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.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $54-$87 (Inguday Tibs, Short Ribs and Safari Sunset would cost $78)
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)
Bo Kaap Malay Seafood Curry, Botswana-style Seswaa Beef Short Ribs, or West African Koki Corn
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.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner $30-$83
Tempura-fried Black Cod Nanbanzuki, Shrimp Yum Woon Sen, or Beef Bulgogi Tacos
Red Miso Glazed Faroe Island Salmon, Shrimp with Chili Sauce, or A-5 Wagyu Beef Burger Steak
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.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $36-$108
Fried Green Tomatoes, Green Salad, New England Clam Chowder, Conch Chowder, or Wheat Berry Salad
Fish and Chips, Shrimp and Grits, Half Chicken, Pork Chop and Apple Sauce, or Catch of the Day
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.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $42-$94
Caesar salad or New England Clam Chowder
Simply Fish, Steak Frites, or Chicken Francese
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.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $40-93
Insalata Mista salad, Polpettine meatballs, Gelato Di Parmigiano, or Charcuterie and Cheese Board
Bucatini Amatriciana, Chicken Putanessca with Polenta, or Pesce Spada (swordfish)
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.)
Caesar salad, Key West Pink Shrimp Ceviche, or Shaved Brussels
Petit Filet Mignon, Sea Scallops, or Pappardelle Pasta with Duck Confit
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.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $35-$55
Grilled Romaine Salad or Classical French Onion Soup
Pan Seared Corvina, Grilled New York Strip Steak, or Rigatoni Fiesolana with Shrimp
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.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $30-$52
House-made Empanadas, Street Tacos, or Cookhouse Salad
Half Rotisserie Chicken, Chargrilled Beef Churrasco Steak, Caribbean Spiced Chicken Pasta, or Grilled Atlantic Salmon
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.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $48-$85
Spinach Salad, Beef Carpaccio, Pumpkin Broccoli Soup, or Eggplant and Courgette Parmigiana
Homemade Spaghetti, Milanese Style Chicken Breast, Grilled Swordfish, or Black Angus New York Strip Steak
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.
Regular-price 3-course Dinner: $34-$63
Teriyaki Beef Tenderloin Skewers, Blue Cheese Potato Chips, or Cage Free Truffled Devilled Eggs
Pan Seared Barramundi, Grilled Adobo Pork Chop, Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf, or Smoked Chicken Carbonara
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).
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.
Liked this post? You may also like...