By Beauty & the Beast Diva
Disney World Resort’s California Grill
If you want an upscale meal with a breathtaking view and a LOT of romance, California Grill should be on your itinerary! California Grill is open for dinner and is located on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. Disney Diva Tip: If you book your reservations at just the right time you will have a spectacular view of Wishes fireworks. The California Grill has recently been renovated to a mid-century modern California vibe which makes this truly exquisite dining experience feel a little lower key.
When you step off the elevators from the Contemporary Resort and arrive at the restaurant, you will find a HUGE wall lined with wines (almost 1,600 bottles, all climate-controlled in a showcase). After you check in, you will be escorted to the art deco-esque bar and lounge. You can’t help but think of all of the Disney elite that have sat in that lounge, overlooking their masterpiece sipping on gin and tonics. Please realize that you will most likely be waiting awhile; even with a reservation, people tend to linger in this restaurant.
Whether you sit and people watch or you are glued to the windows looking at all of Disney’s grandeur, you can sip on your cocktails and you will notice the onstage or open kitchen, sushi bar and a wood-burning oven, all meant to enhance and make you feel like part of the experience. Watching the incredibly talented and fast moving chefs is truly one of my favorite things about California Grill. These chefs pride themselves on making a menu of fresh seasonal ingredients, so the menu is constantly changing.
Whether you are just having a refreshment in the bar area or are sitting down to have dinner, you will be handed an extensive drink menu. California Grill is known for their wines, part of the reason this is my FAVORITE restaurant. They boast about 250 different wine selections, mostly from, you guessed it, California. There are 20 sommeliers on hand to assist you in making your wine selection if needed, your wait staff is also WONDERFUL at assisting you to pick your drink for the evening. There are also roughly 10 different craft beers and loads of signature cocktails designed especially for California Grill by a team of mixologists, if you go in the fall do not miss their pumpkin pie martini!
Now for the menu, as I mentioned the chefs use fresh seasonal ingredients so you can always count on this menu to be slightly different. Their salads make for wonderful, light starters. I highly recommend the Crispy Rock Shrimp salad or the Florida Heirloom Tomato salad with mixed heirloom tomatoes anda shishito pepper vinaigrette with house-made ricotta (yes, HOUSEMADE). Their sushi also makes for a very yummy and romantic appetizer; something about sharing a plate with my husband makes dinner all the more romantic (we also went here on our honeymoon and my birthday). Their menu stops at nothing short of fresh fish, bison, house-made potato gnocchi, beef, and scallops. All are cooked perfectly and plated up so beautifully, you almost don’t want to eat your meal, but you eventually do and it is AMAZING.
All of their desserts are to die for, I had such a difficult time deciding and I think we were eventually sent a 2nd dessert, compliments of the chef due to being on our honeymoon and for my birthday. The vanilla crème brûlée is my absolute favorite or the chocolate pudding cake…. Either one!
The children’s menu is also AMAZING! Please do not be nervous about bringing your children. While upscale, the restaurant is also a bit noisy with people roaming about to check out the views so a crying child or a wild child out of their chair will hardly be a reason to bat an eye. The children’s menu offers many delicious fresh dishes, including lettuce wraps, beef tenderloin, pizza and fresh pasta.
Finally, the real reason to go to California Grill- the view. Depending on what time you go, you may be able to watch”Wishes”. Shortly before the show begins, you will hear an announcement through the restaurant that says Wishes is only a few moments away and that they will be dimming the lights in the restaurant. You will also be invited to stay in your seat or head out to the observation deck. I’ve always been too scared to go out onto the deck, BUT the view from our seats was amazing. The Wishes music is filtered in and you are left in a dimmed restaurant snugging your family or significant other for what is the most beautiful and romantic view I have ever seen.
Also, do not be surprised, especially during the Food and Wine Festival, to see some famous faces. The world renowned chef Robert Irvine and his family dined RIGHT NEXT to us. The chefs spend a lot of time creating menus and doing demonstrations during Food and Wine Fest so to see them at some of the signature restaurants is not too surprising. WHO WILL YOU SEE?!
Side Note: If you get an early reservation that does not correspond with the timing of Wishes, save your receipt, you can show the receipt and come BACK to California Grill for access to the observation deck for Wishes viewing. Also dinning reservations book quickly so its highly recommended to book 180 days in advance!