The new Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill features Puck classics and Mediterranean influences, handcrafted cocktails and more — Photo courtesy of Skyler June
This is not Wolfgang Puck’s first Disney rodeo.
The Austrian-born Puck, whose first venue, Spago, has been earning raves since opening its doors in L.A. in 1982, is arguably the world’s first modern-era celebrity chef and the vehicle through which California pizza was popularized.
So, it’s not surprising that pizzaiolos get star positioning at the new Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill Orlando in Disney Springs. An expansive pizza bar gives them a stage (the stage door being the fiery maw of its wood-burning oven) and a comfortable row of seats where patrons enjoy a combination dinner/show/Q&A session.
It was part of the concept from the get-go, says Puck, who’s created entertainment on a Disney-esque level without sacrificing quality. The crust on the smoked salmon pizza is solid proof. They make the same dish at his Las Vegas eatery, but had to alter its recipe for the Florida climate.
“In summertime, when it gets really humid, we use less liquid, we make it a little drier,” he explains. “And so that way we keep the same time for fermentation.”
Pizza, whether slathered in salmon, dill cream and chives or more traditional offerings, such as pepperoni or fennel sausage, make a great starter for families or groups, Puck notes, “and for me, if I go for a special thing, a bottle of champagne and a smoked salmon pizza is perfect!”
The restaurant’s expansive and casually elegant farmhouse feel is quite natural for Puck.
“I grew up on a farm and farm-to-table was the only way we ate,” he explains, “so I always loved this idea of a farmhouse. It’s welcoming…and the new Disney Springs complex is very much a place where everyone – not just tourists at the parks, but local people – can go and hang out, shop a little bit, go for a drink or just have an ice cream.”
Which they can also grab at the new Bar & Grill, without stepping a foot inside the restaurant; a walk-up window makes it easy.
“If you walk by, especially on a hot day, you’ll see the gelato and you’re going to say, ‘Wow! I want a gelato! It looks too good to pass by.'”
With flavors like tiramisu and dark cherry chocolate chunk, he’s probably right, but even Puck’s not beyond straying for a Dole Whip. Read on for a few of the chef’s recommendations for those dining in the Disney realm.
This Iron Chef-led restaurant is a must-see (it’s absolutely gorgeous!) but if you’re short on time you can enjoy a quick bite from the fast-casual Morimoto Street Food stand just outside — Photo courtesy of Morimoto Asia
It was Austria v. Japan back in 2004 when Puck took up the Iron Chef gauntlet against his colleague and Disney Springs neighbor, Masaharu Morimoto in Battle Eggs. Puck prevailed in that episode, but he has nothing but high marks for Morimoto’s opulent Disney Springs venue.
“I really enjoy going to Morimoto for authentic Japanese dishes. He is a good friend.”
Cinderella’s Royal Table
Dining at Cinderella’s Castle is a must according to Puck — Photo courtesy of Richo.Fan / flickr
Apparently, Puck has a penchant for princesses – not uncommon ’round these parts. And this popular eatery is ensconced in the most iconic of Disney edifices to be sure.
“Everyone should try to experience this at least once,” he says. “It’s just beautiful, and takes you into Cinderella’s castle with a fairy tale banquet.”
Open for all three meals, reservations are definitely recommended for an experience that allows guests to ascend an enchanting spiral staircase to dine amid a court of Disney royalty – autographs and photo-ops abound.
Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’
Puck loves the Southern classics at his friend Chef Art Smith’s Disney venue, Homecomin’ — Photo courtesy of Disney/Ryan Wendler
Puck touts the “classic Southern dishes” that come out of the kitchen of a Florida native who’s cooked for presidents and movie stars and American “royalty” in the form of Oprah Winfrey, for whom Smith served as a personal chef. Braised short ribs, shrimp and grits, and Art’s Famous Fried Chicken are among the entrees of note.
You can watch the chefs decorate these artful signature cakes before enjoying one at Amorette’s — Photo courtesy of HarshLight / flickr
“It’s where I go to satisfy my sweet tooth,” says Puck of this Disney Springs bakery, which makes sense, since it’s just a quick stroll from his own restaurant, though we’re not sure he’ll have time to sign up for the hands-on experience they offer. “It’s a joy, though, to see the pastry chefs decorate the cakes!”
Puck clearly knows his character-dining; Chef Mickey’s ranks high on his list — Photo courtesy of MattCC716 / flickr
Another top choice for (well-in-advance) reservations, Chef Mickey’s is a long-standing favorite – breakfast is especially popular – that fans repeat-visit often. It’s also a place where it’s possible to meet Disney’s big five: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto.
“Everyone needs to go,” Puck says of this Contemporary Resort venue. “It’s a classic and iconic Disney World restaurant where the characters interact with all of the guests.”
Did you know Dole Whip is both vegan and gluten-free? — Photo courtesy of Disney
Puck didn’t specify which location he prefers – guests can get this non-dairy pineapple soft serve at multiple locations. These include the Pineapple Lanai, a stand located at the Polynesian Resort, and Aloha Isle – located in Adventureland at the Magic Kingdom.
“It’s a great refresher on a hot day,” he says.
No word on his preference for leaded Dole Whip, but at Animal Kingdom‘s Tamu Tamu Refreshments, you can get your Dole Whip with a generous pour of dark or coconut rum.