California Grill

*** (3 stars)

It’s difficult to do a fine dining restaurant in a theme park environment, and it’s not entirely the establishment’s fault. You’ve got people dressed as tourists, and their kids are exhausted from spending the day in a theme park. And did I mention the kids? There are lots of them.

Still, it’s possible. Victoria and Alberts is one of the greatest restaurants in the country, but they don’t allow kids. They turn the lights down, have a dress code, and charge enough that the patrons are likely to be foodies.

California Grill doesn’t use these tactics, and so the results are somewhat less spectacular. The setting on top of the Contemporary is dramatic, but bright lighting turns the windows into mirrors. The menu is fairly similar to Seasons 52 (which, let’s face it, stole the whole concept from California Grill), but the prices are obviously higher. The real difference, though, is the theme park production line approach to service, which just doesn’t work in a fine dining restaurant.

There’s really nothing wrong with the California Grill. If you’re staying on the Disney property — especially if you’re staying on the monorail loop — it’s a great choice. And if you time your visit to the nightly fireworks at the Magic Kingdom, there’s no better view.

It’s just that if you’re off-property there are better fine dining choices in Orlando. Or splurge, and go to Victoria and Albert’s.

California Grill
4600 N World Dr
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
(407) 939-3463