When Danny and I lived in New Jersey, we had a very rigid first-day tradition for our Walt Disney World vacations. We would take the earliest flight we could out of whichever Metro-NYC airport was offering the best price and earliest arrival time. We would hightail it to the Magic Kingdom for the afternoon, then take an evening dinner at one of the signature restaurants on the monorail loop. Now that we live in Montana, our first day entails a lot more travel time and more chance for delays, so parks aren’t really part of the arrival-day equation anymore. That, paired with the $10 per person credit card hold for signature restaurant reservations, means that we now look for something much more casual and flexible for our arrival night dinner.
On our last Walt Disney World vacation, our first meal of the trip was dinner at Olivia’s Café. We were so pleasantly surprised by this unassuming spot at the Old Key West resort that we booked it again for the first dinner of our upcoming visit. Located in the Hospitality House at Old Key West, Olivia’s is a cozy café with a casual feel, adorned with beachy decor, postcards and photos of actual Disney Vacation Club members.
When we walked in to the restaurant, we were greeted warmly, as is the way of all cast members at Old Key West. Here at the oldest DVC resort, they really do want you to feel as if you’re at home when they say “Welcome Home.”
When we sat at the table, I immediately zeroed in on the crayons. Yeah, I know they’re there for the kids, but it didn’t stop me from drawing on my placemat between courses.
Our server, John, greeted us quickly and didn’t even laugh at my doodling, nor did he ask me if I wanted a children’s menu. In fact, he started off with drink recommendations.
I ordered the Sultry Seahorse. Danny remarked that I don’t usually order tropical drinks, but I really wanted to try one of the drinks that is exclusive to Old Key West. This one is pretty mild and very fruity, consisting of Disaronno amaretto, crème de banana, orange and pineapple juices, and a float of cherry brandy. It was a little sweeter and more tropical than I normally go for, but when in Rome, right? It was nice with the complimentary coconut bread, which you can sort of glimpse in the above picture. Danny had the Key West Sunset ale. We didn’t take a photo because it’s something he orders often, which should tell you at least that it gets his endorsement.
We both decided on soups for our appetizers. Upon learning that it was a red chowder, Danny knew he had to try Olivia’s signature Conch Chowder. Sorry for the terrible picture. It’s iPhoneography at its worst, but it in no way reflects the quality of this chowder, which had an abundance of fresh conch that was an excellent complement for the zesty tomato.
I think my appetizer was even better, however. I ordered the Soup of the Day, which was a Cream of Chicken Curry Soup. It was well-spiced without being overwhelming, and the creamy, curry flavor went so well with the coconut bread. I really think that Olivia’s should serve this soup every day, or maybe Good’s to Go could offer it along with the coconut bread as a nice lunch combination. I would be over the moon if this soup were available again when we return this year.
We again turned to John’s expertise when it came time to order our entrées. John had been working at Olivia’s for 11 years when we met him last Halloween, and he not only knows the restaurant’s menu well, he also loves it. All of his advice for us was spot-on, and I highly recommend heeding his wisdom if you’re ever lucky enough to be seated in his section.
I chose the Key West Salmon Salad, which is a seared salmon filet on a bed of mixed greens with tomatoes, cucumbers, bacon and a citrus vinaigrette. The vinaigrette is actually more like a sauce with an aioli-like consistency. It normally comes slathered on top of the salmon portion, but John says he always asks that the kitchen put the dressing on the side for his guests. He’s absolutely right to do it. The vinaigrette was a delicious combination of flavors, but it could have easily overwhelmed the fish had I not been able to control the amount on each bite.
On John’s recommendation, Danny picked the Jamaican Jerk Barbecue Pork Chop with Smoked Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese. John advised that Danny substitute the mac and cheese for Olivia’s potatoes, but Danny said he was feeling the mac. As it turns out, John was right. The mac and cheese was fine, but it didn’t hold a candle to the side of Olivia’s potatoes that John insisted on bringing out for us. They are definitely the better complement for the pork chop!
Olivia’s was a total success, and a very relaxing arrival night dinner. I’m really glad that we’re staying at Old Key West for the first stretch of our upcoming vacation so that we can enjoy the restaurant on our first night again. It may become a new tradition for us, as Olivia’s has easily earned hidden gem status in our books.