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California Grill: Still Stellar

November 15, 2010

California Grill
at Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort

“I’d like to rest my heavy head tonight on a bed of California Stars.” Wilco and Woody Guthrie
Among us Disney geeks and freaks, the great debate over which Walt Disney World restaurant is the overall best will seemingly never be settled.

There are those that favor Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada Pavillion and those who lean towards Victorian elegance of Victoria and Albert’s in the Grand Floridian Resort. And, there are even others who favor Narcoosee and Citricos, both located at the Grand Floridian Resort, as well and the Yachtsman’s Steakhouse and the Flying Fish at the Yacht Club and the Boardwalk respectively.

In our illustrious badDOLPHIN opinion, reinforced by a recent visit, THE best restaurant is located on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort – the California Grill.

Since its opening in the mid-90s, the menu slightly changes each time we visit, but the view, atmosphere, service and food have, if anything, has improved over the years. It remains our favorite late night Disney dining spot.

The biggest improvement is the reservation check-in process, which is now located on the second floor of the Contemporary Resort. Once checked in, you are escorted to the restaurant in a private elevator. This high-security check-in was a necessary move in response to the über amount of dumbasses who packed the restaurant nightly to see the Magic Kingdom’s Wishes fireworks show from this primo location. Some of these dumbasses were quiet and respectful, but for the most part, these douchebags thought they were in Denny’s. Kudos to Disney for remembering the guests that take dining (ahhem, joeA and myself) seriously with their decision to close off the 15th floor to restaurant patrons only.

Drink Selection
With a name like, “California Grill,” one would expect the wine list to be extensive, and it is, but beer drinkers like joeA, can’t help be disappointed. Considering how prolific microbrews have become, one would think a trendy restaurant like this would have an extensive beer list as well, but alas, no. joeA felt lucky to find Sierra Nevada Pale Ale amongst the six or so microbrews they had intertwined with the usual swill from Anheuser Busch, Coors, and Miller. This is something Mickey really needs to jump on, the local 7-11 has a better bottle selection.

Food Menu
The appetizer selection is plentiful and runs the gamut from sushi to flatbread pizzas to goat cheese raviolis, all of which are, as they say, DE-LISH.

As for the main course, we both usually get the Oak Fired Filet of Beef, which absolutely rocks. Again in our illustrious badDOLPHIN opinion, this is not only the best filet on Disney property, but the best filet on the planet.

Every once in a while we stray from the filet and we can honestly say all of the other entrees are of equal quality. joeA has had the Potato and Cheese Ravioli and found them to be delicious, along with both the Pork Tenderloin and Seared Chicken. But again, none of them top the filet.

The California Grill is not a cheap night out. Expect to spend about $150 or so on a dinner for two. Along these lines, another smart policy change was the institution of a dress code. Back in the day, joeA and I would dress up for a nice evening out, only to find the place teeming with families who looked like they came straight from Blizzard Beach to the restaurant, while the douchebag fireworks people would be bolting from window to window to get the best view. No more. Now, guests can experience a five-star restaurant beyond just the food.

We love late dinners – the later, the better. Book your reservations around 10 PM for infront of the bar facing the open kitchen. It’s a cool and unique dining experience, and quite romantic. Chances are the chefs may even give you some samples.
If your looking for the ultimate dining spot on Disney property, this is it.
The California Grill is still stellar after all these years.

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