We’ll head out to dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe on the evening of October 5th.
Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has been in the news recently with a major menu change.
New dinner menu:
“The Platter” replaces “The Skillet” and it’s now basically your only entree choice. With the “All You Care to Eat” Platter, I’m not sure why they’re offering appetizers or who would choose to buy them. Deluxe Dining Plan folks I suppose. The Lunch menu no longer offers a skillet or platter option – only individual entrees. If you’re wondering what the menus look like, Disney has updated them here. Look in the lower right hand corner under “Sample Menus.”
There isn’t a whole lot to the restaurant. It has a bit of a woodsy feel and the lighting fixtures out in the lobby are present in here as well. Don’t expect much privacy because almost all of the tables are simply sitting in a large open room. I think we’re supposed to be excited that the backs of the chairs have cowboys and Indians painted on them, but I’m less than wowed.
While you wait for a table, there’s a small area for kids to play with Lincoln Logs.
Similar to 50’s Prime Time Cafe, the restaurant is known for its antics. This is not a quiet meal and you can expect to hear yelling, birthday announcements/singing, dancing, etc. We did the hokey pokey, had straws and napkins thrown at us, and pictured above is a horse race around the restaurant. The children aren’t horses, but they’re carrying wooden replicas.
And a couple of my dining companions landed in Canyon Jail. Other common antics – ask for ketchup. Ask for a second refill of your fountain beverage. Drop a fork. Feel free to comment on others. They have toned things down a bit in recent memory due to complaints from resort guests as well as people that have no idea what they’re experiencing. You’re not going to hear servers announcing that someone’s credit card got declined and asking for donations anymore. You would “literally” die laughing if you heard some of the complaints about “rude service” at 50’s Prime Time. Anyway, Whispering Canyon Cafe is extremely noisy. This is probably not a good choice for an anniversary meal.
The restaurant is also known for its bottomless milkshakes. My dining companions agreed the chocolate shake was “creamier” than they were used to. At $6.69 a pop and available in chocoalte, strawberry, or vanilla, I’d have in mind to get at least two refills.
The meal begins with cornbread and butter, which tasted just fine, but was dryer than I would have liked. It wasn’t like what they serve over at Boatwright’s, which has crack mixed in, but it set the tone for a pleasant tasting meal. Since they know what you’re going to order (the Platter), service is going to be fast. Expect it to take just a couple of minutes between the time you order and when you’re first served.
The Platter as presented. The look reminded me a lot of how they serve food at Garden Grill over at Epcot. While it isn’t officially offered on the menu, kids can share the Platter along with their parents. This is the Herb-Baked Chicken, Kansas City-style Smoked Pork Ribs, and Hand-Carved Oak-roasted Beef Strip Loin along with the four sides listed. They’ll bring you more of whatever you want and you can order the Fish or Sausage after the initial platter comes out. Additional items come out in bowls the same as what the beans are served in.
The chicken was nice and moist with pieces small enough that it’s easy to try. Unfortunately, I think the chicken was my favorite part of the meal, which doesn’t bode well for the rest of it.
The ribs were good too. With Disney scared to death that you aren’t going to like something because it isn’t bland, you’re not going to find a lot of tang or spice here. Like most pork ribs, they’re on the fatty side. Good, but nothing special. For half the price of the skillet, you could order the ribs at lunch. The ribs are also available at Hoop Dee Doo Revue (starting at $59/person but includes unlimited beer, sangria, wine, and a show) and Trail’s End dinner ($24.99/person).
The Pork er…..Beef was the weakest option in my opinion. It was limp and looked and tasted more like over-seasoned pork than beef. I actually had to look at the menu and make sure it wasn’t pork.
The sides were okay. I felt like the Platter really could have used salad, coleslaw, fruit, or something a little less dense. The Seasonal Farm Fresh Vegetables consisted mostly of zucchini, carrot shreds, lemon(?), and pea pods. It was really nothing sustainable and a nice salad would have gone a long way to freshening things up a bit. The corn was decently crunchy, though it obviously had been sitting somewhere for a while. The mashed potatoes were lukewarm and generic. Same with the beans. The meal wasn’t “bad” by any means, but nothing stood out as a “wow” item. I tend to judge all-you-care-to-eat family style buffets and meals by answering the question, “I’m so stuffed I feel sick, but …… was so good I want more.” Nothing here fit that bill.
For dessert, they start you out with an Apple-Cranberry Buckle. Portions are on the small side because they know how full you are from the meal, but you can request more of anything, just like the Platter. This was perfectly fine with a flaky crust and what may or may not be canned fruit. Presented by Ocean Spray. The cream on top added an extra layer of sweet saturated fat.
An aerial view of the three desserts, which means I apparently don’t have a good shot of the Jalapeno-Lime Cheesecake, which is available at lunch for $6.99. This was more of a mousse than a cheesecake with a brownie bottom that is hard to get at from the top. Since it’s intended to be shared among the table, it was a little awkward trying to shovel the spoon down to pick some brownie up. I should probably take notes or something, but I don’t remember a lot about this one. I don’t remember tasting much jalapeno. It tasted similar to the Key Lime Pie Mousse at Flame Tree Barbecue. I didn’t get a bite of what I imagine is the Whispering Canyon Chocolate Cake. It was the girls’ birthday, so they each received a slice with a candle and gobbled it up. Bad blogger assistants! But I know better than to get close to little girl cooties, they would probably melt Tom or something.
Overall, the meal was just fine. With the scaled back antics, noise, reduction in entree choices, bland flavor, and increased price, I’m not sure it’s two thumbs way up like it once was. Like with any dining review, I would ask that you don’t let this one cause you to cancel a reservation or go into a panic over how you’re depriving your children of the best meal possible. You’re going to see good/bad reviews of all Disney restaurants. For me, $32.99 + $2.99 fountain beverage + $7.20 tip per person would have me looking elsewhere. $36 (for the platter and fountain beverage) will cover just about any character buffet, so there are a lot of other options. And if you don’t have kids, $33 would buy you most entrees over at Artist Point, which would be far calmer and offer much better food.
The beverage menu:
The Prairie Fire sounded intriguing, so I ordered one.
If you have the misfortune of following this website, you would know that I’m amused by what Disney doesn’t list on their menus. In this case, there’s no mention of the fact that jalapeno peppers would be residing inside the drink as well as a garnish on the side. One would think this would be a key feature, whether it be because someone likes spicy drinks or wants to avoid them. Granted it’s called a “Prairie Fire,” so maybe I should have used my psychic powers. Anyway, this was quite a bit more maple-y than I was expecting. I’ve never had Tap 357 Maple Rye Whiskey, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. With flavored vodkas, there’s usually a subtle flavor lessening the impact of the flavor from the vodka. This just tasted like I was drinking a liquid version of a concentrated maple bar doughnut. I’ll say that it was fine, but I was surprised by the jalapenos and the strength of the maple flavor. I wouldn’t order a second.
Moosehead Lager is a decent 5% ABV American Pale Lager brewed by Moosehead Breweries in New Brunswick, Canada. This is basically your Budweiser option, though it has more flavor than your typical American macro. It’s refreshing, easy to drink, and relatively light, which may be good with the heavy barbecue entrees. I won’t mention that the Wilderness Lodge is themed to the Pacific Northwest and New Brunswick is east of Maine.
The 5.6% ABV Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is similar to Sam Adams Boston Lager in that it’s widely available at just about every grocery store in the country. Also like the Boston Lager, it’s excellent and one of the best, inexpensive (at the store) pale ales available. This one is also light, crisp, and refreshing. It’s quite a bit more complex than the Moosehead with floral and citrus notes, but is easily drinkable. Pick up a 12-pack at the store for $13-$16.
Coming in at 7.2%, the Torpedo Extra IPA is one of my favorite beers and the one I purchase most often. It’s incredibly hoppy with a lot of carbonation, but it doesn’t have that lingering bitterness that you may experience from lesser IPAs. Don’t get me wrong – the bitterness is still present, but it shouldn’t be unpleasant. If you’re part of the Bud Light crowd, this is not your stepping stone into craft beer. The Pale Ale would be better. But if you enjoy a nice beer and haven’t had the Torpedo, it’s excellent. Also widely available in 6-Packs and 12-Packs for $8 – $10 and $13 – $16 respectively.
The Sierra Nevada brews hail from California and Widmer is in Oregon. This is a 5.7% American Pale Ale that is also very good. This one is on the hoppy side too, though the citrus notes are less apparent than the Sierra Nevada incarnation. Expect this one to be crisp and refreshing as well. It’s $1 less and will be a little more difficult to find than the Sierra Nevada on the east coast and down south, but is still readily available at most specialty shops. It’s particularly good on those hot summer evenings.
I have never had or seen the Widmer Omission Lager, which is apparently a 4.6% Light Lager. An obvious choice if you’re looking for a gluten-free beer, but those of who us who can stomach it probably want to look elsewhere on the menu.
Pretend this is the Full Sail Session Black Lager rather than Guinness. I’ve had the Session Black, but don’t have a picture. The Session Black is a 5.4% ABV Schwarzbier This one is going to taste of roasted malts, caramel, and chocolate (to a lesser extent). This style is admittedly one of my least favorite, but this is a decent example. I’m not sure it would pair well with the barbecue dishes, but I’m biased. If you like black lagers, you’ll like the Full Sail.
We’ll finally get out to Pete’s Silly Sideshow tomorrow. And someone remind me I have dinner at T-Rex and lunch at San Angel Inn to write about along with a bunch of odds and ends.