When one plans their trip to Walt Disney World, an excessive amount of attention and anticipation is given to the major experiences: what parks to go to, what attractions are must-do’s, and what resort to stay at. Little consideration is given to the restaurants, with the exception of whether or not one will plan a character meal for the little ones. In fact, “theme park food” often has a bad reputation of being nothing but fried foods and soda that make one feel sluggish by the end of the day. However, this is a misconception when it comes to Walt Disney World restaurants, which are an experience in themselves. While it is certainly possible to live off a diet of hamburgers, chicken fingers, and fries for a week, there is also an abundance of eateries that offer a kaleidoscope of flavors that should be on every guest’s bucket list.
6 – Le Cellier
Located in the cool, dry wine cellars beneath Epcot’s Canada pavilion, Le Cellier is one of the best places at Walt Disney World to get a steak. With a small menu that offers fresh seafood, AAA tenderloin, and USDA prime cut steak, this restaurant is an excellent option for those that desire a classier meal during their visit to World Showcase. True to its theming, a variety of vintage fine Canadian wines are also available for purchase.
5 – Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue/ Spirit of Aloha
Editor’s Note: At this time, both Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review and Spirit of Aloha dinner are temporarily unavailable.
Walt Disney World is all about entertainment. But this entertainment is so much more than rides or a twelve-minute show in a 3D or musical theater. A handful of dinner shows exist at Walt Disney World which seamlessly blends showstopping performance with delicious food. The most popular is the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. This show features vaudeville-esque performances, including ragtime piano, sing-alongs, and corny jokes, all while guests gorge themselves on an all-you-care-to-eat family-style meal featuring fried chicken, cornbread, baked beans, and strawberry shortcake. At Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, guests can enjoy the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, featuring traditional songs, fire dancing, and games from the dozens of Polynesian islands. These shows provide not only excellent food but fun that the whole family can enjoy together.
4 – Boma
Walt Disney World is an excellent place for those with adventurous palates or those looking to expand their repertoire of flavors. Several restaurants throughout the property offer ethnic dining experiences with food and theming authentic to the larger story of the park, land, or pavilion. One of the most popular of these restaurants is located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Boma–Flavors of Africa. This all-you-care-to-eat buffet is themed after an African marketplace and features dishes from more than fifty African countries, including Turkey Bobotie, couscous, Yassa-style salmon, and peanut rice. For those a little less adventurous, this restaurant also features some family favorites, such as macaroni and cheese, penne pasta in marinara, and chicken nuggets. For the kids-at-heart, Boma also features authentic adult beverages, including beer from Kenya and Morocco.
3 – California Grill
While being in the midst of Disney’s parks, resorts and attractions allow for a deeper appreciation of the fine details created by Imagineers, there is something spectacular about having a view of the property from a high elevation to appreciate the property’s magnitude, something offered only at a few select locations including Disney Springs’ Aerophile, the queues at Blizzard Beach, and the peak of Expedition Everest. However, one of Walt Disney World’s premier dining locations also offers a magnificent view of the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon, especially in the hours after dark. In fact, when it is time for fireworks, the wait staff of the California Grill offers to keep guests’ food warm while they step out onto the balcony and enjoy the show with the soundtrack piped in through nearby speakers. This memorable, unique dining experience is one guests will not quickly forget.
2 – Be Our Guest
One of the most exciting parts of visiting Walt Disney World, especially for first-time guests, is seeing their favorite Disney stories come to life. Imagineers don’t just make guests passive observers in these beloved stories; guests are fully immersed in the story being told, becoming characters in their own right. This process has been perfected with Fantasyland’s Be Our Guest restaurant, where guests are invited into the Beast’s castle to enjoy a meal in either the Grand Ballroom, the West Wing, and the Castle Gallery. The food is delicious (especially the breakfast) and dining inside the enchanted castle makes guests feel as though they have truly stepped out of the French countryside and into the story of Belle and the Beast.
1 – Space 220
The newest restaurant on many guests’ bucket lists is located in Epcot’s World Discovery: Space 220, which is adjacent to Mission: Space. Much like Be Our Guest, Space 220 is an immersive dining experience, inviting visitors to board a space elevator and be launched into orbit where a floating restaurant space station awaits them. Upon arriving in the dining room, guests find themselves surrounded by elaborate theming, including a seemingly endless hydroponics greenhouse and a multi-tiered seating area surrounded by “windows” overlooking planet Earth silently spinning below. While the sights and experience are enough to draw guests, the fare of the prix fixe menu is fabulous too: a signature beef hamburger, flat iron steak, seared tuna, short ribs, and various pasta dishes.
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
Most guests, especially repeat visitors, typically don’t go out of their way to think about or plan which quick-service restaurants they will visit while on a typical Disney trip. And if they do, there certainly aren’t any that they put on their vacation bucket list. However, anytime this author goes to the Magic Kingdom, I always make a point to visit my favorite quick-service dining location, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, located in Tomorrowland. While the food there is nothing special, I do have a particular penchant for Disney chicken fingers and fries, and Cosmic Ray delivers on this front. Not only that, the general atmosphere of the restaurant is just fun to me: the multiple ordering bays, the chrome fixtures everywhere, the fun and futuristic restroom signs, and of course, the entertainment provided by Sonny Eclipse, his amazing astro-organ, and the Space Angels. Not only that but there is always somewhere to sit.
Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe
My wife and I discovered this quick-service dining location during a visit a few years ago. Tucked away in Animal Kingdom’s Asia, the Yak & Yeti Restaurant provides pan-Asian dishes amidst religious statues and artifacts from throughout South Asia. Not wanting to pay to eat at the sit-down restaurant, we were pleased to learn that a quick service option was available right around the corner. We were initially wary of the restaurant, never having indulged in Asian food before. However, we were very pleased to find that we enjoyed the honey chicken and sweet and sour shrimp with fried rice and egg rolls. Now, many years later, we have come to love the food and flavors of south and east Asia, making the Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe a necessary stop during our visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Woody’s Lunch Box
A recent addition to my personal “bucket list for every trip” restaurants, Woody’s Lunch Box, in particular at breakfast time, is near the top of the list. Located in Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this quick-service restaurant offers one of my favorite dishes in all of Walt Disney World: the Breakfast Bowl. This dish features brisket country gravy, scrambled eggs, and green onions, all smothering “potato barrels,” aka tater tots. While my doctors would likely be disappointed that I choose to fill my gullet with something so full of sodium, cholesterol, and carbohydrates, it is vacation after all. This delicious meal, eaten in the shadow of Slinky Dog Dash while sitting on a cute chair “made of” used popsicle sticks and listening to the calls and drum beats of the land’s wandering Green Army Men is only dampened by one thing: the last spoonful.
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