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Review Posted on Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Since around New Year's Eve 2000, the World ShowPlace building at Epcot has been hosting a buffet-style dining period. It's name has changed from time to time but the basic format stays about the same. I last attended the annual event a few years ago when the theme was "Fantasia". Since then a few people have asked what the event is like and if we've ever done a review or had photos. So, I'm posting that experience here, just to give everyone an idea about what to expect.
The Fantasia theme has been dropped this year, in favor of a more Disney-wide theme, (both in the look of the event and in the cute food names), but the beginning and ending to this one is quite simple. There's a ton of people in Epcot on New Years Eve, and they all have to eat somewhere. A buffet in the largest building that exists in the park seems like a logical solution.
For many, the World ShowPlace building is synonymous with the Food and Wine Festival's Party for the Senses (and a few other special events)… this New Year's Eve dining event… is not that. In fact, if you go in expecting an over-the-top party, you might be a bit disappointed.
From an environment standpoint there are several "vignettes" set up near the interior walls around the entire building (so as not to get in anyone's way), which are basically scenes from Disney movies or attractions, built life-sized, in various forms of mixed media (lighting, music, large painted cut-aways, actual ride vehicles, custom build models and backdrops). Guests can (sort of) stand near these things and have a photo with them, or just take a photo of the vignettes themselves.
Honestly, it is a little cool… depending on what's set up. There are props and models that you don't get to see very often (if at all), but these things do change from year to year, so there's no telling what's going to be set up on any given New Year's Eve.
Other than that, there's background music. The live bands and DJ's that are part of most of the Food and Wine events, are not present. This is also not a "character dine" buffet option. The background tracks and the vignettes are the only environmental elements that are unique to the event.
The reason for this is because it isn't a "timed event" per say… it really is just a one-day-only buffet restaurant, with multiple seatings coming and going, from around 3pm until 10pm.
The hundreds of tables in the giant room are numbered and after checking in, you will be escorted (or at least pointed in the right direction) to your table. There are table linens, chair covers, actual flatware and real glasses, so all of that is pretty nice. You will also have a server, who basically clears empty plates away (this is a buffet after all), and will fulfill your soft drink, tea, coffee, juice and water requests.
Adult beverages are available at several cash-bars throughout the room, which is another change from the way a Food and Wine Festival event works. If it wasn't set up that way… guests would hang out in the building all night long I suppose. However, it is noticeably different than a Party of the Senses event. It is much lower key, and so some guests that were expecting a nock-out, "wow", kind of party for New Years, probably won't find what they're looking for here. A couple of wine selections, a sparkling wine or two, beer, and possibly a specialty cocktail are usually available. In previous years, a price card has been at the table so guests could see what is available.
The buffet food itself is all quite delicious, and right on par with any of the other buffet restaurants throughout the parks… maybe even slightly better, because the chef's aren't really locked into a culinary theme, as long as all of the items are accessible to most guests, and that even the pickiest eaters will be able to find something they like.
The log buffet tables are replicated throughout the space and are kept mostly in the center of the room. Even though there are quite a few guests dining at once, there never seemed to be a line of more than one or two people at any given time.
There are usually a couple of decent soups available (there was a tomato bisque and a corn chowder on the year I went) along with quite a few bread options, including hummus and pita bread. Cold cut vegetables and fresh salad fixings with a couple of dressings were on the "starters" table.
The hot station lines include some standard side items, like the always-welcome Butter Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans in Tomato Sauce, Buttered Carrots, and Yellow Dirty Rice. A cold Mediterranean Seafood Pasta was a big hit on the night I attended, and all of the warm line-item proteins were quite good. There was a Mango Chutney Mahi, Sticky Pork Shanks in BBQ Sauce, a Citrus Glazed Chicken Breast, and Sliced Prime Rib with Mushrooms and a wine reduction glaze. At the end of the keep-warm lines there was a carving station (manned by a cast member) featuring carved Turkey and/or Beef.
A slightly lower children's buffet table is present with some of the same veggies and warm sides, along with the addition of tater tots and chicken nuggets (which were actually quite good when placed on the warm pita bread and covered with a mix of tomato hummus, ranch dressing, and cucumbers that I picked up from various other stations… for those of you that like assembling your own dinner, while at dinner).
A "dessert-party" worthy selection of desserts round out the offerings. From ice cream and small jam filled pastries, to mini-tarts like Mickey's Lemon Tart and the Chocolate Pecan Cups, there were definitely enough sweets to fill a few plates. Mickey's Brownie Bites that were covered in chocolate and the two cupcakes (a chocolate peanut butter cupcake and carrot cupcake with cream cheese frosting) were also bit hits of the night.
At around $73 (2016) per adult, the question of "worth" always seems to pop up. Many of Disney's buffets fall victim to "seasonal pricing" systems where you'll pay more out of pocket for dinner, as demand for those restaurants goes up... simply due to the number of people in the park on any given day.
Honestly, $73 per adult is not far off from any of the character dine buffets on New Years Eve (or day) so comparatively speaking, it's not that out of line. The food quality is definitely there (considering we are talking about a buffet), and if you like seeing the various sets and models they've built around the room, it is all very cool.
While the cost of a soft beverage is included with the meal (or at least it has been in the past), any "adult beverage" is going to cost you an additional $10, at least. After tax and gratuities, you'll be looking at around $100 per adult guest.
If you haven't made advanced reservations at any other dining location in Epcot far, far in advance… this may be your only option for a sit down meal. While I do believe that they try and keep some tables available for walk-ups, it's not uncommon for even this event to be booked solid at around 45 days out.
Bottom-line… I had fun, and I wouldn't hesitate to go again. As long as you're not expecting a big blowout kind of party atmosphere, the buffet style food was quite good, and the pace was quite a bit more relaxed than the goings on outside in the streets of a very, very crowded Epcot.
Don't forget to check out our photos from the event, with more info in the photo captions area.