This past weekend I had the opportunity to eat at one of my favorite restaurants on Walt Disney World Property at Citricos. Located in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Citricos is a signature restaurant with a focus on Mediterranean influence. I have eaten here at least 5 – 10 times over the past five years or so and it is consistently in my top five Disney restaurants. I previously wrote about it here when talking about my favorite restaurants.
The restaurant is located on the second floor of the Grand Floridian and is decorated in soft yellow and orange tones that invite guests to enter. Citricos shares a lobby with Victoria & Albert’s, the resort’s Five Diamond fine dining establishment. Inside Citricos there is a small lounge open to the restaurant, as is the kitchen, which always makes for fun dining to be able to see the chefs hard at work right before your eyes.
My friends and I arrived about half an hour before our scheduled reservation time, but since it was relatively slow, we were seated almost immediately in Citricos. The table we were lead to by the greeter was all the way in the back of the restaurant by the bank of windows facing the Magic Kingdom. We had a fantastic view of Cinderella Castle from our table for Wishes!
We started off each with an appetizer to begin our meal. I opted for the Ashley Farms Chicken B’steeya at the recommendation of a friend. It was almost like a version of baklava with chicken and almonds, a little sweet with the orange blossom honey, but very tasty. Shelley had the Crispy Fried Yellow and Buffalo Mozzarella, which was somewhat like a deconstructed Caesar salad. She said the sweet flavors of the heirloom tomatoes were well complemented by the bitter romaine and strong garlic of the dressing. Dave ordered the Panada, which one or two of us couldn’t help calling Panda and saying we didn’t want to eat our dear friend John. It was fantastic! The slow-cooked beef and pork are spiced with a tamarind sauce and then baked in phyllo.
For entrees we each chose something that wouldn’t necessarily be our go to item on the menu to live dangerously. Shelley was craving beef, so she order the Oak-grilled Filet of Beef, which had fantastic accompaniments of Yukon Gold Potato and Peppadew Peppers. She said it was a good cut of meat, but a little bland for her taste and felt it could have been seasoned a bit more, but the cabernet demi-glace did help. Dave opted for the Madeira-braised Short Ribs with Hominy-Cheddar Potato Puree and Wild Mushroom Ragout, which is my go to entree at Citricos. I went out on a limb and got the Berkshire Pork Two Ways with Rotisserie Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Pork Belly, Brentwood Farms Corn Bred, Rainbow Swiss Chard, Green Apple and Cipplolini Onion Chutney. I am not usually a fan of pork, but thought I’d give it a shot. Dave was having buyer’s remorse, so we ended up actually switching our entrees after trying the ones we originally ordered. This ended up working out perfectly as we were both much happier with what the other got.
Dessert was served just moments before Wishes started! Dave chose the Tiramisu, which he said was incredible. Shelley got the Tasting of Gelato, which is typically served with vanilla, cappuccino and raspberry, but she substituted the cappuccino for a second vanilla. I ordered the Granny Smith Green Apple Sorbet since I didn’t want anything creamy. This was amazing! It was like biting into a freshly frozen green apple and was served with strawberries and blueberries. Our view for the fireworks was awesome, only to be rivaled by the incredible service from our server Kierra.
All in all, this was yet another fantastic dining experience at Citricos. I cannot recommend this restaurant enough if you are looking for a nice meal outside the parks at Walt Disney World. I have learned I need to order the short ribs pretty much every time unless I opt for one of the phenomenal seafood dishes, which makes me lament the demise of the Gateau of Crab that used to be my favorite appetizer here. Have you been to Citricos recently? What did you order? Please let me know what your thoughts were.
We haven’t really focused much on food specifically and thought it was about time we explored this huge part of most guest’s Walt Disney World vacations. Dining in the parks and at the resorts ranges from Uncrustables to hot dogs, sandwiches and other typical park fare like burgers and fries to some of the finest dining in the world. Today I wanted to share with you some of my favorite signature restaurants at WDW. If you have a Tables in Wonderland membership you are able to save 20% (with an automatic 18% gratuity added back in) at these restaurants. The other great feature of the TiW card is that it allows you complimentary valet parking at the Disney resorts with validation showing you used your Tables card on your dinner receipt.
5. Todd English’s Bluezoo (Walt Disney World Dolphin) The restaurant sits on the lower level of the Dolphin at the bottom of the escalator. The decor reminds me of an upscale club or bar, but more subdued with subtle lighting and lots of blue accents. I’ve only been here once back in November of 2009, but the food was fabulous. My mom and my brother treated me to dinner for my 30th birthday, and it was amazing. The seafood seemed so fresh and the service was great. We started the night off with the zooberry (a twist on the blueberry martini). They were so fresh the perfect way to begin our meal. We shared the beet salad and the classico flatbread for appetizers. For an entree I had the teppan seared jumbo sea scallops, which were magnificent and perfectly cooked. The dessert was a lemon meringue pavlova and was complimentary for my birthday, which made it taste even better.
4. Flying Fish (Disney’s Boardwalk Inn) Situated on the Boardwalk, Flying Fish is decorated with whimsical fish flying through the air with parachutes. The resort’s atmosphere reflecting early 20th century seaside fun with rollercoasters and ferris wheels is carried through the restaurant as well. The first time I experienced the restaurant it was August of 2009, and more recently I returned in February of this year. So, the two times I’ve been here I ordered the same exact things for appetizer and entree and was so full that I didn’t get dessert. The cheese platter changes in the featured cheeses, but was great both times. I guess I really like the scallops in the Epcot Resort area because I have ordered the oak-grilled Maine diver scallops each time. Scallops aren’t even my favorite seafood, but I absolutely love them from here.
3. Citrico’s (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa) Featuring a Mediterranean theme, Citrico’s is located on the second floor of the Grand Floridian between Mizner’s and Victoria & Albert’s. The decor and the menu reflect the influences of Italy and Greece and are both aesthetically and gastronomically pleasing. Of the restaurants on my top five list, this is the one I have been to the most, having been more than five times, and most recently in the beginning of March. Each time I have been the food has been absolutely fabulous. One of my favorite seasonal appetizers, which they didn’t have this last time, was the gateau of crab. This past time we had a nice cheese and cracker amuse bouche to start our palates on our dining adventure. I tried something new for my entree and was not the least bit disappointed. The Madeira-braised short ribs were so tender, they were falling apart. Wild mushroom ragout and trofie pasta accompany the short ribs along with a truffle creme fraiche. For dessert I did repeat one of my favorites in the seasonal berry gratin with a champagne – Grand Marnier sabayon. It was just as incredible as when I had first had it in November of 2010.
2. Jiko – The Cooking Place (Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge) This is the restaurant I have honestly been craving the most above all others on property. I love the atmosphere here with the gorgeous blue ceiling, setting sunset and beautiful (fake) birds flying overhead. It is an eclectic menu and I like to try different things each time I go. The first time I went was in July of 2008, when I first stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. I remember having the ostrich filet as an appetizer and the Kenyan coffee barbecue braised short ribs (another favorite of mine apparently). They were both so tender and falling apart in my mouth as I took each bite. On subsequent visits I have had the Taste of Africa bread and dipping sauce service, kalamata olive flatbread, duck and stonefruit salad, oak grilled filet mignon with mac and cheese, and seared barbarie duck breast. I can say that each of the three times I’ve been, the last time being in November of 2010, the service and the quality of the food have been nothing short of fantastic.
1. Victoria & Albert’s (Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa) Ah, la creme de la creme. Victoria & Albert’s is a 13 time AAA Five Diamond award winning restaurant. I’ve only been here once, and would love to go back if someone else is paying. This is not to say that the price isn’t worth it (I want to say it was about $475 for two with the wine pairing and gratuity included AFTER my Tables in Wonderland discount), it is. I’d just prefer to have someone else pay, and I’d like to do chef’s table next time. But I digress. This meal is easily within my top five, if not top three meals I’ve ever eaten. The service was beyond impeccable. Situated on the second floor of the Grand Floridian, Victoria & Albert’s is hidden behind large wooden doors with frosted windows. The decor is a refined elegance not to be found elsewhere at a Disney restaurant. It is one of only a few Five Diamond restaurants in the state of Florida. I went with my mom for my 29th birthday present in 2008 and it was an incredible dining experience. There were amuse bouche, palate cleansers, about seven courses, coffee, dessert, and the aforementioned wine pairing to go with each course. This is most definitely a culinary experience, not simply a meal. You need every bit of the three plus hours they warn you about when you book. One of my favorite aspects of the pre-arrival communications with the restaurant is the conversation about your allergies, likes and dislikes. This is so the restaurant can customize your menu to you so you are not being served something for hundreds of dollars that you do not enjoy. I don’t recall the specific menu items, as there were so many, but there wasn’t one I didn’t like. I’ve included a picture of the general menu for the evening. Each guest also receives a personalized copy of their menu to take home, which I am unable to locate at the moment.
Have you been to any of these restaurants? If so, what were your thoughts? Do you have any favorites?
Have you ever had one of those trips that you planned, but nothing seemed to go the way you had hoped? This couldn’t have been a bigger understatement to describe my family trip in December of 2007. I can still remember it like it was yesterday. Let me set the stage a bit. I have a background in hospitality management and used to work for one of the better known and respected hotel chains in the country. One of the greatest things about working for a national chain like that is you are typically entitled to discounts at the same brand and affiliates under the parent company’s umbrella of hotels. This afforded me the opportunity to travel to Orlando (again I live in Bradenton, about 100 miles away from WDW), once or twice a month since I was able to procure rates of $29 a night at hotels where it would usually cost well over $100 at rack rate. Because of this, I only stayed on property once in 1998 at Caribbean Beach Resort, and then a handful of times at the value resorts from 2000 – 2006. It was not until the end of 2007 that I was able to revisit property and stay at another one of the moderate resorts, and subsequently my favorite, Port Orleans French Quarter.
On this particular trip, I was accompanied by my mom, who was going to share a room with me to cut down costs, since this was the week of Christmas, and my brother, Andrew, was getting a room to himself. Andrew had just returned from 18 months of serving in Iraq with the Army and was looking forward to unwinding at the parks. We were just going for the weekend and returning Monday since it was Christmas Eve. I wish we were able to stay longer since I was off four days in a row, but we had family commitments at home for Christmas.
We started off the trip by checking in to French Quarter, unpacking, and then decided we would head to Universal’s City Walk to have dinner and visit Pat O’Brien’s. Due to lack of planning, and partly due to my affinity for the music, we ended up having dinner at Bob Marley’s Tribute to Freedom. The food was good and we enjoyed a couple adult beverages between dinner and listening to the dueling pianos at Pat O’s.
We returned to Disney property to catch the midnight showing of National Treasure 2. Now the movie really isn’t an important detail of the story, but in my mind it is inextricably linked with this trip. I still can’t watch it to this day without being reminded of this night. During the climax of the movie, my brother got sick. We didn’t see the end of the movie, needless to say, and were on our way back to French Quarter, now at about 2:30am.
The next day was at a snail’s pace around Epcot due to dealing with Andrew who was still not feeling well. He couldn’t even stand to be around food yet, so we snuck down and grabbed some beignets before leaving the resort mid morning. Eventually we convinced him he should eat and had a nice late lunch at Les Chefs de France. Kindly Andrew bought me a new WDW hoodie and even renewed my mom’s and my pass as a Christmas present (and out of guilt I think). We hopped over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios to enjoy the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights for our first time. We were planning on dinner at 50’s Prime Time Cafe, but had canceled our ADR when we realized it wasn’t worth it. By the time dinner rolled around Andrew seemed mostly human again and wanted to eat so we ended up get a walk up and eating in the Tune In Lounge.
Sunday was the last day of our trip, as we were scheduled to be in church Monday evening for Christmas Eve with family. We checked out of French Quarter and spent our last day in the Magic Kingdom. For the first time we saw Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, which has a totally different feel during the day as opposed to at night during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. The day was enjoyable, but rather uneventful compared to the two previous days. Dinner was going to be at Citrico’s at the Grand Floridian at 8pm, so we left MK shortly after seven to give us time to admire the decorations at the resort. As soon as we stepped off the monorail and into the second floor of the hotel, Andrew asked why we hadn’t stayed there. I reminded him it was two days before Christmas and the most expensive pricing of the year and he had wanted his own room, so the $250/night at French Quarter was rich enough for our blood. At this point, none of us had stayed at a deluxe resort, so it is understandable that he was impressed.
As always, Citrico’s was fabulous and beyond satiating. While splitting our dessert, Andrew and I declared we didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay another night, and I wasn’t really relishing the thought of the almost two hour drive home after dinner and a full day in the parks. My mom asked our server if they knew if there was any availability for the night and he insisted they were completely sold out. Coming back to that hospitality background, I know there are often reservations that are canceled last minute and dates are occasionally changed, so my mom went down to the front desk to investigate. After we paid the bill Andrew and I joined our mom in the lobby as she had found that there were actually two rooms available after she had been speaking to the front desk cast member, Christina, for a bit about my brother’s return from Iraq. We were given the option of a standard room in the outer building with a garden view or an outer building room that was club level. As we had just eaten dinner and were going to leave in the morning, we opted for the standard room as it was still $500+ for the one night (again this was two days before Christmas and we were thankful for the room).
We completed the check in process and were told by Christina that the manager, Stephan, would be escorting us to our room. We found this especially puzzling since we were staying in an outer building and it was almost 11pm. Stephan emerged from the front desk, greeted us and led us across the lobby to the elevator for guest rooms in the main building. Following unquestioningly, we stood behind Stephan as he allowed a couple to enter the elevator before us. We said hello and he had a brief conversation with the couple as they apparently knew each other. After letting the other guests get off, Stephan asked us if we knew who they were. We were clueless and he informed us that we had just met Mr. and Mrs. Jennings Osborne, as in the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights we had enjoyed the night before at the Studios. I never would have guessed! The guy was a millionaire many times over and was relaxing in cargo shorts and a Hawaiian print shirt. Still fazed by that, Stephan led us off the elevator on the fifth floor and to the other side of the landing. He stopped before a set of double doors and we stood there still confused.
Stephan turned and faced my brother and said that it was his honor to thank Andrew for his service to our country and this was Disney’s way of giving just a little back to him. He opened the door and we were stunned as we were shown into our two bedroom suite. It was like something out of a dream. I was pretty sure it was one of the suites Samantha Brown had shown in her visit of the Grand Floridian on her show Great Hotels. I tried to play it cool until Stephan left, but we were awestruck. To go from a standard room in French Quarter to the third largest suite in the flagship resort for our first stay club level, or even at a deluxe resort for that matter, was incredible. I about lost it as soon as Stephan left. The room was by far the nicest hotel room I had ever stayed in and I think that probably stands to this day.
My mom and I eventually realized my car was still parked at the Magic Kingdom parking lot with our stuff, so as Andrew decided to sleep, we went to fetch our luggage and to move the car. After swinging by the front desk to profusely thank Christina and Stephan for their generous upgrade (the suite goes for over $2,500/night), we returned to the room with new found energy. Andrew was exhausted, so we let him sleep as we opted to return to MK for Extra Magic Hours until 4am. We got back in the park around 2am and walked on to every ride we wanted to at that hour. The CMs were even asking us if we wanted to ride again since the parks were almost completely empty, but we kept moving. The euphoria and bewilderment still didn’t wear off after we got into bed around 5am.
We didn’t sleep a whole lot that night. We woke up around 9am and ordered private dining (Disney’s fancy name for room service) and then packed up and headed home to get ready for church. The day was kind of a daze, but like nothing we could have ever dreamt of in a million years. The trip that had started off so beyond horribly had done a complete 180 and made us so appreciative of the annoyances we had gone through to get there. I guess it all works out in the end. It really was the best of trips and the worst of trips all rolled in to one, but thankfully in the opposite order.
My mom and I stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge the following summer and ran into Stephan working as a manager there and he remembered us immediately. We spent quite some time revisiting that night in conversation with him. The next year, Andrew, my mom and I were staying at the Boardwalk Villas and ran into Christina from the front desk working recreation and she remembered us, even telling us that was still one of her favorite magical moments she was able to share as a CM. She was moving to transportation at the Magic Kingdom the following day and we ran into her on the docks working the ferryboat. Stephan is now a manager at the Yacht Club and I occasionally stop in and visit him there. It was really nice to be able to share the experience with my family, but I’d rather not have a repeat of the first half of the trip. Things like this are why I keep supporting the Disney brand. Making magical moments for guests is something that Cast Members enjoy and makes me appreciate every last bit of magic I come across.