Best Disney Signature Restaurants at the Resorts
Are you visiting Walt Disney World to celebrate a special occasion? I’ve been there. I spent my 10th wedding anniversary and my 15th dating anniversary at the parks. I understand the importance of planning a perfect day on such a momentous occasion. Let me walk you through the best options for a romantic dinner.
Disney designates 13 restaurants as their finest dining options. These eateries all fall into the category of Signature Restaurants on the Disney Dining Plan (DDP). That’s Disney’s way of indicating that each establishment costs a lot. Most of the meals under discussion here will cost $50 a person or more. Yes, you can eat cheaper, but you should plan for the worst. You also can’t get a better deal through the DDP, as each Signature Restaurant costs two Table Service credits. You’re better off paying for the meal rather than using the dining plan in most instances.
I want to give a detailed evaluation of each one, so I’m breaking the rankings into two lists: Best of the Disney Resorts and Best of Theme Parks and Disney Springs. Today, we’re covering the Disney Resorts. Here’s a ranking of the six Disney Signature Restaurants at these hotels.
6) Flying Fish Cafe
Disney’s BoardWalk Resort area displays some of the most beautiful signage at Walt Disney World, and Flying Fish Café is my favorite. A sea-blue backdrop meshes perfectly with the surrounding white buildings. The titular fish light up the night, leading to a breathtaking BoardWalk setting. Unfortunately, the exterior sign is the highlight for me.
The food here at Flying Fish Cafe precisely what you’d expect. It’s fish-intensive, which isn’t great for people like me who don’t love fish. Out of the entrees, all but two dishes feature fish, and one of those is veal, a deal-breaker for a lot of consumers. So, it’s Snake River Farms Wagyu Strip Loin or bust for people like me. For everyone else, Flying Fish Café has a delightful menu of dish specialties such as Wild Alaskan Halibut and Hokkaido Scallop Nero Pasta. It also has one of the most interesting appetizers at Walt Disney World: The Evolution of Cheese.
I just can’t grade this place highly when Cape May Café is right across the water at Disney’s Beach Club Resort. It’s much cheaper and a buffet to boot, guaranteeing that everyone has a full stomach when they leave the restaurant.
5) Artist Point
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has several remarkably good eateries plus the glorious Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. Even allowing for the greatness of the other establishments, Artist Point still stands out for its theming. You’ll feel like you’re a part of the Pacific Northwest when you dine here, a part of the lush mountains that dominate the landscape.
The cuisine reinforces the theming. Artist Point is a place where game is on the menu. You’re in hunter territory, after all. Charcuterie and cheeses populate the appetizers menu while strip loin dishes are my favored entrees. Since Seattle is a part of the Pacific Northwest, Disney also offers a cheeky nod to vegetarians with several dishes such as Buckwheat Agnolotti. You can also order the highly praised Taste of the Pacific five-course meal for $75 per person. Yes, it’s pricey, but the reviews of it are glowing. I’ve never partaken, so I cannot offer a personal opinion either way.
Artist Point is probably the best themed Signature Dining restaurant at a Disney resort. The food here is undeniably rich and flavorful. The fact that it’s only fifth on the list speaks volumes about the overall quality of Disney’s Signature Dining program.
As I’ve previously discussed, eating at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is a highlight for any food lover. Picking the best restaurant there is an exercise in futility, although this author did it anyway. Out of the two Signature Dining experiences at the resort, I deem Citricos the inferior option. That’s like saying that Mickey Mouse is worse than Minnie Mouse. Both are beloved characters, and picking either one is like choosing your favorite child.
The food at Citricos is undeniably amazing, a point I make to emphasize that I’ve ranked it fourth. All of the Signature Dining options at the various resorts are sublime. You really can’t go wrong at any of them. The statement is truest at Grand Floridian, where Citricos offers market flavors with a Mediterranean focus. What I mean is that this menu isn’t as stable as the others on this list. Disney tweaks it more frequently.
Citricos is also one of the biggest meals at a Signature Dining restaurant. A server will encourage you to order an appetizer and a first course. That’s more food than most people eat for dinner, and the meal is only halfway through. I find the entrees at Citricos a bit overrated, but two of them are worthy of your attention. The Quinoa and Provençale Ratatouille would make Chef Remy envious of the recipe, while the Scallop Risotto is decadent. As I said previously, the cuisine here is quite good. It’s just not the best onsite.
3) Jiko – The Cooking Place
The pride of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House, Jiko – The Cooking Place sees the Mediterranean flavors of Citricos and raises them. Twice. It has three distinct cooking styles on display, with African, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisine available. Jiko is also a staple of dipping breads. Their brick oven churns out a seemingly endless supply of breads. You can watch the process from your seat, as the ovens are in plain sight of many seats. As you anticipate the arrival of each bread, you can choose the dipping sauce that matches. It’s one of the tastiest samplers at Walt Disney World. Even if you’ve never been a fan of international cuisine, Jiko’s sauces may change your mind.
The food isn’t the only aspect of Jiko that’s engaging, though. This restaurant pairs wines with all of its flavors. It also hosts wine tastings on those occasions when you want to skip the food and head straight to getting sloshed. Frankly, I love everything about Jiko. The only reason why I don’t rank it higher is because Boma sits right beside it. The food there is even better and cheaper to boot. If it were the Signature Dining restaurant at Jambo House, it might have won the category. Jiko is phenomenal, but I’m a Boma guy.
As I’ve mentioned, online reviewers deem Narcoossee’s one of the ten best restaurants at Walt Disney World. Who am I to argue with such universal consensus? The other Signature Dining establishment at Grand Floridian, this place has arguably the best ambience of any restaurant listed here. Realistically, it depends on whether you prefer a ground view or a skybox view of Magic Kingdom’s Happily Ever After fireworks display. Both of the best Signature Dining options have fireworks views available, with Narcoossee’s offering a view from Bay Lake.
The cuisine at Narcoossee’s is simply superior. It too has a focus on seafood, an understandable choice given its lakeside location. Still, it doesn’t shirk on the other entrees. The Black Angus New York Strip is terrific in isolation, but it pairs impeccably with the Red Wine-oxtail reduction. You’ll want to drench your steak in this stuff.
Out of the Signature Dining eateries listed here, Narcoossee’s provides the deepest and most divergent menu. It has 10 entrees plus nine appetizers, soups, and salads. It also has a pair of delicious no-sugar desserts, a chocolate torte and a mango sorbet. My personal favorite is the Narcoossee’s Candy Bar, a solidified chocolate gelato bar. Eating at Narcoossee’s is a pleasure from start to finish, which means that anything that beats it much be spectacular. And it is.
1) California Grill
THE best Signature Dining experience at any Disney resort takes place at the top of Disney’s Contemporary Resort. While California Grill wasn’t the first restaurant hosted at this site, it is the finest. Everyone adores the combination of cuisine and beverages available, which explains why it’s one of the most difficult reservations to attain at Walt Disney World. Six months ahead of time, guests book meals at California Grill in anticipation of dinner and a show.
The “show” isn’t what it used to be, though. Nobody performs cheesy lounge music the way that they did when the original version of the restaurant opened. Instead, it’s a view of Happily Ever After from the top of Disney’s Contemporary Hotel. Diners at California Grill have a direct view of the fireworks on display above Cinderella Castle. It’s an idyllic, inimitable setting that justifies the entire price of the meal.
California Grill is more than just a fireworks exhibition, though. The food here is otherworldly, and the Pork Two Ways is quite possibly the tastiest dish at Walt Disney World. Currently, the restaurant serves only half of it, the Pork Tenderloin with the dreamy goat cheese polenta. You have to keep an eye on the menu to see when Pork Two Ways is available, but it’s totally worth the extra effort. Alternately, you can try the recipe at home. Let’s be honest, though. You’re not going to do it like California Grill can.
Look, every restaurant listed here is special. Disney wouldn’t allow one of their properties to claim Signature Dining status if it weren’t spectacular. Even out of this group, California Grill still lords above the competition. It’s the perfect combination of delicious food and dazzling ambience. You will truly feel like you’re having the vacation of your life when you spend a day at Magic Kingdom and then end your evening with a moonlit dinner here.