Over the last many years, I have participated in the Magical Dining experience, now an Orlando dining staple. I think when I started going it was a $30 Prix fixed menu at several locations across town. Currently, it is at $35, and the price, when it has increased was about $1 per meal. It served two purposes. First as a means to introduce people to venues in the Orlando area that they might not usually go that are on the fine dining, or at least more expensive, end of the spectrum. The second purpose is to contribute to a charity that seems to change yearly. When I started, I was not aware of the charity change.
The most significant points of note that differ between now and when I started doing this is the list of venues was much smaller and not many people knew about it. As EPCOT’s Food and Wine festival started to become less of an adventure and more of a common occurrence (their Flower and Garden Show has similar venues as they have for the Food and Wine), in addition to every city having a Taste of… at least once, possibly twice, a year, this seemed like a nice distraction where you can have a sit-down meal and get three courses and know what you are paying. Of course, these meals do not include drinks, so there is that variable.
The general idea is you have an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. Some venues are a bit different, and they give you a choice of two apps, or if it is a hibachi restaurant, they will give you a sushi roll as well as the regular meal. It is interesting seeing the diversity of how much, or little, food you can get at these venues. I have always felt seeing the menus piqued my interest in a restaurant that I will return to during the regular part of the year, but do not find it worth it during Magical Dining. I have some I specifically will avoid based on that thought and will let anyone know if they want to ask but will not divulge on this site.
I keep swearing I will go back to some of these places during the year, and either never get around to it based on time, or I forget about them until this time falls again. I mention this because the best value I received during Magical Dining became my favorite restaurant, and although the price difference was more than double for just the entrée alone, it was worth it, and I returned there several times until they went out of business (due to price gouging of their rent not food issues).
What I think is super important, as I found my favorite restaurant this way, which, by the way, I brought large and smaller parties to: the service should be equal to any other day of the year. Some wait staff and greeters’ frown upon Magical Diners. Probably because they will not get tipped as well as if they were doing a regular meal. Maybe because the class of people is different, and they are a bit snobby (I’m being polite here). Whatever the reason, when some of the people I encounter hear my party is there because of Magical Dining, the attitude changes. There was one restaurant (also out of business now) that the greeter was extremely rude to us when Magical Dining was mentioned. The waitress was initially too. Once we got our order in, she was as pleasant as could be. I didn’t make a comment about it at the time, and maybe she was having a bad day. That was a one-off. Usually, the wait staff is affable, as I hope they always are, or they are crass, which I hope they are not. I specifically mention the dining option because they seem fine when dealing with tables that are eating off the regular menu. The other thing to keep in mind is one of my fellow diners, on occasion, is a standard menu dinner. If she likes the food on the regular menu, she will be back. If that is the case, she will most likely return with her husband, relatives, and/or friends. I do not expect anyone to go out of their way to kiss my butt, but I do hope to be treated the same as anyone else. Remember, the whole point of this endeavor is to get new customers in the door, so they enjoy it enough to return in a different month.
The other thing that has cropped up in the last few years is special Prix fixed meals from places that either used to be, still are, or never have been part of Magical Dining. These places do the exact same thing but have nothing to do with Visit Orlando, the organizer of Magical Dining. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these places, and some even donate to charity as well (not all of them do). I am commenting that the food options in late August through September are incredible in the Orlando area. So much that the choices of Magical Dining alone are now over 100 venues. One cannot eat that much food in a month. I mean, it is physically impossible to go to 100 places in 37 days when they only include dinner. Tonight, I am celebrating our annual event of Meatfest, and that alone could possibly kill me. If it doesn’t, I will write about that Monday.