When it came to dining at Disney World, my expectations were ‘borderline mediocre theme-park food that came with a hefty price tag’. I was correct about one of those things: the hefty price tag. Luckily my parents were treating us to this vacation, or I would have been on a liquid, non-alcohol diet for a few days!
My entire family was pleasantly surprised by the quality of food at the quick-dine and sit-down restaurants throughout the Disney parks and resorts. When you stay on-site at a Disney resort you can make all of your dining reservations 180 days in advance, which I highly recommend because the ‘normal’ dining times fill up quickly.
Before I go any further, here are a few quick tips for dining and drinking at Disney:
- If you want to dine at a sit-down restaurant, especially for breakfast or dinner, you need to make a reservation!
- Unless breakfast is really your thing or it is a special restaurant (such as a character breakfast) I would stick to a quick breakfast from your hotel marketplace or at the park. More on that below!
- If you are traveling with a toddler (3+ years), sharing a meal is a great option! The meals tend to be large and it will help save on dining costs. Children 2 and under dine free.
- Bring your own reusable water bottle or cup (i.e. Yeti) and get free water from all quick service restaurants.
- Bring your own snacks for the kiddos as the food in the parks tends to be pricy and the lines tend to get long in the afternoon.
- Do your research and make sure you have the My Disney Experience App.
*Note: we did not do the dining plan so I do not have any recommendations or feedback on that.
ADR: Advanced Dining Reservations – Take Advantage of Them!
My mom did all the work of setting up our dining reservations. We met about a month before our 180-day mark to decide which parks we were going to each day and which restaurants we wanted to eat at within each park. Once the day came to make reservations my mom had the stressful job of waking up and trying to get all the reservations we wanted right at 7am. Even with having 180 days to go until our trip, we still couldn’t get a few of the days and times we wanted; that is how crazy competitive dining reservations are!
Make your can’t-miss reservations first. You know, that one character breakfast you absolutely cannot miss. No matter which day it falls on, make that reservation first.
Do Your Research & Download the App!
Do your research on the various restaurants and decide which ones you want to eat at. There were a few places we ate that did not have the most favorable reviews but we still enjoyed them, so try and make your own judgments. If there is a place you really want to try, do it! You might be pleasantly surprised.
Also, make sure to download the My Disney Experience app to your phone. It will have all your ADR (and Fastpass+) in it with an interactive map so you can see where your next destination is at.
Traveling with a toddler, I was hesitant about having breakfast reservations. I didn’t want to have an 8am reservation and have to wake him up before he woke on his own. I am sure other parents can relate to the angry child that would not have welcomed the early wake-up call. Most mornings we opted for breakfast from our hotel marketplace which had mostly grab-and-go items with a few things you could order from the counter (such as waffles).
One breakfast we did make reservations for, which was at the top of our to-do list, was Chef Mickey’s and I am really glad we did. There was a variety of choices from eggs Benedict and blueberry pancakes to smoked salmon and a huge variety of fruit, all which were all extremely tasty. Chef Mickey’s is also a character breakfast where kids can meet Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald. Eating at a character breakfast is a great way to meet and get autographs from characters because not only are you not waiting in a long line as you would in the parks, but you can enjoy your food and coffee while waiting for the various characters to visit your table.
Another character breakfast that we had reservations for was Minnie’s Beach Bash at Cape May Cafe. The breakfast choices were along the same lines but with a few more options. Chef Mickey’s had Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald while Minnie’s Beach Bash had Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and Daisy.
My son didn’t do so well at the character breakfasts. Being so young he didn’t understand the concept of waiting his turn. As soon as he saw one of the characters he took a beeline straight for them and when we brought him back to our table he would have a mini-meltdown when we made him wait his turn. Once the character came to our table, he was happy once again!
Lunch Reservations – Take ’em or Leave ’em
I personally like the freedom to be able to eat lunch whenever I get hungry and choose what I want to eat. The good thing about Disney is that there is food everywhere and most of it can be eaten on the go. So if you are hungry but no one else in your group is, you can grab something from the quick-service restaurants and keep on with your day. This also keeps your options open. You can eat a meal or just a bunch of snacks which is nice as it allows you to try a larger variety of food.
The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater (Hollywood Studios) is one of our all-time favorites for the theme and fun atmosphere. We definitely wanted to eat there for lunch and didn’t want to have to chance a long wait, so we made a reservation ahead of time. San Angel Inn (Epcot) is another favorite for its food and the unique shopping that is inside the Mayan ruins. We did not make a reservation ahead of time but made it once we got to the park that day.
We tried a new restaurant for lunch in The Animal Kingdom that was beyond delicious: Yak & Yeti. I had one of the most to-die-for Ahi Tuna Salads that I have ever had in my life. My dad ordered the same thing and shared in my sentiments. Had we not had reservations we would have been in the long line of people who were waiting 1.5 hours for a table.
Bring a Reusable Water bottle or Insulated Cup
Bottled water at the parks is $3 before tax. A better option is bringing a reusable water bottle or insulated cup. While we did purchase our fair share of bottled water, quick-service restaurants will give you a free cup of ice water if you ask. Once we knew this secret my husband started bringing our Yeti cup and we would dump the ice water into the cup so it would stay cold. Money Saver!
You can bring any amount and any variety of food in the parks so make sure to bring a lot of snacks, especially if you have children. Snacks for our son were crucial, especially if we were in line for a ride or just walking around and there wasn’t anything close-by that he would enjoy when he was repeatedly telling us “snack, snack, snack!” I brought nuts and protein bars for myself and husband to munch on, as well. I did see a few families who had brought sandwiches, chips, and a whole picnic lunch which is a great idea if you have a place to store all your cold lunch items in your hotel room and want to save time and money while at the parks.
Special Events: Don’t Miss Out on the Food
We attended Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I will not go into details because I am doing a separate post on it. However, each event brings with it limited edition food only offered during that event. Make sure you bring your appetite because you will want to try a lot of it! My favorite was the caramel filled pretzel and the special Maleficent Lime ice cream. I could have eaten seven of each of them. Probably best that I didn’t.
Now for my recommendations for can’t miss restaurants:
Cape May Cafe – Beach Club Resort: I cannot say enough good things about this restaurant. The seafood and more buffet full of crab legs, crab claws, shrimp, salads, pizza, vegetables, fresh cut meat, pasta, a variety of bread and cheeses, and two desserts tables with more choices than I could count! There is honestly everything you could ever want all in one place. The quality was outstanding, especially for a buffet. My husband and dad definitely got their money’s worth just from eating the crab legs alone.
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater: As I stated above, the theme of this restaurant alone would be enough for me to keep coming back here. Eating under the stars in classic cars while watching black and white movies is something that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time, which is part of the fun! They have a great variety of American style food and drinks; my burger was huge and juicy which paired nicely with my Orange Blossom Pilsner, locally brewed in Orlando.
Ale & Compass Restaurant – Yacht Club Resort: We ate here on my son’s second birthday and it did not disappoint. The atmosphere was calming but still welcoming to families with children. Covered in blues and greys, it is very reminiscent of a fancy pub in New England. The menu has a lot to offer and the quality and presentation of the food will make you forget you are at a Disney resort. Our family enjoyed a variety of appetizers and entrees and nothing disappointed. Bread is not included with your meal but that doesn’t mean you should skip it. Their Parker House Rolls with Spreads were a crowd pleaser. Pass more bacon jam to me, please! *we also ordered from the Ale & Compass Lounge one evening and took it up to our room. The food was just as great!
I cannot end this particular blog without mentioning how accommodating the servers were! They went out of there way to make sure our mealtimes, no matter which venue, were enjoyable. They were especially attentive to our son: he LOVED it when a ‘light-up’ character appeared in his drinks!