Disney Vacation 2014: Review – Liberty Tree Tavern

Our first dinner at Magic Kingdom was at Liberty Tree Tavern.  We’d never eaten here before, and since my wife handled all the planning and reservations for this trip and I didn’t pay quite as much attention as I should have when she was explaining them to me, I had no idea what to expect.  I was pleasantly surprised.

We had an early dinner reservation – just after 5PM if memory serves.  We arrived even earlier than that, but they weren’t ready to begin seating people.  My son had some excess energy to burn and I didn’t, so my wife took him off to play for an extra 15 minutes while I waited inside in the air conditioning.  My water bottle had run dry, so I refilled it from the large iced water dispenser in the waiting area.  I gratefully accepted a piece of delicious sweet cornbread at some point during my wait.

My wife and son returned just in time for our party to be announced.  That’s one of the cool things about Liberty Tree.  All the employees are dressed in period-appropriate dress, and your server picks up your reservation and announces to the crowd waiting to be seated that he or she will be seating the ____ family from such and such town.  It was kinda cool.  She led us through the restaurant to our table, and that’s where I’ll pause for a bit of a detour.  Every dining experience on Disney property was just a bit more difficult than we’re used to because at every restaurant, we ate at a table.  We always request a booth when we eat out, and will even wait for one if it won’t be too long, because we have a two year old, and it’s just plain easier to block him in against the wall.  I don’t fault Disney for not having booths – they certainly would cut down on available seating – but it is something to keep in mind if you have a toddler.

There isn’t a menu as such at Liberty Tavern.  The food is served family style, and you lt-menuget what they’re serving that night.  Thankfully the food was both varied and tasty.  Here is a picture of the “Bill of Fare” from that night.  Something I didn’t notice that night but do see now is the sponsored message at the top of the menu – “Hosted by Ocean Spray Craisins.”  Like Disney isn’t making enough money from the park tickets and inflated food prices, our menus get to be sponsored by condiments.  Still, the menu was nice to look at, and having no choice in what we would be served actually was somewhat calming after a long day in the park.  Truth be told, aside from noticing Mac & Cheese was on the menu, I didn’t pay much attention.

lt-saladOur server quickly delivered a bowl full of salad for us to share.  While I’m not a huge salad fan, I did have some with a couple of pieces of bread.  The salad was good and the bread was fantastic.

Luckily, our server realized we wouldn’t be spending tons of time enjoying salad, so she delivered the main meal to our table soon after the salad.  In the meantime, we had fun (not really) trying to convince our son that he really wanted to stay on his chair, with my wife repeatedly offering to let him sit in her lap.


Here is a picture of the main meal, both the meats and sides.  The turkey, beef, and pork were all excellent, although I’d say the turkey was best.  The sides were very good, especially the sweet potatoes, mac & cheese, and green beans.  The gravy was quite good, and the bread, as mentioned, outstanding.  We ended up asking for seconds of nearly everything, and our son ate very well.  One lesson we learned during this meal was that keeping a movie from iTunes (Planes) stored on my wife’s iPhone was a lifesaver.  We often let our son watch a movie on his iPad when we’re out to eat (I know, we’re horrible parents), but we didn’t want to lug his iPad around the park.  I can already see that upgrading to one of the larger styles of iPhones in the future will be helpful – either that or getting an iPad mini.

I wish I’d taken a picture of the dessert – white cake filled with apples, craisins, and cranberries with ice cream.  I remember it tasting pretty good, but not so much so that I thought to take a picture, obviously.

I enjoyed our dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern.  The food was good and the service was pleasant and attentive.  I believe we only had to pay for my meal and my wife’s, as our son was 2, so while the price was a bit high for the quality of food, it wasn’t outlandish for Disney.  Compared to the fairly disappointing meals I had at various Disney Quick Service restaurants, it was definitely a better experience.  I’d eat there again for the same price, but definitely not if we had to pay the same for our son as we paid for us.

Liberty Tree Tavern on Urbanspoon

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Disney Vacation 2014: Quick Service Dining Multi-Review

My wife and I were Annual Pass holders for several years, making multiple trips to Walt Disney World each year.  In all that time, we never ate at any of what Disney calls its “Quick Service” eateries – essentially fast food restaurants.  We used to stay in the Animal Kingdom Lodge resort, and typically had a large breakfast at Boma, skipped lunch, and had an early dinner at various nice “Table Service” restaurants in Epcot such as Le Cellier or Alfredo’s.  That plan made sense for two adults, but we didn’t think it would work for two parents with a toddler, so we changed our strategy and embraced Quick Service Dining during this trip.  In this post I will quickly review each of the Quick Service restaurants we tried.

Flame Tree Barbecue

ft-lunchThe nicest thing I can say about Flame Tree Barbecue is that the Fruit Plate we ordered was surprisingly large.  While it didn’t include the “Honey Yogurt” mentioned on the menu for some reason, there was half of a huge orange, a large bunch of grapes, some pineapple, and some other melon.  Given how expensive everything is at Disney, this was the only item I ordered at a Quick Service place that struck me as being worth the money.  We also ordered the Pork Sandwich and the Onion Ring Basket.  The fruit was good, and if I had it to do over again, I’d probably just order 2 or 3 plates of it for the three of us.  The pork sandwich was mediocre, as were the onion rings.

The ordering experience at Flame Tree would be repeated at each of the Quick Service restaurants to varying degrees.  I stood in a really long line to order food for which I paid too much money.  I waited in line again for a really long time to have the food handed to me.  Kinda like eating at an In-N-Out during the lunch rush, with much lower quality food.

The “dining experience” at Flame Tree was fairly pleasant because my wife had found us a table under one of the many pavilions that was located right next to a small body of water.  Our son was out for his nap, so we shared the sandwich and onion rings and sampled the fruit while waiting for him to wake up.  He liked the fruit and especially liked watching one of the white crane-like bird that wandered around the pavilion, begging for scraps.

The Lunching Pad

I’ll be up-fronlp-dogst – I was pre-disposed to not like the Lunching Pad because we ate dinner there on the night we attended Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, and by the time we ordered dinner we’d endured a solid three hours of rain.

We ordered a Kid’s Hot Dog for our son and 2 Coney Island Dogs for ourselves.  The line wasn’t nearly as long this time as most of the day’s crowd was gone and many party attenders were doing the smart thing and staying indoors wherever possible.  One thing I did like about the kids meals at the Quick Service restaurants is that each one came with both carrots and grapes in an attempt to be somewhat well-rounded.  Our son would eat nothing but grapes every day if we let him, so he was happy.  I wasn’t impressed with our chili dogs, seeing as how they were about the same quality as the ones you could get from Sonic for 1/3 the price, but they weren’t terrible.

lp-pumpkin-spice-teaWhat was terrible was a Pumpkin Spice Bubble Tea that I ordered purely to be able to post a picture of it to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for one of my buddy’s to see. It was extremely sweet, but the worst part was these strange gummy blobs in the bottle – the bubbles, I guess.  Would definitely skip it if I had it to do over again.

Still, while the food was borderline and the tea terrible, the roof over our heads was nice to have, and the relatively calm break it gave us while waiting and hoping for the rain to subside was very much appreciated.

lp-mom+boyAs you can see from this picture, neither my wife nor son let the rain dampen their spirits.

The best part about the Lunching Pad was that, after deciding to pack up and brave the rain again, the downpour began to lessen, and within just a short while, we were able to give our son one of the most memorable experiences of the trip for him – meeting Buzz Lightyear.

Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe

We had lunch at Pecos Bill’s Cafe after, you guessed it, waiting in a really long line.  In fact, we waited in a long line to get into the building, then when I saw how long the line was to order food, I sent my wife and son off to secure a table for us.  Probably a minor jerk move, but I wanted a shot at eating inside with some air conditioning if possible.

pb-receiptI was so hungry by the time I sat down with our food that I forgot to snap a picture of the entire order, but I did get a picture of the receipt, so I can report not only what we ordered, but what the total price was.   We ordered a Kid’s Turkey Sandwich with milk for our son, and both my wife and I ordered Angus Cheeseburgers – hers with fries and mine with corn on the cob.  We also ordered an extra side of Corn on the Cob for our son, and I splurged and got one of our Diet Cokes in the Souvenir Boot Mug with a Mickey Straw.  You can shake your head at how much that cost – I know I did.

It should come apb-breads no surprise that the food was mediocre.  The cheeseburgers were what you might expect from the Shoney’s buffet and the corn on the cob was about a third of an ear.  I didn’t try the fries.  At least the drinks were cold.  I will say the kid’s turkey sandwich seemed OK, and our son was intrigued by the fish-shaped bread.

If I hadn’t been so hot and tired, I might have found the energy to be more annoyed that the souvenir boot didn’t even come close to matching the picture on the menu. On the menu it is clear, and while it looks like glass, I expectepb-bootd it to be plastic.  As you can see from this picture, it’s actually black. I’ve done some Googling and it looks like Disney actually did provide a clear boot at one point, but we ended up with this boring black one.

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe

We had dinner at Cosmic Ray’s one night.  One good thing was that, perhaps due to timing, we didn’t have to wait in line to get into the building, just to order and wait for our food.  Our wait was made a little less dreary by one of the Disney employees noticing my Green Lantern shirt.  He commented that he didn’t see many of those and I mused that it might be because Disney owns Marvel, not DC, and we both got a kick out of that. When he slid over the first tray of food, he asked if I needed anybody to help carry the second, and his manager noticed my wife and son standing off to the side, both in Green Lantern shirts as well, and laughed, “They’ve got the whole Green Lantern Core here, I think they’ll be fine.”  The belly laugh I got from that almost made up for the food I was about to eat – almost.

cr-receiptWe’d ordered cheeseburgers for lunch, so I thought i’d go for something different for dinner.  My wife still ordered a Cheeseburger, but I went for the Deluxe Chili-Cheese Dog, and we ordered Chicken Nuggets for our son.  Everything was terrible – all of it.  I would have been dissatisfied with the food at Sonic Drive-in prices, much less Disney prices.

To add unintentional insult to injury, a well-meaning Disney employee stopped by our table and asked if he could take our tray away, as it looked like we had all of our food mostly eaten in its own containers on cr-allthe table.  What I didn’t notice was that my son’s bag of grapes was still on the tray, and since I was watching him and my wife dance down by Sonny Eclipse himself at the front of the restaurant, I told him sure.  I felt a jerk when they returned to the table to find his grapes gone, but another Disney employee at the counter was nice enough to replace them when I asked.

Still, even though the food was terrible, it was an interesting experience, and certainly a fun one for our son.  He was fascinated with the animatronic Sonny Eclipse playing his “cosmic piano” or whatever it was called. He even swayed and sang along with one of the songs during the meal, and as much as I shudder at the memory of eating the junk they served us there, I would do it again for just that moment.

Earl of Sandwich

Our final Quick Service Dining experience was at Downtown Disney.  I’m guessing Earl of Sandwich counts, even though it’s not in one of the theme parks.  It certainly had the requisite long lines and high prices.  I liked the food at Earl of Sandwich better than the rest of the Quick Service Dining places we tried combined.

I ordered theos-avocado-blte Avocado BLT.  It was quite good, I have to admit.  Maybe not as good as I would expect from a dedicated sandwich restaurant back home, but head and shoulders better than the crummy burgers and hot dogs at the other places.  My wife and I traded pieces of each of our sandwiches, and she agreed mine was very good.

She ordered the Philly Cheesesteak.  It was pretty good as well, although not as good as my BLT.  We ordered a Kid’s Turkey eos-phillySandwich for our son and he liked it quite a bit.  I ordered a large side of Mac & Cheese for us to split.  It was pretty good as well, and more than the three of us could finish after eating our sandwiches.

We were worried we’d have to sit outside at Earl of Sandwich, as it looked completely packed as we walked up.  I’d even had my wife grab a table outside as I went inside to order, but as I paid for our food, I spotted a couple just standing up to leave at an inside table.  I made a beeline for their table, walking right past a couple of people who looked like they might have wanted to sit there but were too unsure about moving in for the kill before the current occupants were gone.  I felt a little bad for snatching the table away from the rookies, but hesitation isn’t the way to win when dealing with crowds of this size.

Quick Service Dining – Not for Us

I doubt we’ll eat at any of these places, or other Quick Service locations again.  With the exception of Earl of Sandwich, the quality of the food was mediocre at best, and mostly not even that good.  It’s also not much less expensive than some of the Table Service restaurants we tried in the parks, and certainly as expensive as much nicer, better restaurants located off-property.

I don’t know how old our son will need to be before we can make a big breakfast, no lunch, and early dinner work for him, but until that works, I think our plan will be to take some snacks of our own to the parks to eat during the day, and just avoid Quick Service Dining entirely.

My biggest problem with Quick Service Dining, in addition to paying way too much for poor quality food, is that it makes being at Disney seem like being at any other amusement park.  I grew up going to Opryland and eating crummy hot dogs for lunch.  I spent years going to Disney World and experiencing something more special, more (I hate to put it this way) magical.  Breakfast at Boma, a day at Animal Kingdom or Epcot, and dinner at Le Cellier was more like a special date than a day at an amusement park. Maybe that was always an illusion, but Quick Service Dining shatters it pretty thoroughly.

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Disney Vacation 2014: Review – Raglan Road Irish Pub

Having spent the night in Lake City, we arrived in Orlando around late morning on Thursday. We grabbed some lunch at a place that wasn’t review-worthy, checked into our resort, and made a bee line for Disney’s Art of Animation resort to check out the Cars area. I’ll write about both our resort and the Disney resorts we visited in another post. This post is about our first dinner in Orlando, which was at Raglan Road at Downtown Disney.

The first thing that hit me about Raglan Road, after seeing the pretty Irish dancing girls hanging out in the entryway greeting customers that is, was how absolutely packed it was, even at 5:30. Due to traffic caused by construction delaying my wife’s sister and brother-in-law, I got to spend a lot of time wandering around the shop just outside the restaurant and worry if we would ever get a table. Luckily, though, we were seated soon after they arrived since my wife had made reservations for us. We followed the hostess, weaving our way around a line of Irish dancing girls performing for a large table of people, and were eventually seated right in front of and just off to the side of the main stage.


Our server took our drink orders and made my day when I asked if they had Magners. His response was, “Yes sir, would you like apple or pear?” I didn’t know Magners made a pear cider, so I ordered one. It was delightful. So good, in fact, that I quickly ordered a second with a glass of ice over which to pour it.

I love Magners apple cider on draft, and while I’m not ready to declare that Magers pear is better in every way, it was better for me on that nighRR-magners-pear-icet.  Lighter and a bit sweeter, it was exactly what I needed after a hot day in the sun.  I mentioned it on Twitter and Facebook and a couple of buddies confirmed they liked it as well.  I can only imagine they didn’t mention it to me in the past because they knew I would be sad without access to it in Knoxville.

When it came time to order, I did a double-take at the prices.  We hadn’t eaten at a Disney restaurant in several years, so I had forgotten how pronounced the “Disney Tax” can be.  Still, we were on vacation and I had expected to pay more for meals in Orlando than I typically do back home, so I ordered my usual at any Irish place – Bangers & Mash – called Bangers and Booz on the menu.


Strangely enough, the Bangers & Mash at Raglan Road come in a bowl with a ladle of beef stew mixed in with them.  The beef stew was quite good, and I would have been satisfied with it on its own any other night, but it was more than a little odd as a part of this dish.  Were I to order it again, I’d ask for it on the side, as I didn’t care for it mixing with the potatoes.  The bangers, however, were outstanding.  I commented both to the rest of the table and to the manager when he came by that, as good as the bangers are at my favorite Irish place in Nashville, McNamara’s, these were better.  The mashed potatoes were very good as well.

My wife and son split the Fish & Chips.  I didn’t think to snap a picture of it because I was still too giddy at trying Magners pear cider for the first time, but I did try the fish and it was quite good.

While we ate, we were able to enjoy two types of entertainment.  The house band, The Brayzen Heads, was playing.  They were good, if not quite awesome.  I am a sucker for banjo music, however, so I really liked the songs they played that made heavy use of it.  I grew up in Nashville, so it’s my habit to always tip a band I like, and they were offering CD’s for $10 each.  I picked up a copy of “Floored” and have been enjoying listening to it as I write this review.  In addition to the band, a group of Irish dancers, mostly young women but sometimes with a young man, would make their way either to the main stage or to a tall table near us.  I’m not a huge fan of their feet stomping style of dance, but they were lively and our son certainly enjoyed it.  At one point the young women gathered up some kids from the audience and danced with them on stage, and as a parent I got a kick out of that.

RR-bread-puddingFor dessert, we ordered The Bread and Butter Pudding, and I made a big mistake here.  Bread pudding is my favorite dessert, and when my wife suggested she and our son could just share mine, I shook my head and said definitely not – they needed to order a separate one.  You may not be able to tell it from the picture, but the serving of bread pudding was enormous; easily enough for three people to share – even if one of them is a two year-old with a bottomless tummy for sweets.  So we each ate about half of our respective servings and enjoyed leftover dessert at the resort for the next couple of days.

The bread pudding was delicious.  Lighter and fluffier than I’m used to, and the heavy cream and caramel sauce were delightful.  It may be hard to believe, but I’m not really fond of sweets or desserts, but when I come across something this good, I add it to my short list of “must-have” dishes.

We had a great meal at Raglan Road, and I’d happily eat there again.  The only thing that dampened the experience for me was the Disney Tax.  There’s simply no reason why a couple of sausages, some mashed potatoes, and a ladle of beef stew should cost $19.  They were great, but I would have plenty of meals outside Disney’s property over this vacation that were just as good, for consistently less money.  Still, we were on vacation and not unfamiliar with how inflated Disney food prices are, so I just mention that as something to be aware of, not a reason to avoid Raglan Road. When you go visit the Mouse, you pay his tax, after all.

Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Guest Post: R&G Lounge – San Francisco, CA

transamerica pyramidSan Francisco. It’s a city of IKEA sized apartments that cost more than my lifetime’s total accumulated wealth (estimated; if we have another 2008 market crash, I’m screwed) and whose weather seems to thumb its nose at any and all forecasts. It’s a magical land whose culture is exemplified by extreme success and failure; where the homeless flood the high-rent business and living sections of town, and no one seems to care as they drive past the food bank line around the corner, in their brand new Tesla S P85+. It’s quite possibly my favorite city in the U.S., not withstanding my hometown of Knoxville, TN.

Traveling from East Tennessee to California means spare time for quick adventures once I’m there; airlines and time zones all but ensure this happens. This trip marks my fourth visit to the San Francisco area in a year and this time, I had a side mission: discover a local restaurant, then come back and write about my dining experience. Easy enough – I’ve been to a few places on past trips that were fantastic (Scoma’s, Market One, Bouchon Bakery), so when I decided to find some where to eat this time, I tried the old tried ‘n true method – ask a cabbie.

My hotel was just around the block from China Town, so I thought I would try getting a recommendation over there. The cabbie laughed when I told him I had eaten at Hunan Home’s Restaurant and enjoyed it. Saying it was a “tourist trap” and none of the “Hunan” restaurants there were decent, was in stark contrast to my experience:

We bypassed the menus and told the waiter to have the cooks make us whatever they wanted. It was some of the best Chinese food I’ve personally ever had. The cooks made multiple dishes, many of which were not on the menu to begin with; they cooked what they wanted to eat, after work. Fantastic.

R&G LoungeHaving my self-confidence diminished somewhat, the cabbie pointed me to a place where the locals go when they want good Chinese food – the R&G Lounge. Your classic “hole in the wall” restaurant that is hard to get into after a certain hour, has been around for a while (1985), and from the outside, looks like a place the local mafia hangs out in.

My stomach still feeding on Eastern Standard Time, I went to dinner a little earlier than the locals – no wait! When you walk in the door, the first thing you notice is the white “middle school” looking tile on the floor, with the gold trimmed tables and chairs, still around since day one in 1985. Not realizing they had two floors, I was slightly taken back when I was escorted down to the lower floor – no windows, old school wood paneling on the walls, and the same gold trimmed furniture as the upstairs. There’s a bar and the obligatory fish tank(s) along the walls down there also – it’s great.

R&G LoungeI was seated in a back corner of the “basement” at a table big enough for two. My waiter spoke very little english (that’s stretching it a little bit) and could not have been nicer, or more knowledgable about the food. After some complimentary hot tea and a my order of Tsingtao beer (which is pretty good), my waiter came over to take my order. I had chosen a dish (Soy Sauce Chicken) based upon the picture on the menu, to which he informed me how long it takes to prepare the dish (45 minutes!!!), how it’s served (cold), and he was honest enough to say I probably wouldn’t enjoy it. I appreciated the honesty and instead ordered the Sliced Lamb in X.O. Sauce.

LambI’m a big fan of Lamb – it’s a beef that has to be cooked just right and can be cooked many different ways, so I thought I would take a chance. The food was prepared quickly and as expected, came out steaming hot. A simple dish – just lamb and green vegetables, with a side bowl of steamed white rice – it was all cooked perfectly. The lamb has it’s signature “spice” flavor, with a touch of soy sauce marinade and not too chewy, which lamb can sometimes end up being. The vegetables were crisp to the bite, which was a big deal for me. I’m not a big fan of vegetables but these were freshly picked, and cut that day. It’s the little things that make the difference.

Understated and letting the meal speak for itself, I was a happy tourist. The staff were all very nice and the facility as a whole was very clean, and inviting. I’m not sure how the prices compare to other restaurants in the area, but being in San Francisco I’m going to go out on a limb and say the R&G Lounge is on par with other similar establishments in the area. It was well worth the trip.

SF-fortune cookieAs my travels take me around the country visiting clients, I’m hoping to continue my guest posts here. Having my own blog that’s mostly geared for my passions (tech, photography, and gaming), it’s not often that I get to write about my food experiences (by often, I mean never). I love to eat and traveling around to other cities, soaking in the local culture and food, Mike has given me a great opportunity to share what I find with all of you. I’m looking forward to the next time…

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Disney Vacation 2014: On the Road Review – Mike’s Cafe & Grille

We left home a bit later than we’d planned (isn’t that always the case when you have a toddler?) on Wednesday, and we got on the road about mid-morning.  After stopping for lunch, we were making pretty good time and decided that, rather than stopping in Valdosta, Georgia, our normal first night resting spot, we’d push on to Lake City.  One great thing about living in the age of smartphones and ubiquitous Internet access is that I was able to both book an hour or so ahead of arriving, and scope out an interesting spot to have dinner.

We chose Mike’s Cafe & Grille.  The name appealed to me, of course, and it was the #3 rated restaurant in Lake City on TripAdvisor.  Luckily I didn’t check the Urbanspoon ratings before ordering, as it only got a 72% at the time.


We arrived around 7PM and the place was almost completely empty, which worried me at first.  But the hostess was polite and our server was very friendly as well.  She earned points with me and my wife by making over our son numerous times, and he did what he always does when he’s told he’s cute – he giggled and smiled.

Since I wasn’t familiar with the restaurant, I did what I normally do and asked our server what her favorite dish on the menu was.  She said she really liked the Salmon Piccata, so I ordered it.  It came with this delicious sauce and several shrimp on top and was outstanding.  The vegetable medley was pretty good, and the macaroni & cheese, which had both bacon and onions mixed in, was outstanding.


My wife ordered the Chicken Parmesan, and it was quite good.  She also ordered a salad (good), and the mac & cheese.  She shared her meal with our son and they both liked it.


For dessert, my wife ordered the Death By Chocolate.  While it was far too rich for my tastes, I can’t hold that against it because I’m not a huge fan of chocolate to begin with.  Both my wife and son loved it.


I ordered the Creme Brulee and it was very, very good.  Coming in just behind bread pudding, creme brulee is my second favorite dessert, and Mike’s Cafe did it well.


Here’s a picture of my wife and son showing just how much he enjoyed the dessert.  Believe it or not, this shot came after the first attempt to wipe his face.


I was very happy with Mike’s Cafe & Grille.  We’ll be making more frequent trips to Disney in the coming years, and I’m looking forward to trying them out again.  For both the quality of the food and the friendliness of the service, I heartily recommend them if you’re in the area.

Mike's Cafe & Grille on Urbanspoon

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New Series – Disney Vacation 2014


I’m going to branch out just a bit with this series, but don’t fret, most of the posts will be food and/or restaurant related in some way.  Our family just returned from an amazing vacation to Walt Disney World – the first vacation my wife and I have taken in quite a while and the first real vacation we’ve taken with our two year old son.  We had a great time overall, did a lot of things “right” and got a few things “wrong” – but I wouldn’t change any of it (well, almost any of it) for the world.


We drove from Knoxville to Orlando in our little Kia Spectra 5.  I’ll admit right now that is one thing we’ll do differently next year.  We weren’t sure how our son would handle air travel, and we’ve mostly driven to Orlando in the past, so we tried it this time.  Next time, I’m thinking we’ll either fly or, at the very least, rent an SUV or minivan if we don’t upgrade to one in the meantime.

We did something for the very first time for us – we didn’t stay on Disney property.  My wife and I used to be regular Annual Pass holders, and we always stayed on property, but we decided to try something a little different this time.  More on that in a later post.

Here are a few details and highlights about the types of posts you can expect in the comings weeks in this series, including some tentatively titled special posts:

  • No fewer than 19 restaurant reviews.  These will span our trip down, our time in Orlando, and our trip back.
  • Tips & Tricks for a Successful Disney Vacation from Rookie Parents
  • Top Ten Jerk Moves at Walt Disney World
  • Geek Gear to Improve your Disney Vacation
  • Disney: On Property or Off? (lodging)
  • Disney: On Property or Off? (dining)
  • First Vacation with a Toddler: Lessons Learned

I’m going to ask my wife Rachael to co-author some of these posts with me.  You’ll recognize her writing as different from mine because she has a degree in Journalism / News Editing, so her style isn’t rambling like mine.

Looking forward to sharing our experiences with you, both about the vacation itself and the great (and not so great) food we had along the way!


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Quick Review: Chandler’s Deli

I’ll tell you all you need to know about Chandler’s Deli in this first sentence – they make hands-down the best fried chicken, and the best macaroni & cheese in Knoxville. If you haven’t eaten there and you’re reading this while they’re open, stop reading and go get some chicken – I’ll wait.

I had lunch and Chandler’s recently with a buddy from work. It’s best to arrive early, and that day there were only a couple of available tables around 11:30. Chandler’s is in an old Taco Bell building, and you order your food cafeteria style. We started off with fried pickles. They were very good – with just the right amount of breading.

Fried Pickles

I ordered fried chicken, macaronic & cheese, and fried okra. The okra was very good. A couple of guys ahead of me in line were trying to decide on which side to get, and I told them the macaroni & cheese was “drive across the state good.” They took my advice and ordered it. I’m glad I did as well. The real star of this meal, though, was the fried chicken. Chandler’s fried chicken is awesome. It’s juicy and fried just right, and has been every single time I’ve had it.

Fried Chicken

I’ve only ever tried the fried chicken at Chandler’s. I know they have other main dishes available, but I’m a fan sticking to what I know is awesome. I only let myself eat at Chandler’s once a month or so, because I know if I let it become a habit, I’d be there every week, then multiple times per week, then pretty soon I’d have a heart attack. I’ll say it again – if you haven’t tried Chandler’s fried chicken, you need to.

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