My Mum had two things on her wish list for the trip, meeting Tinker Bell and visiting the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The Grand Floridian has a slew of dining options but we opted for the Grand Floridian Cafe for a casual, relatively quiet dinner experience.
We had a 5:30pm reservation and the foyer outside the restaurant was absolutely deserted when we arrived. The inside of the restaurant was no different and there were four cast members waiting to check us in and show us to our table.
We were seated near the front of the restaurant (with all our friends) and it was freezing. I'm used to needing lots of layers with the air conditioning at Walt Disney World being set to sub-zero but this was worse than normal. Every time someone opened the exterior foyer door we were hit with a blast of freezing cold air. I'd make a point to ask for a table further in next time if I'm visiting in the cooler months.
As with all our meals we started with drinks and that meant cocktails for my Mum and Sam. They opted to try some of the restaurant's specialty cocktails, including the Grand Colada pictured above (blend of pineapple, coconut, Jamaican Rum, & Blue Curacao)
and the Key West (frozen blend of pureed strawberries, orange juice laced with rum). Sam much preferred her Yak Attack from our earlier visit to Yak & Yeti. The men stuck with beers, opting to try Bear Republic Racer 5 India Pale Ale. I think by this stage they were aiming for a different beer at each restaurant, the stronger the better! I stuck with boring Coke Zero.
Bread service included sourdough rolls and a multi-grain fruit loaf maybe. Bread in the US is often very sweet and whilst I expect and appreciate that from my beloved corn bread I easily tire of it when I'm expecting plain old regular bread. I could have eaten the basket of sourdough rolls for my dinner, they were very nice as far as bread goes and not at all sweet. I don't think any of us ate the fruit loaf.
Apparently Sam and Josh didn't eat enough at Yak & Yeti for lunch, so they decided to share the Shrimp Cocktail appetiser to begin the meal.
My Mum opted for the Caramelised Onion Soup and was very happy with the choice. So excited in fact that she couldn't even wait for me to take a photo before she dug in!
LJ started with his dessert first, a fruit plate of which I think he only ate the grapes, he loves Disney's grapes. He did also have the kid's salmon but for some reason I don't have a shot of that, I'm guessing the food monster attached it too quickly. The rest of us decided that an entree (aka main) was plenty and skipped the appetisers.
The sustainable catch of the day was salmon and three of us ordered this. It was quite tasty and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It had some type of soy based sauce.
Sam had the Grand Floridian Burger, which is really quite fancy - Angus chuck burger, buttered poached lobster with red onion marmalade, crispy prosciutto and arugula on a Brioche bun. She quickly discovered her eyes were bigger than her stomach and ended up sharing her chips around the table. Note, the potato chips pictured above are referred to as simply chips in the States. The alternative is of course fries.
Jim went with the New York Strip Steak, a nice safe choice that he enjoyed (although he basically loves any and all meat).
Here's a shot of Josh lamenting the fact that he started eating before I got a photo of his dish.
And here's the resulting photo of his partially eaten Shrimp & Grits. He really liked this dish and was determined to finish it despite being full.
This is a very average photo but my reasoning for skipping an appetiser was all about this beauty, the dessert sampler. It includes a fresh berry tart, boston cream pie, key lime tart, lemon cheesecake and dark chocolate Mickey Mouse. This is designed as being a dish for two, so I somehow managed to convince Josh to split it with me. Josh's favourite was the lemon cheesecake, mine the fruit tart.
Mum ordered a cappuccino and hated it, she would recommend not repeating her mistake of ordering this. She isn't a super fussy coffee drinker either. She'd been living on instant coffee in the villa of a morning, so her dislike of this is saying a lot.
This meal actually took us a little while, so the empty restaurant was good considering LJ wanted to get out of his high chair and stretch after a while. Our server mentioned bringing him some ice cream but he couldn't have that because of the dairy, so she found him some gummy worms and brought them out in a little bowl for him. It was the first time he'd eaten lollies and I don't think he stopped to chew them. It was very thoughtful of the server considering everyone else at the table was still eating or drinking.
This meal cost just over $280 including tax but not a tip. That includes two alcoholic beverages per drinker, without those it would have been closer to $200. My Mum had a glass of wine after her cocktail and it was the most expensive beverage of the night at $11 a glass before tax. As a comparison, Sam's Key West cocktail was only $8.50 before tax. Not taking the alcohol into consideration, the meal isn't bad value but the servings aren't as big as some other places we visited.
If you're looking for an excuse to visit the Grand Floridian Resort without spending a bomb on a meal, this is a great option. The menu is a little limited and may not be the greatest option for fussy eaters but they seemed to be fine with substitutions (my Dad had fries with his salmon). The restaurant is probably the least busy of the options here, as most families visiting the resort do so for dinner with Cinderella and her family. It's definitely not on our must do list every trip but it's a good option if you're staying in the Magic Kingdom area and looking for options on the monorail. Our server here, Karima, was the most attentive of any we encountered. She really seemed to enjoy engaging with us and returned regularly to check on us. The empty restaurant obviously facilitated this but she definitely stood out in our mind as an exceptional cast member.
On a different note, at the end of each day I would ask my family for a comment about the day. On this evening, Josh declared that he really liked having early dinners, even though he was worried when he first heard that we would be eating at 5:30pm each day. He liked that he had plenty of time for the enormous amount of food to digest before going to bed, but beating the crowds to the restaurants and not having to wait to be seated was another perk he had come to appreciate even more!