Walt Disney World never ceases to surprise its guests. Let's face it: where else but would you find a highly-recommended sushi bar inside a bowling alley? Now that's Disney magic. In fact, you'll find multiple venues for Japanese fare on this list. Tokyo Dining, not surprisingly, is located in the Japan Pavilion of the EPCOT World Showcase and serves splendid views of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth from its balcony. Kimonos at the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, serves karaoke instead. You can get creative sushi over at the California Grill, as well, though many of its proponents prefer their top-shelf seafood seared to perfection instead. The Flying Fish Cafe is a longtime favorite on Disney's BoardWalk (it should be noted they make a great steak, too) but on-the-go diners can enjoy a faster, more casual bite at the Magic Kingdom's Columbia Harbor House. Its lobster roll is much-lauded. Still too high-brow? And if fast-casual fried delights are the order of the day, check out EPCOT's Yorkshire County Fish Shop for quick-service fish and chips and vinegar. A Bass Ale or Harp Lager make a nice accompaniment on those hot Orlando days. Special nights out call for splurge options, the Boathouse, Narcoossee's or Todd English's BlueZoo are fine choices.
Columbia Harbour House
You might not be surprised to find there's a New England-style fish house inside the Magic Kingdom's patriotic Liberty Square. Or that you can go there to satisfy your craving for fried shrimp or fish baskets with slaw and creamy clam chowder to boot. But if I told you the same place where you can score a lobster roll also has a menu laden with fresh-healthier options like a hummus and broccoli slaw sandwich or hearty vegetarian chili, you might be. For fast-casual seafood service in the shadow of the Haunted Mansion, look no farther than the Columbia Harbour House. (407 939 3463)
Located in the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel, Kimonos is a stylish venue built for one purpose: to satisfy your sushi-and-sake cravings and, later in the evening, your penchant for karaoke (which, few would argue, becomes increasingly appealing following the sake). Fresh colorful offerings from the sea are artfully presented – sushi is something of a spectator sport, so feel free to watch the chef-artisans at the bar – but if your tastes run more to the cooked side of the menu, tempura dishes, kobe beef and duck satay are among the offerings. A beautiful collection of kimonos, hence the name, help set the mood in this contemporary Japanese-style venue. ((407) 934-1609)
Yorkshire County Fish Shop
Fish. Chips. Beer. Boom. It's really all you need. The Yorkshire County Fish Shop is a quick, casual alternative to a longer visit to the Rose & Crown in EPCOT's United Kingdom World Showcase if you're craving a bit of Brit cuisine. Nine bucks gets you the house special – there's really only one, fish and chips. Eight more and you've got a beer – Bass or Harp – to go with. Lines usually move fast and there's seating behind the stand around back. The crispy fish makes a great fast lunch, dinner or snack and you're on the move again. Of course, if you time it right, you'll be getting the ketchup on your chips just as the Illuminations fireworks show begins to explode over EPCOT. ((407) 939-3469)
The wonderful thing about Tokyo Dining – aside from its sleek good looks, A+ Japanese wait staff and lovely views of the World Showcase Lagoon – is its options. While the focus here is on three of Japanese cuisine's most famous Ss: sushi, sashimi and sake, you don't have to like your seafood raw – or even served in rolls – to have a first class experience. In fact, you don't even need to like seafood. Options abound in the form of tempura chicken or veggies and even steak. Bento boxes offer the less adventurous a chance to keep things safe and venture out a little. ((407) 939-3463)
Okay, we know what you're thinking. Seafood at a bowling alley? Well, Splitsville is not your average bowling alley, it's more of a diner-bar-bowling alley-family emporium. Also, it has a sushi bar. Offerings run the from the usual roll suspects – California, volcano, rainbow – to unique creations with Disneyesque names like the Beauty and the Beast roll, to a phenomenal low-carb option called the Alberto. You wouldn't think a roll without rice were possible, but there you have it. For those less seafood-enthusiastic, a vast array of bowling alley eats (burgers, nachos, loaded fries and beyond) will fit the bill nicely. ((407) 828-3800)
Affording incredible views of the Disney landscape from the 15th floor of Disney's Contemporary Resort, this fashionable, long-time favorite has undergone a relatively recent "reimagining," and now features a design inspired by mid-century modern California and an updated menu with exciting additions – but retention of a few old faves, one of which is the sublime oak-fired filet of beef with heirloom tomato risotto, baby vine tomatoes, petite basil and tomato butter. Seafood lovers will have choices to make – flounder, scallops, swordfish – even stew – tempt the palate. And if you're in the mood for sushi, you're in good hands. California Grill serves some 2,000 pieces on a busy night! With new floor-to-ceiling windows expanding its already sweeping 360-degree vistas, seafood and sushi (and steak, and dessert, and so forth ad nauseum) lovers will find a thousand things to enjoy at California Grill, from its menu to its atmosphere. (407-824-1576, 407-939-6244)
Oysters. Lobster. Succulent steaks and seafood. And the views? Unparalleled. Folks who stay at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa love it for myriad reasons – and its dining venues are so well-known, they attract guests from other properties, as well. Even locals. Narcoossee's is a fine-dining experience, dinner only, so make it a true night out. Dress the part and take your time, savoring a menu rife with succulent seafood – with land-based options for those who prefer them. Reservations are absolutely recommended; Narcoossee's views of the Seven Seas Lagoon come with privileges. Namely, wonderful seats for the Magic Kingdom fireworks and Electrical Water Pageant. ((407) 939-3463 or)
Todd English's BlueZoo
Sleek, trendy decor and brilliant lighting provide the perfect complement to celebrity chef Todd English's contemporary take on seafood. BlueZoo is an undeniably glitzy place for date night, a lounge and restaurant in one. Dressing to impress and linger over a few pre-dinner designer cocktails and soak up the venue's soaring extravagance before delving into the likes of teppan-seared jumbo sea scallops, the delights of the raw bar and entrees that include miso-glazed mero, Florida flounder and dirty south swordfish. Feeling spendy? Go for the two-pound Maine "Cantonese-style" lobster, fried and tossed in a sticky soy glaze. Reservations are most certainly required. (407-934-1111)
Flying Fish Cafe
(Note: This venue is currently closed for renovation and should be open by Summer 2016; summer visitors can plan ahead!) Roller coaster memorabilia and an exhibition kitchen distinguish this Disney restaurant, which serves ocean-fresh seafood in a lively atmosphere. A variety of appetizers and entrees depend on fish and shellfish, the most notable being the potato-wrapped red snapper, which is the house specialty. Other memorable dishes are the crab cake appetizers and oak-grilled scallops, which come with corn and bacon risotto. If you make it to dessert, the best option is the lava cake, which oozes liquid chocolate and is enough to make you swoon. Added bonus, you can walk off a multiple-course gorge fest on the quarter-mile Disney BoardWalk just outside. (407-939-2359)
Walt Disney World's big, beautiful Boathouse venue can accommodate up to 600 seafood and steak lovers amid its nautically themed confines. Views of Lake Buena Vista beckon from throughout; in fact, you can drink and dine al fresco here, as well. Wine, craft beer and cocktails pair well with market-fresh catch and even caviar while diners watch the classic-car-themed amphicars sail past. A beautiful place for special-occasion lunches or dinners, the restaurant's three distinct dining spaces set a lovely tone; private rooms are available for functions, as well. Come hungry. You won't want to miss the wild-caught shrimp or decadent desserts. (407-939-2628)
About A.D. Thompson
A.D. Thompson has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and roughly 15 as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.
A roller coaster enthusiast, A.D. readily admits there is fun to be had amid the madness of the theme parks, but has found there is magic, as well, in the outer-lying reaches of Mickey’s long shadow. She is delighted to share with you the spoils of her adopted city.
Visit her colorful compendium at www.amydrewthompson.com.
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