Menu CHANGES Impact Disney’s California Grill — Join Us As We Try Them

If you don’t like change, Disney is NOT the place to go right now.

Disney’s Contemporary Resort

Whether it’s price increases, construction changes, or menu changes — change is the name of the game at the Most Magical Place on Earth these days. One of Disney’s signature spots — California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort — changed in a BIG way for Disney’s 50th Anniversary. It now offers a prix fixe menu as part of the festivities. But recently some changes were made to that menu and some NEW items were added. So, of course, we had to make our way over to this ever-popular place to try them out. Curious to know if these new dishes are things YOU should try? Join us on this food adventure as we find out together!

As we mentioned above, during Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, California Grill is offering a special prix fixe menu (and it isn’t cheap!). Dinner there will now cost you $89 per adult (plus tax and gratuity) and $39 per child (plus tax and gratuity). That includes one appetizer (“Market Inspirations”), one entree (“Chef’s Journey”), and one dessert (“Sweet Creations”) for adults. We’ve already shared a FULL review of the original prix fixe menu, but now we’re checking out some NEW items that hit the scene in May of 2022. 


As always, California Grill is a stunning spot. You can utilize Mobile Check-In for your reservation, and then head to the 2nd Floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort to speak with a Cast Member.

Atmosphere | October 2021

Once you’re there, the Cast Member will escort you up to the 15th floor via an elevator that is reserved exclusively for California Grill guests. Talk about fancy!

Atmosphere | October 2021

Once you’re up on the 15th floor, take a second to soak in those views. Truly, the views here are one of the key elements that make this restaurant so special. There are spectacular views of Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom, and the nearby greenery and water. Be sure to step out onto the outdoor viewing area to get a look at everything below you without any window obstructions.


Seriously, the views here of TRON all lit up at night, and just the general ambience of being on top of the iconic Contemporary Resort during Disney World’s 50th Anniversary will get you in the festive mood. This is a spot that’s also full of history. It was originally known as the Top of the World, but has changed quite a bit since those early days. Now, it’s a popular location known for its innovative dishes from top-notch chefs, featuring market-inspired menus paired with those stunning views.

California Grill | October 2021

Remember that generally, even if you eat at California Grill ahead of the fireworks, you can save that receipt and come back later to get access to the private outdoor viewing area, so you can catch the fireworks from an exclusive spot!

Inside the restaurant, you’ll find a very sophisticated, yet not stuffy, design. The restaurant wraps around the open kitchen and features HUGE windows to really soak in that view.

California Grill is a hot ticket | October 2021 Photo

There are standard tables and chairs available, as well as booths and some bar seating. Plus, there’s an open kitchen, so be sure to peek over there as the chefs make their magic.

If you’re thinking about what table to request, our recommendation would be to ask for a table by one of the GIANT windows with a view to Magic Kingdom. We got one of those during our recent trip and it was absolutely amazing.

Check It Out!

Once at the table, you’ll get a paper menu detailing the prix fixe options available to you. There is also a cloth napkin and utensils.

Menu and Napkin

Before we move on, we do want to note that there is a dress code for California Grill, since it is a signature restaurant. Specifically, Disney says that “Guests are expected to dress accordingly in attire that respects the restaurant’s sophisticated and upscale aesthetic. Clothing should be clean, neat and in good condition. Please no swimwear.” So stay away from ripped jeans or anything like that, and try to opt for some clothes that are a bit fancier than the tank top and shorts you may have lived in during your time at the parks.

Alright, let’s get onto the food!


As we noted above, California Grill is currently serving a prix fixe menu as part of the 50th Anniversary, with items generally inspired by the 50th or classics from California Grill’s past. The price is $89 per adult (plus tax and gratuity) and $39 per child (plus tax and gratuity).

The Menu

Each adult meal includes one of the Market Inspirations (appetizers). New to this portion (as of late May 2022) is the Florida Peach and Raspberry Salad (Plant-Based) as well as the House-Made Vegetable Dumplings (also Plant-based). There’s also a newer seasonal offering — the Florida Rock Shrimp Salad.


Each adult meal also includes one pick from the Chef’s Journey portion (entrees). New to this section is the House-made Bucatini Cacio e Pepe (Plant-Based) as well as the Spring Peas and Carrots Risotto (Plant-Based).


Finally, each prix fixe meal also includes dessert (or one pick from “Sweet Creations”). New to this section of the menu is the Peanut and Banana Torte (Plant-Based), the Lavender Sugar Donuts (Plant-Based), and the EARidescent Crème Brûlée with tropical flavors for spring/summer.


If you haven’t caught the trend here already, many of the new items Disney has added to the menu are plant-based (though there are others that aren’t specifically plant-based). In Disney World, plant-based means that the option has no animal meat, dairy, eggs, or honey.

In terms of the rest of the menu, you’ll also find kids appetizers, entrees, side selections…


…and desserts.


There are also tea selections…


…dessert wines, port, sherry, and madeira, cordials…






…Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, rye whiskey…


…sparkling and white wines…


…rosé and red wines…


…signature cocktails…


…sake, and beers and hard ciders. In other words, if you’re looking to grab a drink, there’s no lack of options!


There are also allergy-friendly menu options, so be sure to take a look at those depending on what allergies/food sensitivities you have. Click here to see our full page about eating with allergies and intolerances in Disney World.

After we had a look at the menu, it was time to order and then dig in!


The meal here begins with complimentary bread (we LOVE to see it). This bread is served with an olive oil that is infused with roasted garlic and chives.

Time to Start Our Meal!

Just remember not to fill up too much on that bread or you won’t have room for the rest of your 3-course meal!

But Save Room!

For our appetizer or “Market Inspirations” we opted for the new Vegetable Dumplings. This is a plant-based dish and the dumplings feature Doenjang Miso-Cola-Onion Sauce, Radish, Crispy Garlic-Chili Oil, Pickled Lotus Root.

Our Dumplings

Our reporter who went to try these dishes is generally a plant-based eater, and they’ve gotten a lot of exposure to plant-based theme park eats over the years. So we were very curious to see what they’d think about the dish.

There are SO many things to say about this dish. For starters, the Doenjang Miso-Cola-Onion Sauce tasted sort-of like a plum sauce, but more sophisticated. (This IS a fancy restaurant after all!)

A Closer Look

The shredded veggies inside the dumplings were cooked in the sauce, so they really carried through the flavor. It wasn’t like an undressed salad had just been shoved into a dumpling, which is what some dumplings can taste like. 😂

Everything on the plate was deliciously seasoned and cooked wonderfully. The dumpling itself was like a pillowy cloud ☁  — a very satisfying consistency. 🤤 And the pickled lotus root truly surprised us! It was garnishing the dish so we didn’t think much of it at first, but it really added a great crunch and salty acidity to the plate. That helped balance out the sweetness of the dumplings.


Our reporter who tried this dish said they didn’t feel like this plant-based dish was an afterthought. It wasn’t as though this was tasty despite being plant-based. There was no “fake” meat, and it wasn’t as though the team tried to recreate a meat-based dish with vegetables. Instead, they felt like this was a plant-based dish that tasted good because it was plant-based. It felt like it was truly crafted with care and thought.

Our reporter’s only complaint? They wish there was MORE because they were just that good! (They said they could have eaten 100 of these, if that gives you any indication of how tasty they were! 😂 )

If you’re not really one who loves dumplings, or the idea of radishes and a miso-cola-onion sauce doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you can pick from some of the other appetizers here! But in our book, these are a WIN.

Dumplings With a View!

Next, for our entree, we went with the House-made Bucatini Cacio E Pepe. In case you’re not familiar with it, Cacio E Pepe is a pasta dish/sauce that typically features a whole bunch of cheese (maybe Pecorino-Romano or Parmesan), olive oil, salt, and black pepper. And bucatini pasta is a longer, thin noodle — sort-of like a spaghetti, but it has a hole in the middle.

California Grill’s version is a bit different than your regular Cacio E Pepe, however, because it is plant-based. That means it doesn’t have any dairy at all! And just how they got it to be SOOOOOOO creamy with no dairy continues to be a mystery to us!

Hello Beautiful

Our reporter who tried this dish claims to make “the best vegan Alfredo on the internet” using a specific recipe, but even they were in SHOCK. HOW did Disney get this sauce to be so creamy?! They seriously had to ask the staff at California Grill to make sure there hadn’t been a mistake. There wasn’t — it’s just that good. 😮

This dish is made with flavors of Sunflower and Allium, Cacio e Pepe Sauce, Crispy Sunchokes, Roasted Cipollini Onions, Sunflower Seed-Ramp Pistou. And the pasta was, in a word, incredible! The Allium was another ingredient that surprised us. These beauties tasted like a mild chive or green onion and were DELICIOUS on their own.

Our Pasta

There were also crispy sunchokes in the dish. These are a tuber (like potatoes) that sort-of resemble a ginger root. Having these in the dish was like eating a an earthy-tasting potato chip. Potato chips on homemade pasta?! YES. It is a thing here and it WORKS. It really really really works.

Suffice it to say, our reporter fully disclosed that they “obsessively love” this dish, so don’t throw it to the side just because it’s plant-based. You might give it a try and absolutely fall in love with it, just like they did!


Unless you’re not a pasta lover, we think this is something you will likely really enjoy! But if you’re looking for something with meat or seafood, or simply something that isn’t pasta, know that there are plenty of other options on the menu to pick from — including a filet of beef, grouper, and chicken.

Dinner With a View

Finally, we ended our meal with one of the new desserts — the Peanut Butter and Banana Torte. Again, this is a plant-based dish and features Shortbread, Peanut Ganache, Miso-Caramel, Nut Crumble, and Caramelized Bananas.

Dessert with a View of the Castle? Don’t Mind if We Do

The caramelized bananas were amazing! It’s as if the chefs magically turned fresh bananas into candy, without losing that banana look or texture. The flavor of the banana had somehow been intensified and made more sweet, perfect for dessert. Can we get a side of these to go please?! 🙏

The nut crumble was almost like a grown-up version of the peanut flakes in a Butterfinger, but way less sweet (in a kind-of good way). The peanut ganache and miso-caramel had the texture of a solid pudding. And while that might sort-of sound off-putting, it wasn’t! It was actually incredibly decadent. If you didn’t already know that it was plant-based when ordering it, we think you’d have a hard time noticing that while eating the dish.

A Closer Peek

In terms of the shortbread — we didn’t really get any flavor or distinct texture from it. It seemed to be there to function more as a foundation and hold the dish together. It didn’t really take away from the dish, but it didn’t seem to substantially add anything to it either (flavor-wise at least).

Finally, the dish was garnished with blackberries, which added some tartness and helped to break the dish up. This was actually a much-needed addition because the dish was quite decadent. The tart blackberries helped to reset our palette between bites and add some brightness to the dish, allowing us to continue taking bite after bite and still appreciate the caramel and peanut flavors that just EXPLODE with each forkful.


The one thing we will note is that this dish is DECADENT and rich. If you’re more of a fruit-based dessert person, or you’re looking for something a bit lighter, you might want to go for something else on the menu. Also, if you’re not a fan of peanuts, caramel, or banana, then this is something you’ll want to skip!

Would You Try It?

And that’s a FULL look at our plant-based trip through California Grill’s menu. Let’s go over whether this spot is something you might want to check out.

Nosh or Not

You should run 🏃 over to California Grill if:

  • You’re looking for some absolutely incredible plant-based dishes — Our reporter (who eats mostly plant-based) was truly blown away by this spot’s new plant-based eats. If you’re a plant-based eater or are just curious to try something new, this could be a must-do spot for you. The dishes were delicious because they were plant-based, not in spite of being plant-based.
  • You’re looking for a spot with incredible Magic Kingdom views — The views here are really spectacular. Whether you come for fireworks or just to look over Magic Kingdom from a distance, it really makes the experience special.
  • You’re looking for an upscale dining experience — There are a lot of places to try in Disney World. You can opt for the inexpensive corn dogs or really go for an opulent meal — Disney has it all. California Grill is more on the upscale side, without being too stuffy. So if you’re planning a date night or a birthday dinner or just want to treat yourself, this could be a great place to visit.

You should skip ⏭ California Grill if:

  • You’re looking for a casual spot — This is one of Disney’s signature restaurants, meaning there is a dress code and things are a bit more fancy. So if you’re all about kicking back in your cutoff jeans while sitting on a park bench, this isn’t the place for you.
  • You’re looking for items that are very basic in terms of flavors — None of the dishes we tasted had off-putting or particularly strange flavors or ingredients, but some of the things are more unique. This isn’t exactly your chicken tenders and fries-kind of place. We do think there are menu items that could satisfy most eaters here, but if you’re particularly picky or are in a group with really particular eaters, you may want to opt for something different.
  • You’re dining on a budget — Particularly with the prix fixe menu now in place at California Grill, things are pretty expensive here. If you’re not willing to drop nearly $100 for a single person, head elsewhere!


Before we get to overall thoughts, we have to give a shout-out to our amazing server, Nadia. They walked us through the entire menu and answered our many questions. They were so interested in the meal that it got us excited to enjoy the experience and really helped us to appreciate the meal.

In terms of our overall thoughts, the new plant-based menu is, in the opinion of our plant-based reporter, a MUST TRY. The quality of the dishes, paired with the incredible views, the fantastic service from the Cast Members, and the overall experience made it worth the cost (to us).

It Was WORTH It!

You can tell the plant-based dishes were designed to be tasty as-is. They weren’t simply put there to satisfy plant-based eaters or replicate meat-based food. Instead, they were designed to be delicious — just as they are. And the team absolutely achieved that goal (at least in our opinions). The items we had were bursting with flavor. It’s a meal made of plant-based dishes we’d easily get again and again.

But what do you think? Would you pay nearly $100 to try these items or any other ones on the California Grill menu? Tell us in the comments!

Worth it or Not?

We’ll continue to keep an eye out for more Disney news, menu changes, and other updates. To read our full review of the menu CHANGES at Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, click here. You can also click here to see our thoughts on the new items that have arrived at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, and click here to see our full review of the revamped menu at 50s Prime Time Cafe.

Check back with us for more updates!

Click here to see our full review of Amare at Disney’s Swan Reserve Hotel!

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Would you try any of these plant-based dishes? Tell us in the comments!

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