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Disney Restaurant Review: California Grill 50th Anniversary

The 50th Anniversary celebration at Disney World is in full swing, and restaurants like California Grill are celebrating. California Grill always tops my list when it comes to dining for special occasions. The food and the atmosphere make this one of the best places to dine on Disney property. 

The restaurant, which originally opened in 1971 as Top of the World and later became California Grill in 1995, is located on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort and has an outstanding view of Magic Kingdom. The menu typically features seasonal items that give off California vibes, and they have quite an impressive wine list. 

With the new 50th Anniversary celebration menu, this dining reservation got bumped to the top of my must-do dining list. Because when in Disney during the most magical celebration one must do the 50th Anniversary right. 

50th Menu

In honor of the 50th celebration, California Grill is celebrating with a limited-time prix fixe menu. It is a three-course meal that includes, an appetizer, entree, and a dessert for $89/adult and $39/child. Yes, the price is steep, but the experience at California Grill is one you will continue to talk about long after your trip is over.

The thing I loved about this menu were the nods to dishes that previously had been popular at Top of the World and California Grill. It was a nice way to reflect on the past of this restaurant and a nice dedication to the previous Executive Chefs.

But let’s talk about the physical menu, and no I am not talking about what is on it. This dining experience comes with a brochure-like menu, that is yours to keep after dinner. It’s a nice keepsake, and was a nice touch since I previously have been so used to QR code menus. 

Atmosphere

Honestly, there is no other restaurant in Disney that beats the overall atmosphere of California Grill. It is fancy without being stuffy, and the restaurant’s windows allows for a perfect view of Magic Kingdom and beyond. 

Check-in happens on the 2nd floor of The Contemporary Resort, and once your table is ready you will take the dedicated elevator up to the 15th floor. 

The restaurant is far from being quiet, as the kitchen is along the back wall which allows for just the right level of noise for a lively dinner. The open kitchen allows you to watch the food as it is being prepared, and while it is entertaining to watch it is not overly noisy which allows it to fade into the background as you enjoy your dinner. 

Fireworks

There are also two rooftop observation decks at California Grill, the one on the north side of the restaurant is perfect to take in Disney Enchantment, the new nighttime fireworks show at Magic Kingdom. You won’t miss a thing when it comes to the fireworks show, the music is piped into the restaurant and out on the observation decks, and they even dim the lighting inside California Grill.

Protip, no matter what time your dinner is, you can still head up to the deck to watch the fireworks. Simply check-in with the host on the 2nd floor and they will put you in the fireworks viewing line. But note you must be dining at California Grill that night to take advantage of this benefit. 

Our dinner reservation was at 8:20 PM, we arrived at the host stand at 7:30 PM in anticipation of the 8 PM show. Honestly, it was perfect timing as we were the second party in line heading up to the observation deck for the fireworks. This meant when we got to the rooftop deck we were able to grab a spot right along the railing. If you wait until right before the fireworks start, the deck will fill up, so you will be standing behind others. 

When we checked in at 7:30, they also checked us in for our reservation which was in 50 minutes. We got the return text about 2 minutes before the fireworks started, but don’t worry, they understand. We enjoyed the show and then simply returned to the check-in area after the show was over. 

Food

The food always impresses at California Grill, and the 50th Anniversary menu is no different. There was a range of options on the menu, and the portions were perfect for a prix fixe meal.

Appetizers

The appetizer course is called ‘Market Inspirations,’ with my stand-out dish, of course, being the Braised Beef Short Rib Wontons. They are my favorite appetizer in Disney World and have been a staple at California Grill for quite some time. 

They are described as, ‘Doenjang Miso-Cola-Onion Sauce, Crispy Garlic-Chili Oil, Radish, Pickled Lotus Root,’ and are honestly close to perfection. The braised beef melts in your mouth, and the chili oil gives this dish a pretty significant kick. There might have been something you overlooked in the description, Doenjang Miso-COLA-Onion Sauce. That’s right, these wontons actually contain Coca-Cola, and honestly, you would never know because the flavors blend perfectly together.  

Other stand-out first courses were the House-made Artisanal-style Duck À L’Orange Pizza, and the Heirloom Apple Salad. The pizza is a 50th-anniversary special and was inspired by an entree at Top of the World when it opened in 1971. The apple salad was crisp and delicious, and is plant-based, including plant-based feta, which was delicious.

Entrees

California Grill is known for a few dishes, all of which are represented on the prix fixe menu. Standouts on this were the Oak Fired Filet of Beef, a true classic on the California Grill menu. The steaks here are always cooked to perfection, and I spent the evening obsessing over how outstanding the potatoes were, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

The Florida Coast Black Grouper was recommended by our server, and it did not disappoint. It is described as a ‘Herbed Basmati Rice, Cashew Chutney, Bok Choy, Baby Shiitake, Green Curry-Coconut Nage.’ In addition, the Cast Iron-grilled Pork Tenderloin was a favorite at our table.

We also tried the Handcrafted Wild Mushroom Ravioli, the plant-based selection on the menu. I have previously loved the plant-based pasta options at California Grill, and for me, this one wasn’t my favorite. It was good, I just felt like there wasn’t anything there to lighten up the dish and make it feel fresh.

Desserts

There are five different selections for desserts and something for everyone. The stand-out is the Five Magical Bites 50 Years in the Making, which was a dessert bite from all of the executive chefs that had worked at Top of the World or California Grill, with all the chefs coming back together for this unique dessert. Each chef got to create or choose their own dessert favorite, and these five bites were the perfect way to finish dinner.

The Earidescent Grand Marnier Souffle was also an excellent choice and was perfectly baked. The combination of the piping hot souffle and the creamsicle ice cream is what dreams are made of! And if you aren’t the biggest sweets fan (like myself) there is the Chef’s Selection of California Cheeses, a European trend that I love seeing, and I enjoyed closing out my meal with cheese.

Drinks

California Grill has an impressive wine and cocktail list, but do yourself a favor and get the wine pairing. It is an additional $39. Every dish on the menu has been expertly paired, and you get 3 glasses of wine.

Honestly, the wines were perfect and a great value for the quality of wine that was presented. 

Overall Thoughts

Yes, this meal is expensive. However, if you are looking to treat yourself to a nice meal during Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, choose California Grill. The food and atmosphere are perfect if you are celebrating any occasion, and it is a can’t miss if you want the full Disney World Anniversary experience.

You need to snag this reservation ASAP, and currently, the dining reservations at Disney World open 60 days before. If you missed the opportunity to snag your reservation, you can always try Touring Plans Reservation Finder, a free tool that will send you a text when a reservation opens up.

Full Menu.

Type of Food. American. Seafood. Sushi.

Location. The Contemporary Resort

Discounts Offered. Annual Passholder 10%

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