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Orlando Area Dining


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  • 3 weeks later...

My friend and I had some good meals during our trip to Orlando for Memorial Day Weekend. Thanks to you fine Florida eg-ers for your input!

I'm buried in work post-vacation so I'll write little blurbs about our meals when time permits. Here's meal #1.

We were feeling lazy on Thursday, the day of our arrival, and only made it as far as The Kitchen at the Hard Rock Hotel. More memorable than the food (which was better than I expected really) was our service. Our server, a woman named Mel, was clearly out of her mind. Friendly, but stir-crazy. She introduced herself by saying she couldn't read the name on our table slip because her "dog ate her contacts." This wasn't a joke-y excuse. She meant it...and proceeded to whip out photos of the English bulldog. Subsequently we also saw photos of her fiance (though, she said, he had since shaved his goatee - good for him!). It was all rather bizarre and all of the tables around us were laughing about her good-natured insanity.

My friend suspected crack while I pegged the blame on crystal meth. :biggrin:

To start, we shared a very good - but clearly not inventive - chicken and chorizo quesadilla. Very tasty. My friend didn't love her seared tuna entree (saying it was cooked way more than rare which made the tuna tough), but my portion of pasta with olives, sausage, garlic and a few other good-tasting ingredients was huge so the two of us gobbled it down.

Desserts were fine, but if I did a calories/enjoyment ratio, I'd probably skip 'em next time.

To be continued...

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  • 1 month later...

I'll be attending meetings for work next week, staying at the Swan.

Since this thread hasn't been updated in a while, just thought I would check to see if there's anyplace I should go while at Disney. I won't have a car, so I'll pretty much be limited to places I can get to on foot or using Disney transportation.

All types of food and all price ranges are in play. I'm just trying to avoid eating rubber chicken in the hotel ballroom every night.

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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Disney food seems to get a bad rap on here - and although I'm biased (look at my name), there are quite a few restaurants at WDW that I would choose over 'great' restaurants i've been to all over the world. Some of my suggestions -

Breakfast -

Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Resort: Great Banana stuffed french toast and other breakfast faves with Kona Coffe

Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge: Amazing buffet that features african cuisine plus delicious juice combos (also *amazing* for dinner.. and I generally dislike buffets)

Lunch -

Studio Catering Company at the Disney-MGM Studios - Newly re-opened with a killer middle-eastern themed menu - best kebabs i've had outside of NYC

Tusker House at Disney's Animal Kingdom - Great garlicky rotiserie-chicken and great salmon

Beaches and Cream - Within walking distance of the swan at the Beach Club resort - *Best* burgers on disney property in a fun atmosphere with killer sundaes.

Dinner -

Le Cellier at Epcot - Canada Pavilion - Amazing Cheddar Cheese and Bacon Soup .. Steaks just as good as Yachtsmans steakhouse for less money and a great atmosphere

Marakkesh at Epcot - Morocco Pavilion - Overlooked great Moroccan food with entertainment

Flying Fish at Boardwalk (within walking distance) - AMAZING seafood - always good service and food - sit at the kitchen seats for a great view.

Narcoosee's at the Grand Floridian - Overlooked Surf and Turf type restaurant with a great view

Those are just some of my faves - i've been to every restaurant on disney property so if you have any questions.. let me know!

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After a bit of research I think I've got it narrowed down to 3 possibilities. I'll actually only be able to get away one night for dinner. Here are the choices:

1. Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge

2. bluezoo at the Dolphin

3. Flying Fish at the Boardwalk

Thoughts?

Edited by jesteinf (log)

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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After a bit of research I think I've got it narrowed down to 3 possibilities.  I'll actually only be able to get away one night for dinner.  Here are the choices:

1.  Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge

2.  bluezoo at the Dolphin

3.  Flying Fish at the Boardwalk

Thoughts?

Of the three, I've only eaten at FF, but based on things I've read on other (mostly WDW related) websites, I don't think you can go wrong with any of them. Personally, I'd go to Jiko because it is the most unique/different. Here's a recent menu: http://allearsnet.com/menu/menu_jiko.htm

John

"I can't believe a roasted dead animal could look so appealing."--my 10 year old upon seeing Peking Duck for the first time.

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I'll be attending meetings for work next week, staying at the Swan.

Since this thread hasn't been updated in a while, just thought I would check to see if there's anyplace I should go while at Disney.  I won't have a car, so I'll pretty much be limited to places I can get to on foot or using Disney transportation.

All types of food and all price ranges are in play.  I'm just trying to avoid eating rubber chicken in the hotel ballroom every night.

I go to Disney for things like the Flower Festival. The food is secondary on those trips - which is a good thing :wink: . Haven't been in a couple of years - so I can't recommend any specific places.

You didn't mention whether you'd have a park pass during your stay. At many of the "in park" restaurants - you need a park pass to get into the park so you can get to the restaurant. Check this out if you're considering dining in any of the theme parks (we usually go to California Grill at least once during a stay - and you don't need a park pass to eat there). If you're staying at the Swan - you should hit the Boardwalk at least one night (you don't need a park pass to go to Boardwalk). I don't think the food will blow you away - but it's the proverbial "hop/skip/jump" from the Swan. I enjoy watching the street performers more than the food (the street performers are usually terrific - can't say the same about the food). There is a microbrewery there with ok microbrews.

Also - if you have more than one night - it would be a shame to miss the fireworks at Epcot (the Swan is right near Epcot - easy walk or boat ride if you don't care to walk). They're truly spectacular. So you might consider combining a meal in Epcot with the fireworks. Note that park passes run 24 consecutive hours - not daily - in terms of planning. Staying at the Swan will entitle you to early admission at the theme park of the day that has early admission.

BTW - don't know if you're from Florida - but the weather in Orlando is pretty awful in July. So if you're going to try to hit any of the parks - I'd suggest doing it very early (take advantage of the early opening deal from the Swan) - or after dark. Robyn

Edited by robyn (log)
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As a side note - Park admission is by date only not 24 hour period unfortunatly. If you purchase a ticket for today it is only good until the close of business today.

Out of the choices that you mentioned I would probably recomend Jiko. Great and inventive food - plus the deserts are to die for (the chocolate "candies" are very creative) and they have the best South African wine selection in the US. Plus the restaurant is located at the Animal Kingdom Lodge so if you are not visiting Animal Kingdom you can still walk around and see some of the beautiful animals and surroundings.

Enjoy!

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As a side note - Park admission is by date only not 24 hour period unfortunatly.  If you purchase a ticket for today it is only good until the close of business today. 

Out of the choices that you mentioned I would probably recomend Jiko.  Great and inventive food - plus the deserts are to die for (the chocolate "candies" are very creative) and they have the best South African wine selection in the US.  Plus the restaurant is located at the Animal Kingdom Lodge so if you are not visiting Animal Kingdom you can still walk around and see some of the beautiful animals and surroundings.

Enjoy!

I've had some "24/48 hour" resident tickets in the past - but you may well be right about current tickets for non-residents. It's something to check out. Robyn

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After a bit of research I think I've got it narrowed down to 3 possibilities.  I'll actually only be able to get away one night for dinner.  Here are the choices:

1.  Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge

2.  bluezoo at the Dolphin

3.  Flying Fish at the Boardwalk

Thoughts?

I was at the Yacht Club on business in May, and was fortunate enough to have one night of the three on my own to do what I wanted. Sat in front of the open kitchen at BlueZoo, and don't regret it for a second. Had a grilled scallop appetizer followed by a whole striped bass that was special that night. Loved it, and wished I could have gone back.

"All humans are out of their f*cking minds -- every single one of them."

-- Albert Ellis

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I'll 2nd the recommendation for Jiko. It's unique, consistent, and it accompanies a visit to the Animal Kingdom lodge, which is worth seeing. Make sure to get a bottle of wine - they have the best South African selection in the States.

I hear bluezoo is much improved, it was a beautiful space when I visited, but the seafood was only OK. But it's location right next to your hotel may be a plus or a minus depending on your perspective. IMO Flying Fish is vastly overrated. I have been 3 times as I keep hearing rave reviews from others but everytime I go I'm disappointed. Maybe the others are comparing it to Red Lobster? :biggrin:

If you have the time and money though, you should make sure to try either Victoria & Alberts or the California Grill. Both of those are the best options at Disney. We've also enjoyed meals at Citrico's and Artist's Point.

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Of the three restuarants you are considering, Jiko is definitely my favorite. The only problem I see is that since you are staying at the Swan without a car you'll have to set aside quite a block of time to get to Jiko. The Disney buses don't run directly from resort to resort, so you'll need to transfer buses at Downtown Disney, or walk through Epcot (if you have a park pass) to the Future World gate to catch a direct bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge. The food is excellent though, and they have an outstanding wine list--it's worth the trip. You could also take a taxi.

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Of the three restuarants you are considering, Jiko is definitely my favorite.  The only problem I see  is that since you are staying at the Swan without a car you'll have to set aside quite a block of time to get to Jiko.  The Disney buses don't run directly from resort to resort, so you'll need to transfer buses at Downtown Disney, or walk through Epcot (if you have a park pass) to the Future World gate to catch a direct bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge.  The food is excellent though, and they have an outstanding wine list--it's worth the trip.  You could also take a taxi.

Since he'll be at the Swan, wouldn't it be easier to take the boat (or walk) to MGM then take a bus to AKL from MGM?

John

"I can't believe a roasted dead animal could look so appealing."--my 10 year old upon seeing Peking Duck for the first time.

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In about four hours, I'll be headed for Orlando (last minute trip).

I won't be doing Disney, but do not remember any other places from the one previous visit.

There have been some suggestions for restaurants that sound quite lovely above, but as usual, I'd prefer somewhere non-white tablecloth, casual but "real", possibly ethnic. Barbecue. . .grilled fish. . .Cuban. . .that sort of thing.

Will go check "Hollys Eats" (does it cover Florida?) but wonder if anyone had any suggestions here. . .

If nobody has any suggestions right in Orlando, how far do you think I would have to drive to find this sort of thing?

Will check in to see suggestions later tonight! Thanks!

Karen

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Okay, the first cup of coffee just woke me up enough to find the threads that do have some great suggestions! Seems like there are noodle shops, Vietnamese, Cuban, and barbecue all around the place. . .

Thanks!

And must correct the spelling I used for Holly's site. It is not Holly's Eats but hollyeats. Yes, some good things there, too!

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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Thanks, Susan. This steambath (oops I meant to say Florida heh heh) has been good so far.

The trip down, yesterday, was another story. The heights of American Fast Food were reached by my eating a Taco Bell Crunchwrap, which was rather like eating somebody's pocketbook full of crushed up food, and then to top it off, Starbuck's newest offering. . .a Green Tea Frappucino. That was interesting. The color is totally mesmerizing. . .a sort of bright jungle green on one hand, but on the other hand it reminds me of nothing so much as a bar of that green industrial soap. Sort of tastes inbeween those two things too.

So I wasn't really hungry this morning.

Around lunchtime, I wandered out to find something to do. Naturally I felt that I "had nothing to wear". This always happens. So the car rental guy sent me off to Millenium Mall. I had to believe that his recomendations were good, for he told me his birthday was the same as mine. (On the other hand, as an ex-New Yorker I'm thinking the guy is getting some sort of commission for me walking through the mall doors. . .eh.)

Thankfully, I got lost. I always do at first in this sort of sprawly place where one has to drive rather than take the subway, and it is a good thing that I do!

Driving down Orange Blossom, I saw a taqueria with lots of old pick-up trucks in front of it. Taqueria Amica Jalisco. Corner of 44th Street.

Funky little place. I was the only gringa there (no gringos, either!). Spanish spoken, menus only in Spanish posted on handwritten sheets on the wall. Tacos. All the usual sorts, plus a fish taco. One dollar each (except the fish taco which was $1.50). Twelve sorts of tacos. I chose one chicharrone and one cabeza. You place your order with the counter girl (who when hearing my fractured Spanish changed to English, nicely, for me) and then wait for your number to be called.

The place was crowded with Mexican working guys eating at large laminate tables. . .a few families with children came in too. . .and. . .ei caramba. The food was good. Better than good.

There is a "toppings" bar. The chicharrones I topped with a thinned guacamole, some spicy slaw, and a squeeze of fresh lime. The cabeza I topped with grilled onions. My favorite was the cabeza. Total comfort food.

These tacos are small and homemade. . .not huge thin floury things, but just perfect for sopping up the yummy juices that ooze out of the fillings.

And although I was the only freckled redhead in the place, I was not made to feel strange at all, and was even welcomed to sit at a table with a quiet gesture and a "Senora. . ." by one of the workmen/gentlemen.

They did offer one other dish which many people were enjoying at the tables. Menudo, which was priced at six dollars, was served in large earthenware bowls with accompaniments. It looked great, and was certainly being slurped right up by those who had ordered it.

Topped it all off with a pineapple soda, and I was one happy camper.

So much so that when it was time to remove the take-out container from the car to throw it away, (I didn't stay in the restaurant, for by the time I got my order the line was extending out the door!) instead I opened it up to take a deep whiff of the wonderful smells that were left, and found that I had to keep it a while longer just to smell it occasionally.

(Yeah, I know I'm wierd. . .)

More later. Oh, yes I did make it to the mall.

Naptime. (Well, it IS vacation, you know!)

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Just wanted to report back now that I'm back from Orlando. Thank you all for your suggestions.

The company wound up taking us out to bluezoo one night. We sat in the private room and were offered a very limited menu (2 apps, 1 salad, 3 mains, 1 dessert). I had the scallop and braised short rib appetizer and for my main I had the seared tuna wrapped in nori. The scallop was very good, but the tuna was terrible. Slightly overdone, very dry, virtually no flavor. Overall a disappointing meal, but that probably had to do with the limited menu more than anything else.

The one night we were able to get away we wound up at Fulton's Crab House at Downtown Disney. FYI - They have an alternate wine list if you ask for it. We started with a dozen assorted oysters which was very good. Then everybody had the alaskan king crab/lobster tail combo. The crab was a bit dry, but the lobster tail was very good.

All in all, ok but not great food. If nothing else, it was good to get away from mass-produced hotel food at least a couple of times. Next time I'm going to suck it up, bring a jacket, and go to Victoria and Albert's.

-Josh

Now blogging at http://jesteinf.wordpress.com/

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Thanks, Susan. This steambath (oops I meant to say Florida heh heh) has been good so far.

The trip down, yesterday, was another story. The heights of American Fast Food were reached by my eating a Taco Bell Crunchwrap, which was rather like eating somebody's pocketbook full of crushed up food, and then to top it off,  Starbuck's newest offering. . .a Green Tea Frappucino. That was interesting. The color is totally mesmerizing. . .a sort of bright jungle green on one hand, but on the other hand it reminds me of nothing so much as a bar of that green industrial soap. Sort of tastes inbeween those two things too.

So I wasn't really hungry this morning.

Around lunchtime, I wandered out to find something to do. Naturally I felt that I "had nothing to wear". This always happens. So the car rental guy sent me off to Millenium Mall. I had to believe that his recomendations were good, for he told me his birthday was the same as mine. (On the other hand, as an ex-New Yorker I'm thinking the guy is getting some sort of commission for me walking through the mall doors. . .eh.)

Thankfully, I got lost. I always do at first in this sort of sprawly place where one has to drive rather than take the subway, and it is a good thing that I do!

Driving down Orange Blossom, I saw a taqueria with lots of old pick-up trucks in front of it.  Taqueria Amica Jalisco. Corner of 44th Street.

Funky little place. I was the only gringa there (no gringos, either!). Spanish spoken, menus only in Spanish posted on handwritten sheets on the wall. Tacos. All the usual sorts, plus a fish taco. One dollar each (except the fish taco which was $1.50). Twelve sorts of tacos. I chose one chicharrone and one cabeza. You place your order with the counter girl (who when hearing my fractured Spanish changed to English, nicely, for me) and then wait for your number to be called.

The place was crowded with Mexican working guys eating at large laminate tables. . .a few families with children came in too. . .and. . .ei caramba. The food was good. Better than good.

There is a "toppings" bar. The chicharrones I topped with a thinned guacamole, some spicy slaw, and a squeeze of fresh lime. The cabeza I topped with grilled onions. My favorite was the cabeza. Total comfort food.

These tacos are small and homemade. . .not huge thin floury things, but just perfect for sopping up the yummy juices that ooze out of the fillings.

And although I was the only freckled redhead in the place, I was not made to feel strange at all, and was even welcomed to sit at a table with a quiet gesture and a "Senora. . ." by one of the workmen/gentlemen. 

They did offer one other dish which many people were enjoying at the tables. Menudo, which was priced at six dollars, was served in large earthenware bowls with accompaniments. It looked great, and was certainly being slurped right up by those who had ordered it.

Topped it all off with a pineapple soda, and I was one happy camper.

So much so that when it was time to remove the take-out container from the car to throw it away, (I didn't stay in the restaurant, for by the time I got my order the line was extending out the door!) instead I opened it up to take a deep whiff of the wonderful smells that were left, and found that I had to keep it a while longer just to smell it occasionally.

(Yeah, I know I'm wierd. . .)

More later. Oh, yes I did make it to the mall.

Naptime. (Well, it IS vacation, you know!)

Wow...thanks! I find it a little sad that I had to find out about this place from a tourist :raz: but I'm already making plans to head over there for lunch sometime this week.

I can't wait. I get a feeling there are alot of good hidden places in South Orlando with the QUICKLY growing Hispanic population down there. I think all us eGulleteers need to go exploring down there to see what's poppin' up.

Anyone try Lenos y Carbon yet? (it's Columbian)

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Messing Around with Boats. That's what I intended to do, today, but of course that takes getting up early in the morning.

The next place after the taco place was the American Dream made real. The New Mall. Rather fantastic.

In some ways, I wanted to head back to the taco place. . .but did, regardless of my initial reluctance, enter the magical world of va va voom sparkle and dash. Yes, nice mall. Huge. And who needs to go to museums when the museum shops are right there in the mall, huh?

Okay, I bought a few clothes just so I could feel "in place" then had to find another place to eat. I almost walked into Lindt Chocolates to make a meal there, but decided no. . .and finally ended up at California Pizza Kitchen. It was quick, it was shiny, it was low-key not-too-expensive la-de-dah.

High energy there, seems to be a very good staff. The food was tasty and well-made. I had a raspberry mojito (lovely fresh mint, lots of it, crushed up in the glass) and the Singapore Spring Rolls. Good renditions of each. I couldn't help staring endlessly at the menu figuring food and labor costs and sales projections. Very well-crafted menu and pricing. So much so that when I get home, I definitely want to find out what their stock is going for!

Driving back to the hotel, I naturally got lost again and went the wrong way down Tradeport Road. Good thing I did. Searching for coffee or something to set me straight from the mojito (which packed more punch than I realized at first) I discovered there was no good coffee to be found, but the next best thing was. Boiled Peanuts. Hot boiled peanuts will sober you up in a blink, believe me! Right there beside the Baptist Church with the sign that said. . . "Open 24 hours a day: God!" was the peanut guy parked with his pickup and a big aluminum boiling thing full of peanuts cooked fresh still in the shell. I asked for enough for a snack and he doled out about a quart (his idea of a snack obviously different than mine) and off I went. (Oh. Three dollars. Same price as my "breakfast". My "lunch" was $19.)

............................................................

That's it, except for dinner. . .I drove to Cocoa Beach and walked the pier but could not bring myself to eat there. . . then went back to Port Canaverel and went to "The Cove" and to a place overlooking the boats called Rusty's. Nice to have the saltair surrounding one on the dock. . .nice to look at the boats at night with the lights shining off their decks. . .and nice to stare at the arrogant pelican nearby. Food was nothing to write home about. I do think their idea of "fresh" grouper may actually be "freshly defrosted" but the price was again, not bad. Entire meal of grilled grouper, terrible salad and side came to $20. so it was really worth it for the smell of diesel fuel and the proximity to what I thought I was going to do today. . .go fishing!

That is it for me this time. . .airport tomorrow. It has been fun.

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GREAT write-up, including mall food, Karen!

Thank you for reporting back, and thank you Josh as well. Not bad, the company taking you to Bluezoo; it's hard to complain too much about "free."

Cheers,

Life is short; eat the cheese course first.

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Wow...thanks!  I find it a little sad that I had to find out about this place from a tourist  :raz:  but I'm already making plans to head over there for lunch sometime this week.

Bill, you'll enjoy it if you do make it over there!

One word of advice for when you go: If you are out of practice with your Spanish language skills, try to review the numbers from 1 to 100 in your mind. . .for it is very possible that the guy that runs from the kitchen to the counter with the orders does not speak English.

My own ears were breathless with that sort of anxious expectation one has when only minimally fluent in a language, to hear that "quarenta y seis" called out over the din!

Enjoy. . .

Karen

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think one of the most overlooked restaurants at Disney is Portobello Yacht Club, which is on the east side of Pleasure Island, at Downtown Disney. It's owned by Levy Brothers, and opened in 1989, as one of the first of outside restaurant groups to be invited into Disney World. Before their arrival, the dining scene at Disney was not known for being very good at all. The Levy's changed that with the arrival of PYC, and soon became "the" destination restaurant. Whenever a famous celebrity was in town, the Disney escorts would always bring them to PYC. They maintained this status through the early nineties, and, having been a waiter there, the list of celebrities to come through was too lengthy to completely recall. Bob Hope, Alan Alda, Princess Diana, Peter Gabriel, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, Kiss, Sheryl Crow, Christine Brinkley, Eddie Murphy, Shaquille O'neal, countless well known pro atheletes, Jesse Jackson, Chevy Chase, Jodie Foster. The list goes on. The reason was the food. Northern Italian, but very creative, very fresh, everything made to order. Not long after, Disney began to improve their culinary skills, and opened California Grill, Victoria and Alberts, and the bar was raised. The Levy Brothers then took over the former Empress Lily, and it became Fulton's Crab House. They more recently took over Wolfgang Pucks, on the West side of Pleasure Island. Over the years that I worked there, they went through many changes, notably a physical change of the dining room in the later nineties. The service, in my opinion, slipped over the years, but the food quality did not. What was once all adults and celebrities became families and children. Inside the restaurant can be very noisy, but the outside dining is some one of the nicest in Orlando, located on Lake Buena Vista, and is where I always prefered to sit when dining there. I always felt it was a hidden gem at Disney. Next week, for my 50th birthday, and my daughter's 18th, we'll be dining at Arthur's 27, located at the Wyndham Resort, across the street from Downtown Disney. I haven't eaten there for about 10 years, so I'll report on that in the near future.

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