Unpacking: Top 3 Meals

I’m going to try and work through a series of posts breaking down my favorite parts of our recent trip to WDW. We tried to do a lot of new things on our trip, and I think I did a pretty good job of planning our selections, if I do say so myself. For this post, I want to break down my 3 favorite all-around meals from the trip. I based this on food quality, service, and experience.

3. 50’s Prime Time Café, Hollywood Studios

This was not a new one for us. We tend to do this one anytime we get out to Walt Disney World. The food is pretty solid, especially for being inside a park. The bar (Dad’s Liquor Cabinet at the Tune-in Lounge) is one of the better in-park options, and the long lost cousin service adds a bit of fun to the equation.

The menu is full of American homestyle cooking. After all, “Mom” is back there in the kitchen. We had the Fried Herb and Garlic Cheese appetizer, which while pretty simple, was one of our favorite appetizers of the trip. I had Dad’s Stuffed Pork Chop, which is a massive pork chop, stuffed with apple, gouda cheese and herbs. It was a huge portion, but I knocked out most of it. For dessert, I had Dad’s Favorite Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake, which was probably one of the tastiest desserts of this trip, and surprisingly, the only time I got chocolate cake (I’m a bit of a chocoholic). I just realized typing this that I had 2 dishes with “Dad’s” in the name, plus a drink from Dad’s liquor cabinet (Mama and I both had the Maui Wowie, which like many other Dad’s liquor cabinet drinks, comes with a color changing glow cube). I mean, I guess it makes sense, I am DaddyDoesDisney, after all.

The extra kick for this restaurant though, is the service. Some people don’t like the approach here, as the servers will give you grief about your elbows on the table, eating your vegetables or “doing your chores” (setting the table). They used to ask you what color the soap is when returning from the bathroom, but they have foaming soap in the bathrooms now, so maybe not anymore (we went after the meal). Our server, our long lost cousin, Liza (I think) was great. She wasn’t as rude as some of the other servers we’ve had there in the past. She gave good advice through the menu when asked, along with saying “gross” anytime we ordered anything that wasn’t her favorite. I always enjoy the interactions here, and it’s that little difference that keeps us coming back every time.

2. Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen, Disney Springs

Food wise, this might have been my favorite all around meal of the trip. Celebrity chef, Art Smith, opened this restaurant in Disney Springs since our last visit, so this was our first chance to check it out. It was one of the meals I was most looking forward to, after hearing praise for several of the dishes and drinks on the menu.

The boy got the Bunch of Puppies hush puppies appetizer that came with Ah-mazing pimento cheese to dip. Mama had the Church Lady Deviled Eggs, which we’re also to die for, and I got the famous Thigh High Chicken Biscuits, which while being one of the best things we ate on the trip also probably was enough food for the wife and I to split as an entrée in the future. My mom had the Fried Green tomatoes which were also very good.

For an entrée, I had the Chopped Pork Barbeque Plate. The barbecue was decent, but as a Texas boy, I wasn’t overly impressed. The star of the plate (and the reason I got the dish) was the mac-and-cheese, which is probably one of the better mac-and-cheese on property.

I also had one of my favorite drinks of the trip, the Moonshine Mash, which is made with Watermelon moonshine, watermelon, lime and simple syrup. It’s simple and refreshing, and tastes like summer in a glass. The menu is full of different, delicious sounding drinks though, so if watermelon’s not your thing, you should be able to find something. I had a really hard time picking something.

For dessert, I had the hummingbird cake, which might be my favorite dessert of the trip. It’s a pineapple-banana cake (2 of my favorite flavors in Disney dishes), and was extra moist and delicious. The other desserts that were had at our table also probably rank among the favorites of the trip.

All in all, if you’re on a foodie trip to Disney World, this is one stop that is not to be missed.

1. California Grill, Contemporary Resort

Oh, we getting fancy now. This fine dining restaurant at the top of the Contemporary Resort is often considered one of the best dining experiences at Walt Disney World. It doesn’t hurt that we managed to keep the boy pretty calm for the extent of our 3 hour meal. We were initially worried that our 7:00 meal wouldn’t get us through to the fireworks, but we hadn’t even ordered our desserts by the time the show started.

The food here is spectacular. A staff of world class chefs churn out some of the highest quality dishes on property. For appetizers, the wife and I both got sushi dishes, she got sashimi, but was later wishing she got the roll that I got. I had the New Moon Roll, which is made with Maine Lobster, Avacado, Barbecue Eel, Rice pearls and Dragon Sauce. It was one of the most beautiful and well made rolls I’ve ever had (and I used to work at a Japanese restaurant, and even have my own roll on the menu there).

For entrees, Mama had the Oak-Fired Filet of Beef which comes with a tamarind barbecue sauce that apparently was on the original menu for the restaurant and brought back by the current chef. It was her favorite steak of the trip, and we were on the Deluxe Dining Plan, so there was a lot of steak consumed. I ordered the Grilled Pork Tenderloin, which was probably the best pork dish I’ve ever had in my life (and I’m getting old).

I had some kind of chocolate dessert that was kind of uninspiring. It appears to have been rotated off the menu currently, and the lack of a kick butt dessert is what has me championing Homecomin’ for overall food quality.

The bonus though, for the California Grill, is its location. From the top of the Contemporary Resort, you have panoramic views of the Magic Kingdom Park, and they have viewing decks on either side of the restaurant. We grabbed a great spot for Happily Ever After out on the deck (until the boy decided it was the perfect time to go to the restroom, haha) that almost made up for the fact that the rain kept us from seeing HEA from inside the park (we’re going to have to book a dessert party or something next time). Overall, a fabulous experience, good drinks, excellent entrees and sushi. It’s one of the pricier restaurants on property, but if you get the chance, I definitely recommend trying it out at least once.


Thanks for checking in as I go over some of the highlights of our trip. I look forward to sharing more of my favorites and helping you to plan some highlights of your own.

Planning Our Perfect Vacation

So, as I’ve noted in my about page everywhere, we’ve been planning our upcoming WDW trip ever since our son was born. I’ve been to WDW a few times with my parents (once with my wife and parents), and my wife used to go every year as a cheerleading coach, so we have a decent feel for it, but I like to delve into travel plans, so I’ve spent a lot of time reading reviews and tips, watching videos, and crunching numbers to try and get everything just right. I thought I’d write this post to give you an idea of some of the things we’ve considered in locking down our plans for our reservation.

First off, this is what we’re calling our “all-in” trip. For us, that means we’re trying to knock out as many quintessential must-do Disney World things as we can in one trip, so that future visits don’t have to be so inclusive. Thus, if our plans exceed your personal budget or thoughts, don’t worry. There’s a WDW plan of attack for everyone and on a lot of budgets.

One of the first things to consider is “When can we go?”. For us, we ended up with a 1-week window to work in. I’ve only ever been in the summer, and it’s always ridiculously humid and crowded. My wife used to go for Cheerleading competitions in the fall, and really liked the weather and crowds for that time of the year, so while her teaching schedule doesn’t work for the fall, we found a week in the Spring that we should be able to go. If you want to find a less crowded time of the year (the park is pretty much always somewhat crowded at this point in time), TouringPlans.com posts crowd calendars and I think weather estimates, so you can get a feel for how your dates are going to look. I know that when I was looking at dates, going in the summer was 50% more crowded than going the week we ultimately chose.

The next important things to consider are where your priorities are. Our son will be 5 years old when we go to Disney. He’s a pretty chill kid, but even so, he’s probably not going to have the best temperament if you try to drag him around a park all day. Therefore, one of our priorities is to make sure we can build in several hours of rest time back at the hotel to nap or swim or do something aside from being dragged around a crowded park all day. To this end, we decided to prioritize a resort on the Monorail, as these resorts are fairly convenient to Epcot and Magic Kingdom (and with the new Express Transportation option in the parks, pretty convenient to any of the parks at mid-day).

You also have to consider the makeup of your party. We have our son, who’ll be 5, and we may also have my brother and sister in law, with their daughter, age 6, and son, age 9. With all the kiddos in tow, we know we’re going to want to do a lot of the age-appropriate rides and get in some character meals. The character meals keep your kids from getting bored at a meal time and allow you to skip waiting in line for pics and autographs from your favorite characters in the park. We decided since a lot of these character meals best fit at breakfast time and using a table service credit for breakfast is not exactly the best value, we decided to go with a Deluxe Dining Plan, so we can have the extra meal credits to use on nice dinners and show packages to get the value out of our plan. Once we knock out some of these experiences, we can go out of pocket or on a more traditional dining plan on future trips. The makeup of your party also helps determine how many days you need to devote to each park. With kids in your party, I can almost guarantee that you’re going to want to devote 2 days to the Magic Kingdom, you might can cut back on Epcot (a lot of attractions more catered to adults, and won’t keep kids’ attention). Depending on your kids, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studio can be anywhere from a half day to a day and half (or 2 if you want to spend a lot of time exploring Animal Kingdom). If you’re in an adult only group, you’ll probably spend more time at Epcot, and maybe enjoy more of the shows and music at Animal Kingdom, or spend a good amount of time at Disney Springs.

All in all, we’ve targeted 7 nights at the Contemporary or Polynesian with a Deluxe Dining Plan and Memory Maker and 6-day park hoppers. I crunched a lot of numbers in the process, but generally didn’t do it across the board for a lot of things, so I’ll try to spend some time doing that, so I can give you rankings based on specific data points, like the ones I used in planning our trip. Good luck in your planning, and feel free to send me any questions you might have.