Imagine this: a seafood restaurant in Disney World with huge floor-to-ceiling windows that look into the second-largest man-made underwater environment in the world. Sounds like a great place to eat, right? I mean, all they have to do is serve Red Lobster-quality food with some of that trademarked friendly Disney service and most people will think it's one of the best meals they've ever had.
So what's it like to eat at the Coral Reef? Here's what some commenters at Dis Unplugged and WDWInfo.com had to say:
"The food here is very average and nothing is noteworthy except for the chocolate wave dessert which is fantastic. Service is nothing spectacular either."
"I was not at all impressed with this restaurant. It has tons of potential, but the service was atrocious and the food was truck stop quality."
"I really wanted to love this restaurant, but its just okay. The aquarium is gorgeous and a real draw for me, but the food is just okay."
"The service was fantastic as was the view of the tanks. It is a very relaxing place to go and have a nice meal. The food wasn't the best in the world, but we enjoyed everything we ordered.""Once again, Disney thinks serving food is a bonus...hey, how about good food?"
"The wait staff were very nice, but the food was terrible . . . this restaurant should be a destination, but instead is a complete ripoff."
Dis Unplugged writer Kevin Klose has reviewed the Coral Reef twice. His first visit, in August 2006, resulted in a resoundingly negative review that's still semi-famous amongst a small gaggle of Disney geeks like myself who write blogs like this. He went back in April 2009, hoping that his first visit had simply been an aberration. His conclusion? That the Coral Reef "remains a mediocre, over-priced Disney disappointment."
More than any other park, EPCOT is known for its restaurants. Le Cellier, Biergarten, and Chefs de France are almost universally loved. I've always enjoyed the meals I've had in the Garden Grill (I could do without Chip and Dale coming around and acting whimsical while I'm eating, but kids love them). Disney is clearly not incapable of running a good restaurant, but judging by the experiences of folks that have eaten at the Coral Reef and the Mexico pavilion's San Angel, food quality becomes in afterthought in places with great atmosphere.
Fixing the Coral Reef isn't impossible. It isn't even hard. Just serve better food. Transplant the menu and kitchen from a Red Lobster if you have to, but serve better food.
That's all for today's rant. Next up: Innoventions.