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Bill Addison

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Meet the Woman Who's Been to Every Restaurant at Disney World

All but one, really, but who's counting?

Thinking about, reading about, writing about, and arguing about Disney World is almost as massive an undertaking as spending time in the actual resort itself. The proof is in the online community: There are hundreds of blogs dedicated to the minutiae of the parks, and not just from a family perspective — the biggest and the best tend to be written by adults, for adults.

One of the most popular is run by AJ Wolfe; her site The Disney Food Blog (it's about exactly what it sounds like), is so popular that it's been her full-time job since 2009. Working with a small army of contributors, Wolfe covers everything at the parks — and often beyond— from splashy restaurant openings to crazy new menu items. It's obsessive, detailed, and comprehensive. Here, Wolfe discusses why she started the Disney Food Blog, explains the adult appeal of Disney World, and reveals why she will never get sick of eating at the theme park.

What inspired you to start Disney Food Blog?
Basically, as a Disney World fan, it was a blog that I wanted to be there — and it wasn't there. Nobody was doing it. I realized pretty quickly that you spend more on your food than your hotel or your tickets at Disney World, and you want to get the best thing for your buck if you're going to be spending that much money.

Disney [in 2009] wasn't doing a lot of food promotion. They weren't showing photos of their food anywhere. You really had no idea what you were getting. The fact that you have to book a lot of the restaurants six months in advance means that you're making choices about what you want to eat in six months without having any idea of what they're going to put in front of you when you get there.

The goal [with the blog] was basically to create a resource with real, honest-to-goodness, I'm-just-a-customer-in-the-restaurant photos of what you're going to get. I started the site in early 2009, and it just took off like gangbusters.

"Disney sort of became an escape. Disney World is very manicured, and it's just perfect all the time. The opposite of New York City."

What drew you to Disney?
For me, at the beginning, it was nostalgia. I had gone with my parents and my family for spring break and things like that. When I was a kid they would take us to the coast in Florida. We'd get up early in the morning, we'd drive to Disney World, we'd stay there all day long to the very end, and we'd drive home. It's that image of parents carrying the sleeping kids back into the hotel.

Then as I got older, I moved to New York City — and New York City is fabulous, but it's very dreary. Disney sort of became an escape. Disney World is very manicured, and it's just perfect all the time. The opposite of New York City. Every once in a while you need to kind of get away from the dirt and the grime and the rawness of the city. That's when I really started thinking about planning a trip to Disney World, and I realized how critical it can be to have that kind of information at your fingertips when you have to make decisions about a $300 dinner six months before you're there.

How often do you visit Disney World? You must live in Florida to be able to get to the parks.
I don't live in Florida. I live in Texas, actually. But I have staff on both coasts. I get to the parks — Disney Word and Disneyland — probably six or seven times a year, maybe more. I had a baby a couple of years ago and that kind of curbed my ability to get there, because I don't like to take him with me.

Do you think you'll ever get sick of eating at Disney?
I'm going to say no. There are 300 dining locations at Disney World. It's kind of like — will you ever get sick of eating in Manhattan? Well no, probably not, because, there's a lot of places to eat. They're changing menus all the time. Disney's always a little bit slower to get on any trend, but they usually get there eventually. They're trying new things all the time. They've got some really great chefs.

What's fun about Disney is that they have a theme aspect to all of it. Every restaurant has its made-up backstory, and it makes me feel like I'm eating in a story. A lot of people think, Oh it's a theme park, so the food is very homogeneous. It's not really that homogeneous.

Have you eaten at every restaurant in Disney World?
I have eaten at every restaurant at Disney World except for one. At this point it's just on principle. Every time I make a reservation, something happens so that I can't get there.

"You can go to a Disney World restaurant and it can be fabulous. You can go literally two months later and it can be just awful."

What's your favorite restaurant at Disney World?
Well, that's a tough question to answer, because Disney World's restaurants are very inconsistent. They move chefs around quite often, and they change menus quite often, so you'll see a lot of transition in who's creating the menu and who's preparing the food. You can go to a Disney World restaurant and it can be fabulous. You can go literally two months later and it can be just awful. It's very strange. I don't know why. I haven't had that experience in many other locales, but Disney World... to me, it's famous for just being inconsistent.

When I say, Oh I love this restaurant — it could easily be bad by the time you get there. It totally depends on the menu and how they're sourcing their ingredients and what's going on. A lot of people will follow chefs around to wherever they are, however, and go to that restaurant. It's really fascinating.

How can you know what chefs are working at which restaurant?
Disney doesn't really publicize it, they don't tell you. You just never know where the chefs are going to go, and it's this fabulous little network of figuring out who's where. There are a lot of locals at Disney World who have their favorite chefs and will go wherever they are.

I don't have time to eat any food that's not Disney food.

Which area of the resort do you recommend dining in at Disney World?
Disney Springs [formerly known as Downtown Disney] is going through a huge reformation. When it's done in 2016, it will offer a lot of good restaurants and will be a dining destination. Right now in terms of the actual theme parks themselves, the answer is always going to be Epcot, which has 11 themed countries, and they each have one or two dining locations. It's always going to be Americanized versions of that country's food, but it's the most interesting park from a dining perspective.

Have you dined at other theme parks?
Not a lot, not a lot. That's a good question, because a lot of people who do the Disney blog thing are theme park fans and they love to go to theme parks — because we're all nuts — just not me. I went to Harry Potter World at Universal, but I don't have time. This is my full-time job. I don't have time to eat any food that's not Disney food.

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