are we? The one where they wasted all that food?” When I assured him we were not he was so relieved. Maybe they could lower the price if they dumped less food.

    Some of the breakfast buffets (we had a great time at 1900 Park Fare for $23 pp) are still reasonable, but dinners are crazy.

    I know, I know, they wouldn’t charge it if people didn’t pay it and I’m a firm believer in the free market. I guess I’m just grumpy today.

  14. pfalcioni says

    ” I asked you on twitter if you have had a cholesterol check recently and I meant it, eating out so much can take a toll on your health.”

    The alcohol washes away the cholesterol.. Duh.

  15. Mary Ann says

    I will have to plug the Smoked Portobello Soup. It is one of the best things we ever had on property. We love it so much that we make it every Thanksgiving. You would swear that it has bacon in it but it doesn’t. So DawnH that’s what you should try. It’s worth it just for lunch if you don’t want to drop the big bucks at dinner (although I think the buffalo is worth it).
    And with all the wonderful Rogue beers in their corral, they have the really odd Voodoo one. Such a shame.

  16. Dawn H says

    @ Mary Ann …ummm…you mean try Artist Point for the soup?
    I didn’t say anything about the soup, it was the slab of “pork” with the egg and sweet sauce I was ‘not’ liking?????

  17. Anonymous says

    @Ivy I asked Josh because he does eat out quite a bit and even though he is young it can sneak up on you, sorry (not really) if my concern for Josh and being a downer ruined your magic

  18. Meredith says

    Every time I see pictures of that lobby, it brings back fond (read “horrifying”) memories of the first night of our very first Disney trip when my then-two-year-old daughter decided she was NOT going to sleep. We spent a lovely night camped out in the lobby reading books soothed by the sounds of Cast Members vacuuming around us.

  19. Ivy says

    Anon, your fears are unfounded. Preparing food at home doesn’t reduce the cholesterol in it. Didn’t they teach you that at the Health Police Academy? Publicly nagging someone on various social media about some imagined health “concern” is stalkerish and creepy. Sorry if that’s too blunt for you (not really).

  20. Aileen says

    Yikes…Drama in the comments tonight. What is this, Disboards? 😉
    Thanks for the great article, Josh! I’ve never wanted to stop and visit the WL before, but your photos make the resort look amazing!

  21. Mary Ann says

    @DawnH, the soup is listed under Appetizer. So if you didn’t like the Confit Natural Bacon (pork belly), a better choice would be the soup. Really, it’s fantastic.

  22. sonja says

    Artist Point usually gets rave reviews but we live in Alaska and eat fresh salmon to the point that we are all sick of it. It was nice to read such an detailed reviewed so now I feel like I’ve been there!

    We stayed at WL once when we lived in TX but now we stay far away since we are vacationing to get AWAY from the wilderness!

  23. Dawn H says

    @MaryAnn…that’s exactly what I thought you meant..I was thinking some ‘other’ Dawn didnt like the soup, which actually sounds delicious…I didnt realize I had an “H” on my name!! LOL…but thank you I had already added this to my must try list…Have you ever dined here on a holiday, Im looking for something for Easter dinner…(anyone?)

  24. DeathStarHR says

    Hi Josh, my family and I ate there on the 26th to celebrate my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary. We all loved it. My dad had the smokey portobello soup and said it was fantastic. I split a mussels app with my brother and his girlfriend, lots of mussels in a very tasty butter sauce. I actually dipped my bread in that sauce, it was so good. My mom and sis split the mixed greens salad. The portion sizes we got with our apps were huge and they were easily shared.

    For entrees my mom and dad both had the scallops and really enjoyed them. My sister had the halibut and I tried her pierogi. Her’s was pan friend to crisp perfection. I had the crab and prawn hot pot. The prawns were humongous and I really enjoyed the thai curry broth, had a nice kick to it. My brother had the pork and said it was good.

    For dessert my dad had the cobbler, my mom and sister split the creme brulee trio, my brother and his girlfriend split a cobbler and I had the flourless chocolate-hazelnut cake. All were yummy.

    Honestly I liked the decor and ambiance of the restaurant. The was subduded, understated and most of all…quiet.

    For us it was one of the best meals of our trip, tied with our Brown Derby lunch. If you ask my dad the French Regional Lunch we did was the best meal. But that is another review.

  25. Psac says

    We ate there on 9/20, and we LOVED it. The server (Keith) was excellent, and the food was fantastic. I had that same bacon appetizer, which was FANTASTIC. Maybe they forgot to add the flavor crystals to yours. I also had the trio, with my sausage being rabbit. as described, all three meats were excellent, and it was a huge portion. My wife had the tomato and mozzerella appetizer and the salmon main course — both were also perfect. We ate in AP about 5 or 6 years ago and were not impressed. This time we were very much so.

  26. says

    I’ve been going back and forth about our reservation there. We are definitely heading over, but I’m wondering if we should just have dinner at the Territory Lounge. I want to try those drunken donuts too!

  27. Ana says

    We are staying at WL in December and I just cancelled my Artist Point dinner. Switched it over to Citricos at the GF…..loved it there this past Sunday when we went for dinner.

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