DINING AT DISNEY - Fodor's Walt Disney World with Kids (2015)

Fodor's Walt Disney World with Kids (2015)

Theme-park food used to be a terrifying concept, evoking images of hamburgers and chicken strips. And those are still available, but Disney has made a concerted effort to offer a wide variety of unusual—and yes, even healthy—dining options for families on the go. And when you’re ready to sit down at night and really relax, the variety of specialty full-service restaurants is nothing short of astounding.

There are a bevy of dining options around Walt Disney World, so put your thinking cap on before you leave home. Will you want to concentrate on quick-service (fast-food) options, trying to make the most of your time in the theme parks? Or will you want to relax with a sit-down meal every day? Are you looking to eat healthy or is vacation a time to loosen all restraints? Do your kids want to meet a princess while they dine on mac ’n’ cheese, or would they prefer watching fireworks while enjoying sushi? What’s your idea of the perfect vacation meal?

Disney is prepared to offer it all, and choosing your restaurants will quickly become a big part of the planning process. It’s best to check out food options from home, especially if your party includes picky eaters or those with dietary restrictions. For example, the best vegetarian quick-service meal in the Magic Kingdom is Columbia Harbor House’s Lighthouse Sandwich. Knowing that in advance means a quick and easy stop in the middle of your touring. Not knowing it can mean you’re searching for something suitable at 1:30 on a busy Sunday when everyone is famished. Not so fun.

Full-Service Restaurants at Disney

The biggest change in the Walt Disney World restaurant system in the past decade has been the Disney Dining Plan, which allows guests to include meals and snacks in their vacation packages and, thus, create the equivalent of an all-inclusive resort stay. The dining plan makes more sense for some families than others, but it has an effect on every family that visits Walt Disney World, even those who opt not to include it with their tickets.

Why? Because the popularity of the dining plan means that more restaurant reservations are being made and that they’re being made earlier than ever. Unless you book your dinners and character meals well in advance, you may find yourself unable to get into the most popular restaurants, simply because families on the dining plan have beaten you to the punch. There’s still a chance you can get a last-minute reservation if you’re not picky about when and where you eat, but your selection will be curtailed. So even families opting not to participate in the dining plan still need to make their restaurant reservations as early as possible.

About the Disney Dining Plan

The Disney Dining Plan has been a runaway success—so much so that it’s more important than ever to make advance reservations for character meals. The reason is this: All families on the plan will be eating at least one full-service meal each day, which in itself means more general dining demand, since in the past many budget-conscious families stuck to counter-service meals. More families are also going for character meals under the plan; many of the character meals only count as one full-service credit, but others, such as those in Cinderella Castle, require you to combine two credits. Either way, it means that because character dining is more affordable under the plan, there are more people than ever trying to book those seats.

The fact that the system allows guests to combine meals if they want to try a signature dining venue means that people who otherwise wouldn’t have considered the California Grill or other upscale spots are trying to get in. The result? Guests on the Disney Dining Plan are flooding the full-service restaurants in such great numbers that all guests—including those who aren’t on the plan or who aren’t staying at Disney hotels—are feeling the squeeze.

Consider the experience of this grandmother from Rhode Island: “We have visited Disney World many times and have certain restaurants we know we enjoy. For our upcoming visit we decided against the dining plan but imagine my surprise when I called for reservations two months in advance and found that we could not get into eight of our ten favorites. Some of them were giving us ridiculous times like 10 pm for dinner, and others were simply saying there was nothing available at all. We were crushed!”

We’ll go into this in more detail later, but here are the basics: The standard Disney Dining Plan includes one table-service meal, one quick-service meal, and one snack per person per day. If you plan carefully, you can have plenty of culinary adventures by using two of your table-service credits to experience (a) princess character dining, (b) a dinner show, or (c) one of Disney’s signature restaurants, such as Cítricos, Flying Fish, or the California Grill. When you purchase the dining plan, you’ll receive a brochure outlining all of your options.

Here’s the other side of the coin. “We were all about the credit combining,” said a dad from Texas. “On a couple of days we ate fast food all three meals, so each member of our family had two table-service credits left over. We combined those for our breakfast in Cinderella Castle, which turned out to be a major cost savings. I almost passed out when I ran the numbers for how much that breakfast would have cost us otherwise.”

The basic dining plan is the most popular, but there are other options. It’s certainly possible to upgrade to the deluxe or wine-and-dine plans, but if your kids are young it’s unlikely you’ll want to spend that much time in restaurants. “In order to make sure our investment in the deluxe plan paid off, we scheduled lots of table-service meals,” wrote one mother. “By the second day my husband was complaining that he felt like a slave to all of our reservations and we ended up canceling quite a few, which was disappointing. But we decided as first-time visitors we’d be better off spending that time in the parks.”


Disney’s quick-service restaurant hours are sometimes changed or shortened during the off-season, but signature restaurants are always open.

At the other end of the spectrum is the quick-service plan, which includes two quick-service meals and a snack per person per day. This plan is about 30% cheaper than the standard one, and some families prefer it, especially those with preschoolers who quickly grow impatient at full-service restaurants.

Once you’re in Orlando, your dining plan info is loaded onto your ticket/resort ID card or MagicBand, and the system keeps track of how you’re doing—in fact, each time you use the card your server will give you a receipt showing the remaining balance. Remember that your number of meals is tied to the number of nights (not days) you’re staying. If you remain all day on your last day, you’ll probably run out of meals.

Making Reservations

The system works like this: A reservation doesn’t hold the restaurant to a specific time for seating you, but rather guarantees you the next available table after you arrive. Let’s say you made reservations for four people at 7 pm. When you show up at 7, your table won’t be waiting with your name on it, but you will be given the next available table for four. Waits average between 10 and 20 minutes, but it’s still far better than walking in with no prior arrangement.

But the reservations policy has also had some unintended side effects. Families not sure of exactly where they would be each night were making multiple reservations for each evening, resulting in a 30% no-show rate for many restaurants. The restaurants, thinking they were full, were turning away people and losing money. It didn’t take Disney long to amend the policy. Now there’s a new cancellation policy at the upscale restaurants and character meals. A credit card is required to make the reservation, and a $10 fee is charged for no-shows. If you cancel the reservation in advance, the fee is waived.

A mom from New Jersey offered this counsel: “Get to your reservation a few minutes early. They’ll seat you in the order that you arrive and check in, so someone arriving at 5:50 for a 6 pm reservation gets the jump on the other six people who have reservations for the same time.”

How do you make reservations? You can either call 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) or make them online up to 180 days in advance of the day for which you want reservations. Admittedly, this requires some planning. Ideally, you’ll sketch out a general schedule for each day and evening of your vacation, so you’ll know that on Tuesday you’re having dinner at Epcot and on Saturday you’re having a character breakfast.

If you’ve arrived at Disney without dining reservations, you can try to get last-minute slots by calling 407/939-3463 as soon as you know where you want to eat. Call with your cell phone while you’re in line for a ride, or, if you’re staying at an on-site hotel, you can press the dining button on your hotel-room phone. You won’t get Saturday-night seating at California Grill by waiting until you get there, but if you’re flexible about where and when you eat, finding last-minute reservations is possible. The My Disney Experience app is also helpful for finding restaurants on the fly.

A mom from Virginia added, “Even if the system tells you there’s no availability, you can always just show up at the restaurant and talk to the hostess. What the dining line and Guest Relations [and app] can’t know is if there have been any no-shows that night, but the hostess certainly knows, and sometimes they can work you in. Using this method on a recent trip, we were seated at two restaurants that the reservations guide had assured us were totally booked.”

There are quite a few buffets at Disney World and, for families, they solve certain problems: The food is available immediately, and there are plenty of options for picky eaters. But consider working some full-service venues into your week as well. As one mother from Oregon wrote, “The fast-food and buffet venues have the same hectic atmosphere as the parks—you still have to stand in a line, carry things, and try to keep an eye on the kids in the meantime. And they’re so loud, especially the character meals! We had an elegant, wonderfully relaxing lunch at the Brown Derby one day, and my husband said it was the perfect getaway from theme-park chaos—almost as if we’d gone back to our hotel room for a break.”

If you’re worried that the kids will get antsy during a full-service dinner, rest assured that Disney is all about getting the food out fast. The kiddie menus have games and puzzles, and waiters will bring out crayons, crackers, and drinks with lids to keep the kids busy while you wait.

Finding Healthy Food

Disney has removed trans fats from all of its meals, making it easier to feel better about grabbing snacks. You’ll also find health-conscious choices in the kids’ meals—fruit instead of chips and milk or water instead of soda, for instance. Healthy choices are clearly indicated on all menus, including quick service, and there is at least one low-fat and one vegetarian entrée at every full-service restaurant.

Guests give Disney chefs major (trans-fat-free) brownie points for their willingness to address specific dietary needs. The chefs at full-service restaurants prefer advance warning (you can note any special dietary requests when you make your reservations) but are also pretty adept at meeting guests’ needs with shorter notice, as evidenced by this New Jersey mother’s story. “I’ve been on a weight-loss plan for several months and am happy to have lost 50 pounds. But the very thought of going to Disney World terrified me. I pictured nothing but grease and sugar. Our very first meal was at the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood, and when I asked the server a question about how something was prepared she said ‘Just a minute.’ Almost immediately the chef came out and he practically created a new entrée for me on the spot. After that, I asked to speak to the chef every time we sat down for a meal. My son started calling me ‘The Dining Room Diva.’ ”

Another mother wrote, “Both of my sons, ages 4 and 7, are allergic to dairy, eggs, and nuts, and dining out is usually a challenge for us. We had reserved a character dinner at the Crystal Palace, and after I spoke to the chef about our dietary restrictions, he couldn’t have been more wonderful. He walked me through the buffet pointing out which foods would be safe and which were risky, and he made a special batch of pasta just for our boys. For dessert he brought them banana splits using the same soy ice cream we buy at home. They were in their glory!”

Rating the Disney Restaurants

The restaurant descriptions that make up the bulk of this chapter cover only full-service sit-down restaurants. We decided not to overwhelm you with full descriptions of all of the 100-plus food-service venues throughout Walt Disney World and to focus on restaurants where you’re apt to be spending more time and more money and will thus have higher expectations.

Definition of Quick-Guide Ratings

Food Quality

Exceptionally good

Tasty food

Okay in a pinch

Price for an Adult Meal (Main Course plus Appetizer)

$$$ Expensive; about $30 and up

$$ Moderate; about $15-$30

$ Inexpensive; about $15


In most cases, full-service restaurants at Walt Disney World draw average-size crowds. In high season most will fill to capacity, so you should make reservations. If you’re touring in the off-season or dining at off-hours, you should be able to make reservations at the last minute or be seated as a walk-in. (But at Walt Disney World there are still some restaurants where you simply will not get a table by showing up at the last minute without a reservation.)

For each restaurant, we have indicated the length of time in advance you should make a reservation. However, some restaurants do not accept reservations unless you have a party of 10 or more. Instead, you can show up at an off time and get a beeper, then shop nearby while you wait for a table. For these restaurants only, we indicate “Reservations not accepted.”

Best Quick-Service Restaurants


Be Our Guest, the newest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, is delicious, elegant—and crowded. One visitor had this to say: “Service was slow, and the main dining room is noisy. But the food—mostly French-influenced soups and sandwiches—is good, and the atmosphere is nothing short of amazing!” To beat out the lines, visit https://beourguestlunch.disney.go.com to get a FastPass+ for lunch. Note that the quick-service menu is only for lunch; at dinner, Be Our Guest turns into a sit-down restaurant.


The Boulangerie & Pâtisserie has always been a popular spot for delicious pastries and sandwiches, although the experience of dining there was marred by the almost insanely cramped location. A recent expansion has made the line more manageable and created additional seating, thus returning the patisserie to the top of our Epcot quick-service list.


One of the ironies of the Hollywood Studios is that it has some of the most interesting and cleverly themed full-service restaurants of any park, but the quick-service offerings have always been rather blah. Pizza Planet offers good standard pizza and fast service in a setting that will keep the kids happy.


Smoked ribs, chicken, and sandwiches and—best of all—a large shady patio for dining.

Suitability for Kids

These ratings, found in the chapter’s Quick Guide, will tell you how family-friendly a particular restaurant is. Even at Walt Disney World, some restaurants are not appropriate for kids.

The restaurant is informal, with food choices designed to appeal to kids. There may be some sort of entertainment going on, or perhaps the setting itself is interesting.

This restaurant is casual and family-oriented.

This is one of WDW’s more adult restaurants, with sophisticated menu choices and leisurely service.

Meals Served

B is for breakfast, L is for lunch, and D is for dinner.

Magic Kingdom Restaurants



Tucked away in the new Fantasyland, Be Our Guest doesn’t look that imposing at first. But once you step through the castle doors, prepare to be amazed by the elegant chandeliers, the detailed statues, and an exact replica of the unforgettable ballroom from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The West Wing is a real treat, covered with slashed tapestries, ripped curtains, and Beast’s magic rose, which loses a petal amid simulated thunder every 20 minutes. The food gives a nod to its French setting, but there are plenty of options for kids or picky eaters. Due to its popularity, this is the only restaurant available for FastPass+ in the entire Disney system. Note that this is also the only place in the Magic Kingdom where beer and wine are served, but they are only served when Be Our Guest becomes a full-service restaurant at night. Bon appétit! Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 6 months L, D.



High amid the spires of Cinderella Castle in Fantasyland, this restaurant has the most glamorous setting in the Magic Kingdom. The food, which is expensive, is admittedly elegantly presented—although the three-star rating is more the result of the overall experience than the cuisine. Cinderella’s Royal Table is the home of the princess character meals, the toughest ticket in all of Disney World. A mother of two from Virginia reported, “It took us three days to get through the phone line for the princess breakfast in the Magic Kingdom, but it was well worth it! My 4-year-old daughter wore her Cinderella dress, and she loved all the special attention she received. It was a year ago and she still talks about it.” “Too magical for words,” agreed the mom of a five-year-old in Maine. Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 6 months B, L, D.



Winnie the Pooh and friends circulate among diners—and everybody agrees that that’s cool, but there’s a real difference of opinion on the quality of the food. Consider this report from a Texas mother of two: “In general I dislike buffets, but the food here was far better than I expected, and our children absolutely loved the ice-cream-sundae bar. (Even though things got so messy that we did have to change their shirts after lunch!) The Crystal Palace would be a good choice even if it didn’t have the Pooh characters.” But a mother from Florida was less pleased, writing, “You might want to reevaluate your rating on this one. We showed up starving but hardly anyone, including the children, found anything on the buffet they were willing to eat.” Magic Kingdom, Main Street 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 monthsB, L, D.



In Liberty Square and decorated in a style reminiscent of Colonial Williamsburg, the Tavern serves salads, sandwiches, and New England clam chowder at lunch. The evening menu is an all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving-style feast with turkey and stuffing, flank steak, mac and cheese, and other family favorites. Magic Kingdom, Liberty Square 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months L, D.



The salads, sandwiches, and burgers here are very filling—but also very bland. The restaurant has a wide selection of treats from the Ice Cream Parlor next door. Magic Kingdom, Main Street 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months L, D.



Located in the Main Street Hub, this thoroughly enjoyable restaurant is dedicated to Lady and the Tramp, with scenes from the film dotting the walls and a statue of the canine romantics in the center. The cuisine, like that of the café where Tramp wooed Lady, is classic Italian, and the portions are generous. Magic Kingdom, Main Street 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months L, D.

Epcot Restaurants



This lovely castlelike restaurant in the Norway pavilion has a large buffet with some Norwegian food as well as some American staples. Even better, Akershus offers princess-theme character dining at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which takes some of the pressure off the popular Cinderella Castle breakfast in the Magic Kingdom. But you’ll still need to make reservations 180 days in advance. Epcot, Norway 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 6 months B, L, D.



There’s plenty of room to move about in this German beer hall where yodelers and an oompah-pah band get the whole crowd involved in singing and dancing. The all-you-can-eat buffet features traditional Bavarian dishes: bratwurst, spaetzle, and various salads. Epcot, Germany 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.



One whole wall of this restaurant is glass, giving you a remarkable view of the Seas’ tank. Watching the fish keeps the kids entertained while parents browse the menu, which features, naturally, upscale seafood dishes. Epcot, The Seas 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months D.



Easily recognizable American dishes make this a good choice for younger children. The restaurant is on a revolving platform, allowing you to observe scenes from the Living with the Land boat ride below. There’s character dining in the evening. Epcot, The Land 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 6 months L, D.



One of the newer additions to the World Showcase, this restaurant offers more upscale Mexican cuisine than its sister restaurant, San Angel Inn Restaurante, featuring parrillada (mixed grills), short ribs, and create-your-own tacos. The best part of the dining experience is the perfect view the restaurant offers of the fireworks during IllumiNations! Epcot, Mexico 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months D.



Le Cellier is one of the most popular restaurants in Epcot, perhaps because there are relatively few steak houses in Disney World. The steaks here are excellent, as is the salmon, and the desserts are as big as the prairies of Alberta. Epcot, Canada 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 6 months L, D.



Modeled after the sidewalk cafés of Paris, this restaurant bustles pleasantly. The classical French menu is a bit hit-or-miss in quality, but the waiters are charming, and you can gaze out at the World Showcase action. With any luck, you might even spot the charming Remy from Ratatouille, certainly one of the less frequently seen characters in the park. Epcot, France 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.



Monsieur Paul, named after famed chef Paul Bocuse, is quieter, calmer, and more elegant than its sister restaurant, Chefs de France. It’s also a tad too civilized for kids under 12 but, thus, perfect for an adult night out. Tucked away and accessible only by a staircase, Monsieur Paul is only open at night, when it offers beautiful views of the World Showcase Lagoon. Expect classic French cuisine—such as black-truffle soup, herb-crusted rack of lamb, and Grand Marnier soufflé—a wonderful wine selection, and Continental service. Epcot, France 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months D.



Nine Dragons has taken the concept of an exhibition kitchen to new levels. Easily recognizable Chinese dishes are on the menu, along with more exotic offerings from five different cooking stations. Epcot, China 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.



Ready for exotic surroundings and unusual entertainment? Kids enjoy the belly dancers, and the ladies sometimes invite them to enter into the act. The unfamiliarity of the food may pose a problem, but if the kids can be persuaded to give it a try, they may find that roasted chicken tastes pretty much the same the world over. Epcot, Morocco 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.



This charming bar and restaurant has live entertainment, friendly service, and upscale pub grub such as fish-and-chips and meat pies. If you eat on the patio, you have a great view of the World Showcase Lagoon. Epcot, United Kingdom 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months L, D.



A beautiful location inside the Mayan pyramid of the Mexico pavilion, with the Rio del Tiempo murmuring in the background, makes this restaurant a charming choice. The service is swift and friendly, and older kids can browse among the market stalls of the pavilion or even ride the Gran Fiesta Tour while waiting for their food. Epcot, Mexico 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months L, D.



This new spot, which opened in Spring 2014, serves Mediterranean small plates in a waterside setting in Morocco. Look for lamb sliders, calamari, and stuffed grape leaves. Epcot, Morocco 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months L, D.



In the Japan pavilion, Teppan Edo offers grilled specialties at large tables, in front of which the chefs slice and dice in the best Benihana tradition. Upscale options such as Wagyu and Kobe beef are available. It’s terrifically entertaining for the kids—the chefs often jazz up the presentation even more in their honor—and the stir-fried, simply prepared food is a hit with all ages. A father of four from Ohio wrote a rave review: “Japan is a good choice if you want to eat out in Epcot with kids. The chefs toss food and catch it in their hats, make silly jokes like throwing the butter and saying ‘butterfly.’ And one time when we were in, they had a lady making origami animals for the children. Plus, since they cook at the table, you get your food really fast.” Epcot, Japan 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months L, D.


Choose one of these great restaurants for a parents’ night out away from the kids:

California Grill



Monsieur Paul

Victoria & Albert’s



Connected to Teppan Edo is a delightful sushi bar called Tokyo Dining, where you’ll find great Japanese food without the fun but admittedly time-consuming ceremony of the full-fledged restaurant. Grilled steak and chicken are available for any sushi-shy members of the party. Epcot, Japan 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.



Expect authentic Italian food, equally authentic waiters, and a lovely setting, which, because it’s tucked away in the far reaches of the Italy pavilion, actually feels a little secluded, at least by Disney World standards. The food is top-notch, especially the calamari. Epcot, Italy 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months L, D.



This is certainly not your neighborhood pizza place—unless you live in Naples. The pizzas emerge from giant wood-burning ovens—each oven named after a volcano—and they’re incredibly tasty. The truffle-oil pizza alone is enough to induce a swoon. You sit at large tables, and the waiters bustle, so Via Napoli isn’t exactly fine dining or a break from the stress of the theme parks, but the food is excellent and reasonably priced, and the servers are adorable. Epcot, Italy 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.

Hollywood Studios Restaurants



With its kitschy decor and ditzy servers, this restaurant is almost an attraction in itself. Meat loaf, macaroni, milk shakes, and other comfort foods are served in a 1950s-style kitchen, while dozens of TVs blare clips from classic shows in the background. “Hi kids,” says your waitress, pulling up a chair to the Formica-top table. “You didn’t leave your bikes in the driveway, did you? Let me see those hands.” Assuming you pass her clean-fingernails inspection, “Mom” will go on to advise you on your food choices. “I’ll bring peas with that. Vegetables are good for you.” The camp is lost on young kids, but they love the no-frills food and the fact that Mom brings around crayons and coloring books, then hangs their artwork on the front of a refrigerator with magnets. It’s parents, raised on reruns of the sitcoms that the restaurant spoofs, who really adore this restaurant. “You just have to get in the mood of the place,” advised a mother of one from Illinois. “The whole routine about being on a TV show is very corny and very funny, and the servers are great. We liked the food (chicken, pot roast, steak, salads, the basics), but when we left, my 8-year-old daughter said ‘That was a good show,’ and I think that’s exactly the way you need to think of it.” Hollywood Studios, Echo Lake 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 6 months L, D.



This large, attractive, art-deco “buffeteria” serves classic American dishes at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Lines move quickly, and the variety makes this a good choice for families. It’s the only character-dining venue in Disney World to feature characters from the popular Disney Junior television shows. That alone guarantees that you’ll find plenty of toddlers and preschoolers at every meal. Hollywood Studios, Echo Lake 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months B, L, D.



A signature Cobb salad as well as veal, pasta, and fresh seafood are served at the Derby, where, just as you’d expect, caricatures of movie stars line the walls. The food is quite sophisticated considering that you’re inside a theme park, and the restaurant itself is elegant and lovely, like stepping back into Hollywood in its heyday. The wine program, which offers suggested pairings by the glass with each entrée, is one of the best in Disney World. Hollywood Studios, Hollywood Boulevard 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months L, D.



This restaurant is tucked away near the Muppet*Vision 3D plaza, and the out-of-the-way location means that you can sometimes squeeze in without advance reservations. Expect a casual New York feel and quick service. Mama’s serves gourmet flatbreads from a wood-burning oven and a wide variety of pasta dishes; the penne alla vodka is a favorite. Hollywood Studios, Streets of America 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.



At least as campy as the ’50s Prime Time Café, the Sci-Fi seats you in vintage cars while hokey movie clips run on a giant screen. Offerings range from drive-in staples like milk shakes and popcorn all the way to seafood and St. Louis-style ribs. Older kids adore the setting and the funny waiters; in fact, they often get so absorbed in the old movie clips that they sit quietly while parents relax in the backseat. Younger kids, in contrast, might be spooked. “Only okay food but really very fun,” said one mom, while another wrote, “My 4-year-old was so freaked out by the atmosphere we had to leave early.” Hollywood Studios, Commissary Lane 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.

Animal Kingdom Restaurants



The jungle motif and large aquariums make the Rainforest Café fun for kids. The food is nothing special but tasty enough, with an emphasis on appetizers and other simple meals, like burgers, sandwiches, and huge salads. There are locations at both the Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney. Animal Kingdom, Main Entrance 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not accepted B, L, D.



The Tusker House is a favorite with families, offering buffets with a lot of variety and a popular character breakfast in the morning. “We tried this character breakfast when we got closed out of the ones at the Magic Kingdom,” said one dad, “But it turned out to be a real treat. Good food, cute character presentation, and it moved fast—everything we needed.” Animal Kingdom, Africa 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months B, L, D.



This Asian-fusion restaurant in the Asia section offers full-service dining, casual outdoor dining, a full bar, and a beer garden. The food is quite good, and the setting, while campy, is the most adult and relaxing of all the Animal Kingdom restaurants. Animal Kingdom, Asia 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.

Restaurants in the WDW Hotels



The most upscale of the Wilderness Lodge eateries, Artist Point offers Pacific Northwest-theme food in a casual, faux-rustic, setting. The cedar-plank salmon is the house specialty, and the wine list highlights excellent selections from the Pacific Northwest. Wilderness Lodge, 901 Timberline Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months D.



WDW’s only on-site brewpub is a good place to sample new beers and a couple of specialty ales. The food—mostly sandwiches and salads—is pedestrian, but the pleasant patio allows you to take in the action of the BoardWalk while you sip your beer. BoardWalk, 2101 Epcot Resorts Blvd. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not accepted L, D.



Boatwright’s is the only full-service restaurant in Port Orleans, located in the Riverside section. The food is a mixture of Cajun specialties and American classics, and there are some interesting additions, such as a selection of microbrews from New Orleans. The Southern-inspired dessert menu—which includes an excellent pecan pie—rounds out the meal. One word of warning: Since the restaurant is adjacent to the food court and has an open-wall design, it’s always loud. The designation “dining hall” is accurate. Port Orleans, Riverside, 1251 Riverside Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not needed B, D.



This large family restaurant in the Animal Kingdom Lodge offers one of the best breakfast buffets in all of Walt Disney World. You can find the usual American classics, like eggs and pancakes, plus excellent grilled sausage and an outstanding selection of breads and pastries. The dinner buffet features African-inspired dishes, including wonderful grilled meats and a variety of wholesome grain dishes and salads. “The food was fresh and beautifully prepared,” said a mom from Georgia. “Both the kids and the adults loved it.” Animal Kingdom Lodge, 2901 Osceola Pkwy. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months B, D.



Widely acknowledged to be the best restaurant in all of Disney World, California Grill is very popular and always crowded. (One clue to the quality: Disney executives dine here.) “We used two dining plan table-service credits,” reported one mother of three from Alabama, “but it was totally worth it. The only problem is we ate our first meal there and it set the bar so high that nothing else compared. We spent the rest of the vacation saying ‘It’s okay, but it’s not the California Grill.’ ” Not only is the food excellent and stylishly presented, but the views from the top of the Contemporary are unparalleled, especially during the Magic Kingdom fireworks.

Note: Although fabulous to begin with, the California Grill has recently undergone a redesign of both the decor and menu. Disney chefs traveled to Napa and Sonoma to consult with some of the best chefs in the country to make sure the menu reflects authentic California cuisine. And the new layout of the tables and booths ensures even better views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Contemporary Resort, 4600 N. World Dr.407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 6 months D.



Our readers give high marks to this bright and airy eatery in the heart of the Beach Club. It has an excellent seafood buffet at dinner, featuring shrimp, clams, mussels, and a couple of landlubber choices. The breakfast buffet, during which the characters, dressed in adorable old-fashioned bathing attire, circulate among the diners, is very popular. Consider this report from a grandmother of four from Ohio: “We wouldn’t consider it a trip to Walt Disney World without a stop at the Beach Club’s Cape May Café. It’s a family tradition, and the food is wonderful. We always leave the theme parks in the afternoon to take a nap, and Cape May is the perfect place to eat dinner before you go back into Epcot to see IllumiNations.” Beach Club Resort, 1700 Epcot Resorts Blvd. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months B, D.



This restaurant, off the main drag in the Yacht Club Resort, serves fish, chicken, and beef in a pleasant nautical-theme room. The enormous breakfasts offer hearty eaters the chance to load up for a day of touring. Yacht Club Resort, 1700 Epcot Resorts Blvd. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months B, L, D.



The Contemporary Resort is one of the best places in Disney World for a character breakfast, lunch, or dinner. As Mickey and the crew wander among the diners, the monorail whisks by overhead. The buffet has classic American breakfast food in the morning and family-pleasing standards like pasta, chicken, and roast beef in the evening, plus a sundae bar for the kids. A father of three from New Jersey echoed the reports of many of our readers: “Chef Mickey’s is definitely the way to go if you want to see the basic old-fashioned Disney characters like Mickey and Goofy. The buffet was great, and the characters spent plenty of time with our sons.” Contemporary Resort, 4600 N. World Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 6 months B, D.



Cítricos offers Mediterranean cuisine in the Grand Floridian, and the restaurant is known for its outstanding wine list. Up to 20 labels are available by the glass, with a specific wine paired with each appetizer and entrée on the menu. A beautiful setting with consistently delightful cuisine, Cítricos is a real treat for a parents’ night out. Grand Floridian, 4401 Floridian Way 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months D.



Anchoring one end of the BoardWalk, the ESPN Club is better known for broadcasting sports events than for its food. “Our teenaged sons loved going to the ESPN Club on a Sunday during football season,” wrote one mom of three from Pennsylvania. “The place was packed with people from all over the country, all wearing jerseys and screaming for their teams. We should have packed our Eagles jerseys—next time we’ll know!” Menu choices include buffalo wings, burgers, nachos, and, of course, plenty of beer. There’s an arcade next door to entertain the kids. BoardWalk, 2101 Epcot Resorts Blvd. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not accepted L, D.



The zany art-deco decor is by Martin Dorf, who also designed the California Grill and Cítricos. The menu is updated frequently but generally includes wonderful seafood, delicious steaks, and excellent risottos. The service is outstanding, even by Disney standards. If you haven’t made reservations, you can always dine at the bar and watch the chefs at work. BoardWalk, 2101 Epcot Resorts Blvd. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months D.



If you’d like a good, solid meal of traditional favorites, simply served, with a pretty view of the Grand Floridian grounds, this place is for you. The menu tilts to the South—fried chicken, local fish, and key lime pie. Grand Floridian, 4401 Floridian Way 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not necessary B, L, D.



This is the largest restaurant in the Swan, and it has a bit of a split personality. In the morning and at lunch it’s an upscale coffee shop. In the evening it becomes Gulliver’s Grill, with more elaborate dining. Weekend character breakfasts are also available, but they don’t get very high marks from our readers. “Overpriced, with so-so food, and even the characters seemed bored,” wrote one mom from Georgia. “Our other character meal was at Chef Mickey’s, and there was no comparison.” Walt Disney World Swan, 1200 Epcot Resorts Blvd. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months B, L, D.



The Swan Resort is home to this recently revamped trattoria, which serves a huge variety of upscale pasta in a pleasant, open setting. Walt Disney World Swan, 1200 Epcot Resorts Blvd. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months D.



Jiko (Swahili for “cooking place”) is the flagship restaurant of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and the menu features contemporary African cuisine with an emphasis on fresh vegetables, grains, and game. Two wood-burning stoves simulate the effect of cooking in the open bush. “Very exotic with wonderful food and a lovely setting,” reported a father of two from New York. “Our server was extremely knowledgeable about the South African wines. We’ll be back!” Animal Kingdom Lodge, 2901 Osceola Pkwy. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months D.



If you love sushi and sashimi, you’ll adore this elegant restaurant in the Swan Resort. Walt Disney World Swan, 1200 Epcot Resorts Blvd. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months D.



The Kona Café offers Pacific Rim food with a tropical emphasis. The crab cakes are delicious, and the desserts alone make the Kona worth the trip. Situated in the Polynesian, this is also one of the best places among all the Magic Kingdom resorts for breakfast. Polynesian Resort, 1600 Seven Seas Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months B, L, D.



Maya Grill, in Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, serves steak, pork, chicken, and seafood with a nuevo Latin touch. Many of the entrées are grilled over an open fire. Sadly, the quality doesn’t always match the variety. Coronado Springs Resort, 1000 W. Buena Vista Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not necessary B, D.



Inside the white octagonal building on the water at the Grand Floridian, Narcoossee’s provides pretty views as well as fresh seafood. As a bonus, you can see the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Grand Floridian, 4401 Floridian Way 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months D.



This large, pleasant Grand Floridian restaurant is appealing to families because it offers character dining and large buffets with kid-pleasing food. Be forewarned—this place is always loud, even when the characters aren’t in attendance. Grand Floridian, 4401 Floridian Way 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months B, D.



This fun, family-friendly place—the name, in fact, means “family” in Hawaiian—is in the Polynesian Resort. ’Ohana specializes in skewered meats, teriyaki- and citrus-based sauces, and tropical fruits and vegetables. The food is prepared in a large, open-fire pit, and there’s often some sort of activity, such as limbo contests, to keep the kids entertained. “This place is a blast,” a mom from North Carolina wrote. “The food is good, and they get it out fast, but the really nice thing is all the activities for the kids, like crazy relay races and hula lessons. We sat down at the table, ordered some of those big tropical umbrella drinks, and just relaxed and watched the kids have a ball.” A mom from Massachusetts confirmed, “The service here is excellent. Our waiter was so busy trying to keep our 1-year-old entertained it was almost like having a babysitter.” Polynesian Resort, 1600 Seven Seas Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months B, D.



Sanaa, which means “artwork” in Swahili, is one of the most beautifully decorated restaurants at Disney World. Located at Kidani Village, the Vacation Club side of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, it also offers diners a view of the animals on the savanna. The food here is African with a strong Indian influence, a nod to the large number of Indians who have emigrated to South Africa, bringing their delicious cuisine with them. A great choice for adventurous guests, it can be less popular with young children or picky eaters. Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village, 2901 Osceola Pkwy. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months D.



The Dolphin’s swankiest steak house is owned by the former Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula. (Nice tie-in!) The restaurant is quite dignified, despite the football theme, and you’ll need an NFL-size appetite to finish the 48-ounce porterhouse or 4-pound lobster. Note: This is not, repeat not, a family restaurant. The menu pointedly states, “No children’s menu available.” Walt Disney World Dolphin, 1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months D.



Shutters, in the Caribbean Beach Resort, is a casual, island-theme restaurant serving prime rib, lamb chops, and jerk chicken. The food is nothing special, but if you just can’t go to Florida without sampling a big, fruity rum drink, this is your kind of place. Caribbean Beach Resort, 900 Cayman Way 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not necessary D.



Famed chef Todd English brought this sleek, contemporary seafood restaurant to the Dolphin. Although it’s far too tony in atmosphere and eclectic in menu for most kids, bluezoo is a good spot for drinks or a parents’ night out. The menu changes regularly but tends to feature upscale seafood dishes. Walt Disney World Dolphin, 1500 Epcot Resorts Blvd. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months D.



Extraordinarily elegant cuisine and special attention to details, such as personalized menus, harp music, and roses for the ladies, are the hallmarks of this lovely restaurant in the Grand Floridian. The only AAA five-diamond restaurant in WDW (and the most expensive), V&A is the ultimate spot for a parents’ night out. Grand Floridian, 4401 Floridian Way 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months D.



Located in the Contemporary Resort, The Wave serves a seasonal menu featuring local and regional products as well as organic beers, trendy cocktails, and an international wine list that literally offers a twist: All of the wines have screw tops instead of corks. Breakfast here is terrific, but the other meals don’t quite live up to the hype. Contemporary Resort, 4600 N. World Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not necessary B, L, D.



Kids can saddle up and ride stick ponies to their table at this family-style eatery in the Wilderness Lodge. All-you-can-eat dinners are brought to the table in cast-iron buckets, or you can order à la carte. If you like home cooking in a casual atmosphere where the kids can get a bit rowdy, Whispering Canyon is a good bet. Wilderness Lodge, 901 Timberline Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months B, L, D.



We’re not sure how a yachtsman gets his hands on so much good beef, but this restaurant is one of the premier steak houses in Disney World. Hand-cut steaks and chops with your choice of sauces are served in a clubby dining room. Yacht Club Resort, 1700 Epcot Resorts Blvd. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months D.

Restaurants in the Rest of the World

Except for the grill restaurant in ESPN Wild World of Sports, all these restaurants can be found in Downtown Disney.



Founded by the singer Gloria Estefan, Bongos delivers an Americanized version of Cuban dishes (for example, black bean soup and grilled pork), a wildly tropical decor, and loud Latin music. Downtown Disney West Side, 1498 E. Buena Vista Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not necessary L, D.



Televisions broadcast sporting events from every wall. Expect pasta, pizza, sandwiches, and burgers. ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, 700 S. Victory Way 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not accepted L, D.



Fulton’s, on the Empress Lilly riverboat, serves seafood flown in daily from all over the world. Try the raw oysters. Downtown Disney Pleasure Island, 1670 E. Buena Vista Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.



The House of Blues serves up Cajun and creole cooking while a nightclub attached to the restaurant serves up jazz, country, rock and roll, and, yes, blues music. The gospel brunch on Sunday is an especially good choice for families. To find out who’s playing or to purchase tickets call 407/934-2583 (407/934-BLUE). Downtown Disney West Side, 1490 E. Buena Vista Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not accepted B (Sun. only), L, D.



The “37” in the restaurant name refers to the fact that the menu features cuisine from 37 different countries in North and South America. The “Paradiso” no doubt refers to the tequila bar, which offers plenty of variety, too. The food here is ethnic-lite, hearty, and generally very good. The appetizers are designed for sharing tapas-style, which can be a fun way to sample several things. And because Paradiso 37 is in the perpetually under refurbishment section of Downtown Disney that was formerly known as Pleasure Island, it doesn’t draw the crowds that are common at some other Downtown Disney restaurants. Downtown Disney Pleasure Island, 1590 E. Buena Vista Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.



Planet Hollywood’s giant blue globe holds numerous movie props, including the bus from Speed, which hovers menacingly overhead. Film clips run constantly, and even the menus, which are printed with the high-school-graduation pictures of stars, are entertaining. The food is just what you’d expect. Downtown Disney West Side, 1490 E. Buena Vista Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not necessary L, D.



This restaurant is based on the idea of a Tuscan country trattoria, with an attractive interior and a wide variety of authentic Italian dishes. It’s a bit quieter and more adult than many of the Downtown Disney restaurants. The patio is especially pleasant in spring and fall. Downtown Disney, 1650 E. Buena Vista Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months D.



A life-size bronze statue of Irish poet Patrick Kavanaugh sitting lost in thought on a bench greets you outside this Downtown Disney Irish pub. Inside are four huge wooden bars crafted in Ireland in the 19th century. There’s often live music, and there’s never a cover. As for the food, it’s pub classics gone upscale, with Angus-beef shepherd’s pie and Colorado lamb in a sophisticated port-wine sauce. Downtown Disney, 1640 E. Buena Vista Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 4 months L, D.



This sister restaurant to the Animal Kingdom location serves casual food in a jungle-theme atmosphere. Most kids love the Rainforest Café, but the music and sound effects can get very loud, which may bother babies and toddlers. Take a buzzer and shop around the Marketplace while you wait. Downtown Disney Marketplace, 1780 E. Buena Vista Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not accepted B, L, D.



Managed by the same company that runs Rainforest Café, T-REX offers casual, family-friendly dining in the form of pasta, pizzas, seafood, and salads, plus giant Audio-Animatronics dinosaurs, geysers, waterfalls, and a fossil dig site. “A little wild,” reported one father from Kansas. “We sat in the ice room, which was as cold as its name, and every 15 minutes there was a meteor shower with all these loud special effects. The kids loved it, but after a while my wife and I were ready to escape back into the hot Florida night.” Downtown Disney Marketplace, 1676 E. Buena Vista Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com Reservations not accepted L, D.



There are three parts to this restaurant: the ultracasual Express, which offers salads, sandwiches, and such; the inside restaurant, which provides Puck’s signature pastas and pizzas, as well as outstanding sushi; and, upstairs, the formal dining room, serving the best Puck has to offer. Needless to say, the first two locations work best for families, and the latter is best reserved for a parents’ night out. “The best meal we had during our entire time in Orlando was downstairs at Wolfgang Puck,” said one father from Nebraska. “The kiddie food was a cut above average, and the adults thought the sushi was great.” A father of three concurs that the inside restaurant is the perfect middle ground between the express and formal options, and that “the hoisin BBQ ribs are worth coming back for.” Downtown Disney West Side, 1482 E. Buena Vista Dr. 407/939-3463 (407/WDW-DINE) www.disneyworld.com 2 months L, D.