It’s been a while since we visited Epcot without the Food and Wine Festival as the focal point.
Garden Grill is the Mickey-hosted character meal at Epcot, located on the second level of the Land Pavilion above Living with the Land.
Kim and her daughter Alice were nice enough to invite me out for dinner for the sake of bloggability…and the greater good.
Garden Grill operates as an “All-you-Care-to-Enjoy” meal served “Family-style” from 4pm-8pm. That means a set menu:
Like most Disney World buffets, Chip ‘N’ Dale Harvest Feast pricing varies and isn’t posted. Adults cost $35.99-$38.99 and kids are $16.99-$18.99 depending on season. If you assume $40/adult and $20/kid you’ll be fine.
Menu at the table:
It’s a pretty standard list of whichever wineries are offering Disney discounts on bulk bottles, in addition to the usual bottled beer and a couple average Orlando Brewing drafts.
Garden Grill’s major claim to fame is the fact that it rotates slowly with Living with the Land below. Here we have the excitement that is fake foliage.
A little later it’s the desert scene.
The house followed by a wall.
Garden Grill might be the kind of restaurant for you if you get excited about the fact that there is a window into the top floor bedroom and it’s FURNISHED!!1!
Maybe it’s basically growing up at the base of the Space Needle (with a rotating restaurant at the top), but I think the rotating aspect is over-hyped. From our lower-level table, we could see the tops of a couple things, but I don’t think the majority of the people dining care. There was certainly nobody other than me bothering to get up to look over the glass. From the elevated tables, views are mostly nonexistent. Most people will want to request a booth on the lower level at check-in for a better view and a more comfortable seat than the tables up above.
The meal begins with the “Living with the Land” Harvest-inspired Farmer’s Salad, a blend of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, radishes, egg, cucumber, and bacon bits with a creamy salad dressing that was blander than Kim or I would have liked. Everything arrives reliably fresh and crunchy, but a bolder dressing would have gone a long way for us.
The rolls here are great – fluffy. flaky, and served warm. Interestingly, they were served alongside the same pao de queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread) that was served at the Brazil booth for Food and Wine. I’m not sure if we’ll see them phased in at more restaurants or these are just leftovers. They’re a store-bought item, but very good for something that’s gluten free.
Orange-blossom honey butter replaces the maple that was served here for years. It’s equal parts sweet and salty and gives the bread a bit of extra zip. Very good.
For the sake of bloggability and probably because most people want a drink shortly after meeting me for the first time, Kim ordered the restaurant’s specialty drink – Citrus Freeze – 4 Orange Vodka, Peach Schnapps, and Mango Purée – $10.25. She thoroughly enjoyed it and commented that it had a very nice alcohol to fruity balance.
The platter – Char-grilled Beef with Red Wine Demi-Glace, Sustainable Fish of the Day (Tilapia) with Tomato Jam, Roasted All-Natural Turkey Breast with Stuffing and a House-made Gravy, Garden Fresh Vegetables, and Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes. This will be important later, but note that the sign outside advertises “Filet of Beef” while the menu provided inside the restaurant omits the “Filet” part.
Compared to the platter from our previous visit. One big difference is the cut of beef is considerably lower now and served in larger quantities. It used to be advertised as “filet of beef” and is now more of a roast. The turkey arrives on top of stuffing with a gravy over the top instead of the cranberry-orange relish with potatoes underneath. The fish tends to switch between tilapia and mahi mahi – probably whichever is cheaper rather than whichever is currently “more sustainable.” I’m not really sure what they mean when they say “sustainable.” Tilapia is such a bottom feeder that nobody will really miss them when they’re gone? Nobody actually wants tilapia so their only real predators are Disney and the cruise industry? I’m not sure.
Anyway, here it is.
Despite being a considerably lower quality cut, the roast was tender and had a nice flavor helped by the gravy that’s advertised as a “red wine demi-glace.” I didn’t pick up any wine notes and the sauce is otherwise atypical of a demi glace. The mashed potatoes next door had a handmade component to them with some chunks of potato dispersed throughout. Very good.
Tilapia doesn’t have a whole lot of flavor by itself, instead absorbing whatever sauce or toppings that are placed on top of it. I didn’t care much for the tomato and onion “compote” that dominated the palate. Kim did enjoy it more, so it’s just a personal preference thing. The fish is placed on top of a few vegetables that may make you feel better about taking that fourth slice of beef.
The turkey is pretty pedestrian – not necessarily in a bad way, but there isn’t a whole lot you can do with it. The stuffing underneath was thankfully not out of a Stouffer’s box and again had a homemade facet to it. Unfortunately, it lacked flavor and substance and was ultimately forgettable.
Kids, particularly young ones, are served far too much food. They come away with macaroni and cheese, sweet potato fries, broccoli, and a chicken drumstick. A Mickey Check meal is offered on the menu outside, but was never mentioned or offered at the table. Kids are otherwise welcome to grab whatever they like from the main platter, which eliminates some of the benefit of ordering the turkey for the kids too.
The vegetarian dish is another unadvertised component. It was previously a very good polenta cake topped with mushrooms, eggplant, and zucchini, but has been replaced with this poblano pepper stuffed with couscous, quinoa, eggplant, and zucchini, served on a bed of white beans in a tomato sauce and topped with a dollop of pesto sauce. Vegetarian or vegan sides include rice pilaf, (modified for vegans) mashed potatoes. broccoli, and sweet potato fries. These can also be ordered for the table – vegetarian or not. Anyway, you can order one or more of these peppers when your server comes by for the first time or at any other point during the meal. It takes about 15 minutes for it to come out, so those that want it with the platter should order early. You can also order more of just the pepper filling. This is otherwise a well put together dish featuring some flavors and ingredients that aren’t ubiquitous around the resort and I think most vegetarians will find the couscous and white beans underneath filling. At other restaurants, this would be an $18-$25 entree. Garden Grill should take care of vegetarians so don’t let your diet deter you from a meal.
Skillets are baked individually and topped with vanilla bean whipped cream.
“Seasonal” is probably code for “whatever we can comfortably defrost in late November in Florida,” but dessert here is a delicious blend of fruit (typically strawberries, blueberries, raspberries), crust, and whipped cream. There is seemingly only the one option. I’m not sure if they can whip up an ice cream sundae or something should you not care for berry cobbler.
Credit to Kim for the nice composition on the kids’ cupcake, served in this precious (inedible, kids) paper cone.
A big selling point of the meal is the characters and this is one of my favorites for interaction quality and time spent. Unlike most restaurants that suffer from an open layout, the circular nature of Garden Grill brings a sense of privacy and true one-on-one time with the characters, free from someone else’s brats seeing Mickey from afar and interfering with your silent time with Mickey and Friends. The farmer outfit is pretty adorable.
Pluto dons a special harvest-inspired collar.
Alice referred to him as “the first ChipAndDale.”
And the second “ChipAndDale.”
Garden Grill is a lot of fun if you’re looking for a character meal and like the food offered. The family-style aspect limits the options to just a handful, unlike something like Chef Mickey’s where you have access to 30+ options. The lower quality beef is seemingly unfortunate, but the roast does the job and still tastes good. I think a lot of people run off elsewhere for a character meal after visiting Epcot, but Garden Grill is a viable, and much more convenient, option.
As discussed all the way back in August in the Epcot quick service menu update, Liberty Inn features a menu that changed more dramatically than most with the addition of the Surf and Turf Burger, Louisiana-Style Shrimp with Rice, and Red, White, and Blue Salad.
In addition to the Maryland Crab Cakes, which we already took a look at in the previous menu update.
The $9.99 Louisiana-style Shrimp with Rice rely on a lot more green peppers than the menu picture/description indicates to add a touch of spiciness. Unfortunately, the shrimp seem to be stewing in the sauce in the back far too long and come out gummy and limp. And even with the peppers, this is not a particularly spicy dish. You could do a lot worse, but I don’t think it’s going to be as good as anyone is hoping.
$11.49 buys you a Surf and Turf Burger – 1/3 lb Angus Burger, Crab Cake, Spicy Tartar Sauce and choice of Grapes or French Fries. It’s the usual burger topped with one of the same crab cakes as the entree.
The addition of the spicy tartar sauce and crab cake give this a bit of a zesty Maryland kick, even though everyone from the state would disavow this thing I’m sure. It otherwise “works” better than you might expect and is a little different than the standard bacon/cheddar that seems to permeate most quick service menus. Recommended if you’re in the market.
Lisa ended up setting the burger patty aside and instead enjoyed a crab cake sandwich.
The Red, White, and Blue Salad – Field Greens, Ocean Spray® Craisins, Pecans, Apples, Blue Cheese and Sherry Vinaigrette – $7.99 is a well thought out salad for those looking for a light meal, though in my opinion, it’s more like three or four side salads served together without a major source of protein. The dominant flavors are the blue cheese and Craisins with the field greens, apples, and pecans offering a nice crunch. It’s very good, but potentially not very filling on its own.
Elsewhere in food and drink news, you may remember that the Norway Cart added the very good Einstok (ayne-stook) Icelandic White Ale in the middle of the Food and Wine Festival.
A standard 16-ounce draft. This is (or was at least back in October) the only spot in the United States where you can pick it up on draft. Very good.
Block and Hans outside the United States Pavilion has a new beer menu. Abita Christmas replaces Purple Haze, Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale is new, and Victory Golden Ale is no longer available.
While expensive at $3.99 for a scoop or $6.10 for two, L’artisan Des Glaces in France serves terrific, handmade ice cream. It’s dense stuff and a good value, comparably speaking.
$6.10 will also buy you one of these Croque Glace with any flavor of ice cream pressed in warm brioche. It’s a particularly decadent item.
Over in Mexico, La Cantina de San Angel switched out several entrees:
The Pollo Cascabel, Tacos de Barbacoa, and Ensalada Mexicana are all new. La Cantina is historically this website’s lowest rated Epcot quick service and it will be interesting if any of these new dishes are any better.
Back to November 20th at 5pm on a non-recommended Thursday:
This chart shows posted (purple) and actual (blue) waits over the course of the day. As always, you can follow along all day, every day at easywdw.com/waits.
Thursdays at Epcot are virtually always recommended with the morning Extra Magic Hour and nighttime entertainment usually pulling people toward Magic Kingdom and Epcot’s Friday evening Extra Magic Hours being more attractive to resort guests. This particular Thursday was an exception with the Mickey’s Party closing Magic Kingdom at 7pm with no nighttime spectaculars during regular hours and Hollywood Studios actually closing at 4pm for a cast member appreciation date. That’s why you see wait times at Soarin’ and Test Track actually go up after 6pm. Ordinarily, those wait times would drop as people funnel into World Showcase for dinner and IllumiNations. Check out the Studios’ wait times on the 20th:
That’s the lowest peak and average waits since early September. And the sort of attention to detail that none of these garbage “crowd calendar” sites that have popped up in the last few months offer. I don’t think any of them even have the Studios’ opening time correct, let alone any of the Animal Kingdom 8am openings that week.
This picture is so lousy that you may just need to take my word for it, but the construction walls outside Innoventions West are gone with the pathway and grass restored.
In related news, the Puerto Rico Food and Wine booth is gone.
Duffy’s holiday sweater and hat return.
As do holiday popcorn containers.
And pop-up carts like this one.
Serving a few snacks.
Some holiday pictures and otherwise lousy high ISO, in-camera HDR shots: