REVIEW: The Crystal Palace Returns With Lunch and Dinner Service at The Magic Kingdom, But It’s No Picnic
It’s always Friendship Day at The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom, however today the popular eatery reopened with several changes. Winnie the Pooh and all his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood are no longer stopping by the restaurant, and instead of a buffet, family-style dining is offered, with unlimited “refills” on select items. We sat down at The Crystal Palace on opening day to try out the new menu.
Despite the characters being gone, the general theme is still Winnie the Pooh. In fact, the menu purposefully features summertime picnic favorites, like you’re having a picnic inside the Hundred Acre Wood.
The Crystal Palace – Check-In and Arrival
When arriving at The Crystal Palace, there are social distancing markers leading to the check-in podium.
We got there a bit early, as the restaurant opens at 11:30 AM for lunch, which runs through 2:55 PM. Dinner runs from 3:00 PM to an hour before park close, which today means 8:00 PM. Despite this being a hard-to-get reservation prior to the closures, there seems to be plenty of availability when you search on My Disney Experience.
Most of the family-style offerings are listed on the sign outside. Do note that while unlimited salad and biscuits are available, you may request seconds of your first choice of entree, but not an entirely different second entree. (Also, everything is pre-plated, so you will get an entire new plate.) You may also request seconds from the dessert platter, making this an almost all-you-can-eat setup, as opposed to the traditional buffet.
The Crystal Palace – Seating and Interior
Inside, the “Friendship Day Celebrashun” banners are still up.
Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, and Tigger would usually visit each table once or twice during a meal, but this is not currently possible with social distancing. Thankfully, you can still catch Pooh during Mickey’s Holiday Cavalcade.
And you can take pictures with these character topiaries!
Our reservation was at opening time, so there weren’t many other guests when we sat down.
Even once more guests were seated, we felt comfortable with the amount of space around us.
The buffet area next to the kitchen is now reserved for meal prep and staging previously-plated dishes.
Once seated, a menu is available via QR code, but there are paper menus also available.
The Crystal Palace – Menu
Family-Style Service costs $39 for guests ages 10 and above, or $23 for guests ages 9 and under.
If you’re in the mood for some wine, beer, or a mimosa, there are alcoholic beverages also available.
The Crystal Palace – Shared Family Style Starters
Tomato and Watermelon, Crisp Greens, Blue cheese, Candied Walnuts and Hot Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette
This salad was fine, but not our favorite. While the presentation looked impressive, the combination of flavors, between the watermelon, greens, candied walnuts, and tomatoes, just didn’t seem to work together.
Surprisingly, the summery ingredients were all fresh, to the salad’s merit, but it felt odd chowing down on slabs of watermelon in the middle of winter. Also, if you have anyone who’s picky about their tomatoes, these definitely just tasted like ones right off of a burger toppings bar, if you still remember what those were like.
Homestyle Buttermilk and Cheddar Bacon Biscuits
served with Honey Butter, Caramelized Onion Butter and Hot Pepper Jelly
The biscuits were good, maybe even the best non-dessert item of the meal.
The Cheddar Bacon biscuits were excellent, but do note that they were advertised as jalapeño biscuits, and they did have a kick to them. The plain biscuits weren’t bad, and while we’ve come to expect dry biscuits at most Walt Disney World restaurants, these were fairly moist.
Another fresh twist on the usual bread-and-butter setup was the availability of three spreads to choose from. There’s whipped caramelized onion butter, smooth honey butter, and red pepper jelly. We appreciated the variety in butters and spreads, which isn’t always common at most Disney restaurants.
The Crystal Palace – Entree Selections
Crispy Fried Chicken
served with Honey pot Drizzle, Macaroni and Cheese and Collard Greens
Arguably the most “bloggable” of the options, the fried chicken is somewhat unique, if ironically, because fried chicken is rarely an option at Magic Kingdom restaurants. (Unlike at Disneyland, where there’s good fried chicken options at most places.)
While the chicken is good, the honey drizzle makes it slightly soggy, so you do lose the crunch that you’d normally want from fried chicken. The honey drizzle itself is delicious, but generally just soaks in the breading. We’d almost prefer a tiny pot of honey drizzle to dip or pour on it ourselves, although that could make for a sticky mess in between diners. Otherwise, the white meat chicken is cooked very nicely.
The mac and cheese was crispy, warm and creamy, and therefore checked all the boxes we’d want from a side dish. Coated in panko crumbs, this was a slightly elevated take on your usual counter-service mac, although some would still say it’s pretty basic.
For a menu inspired by a southern-style picnic, the collard greens served with this would never win a county fair. Collard greens need plenty of seasoning and the right amount of cooking time to become tasty, and these were just plain soggy and awful.
Fire-roasted Prime Rib of Beef
served with Asiago Potatoes au Gratin, Creamed Spinach and Horseradish Cream
Prime rib is supremely fatty, and ours was slightly overcooked, with not much of a tender red center.
The horseradish cream really helped salvage the prime rib, with the peppery radish flavor really shining through. On the side, we also got a small Yorkshire pudding, which was surprisingly dry and bready.
The potato gratin was one of the better sides, but still slightly overcooked, with thick pieces of potato instead of the usual slivers.
The Crystal Palace – Shared Family-style Desserts
Family Style Dessert Platter
Seasonal Fritters with Powdered Sugar and Chocolate Dipping Sauce, Banana Cream Pie, Hummingbird Cake, and a Honey of a Cupcake
The seasonal fritters—served in an adorable tiny paper bag—are a reincarnation of the popular Pooh’s Puffed French Toast, which was served at the Crystal Palace’s old breakfast buffet. These tasted the same, but in doughnut hole form, with a delicious cinnamon flavor to them.
The chocolate dipping sauce is almost superfluous, since the sauce is mostly flavorless, and the fritters are delicious on their own.
The banana cream pie (inspired by Tigger) wasn’t our favorite, but it was still a pleasant dessert, with strong banana flavor coming through and a dense, tasty crust.
A honey bee sits on top of the Winnie the Pooh cupcake, which unfortunately flew short of our expectations.
This cupcake is a hybrid between a cake and a Satu’li Canteen mousse. On top you have the raspberry mousse, identical in texture to the one served in Pandora, but with an intense, tart berry flavor. It doesn’t really adhere to the cupcake well, coming apart unlike frosting. The cupcake itself is very dense, and filled with honey brown sugar filling, yet for all its merits it’s just fine. If this cupcake were at a quick-service location, it isn’t something we’d necessarily order again.
The hummingbird cake is themed after Rabbit’s garden. It was incredibly sweet, with an insanely rich cream cheese frosting. Between the mound of frosting, plus the sweetness of the cake, you can really only have a bite or two of this. (Do note this also has walnuts.)
Vanilla Cake with Whipped Topping and Strawberries (Plant-based)
The best dessert of the entire lineup is this plant-based shortcake. It was incredibly moist and dense, topped with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. While many believe vegan cakes are dry or flavorless, it’s the addition of extra oil (to compensate for the lack of eggs) that surprisingly makes for a great base. There is raspberry sauce on the plate, which seemed odd for a strawberry shortcake. Still, this was probably our favorite part of the meal. If you have to eat here, which we don’t recommend, this is the dessert we suggest you get, even if it is plant-based.
Our general takeaway here is that while you are getting a ton of food for a slightly less money, none of it is particularly good. Previously, The Crystal Palace was a must-do for families because of Pooh and friends. Now, if they don’t up the food quality to compensate for the lack of characters, the restaurant really loses its appeal—and you can see that given the number of unclaimed reservations.
The Crystal Palace was brought back to meet the needs of the Christmas crowds, and while it’s good that we have another dining option available, it’s a shame the food isn’t better.
What do you think of the new The Crystal Palace menu? Let us know in the comments.