top disney restaurant picks

gen’s picks:

MAGIC KINGDOM

Quick Service- Be Our Guest

For a Beauty and the Beast superfan (that should include everyone) there’s nothing better than Be Our Guest. BOG is unusual in that it magically transforms from a quick service restaurant for lunch into a table service restaurant for dinner. You need to make reservations to eat here months in advance, even as a quick-service restaurant. It's worth it. The atmosphere is Disney magic at its absolute best. Even as an adult, I feel like a princess when I eat here. I recommend eating here for lunch, because it's far cheaper than dinner, even though you're in the same restaurant. 

If you don't have reservations for Be Our Guest, I like Columbia Harbor House for quick-service. It's meant to feel like you're eating in a Revolutionary War-era wharf pub, and I'm here for that. The fish and chicken combo is a delicious fried-fat bomb, but like most other restaurants, there are other, less-life threatening options available. 

Table Service- The Plaza Restaurant 

The Plaza is a low-key little restaurant that still feels special. They serve fancy sandwiches and salads, but the two main reasons I love this one are the fantastic desserts and the people-watching. If you're seated near the window, you have a great view of all of the grandparents doling out treats, the teenagers in love, the kids who need naps. It's voyeurism in an elegant setting with the most yummy sundae I've ever eaten. Is there anything better? 

Okay, the obvious choice here would have been Cinderella's Royal Table. If you're into having dinner with Disney princesses in a castle, I can see how this would be appealing. I definitely plan to bring my daughter here one day. But unless you're traveling with little girls in tow, I say skip this one in favor of dinner at Be Our Guest- a far superior princess, a much more interesting castle.

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Quick Service- Flame Tree

Animal Kingdom has some of the best QS options of all of the parks (other than the World Showcase), so any place you eat here is likely to be good. With that said, I have had a consistently wonderful experience at Flame Tree- the portion sizes are relatively large, and the barbecue-themed food is just what you want to eat after trekking through the jungle all day. It’s worth noting that while Yak and Yeti used to be my favorite option for QS in AK, it got a serious downgrade last trip. My order was a relatively tiny portion of chicken and vegetables that reminded me strongly of frozen sweet and sour chicken. Not great. 

Table Service- Tusker House

This is a somewhat disingenuous pick, since I have never actually eaten here before. However, I’ve gotten many, many reports that not only is this one of the best character dining experiences in the World, it’s one of the best dining experiences period. It’s on my short list for our next trip. 

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Quick Service- ABC Commissary

This place wins for sheer convenience. It’s centrally located in Hollywood Studios. It’s indoors and therefore air-conditioned. Better still, our toddlers crawled around the booths and played under the tables and still remained relatively invisible, because the place is usually hopping. Not the most stimulating atmosphere or the most exciting fare, but always a solid choice. They used to serve lo mein. I miss that.

Table Service- Sci-Fi Dine in Theater

Kath and I will surely agree about this one. Make sure you ask for the car booth (not a regular table) when you book. Get a milkshake. I also like 50’s Prime Time Cafe, but I would like it more if I were an extrovert.

EPCOT

Quick Service- The World Showcase

The best way to eat in Epcot is to head straight for the World Showcase, park yourself in every third country, order small plates and drinks from the country you’re in and the ones on either side, and then repeat. Make sure you’re parking yourself in a place that offers solid people-watching. 

If you’re in Future World, eat in The Land pavilion. There are tons of options and you can keep your eye on the line for Living with the Land, a sleeper jewel of an attraction. 

Table Service- Canada

This one was tough. I’m arguing with myself as I type this, because I’ve had fabulous meals in France, Italy, Japan, etc, etc, etc. But we ate at Le Cellier on our honeymoon, so that one wins for sheer nostalgia and also because I’m wiping away some drool thinking about the steak we ate there. And the maple creme brûlée. And the whiskey flight. Just so good. 

HONORABLE MENTION (for all of the parks) - Winging it.  

A story- It was lunch time in Animal Kingdom. My family wanted different dishes from different restaurants, so we split and planned to meet up with our food. After receiving the tray containing my Yak and Yeti quick service entree, I carried my plate to meet my family at Flame Tree to eat with them. I was fighting back tears. I was seven months pregnant, and my entree was tiny. This was surely the worst thing to happen to anyone, ever. Suddenly I saw a line of people waiting at a kiosk. The menu said lobster  macaroni and cheese. I got in line. It was delicious. If you can’t get every reservation you want, don’t worry. Let the magic happen to you, and you will usually be pleasantly surprised.

kat’s picks:

MAGIC KINGDOM

Quick Service - Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe

There’s not a whole lot that’s unique about the food at Cosmic Ray’s.  But almost every time I’ve been, it’s been a welcome refuge and remedy from Disney crankiness and hangry-ness.  It’s indoors, the lines move fast (is that even possible in Disney?), and there are TONS of tables.  Try to get there either before the lunchtime rush (around 11 or so) or after (close to 1), and you’ll be glad to avoid everyone else’s hangry-ness as well.

Table Service - Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue

This is not actually in the park, but you can take a boat from Magic Kingdom to the Fort Wilderness Resort for this homestyle, all-you-can-eat dinner and a show.  The show is the same every time, it’s pretty cheesy, and I’ve been at least 5 or 6 times, but I still laugh so much my sides hurt.  Actually maybe that’s all the ribs I eat.  Or the cornbread.  Whatever, my sides hurt but it’s a good kind of hurt, so if you can make it out here, do it.

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Quick Service - Pizzafari 

It’s definitely not the highest in culinary caliber, but Pizzafari tastes like nostalgia, and I’ve never been disappointed by the food here.  If you have a meal plan, the quick service meal includes a personal pizza and side salad, so I like that Disney basically forces me to eat healthy with that option.

Table Service - Boma: Flavors of Africa 

This technically isn’t within Animal Kingdom itself; it’s at the Animal Kingdom Lodge just a few minute drive from the park.  The atmosphere and food are cultural and appetizing.  This is some of the best food I’ve had in Disney World.

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS (I still call it MGM)

Quick Service - Woody’s Lunchbox (for Breakfast):  I’m not a big breakfast person, but even so, I think I’d really love most of the options on the menu at Woody’s Lunchbox for breakfast.  First of all, if you’re trying to make some of the new Toy Story rides without fastpasses when the park first opens, you’ll be there in the morning anyway.  Secondly, they have seasonal pastries that are ridiculous (for example, chocolate-hazelnut lunchbox tart.  Okay.)

Table Service - Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater:  Quite possibly my favorite restaurant in the world, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater takes place in the setting of a drive-in movie from the 1950s.  Some waiters are on roller skates, there are glow-in-the-dark souvenir drinks, and the food is delicious.  Whenever people ask my recommendations for Disney meals, this is the first one I give.

EPCOT

Epcot is different for me.  I don’t really think you can go wrong in any of the restaurants at the World Showcase (except China - birds everywhere - my biggest fears made flesh while trying to eat dinner; it’s a horrifying story for another day).  I’ll list some of my favorite quick services and table services, but I think the thing to remember is to go to the place where you think you’ll enjoy the atmosphere most.  If you love British people, get fish and chips in England.  If you want to sip wine while watching tourists walk by, sit down in Italy.  Need a good, strong margarita?  Mexico’s drinks and food won’t let you down.  Here are some of my favorites:

-La Cantina de San Angel (Mexico’s quick service)

-Tutto Italia Ristorante (Italy’s table service)

-Teppan Edo (Japan’s hibachi table service)

-Tangierine Cafe (Morocco’s quick service)

-Chefs de France (France’s table service; atmosphere is delightful)

-Rose & Crown Dining Room (I like this specifically because I get to talk to a British person periodically)

-Le Cellier Steakhouse (Canada’s steakhouse)

HONORABLE MENTION 

50’s Prime Time Cafe in Hollywood Studios:

If you can’t get reservations for Sci-Fi, or if you’ve already been and want to try something new, I really love 50’s Prime Time Cafe because it’s a themed dining experience that is just so much fun.  You’re treated like part of the family; waiters and waitresses go by names like Uncle Fred, Grandma, and cousin Bobby.  If you don’t eat your vegetables, they make you work for your dessert.  If you’re not into being embarrassed or picked on playfully by your waiter, opt out of this one.  The food isn’t incredibly special, but if you’re like me and love attention and themed dining, you’ll probably enjoy this restaurant.


DINING PLAN

A quick note about the Disney Dining Plan. Whether it's worth it to you or not is a completely individual choice, and I could do a whole blog post on this topic alone. There are currently three tiers of Dining Plan. The one we choose is the second tier. You get one quick service meal, one table service meal, and two snack credits a day. Drinks and dessert are included with most meals. Some dining experiences will cost you two table service credits.

If the cost of the dining plan is similar to what you think you might pay for food without it, consider the following things: 

How much do you want to worry about food costs on vacation? Disney food is notoriously expensive, and on a trip like our honeymoon, I didn’t want to be trying to add up totals. It was worth it just to go for the plan and consider it an all-inclusive vacation. 

How much do you like dessert? Dessert is included with most meals. If you don’t care for sweets, you might want to skip it. 

Beverages are also included, including alcoholic ones for those of age. If your family drinks mostly water from fountains, the plans might not be worth it to you.


SNACKS

Snacks are a quintessential part of dining at Disney World. I guess you could maybe get away with not buying any snacks, but 1) why would you do that and 2) you try denying yourself Mickey popcorn when they blast the scent through the vents on every outdoor walkway.

Snacks are like their own realm. I truly think we could fill a whole blog post with our favorite snacks. To save us time, we’re just including a list of *some* of our top choices:

  • Dole whip - Heaven meets earth in the tension between perfectly tangy and perfectly sweet all wrapped up into a beautiful yellow swirl known as Pineapple Dole Whip. You’ll be tempted to get a Dole Whip float, or even a vanilla-pineapple swirl. Save yourself the trouble. Just get the pineapple whip. No frills. You’ll thank me.

  • Mickey Premium bars - The quintessential Disney World treat. Like a Klondike bar with ears that costs six times as much and is worth every penny.

  • Mickey popcorn - So you’re a disciplined eater. So you aren’t really into popcorn. If you think you can get through an entire trip without feeling tempted to buy Mickey popcorn, you are obviously not fully human, and not even Jesus can relate to that. Wanting popcorn in Disney is like needing air conditioning in Disney. I like my Mickey popcorn while waiting for a fireworks show to start. I also like it while walking to my next fastpass redemption. I also like it while sitting in a restaurant waiting for my food to arrive. These are just suggestions; feel free to insert Mickey popcorn into any part of your magical trip.

  • Mickey pretzels - Not to be confused with the big pretzels found in Germany or even the large soft Mickey-shaped pretzels available throughout the parks, Mickey pretzels are the small, perfectly salted, Mickey-shaped crunchy pretzels packaged in a lime green (as of the last time we went) bag. They are the best crunchy pretzels I’ve ever had, and I like to consider myself a pretzel connoisseur.

  • Mickey soft pretzel - Pair with beer and people watching for maximum enjoyment.

  • Confectionary, Main Street, USA (in Magic Kingdom) - Magic Kingdom opens around 9. Pretty early, but even earlier with extra magic hours. It doesn’t matter how early it is: walking past the Confectionary on your way to the Cinderella castle (home of the best princess) is enough to make you start drooling on your Etsy-made, matching family t-shirt. Get the cotton candy. Get the candied apples. Get the chocolate-dipped, sprinkle-covered rice krispie treats shaped like Mickey. Get the jelly beans, the M&Ms, the fudge. Get it all. It’s 8:00 in the morning. You’re on vacation. You deserve it.

sci-fi dine in theater

sci-fi dine in theater

honeymooning with be our guest

honeymooning with be our guest

be my guest, patrick.

be my guest, patrick.

belle and her gargoyle at be our guest

belle and her gargoyle at be our guest

be our guest

be our guest

be our guest (dalton carrying patrick and a fanny pack; gen carrying baby lena)

be our guest (dalton carrying patrick and a fanny pack; gen carrying baby lena)

hoop-dee-doo revue

hoop-dee-doo revue

(from the confectionary)

(from the confectionary)

thankful that jonathan understands my attachment to dole whip

thankful that jonathan understands my attachment to dole whip

me and bae

me and bae

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