One of the coolest things about being a food blogger is getting to share great food with other people. When I can share that food with others with dietary restrictions and everyone feels safe and comfortable to eat, it is the ultimate win/win.
That’s why when my friends Alexis from Gluten Free in Orlando and Sarah from Gluten Free and Dairy Free Walt Disney World invited me for dinner at Disney’s Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge, I marked the date on my calendar and looked forward to sharing good eats with good friends.
Whispering Canyon Cafe is a wild West themed eatery, that features all of the bedlam you’d expect if you stopped for a meal at a frontier town watering hole. Shenanigans pulled by the wait staff and kids of all ages keep the experience entertaining, and the menu matches the all-American tomfoolery with classics to please even the most hardened of cowboys and cowgirls.
Arriving as the restaurant opened for the night, the energy of the wait staff came through as they heartily welcomed the assembled crowd with a shouted “come and eat!” As we were seated, Sarah, Alexis, and I opted out of the shenanigans, opting to watch from afar rather than get involved in the chaos (I highly recommend opting in if you are a large group or there are kids at your table!).
When we let our waitress, Jen know that we each had dietary restrictions, she brought out the new top eight allergen free dinner menus for us to look out, but also let us know that she would grab a chef to answer any questions we might have. To see the menu in full detail, click here. While Sarah and Alexis went with the skillet special (all-you-care-to-eat and can be made gluten and/or dairy free), I was feeling a bit meat-queasy and opted for the rainbow trout, an option free from gluten/wheat, egg, milk, peanut/tree nut, shellfish and soy.
Both the skillets and the entrees come with standard starter of a mixed greens salad with an apple vinaigrette. While the salad tasted looked good and tasted good, it was not overly spectacular. That being said, it does provide an opportunity to eat veggies before an admittedly meat and carb-heavy dinner.
One of the highlights of the meal for me had to be the second course: cornbread. That’s right, an all-American icon that’s so often denied to gluten-free folks. The allergy cornbread served is both gluten and dairy-free and is every bit the cornbread I have grown fond of in my separation from it. Sweet, savory, and with a perfect crumb, the bread easily steals the show, and is complemented with the non-dairy butter that was brought to the table to slather on the bread. Before going gluten-free, I was really not a cornbread lover, but one slice was all it took to make me a believer. An interesting note is that the magical culinary team at Whispering Canyon create their corn bread using the Namaste vanilla cake mix.
When my main course arrived, I was amazed by the generous portioning of the battered trout, which came accompanied by roasted potatoes and an abundance of mixed greens. The fish itself is good, but seemed a little bland to me. The coating added a nice texture, but not much in the way of flavor, it was not bad per say, just a little underwhelming. The roasted potatoes made up for it with a delicious seasoning, which was salty with a hint of sweetness, rendering them the MVP of the plate. The additional salad was also good, with the greens noticeably flavorful, but by the time I got to them, I was pretty full and wanted to save room for dessert.
By the time we reached dessert, I knew that I could not pass up the opportunity for the rarity that is ordering cake a la mode in a restaurant. The campfire-style chocolate cake comes on its own, or accompany by your choice of dairy, soy-based, or rice-based vanilla ice cream. I opted for the rice-based ice cream, because I am trying to minimize my soy intake. The cakes arrived in their own rustic bowls, with marshmallows melted on top and a hearty scoop of ice cream. The rich decadence of the cake, which was cooked to be solid around the edge and a little above molten in the middle, paired deliciously with the quick-melting vanilla ice cream. The marshmallows added an extra caramel-like flavor that rendered the dessert one of the best I’ve had in a restaurant. The individual-sized portions are perfect, and provided just the right amount of food to leave me full but not grossly over-stuffed.
Overall, I enjoyed Whispering Canyon Cafe both for the food and the company. I would definitely bring my family back here, because it provides many options to please everyone’s tastes. The chocolate cake and cornbread were the evening’s standouts, and both had me dreaming of them long after I left the restaurant. I am definitely looking forward to a return visit, to check out their lunch and breakfast options.