Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Triumphant Return!

The Tofu Muchacha and I have made our Disney World reservations for our next visit. It's still a long way away.... 4 more months. So long that I'm almost embarrased to be as excited for it as I am. It would be like an 8 year old being excited for their wedding.

I've promised myself to be a little staid in regards to my Disney Trip blogs until the trip gets closer, but in honor of our wonderful, upcoming travels to The Happiest Place on Earth, I've decided to a list of my top 5 favorite restaurants at Disney World (a topic requested by The Tofu Muchacha, who is WAY more excited about the trip than she is letting on.)

So, here we go... Instead of ranking them, I'm going to give you my winner in each of five categories.

The Beefy Muchacho's Five Favorite Disney World Restaurants:

Favorite Resort Restaurant:

Boma at The Animal Kingdom Lodge. I first tried this place kind of on a whim when I was in Orlando for work, and I turned my 1 day work thing into a 4 day trip to Disney. I was by myself, and didn't have a time-table, so I drove my rental car over to the newly opened Animal Kingdom Lodge. After wandering around for a while, I made my way down the stairs where the two restaurants, Jiko and Boma are located. I looked at the prices at Jiko, and headed right in to Boma. Boma is an African-cuisine inspired buffet, and it is really freakin' incredible. The food quality is comparable to a high-end buffet you'd find at The Bellagio or The Wynn in Vegas, and the food itself is really unique and really delicious. In fact, I've requested 3 recipes at Disney World ever, and 2 of them came from Boma. This delicious soup called Mulligatawny (which isn't just a joke on The Soup Nazi episode of Seinfeld), and this peanut butter rice dish. Crazy good. It's good enough that I plan on enticing The TM to get over her anti-Buffet sentiments (if only for a night) and try it out. I haven't been there in a couple of visits.

Favorite Restaurant Theming (non-chain)

Sci-Fi Dine-in at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Let be honest... the food at the Sci-Fi Dine-in is mediocre. The burgers are good, but not great. The fries are good, but not great. The seating is odd, and the wait-times are legendarily bad. BUT... that doesn't take away from one of the coolest restaurant themes anywhere. You walk through the doors, and you're transported back into the 1950s Drive-in Culture. Your dinner tables are all situated inside of 1950s era cars. All of the seats face the movie screen, and the screen shows a long and amusing loop of the old, terrible sci-fi movie trailers of the time. The seats aren't particularly comfortable, but man, is that place fun to sit in for an hour, of the hot air, and sipping on truly average milkshake. I can tell you that I've visited it several times over my visits and not once has it been for the food. But it IS worth a visit. By the way, I had to make this a "non-chain" category, because The Rainforest Cafe wins every day.

Favorite Restaurant View

The Coral Reef at Epcot. While not exactly a traditional view, the scenery here is so spectacular that I had to count this as the best restaurant view in all of Walt Disney World. It's fairly unexpected when you walk in, as it just seems like you're going into this luminescent cavern. Cool sounding enough, I know... but it doesn't prepare you for the actual vista Disney lays out before you... A giant wall of glass, and beyond it an amazing, enormous aquarium of fish and coral and turtles and all kinds of amazing sea creatures. The dining room is laid out like one of those old school cabana clubs, with the tables lined up in semi circles around a proscenium stage, only instead of a stage there's this amazing fish tank. Maybe I was spoiled since my first visit ever to the Coral Reef featured this awesome view:

Favorite Place to Crash Without Reservations**

The Rainforest Cafe in Downtown Disney. Look... I've never made a secret about loving my Rainforest Cafe. It's a guilty pleasure, I know. But then, I think one of the things that has always made me go back is that while it's usually a total, freaky madhouse with hundreds of families all gorging themselves and lining up around the block to get a table, the Rainforest Cafe has this awesome bar under a giant mushroom (don't judge), and there are almost always seats to be had with no wait whatsoever. To give you an idea of how awesome that is... Disney lets you make dinner reservations 180 days in advance of your trip. I, being the totally insane lunatic I am, called on that exact date to make our reservations. This of course requires me to know exactly where we're going each day of the trip six months ahead of time, but there it is. So anyway, as I went through and made each of our reservations, I was able to get just about all of the ones I wanted, at the times I wanted. It was awesome. The ONLY restaurant that was fully booked up was the Rainforest Cafe at Downtown Disney. And yet, I did not fret. I knew I would be able to eat at my favorite chain restaurant of all time, thanks to that good old bar under that big-ass mushroom.

** The only caveat is that you really can't rely on this for more than 2 people, unless you're willing to sit apart.

Favorite Restaurant, Overall

This is a tough one. I have been so many times, and tried so many places. It's difficult to choose a single place that best sums up all of the things I look for in a Disney Restaurant. The food has to be good. The setting has to be unique. It has to evoke a memory or three that probably blurs my judgement a little.

All of the restaurants listed above could be contenders. Boma is an incredible place with incredible food, and I even have some great memories there. I've even requested recipies from there (and tried one, though it was difficult to follow). Sci-Fi is probably the most fun in terms of setting, but as I mentioned above, the food is just okay. Rainforest's food and theme are great, but I don't think I could really give the title to a chain, no matter how much I love it. The Coral Reef... probably has the best shot at the title... The food is great, the setting is beautiful, and maybe best of all, I spent my one and only visit there with my love, the amazing Tofu Muchacha. I can't deny that I'm tempted to call it the winner...

And maybe it's just that my all time favorite restaurant at Disney is the only one I can ever remember closing, but I may never have another Alfredo's. The now gone Italian place in Epcot that I spent some awesome times with Tofu Madrastra (Step mom), who may love Disney almost as much as me. It's a tough place to replace, and I don't know that a clear answer has shown itself yet.

So... I'm going to say that for now, my favorite is The San Angel Inn, located in the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot.

Kind of out of left field, right? Well...

Food: Outstanding. More authentic than almost any Mexican food that you'll find anywhere in America outside of the far South West, but not so authentic that you worry you're possibly eating roasted ant eggs or goat (though, goat is, admittedly, delicioso!).

Setting: Pretty much the most visually stunning of all the Epcot country pavilions, and the restaurant has the best seats for the view.

Memories: Well... It doesn't necessarily stand out more than The Coral Reef, but I gave it the victory in this category, because the TM and I love us some Mexican food. I have been thinking about writing reviews of local Mexican restaurants because we try so many.

Maybe my reasons are lame for this last one... I wonder if it's because in the end, I really am always holding out hope that the next visit to Disney will help me discover my new favorite place to replace good old Alfredo's.

Later this week (hopefully): The Best Unintentionally Scary Places at Disney World.