We’ve enjoyed a bit of opulence at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in recent memory.
You might remember my review of the Afternoon Tea experience at the Garden Tea Room.
Then there was the surprisingly fantastic, incredibly relaxing Sunday brunch at Narcoossee’s.
Then there was a stop at Citricos and Garden View Lounge as part of the Highway in the Sky Dine Around review.
This time around, we’ll check out dinner at Grand Floridian Cafe, take a peek at the current lineup of resort-specific merchandise, and gaze in horror at some unnaturally wide pictures.
There is perhaps no more quaint restaurant on property than Grand Floridian Cafe with its Victorian charm and casual vibe. With two signature restaurants and the 8-Diamond, 12-Star, AAAAA+ Victoria & Albert’s dotting the property, the Cafe may be a welcome respite when you’re not in the mood for a $75 steak, but would still like to enjoy the unpretentious elegance of the resort in a subdued atmosphere.
Grand Floridian Cafe is also a good choice for a last-minute reservation as tables are virtually always available for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
With the Grand Floridian an easy, scenic, and short boat ride from Magic Kingdom most days between 11am and 6pm, you might find yourself looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of Magic Kingdom and into the comfortable confines of Disney’s flagship resort.
Grand Floridian Cafe has taken a bit of a hybrid approach to breakfast and lunch with a menu that marries both meals served between 7:30am and 2pm. So if you’re in the mood for a burger at 10am or an omelet at 1:30pm, you can make either or both happen. Here’s the full menu.
And speaking of menus, here’s a look at dinner appetizer options, a number of which are also available earlier in the day. I’ve marked those with an “L” below:
And if you ask nicely, you may well be able to come away with the Cheese or Wings at lunch.
The $11 “Old South Chicken Wings – Crispy-fried and Spun with Key Lime-Datil Pepper Sauce” is a larger portion than it probably looks like on the plate, with eight plump, meaty wings served underneath a couple slices of fried pickle.
You may not have heard of a datil pepper, which is predominantly grown somewhat locally in St. Augustine, Florida. Each year, the city hosts the Datil Pepper Festival, showcasing the many ways to present the flavors of the small, hot pepper. Similar to the habanero in terms of heat, the flavors here are enhanced by the sweet/tart quality of the lime and the acidic quality of the vinegar. Otherwise, the wings were perfectly prepared with a very light crispiness to the skin with meat that clings to the bone, but is tender to the bite. No oily residue whatsoever. I initially giggled at the thought of ordering chicken wings immediately underneath a restaurant where everyone was paying at least $185 on a Michelin-worthy meal, but the complex, nuanced flavor of the sauce, coupled with the high quality of the chicken, made this appetizer feel right at home at the Grand Floridian. I wish I could order a dozen along with a cocktail up in Mizner’s.
Cheese sticks aren’t what you typically associate with the Grand Floridian Resort, so we gave the $10 “House-breaded Fried Mozzarella with Tomato Jam and Grilled Artichoke Relish” a shot as well.
I’m not sure what I would have thought if I had never previously enjoyed a hot, greasy, crunchy mozzarella stick dipped into spicy marinara sauce, but these were very much not that. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing – the crispy, herb-y breading was thin and light with a seriously thick saucer-shaped hunk of cheese encased inside. But for me, the heavy sprinkle of herbs wasn’t working against the tangy bitterness of the balsamic. And the “tomato jam” was more like a side of roasted tomatoes – not bad, by any stretch, but they seemed to be doing their own thing perched up against the salad, which was drizzled with even more bitter balsamic and lined with slimy artichoke hearts. We’re not in “OH MY GOSH WHAT HAVE YOU DONE I’M NEVER GOING TO GRAND FLORIDIAN CAFE AGAIN” territory here, by a long shot, but I wasn’t feeling it. You may well enjoy the mixture of flavors more.
The $9 Seasonal Soup was Potato Leek, which made it difficult to pass up given the 115 degree RealFeel outside and plans to hurry over to see Happily Ever After at the conclusion of the meal. This is a reliably hearty, creamy soup with a velvety texture that coats the throat in a soothing sort of way. The pinch of crunchy bacon and green pepper add some texture and some nuance to each bite. Very good.
The bread was just fine – thick rolls with a soft, chewy interior served alongside an addictive salted butter.
A look at entrees:
For Disney, prices are more than moderate with only the steak arriving above $25. Three of the entrees are also present for lunch.
The $21 “Shrimp and Grits – Jumbo Shrimp with Chorizo and Fennel served on top of creamy Mascarpone Cheese Grits” has been on the menu for a long time. The grits are probably not as radioactive as they look in the picture. The thick Italian cream cheese does an admirable job of melting into the grits almost like butter, in turn creating a hefty base with a rich flavor that overshadows the shrimp. There was also a surprising peppery kick to the sauce, which is covering a generous portion of mildly spicy pork sausage underneath. “Jumbo” is probably overselling the size of the six shrimp, but they were a good, large size with the appropriate amount of firmness and a fresh flavor. Overall, it was a well-composed, nicely-executed dish; and for the money, a terrific value.
The Cafe shrimp were larger than what I recently found in the $26 version over at Homecomin’, for example.
The $23 “Lobster ‘Thermidor’ Burger 7-oz Artisanal Burger Patty and Lobster-Parmesan Thermidor Sauce on a Seared Brioche Bun and served with Cafe’s Signature Seasoned French Fries.”
If you’ve ordered a similar “Surf and Turf Burger” here before, you may be remiss to see that what was once a pretty sizable handful of poached lobster has been replaced by what is now a creamy lobster-esque sauce. But I thought the thermidor sauce worked a little better than what was typically a very dry flavor profile from the previous incarnation, particularly with the overcooked, barely-defrosted hockey puck of a patty that Disney used to serve. Now, the creamy sauce has just a bit of a sweet brandy flavor backed up by garlic, cloves, and what is probably a lot of heavy cream and white wine.
The crunchy cheese-cracker-thing added a needed contrast given the lack of other toppings, but the overall flavor profile was pretty one-note. Fortunately, that note was good with a really flavorful, nicely-seasoned burger that was cooked to a perfect medium.
It might be a shame that exactly one entree arrives with fries, but Grand Floridian’s are very good with a zesty seasoning and a thick, crispy, meaty bite.
Overall, I appreciated what the Cafe was trying to accomplish with the burger, but I thought the creamy seafood flavors from the sauce were competing against the bold flavors of the grilled beef rather than complementing each other. Your mouth may be able to reconcile everything that’s going on better than mine.
The $16 “Café Sandwich Open-faced hot Sandwich with Ham, Roasted Turkey Breast, Bacon, Tomato, Boursin Cheese Sauce, and Onion Rings” is a Grand Floridian Cafe classic, now appearing with three huge, thick onion rings rather than the onion straw topping that used to adorn the sandwich.
Here’s what it used to look like.
The sandwich is otherwise just about the same as it has been for many years – the cheesy, airy focaccia does a nice job of being an excuse for piling this much meat on a plate. And it serves as a nice base for the creamy boursin cheese sauce, which eliminates any concern that each bite will be on the dry side. The meats are piled high with the turkey in particular standing out as being freshly sliced, tender, and flavorful with the ham and bacon providing a serious punch of salty pork. I appreciated the side of onion rings rather than the overzealous pile of onion straws provided in the past. The thick crunch of the rings break up the monotony of eating the sandwich with a fork and knife. The sandwich is great – don’t get me wrong – but there’s just a lot of it that all tastes the same. It’s nice to have a salty accompaniment to go with it. Overall, you can’t do a whole lot better at a Disney-operated restaurant for sixteen bucks. I’d be surprised if anybody left feeling cheated.
Grand Floridian Cafe is more focused on the “Disney Family of Wines” than most, and offers a selection of several.
More wine, in addition to the option to add some real lobster to that burger for another $10.
The cocktail list is less than inspired, but they do offer a full bar and you can ask about favorites that you might have tried at one of the upstairs bars or restaurants.
Overall, Grand Floridian Cafe is a modestly priced, casual, easy dining experience in one of Disney World’s most iconic resorts. If you’ve never visited, I can assure you that Disney’s flagship is far more welcoming and much less pretensions than you might expect and you’ll feel right at home. I like breaking up a day at Magic Kingdom with a boat ride over here in the afternoon. It’s a much more relaxing experience than rushing through a meal at one of Magic Kingdom’s restaurants and the Grand Sandwich is the same price as a burger at Pecos Bill. But as always, those visiting for the first or second time will probably prefer to eat where they are for the sake of saving time and focusing on the quintessential theme park experience. Is a $16 Grand Cafe Sandwich going to obliterate a $15 Cosmic Ray’s Pork Burger? Sure, but with mobile order, you can be in and out of Cosmic Ray’s in 30 minutes. A trip to the Grand Floridian for lunch is going to be at least two hours round-trip.
Here’s a look at some resort-specific merchandise and a few other items of interest that I saw in the various stores:
And a few random pictures around the resort:
As always, a trip to the Grand Floridian Resort is a highlight with a lot to see and do. And you don’t have to spend a hundred thousand dollars here if you don’t want to.