Dining

The Art of Mastering Disney World Restaurants

Say no to the dining plan and yes to a Dole Whip with dark rum
Where to Eat in Disney World
Photo: Erik Aggie via Pixabay

The Happiest Place on Earth isn't really known for its food. That's mainly due to its popularity—with millions visiting each year, whatever’s served has to please a wide range of palates. And while in practice that often means salty and sometimes bland, if you know where to go, you can, indeed, have a great experience. As someone who has been to Disney World more times than she can count, here are my recommendations. 

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Magic Kingdom

 

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Best quick service: Snack kiosks tend to be better than quick-service restaurants here. Everyone loves Dole Whip, but the citrus swirl (vanilla ice cream with a little orange slush) at Sunshine Tree Terrace is an underrated treat.

Best sit-down: Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, where you can feast on head-on shrimp and fried whole fish.

Epcot

Best quick service: Although it has the ambience of an 80s mall food court, Sunshine Seasons at The Land counters the rich food elsewhere with fresh salads, vegetarian and vegan fare, and simple grilled meats.

Best sit-downs: Le Cellier in Canada is popular for its steaks, though the poutine options could be meals in themselves. If you can't get a reservation, opt for Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco and dine on platters of braised meats.

Hollywood Studios

Best quick service: Backlot Express has a familiar theme park/fast-food menu of burgers and nuggets, but its Star Wars twist is what sets it apart. Don’t miss the Darth Vader chicken and waffles.

Best sit-down: The Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant has a fabulous 1940s atmosphere, but the entrées are bland. Instead, sit in the outdoor lounge and order some apps, which tend to be much better.

Animal Kingdom

 

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Best quick service: Flame Tree Barbecue is serviceable as far as theme park barbecue goes.

Best sit-downs: Tiffins, an Asian-Latin-African restaurant with interesting options like Ethiopian coffee butter-infused lamb loin. Got kids? The Tusker House has an African-inspired buffet and tableside visits from Mickey and friends. Then, get a Dole Whip with coconut or dark rum at Tamu Tamu Refreshments.

Disney Springs

 

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Best quick service: Disney Springs gets supremely crowded, but the Disney Food Trucks usually have short waits for tacos, sandwiches, snacks and cocktails.

Best sit-downs: Since I have limited experience here, I asked frequent Disney World visitor and vlogger TheTimTracker for his recommendations. According to him, the farm-to-fork Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' and Boathouse, a yacht club-inspired resto that serves family-size steakhouse fare, are both solid options.

Pro Tips Across the Kingdom

 Hate crowds? Go to a resort! This hack especially works at lunchtime, when everyone is at the parks—you can eat at the restaurant of your choice without a reservation.

 Skip the meal plan. The Disney meal plan is a prepaid option that gives you credits for snacks, as well as quick-service and sit-down meals. The value is there only if you can actually eat all of the food you paid for, and if the menu you're ordering from is the same price as your credits.

 Make reservations. The rise of the meal plan means that most theme park sit-down restaurants require reservations, especially for character meals. If you're staying at a Disney resort, you can book tables up to 180 days before you arrive.

 Know where to booze. Epcot has gotten most of the buzz for its Drink around the World program, but Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom offer bar carts, kiosks and counters aplenty.

Brie Dyas is a contributing writer for Tasting Table and an avid collector of your grandmother's fine china. You can find her occasionally sharing photos on Instagram at @briedyas.

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