Dining at Disney World is one of my family’s favorite things to do. We’ve been lucky to have many spectacular dining experiences, especially in recent memory. Be Our Guest, Le Cellier, Kona Cafe, California Grill, Victoria & Albert’s, and many others provided us with fantastic meals and great service. We’ve had many more good experiences dining at Disney than bad experiences. Unfortunately, our visit in May to Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe at Downtown Disney landed firmly in the latter category.
Being at Disney World on Mother’s Day is a special occasion. They pass out carnations as you enter Epcot. It’s a beautiful day. Life is good. However, May can bring the summer heat to Florida, and Mother’s Day is no exception. So after a great day at Epcot, we returned to our rooms to take the mid-afternoon break. For Mother’s Day, we decided what better way to celebrate than to go to Downtown Disney for the evening. It would be a nice, relaxing way to celebrate the day, right?
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Thanks to the construction of Disney Springs, parking at Downtown Disney is a daunting task. Since valet is offered with the Tables in Wonderland Card at Downtown Disney restaurants, we first tried the valet lot. Unfortunately, the Tables card was blocked out on Mother’s Day, and the valet lot was full anyway. So, we began our grand circle tour of the Downtown Disney parking lot. We circled and we circled and we circled. Oh, there’s a spot, wait, nope, someone has it. I think that’s an open spot. No, it’s just a hidden Miata. The circling went on and on and on. I thought I’d need a Dramamine from all the circling. No one is directing traffic, and it’s obviously stressful for all the drivers trying to find parking. Disney could mashup two of their popular franchises and just rebrand Downtown Disney as “Car Wars Land.” They could put interactive queues for the drivers waiting for a spot, and even have a Fastpass lane. The new parking deck cannot come soon enough. I’m hoping this will alleviate many of the parking woes that are plaguing Downtown Disney right now. Disney, please, hurry.
We finally found a spot, and it felt like we won the lottery. Between the parking situation and no ADRs for dinner, this relaxing night had become fairly stressful. But it’s Mother’s Day, so we just agreed that we’d enjoy ourselves. Mother’s Day disaster averted. By now it was getting pretty late, and, having a toddler with us, we needed to eat ASAP. After walking a short distance, we saw Splitsville to our right and Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe to our left. Since everyone was pretty hungry, my family decided to just pick between those two options. Agreeing on a place to eat can take some time with a group of five, especially since Downtown Disney has so many options. Limiting our choices to those two helped expedite that process. We decided to check out Wolfgang Puck. They informed us of a 15 to 20 minute wait, which is pretty good for having no reservation on a holiday. What does one do with the short wait time at Downtown Disney? They run as fast as they can to D-Street.
I love Vinylmation and pin trading, so D-Street is one of the only reasons I usually come to the West-Side of Downtown Disney. With a small bag of Vinylmations and some pin trading done, I return to Wolfgang Puck. My daughter had run to the Epcot Food Truck to get a little bit of food to tide herself over. She got the sliders and said they were delicious. We were all celebrating Mother’s Day in our own way.
Wolfgang Puck’s entrance is adorned with colorful mosaics on the walls. The bright, multicolor Origami style banners greet you overhead. The floors even out the mosaic theme, as the black and white tiled floor has sudden pops of color. As you enter, the atmosphere seems fun and lively. We dined in the Grand Cafe. Wolfgang Puck also has The Dining Room, which is the signature dining experience located upstairs. As the host guided us to our seat in the back of the dining room, all of the fun colors and decor seemed to diminish as we walked along. Once we sat down in the back of the restaurant, it honestly felt like any generic chain restaurant in Orlando.
But it was Mommy’s Day, and to celebrate I was going to have Wolfgang Puck’s Smoked Salmon Pizza. One of my all time favorites! All was good. But when I looked on the menu, I didn’t see the Smoked Salmon Pizza. I asked our server about it, and he informed me that it’s no longer on the menu. No! It’s always disappointing when one of your favorite items gets removed from a menu. But that’s life. The bigger issue now was that I didn’t know what to order. So now some negotiating had to take place with my family. Whenever I don’t know what to order, I try to find someone else in my family who will split two different entrees with me. It minimizes the damage if one of use chooses poorly, and if both of us choose well, then we both get to try two delicious dishes. The negotiations went poorly for me, as no one wanted to share my suggestions. I opted for the Chef’s Salad with Chicken. The rest of my family got a Meatloaf Dinner, a Chicken Alfredo dish, and a couple of Sushi selections. The dishes came to the table fairly quickly.
I looked at my Chef’s Salad and noticed that there’s no chicken in it. Why does this always happen when the waiter is nowhere in sight? So I waited. And waited. I had almost forgot what our server looked like when he finally comes by. I politely told him about the missing chicken from my salad. He apologized and went to go get the chicken. However, while all the entrees came out fairly quickly, the new chicken seems to be taking forever. The evenings is getting later and later, and my family is almost finished with their dishes when my chicken arrives. Good news, right?
I was presented with a saucer that holds three grilled chicken tenders that look barely cooked. I truly felt sorry that a chicken had to die for what Wolfgang Puck gave me for this salad. It was one of the most unappetizing things I’ve ever seen, and after one bite I deem them inedible. On another day I might’ve asked for the waiter to replace them, but it was late in the evening on Mother’s Day. I didn’t want to make a fuss, so I just let it go. My family probably chalked that up to a Mother’s Day miracle.
As for the other selections we made, they didn’t fare too well. The Chicken Alfredo was swimming in sauce and had little chicken. It looked to be only slightly bigger than the children’s pasta. It was also bland. The Meatloaf Dinner with mashed potatoes was just deemed OK. Both dishes were bland and unmemorable.
There was one highlight of our dining selection: the sushi. The sushi was extremely fresh and flavorful. Had it not been priced so high, it would possibly entice us to return to Wolfgang Puck. But at over 30 dollars for two rolls, the sushi selection is a bit too pricey to warrant repeat visits. The restaurant did not have any other redeeming qualities that would make us come back. The service was fine, but nothing great. With the exception of the sushi, everything was mediocre.
Even with the parking situation at Downtown Disney, this Mother’s Day night could have been a great one if Wolfgang Puck served up food that lived up to the reputation of the chef whose name graces the restaurant. The food is excessively bland and, in some cases, bad. The prices are high. The best item that we had that night were the sliders from the food truck outside the restaurant. Given the experience we had, Wolfgang Puck will no longer be on our list. If you want sushi and don’t mind it being on the pricier side, Wolfgang Puck is worth checking out. Outside of that, I’d pretty much recommend trying out any other option at Downtown Disney before Wolfgang Puck.