Magical Dining Month’s Top Ten at Disney and Universal

Eating and Drinking , Shortlists , Expert View Column
Magical Dining Month’s Top Ten at Disney and Universal
By ATD’s Florida Experts, Susan and Simon Veness
Orlando locals love September. Not because the weather is cooling down after a hot summer (it isn’t), not because the tourist rush has disappeared completely (it hasn’t), but because of one thing: Magical Dining Month.

With Disney on our doorstep, we hear the world ‘magical’ a lot, but Magical Dining Month really does bring that extra bit of sparkle to our eyes. From August 25 through October 1 some of Orlando’s best restaurants offer a special 3-course menu at the ridiculously low price of $35 per person. It’s a time when the locals make lots of dinner dates with friends, trying to cram in as many Magical Dining restaurants as possible without breaking the bank.

But tourists who are ‘in the know’ (that’s you, now) are equally enamoured, and for good reason. There is no other time of year when you can dine so well for so little. And this year, both Disney and Universal have piled onto the bandwagon, with 17 participating restaurants. In no particular order, here are their Top Ten:

1) Jiko The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

It’s no secret Jiko is one of our favourite restaurants, in part because our first date was there, but also for its fab food and excellent wine menu. New on the MDM line-up this year, Jiko offers outstanding value.

Jiko Restaurant

Regular-price 3-course Dinner:  $54-$87 (Inguday Tibs, Short Ribs and Safari Sunset would cost $78)

Appetisers

Jiko Salads (greens, fruit, pistachio halva and halloumi cheese) or Inguday Tibs in Brik (filo-wrapped mushrooms, spinach and cheese with apples and curry vinaigrette)

Entrees

Bo Kaap Malay Seafood Curry, Botswana-style Seswaa Beef Short Ribs, or West African Koki Corn

Dessert

Malva Pudding ice cream or Safari Sunset cake.

May We Suggest: The Short Ribs are simply outstanding. Try them with a glass of South African wine.

2) Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs

We’re big fans of Morimoto Asia, and would go out of our way for their ribs. That said, they’ve added a $9 up-charge to the ribs (and $5 for the Spicy Tuna Roll appetiser) on the Magical Dining menu, and we think that’s a bit cheeky.

Morimoto Asia Disney Springs

Regular-price 3-course Dinner  $30-$83

Appetisers

Tempura-fried Black Cod Nanbanzuki, Shrimp Yum Woon Sen, or Beef Bulgogi Tacos

Entrees

Red Miso Glazed Faroe Island Salmon, Shrimp with Chili Sauce, or A-5 Wagyu Beef Burger Steak

Dessert

Green Tea Panacotta, Mango Coconut Soup, or Asian Pear Chocolate Mousse

May We Suggest: It’s a toss-up between the shrimp and the burger, but the mousse is a clear winner.

3) Paddlefish at Disney Springs

The iconic paddle-wheeler at Disney Springs has been re-imagined as Paddlefish, also new to MDM this year, and while the emphasis is on seafood, landlubbers are not forgotten.

Paddlefish

Regular-price 3-course Dinner:  $36-$108

Appetisers

Fried Green Tomatoes, Green Salad, New England Clam Chowder, Conch Chowder, or Wheat Berry Salad

Entrees

Fish and Chips, Shrimp and Grits, Half Chicken, Pork Chop and Apple Sauce, or Catch of the Day

Dessert

Carrot Cake, Key Lime Pie, or Strawberry Shortcake

May We Suggest: Go for the Fried Green Tomatoes, Shrimp and Grits and Key Lime Pie and feel like a real American southerner.

4) Todd English’s bluezoo at The Dolphin Resort

This upscale seafood restaurant’s atmosphere is as inspired as its food, and that’s saying something. Arrive in time for pre-dinner cocktails. You’ll thank us.

Todd's English BlueZoo

Regular-price 3-course Dinner:  $42-$94

Appetisers

Caesar salad or New England Clam Chowder

Entrees

Simply Fish, Steak Frites, or Chicken Francese

Dessert

Warm Chocolate Banana Molten Cake or Seasonal Sorbet trio

May We Suggest: Normally, chicken is boring. This one isn’t. And definitely go for the Molten Cake.

5) Ravello at Four Seasons Resort

If you choose to visit a few MDM locations, make one of them Ravello. Not only can you dine at the Four Seasons for a reasonable price, the grounds are gorgeous for a post-dinner wander.

Ravello Restaurant

Regular-price 3-course Dinner:  $40-93

Appetisers

Insalata Mista salad, Polpettine meatballs, Gelato Di Parmigiano, or Charcuterie and Cheese Board

Entrees

Bucatini Amatriciana, Chicken Putanessca with Polenta, or Pesce Spada (swordfish)

Dessert

Affogato (gelato with espresso) or Sicilian Cannoli

May We Suggest: The Bucatinni is excellent, but the Putanessca gives it a real run for the money. Obviously, you’ll have the cannoli.

6) STK at Disney Springs

Another relative newcomer to the Disney Springs scene, this is the place for steaks. Yes, sea scallops are yummy, but save those for a genuine seafood place.

Regular-price 3-course Dinner:  $53-$168 (Take note, the most expensive item on the menu is the 34oz Tomahawk steak at $128, but that’s not a MDM option.)

Appetisers

Caesar salad, Key West Pink Shrimp Ceviche, or Shaved Brussels

Entrees

Petit Filet Mignon, Sea Scallops, or Pappardelle Pasta with Duck Confit

Dessert

Chocolate Chip Cookie, Salted Caramel Budino, or Orange Dream Cheesecake

May We Suggest: Ceviche, Filet Mignon, Budino. ʼNuff said (though the Brussels are tempting, too).

7) The Turf Club at Saratoga Springs

This one made the cut over the four remaining Disney restaurants participating in MDM (The Wave, Boatwrights, Grand Floridian Café and Il Mulino), mainly for its slightly more interesting menu.The Turf Club

Regular-price 3-course Dinner:  $35-$55

Appetisers

Grilled Romaine Salad or Classical French Onion Soup

Entrees

Pan Seared Corvina, Grilled New York Strip Steak, or Rigatoni Fiesolana with Shrimp

Dessert

Chocolate Espresso Torte or Madagascar Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee

May We Suggest: Be brave and order the Grilled Romaine (surprisingly delicious!). After that it’s between the Corvina and the Strip Steak, and either dessert will send you home with a smile.

8) Amatista Cookhouse at Sapphire Falls

 

Amatista just opened a year ago, so we were happy to see it as a MDM option, as it’s not obvious but it’s worth seeking out.

Amatista

 

Regular-price 3-course Dinner:  $30-$52

Appetisers

House-made Empanadas, Street Tacos, or Cookhouse Salad

Entrees

Half Rotisserie Chicken, Chargrilled Beef Churrasco Steak, Caribbean Spiced Chicken Pasta, or Grilled Atlantic Salmon

Dessert

Caribbean Rum Cake, Raspberry Key Lime Cheesecake, or Salted Caramel Pecan Pie

May We Suggest: It’s a tie between the Churrasco and the Caribbean Spiced Chicken. Dessert with rum in it usually takes top billing for us, but this time the pie just edges it out.

9) BiCE at Loews Portofino Bay

A long-time favourite, BiCE (BEE-chay) is ideal date-night territory, especially when the singers serenade from the courtyard below. We’ll spare you the long names in Italian in favour of easy-to-read descriptions.

 

BiCE Restaurant

Regular-price 3-course Dinner:  $48-$85

Appetisers

Spinach Salad, Beef Carpaccio, Pumpkin Broccoli Soup, or Eggplant and Courgette Parmigiana

Entrees

Homemade Spaghetti, Milanese Style Chicken Breast, Grilled Swordfish, or Black Angus New York Strip Steak

Dessert

Tiramisu, Profiteroles, or Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

May We Suggest: BiCE’s carpaccio is sublime, and pairs well with the swordfish or chicken breast.

10) The Kitchen at Hard Rock Hotel

Often overlooked, this tucked-away restaurant is a notable addition, especially when more obvious choices are booked up.

The Kitchen at Hardrock CafeRegular-price 3-course Dinner:  $34-$63

Appetisers

Teriyaki Beef Tenderloin Skewers, Blue Cheese Potato Chips, or Cage Free Truffled Devilled Eggs

Entrees

Pan Seared Barramundi, Grilled Adobo Pork Chop, Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, or Smoked Chicken Carbonara

Dessert

Apple Pie Cheesecake, Butternut Squash Crème Brulee, Elvis Popsicle

May We Suggest: There are no bad selections here, but seeing as how we’re definitely going to recommend the Elvis Popsicle, we’d better tell you what it is (peanut butter ice cream, chocolate banana cake and caramel sauce).

Bon Appetit!

Be sure to check out last year’s Magical Dining Month blog for the best of the best beyond Universal and Disney, then join us on Attraction Tickets Direct’s discussion forums with your questions or recommendations.

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