Amanda: Damn. France has game. First of all, the entire pavilion is run by a French restaurant group, not Disney. They bake all their own bread and pastries every morning. They make their own ice cream for the L’Artisan des Glaces shop. The casual bistro is like Balthazar but somehow more authentic. Monsieur Paul, the super high-end Paul Bocuse restaurant, is stuffy but brilliant. Their signature boozy slushy drink thing is made with Grand Marnier. Their head baker used to work for Joël Robuchon. And they have a crêpe kiosk. What more could you want?
Amanda: It’s almost unfair to be Italy, because everyone loves Italian food, has access to decent to great Italian food, and thus (at least in my case) sets the bar pretty high. These guys pretty much deliver. Pros: They serve the best (best meaning not sweet) cocktails in Epcot, their casual pizzeria is a great, easy, family-friendly place, the pizza’s not terrible, the pizza ovens are great, they have a wine and cocktail bar with a real amaro list, there’s gelato, they have the hottest waitstaff.
Cons: The waiters, though attractive, are not super good at their jobs, pizza should be better, we had a pretty sad chicken parm and a pretty sad lasagna.
Amanda: The running joke during this reporting trip was that Le Cellier Steakhouse was actually the best restaurant in Epcot. Granted, it was the first restaurant we went to so a) it didn’t have much competition until we got to France later that day, and b) we were actually hungry when we got there. That said, the Canadian steakhouse impressed us, considering none of us give much thought to Canadian food outside of the artery-clogging wonders of Montreal.
The cult item here is the cheese soup, which was almost queso-like but you eat it with a spoon. It’s fantastic. All three poutines are textbook examples of the genre. The bread basket overflowed with freshly baked pretzel loaves, the steak lacked funk but didn’t disappoint, and service couldn’t have been better. Points deducted for having an American running the kitchen, though.
Amanda: I feel an acute sadness about the Mexico pavilion because it has all the makings of a top seed Epcot country. 1) The temple is freaking cool in general. 2) The San Angel Inn offers one of the most picturesque dining experiences in the whole resort. 3) Unlike many of the restaurants in Epcot, the Mexican group is run by operators from Mexico, the owners of the real San Angel Inn in Mexico City. 4) There’s a great tequila bar in the temple. 5) There’s great shopping in the temple. 6) There’s a RIDE (not a great ride, but still). 7) The newer restaurant, the Hacienda de San Angel, sits on a beautiful spot overlooking the lake. 8) There are margarita stands all over the place. 9) If you time it right, you can see mariachi Donald Duck.
And yet, Mexico is rightly ranked at number seven on this list of 11, because it falls down on the food. This pavilion would be such a great place to show Americans just how dynamic and exciting and truly delicious Mexican food can be. But dishes are dumbed down and often sad.
Amanda: As a kid coming to Disney, Norway ranked as my favorite of the countries, because it had a ride (Maelstrom) that was actually scary and it seemed like such a fun and random inclusion in the Disney collection (I didn’t realize as a child that certain countries paid for the privilege to be included, but I should have known).
Maelstrom (RIP) is being repurposed as a Frozen ride (Frozen Ever After, opening in 2016) and the old Norwegian buffet (Akershus) is a character dining spectacle. Meanwhile, the bakery Kringla Bakeri og Kafe was a little worse for wear when we visited in June, and the outdoor terrace needed a good cleaning.
Amanda: The America Pavilion just bums me out because it doesn’t represent the best of what this country has to offer. It doesn’t even represent the second or third best. I spend a good portion of my waking hours obsessing over the great restaurants in this country across all the price ranges, and this pavilion — a grand showcase to foreigners and domestic tourists alike — serves a chicken BLT and a salad with Craisins® in it?
- March 20th meetup in Mexican Pavilion for 11am
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