So before I get into new places, let me reiterate how much I like Raglan Road. We went twice, and I had the shepherd’s pie and Guinness both times, while my wife and I split the bread-and-butter pudding once. Other dishes I can recommend: The Guinness and onion banger is delicious, served over mashed potatoes and topped with a ladle-full of their beef stew, making it ridiculously hearty; their chicken and sage banger is also very good and a bit lighter than the pork banger, plus it’s a more reasonable portion than the prior dish; and the “pie in the sky” (chicken and mushroom pie) is hearty without being heavy, although it could never reach the heights of a proper steak and mushroom pie. We ordered a side of chips at lunch, and they appeared to be hand-cut. One caution: The Dunbrody Kiss dessert may sound delightful, but the cornflake layer on the bottom turns into a chewy, icky mush, and ruined the dish for me the one time we ordered it back in ’06.
Other than Raglan Road and a couple of breakfasts at Boma, we ate in the parks this time around. Most pleasant surprise was Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom; it’s real Q, complete with pink smoke ring. They offer pulled pork, shredded beef, ribs (St. Louis), and smoked chicken. My wife went with the pork sandwich; the meat had a mild smoke flavor and was just a little bit dry (unavoidable given the quantities they must smoke and serve). I went with the ribs, which were a little tough but were covered with spicy-sweet bark, the most glorious part of barbecued ribs in my book. The baked beans that came on the side had a smoky molasses flavor, but the corn muffin was nothing more than mushy corn cake. It’s easily one of the best values anywhere on the property.
The Prime Time Café at Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) had good food, but was way overpriced. We both went with the pot roast, which was very nicely done, with most of the fat cooked out and plenty of well-browned surface area; it sat on top of some ultra-smooth mashed potatoes that served mostly to soak up whatever ran out of the pot roast. At $17 for lunch, it’s a bit dear, and large portions at lunch aren’t a big plus to me. They do make a good chocolate shake, though.
Get the smoked turkey leg if you have to eat at Magic Kingdom, or maybe the tuna on multi-grain bread at Columbia Harbour House. The Kingdom really doesn’t offer much for full-service options, and their quick-service selection isn’t great, either. The Sleepy Hollow stand, tucked in a corner in Liberty Square, has funnel cakes and Mickey waffles, two guilty pleasures.
We ate our way around Epcot, as usual, but hit a few new places this year:
- The Biergarten in the Germany pavilion, offering a dinner buffet at $27 per adult (not including booze). Dinner buffets don’t usually thrill me, but the selection at this one was excellent, and our server, from northern Germany, told me that most of what was on the tables was authentic German food. The various sausages were all fantastic, as was the warm German potato salad (cider vinegar, mustard, and bacon … seriously). The salmon in dill sauce was solid, although I’d bet I got a piece that hadn’t been sitting under the lamps for long. The beef roulade tasted great but had dried out, while the pork schnitzel (breaded and fried!) was outstanding. Desserts were a disappointment. Live music is part of the appeal, with your typical goofy Disney humor.
- The Rose and Crown in the England pavilion served straightforward versions of some of what you’d find at Raglan Road. We went twice; I wasn’t blown away by the pot roast, which was fattier than the one I had at Prime Time, but the bangers and mash were excellent, with outstanding color on the sausages. My sister got the fish and chips the time she came with us, and the breading on the fish was ultra-crisp and golden brown. Guinness on tap here is a bit colder than I’d like.
- The San Angel Inn in Mexico was a disappointment. The menu seems less geared towards authentic cooking than other Epcot restaurants, and the prices here were out of line with 1) what I expect at a Mexican restaurant and 2) the quality of the product. I ordered the pescado a la ranchera, seared tilapia served over rice with an avocado cream sauce and roasted poblanos. The tilapia was quasi-blackened; the fish was almost certainly frozen at some point in its post-life life. I did like the avocado cream sauce, which was about as smooth as soft-serve ice cream.
- We did the “princess dining” dinner at Askershus in the Norway pavilion. It’s steep at $29 per adult, but you are paying for the characters (your kid gets a photo with one of the princess characters, and the remaining princesses walk around and visit all the tables). The food was very good, probably the best of any place we hit at Epcot. Dinner starts with a koldbordt buffet of cold cuts, smoked fish (the smoked salmon was ridiculous, ultra-smooth with a sweet smoky flavor), and salads. For the entrée, I went with the baked salmon with mustard; I was disappointed that the mustard was yellow mustard, which I think is kind of nasty, but the salmon was perfectly cooked and the potato pancakes underneath it were fresh and crispy. My wife went with the braised pork shank, a huge portion where the meat just slid right off the bone. Dessert is family-style, with three desserts coming on one plate: a “rice cream” (pudding) with sweetened strawberries, a cappuccino cheesecake that tasted more like mousse than cheesecake, and a “princess cake” with a white chocolate mousse. All three were delicious. Note that this restaurant’s menu appears to change seasonally.
- We hit the quick-service restaurant at the Morocco pavilion, the Tangierine Café. The “lamb wrap” was a gyro in all but name, with very juicy lamb shaved to order and served on a hot fresh flatbread with just a little bit of yogurt sauce (can I call it tzatziki if it’s not a Greek restaurant?). It’s a bit messy to eat while you walk, but either it was delicious or I was starving, because I inhaled the thing.
Finally, I can’t discuss Epcot without mentioning the Patisserie in the France pavilion. Their chocolate mousse is dark and very smooth; I can’t imagine that they’re making a true mousse with an egg white foam, a labor-intensive and fussy preparation, but that sure as heck is what it tastes like. Their éclairs are solid, with chocolate pastry cream inside, and the strawberry tart has a hard shortbread crust filled with sweetened whipped cream. I just wish you could get a proper espresso somewhere around there, but the only coffee they serve is Nescafe.