by Disney Magic Diva
It’s long been on our Disney Bucket List to dine at California Grill. A beautiful signature restaurant located on top of the Contemporary Resort, overlooking Magic Kingdom, California Grill is the perfect spot for a relaxing, adults only dinner after a long day at the parks. When we recently had an adults only trip to celebrate my husband’s birthday, we knew it was finally time to dine at the Top of the World!
One of the perks of dining at California Grill is the ability to watch the fireworks at Magic Kingdom from the private balcony at the restaurant. With this in mind, we made reservations for a late dinner with the thought we could watch the fireworks then have dinner.
We arrived about 7:40, and fireworks were set for 8:00 p.m. that evening. We checked in at the desk on the second floor of the Contemporary, then were immediately ushered to the private elevator and escorted up to the 15th floor. You must have reservations in order to access the restaurant and see the fireworks from the balcony. If you have lunch, you may still return that evening to see the fireworks from the balcony.
Diva Tip: Most people head out to the balcony at the far end of the restaurant, closest to Magic Kingdom. We heeded the advice a kind cast member (and former server at California Grill) gave us and found a spot at the other end of the restaurant. The perspective from this balcony was fabulous! We had a more “straight on” view of the Magic Kingdom, while the balcony closest to Cinderella Castle has a slightly distorted, side-angle view.
Watching Happily Ever After from the balcony of California Grill was an experience we will never forget! The music from the show is piped in, so we could hear every song perfectly. While it was a little difficult to see all the projections on Cinderella Castle, we could still see the overall effect, and to see the fireworks explode over Magic Kingdom from a bird’s eye view was simply spectacular!
After the show, we made our way back into the bar since we still had about an hour before our reservation. While we found seats, my husband went back to the reception desk just to check in once again. We were about to order when my husband returned with the maître d’ to tell us our table was ready! Perfect!
We were seated in a large, semi-circular booth which was elevated about a foot off the main floor. It gave us a splendid view of Magic Kingdom! How magical to dine with a view of Cinderella Castle, Space Mountain, Main Street U.S.A., even Big Thunder Mountain!
Our server soon brought us menus and the wine list, which was quite extensive! California Grill has over 500 wine selections – the vast majority of which are from California vineyards. As we exited the elevators when we arrived, we were able to see many of the wines on display in an entire wall made up of floor to ceiling wine coolers! Thankfully there are highly trained sommeliers available to help you choose the perfect pairing. There were also dozens of specialty cocktails on the menu. After some deliberation, we made our selections, and began to think about our food choices.
In keeping with the California theming, many of the dishes celebrate Californian cuisine. Naturally, only the freshest ingredients are used, and the variety of menu items reflects the diverse cultures in California. We began with appetizers, and were not disappointed. My son and his fiancé ordered the Handcrafted Charcuterie and the Farmhouse and Artisanal Cheeses. This was a stroke of genius!
Each tray came with a “cheat sheet” so we knew what each selection was. The cheeses were served with a flatbread which provided a delightful accompaniment to the different flavors.
My other son ordered the Artisanal Hand-Formed Pepperoni Pizza. The pepperoni is hand made by the chefs, and he thought it was very tasty!
My husband and I both ordered the Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli. It is one giant piece of ravioli in a tomato-fennel broth. I must admit I was a little taken aback when I saw how much broth was on the ravioli, but it was delicious! (And the bread is even better when you dip it in the broth!)
For our entrees, we were pretty evenly split between the Oak-Fired Fillet of Beef and the Colorado Bison Loin. All of our entrees were prepared to perfection. I generally like my beef a little more well-done than the rest of my family, and I was so pleased when I received my entrée to see the chef had selected a larger but thinner piece for my serving so that it could be more thoroughly cooked than the smaller, thicker fillets my family received. Truly the sign of a masterful chef!
Dessert was simply unbelievable! The chocolate cake was rich, creamy, and a presented like a piece of art.
The Crème Brulee was slightly disappointing, although compared to the chocolate cake I’m not sure anything would seem satisfactory.
That evening we also had the choice of churros, even though it’s not on the current menu online.
Our entire meal lasted around 2 ½ hours. It was relaxing, delicious, and unforgettable. Dinner here would make a perfect date night or spot for a romantic occasion – it’s a popular spot for proposals! Dinner is served from 5:00 pm until 10:00 pm, and brunch is served Sundays from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm. While children are welcome, and they do offer a children’s menu, I would not recommend taking little ones here (at least not under age 10) unless they have previously dined in a signature restaurant and are capable of sitting though a long meal.
California Grill does accept the dining plan, but as a signature restaurant it will require 2 table service credits. (Pixie Dusted Diva explains the 2018 dining plan here.) We all agreed, though, the superior service and food – not to mention the fireworks! – make it well worth 2 dining credits.
You will want to remember there is a dress code for signature restaurants. For men, collared shirts and khakis, slacks, or dress shorts are suggested. Women may wear dresses, skirts, capris or dress shorts. Jeans are allowed if they are in good condition. You may not wear flip flops, tank tops, swimwear, cut-offs, torn clothing, or shirts with offensive language or graphics.
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