It was the best of times
It was the bestest of times
If Charles Dickens ate what I ate over two dinners last week at Grand Floridian Cafe, that’s how he would’ve started his review. Let’s jump into the reasons why, because – just as I said last week about The Wave’s chefs doing some fantastic cooking – the Grand Floridian Cafe is putting out delicious food with its new summer menu.
The highlight of my first dinner was the Buttermilk Fried Chicken ($24), with “loaded” smashed potatoes, and wilted spinach sprinkled with a warmed bacon vinaigrette. It was delicious, mostly because the chicken’s crust was substantial and crunchy. If you, like I, believe that science has neglected its duty to engineer a Thanksgiving turkey made entirely of crispy skin, you would’ve been overjoyed at the kitchen’s results with this breading. And yes, those are bacon bits on top of the chicken. Because the crust was so crispy (and thick), I was impressed with how the kitchen managed not to overcook the chicken breast during the long fry time.
The sides were equally good, with the tangy vinaigrette on the spinach cutting through the smoothness of the loaded potatoes. I ate all of this.
In fact, it was so good that I did something I almost never do at a Disney restaurant – I ordered it again the next week. And I’m so very glad that I did, because it was even better. Here’s how it came out from the kitchen:
Your first thought is probably “Oh, they brought Len half a fried turkey. Interesting.” It was not, dear reader, a turkey, despite almost reaching both sides of a 12″ dinner plate. It was the largest chicken breast I’ve ever seen. The photo above doesn’t even do it justice, because it stood at least 3″ high off the plate. My first two questions to the server were “Is that a chicken?” and “How did you catch it?”
This week’s version of the chicken breast came in a cornflake batter, which added a hint of nuttiness to the crust. The frying technique was even better than before, the chicken breast more moist and tender than ever. The loaded potatoes were just as good, and I was thankful that the flavor of the vinaigrette had been boosted a bit, because it help cut through the massive amount of chicken on the plate.
Here’s a close-up of the crust, with bits of bacon as God intended:
You won’t be surprised to hear that I couldn’t finish this – I got about two-thirds through it, though. I’ve long thought that the best fried chicken in Walt Disney World was over at Bull and Bear in the Waldorf Astoria (when it’s available). I’m no longer certain that’s true.
The fried chickens were the stars of my meals. Here’s a quick rundown of the other things Laurel and I tried at our visits.
The Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail ($16) had four large shrimp on top of fresh Florida citrus, ribbons of pickled onions, and spinach. Pickled onions are having a moment, and these were perfectly sour. They went well with the citrus to balance out the sweet, sweet shrimp.
We also tried two salads – Laurel went with the Caesar ($8), and I chose the Grilled Romaine Market Salad ($15). Of the two of these, I think the Caesar salad was the better value. Both were large portions and could’ve been split by two people.
I thought the romaine could’ve been left on the grill to develop more char. I would’ve preferred that the carrots, peppers, and squash in the salad were grilled, too, to soften them up a bit and impart additional flavor. When I order this again, I’ll ask for that.
Laurel had the Miso-glazed Salmon ($27) one night. This came with lemon-scented sticky rice, french beans, and a ginger-soy vinaigrette:
The glaze on this salmon was the kind of luscious brown that I imagined Ricardo Montalbán had in mind whenever he said the words “rich, Corinthian leather.” Laurel loved everything about this plate, and said that the saltiness of the soy worked really well with the rice and green beans.
Laurel tried the Impossible Burger ($16) with caramelized onions, plant-based, smoked “Gouda” cheese, and a generous side of huge fries:
Like the fried chicken, these were huge portions and still cooked properly throughout. The fries were very good – creamy inside, crispy and salty on the outside.
We split one dessert one night – the Grand Flo Cafe’s version of Key Lime Pie ($8) with mango sorbet, fresh strawberries, and Key Lime sauce:
This is a bargain at $8 – it’s big enough to split. The pie crust is firm, sweet, and just thick enough to provide some bite. The key lime filling balances sweet and tart pretty well – I thought it was great, while Laurel thought it was too sweet. We both enjoyed the mango sorbet and the strawberries. I’d definitely get this again.
As if the food wasn’t enough, you can order cocktails and other alcoholic drinks with dinner at the Grand Floridian Cafe. Plus, the Grand Flo Cafe accepts Tables in Wonderland discounts. Our first dinner included the shrimp appetizer, fried chicken, and Impossible burger came out to around $60 before the Tables discount and gratuity; our second dinner of two salads, the fried chicken, salmon, Key lime dessert, and one cocktail was around $100 before discount and gratuity.
Here’s the full menu – it’s short, but almost everything on it is done well.
Have you dined at the Grand Floridian Cafe? Does that fried chicken make you drool just looking at it? Let us know in the comments.