Just for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World, there is something special happening over at the California Grill in the Contemporary Resort.
In 1971, Top of the World opened on the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, offering two dinner/dancing shows nightly featuring top-name entertainment. In 1981, “Broadway at the Top” dinner show was introduced with popular catchy show tunes sung by talented performers. In 1995, the space transformed into what we now call California Grill. The change brought fresh, seasonal dishes prepared in the stunning on-stage kitchen. The impressive wine list showcasing the finest wines from highly allocated California vineyards further elevated the dining experience. California Grill was considered a cutting-edge concept (especially for a theme park), becoming a sought-after dining destination for our guests as well as catching the culinary world’s attention. And it continues to dazzle and impress all these years later!
Through the years, the menu has evolved but continues the focus on seasonal dining with a creative blending of flavors, textures, and techniques. The stellar award-winning wine list is still as impressive but has made room for craft cocktails and beers. What has remained constant is the stunning views of Magic Kingdom Park and Seven Seas Lagoon.
As part of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” California Grill will offer a limited-time three-course menu with dishes inspired by past favorites as well as new market-fresh creations.
50th Anniversary Dinner Menu
As part of your meal, you each will get a commemorative menu that you can take home with you.
Why the big show of a special menu for the 50th anniversary of Disney World? California Grill opened with the resort 50 years ago! It was opened under a different name, Top of the World. It offered a unique dining experience with magical views of Magic Kingdom, just as it still does today. In honor of this major milestone, the chefs of California Grill are delighted to offer a three-course menu all with dishes inspired by the past favorites as well as new creations. The 50th medallion on the menu marks the special anniversary-inspired selections.
Note that this new offering is a fixed-price menu. The meal includes a three-course meal, an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert for $89 per adult and $39 per child. At this time there is no alternative option where you can order off a different menu for less.
The Atmosphere of Calfornia 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 bottles of wine 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.
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.
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.
Dress Code for 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 dress code requirements are capris, skirts, dresses, jeans, or dress shorts.
Fireworks at California Grill
California Grill has one of the most unique viewing spots for the Magic Kingdom fireworks. You can watch Enchantment from their view decks outside or right from your table if you get a prime window seat. Don’t worry about missing out on the iconic firework music. When it’s time for the show to start they darken the lights in the room and will play the music to the show.
California Grill Food
Let’s take a look at a few of the dishes we got to try off this special California Grill 50th menu.
Starter Bread and Dip
Every meal gets a breadbasket. They have switched up the bread offering now having a classic focaccia bread with their signature dipping oil. The dipping oil is the best flavor and has chunks of tomato to just elevate your bread an extra step. We love this combo and have to watch out because we could easily fill up on the dip and bread alone.
California Grill Sushi Classics Trio
Now on to the appetizer options. Of course, we couldn’t pass up the chance to chow down on some sushi from California Grill. The three rolls that come in the trio are: Blue Crab California Roll, Shrimp Tempura Roll, Spicy Kazan Roll. We have ordered sushi from California Grill on several other occasions before it and it was just as good and fresh as before. The California roll here is just elevated so many notches since it actually uses real crab meat versus the standard crab with a “k” imitation you get at other sushi places.
Lobster and Parsnip Bisque
This soup is a blend of Lobster, Champagne, Crème Fraîche, Parsnip Crisp. It was extremely heavy and rich which I know I should have expected but I wanted to try something that was new to me. The flavor was great of course there are never enough lobster chunks in any soup but that’s to be expected since it’s the best part. I would say in hindsight this was a little too heavy an option given I had my main entree and a dessert ahead of me.
Braised Beef Short Rib Wontons
No surprise these wontons made the menu as they are truly a California Grill Signature item. The wontons are filled with Braised Beef and then topped with Doenjang Miso-Cola-Onion Sauce, Crispy Garlic-Chili Oil, Radish, Pickled Lotus Root. These wontons pack a little bit of heat so if you aren’t up for spicy then I would skip this selection.
Oak-fired Filet of Beef
This is the best item on the menu in my opinion a must-get when dining here. Of course, the 50th version of the filet was still just as good as always. The filet is topped with Black Truffle-Brown Butter and has a side of Château Potatoes, Golden Raisins Vinaigrette, Cauliflower, Roasted Tomato Butter. If you aren’t sure what to go with off the menu and are a meat eater, go for this option!
Cast Iron-grilled Pork Tenderloin
I find myself ordering the pork more and more often at California Grill. They do a really go job with packing the flavor and pairing it with the perfect sides. The pork tenderloin is paired with Goat Cheese Polenta, Trumpet Mushrooms, Heirloom Apple-lacquered Pork Belly, Black Mission Figs, Zinfandel Glaze.
Lavender Sugar Doughnuts
The portion on these donuts was crazy large, it felt like something that could be split. Don’t worry I had plenty of leftovers that made for a yummy breakfast the next day! This plant-based dessert comes with Coconut Frozen Dessert, Blueberry Gin Jam, Pistachio Crumble.
Valrhona Chocolate Torte
The chocolate torte comes with Candied Peanuts, Salted Caramel, Nougat, Whipped Panna Cotta. You can’t go wrong with a chocolate dessert. It was very rich chocolate and the added peanuts gave it a snickers bar vibe.
EARidescent Grand Marnier Soufflé
The Souffle comes with Creamsicle Ice Cream, Macerated Florida Citrus. It screams of Florida fresh taste with the orange flavor. Of course, I always will prefer a chocolate souffle but this was surprisingly very good and I don’t miss the chocolate all too much.
Pros and Cons of California Grill
California Grill Pros
- Perfect spot to celebration milestones and other special occasions.
- You can watch the fireworks overlooking the Magic Kingdom.
- Amazing food, the chefs here are top notch, we have yet to be disappointed in a meal here.
Cons of California Grill
- Pricey, the fixed price meal will set you back a $100 for each adult.
- There is a dress code, don’t come here if you are looking for a casual meal.
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.
I have been visiting the parks annually since my parents first brought me at just a year old. Recently I was able to fulfill my life long dream of being a Florida local and moved from the wintery Northeast to the sunshine and fun of central Florida. Now I am hoping to share my Disney knowledge with you so you can have the best vacation possible!
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