View RSS Feed

ImagiNERDing

The Top of the World at the Contemporary Resort

Rate this Entry
by , 05-06-2012 at 02:19 PM




Brown leisure suits, ruffled dresses, strappy heels, shiny jumpsuits and feathered hair were all but required at the Top of the World in the 1970s. A glass-enclosed eatery on the 15th floor of the Contemporary, the Top of the World offered views that stretched 30 miles in every direction while offering the finest in dining and entertainment in Central Florida. Where else you could you enjoy Roast Duck with Orange Sauce, Veal Romanov and Rose Petal Salad while being entertained by the likes of Carol Lawrence, Jack Jones and Phyllis Diller? And no, the dining plan was not offered at the time!


A little background on the Top of the World from our favorite Disney historian, Dave Smith:
Nightclub/restaurant on the 15th floor in the Contemporsry Resort at Walt Disney World: open from October 1, 1971 until September 30, 1993. The view over the Seven Seas Lagoon toward the Magic Kingdom is spectacular. The longtime dinner show presented twice nightly was "Broadway at the Top," with talented performers singing hit numbers fom Broadway shows, and the all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch was also popular. The restaurant was replaced by the California Grill in May 1995.

Another shot from the 1977 title.

From the May, 1973 Walt Disney World News:
THE TOP OF THE WORLD, high atop the Contemporary Resort Towers, offers the finest in day and evening dining and entertainment. Delicious breakfast buffet, Monday through Saturday, 8-10:30 am. Luncheon buffet, 11:30 am-2 pm. Sunday brunch buffet, 8:30am-2:30pm.

It's a new world after dark as the Top of the World presents two dinner/dancing shows nightly, featuring top name entertainment in a relaxed atmosphere. Seatings for dinner are at 6:30 and 9:30 pm, with shows at 8 and 11 pm. Top of the World Lounge open until 2 am. Reservations for the evening are suggested; coats for gentlemen, please.

As you settled in for your evening meal and entertainment, your server would take your drink order. Interested in any of the following?
  • French 75 - gin, sour mix, champagne and rock candy
  • Monorail Pink - gin, pineapple and orange juice, grenadine syrup and heavy cream
  • Monorail Red - tequilla, Galliano, grenadine, lemon bar mix and pineapple juice
  • Monorail Yellow - rum, orange juice, coconut cream and pineapple juice
  • Monorail Purple - brandy, wine and grape juice




People even ate at the Top of the World in the daytime! From the 1977 title.

From the resources that I checked, the Top of the World might have been well-known for their salads:

  • Rose Petal Salad
  • Carrot Salad
  • Broccoli and Vegetable Salad with Curry Sauce
  • Top of the World Shrimp Salad
  • Spaghetti Salad
  • Top of the World Chicken Salad
  • Cauliflower Salad
  • Tuna Antipasto
  • Mexican Shrimp Salad
  • Ham and Rice Salad
  • Potato Salad
  • Top of the World Dressing - onion, anchovy, garlic, eggs, cider vinegar, mustard, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce



The Summer 1978 Walt Disney World News announced that comedy groups would start appearing at the Top of the World in addition to the traditional lounge-club style of entertainment. There was also an entertainment charge of $7.50 for adults and $3.50 for children that was levied in the late 1970s.



Entrees offered for dinner, included:

  • Swiss cheese Ramekin
  • Roast Duck and Duck Sauce
  • Duck Tambu
  • Veal Romanoff
  • Veal Verdi
  • Roasted Duck with Orange Sauce
  • Prime Rib
  • Roast Sirloin of Beef Jardiniere



Image from the February 1982 Walt Disney World News

In 1982, Disney introduced Broadway at the Top:
...a lively show highlighting the spectacular best of Broadway's past 30 years. It's a fast-paced nightclub review of Broadway musicals from the days of Cole Porter to "Chorus Line" and "Evita." Songs, dances and dialogues pay tribute to some of the Great White Way's memorable moments, and to the people who made them happen.

The cast includes five exciting young entertainers who take you on a musical memory tour through the "show stoppers" of the American Musical Theatre.


Even though it looks like a prom... This image appeared in the Walt Disney World: First Decade book and the 1984 Walt Disney World Pictorial Souvenir.

Sadly, there were only a few desserts mentioned in my sources:

  • Apples Supreme - graham cracker crumbs, Granny Smith apples, sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch and flour
  • Frozen Mocha Parfait
  • Brunch Apple Supreme
  • Rum Sauce (pour over blueberries or any fruit)
  • Butterscotch Sauce


I can imagine fried ice cream, flambe-style desserts and other, weirdly decadent dishes, as well.


Image from the 1985 Steve Birnbaum's Guide to Walt Disney World. The ears belong to Br'er Rabbit.



Broadway at the Top from the 1991 Steve Birnbaum's Guide to Walt Disney World.



This is image is attributed as the Top of the World Lounge in the 1991 Birnbaum. Apparently, this is a room off to the side of the restaurant.



From Walt Disney World: 20 Magical Years.

Official records state that the Top of the World closed on September 30, 1993 and re-opened as the California Grill on May 15, 1995. I don't doubt this but I know that my wife and I ate at the Top of the World twice during a May 1994 vacation. When I found the receipt it was billed as the Concourse Grill. I remember it vividly for two reasons: we could see EPCOT '94 as we ate and it was the first time I ever saw guacamole (yuck). Both times were for lunch, so it might have only been open for certain times.

We turn to Dave Smith, again, to learn about the California Grill:
Restaurant on the top floor of the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World, taking the place of the Top of the World. It opened on May 15, 1995. The restaurant features a stage kitchen with nine exhibition cooking areas, including a wood-burning pizza oven, grill and rotiserie, and three island stoves.

Image from Christopher Finch's The Art of Walt Disney.

The final image is probably characteristic of why the Top of the World was so beloved: the views. Glasses perched upside-down, waiting to be filled and whisked to thirsty diners, frame the view from the restaurant. A ferryboat and motorlaunch ply the lagoon in the setting Florida sun as we close the chapter on another piece of Walt Disney World history.

Did you ever get to eat at the Top of the World?

Do you have any favorite moments, stories or photos to share?


Resources used for this article:





ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at [email protected]

You can follow me on Twitter @imaginerding
Or like Imaginerding on Facebook.

I also write at Everything Walt Disney World.

I am one half of the incredibly talented, handsome, charming, sanguine, lucent, refulgent, beguiling and intelligent duo behind Communicore Weekly. You can find them on the Mice Chat Youtube Channel.

Submit "The Top of the World at the Contemporary Resort" to Digg Submit "The Top of the World at the Contemporary Resort" to del.icio.us Submit "The Top of the World at the Contemporary Resort" to StumbleUpon Submit "The Top of the World at the Contemporary Resort" to Google

Updated 05-06-2012 at 08:55 PM by ImagiNERDing

Categories
Uncategorized

Comments

  1. yoyoflamingo's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Seeing all these past places in Walt Disney World, with all the pictures from compiled sources is a treat. I love reading about this stuff, thanks!
  2. mratigan's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Thanks
  3. JeffHeimbuch's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Love seeing all these amazing photos from the Top of the World! Thanks for putting all these together, George.

    I will take one of everyone of those Monorail drinks, please.

    Also, that photo of the "side room" you have just above? It's now called "The Wine Room," and though it's part of the main restaurant, it offers a more cozy (and romantic!) atmosphere. It's definitely less noisy, and it only sits about 7 or so small tables. Not only does it help you avoid the hustle and bustle of the rest of the noisy restaurant, but you can also enjoy Wishes from the Magic Kingdom AND IllumiNations from EPCOT...all from the comfort of your seat.
  4. yellowrocket's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Yum! I had the Monorail Yellow in 2001 at the Outer Rim bar at the Contemporary (i wonder if they have to pay George Lucas for that name?). They discontinued the drink not long afterwards. But, I saw that it's now at the Top of the World in Bay Lake Tower - who knew it got its start at the original Top of the World!?!? Just another example of how well WDW pays tribute to the past!
  5. ttintagel's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Wow, check out the Overlook Hotel carpet in the first picture!
  6. JeffHeimbuch's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Quote Originally Posted by ttintagel
    Wow, check out the Overlook Hotel carpet in the first picture!
    Come dance with us, ttintagel!
  7. ImagiNERDing's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Quote Originally Posted by ttintagel
    Wow, check out the Overlook Hotel carpet in the first picture!
    I am glad that someone else has a carpet issue! I have to admit that I have started taking pictures of the carpets and wallpaper...
  8. jbird327's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Thanks for the article. I spent a number of late nights up at the Lounge in the late 70s/early 80s. It was never crowded, and was so relaxing after a full day at the park. I recall eating brunch at Top of the World in 1986, but never saw the nighttime show (I never traveled with a jacket).
  9. fcanfield's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I don't remember what year it was but in the 1970's my wife and I had a lovely dinner and saw a wonderful show with I beleve Tony Bennet? and danced with a live band. It was also great to walk out onto the roof and watch the fireworks and electrical boat parade.
  10. SpectroMan's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Fantastic article! That spot looks straight out of a Vegas casino; I love it! Shame that no menu that fancy will ever be served again at WDW outside of Victoria & Albert's.
  11. Country Bear's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    We visited in June of 1986 and were able to enjoy the Broadway Review in this restaurant. It was very elegant at the time and the atmosphere was classy (again, at the time). This was the finest restaurant to eat at in WDW back then. If you didn't have a jacket, they kept a supply of different sizes at the door that you could borrow for dinner. They were very strict about not letting anyone in without a jacket (in fact they would turn you away if you refused to wear one). I recall bringing one and changing in my car down in the Contemporary parking lot before going up. Florida in June is about 90 degrees with 150% humidity so you didn't want to wear it any longer than you had to. The show was lively and engaging (and very family oriented). I think our tickets were about $70.00 per person at that time. The atmosphere was a little uptight (all nice dining rooms of that era were). If you came to the earlier show (which we did) you could come back with your ticket before the fireworks started and watch the show from the outdoor balcony. I don't recall the food as being anything spectacular but it was tasty. I seem to recall the portions were more in line with a nice meal than many of the "eat till you burst" restaurants we also enjoyed that visit. I was initially sad to see it be converted from a dinner show to the California Grill, but in truth, the California Grill is very nice and I'm guessing they make buckets of money with it. I will always have the magic memory of that first visit to the Top of the World though.
  12. Johnny's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    What a great piece of WDW history. I was too young to enjoy such a place at the time, but it makes me nostalgic for the early years of the Vacation Kingdom. Thanks, George!
  13. danyoung's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Thanks for a great walk down memory lane. Back in the 70's and 80's I traveled with a show group similar to the folks that performed the Broadway at the Top show. Never got to play the Top of the World, but we did do a show with Ernie Ford in one of the Contemporary ballrooms!
  14. Dustysage's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    WOW. That was pure Disney disco cheese. I LOVE it.

    The WDW time machine is filled with all sorts of amazing stuff.

    Thank you George!
  15. Timekeeper's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I have to wonder if there was any similarity with the monorail drinks that used to be served at the late Monorail Cafe before Downtown Disney came to DLR?


    Timekeeper
  16. Randman's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    In June, 1992, my wife and I were on our honeymoon at WDW. We stopped at the Contemporary and went upstairs to see the restaurant during the day. We were the only ones in there, and ordered a drink from the bartender. While sitting there, suddenly someone in a suit walked in and started telling the bartender, "Pick that up, straighten that up, move that". The elevators opened and two men in tennis clothing walked out, and went to the overlook. While they were walking, I heard one talk, and instantly recognized his voice. It was Michael Eisner. I told my wife, and we were excited (remember, this was during his good days). He walked back in, and headed toward the elevator. I just had to. I said, "Hello Mr. Eisner!" He looked over and said, "Hi, how are you doing" and walked on. Not exactly earthshattering, but we thought it was very cool to see him.
  17. Park Wise's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I love this article. Thanks for writing it even if it did give me flashbacks of watching "Solid Gold" and secretly wanting shiny gold spandex pants!
  18. OriginalMousekteer's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    I took a date there in 1974. I was working at WDW for Arribas Bros. in the Crystal Shop on Main St. and we went to the dinner show with Edie Adams. Also during that time, I rode up the elevator in the Contemporary with Phyllis Diller. I went up to the Top of the World many times, often to look over the Magic Kingdom from the famous walkway on the NorthWest.

    I was an usher in a wedding for someone who worked for the Rubio Artists and the "rehearsal dinner" was a luncheon in the private room on the North side of TOTW.

    I knew a woman who was an old friend of an entertainer who appeared there around that time and she told me about going up the service stairs from the top floor of the Contemporary to TOTW.

    I remember going up to the bar for drinks in the Fall of 1973 after the Imaginnering conference where they showed the engineering model of Space Mountain. Bob White got me admitted, even though I worked for a lessee. I copied the layout of the Space Mountain track on pages from a message book I got from the Contemporary receptionist and mailed them to my friend, David Mumford, who was still in school. One of the people I had drinks with was Tony Baxter. It was one of the most extraordinary events of my life.

    The evolution of TOTW, Papeete Bay Veranda, and Pioneer Hall back in the 1970s is a very interesting subject. It continued the growth process that started with the birth of Disneyland back in 1955.
  19. ImagiNERDing's Avatar
    • |
    • permalink
    Quote Originally Posted by OriginalMousekteer
    I remember going up to the bar for drinks in the Fall of 1973 after the Imaginnering conference where they showed the engineering model of Space Mountain. Bob White got me admitted, even though I worked for a lessee. I copied the layout of the Space Mountain track on pages from a message book I got from the Contemporary receptionist and mailed them to my friend, David Mumford, who was still in school. One of the people I had drinks with was Tony Baxter. It was one of the most extraordinary events of my life.
    Thanks for the comments! What amazing experiences you have had at the TotW!

    Is Dave the David Mumford that wrote the Nickel Tour with Bruce Gordon?