Eating Around The World – Walt Disney World That Is

Back in the day a visit to Walt Disney World theme parks meant eating snacks or a variation of fast food with only a couple of sit down venues. Today it’s a whole different story. If you count food stands, bars and lounges, food trucks, cafes, family style restaurants and fine dining you could stay at Disney World for almost a year and never eat at the same place twice. While I wouldn’t characterize the food as inexpensive, I will sing the praises of the general variety and quality. If you are looking for an in-depth look at eating the “World” there are a number of web sites dedicated to supplying just that information. The official Disney web site offers a complete listing along with price ranges and online menus.  The best, in our opinion, is The Disney Food Blog with trust worthy reviews and suggestions.

Disney Springs

We also have a few of our own favorites from numerous visits over the years and many of our picks vary by if we are dining with children or are going out for a special occasion.

One of our favorite overall selections is Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Our children have always liked this choice because all kids love a buffet and this features tastes of Africa. If the kids are picky eaters and won’t get into African fare there is also a section of kids usual favorites. If you are looking for a more formal atmosphere, again with a taste of Africa there is Jico, also in the Lodge. It features an extensive African wine list as well. If you are in the Animal Kingdom Park and are looking for a dinner choice Boma has a first cousin there called Tusker House with a similar menu but also often features Character dining.

Another buffet that’s a hit with the whole family is Cape May over at the Beach Club Resort in The Boardwalk area. It features all-you-can-eat seafood with a really good selection. Also in the Boardwalk neighborhood is the Big River Grill & Brewery, an independent restaurant featuring their own craft beers and American fare, like steaks, burgers and my favorite, meatloaf. Just a short walk away from the Boardwalk, in the Dolphin Hotel, is our number one pick for seafood at the World, Todd English’s Bluezoo. This is a pricey choice, but well worth the cost. While considering the Dolphin there is a low price gem tucked away in a corner of the hotel called Picabu Buffeteria. It is more of a snack bar than a restaurant but offers a selection of made-to-order tacos and burritos that are fantastic and surprisingly inexpensive.

A little hard to get to is Olivia’s Cafe, a casual restaurant in Disney’s Old Key West Resort. It offers comfort food dishes and a family atmosphere that feels relaxed and comfortable with a menu based around classic American fare. If you are lucky enough to be staying at Key West, don’t miss this gem.

Another upscale favorite of ours is Artist Point located in the Wilderness Lodge Resort. This restaurant features the food and flavors of the American Northwest. In our opinion, this is one of the most overlooked restaurants in the World. You can get to the Wilderness Lodge by catching a boat right outside the entrance to The Magic Kingdom which makes it easily reachable from the Contemporary, the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian resorts. If you are having last minute problems scoring a reservation at an upscale eatery, be sure and try this gem, it is usually available and you won’t be disappointed.

On the Boardwalk

A number of recent surveys have agreed on a few favorite restaurants inside Walt Disney World with the number one currently being Be Our Guest in The Magic Kingdom. Because of its popularity it is a very difficult reservation to get. Another top pick is ‘OHana at the Polynesian, offering pit cooked meats along with kid oriented entertainment. For pizza the winner is Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy with its coal fired ovens. The number one dinner show for well over forty years is the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness Resort campgrounds. It features classic barbeque with a great show along with a sing along.

Two areas of Disney World that deserve mentions on their own are Epcot and Disney Springs and we would refer you again over to the real experts .

Inside Epcot you can choose between over a dozen restaurants themed on foreign lands and we haven’t been disappointed yet. We have had great food at Norway, Japan, Germany, England and Mexico and haven’t scratched the surface. Our favorite pastries can be found down an alley at Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie at the France pavilion at Epcot. We have also heard rumors that the best steak in “the World” can be found in Canada at Le Cellier Steakhouse, though we haven’t tried it and they have some stiff competition including Don Shula’s at the Dolfin and The Yachtman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort.

In Disney Springs we have really enjoyed Morimoto Asia (not so much their street food outlet), House of Blues for good BBQ, Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Wolfgang Pucks but that only scratches the surface in this area.

One of our favorites at Disney Springs is Cooke’s of Dublin where you can get great fish n’ chips. Cooke’s is attached to Raglan Road which is more upscale but you can get a beer at the outside courtyard and go and order fish ‘n chips from Cooke’s and have it brought to you.

If you are a Florida Resident, Disney Vacation Club members or Annual Passholder you might consider Tables in Wonderland. It is a membership program with annual fees and each card is good for up to 10 guests with 20% off of all food and beverage purchases at participating Disney restaurants. That includes all Disney operated locations (except Victoria & Albert at the Grand Floridian) and most other on-property establishments but not all. Check out the current listing HERE. At 20% off it makes the cost of eating at Disney World a bit less outrageous.

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Eating the Florida Keys (Part 3)

Part Three – Restaurants in the Keys

The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys

Coming to the Keys most people are looking for Sun, sand and water with fresh seafood being a good expectation. Our suggestion is to approach Keys seafood with a simple rule – “the simpler, the better”. Florida’s waters are famous for Florida lobsters (also called spiny lobster or Caribbean lobster) crab, shrimp, grouper and dolphin, and on and on. No it is not the Flipper kind of dolphin but a name for a popular fish. Because of the name issue you will probably find it more often referred to by the Hawaiian name mahi-mahi but whatever you call it it is a beautiful mild-flavored white meat fish.  Most locals have favorite hangouts often with picnic tables on docks or decks, cold beer and fresh-caught fish on the grill. Maybe throw a lobster on the grill too or a bucket of peel-n-eat shrimp.

One problem is you will find a lot of good places to eat but unfortunately there are probably more mediocre to bad restaurants around. In the past we had come to believe that one of the problems is the tourist character of this chain of islands. With an estimated number of visitors to just Key West exceeding 2.5 million and a local population of under twenty-five thousand it isn’t hard to see where the foundation of the economy is. Generally, in the past, restaurants in the Keys were high priced with little dependence on return customers which is a terrible combination. Over the years we had developed our list of favorites with the majority being local places and a few with long histories and reputations.

On returning after over a decade we were hopeful that the internet had helped to fix this restaurant problem. In this modern age it is very difficult for even small restaurants to escape the comments of thousands of online reviewers. After a week of reading reviews and eating around the Keys we decided that, unfortunately, not much has changed. While you can find great seafood still you really need to know where to look, read reviews and ask locals for advice.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Lorilei’sa bar in Key West in Islamorada is another institution in the Keys and a favorite for watching sunsets.

Sid & Roxy’s Green Turtle Inn located in Islamorada has been a Keys institution forever. Sid and Roxy bought the place in 1947 and the current owners work hard at keeping up the reputation. The originator of Key Lime pie.

Herbie’s in Marathon has been in business forever and is a favorite with locals. There have been new owners for a few years but everyone says they’re doing a good job of keeping up the reputation. And don’t get put off by the outside appearance.

Hurricane HoleHurricane Hole bar & grill Key west is just north across the bridge going out of Key West on Stock Island. This is a typical Keys place on a marina with lots of outdoor tables. The food is fresh and good and the prices very friendly.

Ship Wreck Bar & Grill in Key Largo is a little off the beaten path but worth the look. Again this place is a solid favorite with locals and while a little unrefined serves good, fresh Keys seafood and cold beer. Enough said.

In Marathon is Sweet Savannah’s a bakery and ice cream shop. If you are looking for a great slice of Key Lime pie – this is the place. An award winner for five years. 8919 Overseas Hwy, Marathon, FL 33050

Island Fish CompanyIsland Fish Company in Marathon was just an open-air Tiki Hut on the water a decade or so ago. Even then they grilled up some good, fresh seafood at reasonable prices and featured live music in the evenings. We were amazed how they had grown since our last visit. You can’t do that unless you’re doing something right.

Islamorada Fish Company

Islamorada Fish Company, like the Island Fish Company started out by just open-air grilling fresh seafood out on the docks. A while ago the got a new neighbor, Outdoor World, that started bringing in traffic and their business exploded. Now they are all grown-up, were taken over by Outdoor World and have over a dozen locations around the country. They still serve solid seafood.

Sloppy JoesKey West is ground zero for good restaurants in the Keys and you could spend a couple of weeks eating out and still have more to try. Like the Keys in general, some of the best food in Key West is served thru a window and enjoyed at a picnic table so keep that in mind as you decide where to eat.

Conch Republic SeafoodConch Republic Seafood Company in Key West is a good choice for seafood and at a good price. While it is a favorite with the tourists and the waterfront location offers good scenery it is still a solid choice.  Tip: The happy hour buy one get one beer tokens don’t have to be used on the same day.

Champers Barbados – Great Food, Great Scenery

On a trip this December we passed through Barbados and met up with some old friends. We joined them for lunch at Champers, one of our preferred restaurants on the island. Barbados is a favorite destination of ours and is particularly well known for the quality of its’ restaurants.

Champers is located on Skeetes Hill near Rockley Beach on the south coast, and rests on a point with commanding views of the sea and beach. Sitting on the main floor deck looking out at white

Champers main floor deck

sand, palm trees and ten shades of turquoise water you just know you are in paradise. The restaurant features great food, spectacular views and a very attentive staff, and you just can’t do much better for an elegant dinner or lunch while on the island.

We’ve never had a bad experience at Champers and this time was no exception. When in Barbados it’s a tradition to have flying fish, which I had

(fried with caper dressing) along with an appetizer of coconut shrimp with chili sauce, and both were excellent. Lunch was finished with an excellent warm bread pudding. My wife had West Indian shrimp curry with jasmine rice and grilled vegetables, also outstanding.

We were lucky enough to finish that day sitting on the porch of our friend’s house out at The Crane sipping famous Bajan Rum Punch.

Barbados Rum Punch Recipe:
  1. One part Sour (fresh squeezed lime juice*)
  2. Two parts Sweet (Demerara sugar**)
  3. Three parts Strong (Barbados Rum (Our preference is Mt. Gay Extra Old))
  4. Four parts Weak (Water)

Mix well and add a few drops of Angostura bitters. Pour over ice and add a bit of fresh grated nutmeg to each glass when serving

* Mexican or Key limes are preferred.

**Demerara is a type of raw cane sugar that has a large grain, hard texture, with a pale brown color. A substitute If you don’t have Dmerara sugar on hand, is to use an equal amount of granulated sugar and light brown sugar in its’ place.

Out-Of-The-Way Find at Disney World

Mexican Food at Picabu Taqueria

We have a secret when eating at Walt Disney World. Hidden in the lower level of the Dolphin Hotel in the Boardwalk resort area is the Picabu Taqueria. Looking like a snack bar – fast food venue the Taqueria custom builds some of the best tacos you’ll find anywhere. Featuring grilled skirt steak, fresh fish, pork carnitas and Adobo chicken with a large selection of add-ins in either hard or soft taco shells. Three large tacos for around $10.00 and well worth every penny. They also offer Burritos and Bowls. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Open for both lunch and dinner you do have to seek this place out. The Dolphin is easily reached from the Boardwalk area and is only a short walk from the second entrance at Epcot or a walk down a canal from Disney Studios. Come in the main doors at the lower level of the hotel and take the hall to the left.

If you are a guest at a Disney resort you will have to bring cash or a credit card as the Swan and Dolphin are not part of the Magic Band system.

 

 

In Charleston Pearlz for Happy Hour

Pearlz got our attention with their happy hour offerings. While they have locations in several cities the one in Charleston is located on East Bay south of Market Street in a cluster of restaurants, galleries and shops. It is a small but popular restaurant featuring a happy hour menu that includes bar snacks that you can make a meal and good drink prices. $4 house wines and a mixed drink called a Precious Pearlz Draft made with Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, Elderflower Syrup, Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, Seasonal Fruit, Cannonborough Honey-Basil Soda. They also feature PBR all the time for only $1.50. We had Southern fried oysters with bleu cheese dressing which were some of the best we’ve ever had and came with a hot sauce that was near perfection. We also had Fish Tacos which were very good and a plate of some of the biggest Peel n Eat Shrimp we’ve ever seen. Needless to say, that was our dinner.

Two Restaurants in Bangkok

ESS – Eat Sight Story (Asian Fusion Restaurant in Bangkok) 

The central attraction in Bangkok is the Grand Palace and Grounds featuring many temples, palaces and a museum. To do it right, the area is worth most of a day and that means at least finding a place to sit down and have lunch. If you are in the area near Wat Pho (Giant Buddha) a good choice for lunch is Eat Sight Story. The restaurant is on the Chao Praya River across from Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) with a deck featuring tables, umbrellas and great views. To find it, go down Tha Tian Alley towards the river from Maha Rat Road, south of the Naval Welfare Department.

In addition to the deck overlooking the river, ESS has tables inside along with a small air conditioned dining room. The staff is friendly and efficient and, while not inexpensive, the food is very good. The afternoon we visited, we had curried beef, Pad Thai, grilled chicken skewers with rice and cold Thai beer and were very pleased with our selections. Based on other meals we ate in Thailand we believe that their offerings are toned down some to appeal to western tastes.

The Beer Bridge (A Gastro Pub in Bangkok)

The Beer Bridge was located just down the street from our hotel in the The Portico Building, 31 Langsuan, Ploenchit Rd., Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok. The Beer Bridge is a modern eatery in an upscale neighborhood just a block away from Central Chidlom, Bangkok’s largest department store and near a number of major hotels.

They offered a wide selection of beers (local and imported) along with a nice wine list, cocktails and typical pub food. We ordered an appetizer which turned out to be the tiniest Buffalo chicken wings we’ve every eaten. But, after a long and warm day walking around Bangkok, The Beer Bridge provided exactly what we needed – really cold beer and some western familiarity.

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