Saturday, May 25, 2024

Space 220 Review


Space 220 is one of the newest and hottest restaurants in Walt Disney World.  It's located in Epcot, right next to the entrance for Mission: Space in the World Discovery neighborhood of the park.  Space 220 is still one of the most difficult advanced dining reservations (ADR) to score; in fact, we attempted to eat here a couple of years ago only to be shut out.  This was our first opportunity to visit.

This post will talk about what makes this restaurant unique, including the "pre-show" (for lack of a better term) process and the dining area.  We'll also talk about what foods we ordered, and whether it adds up to an experience that is worth the hefty price tag.

Space 220 was originally supposed to be open way back in 2019 as part of the Epcot overhaul. But those plans ran behind, and then Covid happened and everything was delayed.  The restaurant eventually opened in September 2021, just in time for the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration.

First, as a matter of clarification - if you're looking at the menu pages for this restaurant, you will see entries for both Space 220 Restaurant and Space 220 Lounge.  These are located in the same physical space; from what I can tell, the lounge is simply the row of about ten to twelve seats at the bar in the back.  The biggest reason people would want the lounge instead of the restaurant proper is that you can order a la carte at the lounge, and not have to pay the prix fixe menu prices (which we'll talk about below).  From my experience, the lounge is much harder to get a reservation for, since there are so few seats.  I've heard stories of people getting it at the 60+8 day mark of their trip and beyond - I for one never saw a reservation open up there in the lead up to our trip.

We made our reservation for the fifth day of our trip, which I figured would give us a better chance of it being available.  This turned out to be correct, as we were able to get it with little difficulty (plus that thrill of actually seeing it pop up in the My Disney Experience app was nice).  We chose to visit for lunch, partly because I thought it would be easier to get a lunch reservation than a dinner one (which I think was correct, but we didn't spend a lot of time checking other times when we booked) but mostly because the fixed menu price is cheaper for lunch than dinner.  

As I write this, the lunch price is $55 per person while the dinner price is $79.  Lunch includes an appetizer and main course, while dinner includes those as well as a dessert.  The appetizers are largely the same (with one additional choice for dinner) though the main courses differ.  Does that, plus the dessert, justify the $24 per person difference?  I say no, though you might have a different opinion.  Thus, lunch it was.

We arrived right at our reservation time.  Since the restaurant is not really visible from guest facing areas, there is a desk outside where you can check in.  I found this process slightly confusing, as far as these things go, but it's possible that this was only because we were behind a very large group and I couldn't tell who was on line and who wasn't.  The cast member took our name and then sent us inside shortly afterwards.

At this point, you're lined up on a curved wall, waiting for one of two different elevators.  They even give you a "space elevator boarding pass" which is a neat effect.  Once you actually get upstairs, you have to turn it in to the cast member up there, so it wasn't like you could keep it as a souvenir (which is what I had hoped).  I did grab a quick picture of it while we were waiting though.

We ran into a bit of a snag down at this level, though it wasn't really the fault of the restaurant.  The group in front of us was led into the elevator that we were waiting for. They were a multi-generational group, with the grandmother being in a scooter, and one younger child with them.  That child DID NOT want to go in that elevator, no matter how much the family tried to persuade him.  In the end, most of the party ended up using stairs (which I assume are only used in emergencies, for which this qualified) while the grandmother went up the elevator by herself.

It's a shame that this happened, in a lot of ways, because the elevator is a big part of this experience.  Once it was our turn, we were led inside.  The elevator is circular, and there is a screen in the middle of the floor and one in the ceiling showing the Centauri Space Station.  When the elevator starts to move, it gives the appearance that you are lifting off from Epcot (and Earth itself) and blasting into outer space.  I assume the elevator only goes up about a floor or so, but the sensation of rising is a really cool effect, and makes the experience into a mini-ride in itself.  You exit into the space station, 220 miles above Earth which gives the restaurant its name.

From there, you walk down a corridor that shows a rotating vegetable garden that is based on something you would see in an actual space station.  You hand your boarding pass to the cast member up there and are brought into the dining room to be seated.

This is the part you've probably seen in pictures - the dining room is a vast, multi-level area that looks out on windows with giant screens showing Earth from a distance.  The effect is truly stunning.  I was hoping for a seat right up against the screen, though I'm told that actually isn't the best spot to view outer space, since you're almost too close.  We ended up somewhere in the middle, which gave a better overall view, but then was partially blocked by everyone else between us and the window.  I guess you can't have everything.  While you watch, various space vehicles and other floating objects pass by the windows, including a dog at some points.

Even the water decanters that our server brought had a futuristic vibe to them (though I didn't manage to get a picture of these).  We placed our appetizer orders, and the food came out in short order; no complaints about wait times once we were seated.

First we tried the blue moon cauliflower (tempura fried cauliflower, house made hot sauce, blue cheese dust).  This was delicious.  I guess it depends on how you feel about cauliflower in general, though I will say that you mostly taste fried goodness and not much vegetable.  My kids - not the biggest cauliflower fans, to say the least - found it good, so that's worth something right there.  The hot sauce was nice without being overpowering.  I didn't notice a lot of blue cheese dust, which is fine by me, as I often think blue cheese ruins a good Buffalo-type sauce, but if you're looking for a big heaping amount, you won't find it here.

We also ordered the starry calamari (fried calamari, Italian cherry peppers, spicy marinara, roasted pepper citrus aioli).  I only had some of this as it wasn't my order, but I liked it a lot.  Calamari has a tendency to be rubbery if cooked incorrectly but that wasn't an issue here.  They were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the dipping sauce was very flavorful.

One of our main courses was the space pad Thai (rice noodles, stir fried vegetables, bean sprouts, crispy tofu, garlic chili crunchy, sweet soy chili sauce, with a choice of tofu, chicken or shrimp as the protein).  Again, this was not my meal so I only had a few bites.  I thought it was good but not spectacular.  My kids had recently discovered pad Thai, so this was a good option for them among some of the more exotic choices.  

I had the steak and frites (New York strip steak, roasted garlic butter, haricot vert, French fries).  The steak was cooked very nicely and the string beans were surprisingly tasty.  The fries were perfectly fine.  I thought there was a little too much of the garlic butter, but that's easy to slide off.  While it was good, it was not one of the best steaks I've had even on Disney property.  I felt justified in getting the steak given the price tag but I was hoping it would be more elevated.

We even checked out the rest rooms, but were kind of disappointed there.  While they were clean and nice, the feeling was a bit sterile.  I thought this was a good opportunity to do some really interesting theming, but they went with stainless steel and clean as a default choice.  Not that this matters much, but there are some more immersive bathrooms at Disney World (a sentence that I wasn't sure I would ever type).

From a dining perspective, I don't know that I can say it was worth the price tag.  The food was all good, don't get me wrong, and we left very full and satisfied.  The appetizers actually eclipsed the main courses for me, in terms of being interesting and top notch taste-wise.  But what you're paying for here isn't just the food, it's the whole experience.  

From that perspective, I would say it's worth doing at least once if you can swing it.  The feeling of being transported to space to eat your meal is a truly unique one, and fitting in the context of Disney theming, as well as the section of Epcot where it resides.  I don't know that we'd make this a regular stop on our trips, but I have no regrets about going.  

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