Also known as that time I accidentally ordered a $137 cocktail and was too embarrassed to send it back.
We’ve eaten here multiple times over the years and California Grill never disappoints. The menu changes with the seasons and the views are unbeatable. The restaurant is located on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort with full walls of windows facing the Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon. Bonus View: The restaurant has nightly fireworks viewing for anyone who has dined there that evening. The vibe is light and modern, fitting with it’s home in the Contemporary Resort.
Magic Kingdom Fireworks from California Grill
It is important to note that the check-in desk for this location is on the second floor of the Contemporary Hotel. From there you will be escorted up to the 15th floor via private elevator. The only way to watch the fireworks from the two observatory decks on the 15th floor is to have a reservation for that evening at the Contemporary. If you finish your meal before the fireworks begin, don’t worry! All you need to do is come back and show your receipt at the check-in podium.
You can also watch the fireworks from your table if the timing falls during your meal. The audio for the fireworks is streamed inside and outside. So you do get a bit of a different viewpoint, but the audio feels like you are standing inside Magic Kingdom park.
Currently the restaurant is celebrating the Disney World 50th Anniversary with a three course prix fixe menu inspired by the restaurant menu favorites from years past. You have a choice of one appetizer selection, one entrée selection and one dessert selection.
The California Grill 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner is $89 plus tax and gratuity for adults and $39 plus tax and gratuity per child. Obviously, this is a signature dining experience and on the expensive side. I’d recommend checking the menu to make sure you like what’s offered before you book your reservation.
We had the Blue Crab Bisque and Duck À L’Orange Pizza starters, the Wild Alaskan Halibut and Oak-fired Filet of Beef entrees, and the Lavender Sugar Doughnuts and Five Magical Bites 50 Years in the Making dessert selections. (The Five Magical Bites is five mini desserts, one from each decade of past California Grill dessert menus.) The crab bisque won the appetizer round – we agreed the pizza was a little heavy on the fatty and sweet flavors. The entrees were evenly matched and both delicious as were the desserts. I had the steak and potatoes so the mini desserts were the perfect portion of dessert for me.
The Infamous $137 Cocktail
Yeah… all I’m gonna say in my defense here is that font choices matters – kerning specifically. That’s my defense and I’m sticking with it.
The California Grill Signature Cocktail: This Ultra-Premium Cocktail pairing partners a traditional Champagne Cocktail with Rémy Martin Louis XIII, which takes four generations of Cellar Masters to create.
– California Grill Menu Description
I don’t know anyone who would ever expect to see a $137 price on a cocktail menu. Those are not the circles I dine in. But when you’re on a Disney vacation and you’re about to have dinner at one of the best signature dining experiences they offer, you do expect the drinks to be a little pricey. This was my inner monologue as I glanced over the drink menu and my brain saw $37 as the price tag on this 50th anniversary beverage. It wasn’t until our server took our orders (and the drink menu) and asked if I had seen the price tag on the cocktail I ordered. I panicked internally but externally I semi-confidently said “yes, it’s a splurge, I know.” As soon as she walked away I immediately pulled up the menu online and saw the $137 price.
At this point I decided there was nothing I could do but play it cool, hope it’s the most amazing cocktail I’ve ever had in my life and start thinking about how to explain this purchase to my husband when I get home.
The cocktail did not disappoint. I’ve had champagne cocktails before and to me they always just taste like champagne with extra sugar. The Rémy Marin Louis XIII makes all the difference here. Fun Fact: A one-ounce pour of Rémy Martin Louis XIII costs $175 on its own so… I actually got a discount?
Here’s why the drink costs so much -one bottle of Rémy Martin Louis XIII retails for about $4,000. The process of crafting Rémy Martin Louis XIII started with harvesting grapes from the Grand Champagne Cru in the Cognac region of France to distill “on lees,” essentially adding a more concentrated taste and texture from using the solid pieces of grape left over from pressing. The cognac is then aged for two years in French Limousin oak casks that have been cut, until it reaches the exact specifications Cellar Masters require for it to reach its ideal taste.
Your drink arrives at your table with a full presentation explaining the history of the drink and the cognac that makes it unique. You can check it out over on our instagram.
I REALLY enjoyed this cocktail but I don’t think I would pay $137 for it on purpose. If someone handed me their no limit Amex card, that’s another story. But if you’re a cognac connoisseur or have the budget and just want to feel super bougie – definitely go for it.
California Grill is never a disappointment. The views will always be stunning and the food will always be high quality and delicious. Although, honestly I will be happy when the regular seasonal menu rotation returns. The 50th Anniversary Celebration menu is fairly limited by comparison.
If you can’t get a reservation or you just don’t have the budget for the full mean, you can always walk up to the check-in desk on the second floor and ask to be seated at the sushi bar or lounge. You can only order off of the appetizer menu in these spots, but if If you’re lucky enough to snag seats you’ll get to checkout the views without the full meal price tag. This is definitely one of the more expensive signature dining experiences in Disney World though so keep that in mind when planning. I always consider it worth the splurge.
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