Back on August 30th, 2018, Disney announced that Wilderness Lodge’s signature restaurant, Artist Point, would close on November 10th, 2018 to make way for Storybook Dining with Snow White.
Not unlike this website, Artist Point was very much beloved by very few people. Historically, the restaurant rarely approached anything that could be considered busy, due in part to the high price points and probably in part due to one of Wilderness Lodge’s greatest overall strengths in that it “feels” secluded and out of the way. And expensive, secluded restaurants rarely do well without the benefit of a massive amount of hype surrounding impossible-to-get reservations or a crazy, up-and-coming chef that changes the menu around every other third Tuesday and sometimes on Thursdays. Artist Point never benefited from the panoramic views of California Grill, the foot traffic of Flying Fish, or the waterside seating of Narcoossee’s. Instead, the restaurant stood on its own, sometimes serving incredible dishes and other times, something much closer to disappointment. For today’s review, Artist Point’s storied history is largely irrelevant, but my guess is that the conclusion will bring up some comparisons to what was once offered here.
If you’re headed to Artist Point, the most scenic way for most people to arrive is via the Resort Watercraft Launch directly across from Magic Kingdom’s entrance/exit.
You might consider attaching Storybook Dining at Artist Point to the end of a Magic Kingdom day just as I did on December 16th. Boats typically arrive every ten minutes or so and the trip takes about the same amount of time. If you’re relying on Disney transportation, you can also take the bus to Wilderness Lodge from any of the theme parks and watercraft service is also available from Fort Wilderness.
You’ll find Artist Point inside the resort’s main building on the left past Whispering Canyon Cafe.
Turn the corner and you’ll see the restaurant’s new check-in desk out front with Territory Lounge up the steps and Artist Point at the end of the hallway. Reservations are available online and searchable here. If there initially isn’t availability for your party size, try changing it to two people. On the first night, we combined two reservations for two people each into a reservation for four without any trouble. At least at the moment, it seems like tables of more than two are hard to come by, despite the fact that there were plenty of tables open that could accommodate larger parties.
Artist Point should look familiar to anyone that’s dined here in the recent past.
Much of the artwork remains along with the chairs, carpet, and light fixtures.
One big difference: We’re now in the Enchanted Forest.
Disney describes the atmosphere as “rustic.”
That’s probably not far off base, thanks primarily to Artist Point’s original setting inside a grand park lodge.
Artist Point purists will probably turn their collective noses up at the new scenery.
But I thought the overhead canopy was neat.
The setting probably doesn’t really transport us to a forest, but we’re probably not far away with the addition of some bird noises and the scent of pine piped in. Frankly, I’m glad that Disney elected to add neither.
The trees play a role in the meal. About 90% of your time will be spent enjoying relative peace and quiet.
But every 20 minutes or so, a character’s arrival will be announced or it will be time to take a small part in one of the Dwarfs’ favorite songs.
Green and purple lights mean Grumpy and Dopey are pleased to make your acquaintance.
Red means the Evil Queen lurks. Nobody in our group seemed nearly as enamored as I was about the color-changing firefly lights, but it’s possible that I’m easily impressed. For the holidays, we’re also surrounded by brightly-lit wreaths, which may or may not take away from the aura of the restaurant.
Speaking of characters, Snow White is (arguably) the star of the show.
She makes her grand entrance every 90 minutes, beginning her singing and dancing at the back of the restaurant.
She then travels around the forest visiting tables for autographs, pictures, and mingling.
Dopey and Grumpy will also come by individually.
Though occasionally they get in each other’s way.
Both are hysterical.
They’re relatively happy and/or relatively able to accommodate pictures and autographs along with a variety of antics.
I don’t know what it is, but I really feel a connection to this guy.
Evil Queen meets guests in front of her own backdrop somewhat awkwardly in the middle of the restaurant.
Her arrival is just as grand as she makes her way to her perch from the back of the restaurant.
My guess is that they’ll come up with a better system for guests to meet the Queen, who spent most of her time idling around in her spot with nobody to meet her. She then took a cauldron break right around the time 20 or more tables were finishing up with their meals, resulting in a line in the middle of the restaurant that grew to about 40 people by the time she returned. My guess is that tables will either be assigned times to head up or servers will be more cognizant of where the characters are in the restaurant, when the next course is coming out, and when it might be a good time to pay the Queen a visit.
I was impressed by the character interaction, which was a nice mixture of wholesome and playful. Snow White was her sweet self, promising Gooseberry Pie for dessert and apologizing in advance because Grumpy was in the middle of one of his moods. The Dwarfs are a little less chatty, but just as expressive. As with most other character meals, the characters are attendant-less, so you’ll need to take care of pictures yourself or ask your server or a neighbor. If I’m not doing anything, I can also drop by.
Storybook Dining will set you back $55 for Adults (ages 10+) and $33 for Children (ages 3-9). The meal is also currently just one credit on the Disney Dining Plan, which makes it an above average value. Remember that Crystal Palace Lunch/Dinner is up to $52/adult and $31/child and also costs one credit, for example. On the other hand, Be Our Guest dinner is $60 for adults and $36 for kids and costs two credits. You can pull up the current pricing for buffets, shows, etc. in this post. The meal is a little different than most character meals in that the appetizer and dessert courses are “shared.”
In most cases, that means that a number of items equal to the number of people in your party will be delivered to the rotating tray in the middle of the table.
I was really impressed by the presentation of the Winter Squash Bisque, which is served in heavy black stone cauldrons with a sweet, nutty caramel marshmallow stirrer. The bisque itself was silky, luscious, and buttery smooth with a naturally sweet squash flavor and a touch of spice. Whether you like it or not is of little consequence as it amounts to four or five bites at most, but it’s a fun way to get the meal started.
We were a little less impressed by the “Hunter’s Pie – Chicken and Black Truffle with Stone Fruit Preserve.” The Pies were appropriately flaky, but the filling was lacking, and the overall flavor was bland with no Black Truffle to speak of.
On the plus side, the fruity preserves were delicious and the presentation was again on point with the little jar and tiny spoon.
Last up, we’ve got the “Wicked Shrimp Cocktail – Soy, Miso, Avocado, Thai Chili, Greens.”
The shrimp were larger than I expected, plump and poached nicely with a snappy bite. Despite the list of ingredients, I don’t think that I could differentiate this from your standard Shrimp Cocktail, perhaps because the moisture from the shrimp washed the Soy, Miso, and other stuff away before they were served. Despite my nit-picking, it was a perfectly tasty shrimp.
Overall, I thought the appetizer trio was greater than the sum of its parts, thanks to the incredible presentation of the soup and vibrant, fresh flavors of the preserves. I might have complained about the shrimp, but I would have happily eaten another dozen.
Speaking of details, here’s a look at the place setting with the spinning tree turntable where each of the appetizers and desserts will be placed on one of the leaves sitting in the center of the table.
I’ll take a moment to bring your attention to the bright red napkins, which are tied with a fun apple cutout.
On the opposite side, you’ll see the signatures of each of the characters.
A half dozen Wickedly Refreshing Cocktails, four Non-Alcoholic Specialty Drinks, and six beers, two of which are on draft, are available.
I tried the $12.50 “Smoking Mirror – Johnnie Walker Black, Wildberry, Lime, Rosemary Smoke.” The drink is fantastically themed with the smoke-filled glass delivered to the table upside down. It’s then flipped over and the cocktail is poured into the glass as the tasty smoke fizzles away.
After the show concludes, the large cognac glass allows the drink to breathe and release its natural aromas. The rosemary adds a fragrant element to the drink, which deftly balances the fruit juice with the smoky quality of the scotch. I occasionally make a similar drink at home using Chartreuse in place of the Wildberry and Lime for an additional herbal note. Anyway, the drink weighs in at just about two tasty ounces, so don’t go in expecting a high ball filled with ice.
Also thematically on-point, we have the $12.50 “Enchanted Apple – Skyy Citrus Vodka, DeKuyper Pucker Sour Apple, and White Cranberry Juice.” We’re no strangers to the Appletini, but I don’t think the White Cranberry Juice worked in this context. The martini is already a little on the syrupy side due to the Pucker, but the splash of juice serves to thin the drink out just enough to make it “feel” like there’s even more syrup, while only adding more sugar and a tarter flavor profile.
This is the $11.25 “Evil to the Core – Patrón Silver Tequila, Habanero, Blackberry, Orange Juice.” Like the Enchanted Apple, this is a competent set of ingredients, but the margarita was far too sweet, relying too much on the Orange Juice and Sweet and Sour to fill the glass. There’s also a pile of blackberry seeds on the bottom, which might look kind of neat in the picture, but makes for an awkward consumption experience as you’ll be battling ice, seeds, and berries with each sip. Such is life in the Enchanted Forest.
Overall, you’re probably not visiting Storybook Dining for the cocktails, but my assumption is that the execution will improve with time. It’s certainly an attractive ensemble with a lot of thought going into the looks and names of the drinks.
Artist Point used to offer several hundred bottles of wine from around the Pacific Northwest, many of which were quite expensive, but that list has been trimmed considerably for Storybook Dining. I’d stay away from the Rainstorm, which is a $12 bottle brought to you by Banfi, but most of the other selections arrive with the same 200% markup. The Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir is probably your best bet.
Six plated entrees comprise the “core” of the menu with each diner making their own selection. That’s followed by another shareable dessert course.
Here’s the Kids’ menu:
Three of the appetizers are shared with the adults, while a vegetable platter will also be presented. Kids can get in on the Prime Rib Roast, in addition to Pasta, a Vegetarian Steam Bun that I cannot imagine anyone under the age of ten ordering, and Grilled Chicken. The menu also notes the existence of Chicken Tenders. The same dessert options follow.
This is the Kids’ “From the Garden – Fruit, Vegetables, Cheese, and create-your-own Honey Butter,” which is more precious than it has any right to be. The tiny Parker House Roll sits on top of a miniature clay pot, the Vegetables are served in their own clear plastic pot, and you’ve also got a clear plastic spoon that resembles a shovel. The ranch is tastefully presented in a miniature jar, while the honey butter waits inside of its own, covered jar on the opposite side.
Grapes, a slice of apple, and a string cheese round out the choices. There’s really no reason for Disney to go out of their way with the presentation like this, but it’s certainly appreciated.
On the entree front, first up is the “Royal Prime Rib Roast – Horseradish Mashed Potato, Hay-smoked Carrots, Popover, Jus.”
Our server said several times that this was “Prime” beef, which seems unlikely given the fact that it sells for $13-$14 per pound at hansel4150’s grocery store.
Even so, the beef was tender, juicy, and flavorful, albeit perhaps a little overcooked. Unlike your typical steak, which is absent from Storybook Dining’s menu, nobody asked us how we’d like it prepared. Also on the downside, it was incredibly fatty.
Prime Rib is typically just that, but this was probably more than half fat with just a small, oval medallion of beef in the center of the slice. How off-putting that is is a matter of taste, but don’t go into this one expecting a leaner cut. On the plus side, the beef that’s there is flavorful and nicely-seasoned.
The Popover is similar to a Yorkshire Pudding, but Artist Point’s isn’t as buttery, rich, or flaky as you might be hoping. I’m guessing that it will improve in time, but ours was soft and flavorless.
To say that the Hay-smoked Carrots were disgusting is probably not fair, but everyone in our group hated the off-putting smokiness and they were just barely cooked, making them almost as hard as raw vegetables. It’s not a big deal, but they taste almost as bad as they smell. On the plus side, the Mashed Potatoes enjoyed a nice fluffy consistency along with butter and horseradish. Very good.
Fortunately, we get the weakest link out of the way first as we move on to “A Stroll through Nature – Butternut Squash, Arugula, Gnocchi, Sage, Parmesan.”
And it’s a fabulous one. The bowl is filled with plump, pillow-y Gnocchi that do an admirable job of absorbing the rich, decadent flavors from the creamy cheese sauce.
There’s some soft Butternut Squash in there for a little sugary change of pace with the herbs doing a nice job of cutting some of the sweetness. I appreciated the fact that they weren’t heavy-handed with the Arugula – what’s there adds some heft and helps cut the richness, along with adding just a little tang. Vegetarian dishes are very hit or miss, but this is one of the better ones that we’ve encountered and might be my favorite entree offered at the restaurant.
Next up is the “Brother’s Grimm Roasted Chicken – Confit Potatoes, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Apples, and Chestnut Butter.”
The Chicken was juicy and flavorful, elegantly presented on a tall bed of expertly-roasted, nicely-seasoned Brussels Sprouts along with about an apple’s worth of crisp slices and an assortment of soft, yet dense Confit Potatoes. It was a nice variety of textures and flavors. The Chestnut Butter is heavy on the herbs, creamy and nutty with a little bit of salt. Given a choice, I don’t think I’ve ever ordered the chicken on a prix fixe menu like this, but like the vegetarian dish, that might be a mistake as this was our third favorite entree of the evening.
Here’s the “Magic Mirror Slow-braised Veal Shank – Celery Root Mashed, Wilted Winter Greens, Jus.”
It was a favorite of the table – a large portion of bold, fork-tender beef that almost instantaneously fell off the bone upon the threat of a fork.
The Celery Root provides a nice base, soaking up all of the rich flavors of the juice, while adding a nice textural contrast to the meat. This was every bit as good as what Artist Point would have served, which makes it among the best dishes you’ll find at a character meal.
Rounding out the entree choices, we’ve got “Bashful’s Butter-poached Snapper – Root Vegetable Risotto, Wild Mushroom, Citrus-Butter Sauce.”
The Snapper is a mild, buttery, flaky fish on its own and this was a quality piece on top of the flavorful Root Vegetable Risotto. But the sauce, which is just about the only flavor going here, tasted a little too one-note with a sharp, lingering citrus flavor. Every bite tasted exactly the same. Fortunately, that bite is perfectly fine, but there’s nothing memorable about it. If you’re waffling between this and the Gnocchi then I’d lean hard in the latter’s direction.
Overall, I was impressed by the quality of the food served. It would have been easy for Disney to dumb down the menu, but there really isn’t a whole lot of that going on as a lot of the flavors that I remember from Artist Point have survived the changeover to Storybook Dining. It would be great to see the Cedar Plank Salmon on the menu again, particularly in place of a somewhat lackluster Snapper dish. But even the things that I wasn’t particularly high on are still better than just about anything you’ll find at most other character meals.
Dessert is another trio of “shareables,” which seems to mean four more individual servings to pass around the table.
The “Poison Apple – White Chocolate-Apple Mousse, Sour Center” was my favorite of the bunch with a soft, chocolaty exterior giving way to a little bit of a sour apple center. Everything tasted natural, which is a nice departure from the artificial sour apple flavor that I was expecting. It’s three very precious bites.
The “Miner’s Treasures – Sponge Cake, Chocolate Gems, and Buttercream Icing” was reminiscent of a number of push pops that you can order around property for around $6 each. They’re all incredibly artificial-tasting and incredibly sweet and that’s exactly what you get here. The Chocolate Gems and White Chocolate Hat topper are fun, but the artificial berry flavor was too much for more than a bite or two.
The “Fairy Tale Gooseberry Pie – Meringue, Gooseberry” combined sweet and tart fruit flavors into a cute little pie that’s topped with a sugary meringue. I thought it was a little apple-esque overall, which is probably on theme.
Your experience will likely change based on where inside the restaurant you’re seated. My personal preference, as it was “back in the day,” is to request a window table in the back of the restaurant if the sun is still up. If the sun has set, then a table towards the back of the restaurant will put you comfortably away from the hustle and bustle of the center of the restaurant, while still being close enough to enjoy all of the character antics. If you want to “get into it,” then you might request a table in the center of the restaurant near where the Evil Queen meets. But there’s so many people moving through the area that I think a table away from it is the right way to go.
Speaking of the righteous Queen, she’s one of my favorite characters, delightfully sassy and incredibly funny. If she really does harm you, you can also expect a pretty sizable chunk of change from the Walt Disney Company. A long ago settlement is actually how I fund this website.
The meal ends with “The Hunter’s Gift to the Queen – Crackled Maple Popcorn, Ganache Heart,” which is presented by your server who is now donning white gloves for the occasion. The smoky chest is engraved with the name of the restaurant and I thought that it was a memorable and unexpected way to finish the meal. The Ganache Heart isn’t unlike a Dove Chocolate and we’ve all enjoyed a couple bites of Caramel Corn before, but it was a sweet and elegant way to close things out.
Overall, I enjoyed Storybook Dining at Artist Point much more than I was expecting. It brought together some of the best elements of character dining in a low stress, well-themed environment. You don’t have to worry about missing the characters because everything is served at the table. You’ll also have an opportunity to interact with the characters at least twice – once as they dance around the restaurant upon entering and a second time when they visit the table. Snow White was perfect – excited and a little confused, but happy to discuss everything going on around the Forest. Dopey and Grumpy, two characters that you can’t ordinarily meet, were a lot of fun too.
I almost never recommend character dining unless the characters are important to the experience. You’re typically paying a $10 to $15 premium versus a similar, non-character meal. But Artist Point, in its current incarnation, may be a bit of an exception. The food really is that good and three courses for $55 isn’t a bad proposition when we’re talking about shrimp, veal, and a dessert sampler with four selections. All of the special little details go a long way to making for a complete experience, too. They say that Phil Collins didn’t have to go as hard as he did on the Tarzan soundtrack, but he did, for you. And I think that’s true about Storybook Dining. Disney could have gotten away with offering much less, but this is a contender for best character meal on property from day one.
For Artist Point purists, this may be the end. When it comes to Disney (or Sam’s Club), it’s never a good sign when a big part of why you love something is the fact that nobody else is ever there. On the plus side, thousands more people will now be able to enjoy the restaurant’s atmosphere, take in the beautiful art, and experience one of Disney World’s grandest resorts. There’s always Flying Fish.
Get here before it changes.
As a quick aside, here is the current Territory Lounge menu, which you’ll find located next to Artist Point.
Here, you’ll find a variety of Artist Point favorites, including the delicious Smoked Mushroom Bisque. There’s also more sizable plates including Cedar Plank Salmon, Braised Buffalo Short Rib, and more. So if you’re staying at Wilderness Lodge, but don’t want to deal with the antics of Whispering Canyon Cafe or be locked into the 3-course character experience at Artist Point, you do have another option.
I will miss that bread.