Where to eat? Lunch at the Columbia Harbour House at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Written by Robert Niles
The Columbia Harbour House at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom rejects the theme park standard menu of burgers and pizza in favor of amplifying the New England theme of its Liberty Square setting.
Disney's take on an old-fashioned New England seafood house, the Columbia Harbour House does offer more than its share of fried food -- including fish, shrimp and -- a nod to the landlubber theme park fans -- chicken. But it also serves some fresh-seafood options rarely found in the theme parks.
The Harbour House was my family's favorite place to eat in the Magic Kingdom when I was a child. Back then, the Harbour House served Monte Cristo sandwiches, which reminded us of the Blue Bayou back at Disneyland that we enjoyed so much when we lived in Southern California.
These days, the Monte Cristos are long gone. And I think that the last time I ate at the Harbour House, I was working in the Magic Kingdom and Disney was using the upstairs of the restaurant as a cast cafeteria while the regular employee dining area was being refurbished.
So I decided to make a long-overdue return to the Columbia Harbour House during the 24-hour Monstrous Summer party in the Magic Kingdom last Friday and try a seafood lunch.
Lobster roll ($9.99) and clam chowder ($4.69).
Disney's lobster roll impresses with its size -- a thick, split New England-style roll stuffed with aggressively dressed lobster meat. It's more than you can wrap your mouth around. I ended up using a fork to pick off some of the lobster from the top until I could handle the rest of the sandwich.
The best lobster rolls I've ever enjoyed have been minimally dressed, with just enough mayonnaise to hold the meat together, and maybe a touch of celery salt to balance the mayo's richness. The Disney lobster roll practically swims in mayonnaise, though, with celery and lettuce added to the mix. Given the price ($9.99) and the size, I suppose you can't expect the roll to deliver that high a percentage of expensive lobster meat. Frankly, I was surprised to find as much lobster as I did in the roll.
But what bothered me was the bun. Disney's lobster roll bun is the right style -- a hot-dog-like bun split on both sides, but it's far too large and fluffy, and worse, not grilled or toasted.
Part of the appeal of the lobster roll is the contrast between the cold lobster meat and the warm buttery roll that encases it. But this is just a mass of untoasted white bread. The texture contrast and buttery accent are absent. At this point, we're talking more lobster salad sandwich than lobster roll.
Granted, I'll take that any day over a standard theme park burger, so I suppose I shouldn't complain too much.
The tastier choice on my lunch plate? The clam chowder ($4.69). Delivering a nice balance of mild clam flavor with a touch of a peppery kick, the chowder would have made a nice lunch on its own, if I hadn't been looking try as many choices as I could cram in my stomach for this review. The clam chowder didn't deliver the transcendent taste of the sea that the scallop chowder at Tokyo Disneyland did for me a year ago, but that was one of the best dishes I've ever eaten in a theme park. Credit Disney for offering soups in many of its parks -- and tasty ones, at that.
I wish I'd had room left to try the grilled salmon, too, but I will leave it to our readers to offer opinions on that dish, in the comments.
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