California Grill is redeemed!


Fairytales and Fitness Disney Blog

For many years, California Grill has ranked as the WORST Disney restaurant I have ever been to. That may be why it has taken me over a decade to return. You can read that story HERE.

 California Grill is a signature restaurant on the top level of  Disney's Contemporary resort. Advanced reservations are required.  Once you have your reservation, you will check in at the desk on the 2nd floor ( If you are taking the escalator, turn to the right as you get off).  Once you check in, a cast member will lead you to a private elevator and will escort you to the California Grill located on the 15th floor.

California Grill had been renovated since the last time I ate here ( which was many years ago), and things were quite different. On my last visit, my husband and I were there in the late evening hours.  It was dark inside of the restaurant and it had a very different vibe than it does today.  I would like to say it seemed more "upscale" back then and today it has more of a "casual" vibe.  Also, I do believe it was an adult only restaurant back then and today there were children of all ages there, which is apparent by the high chair in the above picture. 

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This time, it was my sister and I, and our reservation was for the early evening. As we were escorted to our table, I was pleased to see that we would be getting a window seat.  

We had to pull the shade down because the sun was too bright, but when we pulled the shade up, we had a view of Magic Kingdom.  The last time I ate here, I was seated on the other side of the restaurant and our view was of Bay Lake. 

Side note worth mentioning: At one point I remembered there being a dress code for California Grill. According to the Disney website: 
This restaurant is a Disney Signature Dining experience offering fine dining with a distinctly magical flair. Guests are expected to dress accordingly in an attire that respects the restaurant's sophisticated and upscale aesthetic"   ( and yes, those words were bold on the Disney website).

My sister and I had spent the afternoon at Magic Kingdom. We actually packed a small bag with a change of clothes and shoes.  We showed up to the Contemporary resort a bit early so we could use the restroom to change and freshen up. We wanted to adhere to their Magical dress code.

Turns out, I don't think what we wore mattered at all. Most of the guests there were dressed in their casual park clothes. We didn't see one person that looked like they purposefully dressed for this restaurant. So as long as you don't come in swimwear, I think they will let you dine here. But why not dress up a little? My sister and I like having an occasion to dress up, so we were happy we did so. I will say though, we did put our "park clothes" back on after dinner to finish our night out at Magic Kingdom.

Okay, back to the dinner. 

California Grill is a three course meal. You will pay one price and then select one appetizer, one entre and one dessert off the menu.  Years ago, it was a la carte dinning. I do think they switched this up for the 50th anniversary celebration and then just kept it this way.

Our server was great and brought out bread and dipping oils shortly after we were seated.  Then she took our drink and appetizer order.

Lacey ordered a glass of wine and the sushi.  There were several sushi rolls on the menu, I'm not sure which one she had, but she enjoyed it.

I ordered the Pomegranate and Apple salad with poached apples, roasted squash, Farro-Walnut Granola, and Pomegranate vinaigrette.  This was really yummy.

Another side note worth mentioning: Some of the items are an additional upcharge, meaning you will have to pay an additional fee on top of what you are already paying for the three courses. These items will be indicated on your menu ( look closely). 

For my entre I ordered the Oak grilled filet of beef with the vegetables. I rarely, if ever order steak but I figured I would try something different and wanted to get something that would be worth the hefty price tag we were paying for this meal. I am glad I got this because it was very good.  Anytime I do eat steak it has to be very well done. They managed to cook this well done and it was still tender and had lots of flavor.

Lacey ordered the Wagyu strip loin. This came with Kimchi friend rice, steamed dumplings, Bok choy, and crispy lotus root. 

For dessert, I had the Citrus Creme Brulee with Sorbet. The Creme Brulee was nice and creamy and the sorbet added a refreshing touch. 

Lacey had the Peanut and Banana Torte and was equally pleased with her dessert.

As we were wrapping up, our server let us know that we were invited back up to the restaurant's observation deck to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks later that night. We just had to show the attendant our receipt from today's meal and they would let us up.  The California Grill observation deck is suppose to be THE place to watch the fireworks.  Many people make their reservation here with the intentions on being here during the fireworks. As tempting as this offer was, we were happy to go back to Magic Kingdom and watch the fireworks there. 

My overall impression of this restaurant:
 California Grill is just as good as any other Disney table service restaurant. Although we thought everything was good, it wasn't any better than any other place we've dined so far ( and we have dined at a lot of Disney restaurants).  They did have a full bar and a generous wine list but I didn't really feel there was much to distinguish this place as a "signature" restaurant. Maybe the fact that there was a table cloth on our table made it "signature". 

Although we had a great table by the window that let us see Magic Kingdom and Cinderella castle, I did not think the atmosphere here was very impressive.  

One thing that was impressive here were the cast members. The cast members were very attentive and friendly. We had one issue with something and a cast member was very gracious in fixing it and we were very thankful. 

Be sure to check the official California Grill menu HERE for the most current options and pricing.

What is your favorite restaurant at Disney?-M

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Fairytales and Fitness is a personal blog authored and edited by us, Meranda and Lacey. The thoughts expressed here represent only our own and are not meant to be taken as professional advice. Please note that our thoughts and opinions change from time to time. We consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind in an ever changing society. Any thoughts and opinions expressed within our out-of-date posts may not be the same, nor even similar, to those we may express today. Some links may contain affiliate links. Some links are just to pages we'd like to share.