Victoria & Albert’s, the ultra-fine fine dining restaurant at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, was named the second-best fine dining restaurant in the United States by travel website Tripadvisor in its 2016 Travelers’ Choice Awards.
V&A came in behind Alinea, the Chicago restaurant from chef Grant Achatz, and ahead of Thomas Keller’s Per Se in Manhattan. (I especially found that juxtaposition interesting because when I dined at Per Se, in 2006, I remarked to my dining companion at the end of our meal, “I can get this food at Victoria & Albert’s.”)
Chef Scott Hunnel and his team are certainly deserving of the accolade, and it isn’t their first — it has won enough stars, diamonds and gold medals to start a jewelry store. But this particular honor might appear more dubious when taken in full context with others on the list. You may find yourself, as I did, going “Huh?” at some of the “winners.” (There is a link to the full list below.)
Curiously, Tripadvisor does not give visitors to its website any insight into how the list was compiled. Certainly most people who use know that its ratings of restaurants, hotels, attractions and just about anything else are crowdsourced from other travelers reviews. The awards are decided by an algorithm that considers quantity and quality of reviews and ratings.
So for every highly recognizable restaurant like Alinea or Per Se, you’ll also come across a head-scratcher like Halls Chophouse in Charleston, which came in at number 4, or Mama’s Fish House, number 10, in Paia, Hawaii.
And then there are some on the list that are more than questionable, such as #18 and #19, GW Fins and Upperline Restaurant, both of New Orleans. Not only did those restaurants serve me some of the dullest food I’ve had in that city, they aren’t what I would classify as fine dining, either. (And seriously, how did they come in ahead of Le Bernadin?)
Regardless of that, I’m happy to cheer on the hometown winners and offer my agreement with the brilliance of the list’s winners.
But you have to wonder why someone — even the robotic algorithm — didn’t flag the quote next to Victoria & Albert’s listing.