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California Grill Dining Review

California Grill Dining Review

The California Grill sits at the very top of the Contemporary Resort (the 15th floor) and overlooks the Magic Kingdom. This dining location specializes in serving a wide selection of fine wine and seasonal California-inspired cuisine. Be sure to come back after your meal or pick your dining time around the Magic Kingdom fireworks. If you look really closely you can also see the Epcot fireworks outside the restaurant as well.

If you haven’t dined at the California Grill in a long time, it underwent an extensive refurbishment in 2013. The updated feature a new interior design as well as an overhaul of the menu. California Grill still remains on of the top saught after dining experiences at Walt Disney World.

California Grill Breakdown

  • Service: Table Service – Signature Dining
  • Type of Food: American, Vegetarian Friendly, Allergy Options
  • Price: $$$$
  • Location: Contemporary Resort
  • Disney Dining Plan: Yes, 2 Credits
  • Discounts: Annual Passholder, DVC
  • Features: Reservations, Private Dining, Alcohol, Full Bar
  • Good For: Special Occasion Dining, View, Romantic
  • Reservations: Highly Recommended
  • Menu: Official Brunch MenuOfficial Dinner Menu

A Look Around the California Grill

When you come up to the top floor be sure to take in the show stopping wine display that is right outside the elevators. The impressive display holds 1,600 bottle of wines in climate controlled coolers.

The views are definitely the icing on the cake here at California Grill. Above is a look at their back room. It’s small and quieter than being sat in the main room.

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This is a look at the inside of the main room at California Grill. Can you just see the appeal with the sunset happening in the background? Florida sunsets are often impressive but from up here, it’s extra magical.

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Okay sorry I couldn’t help myself I had to throw in one more picture of the killer sunset views you get from California Grill.

Note there is a business casual dress code for this restaurant. This means khakis, dress slacks, jeans or dress shorts with a collared shirt for men. For women the requirements are capris, skirts, dresses, jeans, and dress shorts.

California Grill Dishes

There are two signature dishes at this location you just can’t go wrong with. The first is my personal favorite, Oak-fired Filet of Beef, the sauce and perfect side pairing will make your mouth water every time you think back on your vacation. California Grill’s second signature dish is the Grilled Pork Tenderloin. They have phenomenal sushi here as well.

Lobster Bisque

Lobster Soup.
Seasonal Item – Lobster Bisque

Bird’s Nest Seafood Egg Rolls

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Braised Beef Short Rib Wontons

Braised Beef Short Rib Wontons

I opted to skip the sushi one trip and try these Braised Beef Short Rib Wontons. I was surprised at the kick that they had. It was still very delicious though. These wontons are topped with Doenjang Miso-Cola-Onion Sauce, Crispy Garlic-Chili Oil, Radish, Pickled Lotus Root. 

Fresh Salad

Fresh salad from California Grill

This salad is a great light salad to start your meal with. The apples and vinaigrette mixed nicely together. This is definitely a starter I would get again, especially if I wasn’t hungry enough to tackle both the sushi and an entree.

Flatbread Pizza

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The flatbreads here change out seasonal since they feature the freshest ingredients. This is a black truffle pizza, leek fondue, crispy potato chips, spicy honey, and shaved black truffle.

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California Grill Entrees 

Seasonal Wagyu Beef

Seasonal Wagyu Beef from California Grill.

The general consensus on this was to stick with the classic Oak Grilled Gilet over the Wagyu. The Wagyu ups your price tag significantly and we almost thought the filet may have been better than this option. So save yourself the cash buy a dessert and get the standard filet.

Filet of Beef

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The Filet was served with Black Truffle Risotto, Cabernet Wine Sauce. It is one of their two most popular dishes at California Grill. They do rotate the sides with the seasons so your meal is fresh and full of flavor. I don’t think I have gotten my husband to try anything else off the menu since he first got this, that is how much he loves it.

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Just like I mentioned above the filet changes. Above is when we went just before Christmas. They had a mac and cheese on the menu which my husband was quick to swap out for the risotto that the menu listed.

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Pork Tenderloin

Pork Tenderloin California Grill

Here is a look at the other famous dish at California Grill the Pork Tenderloin. It comes topped on a Goat Cheese Polenta, Mushrooms, Chestnut, Brussels Sprouts, Pear, Lacquered Belly, Zinfandel Glaze. The pork I wish I had gone with the pork shank option since the tenderloin was a bit dry. However, mixed with the sauce and polenta you didn’t even notice. I also am used to smaller food portions here but though this dish gave you a surprisingly a large amount of meat. 

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20-oz Bone-In Rib-Eye Steak

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This jumbo-sized steak is perfect for sharing and our waiter had no issues with us doing so! We even were able to add on an extra side to make it feel more like a meal for each of us. The rib eye is served with Potato-Cheese Croquettas, Grilled Onions, Malt Vinegar Aïoli, and Triple Garlic Butter. It was a great cut of steak and well enjoyed the croquettes weren’t as popular next time I would probably sub out for a different side, like the mash potatoes that come with the filet.

Grilled Colorado Bison Loin

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The Grilled Colorado Bison Loin has Glazed Carrots, Celery Root, Bhajia Onions, Aged Gouda Macaroni and Cheese, Pomegranate Jus.

Green Circle Chicken

So I finally avoided the temptation of getting the filet every time I come to California Grill to give the chicken a try. Also, I had a family member asking me about it and I was shocked to say I had no idea I had never tried a chicken dish from California Grill.

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This dish is served with Pecorino Risotto, Spring Onion-Green Garlic Agrodolce, Buttermilk-fried Mushrooms, and Madeira Jus. Personally, I feel like the mushrooms stole the show they were crunch and the perfect addition to the dish. The chicken was a pretty standard pan-cooked chicken. You will want to pair your bites of chicken with the onion mix that had to add some flavor. I went between dunking my chicken in the creamy risotto and the onion. There is nothing saying you couldn’t have all three and even include a mushroom too!

Lobster Sushi Roll

Lobster Sushi Roll
Seasonal Item – Crunchy Lobster Sushi Roll

I wish this Lobster sushi roll was not just a seasonal item it was so delicious. The lobster was great and the crunchy wontons on the top were a perfect complement and a great way to change things up from traditional sushi.

California Combination Roll

California Combination Roll

This is a look at the California Combination Roll. The menu makes it sound like one big mixed roll but as you can see above it’s a mix of two different sushi rolls. You get four pieces of a California roll and four pieces of a shrimp tempura roll. I just am always impressed by how fresh the sushi is every time we go here. It is what makes the sushi worth the steep price tag here.

California Grill Desserts

Grand Marnier Soufflé

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We were pretty bummed when we found out there was no warm chocolate cake on the menu during one of our trips but the waiter recommended this souffle. The dessert is comprised of Grand Marnier Anglaise and Macerated Oranges. It was super fresh, the orange flavor was perfect and not too overwhelming. Overall we were very happy with this pick.

Creme Brûlée

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This has to be one of the best desserts we have ever had at Disney World. It was supposed to be a Christmas peppermint spin but since I am a Debby Downer and not a peppermint fan we had it modified. They kindly got a piece of the peppermint bark for my husband and added in the strawberries for me. The creme brulee itself was just a vanilla creme flavor.

Chocolate Lava Cake

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Warm chocolate lava cake, I really don’t need to say more do I? This was melted chocolate perfection, there were no letdowns here. Though, maybe my scoop of vanilla ice could have been a tiny bit bigger?

Peanut and Banana Torte

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This vegan dessert option is a Shortbread, Peanut Ganache, Miso Caramel, Nut Crumble, and Caramelized Bananas. Honestly, I am not a big peanut butter fan so I didn’t enjoy this but it was my only option with my food allergies (gluten and dairy).

Celebration Cupcake

Celebration Cupcake

This is the standard cupcake you get when you let them know you are celebrating a special occasion. Since we often go for a birthday or anniversary we have gotten this cupcake a few times.

California Grill Recommendations

This restaurant still remains at the top of my list for dining locations at Walt Disney World. It’s always bustling and full of life with its open kitchen and open dining area. So fair warning, it can be a bit loud here when dinner service is in full swing. The sweeping views through the floor to ceiling windows are ones you don’t want to miss. In the front, you can watch over the Magic Kingdom and in the back, it’s a more peaceful view over the Wilderness Lodge. I also recommend stopping in here for brunch for an ultra special experience at California Grill. 

Don’t have a reservation and want to try to get in at the last-minute? You can always ask to be seated at the sushi bar or lounge where you will be limited to order just from the appetizer menu.

It is important to note that the check-in desk for this location is on the second floor of the Contemporary Hotel. From there you will be escorted up to the 15th floor. The only way to watch the fireworks from the two observatory decks on the 15th floor is to have a reservation for that evening at the Contemporary. If you finish your meal before the fireworks begin, don’t worry! All you need to do is come back and show your receipt at the check-in podium.

Want more dining tips? Check out our Best Disney World Restaurants recommendations along with Worst Disney Dining Sit Down Restaurants. If you are visiting with young ones read our Best Places to Eat with Kids at Disney World.