*This gluten free dining experience took place in February 2021. It includes information about dairy free options, as well as fish/shellfish, peanut, hazelnut, cabbage, and chicken & turkey allergies.
Lunch at Whispering Canyon Cafe
Whispering Canyon Cafe, located at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, offers guests a rootin’ tootin’ good time with shenanigans aplenty and barbecue/homestyle inspired food. While both Brandon and I have enjoyed the food at Whispering Canyon Cafe, we admittedly have not always enjoyed the shenanigans. On our last visit together back in 2017, we did not have a great experience. So, it’s taken us a while to finally go back to Whispering Canyon Cafe for a meal. Spoiler alert, this dining experience definitely redeemed the restaurant for us, and we are looking forward to going back again. On this visit, we dined at the last seating for their lunch.
COVID-19 & Reopening Notes
On this particular visit, we made reservations for the restaurant a few days before we dined there. I used the My Disney Experience app and found that there was a late afternoon seating, which we decided to book (the restaurant closed for lunch at 2 p.m.). The app worked as it normally does, and we were able to add in our special dietary needs in the app and alert cast members of our needs when we arrived at the restaurant. We were also able to successfully check in to the restaurant using the mobile app with no issues (it has been hit or miss in our experience).
The restaurant itself featured many mechanisms to provide sanitization, social distancing, and safety for both guests and cast members. We were actually asked to wait outside versus inside before our table was ready to ensure social distancing. All cast members wore facial masks and some cast members also wore protective shields, as well. All servers in the restaurant wore both facial masks and protective shields.
As a note, at the time of writing this review, we have been to several of the Disney Resorts, including the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk Resort, Contemporary Resort, Coronado Springs Resort, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Old Key West Resort, Polynesian, Riviera Resort, and Wilderness Lodge Resort along with all of the theme parks. All locations have the same protocols, as far as we have observed. Be sure to check with restaurants and the official Disney World website for additional information about current guidelines and recommendations.
Whispering Canyon Cafe is located in the main lobby area of the Wilderness Lodge Resort. You can’t miss the giant sign and during the normal times a lot of noise! It’s a very lively restaurant with a lot of atmosphere, that’s for sure.
The restaurant itself has a lot of great decor. There’s a lot of wooden beams and Western decor. It includes bright, rich colors, in the carpet, paintings, and chairs.
As you can see by this photo, there’s ample seating — a lot of which can accommodate big parties (and the restaurant is very popular with large groups). You can also see that it includes social distancing markers on tables currently.
In addition the main part of the dining room, there are a few corners and nooks for smaller tables, and we have often been seated there. Of course, the Western theme is still ever present in every part of the restaurant.
We especially like the side nooks with colorful booths for a bit of a quieter, more relaxed dining experience. Of course, if you like to be in the middle of it all, the main part of the dining room is for you!
Like most Disney owned restaurants, Whispering Canyon Cafe does have an allergy-friendly menu. You can, of course, always speak to a chef when you dine at the restaurant to discuss different options, modifications, and any questions that you might have. On this visit, we ordered primarily using the allergy-friendly menu and coordinated options with our server Lee.
We always recommend using your own judgement and comfort level about navigating the allergy-friendly menus and speaking with a chef. We do typically recommend speaking with a chef if you feel comfortable doing so, especially if you have questions or want to discuss additional options not listed as safe for you on the allergy-friendly menu (or if you have multiple dietary needs).
For my lunch entree, I decided to get the popular all-you-care-to-enjoy skillet. This came with: Maple-Chipotle Barbecued Slow-smoked Pork Ribs, Barbecued Pulled Pork, Citrus Herb Chicken, Mashed Yukon Potatoes, Buttered Corn, Charred Carrots, Roasted Peppers, and Sautéed Green Beans. It was marked safe for Gluten/Wheat, Egg, Fish/Shellfish, and Peanut/Tree Nut Allergies. You can make this dairy free by swapping out the mashed potatoes for roasted potatoes and getting vegetables without butter. The great thing about these skillets is that there is a lot of flexibility to customize depending on your special dietary need (they even have a plant-based option too!).
This was an absolutely delicious skillet. The chicken was very flavorful and not overly dry. The ribs were tasty. The pulled pork was definitely outstanding too. And, the veggies were all fantastic. Let’s just say I totally devoured this entree happily and was very pleased with the quality of the food and flavors. I would order this again with no question — though I’d really like to get dinner at Whispering Canyon Cafe and try the other skillet options that are available during the dinner time.
Brandon and I were also served an allergy-friendly bread service. It’s not marked on the menu, but be sure to ask your server! This cornbread is gluten free, egg free, fish/shellfish free, dairy free, peanut/tree nut free, and vegan. I believe it may be soy free too but didn’t check on this visit. This has been served at Whispering Canyon Cafe for years, and it’s always a winner. Made with Namaste Vanilla Cake Mix (believe it or not!), the cornbread is a bit more on the sweet side. But, it’s a great option. If you’re dairy free or vegan, be sure to ask for vegan buttery spread which is available upon request too.
While I always love this and did on this visit, it wasn’t Brandon’s favorite. So, your mileage may vary depending on your food preferences and the kinds of bread you like. But, it’s great that restaurant offers this to guests and worth a try if it’s safe for your special dietary need.
For Brandon’s entree, he opted to get the Bison Burger on a House-made Bun, Chipotle Aioli, Candied Hickory-smoked Bacon, White Cheddar, and French Fries. This dish was made safe for Brandon’s allergies: fish/shellfish, peanut/tree nut, chicken & turkey, and cabbage.
The Bison Burger at Geyser Point — also at Wilderness Lodge Resort — is a favorite of Brandon’s, so he was interested in comparing these two burger options. Overall, he really loved it and said that he would get this again. He enjoyed the candied bacon on the burger and even said the chipotle aioli was pretty good. It’s nice to know that there are a couple of different bison burger options at the Wilderness Lodge that he really enjoys. Like me, he said he would definitely order this again.
And, of course, because Brandon can’t help himself, he ordered a second side of French fries — made in a dedicated fryer. These fries are also gluten free and dairy free too.
For dessert, we ended up splitting the Whispering Canyon Pioneer Chocolate Cake. This dish is marked safe for Gluten/Wheat, Fish/Shellfish, Milk, and Peanut/Tree Nut Allergies. Both Brandon and I loved the rich flavors of the this dessert. It was so good. I believe the restaurant is also using Namaste mixes for this cake too. If you love chocolate, this is hands down a winner!
If you want to get more information about our visit to Whispering Canyon Cafe, we did film our visit for our YouTube channel.
While our experience a few years ago at Whispering Canyon Cafe deterred us from dining at the restaurant for a long time, we’re both so glad that we finally gave it another try. We were both impressed by the quality and flavors of the food that we ate. And, we appreciated the accommodation to special dietary needs and our server keeping the shenanigans to a minimum. We both felt the experience warranted going back again sometime soon because we liked it that much. We are looking forward to dining at dinner and maybe even breakfast!
Have you been to Whispering Canyon Cafe? What was your experience when you dined there?