While I do love cooking, I also really love going out to eat. I consider it an adventure and I really look forward to trying new restaurants and even new dishes.
For our first night, Mr PugRunner requested that we try Bongos Cuban Cafe, on the West Side in Downtown Disney. It was a first for us, since we usually choose T-Rex in that particular area (I am a big fan of their cotton candy cocktails and little man digs the dinosaurs). However, we’ve been there, done that, so I was up for something new. We arrived around 5:00 and were seated immediately, which was nice.
Mr PugRunner ordered a Dos Equis and I went for a mojito. I’m not much of a rum drinker, but for some reason, this felt right. (It wasn’t my most favorite mojito, but it was good and a great complement to dinner).
I’m not a big meat eater, either, but I do love a nice marinated grilled skirt steak, so I ordered the Cuban Style Skirt Steak, on the server’s recommendation.
The meat was seasoned and cooked beautifully, the rice fluffy, and the tostones… perfect, especially when dipped in the chimichurri (which was also great on the steak). This plate was more like a platter, and there was a side of black beans not even pictured, and there was no way I could finish it all.
Mr PugRunner ordered the ham croquettes as an appetizers and Lechon Asado (pork leg marinated in mojo, served with black beans and rice and fried plantains) for dinner. Both were huge hits. Little man went for what he knew and had the cheese pizza.
Saturday morning’s breakfast was on eaten on the go. We were at the turnstiles of Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 6:40 and had no time to stop. Little man had a container of cereal, Mr PugRunner had a Kellogg’s cereal bar, and I enjoyed a Luna bar. So fancy. Later, we grabbed some croissants at Starring Rolls to get us through the period from breakfast to lunch.
When we are in Disney, we usually book one advance reservation for a sit-down meal on property. Dining reservations are a hot commodity and it gives us a chance to take a break from the standard burgers and “fast food” options, as well as offering somewhere air-conditioned to decompress before getting back out in the theme parks. This is most crucial during summer months when the crowds and merciless sun can really do a number on your sanity.
For the original planning of our trip, I took it upon myself to book a late lunch at the Sci-Fine Dine-In Theater Restaurant in Hollywood Studios. While the food isn’t exceptional, our last meal there was satisfying (the grilled salmon sandwich was a nice, light option), and we loved the ambiance. The acoustics make everything so quiet and peaceful, and it’s really cool to dine in a car. However, since Mr PugRunner pushed our travel dates back, we lost this reservation and I was unable to duplicate it for Saturday. After several attempts on the Disney website, I was able to secure a table at Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano.
I was a little skeptical. The online reviews weren’t stellar, but the menu offered some decent-sounding choices, and pickings were slim. I shouldn’t have worried. We were seated promptly after checking in for our reservation and our server was absolutely lovely and attentive. Since it was so hot, Mr PugRunner and I split Mama’s Antipasto for Two and the Carne D’Italia Flatbread. Little man went for the cheese flatbread (he is generally far more adventurous in his dining choices, but I think he was overwhelmed).
The flatbread was really good, with a thin and crispy crust and liberal toppings. I probably would have preferred one of the meatless options, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. And the anitpasto was divine. The serving plate included salami, prosciutto and parma ham, fresh mozzarella marinated in olive oil and herbs, wedges of sharp parmesan and creamy bleu cheese, marinated olives and roasted pistachios. Delicious, and perfect for a hot afternoon.
However, the (visual) star of the show was this “spaghetti & meatball” cupcake that came with little man’s lunch. I mean, does it get cuter than this?
That would be a chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream “spaghetti”, strawberry “sauce” and a chocolate “meatball.” The cake portion was very good but the frosting wasn’t all that good (and I say this as a person who eats the frosting and leaves the cake behind). We all had a bite or two, but no way could we finish, especially after our meal.
There would be other cupcakes.
When the thunderstorms arrived in the late afternoon, we decided to have our dinner at Harvest Bistro in our hotel. We have enjoyed meals there in the past, and we were glad to have something delicious located so conveniently. They offered an a la carte menu, but because the restaurant was unexpectedly busy, there was a dinner buffet option as well. There were a few things that looked good on the regular menu, but I think we were all in the mood for a little variety, so we chose the buffet. Little man enjoyed some dino-shaped chicken nuggets and some veggies & cheese from the salad bar. Mr PugRunner and I each made our own dinner salads and then he went for the prime rib (he loved it) and and I chose the pulled pork (which was very interesting – slow-cooked in a broth of tomatoes and mushrooms instead of a traditional barbecue sauce). We both had the garlic mashed potatoes, which were absolutely heavenly.
For dessert? A selection of bite-sized cheesecakes in all different flavors: chocolate, key lime, raspberry and the like. I had a few nibbles, but wasn’t in the mood, even though they were very good.
Once again, we had a quick breakfast, but this time at Muse, the hotel coffee shop. Muse has always been wonderful for coffee, snacks and delicious ice cream, and so we were not disappointed by our light meal.
We finished up at the park at about the time the Star Wars Motorcade was about to start, so we decided to grab lunch before we headed out to the car. The main street was blocked by crowds and marching Star Wars characters so we wandered up Sunset Boulevard to Sunset Ranch Market. It’s an outdoor, quick-service establishment, with walk-up ordering and picnic tables. We were able to secure a shaded seat and lunched on pretty decent cheeseburgers with a great view for people watching.
There was one thing on the menu that caught my eye, though, and Mr PugRunner clearly knew me too well because he went back up to the cashier to get us a treat.
A chocolate, peanut butter Darth Vader cupcake to share.
This cupcake was sublime. The chocolate cake was dense and moist, and the peanut butter frosting was so yummy. I wish we could have taken one with us for the trip home, but honestly, it would have melted (or been devoured) before we made it to the parking lot. It was the perfect sweet treat to end a wonderful vacation.
We discovered some new favorites this weekend, and I’m glad we branched out of our normal comfort zone to give some places a try.
What’s your favorite vacation meal discovery?
Tomorrow, we get to the fun stuff! Star Wars Weekend! The force was definitely with us!