The Storytellers Cafe at Disney's Grand California Hotel offers a popular character breakfast buffet in the morning but switches at lunch to a conventional a la carte menu for diners seeking a break from the parks.
The restaurant's interior continues the Arts & Crafts theme of the hotel, offering diners a warm and inviting space filled with Craftsman touches, reinforced by murals and other artwork depicting storytelling on the California frontier.
Lunch at the Storytellers Cafe begins with bread service, which includes a pillowy loaf of white bread as well as a smaller muffin of cornbread. (If you want more of the popular cornbread after you've finished yours, just ask!)
I started with what might be the restaurant's signature dish, the Nebraska Charred Corn Chowder ($7.99). A true chowder, with a consistency between a soup and a stew, this starter comes loaded not just with the eponymous roasted corn but plenty of roasted chicken, crisp bacon, onion, and potatoes, not to mention a generous splash of hot sauce.
This is comfort food, with tasty chicken and bacon bathed in luscious cream and flavored with the balance of sweet corn and spicy hot sauce. Bland, it is not. A bowl of this, coupled with one or two of those cornbread muffins, would make a filling lunch for most park visitors.
But when food is this good, why stop? For the main course, I continued with the Salmon and Spinach Salad, with sautéed button mushrooms and roasted red peppers in a balsamic vinaigrette ($16.99).
Crisped on the outside, yet with a buttery interior, the warm salmon paired well with the cool spinach. The only problem with this salad is the challenge of getting each one of its elements — the salmon, the spinach, some mushroom, and a pepper — on the same forkful so that you can taste them all together. I gave it my best effort. My first five minutes with this salad are a bit of blur, to be honest, as I tore through it, enjoying the delightfully balanced mix of protein and veggies. I wish I could describe the salad for you more articulately, but all I remember is "nom, nom, nom... more!"
With no Disney Dining Plan or no characters at this meal pumping demand, getting into the Storytellers Cafe at lunch was easy. I walked in just before noon on a late winter weekday with no reservation and was seated immediately. It seemed that many of the seats around me were filled with Disney executives, which should tell you something. The people who know this place know that this is the place to go for lunch.
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