Ariel's Grotto - lunch - January 19, 2003
A group of us had lunch at Ariel's Grotto to celebrate the birthday of a friend who particularly likes Ariel. Our reservation was for 2pm, and arriving at 1:50 to check in, I noticed that there were about a dozen people in the stand-by line. We were still waiting for the rest of our group, so we were told by the hostess that our whole group would have to be present before we could be seated, so we waited by the railing. Once everyone was there, we informed the hostess, and about 5 minutes later, we were told that we could go in.
The dining area for the restaurant is downstairs, accessible by elevator and a spiral staircase. When we got downstairs, we were greeted by another person and taken to our table. When we had originally checked in, we had been asked if we preferred indoor or outdoor seating, as there is both, and we had asked for the first available. We ended up being seated outside right up against the glass walls that look into the indoor seating, so we had a view that looks out onto Paradise Bay. While it was a wonderful view, and the overhead cover provided shade for most of the time, the sun did begin to shine in a few of our faces by the end of the meal.
As we perused the menu, the waitress brought bread to our table. The restaurant serves a set menu, which means that for the set price, you get to pick a starter and an entree. (For dinner, it's a little more expensive and dessert is also included.) Beverages are extra. I enjoyed the chicken noodle soup starter, some others enjoyed the onion soup starter, and others enjoyed the side salad starter.
A number of us ordered the fish and chips entree, which were very good, with the fish very crispy.
A couple of people ordered the salmon B.L.T., and they enjoyed their meals as well. One of the people at the table didn't find much on the menu that she liked other than the hamburger and so asked the waitress if it would be possible to order off the children's menu, as there were different items listed there. The waitress let us know that anything on the children's menu could be ordered in adult-sized portions, so three of the people in our group ended up ordering off the children's menu. Everyone was pretty happy with their entrees. Most of us had French fries as part of our order, and they were very good, thick steak fries. The restaurant is also quite generous with them, so that all of us left quite a few of our fries on our plates. We were all very happy with our meals and agreed that it was something we'd do again. Once you're done with your meal, they also bring out a plate of complimentary pink cotton candy. Most of us hadn't had any in a while, so we very much enjoyed the treat.
Mmmmmm, cotton candy...
There are also a number of dessert items that can be separately ordered.
Chocolate Paradise Cake
A few of us had been there for lunch about a year ago (when the restaurant was still called Avalon Cove), and while we had enjoyed our experience as a whole, the service had been a bit slow and spotty, and the food had been rather bad. A few of us had ordered the hamburger, with the other two people ordering theirs with no lettuce, tomato or other condiments. When our burgers arrived, mine was also plain, even though I hadn't asked for it that way. When we asked for the rest of the condiments for my burger, it took another 10 minutes for them to arrive. After taking a few bites, we all discovered that our burgers were very well cooked, to the point of being burnt and like charcoal. After having a few bites, I couldn't eat any more of mine, and all three of us ended up leaving at least half our burgers on our plates. Upon discussion later, we all agreed that the food was bad enough that we really should have sent them back, and we're not usually inclined to do that sort of thing.
Happily, the food and the service were much better this time. Our waitress was very friendly and attentive, even though she was very busy, and she kept our drinks filled. I would suggest, however, that if anyone has problems with the food, they should definitely send it back.
One of the best things about the restaurant is the character interaction. Throughout the course of lunch, we were visited by Chip, Dale, Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Pluto, sometimes individually and sometimes in groups. They were all a lot of fun, and some of them were quite spirited and animated. Chip and Dale took particular interest in some of the gifts and accessories that we had brought for our friend's birthday, so we had a great time watching them play with those.
We have always had good luck with character meals, and this was no exception. On our prior visit to the restaurant, the characters did come by a lot as well, but that was mostly because they had all apparently fallen in love with the adorable little two-year-old girl at our table who was fearless and loved the attention lavished upon her by the characters. The characters were also a bit more rambunctious on that visit, so I expect they've been calmed down a bit.
Periodically throughout the course of the meal, music would be played inviting guests to join a conga line that wove through different parts of the restaurant. Participants were given some instruments that served as percussion devices, and various characters led the line and participated in it as well. Most of the people in the line were children, but there were some adolescents and adults as well. A few of the characters even came to get two of the people from our group to join the line during one of the sessions.
The only down part of lunch was that Ariel was apparently unavailable that day, so our birthday girl was a bit disappointed. Upon hearing that, though, the waitress let her know who to speak to so that she'd perhaps be able to come back another time to see Ariel, so that cheered her up. As a note, on our previous visit, Ariel didn't come around to visit like the other characters, since she has fins and all, but she rather sits in the downstairs lobby area. The disadvantage we saw is that it was hard to see when she was out, and often, she'd sit there by herself, with no one visiting her, since she wasn't in the direct line of sight of most of the seating area. I'm not sure if that's how it still works, but I would suggest that if you don't see Ariel, to perhaps ask your waitress to let you know when she's out so you can go up to her and visit.
We ended up having a leisurely and long lunch that day, so that by the time we left, it was about 4pm, and they were starting to change the menu over from lunch to dinner.
I was very iffy about the place after our last visit, but after this visit, I would very much recommend this restaurant. I would also recommend the lunch seating if every member of your party isn't inclined to have dessert. And recommendations are definitely recommended, though not required.
For the current lunch menu offerings, please click here.
For the current dinner menu offerings, please click here.
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