California Grill Lounge Review


We last visited California Grill back in September for a lengthy dinner review. We’ll return to the bar for a miniature review.

In case you’re wondering whether or not photography is still a scam – it is. The image immediately above is straight out of a Canon 5D Mark III with a Sigma Art 35mm lens, while the first image is HDR’d out in Lightroom.

Like most signature restaurants on property, California Grill offers a bar/lounge area that doesn’t require or accept reservations. Cali Grill’s is larger than most and spans not only the bar, but about ten additional tables including a handful that line the window. You’ll need to check in at the second floor host desk to inquire about space upstairs. You’re virtually guaranteed admittance before 6:30pm, but it’s going to be more difficult as it gets later in the evening and the restaurant gets backed up with people waiting, in addition to people vying for a spot before Wishes begins.

The summer seasonal menu offers a few changes from the one we saw last fall – most notably a Medusa Roll has been added to the sushi menu and the entree selections have been expanded to ten from eight, including the luxurious sounding Spanish Seafood Pilaf, Bison Tenderloin, and Lamb Porterhouse.

All of the cocktails return with the exception of the San Fran Pisco Sour, which is replaced by a California Grill Coffee. I can’t imagine they’re selling a whole lot of coffee in June. The previous review covers each of the cocktails (with the exception of the Mai Tai) and all the beers.

an $8.50 Harp seems like an odd selection, but our server accidentally brought one over meant for another table, so someone is interested.

The view is excellent in daylight, particularly as the sun sets in the evening. And if there are open tables, you can plunk yourself down to this view through the window like we did. Note that you’ll likely get a steady stream of people taking pictures should you choose these seats. The bar is not a particularly intimate setting here.

The missing cocktail – a Twisted Mai Tai – Mount Gay Rum, Creme de Noyaux, Orange Juice, and Pineapple Juice with a splash of Lime – $9.25. This fell a bit flat for me – it was not particularly fruity and not particularly boozy – just sort of a dull rum flavor. The Classic Side Car is my favorite drink here and the Sake Martini is a good choice for a less boozy option.

With the prevalence of the dining plan, appetizers are often the best values on a dinner menu, particularly at the signature restaurants. Whenever a restaurant switches out an item, they have to notify Food and Beverage if the cost differs (and don’t if it doesn’t). That’s part of why you almost always see like items being substituted at similar price points from season to season.

This is the BBQ Pork and Apple Flatbread – Coffee-brined Pork Shoulder, Apple Butter, Queso Fresco, Coffee-BBQ Sauce – $15.

It’s significantly larger than the flatbreads served at The Wave downstairs for similar money and about as large as a Pinocchio Village Haus Flatbread at the Magic Kingdom that would run you $10. The only difference is this one is expertly created with crispy apple shavings lending themselves nicely to the crunch from the bread and bite from the pork. We’re not quite in Jiko territory here, but it’s the best flatbread I’ve tried on property outside of that – easily sharable and a great choice.

The tomato flatbread works too – but it came off a bit slimy on a previous visit with nothing holding down the tomatoes.

Dave, the co-author to our new guidebook, “The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit,” ordered the Three-Meat Signature Meatballs, Picholine Olives, Herbed Orzo, Chimichurri, Lavender Mint – $15. We were meeting in part to sign guidebooks for the giveaway, which ends today at 5pm.

Presentation was a bit sloppy, but the meatballs were flavorful with the spice cut by the mint/chimichurri. The dish seemed a bit one-dimensional for a signature item even with the rice and olives.

Lisa ordered the Tuna Four Ways – Poke, Tartare, Maki, Nigiri – $26.

Sushi here is reliably excellent – the tuna is not particularly inventive, but executed perfectly, from the nigiri served just slightly chilled to preserve the delicate flavor to the poke topped with crunchy seaweed and a zesty sauce.

The view from the table in the other direction.

While Cali Grill is often saved for a dinner reservation around the time of Wishes, it can be a fun and satisfying stop for drinks and appetizers earlier in the evening. Don’t bank on getting up without a reservation after 7pm, but there should be space earlier in the evening. The Contemporary is one monorail stop away from Magic Kingdom or about a ten minute walk from MK’s exit, plus another five minutes to step inside and ride the escalator up to the second floor.

In related new, The Wave added a few summer seasonal items last week, including a Lobster Roll, Grilled Peach Salad, and a Buffalo Chicken Flatbread in addition to a trio of sherbets: tropical fruit with pineapple chip, strawberry, and key lime. If you find the Grill unexpectedly full, The Wave has an expansive bar area that will certainly have room. A full bar review is available here.


  1. shaun says

    Great pics, love that view! I did the same thing back in Jan when i visited. Fun and quick break from MK. Super easy to pop over early evening for a good drink/app, excellent view.

  2. MsIncredible says

    thanks for this review! I have a 5pm ADR for Cali Grill in October when MK closes early for MNSSHP – after reading this I’m thinking I may just cancel that ressie and just do the bar. That way we can leave MK up to 7pm and probably still be good to go and if not, hit the Wave bar. Thanks! DD8 thanks you too as it will be quicker at the bar than a sit down meal! :-)

  3. Lucy says

    The seafood pilaf is my pick for next November if it’s still offered. I hope they can omit the chorizo from the dish.

  4. RebeccaMcK says

    I think I’d like California Grill but the hubby wouldn’t (we’re both Californians but he’s fussier than I am)….so I’ll have to save it for a solo or sisters’ trip some time. We’re dining at The Wave in October. If by chance I win the signed book, I’ll give the one I just ordered today to a family member or close friend (waiting now for the Kindle matching e-book to download on my dumb phone).

  5. Sarah says

    I also have a reservation for California Grill in October, and I am pretty darn excited about these new additions. I’m not a huge flatbread fan, but the pork and apple combination sounds amazing. Seafood Pilaf (I’m assuming it’s along the lines of a paella) sounds great too.

  6. Dave says

    We ate Cali Grill last week. After 6 visits in 8 years we left disappointed. For 7 of us, the bill came to $725 before the TiW discount. Service was spotty to start but did improve. I had the Spanish Paella. It was literally 2 scallops, 2 shrimp, 3 clams and a small lobster tail. The lobster tail was so over cook I ask for the dish to be replaced. Honestly at $47, this is a flat out joke. I would estimate total 10 to 12 bites of seafood and half a cup of rice.

    The bad thing is we left to enjoy the late night at the MK. Both boys went to Casey’s and ordered hot dogs. We also ordered a a couple of funnel cakes.

    It really is tough to drop 7 bills on dinner and still be hungry.

  7. dusty cheatham says

    ok !! let me see if I get this straight !!!!! # 1 new York times # 1 amazon best sellers list & you sit @ the bar ??? view or no view your publisher fell down on the job . photos coming off the elevators , a shill calling out , HEY IS THAT JOSH , & DAVE , LISA . WAITER , WAITER , NOTHING BUT THE BEST . you are then escorted to the V.I.P. AREA .mumbling no autographs along the way . alter a short period of time other shills approach asking for autographs of your book . mean while other shills are walking around in cali grill stopping complete strangers & asking HEY YOU KNOW WHO THAT IS ?? there by assuring a large body of interested people in your book who then are told how lucky they are to meet 3 famous authors who for a short period of time are selling autographed copies of their book for $$$$ a 3% discount if you pay in cash. taxes & all that you know wink , wink . DA DAAAA.

  8. Mike says

    I love your picture of the park.

    For all the accolades that the castle gets about how large it is as a focal point, it’s funny to see the Space Mountain “UFO” absolutely dwarfs it. But I guess you don’t really see that from inside the park so it’s a bit different.

  9. RebeccaMcK says

    I thought that, too, lol. Look how BIG Space Mtn looks!

    Would it be an insult to ask CA Grill to serve, say, their halibut a different way for a particular guest during one meal? If the fussy husband, for example, could get it flavored simply with lemon and pepper (and not with all the stuff that is normally with it, according to the menu) he’d eat it. Without any beets involved, too. I’d think it would be a bit like accommodating someone’s food allergies or leaving certain things off the plate.

  10. Danielle says

    Has anyone else had issues with pictures not popping up? No matter how many times I refresh or come back to the website, I can’t see any pictures :(. Not sure if it’s my computer or what.

  11. Andrew M says

    Are the menus in the lounge and the main restaurant the same ? I like the look of the seasonal menu above but when checking on the Disney site the menu for the Cali Grill is still showing as the ‘original’ one.


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