Welcome back to “Episode 6” of our Bucket List Trip Adventures! After a few busy park days, we finally had a completely day free to take it easy and we were so ready for it. We slept in (for us that means past 7 AM) and took our time getting ready and then decided we would spend the morning at Disney Springs. We jumped on a bus from our resort that dropped us off right at the entrance to Springs. Disney Springs doesn’t open until 10 AM and we got there a little early, so we just walked around slowly and enjoyed the weather. We stumbled across Gideon’s Bakehouse and saw an extremely short line, so we decided to hop in it to finally see what all the hype is about. We aren’t normally dessert people, and this place always has a crazy line, so we have always skipped it in the past. The wait ended up only being about ten minutes long first thing in the morning! The décor inside was whimsical, dark, and intimate with friendly gargoyles and creatures on the walls – a somewhat Hunchback of Notre Dame meets Harry Potter aesthetic.
We both ordered the Coffee Cake Cookie – a buttery vanilla bean cookie filled with cinnamon swirl and topped with homemade double baked butter crumbs – which is only available each day until they sell out. I ordered the Peanut Butter Cold Brew – Oat Milk cold brew combined with a dark roasted peanut blend from a Georgia peanut farm and sweetened with maple syrup, while Kat ordered the Pumpkin Chai Cold Crew – pumpkin chai flavored with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, white pepper, nutmeg, cloves, and locally roasted beans.
I cannot rave enough about how good the Peanut Butter Cold Brew was! It was sweet but over the top and paired perfectly with cookie – definitely deserves an 11/10 rating. Kat enjoyed her cold brew as well, but I don’t think she was as obsessed with hers as I was mine. After Gideon’s, we did some shopping as we were specifically looking for the new Chinese New Year Disney merchandise. Kat found some red packets for the holidays with Disney characters that were adorable. At this point, it was time for lunch so after weighing our many food options, we chose Art Smith’s Homecoming, one of our tried-and-true favorites. We didn’t have a reservation, so we grabbed seats at the bar and ordered a couple drinks. We ordered the Thigh High Chicken Biscuits – three cheddar cheese drop biscuits topped with Chef Art’s famous fried chicken thighs and bread and butter pickles, drizzled with hot honey – and the Blueberry Barbecue- glazed pork chop – thick-cut, chargrilled pork chops, Momma’s mac and cheese, southern green beans, and their signature blueberry barbecue sauce.
These dishes were both incredible. We always order the chicken biscuits and can split them as they are huge! Momma’s mac and cheese was decadent and creamy and paired perfectly with the tender juicy pork chop and homemade barbecue sauce. The portions are HUGE here no matter what you order so we try not to order too much. A couple sitting next to us offered to let us take photos of their food after we asked about their dishes. They had the Skillet-fried Chicken Paillard, Buttermilk-brined chicken pounded thin, hand breaded and skillet fried, topped with lemon butter, garlic and capers, served with roasted potatoes and grilled asparagus, the Country Fried Steak, and the Shine flight – sampling of each of their five moonshines on tap.
Homecomin’ also has a great brunch on the weekends with its own separate menu but you can also order from the traditional lunch menu. We have never had a bad experience here and love everything we have ever tried. If you cannot snag a reservation, as sometimes it can be hard, then definitely try walking in and sitting at the bar or patio.
Now that we were miserably full, we walked around Disney Springs for a while before heading back to resort for an afternoon at the pool. We took the bus back to the resort, changed into swimsuits, and headed out to soak up some sun. This was the best weather day of the trip with temps in the 70’s so we definitely wanted to take advantage of some pool time. The Grand Floridian main pool was beautiful and pretty crowded this day for January, but we were still able to find two loungers next to each other with an umbrella. The pool was heated but it was chilly when getting out, so we spent most of our time lounging in the sun. The service at the pool was amazing – there were people walking around the deck areas taking orders for food and drinks, however because we weren’t in the front rows or toward the end of the rows, it took a while to get food and drinks, so we just decided to order from the bar. Like I said, the pool was very busy, and they only had 2 servers working as January is typically not a busy month for pools at Disney. We spent a few hours here and then headed back to the room around 4:30 PM to get ready for the evening.
Again, we had no dining reservations for this evening so figured we would let the night take us where it wanted. We started at the Enchanted Rose Lounge because it was inside of our resort so very convenient. We grabbed a quick drink and a cheese plate that consisted of four chef-selected tasting portions of cheese, honeycomb, quince paste, apricot cake, pumpkin seed brittle, and cranberry bread.
This lounge has a small menu of appetizers that is top notch. They also have creative themed cocktails and stellar service so it is a must-visit for every trip. Sunset was quickly approaching Walt Disney World and we knew we wanted to see it from Topolino’s Terrace rooftop terrace at the Riviera Resort so we called an Uber and headed out.
Topolino’s Terrace is a gorgeous rooftop restaurant at the Riviera Resort with 360° views of Walt Disney World. They have an outdoor terrace with a bar that serves cocktails, and you can also see several different nighttime fireworks shows from here. We settled in to two seats at the bar just in time for the spectacular sunset and it did not disappoint – the pictures do not even do it justice.
We ordered a bottle of red wine to share, and the homemade Ricotta appetizer served with tomato jam, aged balsamic, cracked pepper, and basil complete with fresh bread. This was a great light snack and paired with the lighter wine that we chose well. The service and atmosphere were top notch even though the restaurant was busy. We chatted with some other guests at the bar and swapped Disney World stories, finished our wine, and then decided to make our way over to Yachtsman Steakhouse for a later dinner reservation we had just snagged.
We were able to take the Skyliner from the Riviera Resort over to the Epcot station and then just walk over to the Yacht Club from there. We weren’t starving at this point as we had a large lunch and also had a couple of appetizers, so we ordered light. We ordered a couple glasses of wine and two Steakhouse Wedge Salads to start. This is our second favorite salad on Disney World property, next to the wedge salad at Steakhouse 71. It has candied thick-cut bacon, farmhouse soft boiled egg, radish, with a smokey blue cheese vinaigrette all over a crisp cold iceberg wedge. The homemade dressing is unlike any we have ever eaten anywhere, and all the ingredients are very well thought out and intentional.
After that, we each ordered the Half Maine Lobster with a few shareable sides to include hot honey-bourbon brussel sprouts with candied walnuts, roasted seasonal mushrooms, garlic roasted green beans, and potato and leek au gratin – scalloped potatoes topped with cheese and baked to perfection. We love restaurants with shareable sides because we can try several different items as a table instead of just one coming with an entrée.
We could not leave here without ordering our favorite desserts on property – the Crème Brulée topped with candied blueberries, twills of white chocolate, and a citrus puree, and the Pineapple and Coconut Tart, their own take on a pineapple upside cake. A quick note – these items are no longer showing on the Disney World app menu but they may still have them on their actual paper menus. These are both light, airy, and the perfect amount of citrus and sweet for us.
Overall, Yachtsman Steakhouse is an incredible restaurant with great service. The restaurant aesthetic is dated and could benefit from a décor rehab but this does not take away from the traditional yet unique dishes of this classic steakhouse. After finishing our meal, it was about 11 PM so we headed back to the resort for the evening.
Happy to report that this was yet again another free day for us with no concrete plans until our much-awaited dinner reservation at Victoria and Albert’s that evening. We took our time in the morning and then headed back to Disney Springs as it was supposed to rain this afternoon, so we were going to try our hand at bowling. We stopped by Everglazed first to split a grilled cheese donut – yes, you read that right! Several slices of gooey melted cheese in between a griddled hot glazed donut of goodness – another don’t miss foodie snack. We knew Splitsville would be busy since it was supposed to rain so we got there right at opening time to ensure we could get a lane. The concept of this venue is unique in the fact that you pay for bowling per hour, and you have a dedicated table and server that serves you drinks and food the whole time. It is also not your generic bowling alley menu of bad pizza, stale pretzels, and flat soda. Splitsville is known for their frozen cocktails and having some of the best sushi on property. We wanted to eat lunch early so we would be very hungry for our much-anticipated dinner that night, so we ordered right away. We chose the Fantasy Sushi Roll, The Aloha Sushi Roll, and the Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls. The Fantasy Roll was salmon, cucumber, and avocado rolled in soy paper and topped with steamed shrimp and ahi tuna and drizzled with a spicy kimchi ponzu sauce – my favorite of the three. The Aloha Roll was Kani Kama krab, cucumber, and avocado wrapped in nori and sushi rice and topped with tuna, kiwi, pineapple salsa, garlic chile, and micro greens – super unique and loved how the fresh fruit brought sweetness to the roll. Last were the eggrolls – hand-rolled and filled with buffalo chicken, cream cheese, celery, and carrots served with scallions and avocado ranch for dipping – Kat’s favorite of the three.
Our service was great – she returned promptly and throughout our hour of bowl time for cocktail and beer refills and to make sure we were doing alright. This is not our first time at Splitsville and is our go-to spot for indoor fun when the weather is less than stellar. Also, you do not have to bowl to dine here! Lots of people dine here without bowling just for the spectacular food and service. Alas our time was up, and we cashed out and headed back to the resort. We had a couple of hours to kill before getting ready for our big dinner so we hopped in the car and drive 15 minutes to the outlet mall as it had stopped raining at this point. We walked around the mall and bought some souvenirs and then headed back to get “fancy” for dinner.
Victoria and Albert’s has a dress code so we dressed up in our nicest duds to commemorate this evening. We had plenty of time still after getting ready for dinner so we got an Uber to Animal Kingdom Lodge for a cocktail and some scenery.
We popped into Victoria Falls Lounge, a dimly lit relaxed bar, at the Animal Kingdom Lodge where they were featuring an “Avatar – Way of the Water” cocktail in celebration of the newest movie that had just come out two weeks prior. The cocktail was of course blue and was a shimmering blend of STARR African Rum, Bacardi Raspberry Rum, Bols Blue Curacao, and lemonade garnished with a glowing lotus flower and mint. This was not only beautiful but also delicious – even a non-drinker might like this. You also got to keep the glowing lotus flower which is a really neat souvenir. We also ordered the marinated olives with almonds and citrus zest since we were pretty famished and did not want to spoil dinner. We enjoyed these and our cocktails and then eventually made our way back to the Grand Floridian via Uber for our dinner reservation.
Ok, we have now come to our FAVORITE part of the trip – Victoria and Albert’s. Such an incredible and extensive experience that it requires its own journal entry to the blog. Stay tuned for next week’s article in the Bucket List series – Victoria and Albert’s – and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram at ourculinarycabaret.