Monday, March 29, 2010

Tail Of The Tape: Sunshine Seasons vs Columbia Harbour House

There are some GREAT counter service restaurants in Walt Disney World. Several months ago we outlined our best (and worst) of counter services around The Mouse (Best And Worst Counter Service Restaurants in WDW, Nov. 26 2009) and decided we'd narrow it down further by pitting two of the biggies up against one another in more detail, head to head: Sunshine Seasons in Epcot and Columbia Harbour House in Magic Kingdom.

I'll start off by saying Seasons and Harbour House are two of my absolute favorites on property. They are definitely two heavy-hitters, and for very different reasons.

Sunshine Seasons is about the variety and quality of the food. What it isn't about is theming. Located inside The Land across from Soarin', it poorly themed, but that's OK. It's especially OK when the food is as good as it is.

It's broken down into 4 main sections: Asian Wok Shop, Sandwich Shop & Bakery, Soup & Salad Shop and the Wood-Fired Grill Shop. Each have some great choices and some of the healthiest options in The Mouse. This is important, because one thing many people have trouble with at Disney World is the ability to eat healthfully, and Sunshine Seasons at least gives you a fighting chance to do that. For example, the Black Bean Soup, the huge Caesar Chicken Salad (go easy on the dressing - ask for it on the side), the Grilled Salmon, the Seared Tuna Salad and the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich are relatively good ways to go from a healthy-eating standpoint.

It also has a tremendous amount of snacks and desserts to choose from including a cheese & grapes platter, cous-cous, turkey wraps, yogurt, key lime pie, strawberry shortcake and many other sinful and not-so-sinful options. It also has a self-serve drink station. Now, we're not really sure if you're technically "allowed" to have free re-fills at Sunshine Seasons, but I've never seen them stop anyone. And usually at counter services, when it's a self-serve drink station, it's OK to get re-fills. That is probably the case here, too.

In the end, because the food is awesome, Sunshine Seasons is simply one of the best counter service choices in The Mouse if you don't mind bland theming.

Columbia Harbour House is great for a whole different set of reasons. They aren't so much about variety, but the quality of (most of) the food is good and they also have some relatively healthy options. Where they REALLY score big points is the theming...and location. But while theming definitely takes a back seat to food (we are talking about restaurants here), the combination of both at Harbor House makes the place a fantastic and attractive option.

The theming and decor of Harbour House is amazing. Based on the history of sailing and seafaring (especially of the 18th & 19th centuries), they have relics and art displayed all throughout. This restaurant was designed with such care that you'd think it was meant to be an attraction. It's really worth taking the time to explore and savor the attention to detail. What's also cool is the fact that's it has two floors - and the second floor is usually rather empty. And if you get the right window seat, you can overlook Liberty Square (and the Haunted Mansion!). Eating in peace and quiet with a great view of the outside along with the theming of this place makes it a can't-beat atmosphere for Counter Services.

The food? It's good. Not great, but it's good. It holds up its end enough so that you can justify going there for something other than just the surrounding theme and location. If you're a fan of battered/fried chicken and fish, then this is a wonderful option. If you like some semi-healthy options, then you can also survive here as well. The Lighthouse Sandwich is pretty good (hummus with tomato-broccoli slaw) and the Anchors Aweigh Sandwich (white tuna with lettuce & tomato on whole grain bread) isn't bad a option either.

Tail Of The Tape

Sunshine Seasons
Menu Variety: 5 Mouse Ears
Menu Uniqueness: 5 Mouse Ears
Food Quality: 5 Mouse Ears
Cost: 4 Mouse Ears
Theme: 2 Mouse Ears
Total: 21 Mouse Ears

Columbia Harbour House
Menu Variety: 3 Mouse Ears
Menu Uniqueness: 5 Mouse Ears
Food Quality: 3 Mouse Ears
Cost: 4 Mouse Ears
Theme: 5 Mouse Ears
Total: 20 Mouse Ears

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