It seems that like last year, Disney is branching out and attempting to please a greater variety of tastes and more discerning palate.
2011 saw the opening of a more specialized, sophisticated Mexican dining venue in La Hacienda de San Angel, as well as a new Tequila bar in the same Epcot country. La Cava Del Tequila has been quite popular among adults choosing to get away from the crowds and drink their way around the world. Disney also heeded the cry for pizza that actually tasted delicious, and Italy’s Via Napoli emerged with authentic, certified Vera Pizza Napolitana. Baby Cakes, NYC opened its doors in Downtown Disney, offering allergy friendly treats without refined sugar – something anyone would feel healthier indulging in.
Now that a new year is upon us, Disney is proving that they are no where close to finished with making Walt Disney World more than just a theme park. Healthier options, more specialty dining, and another “adult friendly” venue are making debuts this year throughout the world.
Epcot’s quick service venue Yakitori House has been transformed into a healthier, more specialized counter service restaurant. Sushi, Curries, Udon Noodles, Miso Soup, Edamame, and even Sake are served in an environment that was inspired by the Katsura Imperial gardens in Kyoto.
But perhaps the biggest draw to the Katsura Grill is the addition of an outdoor Sake bar. It seems that Disney has taken notice of the popularity of drinks in Epcot and expanded their offerings. While the menu features soft drinks, teas and even smoothies, the main attraction is the Sake Cocktails and selection of Sakes. It seems you can even purchase them by the bottle!
Gusto Wine Bar
Construction is well under way in Epcot’s Italy at the moment, where Tutto Italia is getting a face lift. But that isn’t the only change coming to this popular country. Gusto Wine Bar is scheduled to begin serving thirsty patrons in April 2012. Upon entering, one will get the feeling of being in an Old Country wine cellar. Exposed brick, stone floors and cellar walls with vaulted ceilings will create an authentic atmosphere, along with wine casks that support a vintage-esque bar. Like La Cava Del Tequila, guests will also be able to nibble on tapas and small offerings as they sit around a large fireplace in this cozy, intimate space. I, for one, am looking forward to having this space to relax – away from the outside noise!
Be Our Guest Restaurant
There are also changes taking place outside of Epcot. The Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland is undergoing a huge expansion, and along with it will come a few much-needed new restaurants for this theme park. It seems Belle is taking center stage, getting her own castle and restaurant. While it isn’t set to open until late 2012, the attention to detail and unique experience that Be Our Guest will provide will be well worth the wait.
The venue is set within the walls of Beast’s castle, taking up three large rooms – the cozy Library, the elegant Ballroom, or the mysterious West Wing. The West Wing will house the enchanted rose, of course, while the Ballroom will have a snow effect on the windows, making guests feel they are nestled warmly beside a roaring fire while a French winter lies outside. Like La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot, Be Our Guest will be a table service destination during the evening, with counter service during lunch hours. This will allow any budget to experience the floor-t0-ceiling windows and murals throughout the space.
Not to be outdone by the Beast, Gaston will have a tavern located in the same area of Fantasyland, complete with Antlers on the walls and hopefully another large fireplace! This will be a counter service destination.
AMC Fork and Screen Theater
Downtown Disney also has a new addition to add to the mix. AMC Theaters now has a special offering, where guests can dine and watch a movie all-in-one. Of course, AMC already offers more in the way of specialty dining than most theaters – custom popcorn with sweet add-ins, Ice Cream, a Coke Freestyle station, and even a full bar can be found upon entering. But the latest and greatest is a theater complete with tables and chairs in groupings of four, to allow theater-goers the luxury of the Big Screen and a great meal, too. A full menu – with appetizers, entrees, desserts and specialty drinks – can be ordered from the waitstaff.
Baby Cakes, NYC Cake Orders
Not to be left out, Baby Cakes has expanded their offerings to include custom cakes that can be ordered anywhere on-property. This opens up an entirely new world for parents and guests celebrating with one or multiple allergies. Unbelievably, these cakes taste just as wonderful – if not even better – than the cakes ordered from Disney’s main bakery, and are free of refined sugar, gluten, wheat, soy, casein, eggs… and are mostly vegan and Kosher!
Disney is proving year after year that they are listening to guests. Many of these new restaurants and specialty venues appeal to a growing list of Disney fans who may not fit within the normal mold. I hope to see more of this each year!