The "oak grilling" station at Sunshine Seasons (located in the Land Pavilion at Epcot) is one of the few counter service dining spots at Epcot that is serving up "real food" and not "fast food" in what is still considered a quick service setting. The prices do keep going up and the portions sizes keep shrinking (heck, I remember a time when two side items used to come with the meal)… but it's not out of line with other counter-service locations in the parks.
Because it's "real" food (i.e. not frozen burger patties, mass pulled pork, nuggets, etc.)… I still recommend Sunshine Seasons… even going so far as to say that if you're only going to try one counter service location while at Epcot, Sunshine Seasons gets my vote.
The somewhat odd "free roaming food pickup, then pay at the register" format seems to work here, better than it does any place else. It's still not always fast or perfect, but if you've ever waited in line for 45 minutes at Pecos Bill's
, you'll appreciate only having to wait 15 minutes at Sunshine Season. Still tough… you are waiting in line with your food… which is getting colder by the minute. So my best advise here is the same as it is for any counter service location… altering your lunch or dinner time to slightly before or slightly after peak times will make a huge difference in your experience.
There are basically four culinary stations at Sunshine Seasons, an Asian station, a sandwich (and now tacos too) station, a salad station, and my favorite, the oak-grilled station. The per-entree prices are about the same, with the Asian and Oak-Gilled stations being about a dollar more than the others. A fifth counter to the far left (when looking at the counters) offers up all manner of desserts that are made daily at Sunshine Seasons.
In between the made-to-order food counters are a few grab-and-go type coolers that have some pre packaged items like cut fruit, chips, and surprisingly, beer. While you can grab onto an actual beer can or bottle here… they must pour your beer into a plastic cup at the register… that's the rules, sorry.
On this particular visit I picked up one of my favorites from the Oak-Grilled station… the Salmon with Green Beans. For those guests that aren't fond of green beans, pretty much any side item at the station can be substituted… they have black beans with yellow rice, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and the green beans.
The salmon itself always seems to be perfectly cooked and the wood-fired grill adds a really nice, slightly caramelized char and flavor to the salmon. The green beans seem to have a bit of olive oil (probably from their quick sauté) and tiny little garlic nibs mixed in. For quite a few years, the dish had been topped with an olive pesto of sorts, and it was the perfect topping… I just loved the stuff and would often request a second cup to the side.
These days, the salmon is being topped with an ample helping of what I would call a stewed tomato chutney, of sorts. From a culinary standpoint, I don't really like the acidity of the tomatoes with the salmon. It would seem more at home (to me) on a Barramundi or even an Atlantic Cod… not salmon so much… but maybe that's just me.
All in all, anything from the wood-fired grilling station at Sunshine Seasons and a fountain soda are going to tally up to around $15 (2016). Add a fresh-made dessert and you'll be at $20… which is maybe a dollar or two more than what you would expect to pay for an entree, beverage and dessert at one of the fast-food counter service locations in the parks. For me, it's worth the extra couple of dollars to get made to order "slower food" especially if you've been eating burgers all week. There are enough options at the four different stations that everyone should be able to find something they'll like… unless you're looking for a cheeseburger. There are none of those, at Sunshine Seasons.