Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
The Best Restaurant in the World
Rich: Up until our meal at Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada district, the happiest place on earth seemed actually happy. I had heard maybe a handful of children scream-crying, but that’s about it. Everyone appeared to be having a great time.
Until we got to Canada.
There was a family waiting to be seated inside the restaurant that was collectively fuming.
Caity: I think the Canadians are just not equipped, emotionally or militarily, to accommodate furious Americans.
Rich: “Well, I just expect more!” said the woman who, I gathered, was the matriarch. “They don’t give a flying fuck! If they think they’re going to sit us here for a half an hour…”
Caity: “I expect to walk in here—if this is your birthday dinner—that they give you everything you want. Happy birthday, Mr. Fuller. Here’s your table. That’s my expectation.”
Rich: You know, birthday-entitlement is exactly the kind of entitlement that Disney fosters, so it’s not like her feelings were out of place, per se. But, God, was she vicious.
Caity: I encountered a separate scene of birthday entitlement in the ladies’ washroom, where a woman was flabbergasted that her son had been instructed to sing “Happy Birthday” while washing his hands, in order to time the washing.” Taking something used to celebrate something special and then making it ordinary?” she sputtered. “You gotta be kidding me!”
Rich: America’s values are going down the toilet.
Caity: I was also taught to mentally sing the “Happy Birthday” song while washing my hands, and find it a fun opportunity to sing “Happy Birthday, dear Caity”—a version of the song I otherwise would never have occasion to sing. That being said, I agree with this woman. Birthdays are special. Her idea: Swap out “Happy Birthday” for a tune of similar length.
Rich: The most sobering truth revealed to me in Epcot is that I don’t wash my hands for nearly long enough. I’m an e coli outbreak just waiting to happen.
We should mention that the irate woman in the waiting area of the Le Cellier also talked to her people about Soulcalibur and things that are “emasculating.”
Caity: She also grumbled the phrase “...lobby full of fucking Canadians...” at one point.
Rich: My idea: If you don’t like Canadians, don’t go to Canada or artificial Canada.
Caity: And then she thought her purse had been stolen.
Rich: Lobby full of fucking Canadian thieves. After at long last being seated, the woman returned to the waiting area to begin a frantic and furious search for her purse under every bench. When she could not find it, she surmised it had been stolen. A minute later, the man she was with came around the corner to tell her that she had left it at the table she had just come from.
Caity: It is certainly not impossible that a purse could be stolen from the small lobby of Epcot Canada’s nicest restaurant. The constraints of physics will allow it. But it seems EXTREMELY unlikely. It would take Ocean’s Eleven levels of planning and foresight to coordinate a purse stealing in that setting.
Rich: In that way, it’s the perfect crime. I should have robbed her when I had the chance.
Caity: We also were seated about ten minutes late, which ruined my birthday. However, we were soon given a basket of breads including TWO thick, doughy pretzel sticks to make up for it.
Our cheery or perhaps just Canadian waitress introduced herself this way “I’m Olivia and I’m from Toronto!” At that stage, no other server had made a point to tell us exactly where they were from (though it happened a few more times over the course of our Epcot travels). At the time, it made me think that maybe the people (excuse me: folks) in Epcot Canada think they really have to sell the fact they are from a foreign place. I’m Olivia and you need a passport to visit me, I swear. I’m Olivia and I can name the sixteenth President of the United States, but only thanks to Canada’s excellent public education system.
Rich: I’m Olivia and you think I talk just like you but wait till you hear me say “pasta” (like “pass-tah”).
Caity: The biggest surprise of this trip would be finding out that that Disney employs the most talented cast of actors on Earth, and every single person we met was American. Actually the biggest surprise, as always, would be discovering that my life is a Truman Show-style reality show. Americans working in the Canada restaurant would be the second biggest surprise.
Rich: That the red wine reduction in the Le Cellier’s gourmet poutine contains veal stock was one of the biggest surprises I’ve encountered in my time on Earth thus far. More on that later.
Caity: Le Cellier’s reputation as the best restaurant in the Disney World parks is the subject of frequent debate on Disney forums and message boards, where its biggest challenger is Chefs de France, in Epcot France. But according to Cheryl from Long Island, who gave us our parking pass that first day, its performance is unparalleled.
Rich: “It’s my best!” she said of it.
Caity: The third biggest surprise would be that Cheryl owns all of Disney and works the parking gate for a laugh, dropping little hints about her executive status to cars that drive by. She told us we must order the crème brûlée, and you looked right in her eyes and promised we would.
Rich: I did not let Cheryl down...
Caity: ...But first it was time for appetizers and drinks. I got a drink called a “Magical Star” which was basically the juice you would get from stomping Starburst, left to ferment. It was served with a “souvenir multicolored glow cube” and it was...DELICIOUS! I give it 9,000 stars.
Rich: I got a blueberry martini, except they were out of blueberries so Olivia told me it’d have to be raspberries. Caity pointed out privately that she was a little too casual about the substitution, as there is a world of difference between blueberries and raspberries, but, as someone who frequents bodegas with a rotating inventory, I’m used to getting raspberries when I wanted blueberries. It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you needed was a knife, but both contain antioxidants so it’s not very ironic after all. I detected elderflower in both my drink and your drink, but I’m not sure if my tastebuds hallucinated that.
Caity: I don’t know what elderflower tastes like because I’m not a witch.
Before we ordered our food, Olivia asked if she might take us on “a tour” of her favorite Canadian menu offerings. Sure, Olivia—sounds inexplicably fun. She proceeded to recommend just about everything we had already planned on getting (the house poutine, a cheese soup, some mussels, and the filet mignon), which made me feel...smart. And by “recommend” I mean “identify as her personal favourites in a modest, non-pushy Canadian way.”
In addition to Olivia’s faves, Rich selected a tomato salad and a passta, which, to Olivia, who has the sharp eyes of a majestic North American bald eagle, immediately identified him as a vegetarian. Immediately, she dropped the poutine bomb: Veal. Reduction.
Rich: What is veal stock? Like calves don’t have it bad enough, we’re making them into stock now?
Caity: This was a sad moment to witness, because you were so looking forward to trying poutine for the first time. Olivia offered that our reduction could be served on the side, which meant you got, basically, cheese fries.
Rich: Yeah, cheese truffle fries.
Caity: After trying the reduction myself, I can say with certainty: you weren’t missing out.
It wasn’t bad, but the cheese fries tasted better on their own.
Rich: You know, poutine is kinda just...dressed up french fries.
Caity: It’s just disco fries with a name that reminds me of the French word for “whore.” No complaints, but who are you kidding, putain?
As for the rest of the appetizers: The cheese in my Cheddar Cheese Soup (with bacon) tasted like it came from a cow whose udders released only campfire smoke. It was good and hearty but it smelled like I was eating it inside a Chiminea. (It was not green.)
Rich: The dish called Chef’s Heirloom Garden Tomatoes was actually a nice little sampler of all the things that tomatoes can do and be done to. There was tomato bread that tasted like tomato-less bread, a sort of caprese composed of various tomatoes and robiola cheese, and a tomato bisque that was so smoky it tasted like South Jersey as fall turns into winter. (A compliment.)
Caity: Our mussels were pretty straightforward. Olivia made a big deal about how they were from Canada which I GUESS is a big deal to Olivia but not to me. While not a revelation, they were well-prepared, adequately sized, and tasty, served with crusty bread in a tangy buttery sauce.
Rich: My pashtah entrée was kind of a Hail Mary order. Squash pasta is always something I settle for—something I order after having sighed deeply and decided to just make the best of a terrible situation. It was the only vegetarian thing on the menu. (The fish option was flounder, which...no.)
Then it arrived. And it was incredible.
The filling of the pasta was so creamy and delicious—this squash had to have been raised in a veal box or something. There was also separate, caramelized squash, charred cauliflower, and some pears on the plate too, and all of them were tasty. The amount of food seemed underwhelming at first, like five pieces of stuffed pasta served as a “meal” on a plate always are, but it was so rich that it worked flawlessly. It ended up being the perfect amount. This is the best meal I’ve ever had while staring into your eyes.
Caity: I was staring at the glow cube in my drink and wondering how the colors looked dancing against my face (really good?). My entrée was good too.
I ordered my “AAA Canadian Beef Tenderloin” filet medium rare to be classy, instead of medium-well (which I usually order) or well done (which I secretly hope will always happen by accident). The steak that arrived was bloody enough to suit a vampire, and served with wild mushroom risotto, heirloom toy box tomatoes, and truffle-butter sauce. If I’m being picky I would say it was a little peppery, but if I’m being grateful for God’s blessings, I would say it was overall delicious. The creamed spinach I got as a side was heavier on the cream than the spinach, for which I was doubly grateful to God. It was basically a dish of butter with spinach as garnish.
Rich: Cheryl gushed about the mushroom risotto. Was it as good as her eyebrows that were painted in an arch made it seem?
Caity: It was. I ate it even though it had mushrooms in it.
For dessert, we ordered crème brûlée à la Cheryl (technically: Maple Crème Brûlée). Olivia gave us a very hard soft sell on it, confiding that some customers rage that it’s “not quite the crème brûlée they’ve had in Paris.” I find it hard to believe anyone would ever say that to Olivia, but I find it even harder to believe that Olivia is a liar, so I guess it’s true. In any case, her response to us was “I’m not going to compete with 400 years of crème brûlée tradition, but I like it!” Her response to those customers should be “Well that crème brûlée isn’t made with maple syrup, because you’re eating it in Paris, not Epcot Canada. Maybe that’s why it tastes different.”
There’s a good chance those snobs are about crème brûlée from Epcot France anyway. Canada is all the France I need, thanks. The Maple Crème Brûlée, like the rest of our long, long meal, was delicious.
Rich: A lobby full of fucking Canadians may be too much for some Epcot visitors to handle, but a kitchen full of them should delight guests from all walks of life. I give Le Cellier an ier-plus-plus.
Is Everything OK?
Questions About the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Rich: I would go back to Epcot, a park that by now I have examined inside and out, top to bottom, sense to Figment-created nonsense, a park that I don’t much care for at this point, just to visit Le Cellier. It is honestly that good.
Caity: I would go back to Epcot Canada long before I would waste an international trip on real Cananda. Real Canada doesn’t have Le Cellier. There’s nothing there for me.
Is it a good first date spot?
Rich: I wouldn’t risk it. Unless you are as screamingly kind as the Canadians, you’re just going to seem like a dick in comparison, scaring off your potential mate.
Caity: If someone flew me to Florida, and bought me a ticket to Epcot, and took me to Le Cellier on our first date, we would get married on our second. (Please bear in mind that you must have a reservation for Le Cellier.)
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Rich: It’s MY BEST place to have an affair. Maybe that’s what Cheryl meant to say before she trailed off.
Caity: This is exactly the kind of ritzy, elegant place in which I have always imagined myself catching my husband having an affair, throwing a glass of red wine in his face, and leaving.
Is it a good place to bring the cryogenically frozen corpse of Walt Disney?
Rich: Yes, it’s a great place for that. The Canadians are so polite, they would ignore his frozenness and treat him like a living, breathing man.
Caity: Yes. With a little help from Tinkerbell’s pixie dust, Uncle Walt would spring back to life, look around, and say “Where am I—the goddamn Ritz?” and then probably something about Jews.