Whether going for the first time, or planning a trip as a veteran, 2011 is bringing many new options to Disney, and a few changes (for better or worse) in dining options throughout the World. Epcot has added restaurants in Mexico and Italy, Downtown Disney got a little more eclectic, chef changes have been made at some popular resort restaurants, and Disney’s most sought-after restaurant has now become a Signature dining destination. Whether the changes add spark to your vacation or make you wish for the good ole days, one thing is certain; Disney is aiming to please everyone, one step at a time.
La Hacienda de San Angel
Construction for a new table service restaurant at Epcot’s Mexico pavilion had been underway for over a year, with the unveiling finally occurring September of 2010. With overwhelmingly positive feedback, this restaurant promises great food and a fireworks view to match. Previously, other than a quick service option, Mexico had been lacking outdoor dining options for those wishing to see Illuminations. Every type of diner can be appeased now, as Cantina de San Angel, a counter service restaurant, is attached. La Hacienda offers a menu that’s a step above it’s sister restaurant, San Angel Inn. Dishes are a bit more authentic, with a greater selection, better quality ingredients, and a slightly steeper price tag attached. Also of note is the Tequila selection, which only rivals La Cava del Tequila, located just inside next to San Angel Inn.
If Disney was lacking in any one area, it would have been pizza. Reviews and comments were overwhelmingly synonymous that a good pizza joint would be a gold mine for Disney, and Epcot answered that call very willingly. Via Napoli opened its doors the same month as La Hacienda de San Angel, firing up all 3 of the wood-burning ovens, comically chiseled to appear like faces devouring the in-going pies (in reality they represent Italy’s 3 active Volcanoes). Appetizers, Salads, and traditional Italian Entrees colorfully grace the menu, but it’s the Pizza selection that gets everyone’s mouth watering. The Mozzarella is flown in from Naples, birthplace of the pizza. Water for the dough is found in a spring whose consistency is that of the selection found in Italy, and the Tomatoes are San Marzano – all the makeup of what can be certified “Vera Pizza Napolitana.”
There’s a counter-service option attached to the restaurant as well, once more offering something for everyone, no matter the budget or dining plan.
To say that Disney’s decision to remove McDonalds from Downtown Disney was an improvement would be an understatement. Anything would have been more unique, but adding Pollo Campero to the Marketplace now adds a healthier option, as well. Pollo Campero announced its spicy arrival in November with rave reviews. Legendary chicken, all-natural burgers, salads, wraps and desserts (all of which are Gluten Free!) mark a menu that Disney has termed “Fresh-A-Peel,” offering healthier options.
Speaking of healthier options, Disney has finally heard the growing voice of the special diet community, and cupcake company BabyCakes, NYC has opened in the DownTown Disney Marketplace! These treats are also featured at Pollo Campero, by the way.
All of the cupcakes, cookies, cakes, muffins, brownies, and other treats offered are not only delicious, they are light-years healthier than most other desserts you’ll find. Why is this? Everything is completely free of refined sugar, gluten, wheat, soy, casein, and eggs, making them Vegan, and Kosher, to boot! This is the perfect solution for anyone with food allergies and a sweet tooth.
Chef Changes Throughout the World
Vegans and those with Dietary Restrictions mourned as they heard news that noted Chef TJ hopped a monorail and made the move from the Polynesian’s Ohana to the Grand Floridian. Luckily, 1900 Park Fare has seen a major improvement in the selection offered to those with special diets since then, as has neighboring restaurant Grand Floridian Cafe.
As the premier resort at Disney World, the Grand Floridian must have noticed a decline in food quality and increase in complaints at their classic Character Buffet, and measures were taken to ensure an upswing. One thing is certain, if there’s anyone that can bring something back to life, it’s Chef TJ. Expect great things to come, and a revival of the once-”Gold Standard” for breakfast destinations at 1900 Park Fare.
Le Cellier Signature Dinner
Perhaps the most debated topic in Disney changes has been the convergence of Le Cellier’s two credit, Signature dining experience. Beginning March 1st, lunch at the popular Steakhouse will still be 1 credit on the Disney Dining Plan, but dinners will be a Signature experience, taking 2 credits per person and offering an expanded menu.
For many years, Le Cellier has been perhaps the hardest reservation to obtain when dining at Disney World – both lunch and dinner were booked a full 180 days in advance in many cases. There are both ups and downs to this change. A new signature dinner menu will mean expanded options, an even better quality of ingredients, and hopefully a more attentive staff and quieter atmosphere (i.e. not as many tired children). It will also mean greater ease at getting a reservation. However, snagging a lunch time reservation will most likely become a cunning game of skill, attainable to only the most die-hard Disney dining enthusiasts. To only have one seating at regular dining credit, lunch at the most popular restaurant in Disney will only be reserved by booking the morning of that 180 day mark.
Disney is changing for the better, offering more options, sympathizing with an ever-growing number of food allergies, and upping their level of service. In the coming years, they will even unveil a new Fantasyland, complete with even more ways to keep everyone happy. No matter what, Disney World will always strive to be the Happiest Place on Earth, even if that means changing to match that evolving definition.
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