Saturday, September 28, 2013

Disney Dining

There is no place like Walt Disney World.  It is the perfect vacation for singles, couples, and families.  People from ages 1 to 100 and from all walks of life can easily find tons to enjoy.  WDW was such a huge part of my childhood.  Last year I was so excited to get to share that with my young daughter that I teared up several times.  I was overcome with emotion.  Yes, I love it that much.  Disney has made magic real in this world, if only within their borders.

I find that I could talk about it in detail every day for hours and still not get tired of it.  Helping a newby plan their first WDW vacation is my drug of choice.  I can't imagine ever getting burned out on Disney and since it hasn't happened over the last 13 vacations, I don't think it ever will.  Last month I talked about my main tips for making your Disney World vacation great.  One of those tips was to get a package deal that includes tickets, resort stay and a meal plan.  This month I'd like to talk more about dining, specifically about which restaurants are my favorites and why.  Since I advocate getting the meal plan, I don't pay attention to price.  I will however mention if a meal uses more than one 'table service ticket' per person. 

These are only a FEW of my favorites.

Disney Resort Restaurants

Every resort has their own dining room where a variety of food types for every meal of the day can be enjoyed.  These are more generic than feasting inside the park but are great for a quick breakfast on your way to the parks so that you don't waste valuable ride time standing in line to get a cinnamon roll. 
Most of the nicer resorts have at least one EXCELLENT sit down (aka table service) restaurant and some of them have shows or entertainment to enhance the experience. 

Fort Wilderness Resort - The Hoop-Dee-Do Musical Review - reservations required
It is a show and does take 2 table service meal tickets per person.  It is great for kids and adults.  The food is simple but delicious.  There are no menus, no choices.  This meal is served family style and is all-you-can-eat (ribs, fried chicken, corn, mashed potatoes, baked beans, cornbread and strawberry shortcake for dessert).  After dinner tarry at the resort and head down to the beach where you can see the water parade.  It will be a very memorable evening.  I would advise starting vacation with this because shows don't interest the kids as much after they've had a taste of RIDES!  On the day you fly in, enjoy the day at your resort.  Swim, shop, explore, plan.  Then go to a fancy fun dinner.

Polynesian Resort - Ohana's - reservations required
This too takes 2 table service meal ticket per person but it is worth it.  Yes, you could go to the Luau instead.  It is a lot of fun and has all you can drink alcohol but the food at Ohana's is to die for.  There are a number of Polynesian starters and sides.  I swear every time that the first one is the best thing I've ever put in my mouth and then each one better than the last.  Then the meat comes.  It is all cooked over a big fire pit and you can have as much shrimp, pork, chicken, and beef that you can stuff into your belly.  Save room for dessert!  (You'll notice that is a common theme for my suggestions)  The bread pudding is amazing.

Magic Kingdom

Fantasyland - Pinocchio Village Haus - walk in
This is a counter service restaurant which means you order at the bar and then carry your food to a table of your choosing.  I like this place because it is big and air conditioned.  It is Italian food, but more of the Americanized version.  We all enjoyed the pizza and the meatball subs.

Liberty Square - Colombia Harbor House - walk in
Counter service, seafood.  There is fried fish and shrimp and even some grilled and healthy options with more than just fries as choices for sides.  Again, it is big and air conditioned and the atmosphere has an early American port feel.  The apple pie pastry would fit in easily at one of the more expensive restaurants. 

Adventureland - Tortuga Cavern - walk in
This counter service place is seasonal and only open during the busiest of months.  If you are there during the heat of the summer, grab a burrito.  You'll thank me.

Animal Kingdom

Asia - Yak & Yeti's - walk up
Counter service Chinese takeout type food with no indoor seating.  There are tables between two buildings that are well shaded.  This is a lot of food for your meal ticket.  We shared one meal with an extra side of egg rolls and had more than enough for the three of us.

Africa - Tusker House - reservations suggested
Table service, indoor African buffet.  Authentic cuisine with a Disney flare.  Lots of veggies and even some vegetarian options.  So, so, SO good.  Don't go for breakfast.  It's the same Mickey waffles and eggs you can get anywhere.  Lunch or dinner won't disappoint.

Hollywood Studios

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater - reservations suggested
Table service American food.  Like everywhere the food is good but you don't come here for the food.  It's the setting that gets you.  Come INSIDE and sit in your own car at the drive in and watch clips of old science fiction movies while you eat.  It's Disney magic at work that makes the night sky twinkle with starlight at anytime of the day.  Kids (and husbands) love it. 


Man, this one is hard to pick favorites.  I have honestly never NOT enjoyed an eating experience in Epcot.  Every one, from snacks to full out dinner shows, is unique.  I try to plan vacation so that most meals are taken inside Epcot, particularly the World Showcase.

World Showcase - Germany Pavilion - Biergarten - reservations suggested
One table service ticket each, buffet.  There is a musical show (including bells and even an alpine horn number) with men in lederhosen and a dance floor.  It is relaxed and fun.  Beer is extra but trust me you want it.  Go for the darkest available.  It goes well with all the sausage and sauerkraut.  The desserts are crazy good.  Try the German cheesecake.

World Showcase - Mexico Pavilion - San Angel Inn - reservations suggested
Table service meal that far exceeds the expectations.  This is not your average Mexican food.  Each plate is unique and explodes with flavor.  It is inside the large step pyramid that makes up this pavilion and it feels like evening all the time.  You are eating in a room that has been decorated to look like you're eating at an outdoor marketplace nestled on a riverbank adjacent to a rumbling volcano.  You read that right.  Magic, plain and simple.

World Showcase - Morocco Pavilion - Restaurant Marakeesh
This table service meal is delicious and exotic and if you book it at the right time there is a belly dancing show (family friendly, of course)

Future World - The Living Seas - Coral Reef Restaurant - reservations required
Hands down the best seafood I've ever had.  It does cost 2 table service meals per person but if you look at the prices you'll understand why.  This is attached to the back of The Living Seas and so every table has a view of the giant aquarium.  It was my family's favorite meal of the whole vacation in 2012.

ALSO, Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival is September 27th through November 11th.  I've never been but I'm dying to go.  We are planning our 2014 for a bit later than normal and we're hoping it will coincide with this event.  Here is the full menu.  Looks scrumptious. 

I hope this post was helpful.  I would love to answer some questions.  Leave them in the comments and maybe I'll pick one as my topic next month!

Author Natalie Gibson

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