If you're venturing across I-4 to the theme parks in the next few months before the sweltering heat of summer ruins all of the fun, there are a couple of new dining options at Walt Disney World to keep in mind.
In the past couple of months, the Magic Kingdom area of Disney property introduced new brunches at two of its high-end resort restaurants and a new restaurant inside the park.
First, the brunch.
Tucked away on the edge of the water at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is Narcoossee's, a nautical-themed restaurant specializing in seafood that was previously only open for dinner. Now, you can sit in the bright dining room on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and eat brunch fare while gazing out over the Seven Seas Lagoon toward the Magic Kingdom.
For both dinner and the new brunch, you pay a flat fee for food; brunch is $69 for adults and $41 for kids ages 3 to 9. That price includes a drink to start, either prosecco, a mimosa or a Bloody Mary, then a plate of housemade pastries for the table and three more courses: appetizer, entree and dessert.
For the appetizer, you can choose from dishes like seafood charcuterie (which includes salmon rilette, shrimp ceviche and octopus), shrimp and grits, and a delicately composed cheese board. For the entree, items range from lobster eggs Benedict to chicken and waffles and brioche French toast.
The seafood options are solid overall, but the dishes that stood out on a recent visit include the chicken and waffles — not too greasy or messy, and served with a refreshing frisee salad — and the French toast, the classic brunch dish elevated by caramelized apples, bananas and chantilly cream.
Along the same monorail track is the Contemporary Resort, and its California Grill restaurant, one of Disney's most high-end experiences. It's a treat to visit this restaurant during the day, with its rooftop view of Cinderella's Castle and beyond.
Brunch runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, and no one would blame you for wanting to stay the entire time. That way, you can eat and drink enough to justify the $80 price tag.
That cost includes valet parking, plus a drink (typically Champagne or something like it) and a variety of pastries for the table. Pace yourself, because there is a buffet in your future.
Before you get to choose an entree from the menu, you get to peruse a mini-buffet stocked with charcuterie, a yogurt bar, sushi and salads. (There is also an elaborate Bloody Mary bar, with everything from garlic cloves and mozzarella balls to shrimp and olives; you can add that on for an extra $15.)
Menu entrees include a Buttermilk Organic Chicken Cutlet, Sweet Potato Pancakes, Grilled Flat Iron Steak and more classic breakfast items like a frittata and an eggs Benedict.
Both of these brunches fall squarely in special occasion territory. Prices are high. It's worth it in terms of quality and quantity of food, especially at the California Grill, but make sure you come with an empty stomach and hours to luxuriate. And there is an upside: You don't actually need to pay to get into a theme park to enjoy either one of these experiences, both of which would make for a memorable Mother's Day. Hint, hint.
A good cruise stop
Inside the Magic Kingdom park, Jungle Skipper Canteen opened recently. It's a 222-seat sit-down, table-service restaurant in the Adventureland section of the park, and a boon for theme park diners looking for another place to eat where every meal doesn't come with french fries.
Jungle Skipper Canteen is inspired by the Jungle Cruise ride nearby, and the thing that sets this place apart is that witty atmosphere, created by wall decor and by a staff that is jovial and quick with a corny joke or pun.
The food is also rather pleasant, with theme park-friendly takes on Asian, South American and African cuisine. There's nothing too exotic here, but the flavors are bold and the dishes surprisingly healthy. Entrees range from a pho noodle bowl served with either chicken, duck breast or tofu ($20-$23) to a shrimp dish that comes with four large, head-on shrimp tossed in a chili-garlic sauce and served with broccoli and rice ($25). To start, try the House-made Arepas, with slow-cooked beef and black beans ($9.50), or the Falls Family Falafel, served with a white bean spread ($8).
There also is dessert — definitely get the Kungaloosh!, an African-inspired chocolate cake topped with caramelized bananas and a cashew-caramel ice cream ($8) — and a large beverage selection, including a variety of loose-leaf teas.
Jungle Skipper Canteen is open for lunch and dinner, and reservations are available.
Contact Michelle Stark at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @mstark17.