A Cynical Trip: Dining Experiences

Welcome back to Not Club 33, your new home for Cynical Disney!

Today’s update is going to focus on what so many people seem to come to Walt Disney World for: food. We had three dining experiences at the parks this trip: one Signature dining experience, one Table Service and one Quick Service, all at different locations and different meal types. What I’m saying is we ran the gambit of Disney dining in our short time on property. Let’s start with the fanciest one!

Le Cellier: Dinner – $155 (including tip)

On a whim, while in Epcot on July 5th, we looked at ADR’s fully expecting to have to settle for Nine Dragons or some Norwegian tripe thing if we wanted to eat inside. Instead we were pleased to find an opening for Le Celier! Our wedding anniversary is in a week, and what a way to justify checking out one of the more talked about restaurants on property.

Because we decided to make this our anniversary dinner, we splurged a little. Also, to that point I had only consumed a morning Red Bull and 17 bottles of water, so I was ready to go all out. We started our meal with a couple of drinks: my wife having a glass of Chardonnay and I trying a vodka tonic with a vodka from Quebec. French Canadians should probably just stick to making alcohol from a resource they have an abundance of: Sour Grapes. We also tried their artisanal cheese plate as an appetizer. It was delicious, but the bread provided with the cheese was too stale for my full enjoyment. Either give me bread or crackers, not some Frankenstein’s monster of both.

Our meal consisted of the Steak & Frites with a side of mac & cheese for me, and the lobster mac & cheese for the lady. Coupled with the appetizer the meal was filling, and honestly we couldn’t have asked for a better server. He was attentive to the point of me wondering if he had other tables. Maybe it’s because we weren’t using a dining plan to pay for the meal, I don’t know. The steak was delicious and it lived up to the hype. Price tag wise, it left me feeling a little taken for, but I’ll let it slide for the location, ambiance and service.

Hollywood & Vine: Breakfast – $110 (including tip)

I tweeted out the “friendly reminder” to figure out what you’re getting into with some of these reservations. I did not until I’d already booked it. We wanted to find an excuse to get into Hollywood Studios before park opening so we could try to get into Toy Story Land before the crowds really hit. Hollywood & Vine accomplished this goal, but I didn’t realize that this was also a Disney Jr. character meal.

Breakfast at Disney World is mostly a miss with an occasional hit for me. The food was another miss, and it’s a systemic Disney problem. I am Ron Swanson like when it comes to breakfast food. I want all the bacon, sausage and eggs. Not just some, all. The scrambled eggs were clearly the bagged, processed stuff that are bereft of flavor and a food soul. The “sausage” patties were inedible garbage. This isn’t breakfast food, it’s a science experiment.

I can’t complain about the service, because again our server was attentive. I won’t complain about the creepy as hell Disney Jr. characters here, because it’s my own damn fault for not reading the description. If you have kids into Doc McStuffit or whatever, you’re going to enjoy this more than I did. I personally felt like a hostage and wished I had explored a different option. I’m positive this wasn’t worth the money, but it was also a means to an end, and I did get to ride Slinky Dog Dash without a two hour wait.

Flame Tree Barbecue: Lunch – $32 (no gratuity / Quick Service)

Since I didn’t fill up with breakfast, we did get hungry again and decided against a third meal of over $100. Plus, there was a doomsday level thunderstorm approaching and we wanted to soak up more Animal Kingdom than rain water. So we gave Flame Tree a shot. We used mobile order for the first time, which allowed my wife to order a kids meal hot dog without questions. I got the pulled pork mac & cheese, and splurged on the pulled pork cheese fries.

As someone born in the south, I have a few opinions on BBQ and it’s preparation. I don’t believe in sauce, I believe in dry rub. Though the pulled pork items did have sauce on them, it wasn’t overwhelming and it added just enough flavor to it. The mac & cheese was great. As far as quick service meals go, this one is up there with Casey’s Corner and Sunshine Seasons.

The problem I had with this meal was the cheese used on the fries. That orange, mass produced nacho cheese has always been unappealing to me. Maybe it’s because it reminds me of the University of Tennessee colors, maybe it’s because I worked at s movie theater in my youth and I’ve seen too many things, either way it’s distinctive and disgusting to me. It didn’t ruin the meal, it just could’ve enhanced it if they didn’t buy the cheese sauce from a restaurant supply store.

All of our meals were ultimately good enough. Off property they would be worth pennies on the dollar, but inside the parks and serving as a means to an end, they were all serviceable if not great. Next time we go to the parks, we’ll probably look elsewhere for options but I wouldn’t be mad going back to Le Celier and Flame Tree. Hollywood & Vine I’d have to try minus the Disney Jr. crowd to give it that same stamp of begrudging approval.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about the highlights of our trip from an attraction standpoint, including trying something new, a revamped something old, and saying goodbye to a Disney mainstay. Until then!

-The Disney Cynic

“I’m all beers!”

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