Best Table Service Restaurants at Magic Kingdom
Last month, we ranked the best Quick Service restaurants at Magic Kingdom. Today, we’re going to attempt a more challenging list. You may not know this, but Magic Kingdom has eight Table Service restaurants. You likely think of it as a place where you grab food and go, but many of the upscale eateries here are quite good. Others are…convenient. Today, let’s separate the great from the less-great by ranking the Table Service restaurants at Magic Kingdom.
8) The Diamond Horseshoe
This eatery has a novel setup. You effectively eat on the floor where the seating would be for a dinner show. Alas, there’s no dinner show. In fact, it’s kind of weird. The stage hosts a player piano that doesn’t play. It’s just there for the ambience, ultimately leading to disappointment when frustrated guests recognize nothing’s going to happen. And the food is no salvation, either.
This restaurant serves standard western campfire fare, only you’ll find a much better version a 10-minute boat ride away from the park at Whispering Canyon Café at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. At The Diamond Horseshoe, you’ll eat a buffet featuring turkey or ham, both of which are bland and tend toward dry. Frankly, this place is Exhibit A about why Magic Kingdom’s Table Service restaurants have a dicey reputation among foodies. Disney should do better than this.
7) The Plaza Restaurant
This is one of those Disney restaurants that have sleeper cred in some circles. Some park fanatics list it as one of the hidden gems at the four parks, celebrating its special dishes like Chicken-Strawberry Salad and the Plaza Club Sandwich. For my part, I look at it and think, “Oh, it’s the place with the white interior and the ice cream!” The place does have a bottomless milkshake, which is an idea whose time has come. I still view it as a decent place to see the parade from an obstructed view. The menu is otherwise Quick Service fare sold at a Table Service restaurant. On the plus side, the pricing reflects this gray area, as many entrees are in the $15 range.
6) The Crystal Palace
Chef Mickey’s is one of my favorite places at Walt Disney World, probably top three overall. I say that to admit potential hypocrisy here. The Crystal Palace is also a character meal with an all-you-care-to-enjoy menu. And the characters are great. It’s Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, and Winnie the Pooh. Who wouldn’t want to get their picture taken with the Pooh Corner gang? For kids in particular, it’s a dream come true.
I love that part of the dining experience. But the food. Eesh. If I went to a run-down Shoney’s Restaurant with an alarming Health Department Score posted on the window, I would expect a better meal than this. Look, you’re going to want to eat here at some point. When you do, please take this advice. Brace for the worst. With lowered expectations, you might feel pleasantly surprised. And if you love the food here, I apologize for annoying you. After a couple of bad experiences, we had to take it out of our lunch/dinner rotation. It’s still fine for breakfast, especially since you can enter Magic Kingdom a bit ahead of rope drop if you finish your meal early.
5) Tony’s Town Square
I gave a middling review to Tony’s Town Square in a recent post. My tl:dr evaluation of the place is that the dining experience is wonderful, but the food is just okay. That’s an ongoing concern at Magic Kingdom’s Table Service restaurants. Disney has a tendency to let the meal experience drive revenue. The themes are generally terrific, but that matters less to a hungry person. Tony’s Town Square is the optimal example of this issue. I loooove eating here for every reason except the food. That’s…not a great compliment for a restaurant.
4) Liberty Tree Tavern
Six rooms, six founding fathers! Yes, this place celebrates America so much that I half-expect Bald Eagle on the menu. And what’s more American than eating all the food in sight? We’re a country of overindulgence, and this restaurant understands our way of life. Here, they serve an all-you-care-to-enjoy meal of – I kid you not – Declaration Salad and Patriot’s Platter. I’m vaguely disappointed that dessert isn’t called Up Yours, King George. Anyway, The Patriot’s Platter is pot roast, pork roast, turkey, and all the vegetables you would expect at a family picnic. It’s a hearty meal at a throwback restaurant. While I’m ambivalent about the first half of this list, everything from this point on is a place where you should definitely plan to eat, either for the food or the setting.
3) Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen
Grading Skipper Canteen isn’t the easiest thing to do. The restaurant’s only a couple of years old, yet it’s already on its fourth menu. The frequent overhauls of exotic recipes speak to the confusing nature of the food here. Park planners stubbornly but correctly chose to play up the theme of Jungle Cruise by offering international cuisine here. Even at the World Showcase, the recipes at Skipper Canteen would seem exotic.
Don’t let this information scare you away. Despite the troubling reputation, Skipper Canteen is a perfect marriage of sublime flavors and inimitable dining experience. Your server will play up the fact that everyone is an adventurer in this building, and your food was narrowly acquired in a kill-or-be-killed scenario. It’s all great fun, and any meal that ends with Kungaloosh! is a great one. As far as the food goes, Skipper Canteen is in contention as having the best at Magic Kingdom. Unfortunately, the two eateries ahead of it have extracurriculars that differentiate them.
2) Cinderella’s Royal Table
When evaluating Cinderella’s Royal Table, I have to think about it from two very different perspectives. On the one hand, the menu has limitations. As a picky eater, I actually struggle to find food that I enjoy here. When I eat with a larger group of people, one of the topics of conversation is frequently the quality of the recipes. For a Signature Dining establishment, I expect more from Disney. Relative to price, Cinderella’s Royal Table doesn’t seem like great bang for the buck…until I think about the experience itself.
From a young age, kids look at Cinderella Castle wistfully, imagining a fantasy wherein they call it home. The idea of spending even an hour inside this building, feeling as if you live there, is the ultimate at any Disney theme park. Those moments when the seating host calls your name and takes you through the threshold into the inner sanctum…well, it’s the best possible experience for a Mickey Traveler. As a meal, this place is just as okay. As a bucket list event, it’s a perfect 10.
1) Be Our Guest
I chose to leave Be Our Guest out of the rankings for Best Quick Service Meal, but I’ll confess that it would have won that, too. There’s just something about this building that elevates the meal experience. While Cinderella’s Royal Table has that special stature, Be Our Guest is the new hotness. It’s the latest man-made mountain at Walt Disney World, a stunning triumph of Imagineering architecture that looks so much bigger from up close than it actually is.
The building’s interior is just as majestic. The three seating areas are all regal in tone, fostering the perception that you truly are dining with royalty. I’m a particularly big fan of the “snow” outside the main dining room. It’s a magical effect that adds a delightful blue hue to that seating area. I actually request that spot when my family eats here because it’s one of the most magical things at Walt Disney World for me.
The food at Be Our Guest differentiates itself from several other places on this list. It’s genuinely great, with tasty dishes that feel thematic. I believe that the royal chef has done his duty as a loyal citizen to craft a meal worthy of a king or prince or beast or whatever. Most importantly, the one dish that absolutely must taste great is the seminal dessert mentioned in both movies, The Grey Stuff. And it is in fact delicious, so much so that I’ve previously posted several YouTube videos about how to bake it at home. It’s the coup de grâce at the best Table Service (and Quick Service!) restaurant at Magic Kingdom.
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