Can California Grill Still Justify Its Prix Fixe Menu?

California Grill napkin

I’m getting out ahead of my Disney Christmas in July trip report with some avant food reviews! Today we once again return to one of my favorite treat restaurants, the California Grill. Read all the posts in this trip report here. Onward!

My last experience at California Grill was during WDW’s 50th Anniversary, and the restaurant was running a special prix fixe menu in honor of this momentous occasion. Well, WDW50 is over, but the prix fixe menu remains; if you want to order anything a la carte, you’ll have to fight for a spot in the lounge with the rest of the reservationless plebes.

The assumption here is that Disney is trying to cut down on people taking ADR slots, ordering a few drinks and dessert, and watching the fireworks. Already I’m a little annoyed because doesn’t that sound like an awesome way to end a Disney day?! But sadly, in the modern era, Disney is beholden to its shareholders. A prix fixe menu is a good way to ensure every guest is good for a full meal’s worth of profit.

(Although – isn’t most of the money in drinks? I’m just saying.)

We’re thinkers, you and I – before we plunk down our credit cards, we must ask ourselves: is it worth it? Lucky for you, I’ve already performed the science part of the experience. Let’s get to the analysis.

Follow along with the menu here.


Do we even really need this section? The California Grill’s ambience rather speaks for itself. Situated at the tippy top of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, it has killer views of both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot and an enviable vantage point for fireworks.

Obviously the most coveted tables are by the windows, but you’re always welcome to check out the observation decks, and you can see at least a bit of vista from about every seat in the house. Value, as I am constantly nattering on about, is a subjective metric, but I would argue that the California Grill brings a lot to the metaphorical table just by being where it is.

Okay, well, if you must know, they do dim the lights at night, and the environment is very classy while remaining friendly to families. I wouldn’t go so far as to deem it intimate, however. Calling it romantic is a bit of a stretch from where I’m standing, although you could do far worse for a date night.


While the prix fixe menu does offer add-on wine pairing packages, I chose to select a cocktail this time around. As a creature of peculiar tastes, I had to try the Newgroni: Monkey 47 Gin, Stirrings Pomegranate Liqueur, Aperol Liqueur, Yuzu, Mint.

California Grill The Newgroni Cocktail

I know Negronis aren’t for everyone, but if you feel like you almost like them, the Newgroni might just be your gateway drink. The traditional bitterness of the Negroni is softened in the Newgroni, thanks to the fruitiness of the pomegranate and yuzu plus the herbal mint element. I loved it and would not hesitate to order it again. Although I just noticed a whiskey sour on the menu that is calling my name…

I also ordered a random rose champagne with my dessert. I selected it for being the cheapest sparkling wine on the menu, and it was as advertised. What I appreciated, however, was that I was able to order it in advance to be expressly timed with the dessert course. I know that’s not rocket science, but it still felt kinda fancy. The strawberry is a nice touch.

California Grill rose champagne

The California Grill also features a signature cocktail involving Remy Martin champagne. Normally I am all over a champagne cocktail (Casablanca anyone?), but this one is $138 so no. Unless someone would like to Paypal me…? Are Disney sugar daddies a thing?


California Grill still does included bread service! With olive oil and butter! I mean, nothing that blew me away, but I love bread and butter!

California Grill bread service

Er, moving right along. Your prix fixe meal includes an appetizer, and what’s more California than sushi; specifically, a California roll? I mean, they call it a Cascade roll, but it’s essentially a California roll plus a few extras. Per the menu: Tuna, Hamachi, Salmon Poke, Mango, Shallot, Yuzu-Avocado Purée, Soy Gel.

California Grill sushi

I am not a sushi snob, so I might not be the best person to offer a nuanced review. I will eat grocery store sushi and like it. Needless to say, I enjoyed this too! The fish was fresh and the texture was pleasantly meaty. Plus ten for the pickled vegetables alongside the ginger.


The entrees – and indeed, the entire menu – are advertised as seasonal at the California Grill, which can make reviews tricky. Never fear, however, as I ordered the one entree you can always count on: the oak-grilled filet of beef. It just makes economic sense, you know? When dining prix fixe, you want to get your money’s worth.

Per the menu: Roasted Onion Cream, Potato Pavé, Charred Caulilini, Cabernet Veal Jus. Wait, was it always veal juice? Well, shoot; if I’d realized that I wouldn’t have ordered it. 🙁 It must have been slightly different when I had it. My entire first paragraph is invalidated.

California Grill filet

Although really I would argue it doesn’t super duper matter. Most nicer table service Disney restaurants offer a safe, tasty steak, and California Grill is no different. My cut was tender and cooked to my requested medium rare, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I would not, however, rank it with the best steaks I’ve had, or even the best on property. (Yachtsman Steakhouse holds that honor so far.) If you like steak, though, or just want to make sure you’re maximizing your prix fixe value, you can’t go wrong with the filet.

I will note that the let me swap out the potato side that normally comes with the filet with the squash that came with the venison. Prix fixe menus don’t always allow for flexibility, so i appreciated their willingness to let me customize my plate to a degree.


And now on to arguably the best part of many a meal: dessert!

I was tempted by the peanut butter and banana torte, giving my penchant for all things peanut butter. Alas, I was traveling with a peanut allerg… ist? She has it. Not super hardcore, if it’s in the air she could die type allergic, but still, why take chances?

Not that I was terribly upset to settle on the Vahlrona chocolate cake: Dolcey Ganache, Passion Fruit Gel, Whipped Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, Passion Fruit Sponge Cake, Honey Tuille.

California Grill chocolate dessert

Now, for all those fancy ingredients, you might be expecting multifaceted flavor. Wrong! This cake tastes like straight up dark chocolate ganache. I long ago accepted that my palate is unrefined, and so I was absolutely fine with this. It is good chocolate, friends. If you’re not a dark chocolate fan, you probably won’t be as enthusiastic. If you are, you really, really will be.

Bonus points: check out the ice cream sandwich from the kids’ menu. That sucker is SERIOUS. I kinda wish I’d gotten one of those instead.

California Grill ice cream sandwich


At the time of this writing, the California Grill prix fixe meal runs $89 before tax, tip, and any drinks or other add-ons you may wish to indulge in. If you want to look at it from a purely pragmatic point of view – that is to say, is the theoretical a la carte price of what you get equivalent to the overall prix fixe cost – I would say yes, with the caveat that this will be somewhat dependent on the courses you choose. I’m not saying a chicken dish can’t be more delicious than a steak plate; I am saying it’s never gonna cost less.

Then there are of course the upcharges, like alcoholic beverages. If you’re trying to minimize the bottom line, the additional cost might tip the scales.

On the other hand, those theme park views are admittedly really good. And if you want to watch the Happily Ever After fireworks from the observation decks, you can – even if your reservation was earlier in the day! Just come back with your receipt and they’ll let you right up.

All of this forces us to the same conclusion it always does: what constitutes “worth it” is personal. And personally, I will be returning to California Grill. I really wanna try that whiskey sour, y’know?

Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall and on Instagram @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!


  1. I do wish it wasn’t still prix fixe, though I have a feeling they may keep it that way. I think a lot of people were grabbing reservations and just getting appetizers or desserts so they could have the fireworks view, and Disney figured out that they could make a lot more money with a prix fixe. Just a theory though.

    Also, if you find a Disney sugar daddy let me know if you can find one for me too. Or we could just share him, I’m fine with that 😂

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