Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Feasible EPCOT Improvement #10

Turn the Coral Reef Into a Good Seafood Restaurant

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 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.


  1. THANK YOU! I'm always amazed at the press this place gets, and that people invariably put it on their dining itenerary. It's really, really not that good at all. To compound the problem, it's extremely expensive. We went a few years ago, as I thought maybe I had misremembered my previous trip. No dice. I made a specific mental note to stay away, especially when there are other fantastic restaurants in the park. I will say, though, that I've noticed a marked improvement at San Angel in recent years...

  2. I've never eaten at the Coral Reef, but I ate at a similarly themed restaurant at Sea World (shark tank and all). The hostess arranged for us to have a table by the table before the restaurant opened. The food (salmon off the kids' menu - I wasn't that hungry) was great. Our meal was even interrupted by a fire alarm and we still had a great time. The chef came over, apologized, and warmed our food back up after we got back to our table.

  3. The only time we ate at the Coral Reef, my wife was coming down with a virus that pretty much lasted our entire vacation (spiking 103 degree temps about every 6 hours - you could set your watch by her) and so she didn't hardly touch her meal, and I was so concerned about her I don't remember anything about mine. I recall enjoying the setting, and I recall that our service was good. I don't know about the price, because we were on DDP that time, and it was before they downsized it to the current version. I recall giving an extra tip... Now San Angel - only eaten at it once, but I've gotten far better Mexican fare at local places (of course, they're owned and staffed by Mexicans...) for far less money...

  4. Here's a radical idea... Redo that entire portion of the pavilion, (expand it if needed), to build the ride-thru attraction that Seas was originally meant to have. As a compromise, Mr Ray can take guests on a journey through the oceans in their Omnimover "bubbles" before leaving them at Seabase Alpha. But create an attraction that can appeal to adults as well as children and one that is consistent with the original vision of EPCOT Center.

  5. Thanks for reading, everyone! Omnispace, that's a very interesting idea you have. I'd love to see a Seas pavilion that matches WED's original vision, and that's the only logical way that it could even be attempted without tearing the building down and constructing a new one.

  6. I'll agree with Scott that there are many local restaurants that equal or surpass the San Angel, I merely meant that they've improved from what they were.

    I also agree that Seas needs to be radically expanded. Other aquariums in the world caught up and then went beyond Disney's offering.


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