Last we broke the Disney fast, I was regaling you with tales and blurry photos of the equally blurry, margarita-enhanced evening we spent drinking and dining our way through Epcot, and before that, two stupendous feasts at our favourite Magic Kingdom restaurant, Be Our Guest. I mentioned in my last post that my husband and I were fortunate enough to enjoy fantastic meals virtually every time we put fork to plate, a complete rarity when you’re on holiday. There’s always inevitably that one meal where afterwards you think to yourself, “I really wish I hadn’t wasted my money and calories on that.” Also, vacation food – particularly theme park vacation food – is frequently terrible. But save maybe one or two snacks that didn’t quite live up to the hype (Dole Whip, what weird animal are you anyways?) we enjoyed some wonderful – and wonderfully delicious – meals. Here are three more of my favourite dining experiences.
Midday Break at Gaston’s Tavern
Yes, that is Mr. Finger Candy, just sitting there in a tri-cornered pirate hat, unironically. As you do. 😉
No trip to the Magic Kingdom would be complete without a stop at Gaston’s Tavern. I love this charming little spot; tucked into a nook between Be Our Guest and Journey of the Little Mermaid, it’s typically quite quiet, even during the busy midday rush (I say “typically,” as Christmas morning the 50-strong lineup stretched clear across the bridge.) LeFou’s Brews are the non-alcoholic specialty of the house, a sweet-and-sour concoction of frozen apple juice and fruity, foamy topping. They are sooo yummy; a lighter, more refreshing alternative to lemonade.
But on the subject of the man after which the tavern is named, I regret to inform you that the big, throbbing tool was once again absent. We are now 0-4 on meeting Gaston, and to be honest with you, my feelings are a little hurt. I’ve now traveled all the way from the Canadian wilderness to France (by way of Orlando) twice, I’ve visited his tavern – scene of the rehashing of all his greatest victories – four times, and I was deeply sympathetic upon discovering that his absence our first day was due to his need to nurse his emotional injuries following a humiliating trouncing at arm wrestling (so we were informed by a bemused cast member.) But to leave me hanging four times in a row? Why, Gaston, that’s positively primeval. All the same, I still struck a fetching pose outside by the fountain bearing his bulgy likeness.
Dinner at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe
Hands down, this was the most fun I’ve ever had while dining. Possibly some of the most fun I’ve had EVER, actually!
A meal at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe is a bit like 1950s LARP-ing, with pot roast! After checking in with an earnest-looking young man in a crisp soda jerk uniform, we were invited to take a load off in Dad’s adjacent rumpus room while Mom put the finishing touches on our meal. We were ambling about the lounge gawping at all the linoleum, naughyde and zebra print – and at this time of year, silver tinsel – when an older gentleman dressed like every photo of my grandfather ever stepped forward and barked, “FINGER CANDY KIDS! Finger Candy kids, put your toys away, wash up and get inside, it’s time for dinner!” As we followed our Pops-for-the-night through the restaurant, which is sort of laid out like the world’s largest, most ambling mid-century bungalow, I could hardly tear my eyes away from my surroundings. The entire place is an absolute marvel of 1950s design; I could have spent hours just walking around, taking in every last harvest gold canister, blown glass ashtray or rabbit ear’d TV.
Upon being seated in what I think was the breakfast nook, we were introduced to our waiter (an “exasperated” baby-sitter type who immediately dubbed us Uncle and the Princess) and another table of heretofore unknown relations. We were also reminded of the house rules, which include such tidbits of mannerly wisdom as “Hey kids, no lids!” and “No elbows on the table,” which is helpfully printed on the top of the menu. Here is my husband flouting both of those rules simultaneously, which prompted our waiter to swing by, tap his arm and say, “The only elbows allowed on this table are the ones in the macaroni.” Busted!
Also, someone has clearly never heard of the “snitches get stitches” edict, because here’s my beloved attempting to rat me out for taking pictures with my phone (which I had hidden under a stack of napkins! Modern tech is not verboten at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, but you will get some righteous, all-in-good-fun crap from your distant relations about your reliance on modern conveniences.) 😉
Dinner itself was way, way yummier than I was expecting. It has been my unfortunate experience that these sorts of themed restaurants often trade style for substance – I’ve had some seriously dodgy (and expensive) meals from a number of places that have prioritized their memorabilia collections over the food served therein (Planet Hollywood and any and all Hard Rocks, I’m looking at you.) But dinner at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe was the perfect combination of both kitsch and delish. My pot roast was a particular standout, and who’s going to say no to a neon purple cocktail? Not the Princess!
Ordering that drink actually led to some amazing interactions with our waiter and our getting-larger-by-the-moment extended family. Dropping my glow cube-enhanced cocktail off at the table, our waiter announced to the room at large, “Look out, cousins, Princess found the keys to Dad’s liquor cabinet!” I assured him that I could hold my own (this was pre-Epcot, and what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him!) and he responded by going over to a girl with purple hair the next table over and remarking, “No, seriously, drink too many of those and your hair will actually turn this colour.” Ha! My husband responded by pointing to his own, ah, follicly-challenged head and said, “Yeah, and if you work too hard, THIS is what will happen to your hair.” That prompted a huge round of guffaws, and an appreciative slap on the back from our waiter, who said, “Listen to Uncle here, kids – he is laying down some TRUTHS.” Oh my gosh, so good, we’d go back in a heartbeat. I walked out of there with a giant smile on my face and a happy tummy full of great comfort food – can you ask for anything more?
Bar Dinner at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’
The last night of our vacation we stumbled back to our resort following a 12-hour day at the Animal Kingdom. After having hurt the top of my right foot on Christmas Day (17 hours at the Magic Kingdom will do that to a person) I was actually beginning to question whether my ultra tender tootsie was just flat out broken. But following a change of footwear and a quick freshening-up, I rallied hard, hobbling and wobbling my way to Disney Springs for one last dinner at our favourite Florida restaurant, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’.
Which was, of course, packed. Not too surprising given this cozy restaurant’s popularity and the deep chill just beginning to creep into the night air – Homecomin’s scrumptious Southern cuisine really beckons during the colder winter months. Without a reservation, we were looking at something like an hour and 10-minute wait for a table. So we pulled up a couple of seats at the gigantic wooden bar, ordered two (later four) fairly lethal moonshine cocktails and some accompanying vittles, and spent an amazing couple of hours watching the bar staff dazzle us with their mastery of the alcoholic arts. At one point I looked up to see the head bartender muddle some fruit with his left hand, pour two pints with his right, turn off the taps with the side of his head, all whilst kicking something into a ground level garbage can. It was fairly incredible – Cocktail out in the real world.
And not for nothing, but the drinks were won-der-ful – unique, deftly layered cocktails brimming with high octane, house-made ‘shine. My husband’s Apple Pie a la Mode tasted like liquid gold – the perfect festive toast on which to end a Christmastime vacation. My Berry Lavender was flat out spectacular. I’d seriously drink a barrel of this rosemary and lavender-infused gem, it was that great. Wowzers, what a cocktail! And so delicious alongside Church Lady Deviled Eggs, Thigh High Chicken biscuits and Momma’s Mac and Cheese. I’m so glad we somehow found the energy to go to Homecomin’ for one last special meal; it was a truly wonderful one.
In conclusion, food is good and we ate a lot of it! But more than that, we’ve returned home, having enjoyed an embarrassment of perfect dining experiences, with tons of fun memories…and plans for next time. This could be very dangerous! But at least we know it’ll absolutely be delicious. 🙂