This lists the 10 best dishes and desserts at the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival, which is Walt Disney World’s spring & summer special event running through July 5, 2023. Here we cover the best dishes at the Outdoor Kitchens, with something for everyone–marvelous meats, sweet treats, and preeminent plant-based products.
Such a list is important, as the Outdoor Kitchen dishes and desserts are of varying quality: good, bad, and ugly. The positive news is that the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival food is overwhelmingly good. This much might clear if you’ve already browsed the Booth Menus for the 2023 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival.
Even before the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival started, we remarked that this was one of the best-looking lineups we’ve seen for any EPCOT event in years. That was apparent given how many standouts from last year were returning, along with the level of inventiveness of newcomers and the types of dishes added. (There are certain foods these EPCOT events do well and others that are consistently bad. Thankfully, the culinary crews leaned into their strengths for new items.) As it turned out, we were correct!
With that in mind, we’re going to go about food reviews for the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival a little differently. First off, I’m starting with this comprehensive ‘best of’ list rather than individual Outdoor Kitchen reviews. That’s simply a matter of practicality. There have been several times when I’ve started the booth reviews and lost steam halfway through, not finishing the remainder. (As simple as they may seem, booth reviews are incredibly tedious and time-consuming. One of my least-favorite posts to write.)
This list is also more practical for your planning purposes. Rather than searching through a dozen different posts, everything you need to know is right here. You should be able to plan the entirety of your 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival ‘culinary crawl’ in about 10 minutes. Perhaps longer if you read every word, or significantly shorter if you just look at the photos–my favorite way to read!
To that end, we’re streamlining this list from a planning perspective and embracing a relative rarity here: brevity. (Well, minus the introduction, which over-explains and offers caveats, per tradition!) This list easily could’ve been a top 20 or maybe even 25 if I wanted to drag things out, but instead, I’m breaking it down in two halves–best items and best booths.
The reason for that is relatively simple: there are 5 Outdoor Kitchens that stand apart from the pack, and should be prioritized. At each of these booths, you should order most (or all) of the menu. The actual 5 very best dishes can all be found at these Outdoor Kitchens; the first half of the list catches the stragglers.
By contrast, there are other Outdoor Kitchens that can be bypassed entirely. That is, unless you like overpriced, microwaved cafeteria food. In which case, make haste to the Italy booth!
Our final caveat is that our tastes may differ from yours. Obviously, that goes without saying. However, it’s probably worth laying out our preferences and dislikes, so you can adjust your expectations accordingly or disregard our opinions entirely. While we’re suckers for ‘elevated comfort food,’ we are also big fans of inventive and envelope-pushing dishes with nuanced and unexpected flavors. We’d rather eat items that challenge our taste buds than ones that are stereotypical theme park fare.
Similarly, we are not fans of overly-sugary items where the prevailing flavor is “artificial color.” For this reason, many of the desserts and most of the drinks do not make the cut for us. A good illustrative example is the Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade, which is almost universally beloved by Walt Disney World fans and without a doubt one of the 5 most popular drinks at the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival. I hate it.
Again, to each their own. I recognize that I’m in the extreme minority on this one; if you like that type of drink, you’ll probably love the Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade. That’s precisely why I’m sharing that–so you know going in how to use this list and to what degree you should weigh the opinions here or take them with a grain of salt.
With all of that rambling out of the way, let’s start with the best-of list for the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival…
Top 5 Dishes of the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival
Boneless IMPOSSIBLE Korean Short Rib (Trowel & Trellis) – I was flying solo for the booths this year, so Sarah doesn’t get a vote on the best booths. If she did, I’m certain that Trowel & Trellis would’ve made the cut. Honestly, it’s my #6 or #7, which isn’t too bad at all considering the strength of the overall lineup and my plantless preferences.
Although I wasn’t quite as wild about the IMPOSSIBLE Lumpia that everyone seems to love, this Korean Short Rib dish is where its at. Some might even call it impossibly good. Consisting of cilantro-lime rice, Danmuji slaw, kimchee mayonnaise, and simulated short rib, there’s enough going on here that it’s tough to tell you’re eating “meat” and not meat. I really like this–it’s inventive, flavorful, and filling. Exactly what we’re looking for from EPCOT festival dishes.
Spicy Chicken Gumbo (Magnolia Terrace – American Adventure) – The Spicy Chicken Gumbo is a very different dish to the one above, but similar idea. There’s a lot of chicken and sausage in this large, filling dish that is practically entree-sized.
It packs a powerful punch and is a great mix of rich flavors and textures. It’s also spicy by real-world standards, which means it’s very spicy by Walt Disney World standards. The only other downside is that it’s another hot and heavy dish. That was fine by me as I tried it on an overcast and 60-degree day at EPCOT. If that doesn’t bother you, or the weather is cool during your visit, we highly recommend this. Again, this level of ambition is what EPCOT festival food should be all about!
Bananas Foster Bread Pudding (Magnolia Terrace – American Adventure) – I’ve gotta admit to some bias here. Bananas Foster Bread Pudding is like Calamari for me. Before you call my judgment into question because these two dishes are nothing alike, let me explain. Both of these dishes are inherently excellent, and can only be so bad. The worst Bananas Foster Bread Pudding I’ve ever had would score an 8/10 on my dessert scale. (Also sorta like fireworks over Cinderella Castle.)
I’d peg this dessert at around 9/10. If I’m attempting objectivity, it’s nowhere near as good as the Cheesecake at Honey Bee-stro (a true 10/10!), but it’s excellent. The bread pudding itself is thick and dense, but soft and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Then there’s the bananas foster, which offers almost overwhelming sweetness with a bit of spice. It’s far from the Happily Ever After version of this dish, but it is better than the Disney Enchantment incarnation. And that’s good enough for me!
Croissant au Fromage de Chèvre, Herbes et Ail Rôtie (Fleur de Lys – France) – This is a croissant with goat cheese, herbs, and roasted garlic. From the outside, it’s not much to look at–a pretty unassuming item.
The inside tells the real story, with the tangy and earthy flavor of the goat cheese is contrasted nicely by the buttery crust, with the herbs providing further depth. This is fantastic, far and away the best item at the France booth for the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival. I know a lot of Walt Disney World fans love the Beignet Caramélisé, but we’ve yet to have a positive experience with that. It’s really just a cheap doughnut, but with a fancy name and look. (Sorry not sorry.)
Seared Scallops (Northern Bloom – Canada) – These scallops are topped with brown butter vinaigrette and apple-wood smoked bacon, and accompanied by a generous portion of with french green beans along with a few butter potatoes. This dish follows one of the time-honored EPCOT Festival Castellano Commandments: “leave the shrimp, take the salmon and scallops.”
The scallops are perfectly-prepared, with a light exterior crunch that gives away to a tender and flavorful interior. If that alone weren’t enough, the acidic vinaigrette mixes perfectly with the sweet and smoky bacon to provide the perfect sweet and tangy flavor. This is a perpetual favorite of the festival, and is the standout item at the #6 or #7 overall booth. (The Beef Tenderloin Tips are also highly recommended if that type of dish ‘speaks to you.’ More of a straightforward “meat and potatoes” type of dish, which is perfect for some people!)
Top 5 Booths at the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival
BRUNCHCOT – Previously the EPCOT Sunshine Griddle, which we dubbed the best new booth at any festival in five years and the best overall Outdoor Kitchen. Returning with a new and improved name, BRUNCHCOT is (once again!) the must-do Outdoor Kitchen of the 2023 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival, with a stacked menu from top to bottom.
That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, as the core menu is 80% identical to last year. If you only want a few snacks from the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival, the best and easiest approach is simply ordering everything on the menu here. That’s it. You’re done. That’s not what we’d recommend doing as there are excellent items elsewhere, but the point is that you can’t go wrong with anything at BRUNCHCOT.
The big change for 2023 is the addition of the Lox Benedict on Everything Focaccia (above), which replaces the Corned Beef Brisket Hash. Both dishes feature poached eggs, but are otherwise very different…and equally excellent. I’d say that the Lox Benedict is a net positive, as it makes the full menu (which you should absolutely order) more well-rounded and not quite as heavy. After all, this is brunch and not breakfast. That’s right, the best booth at any EPCOT festival got even better for 2023!
Honey Bee-stro – This was once our favorite booth at the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival, being replaced by BRUNCHCOT not because Honey Bee-stro has fallen, but because (frankly) BRUNCHCOT just goes harder and has more to offer. Here, the new dish is Chicken and Waffles (above), which is somehow a step-up from last year’s Sweet Corn Spoon Bread. In a way, this is similar to that, but with chicken added…so it makes sense that this is better!
We’d once again give the flatbread an endorsement with reservations; I’ve tried this twice in 2023 and heat lamp and toppings coverage issues made my two taste-testing sessions vastly different. With all of that said, the Honey Bee-stro Outdoor Kitchen at the 2023 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival is a must-stop for the Honey-Mascarpone Cheesecake (always the #1 dessert at the event) and the Chicken & Waffles. Whether you gamble on the flatbread is up to you; the top two dishes are enough to elevate this booth into the top 5.
Florida Fresh – To the man in front of me in line at Florida Fresh who dared to ask the question we all should’ve been asking, I salute you for your revolutionary thinking and vision. Thanks to him, I ordered the Grilled Street Corn with both toppings…and it was glorious. (YMMV on this one, but even if you get a single topping, it’s still fantastic.)
Along with that staple of the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival, we’re huge fans of the Watermelon Salad. It’s one of those dishes that’s simply, but deceptively good and unique. Then there’s the new Blackened Fish Slider, which ranks as one of my top 5 dishes at the 2023 event. This is seriously fantastic, and the fish could be served by itself, without being “masked” by the other ingredients. I’m more tepid on the Florida Strawberry Shortcake, but I’m probably not the best judge of that–I think Strawberry Shortcake, as a broad class of desserts, is overrated. (It’s often too dry, as was the case here.)
EPCOT Farmers Feast – Perhaps it’s unhelpful to be recommending this booth only one week before the “Early Bloom” menu ends and the Springtime menu (followed by the Summer Solstice menu) debuts. That would be true if we didn’t have extensive past experience with the EPCOT Farmers Feast menu and were reasonably confident that this booth will bat (at least) .750 throughout the season.
Last year, nothing topped the first menu and that’ll probably be true again this year. However, we’re very much looking forward to the new swordfish dish and Sweet Corn Crème Brûlée. These booths typically do fish well, but that’s not always the case with dessert. Everything else on all of the menus–current and future–is pretty much guaranteed to be good. You could (and should!) make a meal of these first 4 booths, rounding up your items and eating them indoors at our last, relatively centralized location…
Citrus Blossom – To claim the final spot on our best booth list, Citrus Blossom edges out the aforementioned Trowel & Trellis and Northern Bloom in Canada (sorry, France!) by a very narrow margin. The Canadian cuisine gets a slight edge, but the complete package at Citrus Blossom is better.
That’s because this booth is essentially Orange Bird Eats and is located inside the (air-conditioned) Odyssey pavilion for the first time at the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival. That makes a big difference, and Citrus Blossom is thus particularly appealing on hot days or after you’ve already done a lap of World Showcase.
As for the Citrus Blossom cuisine, I absolutely loved the Citrus Baked Brie. This gets everything right, from texture to a variety of flavors (and reminds me of a similarly-great griddled cheese dish at the Greece booth during Food & Wine). I also loved the Orange Sesame Tempura Shrimp, which score serious points from a ‘quantity over quality’ perspective (they taste good, but are nothing special as far as tempura goes). The dessert is fine, but formulaic if you’re familiar with festivals at EPCOT.
Hopefully this ‘best of’ list helps you plan your day at EPCOT between now and July 5, 2023. If I have the time, energy, and inclination, I’ll also work on updating the standalone Outdoor Kitchen reviews with new food photos and reviews, but no promises that I’ll finish that task. For everything else you need to know about the event, read our Ultimate Guide to the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival Guide before you go to get an idea of what to do, strategy for the festival, and much more.
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Do you have any favorites from the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival? If you’ve tried any of the dishes on this list, what’d you think of them? Did we snub any of your top picks? Think I’m way off on the Frozen Desert Violet Lemonade? Agree or disagree with our choices? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!