EPCOT is known for having a LOT of delicious food. The countries around World Showcase each have some tasty dishes inspired by authentic cuisine from those cultures. Or you can visit during a festival (like the upcoming International Festival of the Arts) to find even more options at festival booths around the park.
With so many different options available, is it worth it to have a sit-down meal at a restaurant with a much less exotic menu? What if we told you that Mickey would be there? And that the entire restaurant is actually spinning? We’re visiting Garden Grill today to see if this spot is worth a visit in the best Disney World park for food.
This is the same place that houses the Soarin’ and Living With the Land attractions. (More on Living With the Land in a second — it’s important to this restaurant!) As far as “old Disney World” goes, this place looks…basically like it did in the 80s! (The restaurant names have all changed though and Sunshine seasons used to have big umbrellas at most tables!)
You’ll find the Garden Grill on the second floor of this pavilion. You probably have rushed right past it on the way to the escalator down to Soarin’ and not noticed it before!!
In the past, we’ve really enjoyed this restaurant because of its unique atmosphere, tasty food, and fun character interactions. But is it really worth spending a meal here when you could be snacking around World Showcase instead? Let’s find out.
At the time of your reservation, you can head to the front desk to check in, or use Mobile Dine Check-In to let the Cast Members know that you have arrived. You’ll get a text letting you know when your table is ready, so head on up to the host stand to be seated.
Probably the coolest thing about this restaurant is its atmosphere. The entire restaurant actually rotates in a circle while you’re inside it! (Don’t worry — it’s slow. No Mad Tea Party action over here!)
All of the tables and booths are laid out in a big circle, with tables and chairs on the inside and booths on the outside. (Right now, guests are still only being seated in the outside booths.)
During your meal, the restaurant spins (very slowly), which gives you different views throughout your experience. You’ll get to see some of the views from the Living With the Land attraction, including the desert…
…farmhouse (see if you can spot the nods to Walt Disney next time you ride!)…
Even if you get nausea or vertigo on spinning rides, you probably don’t have to worry about that with this restaurant. While you’re sitting down, you can barely tell that the tables are moving at all. You’ll just notice that the scenery keeps changing throughout your visit.
Fun fact: this restaurant was originally called The Good Turn Restaurant because of the unique rotating style! As if a spinning dining room wasn’t enough, Garden Grill is also a character dining location. While you eat, you can visit with Chip…
The characters remain on the inside of the circle, and guests sitting in the booths can wave hello, chat with the characters, and take distanced photos of them. It’s kind of a sweet setup right now as far as character dining is concerned. Even distanced, character interaction feels intimate here. You’re not getting Mickey walking into a crowded dining room and waving to guests — he comes to YOUR table and waves and interacts for a bit before moving on.
The layout of this restaurant means that you’ll see characters very often. They came by several times during our meal here, and, again, it feels like a more personal meet-and-greet since they’re so close to the tables. Other character dining spots don’t usually get quite as much character interaction as this one. Plus, with no other guests in your sight when you meet them, it makes for some great character photos!
Because you can’t ask for autographs from your Disney friends at this spot, guests are given an autograph card that’s been signed by Mickey, Pluto, and Chip & Dale.
But that’s enough about the dining room. We already know that this spot is one of the most unique dining locations in Disney World. So now we’re wondering, How will the FOOD will measure up to other EPCOT eats?
We were given a QR code menu, which you can scan with your smartphone to see the menu. But you won’t have to make too many difficult decisions at this restaurant, because the food here is served as a family-style platter, which includes all of the entrées and sides listed under “Chip ‘n’ Dale Harvest Feast.”
There are also some options for allergy-friendly starters and entrées.
As far as drinks go, a non-alcoholic, non-specialty drink is included in the price of the Harvest Feast. But if you wanted a little something extra, there are a few specialty drink options…
…some bottle and draft beer choices…
…and a selection of wines as well.
This is the current lunch and dinner menu. Note that previously, Garden Grill offered a family-style breakfast as well with the same characters. It has not returned at this time, but we’re keeping an eye out. We can’t wait to dig in!
We decided to grab a simple iced tea for our drink, which came in a cute Mason jar!
Reading the Harvest Feast menu, you might start to see a theme. Turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, mac ‘n’ cheese, stuffing…sounds a lot like Thanksgiving, right? That’s definitely what this meal reminds us of! You’ll start off with some rolls, which are essentially basic dinner rolls served with a side of butter.
The rolls were fluffy and golden brown, which is just how we like ’em. They weren’t exactly special, but we still thought they were tasty.
The rolls are served with the Harvest-inspired Garden Salad, which is a classic salad with a vinaigrette dressing. There were many different kinds of veggies on this salad, and a lot of them are grown in the Living With the Land greenhouses! You can really tell how fresh everything is when you eat it.
We enjoyed the vinaigrette dressing as well. It’s very light with just a hint of citrus. Considering all the rich, heavy foods that are coming, we thought this was a great note to start on for this meal.
The skillet arrived with Grilled Beef with Chimichurri sauce, All-Natural Sliced Turkey Breast with Turkey Gravy, Creamy Mashed Potatoes, Macaroni & Cheese, Seasonal Vegetables, and Herb and Leek Stuffing. In case it’s not clear already, you’re going to want to come hungry for this dining experience.
The seasonal vegetables on our skillet were corn succotash and green beans, and we also received a side of cranberry sauce (which makes the Thanksgiving vibes even stronger!). We thought the turkey was surprisingly good! We typically have lower expectations for the food at character meals, since the emphasis tends to be on the experience rather than the cuisine. But we’re usually really pleased with the food here. The turkey was moist and flavorful — delicious in a very simple way.
The corn succotash was delicious as well. You can definitely taste that it’s cooked with butter, and the peppers mixed in added a lot of flavor.
The green beans were perfection: very buttery with a crisp snap! Like most of the food here, they’re done simply and well.
The mashed potatoes were a sleeper hit, in our opinion. They were VERY creamy and buttery, and they ended up being one of our favorite things.
The mac & cheese was very good as well. The sauce was cheesy and creamy, which is really all we want from our pasta. But we just have one question that is actually very concerning: what happened to the goldfish?
The mac & cheese here used to be served with goldfish on top, which was kind of a fun and quirky thing that we loved at this spot! Our mac was sadly fish-less (which isn’t a sentence we ever thought we’d write). It may have simply been an oversight though. We’re not ready to say they’ve stopped the goldfish on the mac just yet.
We also had cranberry sauce on the side, which was fine. It’s basically your typical cranberry sauce. It adds a nice sweetness to the meal, plus you really have to have it if you’re going for the whole Thanksgiving theme.
We saved the best for last: the grilled beef with Chimichurri sauce! This was our favorite thing on the skillet. It’s the least Thanksgiving-y, so maybe we have to dock points for that, but we really had nothing to complain about here.
It had a lot of natural sweetness and tons of flavor from that Chimichurri sauce, and the meat was cooked very well. It wasn’t chewy at all, but instead was nice and tender.
Dessert is included with the Harvest Feast as well. You’ll get a Fresh Berry Shortcake, which is topped with whipped cream.
We normally tell our readers to skip out on dessert at table-service restaurants and find some good treats elsewhere in the parks (since there are so many fun options!), but this dessert was simply tasty. We honestly thought it was worth the stomach space, even in EPCOT.
The cake was very yummy and moist, with fresh berries on top. You can tell that the whipped cream on top is handmade as well. We sound like a broken record, but this is another example of simple food done very well at this spot.
Nosh or Not
Join the spinning tables at Garden Grill if:
- You’re looking for a fun character meal with good food. The food here exceeded our expectations when it comes to character meal food!
- You LOVE Thanksgiving food and/or the Living With the Land attraction. Holiday food with lots of fun views? What’s not to love?
- You’re traveling with kids or picky eaters. Most of the food here is very basic and predictable, which makes it a good choice for people who don’t want crazy flavors.
Hop off the dining carousel and eat around World Showcase instead if:
- You’re a foodie or just want to try some fun and unique dishes. Like we just said, the food here is very basic. It’s good, but you can find a lot of more unique and interesting options out in World Showcase.
- You want to spend more time in EPCOT itself, not inside a restaurant. There’s a lot to explore in EPCOT, and this dinner will likely take at least an hour. If you’re not willing to give up the time, plan on snacking throughout the day instead.
- There’s a festival going on. Honestly, if you add festival booths to the already-delicious options in EPCOT, there’s not much of a competition. Go get some more exciting food out in the park.
Cards on the table — we love Garden Grill. We always have. The food is consistently some of the freshest around and we really dig the casual homestyle foods. In general, we had a great visit at Garden Grill. The food, though not super exciting, was all delicious. For a character meal especially, we were super impressed with the quality and flavors. The grilled beef and dessert were the biggest hits, and our biggest disappointment was the lack of goldfish on the mac & cheese.
We always love seeing the unique views during the experience. And the frequent encounters with Mickey and the gang were also super fun! The characters come by your table a LOT, and it was almost too much. We still have to eat, Pluto! The service was great; our server came by frequently to make sure that our skillet and drink were always full. Speaking of — you can always request seconds, thirds, or more of anything served to you during your meal.
This is one of our favorite character meals in Disney World, but we have a hard time recommending it over the other delicious options in EPCOT. The $55 price tag for Adults and $36 for kids is pretty typical of a character meal, but you can get some other great food options elsewhere in the parks. (For reference, the most expensive steak at Le Cellier Steakhouse costs $59.) So it really depends on your preferences and priorities in EPCOT! If you love characters and Thanksgiving food, there isn’t a better option out there. But if you want to try some unique and interesting options, you’ll have plenty to choose from in World Showcase.
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The post REVIEW: The BEST Character Dining in Disney World (That You\’re Probably SKIPPING!) first appeared on the disney food blog.