Last weekend, Walt Disney World reopened the doors to its signature restaurant, Artist Point, at Wilderness Lodge for its new and unique character dining experience – Storybook Dining. While I’m always hesitant to do a full review of an experience so soon after opening, I also knew how many of you were as curious as I was about this new experience, so I took the bull by the horns and opted to give it a try early on and my mother and kids were kind enough to come along for the ride.
Storybook Dining is a unique and exciting new option for so many reasons.
- For starters, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is a stunning deluxe resort that needed its own character dining experience.
- And not only did it get one – but it got one that is actually paired with a proper seated dinner. Character dinners are rare at Walt Disney World. Most restaurants’ character dining experiences are offered at breakfast, with dinner being a more food-focused meal without characters.
- Also? It’s a character dining experience that’s perhaps more immersive than any other on property. I’m hard pressed to think of a character dining option on property that so fully envelopes you in its theming. Crystal Palace is perhaps the closest since it focuses only on the Pooh characters – but at Storybook dining everything from the characters to the setting to the music to the food is fully immersed in the story of Snow White.
- And last but not least of the big ones – YOU MEET A VILLAIN HERE. Talk about a rare experience – while Snow White, Dopey, and Grumpy make their way around to individual tables during dinner, the Evil Queen sweeps in and is available for autographs and PhotoPass pictures.
So getting that list out of the way – let’s dive in and talk about how the experience plays out so far.
For starters – the space. is. gorgeous. After all – it’s a mashup of Wilderness Lodge and Snow White’s forest. How could it not be beautiful? The theming grips you from the first moment that you step into Artist Point and doesn’t let go.
As an update, we’ve since been to Storybook Dining before sunset and I will say that the setting loses something with sunlight streaming in through the windows. It’s still beautiful – but you don’t get the full effect of the lighting and fairy light covered trees. If you can go after dark, I would recommend it.
And sidenote: Do me a favor and take note of the lighting in this place – because, while lovely, it makes photographing food in any sort of appetizing way almost impossible. I did my best – but the lighting is going to impact these food pictures no matter how much I try to color correct them.
The menu itself is a gorgeous, weighty, leatherbound tome that is more fairytale than food and drink list.
And the tables have a Lazy Susan made up of leaves at three different levels in the center that will hold the set options brought to you for appetizers and dessert.
The meal itself is an interesting mashup of set at-table-buffet and selected entrees. As an appetizer you get (as of the time of this post) a winter squash soup, hunter’s pie, and shrimp cocktail. You get one small serving of each for each person at the table.
The menu says that the “Wicked Shrimp Cocktail” is supposed to be served with soy, miso, avocado, and Thai chili. That sounds wonderful but ours were just four huge steamed shrimp in a mason jar with greens as garnish. Tasty but not what they were supposed to be. I’ll chalk that up to growing pains of early days at the restaurant.
Update: We’ve seen been and tried these again and they are delicious with the sauce but pack a real punch. If you’re very sensitive to spice, you might ask the kitchen to be lighthanded with the chili.
The Hunter’s Pie was a chicken and black truffle sort of hors d’oeuvres with stone fruit preserves. It was tasty but the taste was a bit hard to pinpoint. It almost tasted like it had ricotta in it.Definitely make use of the stone fruit – it really made this one special.
Update: They seem to be playing with the recipe for these. The second time that we went it was much more of a spiced meatball wrapped in a pastry. Still tasty, but very different. We’ll see where they end up with these!
The winter squash bisque as we received it was a delicious butternut squash-style soup in a tiny cauldron with a marshmallow stir. I think I downed three of the four myself. They were delicious little shots of cozy.
In addition to these, each child also got a board with fruit, vegetables, a roll, ranch dip, and a jar of cream that they were to shake to make their own butter. This was SUCH a cute idea. My kids loved shaking their jars.
The entrees are the portion of the meal that you actually select. I ordered the “Cottage” Seafood Stew with shrimp, bay scallops, mussels, tomato, and fennel, and my mother got the Royal Prime Rib Roast with horseradish mashed potatos, hay smoked carrots, a gorgeous popover, and jus.
Both meals were solid. Very good but not on par with the best fine dining on property. The prime rib was cooked well but very fatty. I will say that the chicken and “Stroll Through Nature” squash and gnocchi looked amazing and I’m looking forward to trying them next time.
Update: The second time that we went I had the chicken. It was served on a bed of roasted brussel sprouts, potatoes, and apples that were delicious. The chicken itself was a bit bland and a little salty. I’m looking forward to trying the gnocchi the next time that we’re there.
On to dessert, which was also served buffet-at-the-table style.
Miner’s Treasures – sponge cake, chocolate treasures, and buttercream icing – tasted like a cupcake parfait.
Fairy Tale Gooseberry Pie was very good. Like apple pie and pecan pie got together and had a baby with meringue on top.
The “Poison” Apple – a white chocolate apple mousse with a sour center – was delicious. It tasted sort of like gelatinous apple cheesecake. And they were covered in sparkly red sugar that made them beautiful.
And then the waiter brings around the Hunter’s Gift to the Queen – a sticky maple popcorn with ganache hearts.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also talk about the non-alcoholic drink options. We tried the Transformation Potion, In the Clouds, and Stone Fruit and Berry Breeze. They were all delicious and the first two were interactive – calling for mixing at the table – that the kids loved.
In the Clouds is a glass of pink and blue cotton candy that you pour a separate vial of blueberry drink over to make the cotton candy “disappear” into purple liquid. My kids have been talking about it ever since.
As you eat your meal, Snow White, Dopey, and Grumpy come around to your table to meet with you, sign autographs, and take pictures. The photo ops with Dopey are especially priceless for Dopey Challenge runners!! What a great place for a marathon weekend celebration meal!
Throughout the meal there are also times when music from the movie is played and Snow White and the dwarfs dance around the the room.
And while all of this is going on, the Evil Queen is at her station in the center of the restaurant, available for pictures and autographs and just generally looking appalled by everything around her.
All in all? This was a pretty amazing experience. I’ll take any excuse to visit Wilderness Lodge – much less a character experience this fully immersive at a signature restaurant. I do think that the food needs a few more weeks to settle in. But it shows amazing promise even this early on and I am really just thrilled to have a dining option for dinner that’s a marriage of fine dining and full immersion in Disney.
Have you experienced Storybook Dining yet?? Are you excited to try it??