Drum roll pleeeeeease: The Crystal Palace has officially reopened in the Magic Kingdom!
This fan-favorite table-service (read: sit-down) restaurant in Disney World used to be a huge draw for Disney fans. Winnie the Pooh and Friends greeted guests, and diners indulged in an all-you-can-eat buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
But as with so many reopened restaurants at Disney World, the dining experience at Crystal Palace has changed quite a bit. Buffet? GONE. Characters? NOPE. So with all the changes, is visiting the Crystal Palace still worth it? Here’s what we think!
Let’s start at the beginning and talk about the experience at Crystal Palace. Mobile Check-In is encouraged at all Disney World restaurants. Scan the QR code with your phone camera and it will direct you to the website so you can check into your reservation. You can also check-in via the My Disney Experience app!
We got a text when our table was almost ready, asking us to return to the porch. Cast members are still calling parties’ names when they’re ready for seating, though, so listen up once you return to the porch.
Restaurants at Disney World are currently seating at 50% capacity. To create space between travel groups, some tables at Crystal Palace are designated as unavailable. But the overall decor and setting at the restaurant is the same as it always was.
Referencing the famous Victorian-era Crystal Palace in England, the restaurant features plenty of windows and soaring ceilings. It definitely offers a light and bright conservatory feel. Seating is in padded iron-work chairs, and padded booths line the center of the restaurant.
The most striking new change at The Crystal Palace in terms of “decor elements” is the installation of plexiglass between tables to help deter the spread of germs.
Another striking change? No characters! Unless of course you count Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore in plant form… .
The restaurant used to host groups of characters, including Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and sweet little Eeyore. Characters would make the circuit of the restaurant in pairs, signing autographs and posing for photographs.
But while Character dining has returned to select restaurants, it’s still M.I.A. at Crystal Palace. Instead, we’ve seen Eeyore, Piglet, and more friends from the Hundred Acre Wood greet guests from the restaurant’s porch from time to time. Now that the restaurant is back in action, though, these characters may move to a different location in the Magic Kingdom, or potentially only be seen on their cavalcade.
And of course, the self-service buffet is no longer! Due to the effects of COVID-19, Disney has turned all currently-operating buffet restaurants into family-style or a la carte meals to avoid shared utensils and to accommodate social distancing.
The current menu is available via a QR code, so just scan the code and it will pull up the menu for you! You can also take a look at the menu ahead of time on the Disney World website.
The Crystal Palace is now offering a combo of Family Style and a la carte items for lunch and dinner. The menu consists of Family Style Starters…
…Adult Entree Choices…
…a kid’s menu…
…and family-style desserts!
We had a hard time deciding between all the menu items! Once you’re seated, you choose an all-you-can-eat appetizer and an entree, and then dessert is a shared platter! For starters, we had the Marinated Watermelon and Tomatoes salad, which we LOVED!
It’s super tasty and fresh, with a bunch of bright, balanced flavors playing off each other nicely!
Along with the fruits, the salad has crisp greens, candied walnuts, and hot pepper jelly vinaigrette. Oh and let’s not forget the blue cheese!
The walnuts add a nice crunch, and we’re ALL about the zest from the red onions and zingy arugula!
We also HAD to try the Homestyle Buttermilk and Cheddar Bacon Biscuits!
Served with honey butter, caramelized onion butter, and more of that yummy hot pepper jelly, this was such a fun app!
We love being able to mix and match between the different biscuits and spreads! Our favs were the caramelized onion butter and hot pepper jelly, but between all of them, this is an A-plus bread basket!
It’s great mixing a bit of sweet and savory!
But whatever you do, don’t fill up on biscuits! We knew we had to save room for prime rib and fried chicken!
The Fire-roasted Prime Rib of Beef is a HUGE portion of succulent steak, and this thing had some pretty decent flavor.
It’s quite rich and fatty, as most prime rib tends to be, but as long as you’re down with that, you’ll be happy with this.
The roasted potatoes are a solid side, and we LOVED the horseradish; but the sleeper hit was the Yorkshire pudding! Crispy on the outside and soft ‘n’ fluffy inside, it was really unexpected, so maybe that’s why it was so enticing; but we always love good surprises.
It also came with a side of collards, which were standard. Of course, the bacon helps cut the bitterness of the greens. And bacon just makes everything better, so yeah.
As good as the prime rib is, the winner of the meal was the Crispy Fried Chicken.
Golden brown and crunchy, we were honestly super impressed! We didn’t know Crystal Palace had it in her!
The breading has a nice little spicy kick to it (maybe paprika and cayenne), as well as garlic. The chicken itself was also super moist.
While maybe not as good as the fried chicken at our beloved Homecomin’, this definitely ranks WAY up there in the pantheon of Disney World fried chicken! On the side, the macaroni and cheese was good but not amazing.
We wish it had more flavorful cheese(s), but it gets the job done for mac-lovers. Add salt.
Now on to dessert! We opted for the Shared Family-style Desserts platter, and boy are we glad we did!
It comes with fritters, banana cream pie, hummingbird cake, and a Honey of a Cupcake, and they’re all ALMOST too cute to eat!
One of our favorites was the cupcake, which is looking all dapper in its Winnie the Pooh colors!
It’s a pretty classic (and well made!) vanilla cake topped with a unique raspberry mousse!
The fluffy mousse has that jell-o-y texture — it’s definitely not frosting — and reminded us of some of the whimsical desserts at Animal Kingdom’s Satu’li Canteen, making this the rare dessert that both Winnie the Pooh and the Na’vi would enjoy together!
Altogether, it’s tart and refreshing, and not TOO sugary-sweet, and the cupcake itself was perfectly moist! The filling of caramel adds a bit of extra sweetness.
Another favorite was the banana cream pie!
This isn’t your standard pie; rather, it tastes more like a good banana pudding served in a crispy chocolate shell! The “tigger topping” is just colored whipped cream.
The hummingbird cake is further proof that The Crystal Palace is channeling its inner Homecomin’, and they’re doing a better-than-average job with it!
As expected with any good Hummingbird cake, we tasted pineapple, which was a nice choice for sweetness, and nuts add a pleasant crunch. This is an impressive and elevated dessert choice for this restaurant.
Our least favorite dessert option were the fritters. Don’t get us wrong, we could get down with some cinnamon-sugar dusted donuts with chocolate dipping sauce, but it was just kind of…boring?
That being said, the fritters are likely the most kid-friendly dessert of the platter!
For drinks, we kept it casual with water and iced tea, though there are plenty of other options to choose from too.
This is one of the full-service restaurants at Magic Kingdom where you CAN order alcoholic drinks. Note, however, that they will be an added cost. Options include beer, hard cider, and wine.
You can also order a couple of classic brunch-friendly cocktails.
When we got a little chilly during our meal, our friendly server was nice enough to warm us up with some hot coffee too!
Nosh or Not
You might want to dine at The Crystal Palace if:
- You’re SUPER hungry or have a particular craving for Southern-style comfort food.
- You’re with a family group. This is a good place to share platters, feast on all-you-can-eat appetizers, and chow down on hearty portions
You might want to skip The Crystal Palace if:
- You’re looking to keep it light. No heavy meals for you.
- You’re not interested in dropping $40 per person on a meal.
- The other moderately-priced table-service restaurants in Magic Kingdom have menus that better suit your travel party.
Price Check And Overall Review
Although there are a few things we miss about The Crystal Palace of yesteryear (the soft-serve machine! the characters!), we REALLY liked the food overall, and thought it was a huge improvement over some of the buffet options of yore.
Service was excellent throughout the meal, and our server was SUPER helpful with suggestions.
As you can tell from things like hummingbird cake and fried chicken, the food has a bit more Southern flair, which we’re TOTALLY into, especially with that finger-lickin’ fried chicken seasoning!
It cost us $39 per adult, so let’s talk about that. It’s pricey, yes. Especially when the actual entrees are not all-you-can-eat (only the apps and desserts are). But compared to other similar restaurants it’s pretty in line with what we’d expect. The two top-tier restaurants in the Magic Kingdom — Be Our Guest Restaurant and Cinderella’s Royal Table — both charge $62 per adult right now, and are also not all-you-care-to-eat restaurants. (However, they are considered signature restaurants, so the food served should be in another tier as well.) So Crystal Palace — also a fan-favorite dining spot in the same park — coming in at $23 less is just about right.
If we want to compare to other buffet-turned-family-style restaurants, Biergarten in EPCOT costs $46 per adult right now, making the arguably more popular Crystal Palace the cheaper option.
And if we want to talk about character meals with no characters, Chef Mickey’s (NOT in a theme park mind you) offered an all-you-can-eat family-style meal for $25 per adult when it first opened, which, IMHO, was a truly amazing deal. (FYI, the price there is going up here in a couple of days as characters come back to the restaurant.)
So, overall, $39 per adult seems to be just about “correct” (using the term loosely since Disney food is usually pretty expensive and some may even say ::gasp:: overpriced) for the amount of food, and the popularity and location of the restaurant.
Food quality was higher than expected (Crystal Palace has had some quality problems in the past), though, and overall we were happy with our meals.
Is it the same exact Crystal Palace of yore? No. But Disney has done a thoughtful job of updating some aspects of this iconic restaurant to suit current circumstances. It’s convenient, yummy, and likely worth the cost if you like the look of the menu and are looking for a table-service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.
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Have you eaten at The Crystal Palace? Tell us about your experience below!