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Where to eat: Artist Point at Walt Disney World's Wilderness Lodge

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Published: July 8, 2013 at 8:14 AM

Most Walt Disney World visitors who choose to eat in the Wilderness Lodge probably make reservations at the Whispering Canyon Café. The table service restaurant has been featured on a number of Travel Channel and Discover Channel shows covering the Walt Disney World Resort. Whispering Canyon Café is quite an experience, and it's easy to understand why so many guests chose to eat at a restaurant that is as much entertainment as it is a hearty meal.

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However, just past Whispering Canyon Café, there is another restaurant where the wait staff doesn't have to entertain the diners. Artist Point is at the far end of the Wilderness Lodge lobby, and features an exquisite dining room with light-colored wood columns and breathtaking murals along with a view of the resort's pool and the lake beyond. You realize this is a "signature" dining experience, requiring two Disney Dining Plan table-service credits, as soon as you walk past the whiskey cart and take in the ambiance of the main dining room. The restaurant aims to capture the taste and feel of the Pacific Northwest and the western National Parks, and just walking to my table along the window side of the dining room, I got that feeling.

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The menu offers a rather limited selection (six appetizers and nine entrees), which for me indicates a frequent, seasonal rotation, and excellence from every dish. I'm a carnivore at heart, but was immediately drawn to two of the vegetarian dishes on the menu. I simply love mushrooms, and was lured to the description of the Smoked Portobello Soup. I was equally intrigued by the White and Black Truffle Ribbon Pasta. My server verified that I was aware that both dishes that I selected were fully vegetarian, and I went ahead.

Shortly after I placed my order, a bread basket and butter/olive oil plate was brought to my table. The delicious sourdough bread is some of the best I've tasted, and yes, I've been to San Francisco a few times. The herb butter was creamy and not too salty, which can be a common fault in house-made herb butters.

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Following a longer than expected wait, my soup was brought to the table. The smoky Portobello soup with roasted artichokes, chive oil, and sourdough crouton was quite possibly the most amazing soup I've ever had in my life. As expected, the soup packed a very earthy flavor, but the smoked Portobello mushrooms tasted like chunks of bacon. Yes, the kitchen here was able to make slices of mushroom taste just like thick cut hickory smoked bacon. I talked for a few minutes with my server about the dish, and he said that he frequently gets comments about the bacon flavor in the soup and how impressed guests are that the dish is completely vegetarian. The toasted sourdough crouton added the perfect amount of crispiness, and the overall texture of the soup was smooth and thick. I would have been perfectly satisfied with my meal if I was just served continuous bowls of this soup, and even at $11, it was worth every penny.

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After I had a few moments to contemplate the perfection of my soup, my entrée arrived. The black and white truffle ribbon pasta with English peas, served with black and white truffle and pea puree, wild mushrooms, black figs, pearl onions, fontina cheese and kalamata olives looked terrific. The obviously handmade pasta was al dente with soft earthy tones that worked well with the peas and onions. The puree was smooth and creamy with a bright aftertaste without being sticky or pasty. As good as the pasta and puree was, the highlight of the dish was the fontina cheese and kalamata olive fritters. One of my friends famously serves olive cheese balls at his annual holiday party, and while those are pretty amazing in their own right, Artist Point's spin on the simple olive cheese ball is divine. The gooey, salty cheese combined with the minimal crispy breading worked in perfect harmony with the tart olives. I didn't check the menu in the adjacent bar, but if these are not an appetizer in the bar, they need to be added.

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After devouring my entrée I contemplated the dessert options, but honestly told my server that I would have had another bowl of the soup to finish the evening if I were still hungry. The desserts were all pretty standard fare with a cobbler, cheesecake, crème brulee, and cannoli on the menu, so without a unique option or my stomach growling at me for more sustenance, I passed on dessert.

While Artist Point will probably never reach the notoriety of other Walt Disney World Resort signature dining experiences such as Victoria & Albert's (Grand Floridian), California Grill (Contemporary), Yachtsman Steakhouse (Yacht Club), or Jiko (Animal Kingdom Lodge) primarily because of the presence of the extremely popular Whispering Canyon Café just steps away, it is a noteworthy restaurant that perfectly fits the theme of the Wilderness Lodge Resort. The impressive, yet simple décor and lovely views harken to classic National Park lodge restaurants with overlooking views of natural wonders. I've dined at both the Ahwahnee Dining Room in Yosemite National Park and Bright Angel Restaurant in Grand Canyon National Park, and Artist Point does an impressive job generating the feel of those spaces. Now, a pool and lake are nothing compared to the Grand Canyon or El Capitan, but the moment you walk into the dining room, you feel exactly what the designers are going for, and the food follows through with that simple, earthy elegance.

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Have you eaten at Artist Point? Please share your experience, in the comments.

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Readers' Opinions

From Eric S on July 8, 2013 at 8:30 AM
I ate at Artist Point last December. My girlfriend got the buffalo and I got the salmon. They were both fantastic. The buffalo was melt in your mouth tender. I got the berry cobbler for dessert. The crust was crunchy with a sweet, buttery taste. It's my favorite resort restaurant that I've eaten at, granted I've never eaten at any of the ones that you mentioned.
From Robert Niles on July 8, 2013 at 8:33 AM
I hate, hate, hate the Whispering Canyon Cafe, so I'm happy to hear that there's a better dining option at the Wilderness Lodge. Thank you, Russell, for another mouth-watering review!
From Rob McCullough on July 8, 2013 at 8:42 AM
I celebrated my 40th birthday at Artist Point. My husband surprised me and invited 10 friends to join us. It is a perfect choice for a special event or just Tuesday dinner. The room is lovely, the food is. Mouth watering, and the service fantastic.
My sister lives out of state, but wanted to contribute to the event. She arranged for a birthday cake from Disney. It was wonderful, and delightfully free from confetti, mouse ears and balloons.
Unlike the reviewer, I believe Artist Point is among the top restaurants at WDW.
From 71.180.88.218 on July 8, 2013 at 9:19 AM
We went there a few years ago and it was one of the best restaurants in a Disney hotel. This may not be for some of the smaller children, but I do believe that most families will have a wonderful experience and enjoy whatever they select. The wine list was outstanding when we went, and the desserts were just perfect, to go with a perfect meal. To me, choosing from choices like Buffalo or Venison are better then just the standard steak or chicken meals. A must if you stay at the hotel, or if on one of the hotels on the Disney lake.
From Russell Meyer on July 9, 2013 at 7:49 AM
I don't think I stated that the restaurant was not as good as the other signature restaurants I mentioned, just that it would not reach the same level of notariety/popularity.

California Grill will always be more popular because of the view of the Magic Kingdom (especially in the evening during fireworks).

Victoria & Albert's has a 5-diamond rating and the uber-exclusive Chef's Table.

Yachtsman is considered one of the best steakhouses in Orlando not just theme park goers, but also serious food critics.

Jiko has a very unique menu in a lively, modern dining room.

So from a popularity perspective, a restaurant that serves a rather limited menu and is down the hall from another restaurant that gets non-stop publicity (Whispering Canyon Cafe), Artist Point is by its very nature not going to be as popular.

That was the reason why I wanted to dine here. I tend to be a contrarian, and like to go places that are out of the way or less popular, and visit during off-peak times (I rarely visit theme parks that I don't have a season pass for during the summer months). Artist Point is considered a "signature" restuarant by Disney and the prices on the menu, but I rarely ever hear anything about it (much like Flying Fish, which I reviewed last year). This restaurant is a hidden gem, and while it's a bit pricey, it is worth the investment for special meals and occasions.

From David Brown on July 8, 2013 at 1:32 PM
My wife and I ate at Artist Point last November. We have eaten at the California Grill, Jiko, Narcooses and Citricos, but we both feel that Artist Point is simply the best place at WDW that we have eaten, (and actually one of the best places period). Great atmosphere, good staff and simply wonderful food. I think this place is Disney World's great secret.....
From Tyler Stover on July 8, 2013 at 4:01 PM
Oh boy do I have a story to share.

My wife and I ate at Artist Point on the last night of our Walt Disney World Honeymoon. We got married while still in college and I was an intern with Disney at the time, so we honeymooned at WDW on my company discounts. Still even with the discounts we were but poor college students, me an intern and my wife working in the college admissions office, so we still had something of a limited budget. We had one big ticket meal at the California Grill (a restaurant that still may be our #1 reason for going to WDW to this day) but made reservations at Artist Point for the last night as well.

We didn't want it to be a big meal, just something nice with a good experience (and a few drinks) before an evening in the Magic Kingdom, so we skipped appetizers and went straight to the entrees, with wine. My wife ordered the bison steak and I ordered the halibut. The menu listed her steak as coming with potatoes and asparagus, and my halibut listing a few things I, being a young dumb poor college student, had never heard of. The waiter asked if we wanted to add soup or salad, and had no reaction when my wife passed but seemed very perplexed when I passed. That should have been a clue to me. I should note at this point both our entrees were listed at around $40 each.

My wife's bison steak comes and it was a sizable chunk of meat, with a healthy helping of potatoes and vegetables. More than she could eat, in fact. My halibut arrived, and what do I see but the smallest sliver of fish I have ever beheld outside a fancy caesar salad, drizzled with a thin whitish sauce. I finished after two bites. It was very good halibut, don't get me wrong. But it was kinda hard to believe those two bites cost the same as my wife's equally delicious feast of meat, potatoes, and vegetables.

So my stomach still empty but for the wine and a little fish, we ordered dessert, the berry cobbler and a chocolate cake, to split and swap. Despite our limited budget and empty stomach I also ordered a wilderness lodge coffee, with whiskey and Baileys and whipped cream and chocolate, because of course I did. The desserts were excellent and with the buzz from a glass of wine and a very, very strongly doctored coffee with naught but sugar to soak it up I was beginning to forget about the halibut disappointment. But then the bill came.

We had discovered a curious thing throughout our week at WDW. The "Just Married" buttons we got on our first day in the parks got us way more perks than my silly cast discounts (interestingly cast discounts were strictly limited to only very specific hours at very specific locations, something that was not the case at Disneyland). We didn't have one single meal go by without either a free drink or dessert on account of our buttons. (I also think there is a secret torture chamber reserved for CMs who don't congratulate newlyweds, because even parade performers paused in the middle of a show stop to congratulate us.) Yet the bill came, and everything was fully charged, drinks and dessert and the whole lot of it. I was about to be disappointed again, signing off on the credit card slip and standing to leave when our waiter came charging up. "Don't think I'd let you get away without a celebratory gift!" he said as he produced two champagne flutes.

So for those keeping track at home, that is one glass of wine, one coffee with whiskey and Baileys, one glass of champagne, two tiny bites of fish, a a bit of cobbler and cake. After a short boat trip to the Magic Kingdom, we went straight on Haunted Mansion because, well of course we did and boy was that an experience.

So Artist Point was great, really good food and service. But unless you're ordering the bison steak, be sure to order and appetizer, and dessert. And have a snack before you go.

From Gabriel Schroll on July 8, 2013 at 5:11 PM
My wife and I went there for our 5-year anniversary. The food was amazing from start to finish, and I would recommend this place to anyone.

The only thing I might caution you on is that our server was a woman from France (though you would never know - no accent whatsoever, but she speaks French) who talked our ear off!!! She knew just about everything there was to know, and had worked there she said 19 years (with some time elsewhere in between).

We learned so much from her! More than I ever had a desire to learn, in fact.

Our reservation was for 8:45pm and we didn't get out of there until 11:55.

I mean, the food and atmosphere were incredible, but I did not expect to be there for three hours!

From 98.227.60.180 on July 8, 2013 at 5:22 PM
This article was EXCELLENT. Honestly, it was better than articles I've read in gourmet magazine. It was better than all of the Disney food sites out there. I could actually taste the mushroom soup and the pasta as I read this! More articles from Russell please!!!! He is very talented and an excellent writer.
From 152.130.6.73 on July 8, 2013 at 7:27 PM
After cancelling reservations on 2 seperate trips for Artist Point, my family finally ate there this past January. I have 2 picky eater boys, ages 11 and 13, and I was always nervous about how the menu sounded that they wouldn't be able to find anything to eat. Well, I was wrong and I wish we had kept our 2 prior reservations because the food was fabulous! My kids still talk to this day about how delicious the meal was.

The only negative I experience I had was similar to another commentator. I had a waiter that, although extremely friendly and knowledgable, he wouldn't stop talking. Our dining experience took hours, in fact I remember wondering if we were ever going to leave. If you ever go there, make sure you do NOT have "Dizzy" Izzy (that's what he called himself).

From Aaron McMahon on July 9, 2013 at 1:37 AM
I had Mother's Day dinner there a few years ago and it was a very memorable experience.It was a great fine dining experience in a beautifully themed hotel.
From TH Creative on July 10, 2013 at 6:55 PM
I want to go to the bar, have a cold one and try the soup!
From 75.175.32.124 on July 13, 2013 at 7:37 PM
I love Artist's Point---it and Narcoosee's are my two favorite WDW restaurants. And we've eaten at every signature restaurant except Victoria and Albert's. In fact next time we'll probably skip California Grill and M. Paul and just do those two twice!

BTW, you're dead on about the mushroom soup, I always get it!

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