Category — h. Where to Eat at Walt Disney World
THE BASICS: DINING AT WALT DISNEY WORLD
The basic decision to make about dining at Disney World is how much money and time you wish to devote to it.
Disney World has a wide range of dining options, including distinctive and memorable family dining experiences, sophisticated and lovely “date night” options, a few venues that mix a bit of both, and multiple less special settings, including many options that essentially offer fast food.
While prices vary tremendously, all Disney World options are more expensive than you’d pay at home.
Those on tight budgets will largely focus on the lower-priced fast-food-like venues which are found in all the parks and almost all the hotels—in Disney-speak, the “Counter Service” or “Quick Service” options. Eating off-property, and/or making some of your meals yourself is also an option, especially if you have a car, although doing so takes extra time. If you are paying cash for sit-down meals, dinner is almost always more expensive than other meals in the same venue. More ideas for saving on dining at Disney World are here.
Those who can afford more will likely find that dining becomes one of their favorite memories of their Disney World trip. Because of that, recommended dining is included in all of this site’s Disney World itineraries.
DINING AT DISNEY WORLD: SOME BASIC CONCEPTS
Nothing at Disney World is as simple as we’d all like it to be, so here’s some basic concepts (if you just want recommendations, skip to the next sections).
Types of meals
Besides the counter service dining mentioned above (also sometimes referred to as “quick service), there’s other kinds of dining—regular dining with menus, tables and waiters; buffets; and family style dining, kinda like a mini-buffet at your table, as various options are brought to your table and you serve yourself from among them. All these “other kinds of dining” are commonly referred to as “table service” options.
Sub-types among the table service options are character meals, where at some point during your meal you’ll get chance to meet, take pictures with, and get autographs from Disney characters; dinner shows, where in addition to your meal there’s a show of some sort; and signature dining—Disney lingo for “even more expensive than the rest.” These categories can get combined– Cinderella’s Royal Table is a character meal that’s also signature dining…
Reservations Open 180 Days Before—And Sometimes Close Then, Too
Table service dining reservations open 180 days ahead. (For those staying in a Disney World resort, they can book 180 days from their arrival date, and at the same time for the first ten days of their visit.) With the exception of Be Our Guest, quick service options neither offer nor require reservations.
The Dining Plan
There are several Disney Dining plans, all of which are a way to pre-pay for some components of some of your meals. You have to be booked in a Disney-owned hotel to book a dining plan, and in turn you’ll receive various credits.
The regular dining plan can save real money for kids three to nine years old at one credit character meals and buffets. Otherwise, saving much money on any Disney Dining plan is unlikely.
Booking a plan, though, can provide the comfort of knowing that some of your dining expense are pre-paid, and as a result you can grab anything eligible on a menu for which you have available credits without worrying about its price.
A few key points on the dining plan:
- Make sure you book your meals way in advance (the plan is of little value if the places you wan to eat are sold out.)
- You’ll get the most value from using table service credits for dinner, and the least using them for breakfast.
- The various meals that cost two credits are generally best paid for in cash (so long as you have good use of your remaining credits).
There’s much more on the dining plan in the second half of this post.
Disney World offers lots of deals except during the most crowded weeks of the year. Most popular of these is “Free Dining” which the past few years has been offered for much of September, and bits of October, November and December.
There’s much more on free dining at the top of this page. But the key is that those who get the deal get one of the dining plans for free—the Quick Service plan if they are staying in a value resort, and the regular plan if staying at a moderate or deluxe.
DINING AT DISNEY WORLD: BEST CHARACTER MEALS AND DINNER SHOWS
Princesses. Three meals include princesses—Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella’s Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Akershus with Belle and a half dozen other princesses in Epcot, and Cinderella and her family in the evenings at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian. Any can be a great choice. Cinderella’s Royal Table has the best setting but is by far the most expensive; 1900 Park Fare is the most fun, especially for boys and dads, and has the best food; Akershus is a great choice if you are going to Epcot, and more affordable than the Royal Table.
Mickey. Meals with Mickey can be found both in a couple of the parks and several of the hotels. Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary is the most popular, and breakfast with Mickey (and Lilo and Stitch) at the Polynesian is another great choice. Tusker House in the Animal Kingdom is the best choice for in-park dining with Mickey.
Other Characters. Other meals focus on different groups of characters, of which the most notable is the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom, with Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger.
Dinner Shows. Of the three dinner shows, by far the best is the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue.
DINING AT DISNEY WORLD: BEST DATE NIGHT OPTIONS
Your best date night choices are the California Grill atop Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge.
Also worth mentioning is the breathtakingly expensive but also breathtakingly good Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian. Not suited for younger kids, it’s best for celebrations—engagements, graduations, winning the lottery (so you can pay for it).
DINING AT DISNEY WORLD: BEST OF THE REST
Choices For Both Parents And Kids. Not many venues combine great kid appeal with date night quality and setting, but the California Grill and Be Our Guest (for dinner) come close. The California Grill combines great food with a view of the Magic Kingdom, and, if you time it right, its fireworks show Wishes. Be Our Guest at dinner combines a pretty good menu (and the only alcohol available in the Magic Kingdom) with a kid-pleasing setting and theme.
Picking Your Own Dining. I have a matrix here that sorts all the Disney World park and resort table service restaurants by kid and adult appeal. You won’t find a lot of dining reviews on this site, but there are overviews of dining in each of the parks, and reviews of every table service option, in Chapter 7 of the Disney World guidebook I co-author, The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit. Here’s an example of one of our reviews:
March 6, 2016 No Comments
(For the first page of this review of Disney’s Beach Club Resort, click here.)
The Beach Club has two table service restaurants.
- Beaches and Cream is a wonderful burger and ice cream shop, but is far too small for the demand for it.
- The Cape May Cafe has at breakfast a buffet with Minnie and other characters, but not Mickey, and an above-average seafood buffet at dinner.
More table service dining is within walking distance at the Yacht Club and BoardWalk, but none has great kid or family appeal.
Quick service dining is quite limited, with just small venues at the back of the Beach Club gift shop and at the main pool.
At one end of the Beach Club, on the way to the Yacht Club (part of the same massive interconnected building) is Cape May Cafe, a table service restaurant that does Mickey-less character breakfasts with Minnie, Goofy and Donald, and a seafood-focused buffet at night.
…and the review from The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017 .
Above is a shot of part of the Cape May dinner buffet…
…the crab legs, not part of the buffet but rather sent straight from the kitchen on request…
…and the overall milieu.
There’s another table-service option, accessible from on the outdoor veranda walkway connecting the Beach Club and Yacht Club, Beaches and Cream.
Above is its review from The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017 .
There are more table service dining options within walking distance at the Yacht Club and BoardWalk, none of any special appeal to kids.
On my last visit, the lunch/dinner menu had turkey, ham and roast beef sandwiches; a vegetable wrap; individual cheese or pepperoni flatbreads; Caesar salad; and soup. That’s it.
At least the cold food section of the gift shop is better stocked than that of most other Disney World gift shops.
At the main pool shared by the Beach and Yacht Clubs, Stormalong Bay, the pool bar and grill, Hurricane Hanna’s, offers a different set of quick service options.
Here’s the menu (as always on this site, click it to enlarge it):
Waits can be long at Hurricane Hanna’s.
This review continues here!
January 10, 2016 No Comments
My friend Allison had a chance to try out the new breakfast offering at the Magic Kingdom’s Be Our Guest. Here’s her report!!
BREAKFAST AT BE OUR GUEST
One of the most popular restaurants at Disney World is Be Our Guest at Magic Kingdom. Until recently this restaurant served only lunch and dinner. A few days ago, Disney opened this restaurant to include breakfast.
We know a lot of guests were really excited about this new breakfast, so I grabbed my own family and headed off to Magic Kingdom. I have dined at Be Our Guest many times for lunch and dinner and was anxious to try the breakfast.
The breakfast is a counter service meal. However, it is a set price. The adult meal is $19.99 and the child meal is $11.99. This does include a beverage and a complimentary pastry plate of treats.
You select one entree from a list of menu items; including Eggs Florentine, Vegetable Quiche, Open-Face Bacon and Egg Sandwich, Croissant Doughnut, Scrambled Egg Whites, or Assorted Meats and Cheeses. For the kids, you can choose from Crepes, French Toast, Oatmeal, Scrambled Eggs, or Cereal.
Since this a counter service meal, you walk up to an electronic kiosk to order your food and then are escorted to an area to sit. You still seat yourself, get your own beverages and utensils.
Your MagicBand (if you have one) or “rose” (themed after Beauty and the Beast) will tell the Cast Member where to deliver your food. They do deliver your food in a very “cool” way that you can see in the video below. You do not have to bus your tables after your meal, Disney will do that for you.
During your breakfast, all three rooms are open so you can wander throughout Be Our Guest. The atmosphere and dining inside Beast’s Castle is the real fun of dining at Be Our Guest. It is truly magical! Enjoy our family’s breakfast experience at Be Our Guest, including an honest opinion.
Since we were at Magic Kingdom, we had to hit some rides, including Thunder Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion and Little Mermaid.
We even spent some time at the new hub in front of Cinderella Castle and saw the Easter Bunny!
What do you think of Be Our Guest Restaurant? Leave a comment below. We would love to hear about your experience!
* * * * *
Thanks, Allison! For those of you who don’t know her, Allison has either worked or played at Disney World for the past 35 years.
She was a past Cast Member at Typhoon Lagoon and Tower of Terror. She continued her love of Disney by starting Destinations in Florida Travel. With over 60 agents, Destinations in Florida is considered the premier travel agency by guests, media, and the destinations themselves.
March 26, 2015 No Comments
Trattoria al Forno (Italian for “tavern baked”) opened on Disney World’s BoardWalk in December 2014, replacing Kouizzina. My sister, dad and I had dinner there at the end of January 2015.
Disney’s word on Trattoria la Forno is this:
“Showcasing traditional techniques and artisanal artistry, this convivial trattoria celebrates the diversity of Italian cuisine with authentic ingredients and recipes hailing from all over “The Boot,” from Milan to Rome. House-made-daily mozzarella atop Neapolitan-style pizzas, satisfying hand-rolled pastas, velvety risottos, and seasonal seafood and vegetables make this dining destination a must for anyone serious about fresh Mediterranean fare.”
…and we have a little more detail in our book, The easy Guide:
Trattoria al Forno makes for four Italian restaurants in the area, but unlike the two in Epcot, requires no park tickets. The third option is also outside of Epcot—Il Mulino in the Swan—and Trattoria al Forno is a little more kid friendly, and largely lower priced, than Il Mulino.
Among the BoardWalk offerings it’s a pretty safe choice for families—while not nearly so fine as the dining at Flying Fish, it is also not nearly so expensive, and less of a niche offer than are the ESPN Club and the Big River Grille and Brewing Works.
Early reports revealed service issues, but other than a long delay in seating we didn’t see any—likely because Trattoria had been open more than 6 weeks at our visit, giving time for operations to become more stable.
We arrived a little early for our Friday evening 7.20p ADR and were told that seating was running about 15 minutes late, and were given an expected time to be seated of 7.35 to 7.40p. We were actually seated at around 7.45. The gathering area outside the main dining rooms was unexceptional, and had few seats.
(Up until recently, Disney’s page on Trattoria la Forno said it was only taking reservations through April 30. My guess is that among other things this was to give them the data to re-balance the reservations offered to how long guests were actually taking to dine. This message is now off, and reservations are available the usual 180 days out. I suspect waits will improve after April 30, based on new standard times for table occupancy. )
Trattoria al Forno has a distinct, Italian-only wine list, and a brief menu (click to enlarge), though one with likely enough variety and different price points to intrigue most. Much pasta is house-made daily, as is the mozzarella.
Our server, Andrea, was terrific. My dad can be an active and engaged customer—and he was so even before he started wearing dual hearing aids. Andrea positioned herself perfectly so he could hear, understood his old style drink order (“Gin martini, no garbage, dirty ice”) and helped my sister select her wine.
Our meal started with bread, which was my biggest disappointment, as it was room temperature, rather than warm. Olive oil for it is at the table, and for barbarians, butter is available upon request.
Violating the precept that for a review one should order the stable and popular items on the menu, not ephemera, I had the soup of the day—similar in its broth to minestrone, and delightful.
My sister and I both had the Caprese salad. I loved everything about it, especially the presentation and homemade mozzarella, but my sister would have preferred much more basil and was a little thrown off by the onion.
I’m always glad to see an interesting variant on such a standard (so long as the tomatoes and mozzarella remain great!) but it’s also easy to see how perhaps if one orders a Caprese salad one ought to get tomatoes, mozzarella, and lotsa basil.
My dad eats like a bird these days, so he ordered only the “Thin-Sliced Italian Cured Meats with House- Pickled Peppers, Olives and Caponata.” (This appetizer serves two.)
This is exactly as described except it also includes a slice of bread (which we liked better than the table bread) and is not your classic antipasti plate—no cheese is included, for example, and it’s thin on vegetables. Andrea asked without prompting if he wished to add mozzarella, and of course he did. He was less keen on the mozzarella than my sister and I were—perhaps because, unlike say some hunks of Parmigiano-Reggiano, mozarella is not strongly flavored enough to stand up to the meats, pickled veggies, etc.
My dad—a bit of a connoisseur of Italian meats—thought it overall so-so, but he did take what he didn’t eat home in a doggie bag for later!
My sister ordered the “Polpetta Gigante”—“Giant Meatball with Ricotta Canelloni and Marinara” (I would have ordered it if she hadn’t—I could never turn down a “giant meatball”) and loved it. The meatball was indeed giant, but evenly cooked, gently spiced and delightful, as was the cannelloni.
This time remembering to follow Josh’s dictum, I had the Chicken Breast alla Parmigiana with Tagliatelle. I was impressed by this simple dish—in particular with how hot and crisp the breading was even under the cheese and sauce.
Having learned earlier that day how much work it was to push someone around in the parks in a wheelchair, we were all too tired for dessert…
The kitchen in Trattoria al Forno is right there (as it was in the past restaurants that occupied this spot) and the various dining spaces are themed to show the growth over a time of a family’s hospitality into all the spaces of their home. You are unlikely to notice this, at least in the dark.
By no means a destination restaurant, even so we really liked Trattoria al Forno. It’s better suited to typical family dining for most than any of the other BoardWalk options, but also good enough for a lower-priced adult date-night venue.
I’ll definitely be back—and next time, I’ll try an on-menu soup—and all the desserts!!
(Josh’s review here on easyWDW.com has more and better pictures, plus experience with other menu items. Check it out!)
February 23, 2015 6 Comments
CINDERELLA AND HER FAMILY AT 1900 PARK FARE
Dinner at 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is one of three princess meals at Walt Disney World, and if it had a better setting it might be the best.
Each of these two presents a boatload of princesses and a fun setting–Akershus in the banquet hall of a medieval fort, and Cinderella’s Royal Table inside her castle at the Magic Kingdom.
Cinderella’s Royal Table, however, is wildly expensive and reservations are hard to get.
Akershus is more reasonably priced, but requires a visit to Epcot, which otherwise at the moment has not much of interest to the younger kids who most avidly want to meet the princesses.
Dinner at 1900 Park Fare is about the same price as Akershus, has much better food than either, and, since it’s in a hotel, does not require using a park ticket.
1900 Park Fare is on the first floor of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, entered through its spectacular lobby. The Grand Floridian is on the resort monorail loop, just outside the Magic Kingdom. To get there from the Magic Kingdom, take either the boat at the right (as you are facing away from the park) or if it has long lines (it’s a small boat, built on the classic Morgan 40 hull), the resort monorail. Take the monorail back.
In the undistinguished and windowless space–the ambiance is the only negative of 1900 Park Fare–two character meals are served, one with Pooh and British friends (including from UKIP) at breakfast, and Cinderella and her family at dinner.
Here’s the scoop on both from our book:
Dinner begins with a photo session outside–that’s older son Ted and his girlfriend, Danielle. I ducked this photo–but no others…
No character joins this initial photo session, unlike at Cinderella’s Royal Table, where Cinderella appears, or Akershus, where your greeting photo is with Belle.
At dinner, you will be visited by, and can get autographs from and photos with…
…Prince Charming. That’s Danielle to the right. My job is to introduce girlfriends to Disney World. When I told Danielle she’d be meeting Cinderella at dinner, she said “Dave, you know how to make a girl’s dreams come true.”
This is now the unofficial motto of the site.
Cinderella also dances with Prince Charming, and plays with all those who show in princess garb–see the image at the top of the page!
There will be a lot of little girls in princess garb at this meal, but it may be the most everybody-friendly princess meal at Disney World, because the step-family are a bunch of comically hostile smart-alecks, making interaction with them fun for all who aren’t already swooning at Prince Charming.
And the food? This is the best buffet at Disney World. See the details in the capsule review above. There’s several hot stations…
…a carving station, several cold stations, a kids buffet, and a dessert table.
My plate shots turned out even worse than usual, but here’s the result of one of several trips to the buffet line…
…and here’s another.
The food is better than at either Akershus or Cinderella’s Royal Table. While there’s not the parade of princesses you’ll find at those, for many families the comic step-Tremaines more than make up for that. The setting is not as nice as either, but the Grand Floridian overall is a lovely place to visit–and does not require a ticket day to be spent. And the price is similar to Akershus, and much less than Cinderella’s Royal Table.
For first-timers it remains my third-recommended princess meal. But for returning visitors–or families with only older boy children–it is decidedly worth a visit!
November 4, 2014 5 Comments
A couple of my imaginary internet friends have published detailed reviews/overviews of the offerings at this year’s Epcot International Food And Wine Festival, which still has about another month to go.
- While Josh’s material starts here, there’s also a PDF of all his stuff linked to from here.
- …And my friend Kristen has a bunch of Food and Wine stuff linked to from here
Check them out!
October 12, 2014 No Comments