*This dining experience took place in October 2016.
California Grill, located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, is a signature dining location with impressive views of the Walt Disney World Resort. Because of that, it’s a popular restaurant and one that often books up 180 days in advance.
I had not been to California Grill since 2013, when it had recently re-opened after a lengthy refurbishment. The food was great, the atmosphere amazing, but the service we had in 2013 (for my brother’s 30th birthday) was not so great.
On this particular occasion, I visited California Grill with a friend from college who was visiting from out-of-town. California Grill is one of his favorite restaurants, so it was a great excuse to visit.
California Grill carries an allergy-friendly menu, like most restaurants at Disney. I had looked at the menu here on my site before going to dinner, but California Grill does frequently update its menu.
Of course, you can always speak to a chef upon arrival if you have any questions or are interested in additional menu modifications (or your special dietary need is not listed on the menu). For instance, none of the beef options on the menu are currently listed as gluten free, but I’m sure with some easy modifications they could be.
Prior to ordering, our server Donald brought me Ener-G rolls and some butter (you can request extra virgin olive oil too). I only tried a bite of the roll and decided not to even ask for olive oil. I am always so disappointed when a restaurant like California Grill serves Ener-G. They weren’t well heated and turned hard very quickly.
I would have much preferred the GNI / Deanna’s Gluten Free rolls, which are much tastier.
For an appetizer, I ordered the Artisan Tacos with Adobo Fish, House-made Cilantro-Corn Tortillas, Pickled Red Onion, and an Avocado mash. It normally comes with crema, but I asked for it to be served without it in order to make it dairy free. With this modification, the dish was gluten free and dairy free.
The flavors on this were really nice. It was a bright flavorful dish — though I think the flavor of the delicate fish was lost on the bold flavors of the accompaniments. Still, it was a really large portion for an appetizer and could easily be an entree with a side salad.
For my entree, I chose the Pork Two Ways with Grilled Tenderloin, Goat Cheese Polenta, Mushrooms, and Lacquered Pork Belly. This is gluten free, egg, fish/shellfish, and peanut/tree nut free, but does contain dairy (goat cheese).
This was a beyond amazing entree. Simply the best thing I’ve ever ordered at California Grill, and it might be one of the best entrees I’ve ever ordered at a signature dining location. The pork tenderloin was unbelievably tender and well seasoned. The pork belly was the absolute star of the dish (because…well, pork fat rules!). It was so rich and tender and the sauce on it was insanely good. The goat cheese polenta was very flavorful but not overpowering in goat cheese.
Overall, it all balanced so well. I may have nearly licked my plate, it was so good!
For dessert, I could have ordered a sorbet, but because I’ve been reintroducing a bit of dairy back into my diet, I tried the Chocolate Pudding Cake with Nutella Filling, Meringue Kisses, and Chantilly Cream. It is both gluten free and peanut free.
This was so super rich, so only a few bites were necessary for me, but wow. What flavors! The rich cake was really just dense chocolate with Nutella. The meringue and homemade marshmallows on the side were really nice too. Overall, this was a rich decadent dessert that if you’re gluten free and can have dairy is a must!
During dessert, I also opted for a pot of hot peppermint tea. The flavors were perfect, and it was excellent to have after a few bites of the rich dessert.
California Grill has an entire tea menu, so definitely check it out if you like tea.
After dinner, we walked to the observation deck and checked out the amazing view of Walt Disney World and Orlando. On a clear night, you can see a lot of the city, and it’s a spectacular view. If you are at California Grill at the right time, you can also see Wishes on the deck too (they also pipe in the music). If you finish dinner earlier than the time for Fireworks, you are allowed to come back as a dining guest after your meal to enjoy the view, which is a nice bonus.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with the dinner I had at California Grill. The food was incredible and the server was impeccable this time. I can highly recommend our server Donald, who was very attentive throughout our meal. California Grill is definitely a lovely spot for a special occasion, and it’s great to know that guests with special dietary needs have many options while dining there.