High atop the Contemporary Resort, just a short monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom, is a gem of a table service restaurant. If you’re looking for a signature dining experience in a sleek, modern atmosphere with unmatched views of Walt Disney World – the California Grill may be just what you’re looking for. More than great food and excellent service, the California Grill also offers dinner guests the opportunity to step out onto the restaurant’s observation deck and experience the Magic Kingdom’s evening fireworks display in a completely different way.
My husband, Raymond, and I recently visited the California Grill to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary and we couldn’t have picked a better place for a romantic dinner for two. Surprisingly, it was also a popular dinner location for families with children of all ages. We checked-in at the special desk located on the Contemporary’s second floor, were given our pager, and sent to the elevators to be escorted up to the restaurant. We were thrilled to be riding up with another couple who were also celebrating their anniversary – their 40th! They told us that they try to celebrate every anniversary at the California Grill and would be back again for their 41st.
Once we entered the restaurant, we found ourselves by the big, open, well-stocked bar and thought it would be a great idea to enjoy a pre-dinner glass of wine. The other anniversary couple had the same idea, but just as we were about to take our seats, our pager went off. On the way to our table, we loved the openness of the restaurant, and the centrally located kitchen. We were seated at a cozy table for two, right next to the window – what a view! Our table had been sprinkled with multi-colored confetti for the occasion that glittered in the restaurant’s lights and made us feel very special!
Our server was excellent – he could tell we were there to make an evening of it and paced our meal accordingly. Raymond ordered a bottle of wine and we took our time looking over the extensive menu – it was SO difficult to narrow down the choices! Having heard so much about the sushi, we decided to start with the “Spicy Kazan Roll” for an appetizer (Delish!). For our entrees, Raymond chose the “Spanish Seafood Pilaf” and I ordered the “Seared Rare Ahi Tuna” (with lo mein noodles) – we were both very happy with our choices!
Having taken our time eating, watching the sunset, and enjoying our first vacation without our children in 25 years, we decided we had just enough room left over for coffee and dessert. While we were looking over the dessert options, our waiter surprised us with a complimentary, celebratory glass of champagne. I know Raymond ordered some form of cheesecake (he always orders cheesecake). I was actually too preoccupied with my own dessert to pay much attention. I don’t have much of a sweet-tooth, so I picked something that I thought would be unique and not too sugary – the “Warm Homemade Fritters” which were described as “Banana-stuffed, Cinnamon-dusted Fritters complemented with a Trio of Dipping Sauces”. This was, without a doubt, one of the best desserts I’ve ever enjoyed and it was the perfect way to end a wonderful evening. Luckily, we were staying right next door at Bay Lake Tower, so soon after dessert we waddled on back to our room.
Tips for Enjoying the California Grill:
Book a later ADR (Advance Dining Reservation) if you want a quieter, less kid-heavy dining experience.
Check in early and spend a few minutes enjoying a cocktail at the ultra modern bar or checking out the observation deck.
Ask for a table by the window – especially if your meal will coincide with sunset.
Don’t worry! If you dine early, you can present your receipt at the second floor check-in later the same night and go back up to take advantage of the view for Wishes (or whatever fireworks display is scheduled for that evening).
There is a dress code because the California Grill is a signature dining experience, but it’s not that strict. “Men may wear khakis, slacks, jeans or dress shorts and collared shirts. Sport coats are optional. Women may wear Capri pants, skirts, dresses, jeans or dress shorts.” – Disney’s Website.
The California Grill is expensive and if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, dinner there will take two table-service credits per person. In our opinion, a meal at this popular restaurant is well worth the splurge.