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Old 04-18-2009, 09:25 PM   #1
kizzy
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Just back--you win some, you lose some

So I spent hours--and I literally mean HOURS researching dining options, reading reviews and looking at menus for our spring break trip. I could recite the menu for most, if not all of the WDW restaurants in my sleep. It helped pass the time during our long and snowy Midwestern winter. We spent a week at CBR--me, 40; DH, also 40; DS17 and DS13. Yeah, our first trip back to WDW (not on the dining plan) with two teenagers.

I don't eat meat, but I'm not really a true vegetarian. I eat eggs and cheese and sometimes gravy and bacon. My DH calls me the 'vegetarian who doesn't like vegetables.' That's not entirely true, but I guess I am pretty picky. My DH eats anything; DH17 is growing out of being picky but still is not big on fruit or vegetables; and DH13 is literally the pickiest eater ever. Last Sunday, on Easter, he had two rolls with butter and a dill pickle (not for lack of food on the table, either). He will be a freshman in high school and still orders children's chicken strips. He eats cereal, waffles and pancakes, eggs, cheese, white bread, pizza, chicken, hamburgers, spaghetti, pretzels, and anything sweet. That's it. No variations. No mixing food. No spices. Nothing green. He has been known to hyperventilate if they bring out his buttered noodles garnished with parsley.The doctor said to either give him a multivitamin and hope he grows out of it or to starve him and then he'd eat what we put in front of him. We chose the former, though sometimes I really am tempted to try the latter. He had no trouble ordering off the children's menu, but we always had to ask specifically to get one. I do have to say he is generally healthy and is tall for his age, so we're just waiting for his 'palate to mature.' Might be a LONG wait, but hey, in the meantime, he's a pretty cheap date.

Anyway, enough about our random eating habits. after 11 trips to WDW, we've eaten at pretty much every restaurant and have pretty strong favorites. This trip during the last week of March was the one that turned that conventional wisdom on its ear. Basically, what we thought we didn't like, we loved. What we used to like, not so much this time. Go figure.
And we tried some new places.

Here's where we ate: Mama Melrose, Kona Cafe, Ohana, Toyko Dining, Cantina de San Angel; Tutto Italia, Sci-Fi Theatre, Grand Floridian Cafe, Wolfgang Puck Express, CBR Food Court, Banana Cabana (not food, but we did sample many of the drinks),Tangierine Cafe, Pop Century Food Court, The Wave, Captain Cook's, The Plaza, Columbia Harbor House, Casey's, Goofy's Candy Kitchen, MK eggroll cart.

Here's where we didn't: Gardenview Tea at the Grand Floridian (second time in a row we've missed it), Brown Derby (switched to Mama Melrose at the last minute) and Le Cellier (call me crazy, but we ate at Cantina de San Angel instead), breakfast at The Wave (too tired), Marrakesh (everyone wanted to switch to Tutto Italia instead).

The best of the week:
Mama Melrose
Kona Cafe (breakfast)
Tutto Italia
Toyko Dining
Wolfgang Puck Express dinner
Cantina de San Angel
Captain Cook's
Banana Cabana (what wasn't good?)
Tangierine Cafe falafel
Casey's mini corn dogs
MK egg rolls

The worst of the week:
Sci-Fi Theatre
The Wave
Wolfgang Puck Express breakfast
The Plaza
Ohana

I will add more detail on what we ate and the rationale behind the rankings. I always make them rank, during our LONG car trip home, their favorites of the week. I have to do it quick, because they only humor me for so long. We were all surprised at what restaurants stood out for both good and bad reasons.
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Old 04-18-2009, 09:39 PM   #2
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I'm in. I'm very curious as to why the Plaza, The Wave and Sci-Fi were on your "worse" list. The Plaza is our "must do" last meal of our trip and Sci Fi has been getting really good reviews lately and we were thinking of going back after a nine year absence on our next trip, and also trying Wave which has been getting stellar reviews.

Glad you enjoyed Mama Melrose--it is one of our favorites.

Bring on the details.
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Old 04-18-2009, 10:10 PM   #3
kizzy
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I guess I'll start with The Plaza, since it is the first place we ate. We had an ADR for 8:00 p.m. and we were seated after about a 15-minute wait. The wait wasn't bad, since we could watch Spectromagic.

The Plaza gets such a low ranking primarily because of service. The food was okay at best, but the poor and disinterested service really dragged down the whole experience. I'm not one who generally gets too excited one way or another about service, but after waiting for more than 20 minutes for our server to appear, I was getting frustrated. Two other servers walked by at different times and said 'your server will be right out.' Yeah, right.

The restaurant was starting to clear out for the fireworks, so the number of diners wasn't the problem. Our server finally appeared, never made eye contact, never spoke any other words than 'what do you want to eat,' took our order, and then disappeared again for 10 or 15 minutes, only to re-appear, throw (and I do mean throw--kind of an overhand toss from 5 feet away) straws on the table as an afterthought. 15 minutes after that, the food appeared. He forgot my vegetarian chili and never refilled water or Coke. And the cardinal sin--we had to wait forever for the check.

I dislike waiting in restaurants when I am done eating--I guess it's a character flaw. My DH is still mad about the time I told a server he was done while he was in mid-chew with his fork poised above his plate. He wanted that last bite! I wanted to leave. Anyway, I digress.

When the food finally arrived, the fireworks were in full swing and we could see them by craning our necks. The food was 'eh.'

I had the vegetable sandwich, but didn't like the strong pesto taste. I like pesto, but this was overwhelming. And they don't have sweet potato chips anymore. Bummer.

DH had the chicken strawberry salad, which was pretty good and fresh. Not many strawberries, though.

DS17 had a bacon cheeseburger, vanilla shake and fries. He said the burger was dry, and they forgot the bacon. Both my sons have radar when it comes to whole wheat anything (even when the bread is deceptively light-colored). Thus, he wasn't a big fan of the bun. He said it was dry and crumbly and he was mad about the missing bacon. The shake was good.

DS13 had Sprite. He was tired and grouchy. And he had eaten an entire can of Pizza Pringles earlier.

Actually, we were all tired and grouchy at that point, and the service didn't help anything. Overall, the food was just this side of okay. It was definitely not the Plaza experience I remembered from the past, but our server had a lot to do with that.
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Old 04-19-2009, 03:55 AM   #4
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Wow, not a great experience at The Plaza - that really surprises me as we have had nothing but great food and service there. Still, hopefully it was just an off night for your server. Sorry if it ruined your evening.
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Old 04-19-2009, 07:26 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kizzy View Post
I will add more detail on what we ate and the rationale behind the rankings. I always make them rank, during our LONG car trip home, their favorites of the week. I have to do it quick, because they only humor me for so long. We were all surprised at what restaurants stood out for both good and bad reasons.
We always do a thumbs up/down vote at the end of each meal or after random rides, etc!

I can't wait to read about your meals. We have ADRs at a few of those places!

Maggie
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Old 04-19-2009, 10:13 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KatMark View Post
I'm in. I'm very curious as to why the Plaza, The Wave and Sci-Fi were on your "worse" list. The Plaza is our "must do" last meal of our trip and Sci Fi has been getting really good reviews lately and we were thinking of going back after a nine year absence on our next trip, and also trying Wave which has been getting stellar reviews.

Glad you enjoyed Mama Melrose--it is one of our favorites.

Bring on the details.
Ditto on this!
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Old 04-19-2009, 10:21 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maggiew View Post
We always do a thumbs up/down vote at the end of each meal or after random rides, etc!

I can't wait to read about your meals. We have ADRs at a few of those places!

Maggie
Yes, can't wait to see what you say about The Wave and Tokyo Dining.

thanks!
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Old 04-19-2009, 03:23 PM   #8
kizzy
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Next up on the dining agenda was SCI-FI THEATRE. We had an ADR for noon and the entry was packed with people trying to get out of the pouring rain.

Sci-Fi has always been one of our favorites, if nothing else for the atmosphere. We were seated after about a 15-minute wait. We didn't mind the wait, since at least we were out of the rain. One of the themes of this trip seemed to be longer than usual waits for ADR's. The Plaza and Sci-Fi weren't bad at around 15 minutes, but we did wait more than 45 minutes for a couple ADR's later in the week. We never experienced really lengthy waits before, even during spring break.

On to the food--I had the spinach artichoke dip, which was good, but on the cold side. I had the chocolate peanut butter cake for dessert, which I was really looking forward to--and it was dry. Like really dry and burned. I ate it anyway, because it was chocolate, after all. Did I tell you it was dry? But it was seriously dry, old and burned. And if there was peanut butter in it, I couldn't taste it. I could see the hollowed out part where it was supposed to be, but I only detected a tiny bit of peanut butter. Not the gooey goodness and moist, molten cake I was expecting.

DH had a reuben. He said it was good--a regular reuben. DS17 had a cheeseburger, fries and a vanilla coke and thought it was just 'okay.' He didn't feel good later that day and blamed the 'greasy' cheeseburger, but who knows? DS13 had a kid's hot dog and fries and he said the hot dog was okay, but the bun was stale. He (I) ordered the tomato soup as the other side, and I liked it quite well until I found a small piece of black plastic in it.

Our service, unlike at The Plaza, was great. She was attentive and friendly and even took a picture of the four of us in our car. It always seems like I am never along on any vacations because I take all the pictures, so it was nice to have documentation that I was there!

I realize the first two reviews I have done sound negative and on the whiny side. We really aren't like that in real life, I promise! We love food and since I hate to cook, we eat out A LOT. I guess we just hit at least The Plaza and Sci-Fi on off days. Maybe we just weren't feeling the Disney magic this early in the trip. But the irony is that the first two places we ate (and didn't enjoy) had been perennial favorites for us. The moral of the story is that all restaurants (and families) have off days; I spent too much time thinking about food prior to the trip; and tastes can change.

Next up: Mama Melrose was a winner!
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Old 04-19-2009, 05:00 PM   #9
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Old 04-19-2009, 05:38 PM   #10
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We left DHS after our lunch at SCI-FI and returned in the early evening armed with an ADR for Brown Derby. However, DS17 looked at the outside menu and changed his mind about eating there. He wasn't hungry after his burger at Sci-Fi and he said he was craving Italian food. Dealing with teenagers can be exhausting.

So while DH and DS17 rode TT and RnR with fastpasses from earlier that day, DS13 and I cancelled the Brown Derby ADR and attempted to make a new ADR for Mama Melrose. I love the grapefruit cake at Brown Derby and was a little sad to miss it. I didn't try to get it at Starring Rolls like I have done in the past. But Italian did sound good and the last time we ate at Mama Melrose was in 2002. We didn't like the meal very much that time, but for the life of me, I can't remember why.

The only time available was 8 p.m. which worried me a little bit because we wanted to see the 10 p.m. Fantasmic. We hadn't been to Fantasmic since 2005 and wanted to fit it in this trip. I took the 8 p.m. ADR thinking we could slip in early. Nope. It was PACKED. Again, that was the theme the entire week--very busy sit-down restaurants and long ADR waits. They were turning away walk-ups at an alarming rate.

My plan to sneak in early was thwarted when there were at least 50 people waiting in front of us. So we went and walked around for a while and got a table just before 9 p.m. We told the server, who was great, that we wanted to get to Fantasmic and he was quick and efficient.

We started with the breads and dips--I have a great picture, but I don't think I have enough posts to add it here. Suffice it to say that DS17 ate most of it and would have licked the plates if I had let him. There was roasted garlic, a roasted vegetable/olive dip, pesto, and a sun-dried tomato dip. I have never met a carb I didn't like, so I enjoyed it too.

I had the penne with vodka sauce minus the pancetta. It was really good--surprisingly so. DS17 and DH split the chicken parmigiana and DS13 had the kid's cheese pizza. DH had some sort of Italian beer, kids had Cokes and I had water. We were all happy and full. DS13 got a sundae with his kid's meal, so we all shared that.

I had intended to get the honey ricotta cheesecake, but we ended up sharing the molten chocolate cake. Nice, hot and gooey--exactly what the chocolate peanut butter cake at Sci-Fi was not. I do regret not getting the honey ricotta cheesecake, though. And I am totally craving grapefruit cake right now, so I'm sorry I didn't indulge while I had the chance.

Our server, I think his name was Mike, was great in getting us out the door in time for Fantasmic. We caught the 10 p.m. show with the theatre half-empty. We got popcorn and a couple of Mickey bars to end the night.

Next up: Quick breakfast at Old Port Royale and an ADR change for Cantina de San Angel
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Old 04-19-2009, 05:39 PM   #11
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Can't wait to hear about MM, we're trying it for the first time in October!
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Old 04-19-2009, 08:30 PM   #12
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My morning habit each day was to take my mug and walk from Jamaica to OPR at CBR and pick up coffee and breakfast. Funny--I actually used to like 'Disney' coffee because it tasted like Disney to me, if that makes any sense. They had the same 'Disney' coffee when we stayed at the Hilton Head and Vero Beach resorts and it seemed familiar. The novelty, however, has worn off and we had serious coffee withdrawal by the end of the week. Pressed pot coffee at Kona Cafe and The Wave helped somewhat.

Each morning, I would pick up cereal, milk and pastries and they would eat in the room. The selection was okay at OPR, nothing great. We didn't get any hot breakfasts, so I can't comment on that. I will say that my DS13 had doughnut withdrawal by the end of the week, as well. Not a doughnut to be had at OPR.

Our second full day was spent at EPCOT. I had lunch ADR's for Le Cellier--the holy grail of ADR's. Over the years, we had eaten both lunch and dinner at Le Cellier and especially liked the pretzel rolls. But, believe it or not, and I don't know what came over us--we cancelled Le Cellier and opted for an outside lunch at Cantina de San Angel.

It was really nice--full sun, blue sky and no humidity--so that probably factored into the decision. Remember, we were coming off a horrendous Midwest winter.

I can't remember the year, but we ate at Cantina de San Angel before and didn't think much of it, but this year was becoming more and more about giving places a second shot.

I had a taco salad with black beans--the only vegetarian option on the menu except for chips and cheese. They told me things are premade and they can't make any substitutions. It was actually really good. DS13 had a kids quesadilla and liked it, along with chips and cheese.

DS17 had a combo plate and inhaled it. He loved it, and DH had three tacos, which he also liked. We shared chips and cheese and DH and I had a margarita. We were surprised at how much we enjoyed this lunch. We got there just after World Showcase opened, so it was not crowded. Very peaceful and relaxing. Not the best food I've ever had, but definitely good.

After our lunch, we picked up some snacks for dessert in Norway--school bread and rice cream.

We (I) felt a little bad about missing Le Cellier, but I've learned I have to sometimes go with the flow and it usually turns out for the best.
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Old 04-20-2009, 03:58 AM   #13
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im glad you enjoyed the Penne at MM i loved that
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Old 04-20-2009, 04:17 AM   #14
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MM sounds good. We did the same thing as you for our breakfasts last year - I would pick up pastries and fruit in the morning and the kids would devour it on my return to the room
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Old 04-20-2009, 06:20 PM   #15
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Thanks to everyone who is reading along. I am enjoying reliving the experience by posting the reviews.

Our dinner that second night was at Tokyo Dining. DH loves sushi and I had read that this was a good place from which to watch Illuminations.

After arrival at EPCOT, we kind of snacked--falafel at Tangierine Cafe was really good--beating the previous best from the Haight in San Francisco that we had years ago by a mile. Also got addicted to the Grey Goose slushies--so good. I have to try to figure out how to make one at home! I think we also had a fiesta margarita while walking around the world. I'm not a big fan of the sour apple flavor in a margarita. On its own, its okay. I just didn't think it mixed that well.

Got to Tokyo Dining around 8 p.m. which was thirty minutes early. We waited every one of those 30 minutes and then about ten more. The waiting area was packed, but it seemed like most people were waiting for Teppan Edo. We did get a center window table for four, so I can't complain. I did ask for a window table and told there was no guarantee.

The server was good--very friendly--and brought hot towels for our hands, which was nice. We had a new server towards the end of the meal--no explanation, but she was also nice and efficient.

I had a salad with sesame dressing, which I loved, and edamame, which I usually like, but this was served cold. I like it hot better, but it was good. The greens in the salad were very fresh and the flavor of the dressing was amazing--if you like sesame.

DS17 had teriyaki chicken and rice and loved it and DS had plain white rice. I think he had cereal when we got back to the room because he was (no big surprise here) still hungry. As I said, he is definitely a cheap date.

DH had a dim sum basket with tempura and sushi, which he really liked. He also had a sake flight. For dessert, we had the chocolate ginger cake, which we all liked. It was the kind of thing that you have the first bite and think 'that's just okay,' the second bite you are like 'hmmm, this is really good,' and the third bite you are addicted. We all felt the same way about it.

But the best part of the dinner was the view of Illuminations. Not perfect if you are a purist about seeing the show, but really a great dinner view (just a little obstructed) if you've seen it before and just want to enjoy it without the crowds. They pipe in the music (but didn't dim the lights, which would have been an added bonus.)

It was very nice to sit there and relax and enjoy dinner with Illuminations in the background. I would definitely return here with a late ADR. Ultimately, I think the kids prefer Teppan Edo, but they also liked Tokyo Dining. This was a new place for us, and ranked high on our list of 'winners.'

Up next: Yak and Yeti is a big hit
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