Dining at Restaurant Akershus
by Bruce Carlson
ALL EARS® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the August 27, 2002, Issue #153 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Where I come from, on the northern peninsula of Michigan, eating at an upscale restaurant means going to the "supper club." Getting dressed up means wearing your new snowmobile suit. School is closed for deer hunting, ski jumping is a national sport, and buffets rule.
That's why when we're in Walt Disney World we've gravitated to the one restaurant in Epcot that feels like "Home Sweet Home" -- Akershus in World Showcase's Norway Pavilion.
Virtually out of view to the casual Epcot passer-by, the Restaurant Akershus gets its name from Oslo's Akershus Castle, built for King Hakon V in the 14th century. The menu, posted right outside the door, assures us that they have the comfort food we're looking for, with lots of things on the menu that we can pronounce.
As you enter the restaurant, your hostess, dressed in red and white traditional Norwegian garb, greets you immediately and takes you to your table. The seating area has three dining rooms, all sharing one long buffet.
The center dining room is three stories tall and supported by beautiful lumber beams and stone walls with arched openings. It feels that at any moment a bearded Viking might storm into the hall. Overhead, you'll find iron light fixtures that appear to be holding burning candles. Three rows of tables across and at least seven deep provide plenty of seating. This room actually has the look of a small cathedral.
The room furthest to the right is actually bordering Epcot's lagoon walkway and contains the round tower that can be seen from outside. On our most recent visit to Restaurant Akershus, we ate in this dining area. Our waiter introduced himself as soon as he approached the table, first in English and then in Norwegian. He was several feet away when I whispered to my wife, Kris, that it was Geir, the young man who had waited on us several times in the pastry shop (Kringla Bakeri og Kafe) on previous visits to Epcot. (We thought Geir had gone back to Norway, since two months earlier he was nowhere to be found. Turns out he and several other Cast Members went on an eight-day road trip to New York City and Washington, D.C.) Because not all visitors are familiar with a Norwegian buffet, the servers in Restaurant Akershus walk with you along the table, explaining one by one what all the items are. The food, traditional Norwegian dishes and others, include mashed rutabaga, baked meatballs, baked pasta, venison stew, red cabbage, lamb fricassee (what is that?) and oven-poached cod. On my last visit, I had a little of everything, while Kris enjoyed the cod. On the recommendation of our server, I tried the shrimp salad. In fact, I had two servings -- I really enjoyed it. You will also find mackerel, salmon, and eggs with crab mousse. Since Kris enjoys seafood, she sampled most of these items and really enjoyed them all.
You'll also have your choice of many cold selections, such as tossed salad, tomato herring, sour herring, mustard herring (do I see a theme here?), peel and eat shrimp, goat cheese stuffed pork, lefse, marinated Edam and gravlax (huh?). OK, so I didn't really know what a lot of these foods were, but they looked tasty, I could have as many servings as I wanted, and the coffee was great.
In our old Michigan stomping grounds, buffets are very popular, so we were quite at home getting up, re-fueling and leaving our table again (and again). OK, so maybe I made a few more trips than Kris, but you get the picture.
On our last visit, we stayed at Restaurant Akershus long enough to kick back and visit with Geir, talking to him about his home in Norway, being a Cast Member, and when his internship would end (September). Like most of the Norwegian Cast Members, he was more than happy to spend time talking to us about his homeland. If you're lucky, your visit might coincide with an appearance of the musical group Blamann. Take their picture and they'll pose for you!
When Geir finally asked us about dessert (they've got a great Mickey's Sorcerer's Hat creation), we told him that we were saving room for their pastry shop during IllumiNations. (To get an idea of the tempting taste treats available at Norway's Kringla Bakeri og Cafe, located across the courtyard from the restaurant, visit: http://allears.net/menu/menu_k.htm)
Kris and I are empty-nesters, but we did notice that Norway's menu provides for kids as well. A child's ala carte menu of chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, pasta and meatballs, and hot dogs in lefse is available with drink for $4.99 for ages 3-11. I swear there was a period in our son's life where he would only eat hot dogs when we ate out. Akershus would have suited him just fine.
I understand that buffets are not everyone's idea of a magical time out while visiting Walt Disney World, but they offer a good compromise between counter service restaurants and fancy, sit-down dining. We always have a wonderful time at Akershus.
Because the menu includes several seafood items and is a buffet, it seems many WDW visitors avoid eating in Norway. Their absence means more personal service for your family and a very relaxed atmosphere. The noise level is average and the table spacing is comfortable.
Restaurant Akershus serves an adult buffet from 11:30 a.m. until IllumiNations begins at 9 p.m. At lunch, the buffet is slightly less expensive -- adults cost $12.99; children 11 and under $5.29. At dinner, the price for adults rises to $18.50, while children eating at the buffet will be charged $7.99. Dessert and drinks are not included at either meal.
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.