Perched atop the A-frame of the Contemporary Resort just outside the Magic Kingdom, the California Grill is truly a restaurant like no other. It happens to be a personal favorite of mine thanks to its eclectic menu, innovative chefs and spectacular views.
As you arrive at the Contemporary Resort and make your way up to the 2nd floor, you are warmly greeted by the hostess. Hopefully you’ve made your Advance Dining Reservations, as it can become a challenge to secure a spot at the California Grill, especially during ‘peak’ times of year, and even peak hours…but more on that in a bit. Once checked in, you are taken via private elevator to the 14th floor and the main dining room high above the Magic Kingdom and Bay Lake.
After taking in the views from the large floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the landscape, as well as the ‘contemporary’ look of your environment (not to mention the bustling open kitchen with chefs and kitchen staff preparing the delicious meals), you are escorted to your table and can begin to look over the menu and extensive wine list. An array of wines from across the globe is offered, though many California wineries are highlighted for obvious reasons.
The menu features many varieties of fare and does change weekly thanks to the Grill using many different types of foods based on season. A signature menu item that certainly gets your meal off on the right foot is the delicious flatbreads, which I highly recommend. A variety of sushi offerings also begins the menu. First and main courses vary, but expect an innovative mix of American-infused combinations as well as a twist on your traditional soups and salads, chicken, fish and beef.
Desserts (my favorite part) are consistent with what you would see from any of the more feature dining offerings in Walt Disney World, but the presentation of these dishes is extraordinary! Expect a variety of cakes, coffee drinks, and other sweets. A number of dessert wines and spirits are also available as you unwind from your dining experience.
One of the best parts about dining at the California Grill, being that you are seemingly soaring over the Magic Kingdom, is the view. By evening, however, that view is ‘plussed’, as Walt Disney would term it, as the Wishes nighttime spectacular lights up the evening sky…and you have a front row seat! Don’t be alarmed if you don’t happen to have a table right up against the glass windows though, as all guests of the California Grill (regardless of your reservation time that day) are allowed access to an observation walkway where not only can you view the fireworks over Cinderella Castle, but the music is piped into the dining area and walkway as well. (For the foreseeable future, the Summer Nightastic Fireworks Show has replaced Wishes, and is sure to not only equal the excitement of Wishes, but with perimeter fireworks added throughout the park, perhaps eclipse it!)
The California Grill is not a value option by any stretch when it comes to dining at Walt Disney World, where starters can range from $10-$20 and main courses can be anywhere from $25-$50. Add in a glass of wine or two and dessert (or two) and this can certainly add up. However, the quality and variety of food, the service and Disney magic, not to mention the prime viewing of Magic Kingdom’s fireworks make this a dining experience that you won’t soon forget and will continue to return to upon future visits. If you happen to be dining with the Disney Dining Plan, the California Grill is considered a ‘Signature’ dining option, and thus requires 2 table service credits.
Overall, the California Grill is an amazing and unique dining experience, and although costly, will make your unforgettable Disney vacation that much more so.
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