The Crystal Palace is a Magic Kingdom institution. This restaurant opened with the park in 1971 and the intrinsic bright nature of the space has remained pretty constant, despite changes in theme and layout. Designed to fit in on Main Street USA, the architecture is obnoxiously Victorian, with flourishes everywhere. The extravagant glass roofed style was more prominent in Europe, but there were lesser versions found in the US. The space also ushers us into Adventureland as well, where the more exotic Victorian touches lend themselves nicely. Think Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen...makes sense now, right?
The interior is very big indeed, designed to house many hungry tourists at once. The large population plus the fact that this is a self serve buffet equates to lots of activity. If you think this hustle and bustle will bother you, request a table near the windows, where there is way less foot traffic. In our experience, observing the lively nature of character meals is half the fun whether or not your getting involved yourself.
As vegetarians we are always cautious about going into any buffet restaurant. Its not the options that scare us so much, but the fact that it is a fixed price (obvi...) and we often feel like there isn't as much bang for our proverbial buck. However, we were completely blown away by the amount and variety found at Crystal Palace.
The buffet is decided roughly by section. There is the standard "cold salads" area which isn't nearly as basic as it sounds. Here is where we found a wonderland of tasty treats...yes, they made salads fun. Among these yummy salads: roasted plantain salad, sesame edamame salad, cous cous salad with chick peas, sweet potato salad, and Mediterranean pasta salad with feta. Of these I was pretty obsessed with the edamame dish. Holy cats was it perfect.
The hot food selection was a little less diverse, but the options available were outstanding. Among these were madras curry noodles and penne in chipotle cream sauce. I was skeptical of the names as they promised bold flavors, which I am a big fan of. Knowing that Disney World food is often dumbed down for the majority of guests I wasn't expecting much. However both of these were stand out dishes that are worth the price of your meal. Seriously tasty.
In addition there is also standard buffet fare. Green beans, mashed potatoes and the like. There is also the ubiquitous kids station if the mood should strike you. (as it does me...I always get at least ONE scoop of bad mac and cheese.)
The dessert station is uninspired and included a flan, the standard cobbler, cookies, brownies and soft serve ice cream. Of these nothing really stands out for me, but you might want to ask somebody who actually enjoys sweets. (maybe tweet at Adam and see if he has thoughts on the subject...)
I'm not very good at arranging my plate for pictures, but I thought I should share what one of my MANY plates looked like this particular afternoon.
Finally! Lets talk about the characters. At Crystal Palace you will find Pooh and friends roaming the glass corridors in search of fun and adventure. Fear not! These characters will come to you as you enjoy your meal. Don't let the thought of missing them stop you from filling up on more madras curried noodles.
Adult interactions with characters can sometimes feel rushed, especially when you're in a queued situation. Since you're paying at a restaurant where the characters are a huge draw, this should never be the case.
We found our interactions at Crystal Palace among the best we've ever had. Never feeling like we were taking away from the kids time with them. In fact the sweet family next to us snapped our pictures and cavorted with us.
We have always been reluctant to try Crystal Palace. Years of bad word of mouth will do that to a restaurant. But something must have happened in the last couple years to turn this place around (either that, or I'm just not seeing what everyone else is...) because we had an absolutely splendid time here. The space was gorgeous, the food was yummy, and the characters were a terrific hoot. This adds up to a fun filled afternoon and a wonderful experience that I will wax poetic about for years to come. Lets turn the reputation around for poor Crystal Palace, k?
Have you ever dined at Crystal Palace? Did you have a good experience or bad? What is your favorite restaurant at the Magic Kingdom? Let us know over on Twitter or Facebook! Or better yet, share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #disneyhipstermelange