Disney Dining – Grand Floridian Café Breakfast

Last December at Walt Disney World, we ate a lot.  Adding both new experiences along with old favorites made coping with the Christmas crowds easier – less park time, more culinary exploration.  We rarely have a sit-down breakfast on vacation, so enjoying some early morning dining reservations was a rare treat.  One of the new places we tried was the Grand Floridian Café.

Grand Floridian Café Breakfast

It’s hard to write an honest review of a dining experience that began with vomit. Not our own, thank goodness, but there was upchuck splattered liberally near the cafe’s entrance.  If you’ve been to the Grand Floridian before, you may have noticed the dramatic and beautiful tiled floors.grand-floridians-tiled-entranceJust before our arrival, it appeared that a little someone had been violently ill smack in the middle of the lovely tiled atrium.  We gingerly skirted around the mess – I don’t know about Raymond, but I made a valiant effort to NOT breathe in until we were safely inside the restaurant. We were shown to our table immediately and seated beside a window.grand-floridian-cafe-table

The Grand Floridian Café’s décor is everything you’d expect from its location. It completely reflects the overall resort theme – white, bright, open and airy with small, lovely details in keeping with a Victorian feel. grand-floridian-cafe-detailsOur server visited our table right away with menus for us to look over.  I liked the simple presentation of the condiment selection on the table.grand-floridian-cafes-fancy-condimentsWhile there was nothing fancy or particularly outstanding among the menu offerings, there were some solid, hearty breakfast choices mixed among lighter fare like breakfast salads. I did not order one of theses, but thought the idea had merit. grand-floridian-cafe-interiorAs often happens with Raymond and I, we decided to order something to share and selected The Garden Omelet (Three-Egg Omelet, Spinach, Feta, and Roasted Tomato served with Lyonnaise Potatoes or fresh Fruit). We were keeping in mind that lunch that day would be at Whispering Canyon Café, another new experience for us, and we wanted to be good and hungry by then.grand-floridian-cafe-window-seat

While we waited for our omelets, I passed the time people-watching out the window. It was early and there weren’t too many people out and about yet.  There were few people seated near us in the restaurant.  It was Christmas week and while everywhere else was ridiculously busy, the Café was not doing a booming business this early in the day and that was just fine with us.grand-floridian-cafe-breakfastThe food was fine, even if our particular selection was rather unremarkable. The service was excellent, the restaurant’s peace and quiet was welcome and soothing.  Would we eat here again? Sure – especially during Christmas week when finding a serene spot to fuel up is nearly impossible.

I’ve heard the Grand Floridian Cafe’s lunch menu is good, boasting the popular Grand Café Sandwich (Open-faced hot Ham, Smoked Turkey Breast, Bacon, and Tomato with a rich Boursin Cheese Sauce and Fried Onion Straws).  Maybe next time we’ll try a mid-day meal instead of breakfast. Excluding the unfortunate vomit greeting, we had an overall good experience.

Have you tried the Grand Floridian Café? What did you think about it?


Disney World Dining – Party of Seven

In less than a week it’ll be time to book dining reservations for our fall vacation to Walt Disney World.  Sure, we’re mostly going for Food & Wine and plan to try as many kiosks as we can, but we’ll want some nice, sit-down meals as well.  Our travel party is made up of seven adults:  Our children, Megan, Joseph, and son-in-law, Grant, plus Joseph’s girlfriend, Lyndsey, and his lifelong buddy, Jason.  If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember Jason from 2010’s Castaway Cay Double Dip vacation, Walt Disney World in 2012, and our Magic in the Med Cruise in 2013.  Since the purpose of this vacation is to celebrate Joseph’s 21st birthday, we feel it’s important for Lyndsey and Jason to come along! We’ll be at Disney World for seven days and nights.

Yoda and Chewie Hats

Jason and Joseph – Star Wars Weekend 2012

Disney World Dining – Party of Seven

Choosing restaurants for this trip is harder than I thought it would be, so I reached out to my Disney friends on Twitter and asked for suggestions.  I want the restaurants to be unique, with crowd-pleasing menus, and also to be a good value (we have Tables in Wonderland, which helps a bit).  The response was tremendous and I got some great ideas, but I’m really no closer to knowing what to do.  That’s where you come in…please add your suggestions in the comments.  Thanks, everyone, for your help!  Here’s what’s been suggested so far…

@kivus was the first to weigh in with “Via Napoli. Ordering XL pizzas is a great value for a party that big.” @joshgonz seconded this idea adding, “2 XL pizzas should work for 7. They even split the pizzas into 2 different kinds so you could try 4 different kinds”  Josh also mentioned ‘Ohana as being great for big groups. – I am totally in favor of Via Napoli for our arrival day dinner and trying to squeeze in an ‘Ohana dinner.  Thanks, John and Josh!

@WITHinMCO suggested choosing “the latest Crystal Palace or Tusker House breakfast so it’s like brunch” – I’d been thinking along these lines already.  We’ve never been to Tusker House and if there’s a Rivers of Light dining package offered as reported by several reliable sites, Tusker House moves to the top of the list.

@HoCoHowie said, “Sanaa all day.” and, while this was another idea that hadn’t occurred to me for this trip, Sanaa is an excellent place for an adults-only dinner in a terrific atmosphere!  Howie also added, “And with the trios you can do a lot of sharing!” – Without a doubt, after Sanaa’s bread service starter, there’s no way I could do justice to an entrée, so sharing would be perfect (and economical)!RM-Sanaa-Bread

From @UrbanOtaku22 – “I would say The Wave and Raglan Road are two adult friendly places.  Raglan road because of the beer.  Wave due to food.”  We love Raglan Road and have enjoyed an evening there many times in the past.  Recently, Raymond and I discovered The Wave’s super menu and great service.  All these ideas may be making our decision harder instead of easier!  We will be staying at Bay Lake Tower, so The Wave is very convenient!Disney's-Wave-Entrance

@CT_Mickey_Man (aka my friend Dean) suggested Wolfgang Puck Express because, “a few can share their pizzas. Good sized salads. good prices.” – Yet another Disney Springs place we’ve never tried!  Sounds like an excellent choice for a big group, but I don’t know if that’s where I’d choose among all the great places in Disney Springs since we’ve not eaten there before.

@SC_singledad (Steve) threw Trails End onto the list of restaurant candidates.  I thought, Hey! We’ve never eaten there, but I understand the food at dinner is the same fare served at the Hoop Dee Do Musical Review.  I have to say, that fried chicken is amazing!  Plus, all you care to eat!  Good idea for a group with big appetites like ours!  Turns out, Steve was actually suggesting breakfast over dinner, and thinks Trails End and Boma are the top two breakfast buffets on property.RM-Welcome-to-Fort-Wilderness

@ree1064 offered up three different ideas – The Plaza in Magic Kingdom (economically good food), ‘Ohana (Polynesian Village Resort), and Artist Point (Wilderness Lodge).  Of these, ‘Ohana is my favorite – nobody goes away hungry, the food is good for the price, and the Poly has Trader Sam’s and the Tambu Lounge – both fantastic places for a pre-dinner cocktail.  I’ll confess, I’ve never been to The Plaza and Artist Point was a two-time disappointment.  ‘Ohana just moved to the top of the list (right after Tusker House).RM-Tambu-Lounge

@sprinklemedis mentioned hearing that Biergarten in Epcot’s Germany pavilion is good for larger parties.  I’m thinking this…Pros:  It’s in Epcot where we plan to spend lots of time, I’ve been trying to get there for a while (unsuccessfully) since I’m half-German, and it’s a buffet, so probably a good value with plenty of options to choose from.  I could use more input on this one if you’re so inclined.Germany Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase

@mechurchlady made several suggestions like Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge), Tusker House (Disney’s Animal Kingdom), Garden Grill (Epcot), Bongos (Disney Springs), Cape May, and Turf Club.  She added Kona Café (Polynesian), Boatwrights (Port Orleans Riverside), Olivia’s (Old Key West) and Portobello.  And also suggested The Plaza (Magic Kingdom), Teppan Edo, Tokyo Dining, and Coral Reef (all at Epcot) as well as Shula’s (at the Dolphin)  Of these, Cape May stood out – We’ve never been there, but have heard great things.  It’s at the Beach Club (convenient), is a seafood buffet (we’re all seafood lovers) and a good value.  If we can afford the splurge, Shula’s would be excellent.  Raymond and I could not have been happier with our experience there in December.Shula's-Dining-Room-Orlando

@SteveGehret was another vote in favor of The Wave – “The Wave has room for big groups, again pricey.  Hit that up at dinner then take the monorail to Trader Sam’s.” – nothing wrong with that, Steve!  Thanks!

@hkeller thinks, “Food and Wine. Every day.” is the way to go.  I’m with you there, Heather, we do plan on spending plenty of time making the rounds.RM-Epcot-Food&Wine-Passport

@JamboEveryone voted for Sanaa, Kona Café, Restaurant Marrakesh, and Tiffens.  I agree with Safari Mike on Tiffens as a very strong possibility – Opening at the end of April (I believe), Tiffens (new table service in Disney’s Animal Kingdom) sounds wonderful with a menu dedicated to the art of travel.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for either Tusker House or Tiffens offering that Rivers of Light dining package.

@PeasandCarrots3 (Hi, Carmen!) thinks La Hacienda (Mexico Pavilion) and Boma are two great options.  Of the two, Boma is the stronger option for our group since, sadly, Raymond and Joseph are not fans of Mexican food (at all, not even a little bit).  We haven’t taken a family vacation that did not involve at least one meal at Animal Kingdom Lodge in many years.

After all the helpful advice, I’ve got Tusker House, ‘Ohana, Via Napoli, Tiffens and Sanaa as top choices right now with Trails End, Boma, The Wave, Cape May, and someplace at Disney Springs as possibilities.  Have I mentioned how hard this is?  What would you do???

Special thanks to @DutchLombrowski for spreading the word on Twitter that I needed help.


Disney’s Kona Café Breakfast

If you’re staying on the monorail resort loop, you can’t go wrong with breakfast at Kona Café!  Best know for the World famous Tonga Toast, this awesome eatery in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is a great place to enjoy the most important meal of the day!  (Note:  Kona Café serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and if you’re using the Disney Dining Plan, requires one table service credit per meal.)

Disney’s Kona Café Breakfast


World Famous Tonga Toast

We’re not normally the kind of Disney vacationers to waste time on a sit-down breakfast.  Usually, we like to get a jump on the day by arriving at our chosen park destination at opening (or shortly thereafter).  During our post-Christmas WDW visit, though, you may recall we’d decided to do things a bit differently and booked a ton of dining reservations…including breakfast!  Kona-Cafe-ViewWe’d only been to Kona Café for dinner once prior to our first breakfast there.  I was looking forward to trying Tonga Toast (even though I prefer savory over sweet most of the time at breakfast).  Our breakfast experience was wonderful!  So much so, Raymond specifically asked to go back one morning a few weeks ago.  Now that we have TWO breakfasts at Kona under our belts (LOL!  I crack me up!), I’ll tell you specifically why we love this place so much.

Convenient location from Magic Kingdom and any monorail resort.  Hit Kona early before heading to Magic Kingdom or rope-drop Magic Kingdom for an Extra Magic Hour then catch the monorail over to the Polynesian for breakfast.  Maybe you’d rather have a leisurely breakfast and relax.  If you’re staying at the Contemporary or Grand Floridian resorts, Kona Café is just a short ride away.

Very tasty menu options – sure to please everyone.  Yes, the Tonga Toast is famous, but we absolutely love the egg-white omelet with goat cheese which comes with a humongous bowl of fresh, gorgeous, delicious berries.  Kona-Cafe-BerriesNot enough?  Try the grits!  Seriously, if you’re a fan, these are without a doubt the best grits at Walt Disney World.Kona-Cafe-Breakfast

The Coffee!  It’s fantastic.  Of course, it’s Kona coffee!  Absolutely wonderful and the very best part?  Your server will be happy to prepare a to-go cup for you to take with you when you leave.  We enjoyed our coffee while waiting at the bus stop – we were still very sleepy!Kona-Coffee-To-Go

Top notch service.  Sure, it’s “only” breakfast, but the service is noteworthy.  The servers we had were kind, friendly, and very professional.  We thought it added a certain special-ness to the experience that started our day off with extra Disney magic.Kona-Cafe

Have you tried breakfast at the Kona Café?  Are you a Tonga Toast fan?

Sensible Consumption on a Disney Vacation

Clam-mobile-selfie“Work hard, play hard!” – I like this motto.  We do work hard and we deserve to relax and have fun, right?  By golly, we’ve earned it!  When we go on vacation, we tend to throw moderation to the wind, kick up our heels and indulge, feast and pamper ourselves – all the things we deny ourselves day-to-day.  I’m no nutrition or financial management expert, but as I get older, I feel like I’m having a more difficult time snapping back after playing hard.  When we vacation, we tend to over-indulge in every area – food, drinks, and snacks, extras and souvenirs.  Never is this more true than on a Disney vacation.  I’d like to change that habit.

Sensible Consumption on a Disney Vacation

Let’s talk about food first.  Our family is all about trying new things and making our Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) at the earliest possible time.  One table-service meal per day is our minimum requirement for optimum happiness and we’ve been known to book more.  We overeat on vacation and rationalize it by believing that all the walking we do will burn off those excess calories – honestly, that’s just not the case.  Shula's-Filet-TwoThe older we get, the harder it is to lose weight.  Gone are the days where those extra pounds just drop back off once we get home. Recently at Walt Disney World, Raymond and I tried to be more mindful of this – baby steps, really – and what we tried seemed to work well!  On next vacation, we plan to use these strategies –

  • Portion Control – Often portions are HUGE and totally share-able.  We tried sharing lunch a couple of times – splitting appetizer, entrée, and dessert.  Turns out, we were completely satisfied with half-portions and this was a great lesson to take into the future.Citrus-Swirl
  • Give and Take – Think a little bit ahead as in…I’ll pass on this ice cream now in favor of dessert with dinner.  I’ll admit that this one will be a bit of a challenge – when I’m hungry and have a hankerin’ for a churro or a Mickey ice cream bar, I’m in the moment and might swear (to myself) that I’ll pass on dessert later.  In reality, if cheesecake’s on the menu, Raymond will definitely order it and I’ll have to eat some.  This one sounds good in theory, but execution may prove impossible.Be-our-Guest-Eggs
  • Choose “Less Unhealthy” options – It’d be silly to suggest that we could or would eat only healthy meals at Walt Disney World, but we can make better selections.  Maybe.  We can try!

Now, about those adult beverages – We enjoy wine with dinner, but recently blundered with wine pairings for each course at Jiko.  Not only did we overeat big-time, but were way too sleepy when we left – no return to the parks for us that night.  We headed straight back to our resort and fell asleep.  I don’t even want to talk about what that splurge did to our dinner bill.  It’s easy to over-indulge with empty calories in this category, but we’ve got a plan formulated for dealing with that as well…Shula's-Wine

  • Allow one (maximum of two) splurges per day – We know we’re still going to order a bottle of wine with dinner, but we can cut down on the number of times we stop for a cold beer in Animal Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Also, we love the Resort Loop Pub Crawl but can probably be perfectly happy with one stop per day (or less).Rose&Crown-Beer-Flight
  • Prioritize our “Must-Try” list – There are quite a few things on this list – most of which can be found in World Showcase.  Before I say planning in advance for these vacation libations will take all the fun and spontaneity out of exploring the World, we need to give it a try…I’ll let you know how it goes.RM-Top-of-the-World-Lounge-Coffee
  • Skip the after dinner specialty coffee – Yes, even after the wine, it’s sometimes tempting to enjoy a fancy adult coffee with dessert…or even AS dessert.  Since this splurge is rare, it may be the easiest one to do without.

The extra expenses – Food and beverages are a huge part of our vacation budget, so we try to work out how much that’s going to set us back and set aside that money in advance.  We save about $7 when we purchase $150-worth of Disney gift cards at Sam’s Club, so I try to buy enough gift cards pre-vacation to take care of our food, drinks, and any spa treatments we have booked.  As far as souvenirs go, I’m all about Disney Christmas ornaments and always add one or two to our collection on every vacation.  We usually also like to buy a couple of Disney pins and a coffee mug.  If we could stick with these, we wouldn’t have a problem – we could easily budget for this expense.Shoe-Ornament-Mrs. Incredible

Disney merch!  This company sure has our number and knows exactly what buttons to push to get us to spend more by playing on our emotions.  There’s really only one way to cut down on spending in this category and that would be to stop shopping!  Ha!  Like that’s going to happen.  What we can do is just say no…right now.  RM-Mickey-Tray RM-Mickey-Dinner-Plate RM-Minne-WatchWith the Shop Disney Parks app and the ability to use personal shoppers from home, if I pass up something using this “say no right now” method and later decide I can’t live without whatever it was, I can always try to get it later.  I believe this will cut way down on impulse/emotionally driven purchases.  Maybe.  We’ll see, won’t we.

Do you try to exercise sensible consumption on your Disney vacations?  What are your best ideas to avoid over-indulging?