Welcome to those of you joining me from A Glass Slipper Vacation and those of you just hopping aboard. I am the 3rd stop on our Magical Blogorail.
I love Disney food! (and drinks…drinks are important too).
All right, I admit it. I’m a Disney food junkie. In my defense, it’s really my parents’ fault. When my family came to Disney during my childhood, we never ate in the park (that was considered a waste of money!). Instead, my mother packed sandwiches in a cooler, and in the middle of the day, we undertook a multi-hour journey from park to ferry to parking lot and back again. I know it was well intentioned, but years of soggy sandwiches in hot parking lots had a major impact on my park habits. I. Eat. At. Disney.
When I returned to the Disney parks as an adult, I was naturally enamored of the in-park dining options, particularly those at Epcot. All of those mysterious restaurants were finally mine to explore! Over time, however, I learned a vitally important lesson that every Disney food fan should know. The best tasting food and the best value for your quality food dollars is usually not inside the gate of a Disney park…it’s hidden in the resorts sprawling around the park complex. If you really want amazing food, great service, and surprising diversity, leave the parks. And, in the process, you may find that you leave the crowds and the agenda-driven rush behind as well. Disney resort dining is, in my opinion, one of the great undiscovered gems of any vacation experience.
The hardest part for me, of course, is choosing which of the amazing options to share as the “best.” There are so many exemplary choices, each with its own benefits. But, in the interest of exposing a few hidden treasures and keeping the list manageable, I’ve decided to share a day’s selection – a favorite for breakfast, for lunch, and for dinner. Each restaurant name is linked to its official site & menu – go drool!
To start the adventure in resort dining, stop off at Kouzzina over at the Boardwalk. Operated under the aegis of former Iron Chef Cat Kora, Kouzzina showcases the chef’s signature blend of southern comfort food and Greek flavors. Dinner at the restaurant is special in its own right, but Kouzzina’s often overlooked breakfast is one of the two best options on property (the other is Boma, but if you want table service instead of buffet, Kouzzina is the best).
At breakfast, Kouzzina offers a delightful range of choices; there’s a traditional “American” breakfast for picky eaters, along with simple choices like granola or a platter of pastries from the adjacent Boardwalk Bakery. For me, though, the real star of the menu is the Stacked Kouzzina Breakfast. Prepared with the fresh, high quality ingredients that make Kouzzina’s food taste nothing like what you’d make at home (feta cheese has never been so creamy), the stacked breakfast features remarkably sweet olive toast, amazing house-made sausages, and a substance described as “artichoke spread” that is good enough to make you want to raid the kitchen for more.
Speaking of the kitchen, getting to watch breakfast being prepared in the huge, open kitchen is fun in itself. There’s something awe-inspiring (not to mention jealousy inducing) in watching the chefs expertly poach eggs in giant copper kettles of boiling water. Oh, and if you’re over the age of 21, there are also some spectacular beverages to start your day. While the mimosa and bloody Mary are nice, the Sunrise White Sangria is the perfect way to start your morning. Exactly balanced between sweet and tart, it can brighten any day.
Although few people take the option, getting out of the parks for lunch can be a smart choice. At the height of Florida heat, an hour or so out of the blistering sun can be rejuvenating beyond words. And, of course, adding some amazing food to the respite doesn’t hurt. Because fewer people leave the parks during the day, however, fewer restaurants outside the parks are open for lunch. There are a few great spots – The Wave, Kona Cafe, Whispering Canyon – but my favorite place to have lunch is one far too often overlooked: Sanaa at the Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Located in Kidani Village, the Disney Vacation Club area, at Animal Kingdom Lodge, most guests don’t even consider Sanaa as a dining choice. They’re missing out.
First of all, for those who are not DVC members, dining at Sanaa provides an opportunity to appreciate the beautiful architecture and comfort of Kidani Village. Set apart from the Lodge, the area shares Animal Kingdom Lodge’s dark woods and organic shapes; furthermore, it provides some stunning views of a different savannah hosting creatures including the shy Okapi.
Nestled on the bottom floor of Kidani Village, Sanaa offers a menu influenced by the flavors of Africa and India. Every meal is an adventure whether you choose the hearty, simple flavors of meat slow cooked in gravy or the more exotic flavors of other dishes. Among the joys of dining at Sanaa are the incredible wait staff. Unlike the cast members in many park restaurants, the staff at Sanaa have the time to explain every flavor on the menu and help guests choose what is right for their own palates.
Sanaa also offers some of my favorite desserts. Balanced and not all overly sweet, the desserts are a taste adventure…and the Chai Cream. Amazing.
Oh, and before we head off for dinner, there’s one other truly amazing thing you should know about Sanaa. I mentioned that the restaurant is located on the bottom floor of Kidani Village. That places it at the level of the savannah, and one entire wall is a glass observatory of the animals outside. Those creatures often wander directly outside the windows, and several birds and small antelope have actually learned to jump the barriers to come up to the windows and visit guests. There are few other places that offer that dining experience, and it makes a meal at Sanaa all that more special.
On a totally random note as well, the restrooms at Sanaa are the nicest I have encountered on property. Anywhere. They’re not as cool as the ones at T-Rex, but they’re quieter, prettier, and cleaner.
Choosing a favorite non-park location for dinner is tough; there are so many wonderful choices. But if I could dine anywhere, there’s one place that draws me back every time. Todd English’s BlueZoo at the Dolphin. Run by celebrity chef Todd English, the restaurant is special-occasion pricey, with dinner for two coming out over $200. But if you love good food and remarkable flavors, there’s no better place to eat at Walt Disney World.
BlueZoo is an adventure in the freshest, organic flavors. Every menu item is carefully prepared, and a meal here is an adventure for the taste buds. I’ve done a complete review of BlueZoo on the blog, but I cannot praise it highly enough. From the massive shellfish appetizer to the freshly made pasta and hand crafted truffles, BlueZoo is the best way to finish off a day at Disney. The menu varies based on whatever is in season, and no two visits are ever the same!
So next time you plan a trip to Disney property, don’t just plan your way through the park restaurants. Take the time to look at other options. You’ll get a chance to see some of Walt Disney World’s spectacular resorts, explore some of the amazing architecture and theming outside the parks. Many of the resort restaurants take DDP credits, and you’ll be sure to find lower crowds, more attentive servers, and a relaxed atmosphere that in-park dining often just cannot offer!
Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is Focused on the Magic.
Once you click the link, the page will open shortly. Please keep hands, eyes, and attention inside the blogorail at all times…
Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail Loop should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:
1st Stop ~ Disney on Wheels
2nd Stop ~ A Glass Slipper Vacation
3rd Stop ~ Your Highway in the Sky (You are here)
4th Stop ~ Focused on the Magic
Final Stop ~ Heidi’s Head