Best Restaurants at Future World
Over the past several months, I’ve evaluated the best Quick Service and Table Service meals at the various Disney restaurants. I’ve even taken a look at some of the fare at Disney resorts. Today, I’m faced with something much more challenging. I am starting to rank the best restaurants at Epcot, which is a brutal task.
The genius of Epcot is that it’s effectively two parks in one. The front half of Epcot is Future World, a place where innovation and infotainment are of the utmost priority. The back half of the park is a place that Walt Disney would love. He always dreamt of a permanent World’s Fair site, and that’s precisely what the World Showcase has become over the years.
One of the odd byproducts of the park’s multiplicity is that meals at the front of Epcot are significantly different from the ones at the World Showcase. And by significantly different, I mean vastly inferior. Off my head, I can think of a dozen restaurants at the back of the park that are superior to the best eatery in Future World. For that reason, I’m taking a different approach for my Epcot rankings. I’m dividing the park into two sections and grouping everything from the front half into one section. Here’s how I rank the five restaurants in Future World.
Okay, I’m going to make a confession here. Just to reach five restaurants, I have to cheat a bit. Taste Track is only a seasonal restaurant, and it currently serves ice cream treats. It’s neither a Quick Service nor a Table Service restaurant at the moment. In the past, however, it did serve Quick Service food that was delicious, and I’m hopeful that this menu will return one day soon. I’m grading it on that, not the ice cream.
A couple of years ago, this cute little shack near Test Track changed its menu. It became almost exclusively a grilled cheese sandwich grab-and-go restaurant. During that timeframe, its reputation soared with foodies, because the grilled cheese variants were universally spectacular. Mickey Travelers would smell the food as they waited in line for Test Track and then head over for a quick sandwich before exploring other parts of Epcot. It was divine food that I’ve never understood why Disney eliminated. That restaurant stand would actually finish in the top three on this list, but I have to rank it last for now since it’s currently an ice cream joint.
I’ve always felt frustrated by this Table Service restaurant. I really should love it. Garden Grill sits above one of my favorite attractions, Living with the Land, You can see the diners from part of the ride, and you can watch the riders from certain parts of the dining room. Also, the ingredients used to make the meals generally come from inside the building. It’s as farm fresh and locally sourced as possible.
Also – and this is important – Garden Grill is a character meal. Chip and Dale wander the restaurant, interacting with the guests. Sometimes, they’re dressed in adorable farmer gear. Even when they’re not, their friends Mickey Mouse and Pluto dress like they live on the farm. These four characters provide a lot of enthusiasm during the meal. Plus, the restaurant itself rotates slowly during the meal. You get to see different parts of Living with the Land throughout the meal. All of this is wonderful.
The problem with Garden Grill is the food. It’s technically an all-you-care-to-enjoy (AYCE) meal that has family platters. You don’t head over to a buffet bar and fill your plate. Instead, a server brings giant skillets to the table. These skillets have locally sourced vegetables, roast turkey, fish, and grilled steak. And my favorite part of the meal is a roll with butter. That says everything about the overall quality of the proteins here. I stopped going to Garden Grill when I realized that I was always still hungry when I left.
I want to offer a word of warning here. On TripAdvisor, Electric Umbrella is ranked #442 out of 2,993 restaurants in Orlando. While that may sound good in theory, it’s actually one of the lowest graded Disney restaurants. I say this to note that the consensus opinion about this restaurant is different from my own.
Sometimes, after a hectic day at the park, you just want to sit down somewhere and eat a simple meal. Everyone who visits Walt Disney World often develops a few favorites that satisfy this goal. For us, Electric Umbrella is that kind of place. The food certainly isn’t fancy nor is it on a par with any number of counter service restaurants at the back of the park. It’s just a place where you eat burgers, sandwiches and nuggets. The flatbread pizza here is what qualifies as ambitious.
Despite the ordinary nature of Electric Umbrella, we love it for a couple of reasons. The location is great, as it overlooks a popular walkway at Epcot. And that means the view is also entertaining. We love people-watching here. We watch the guests below as they navigate their way to their next grand Epcot adventure. And we also like the food, which clearly does a lot more for us than it does for standard TripAdvisor reviewers.
Being the best Table Service restaurant at Future World is like being the most talented musician in Nickelback. Nobody how good that person is, they’re always going to have harsh critics telling them that they suck. Coral Reef has one of the cruelest reputations at Walt Disney World due to its menu. Some guests absolutely loathe it.
I’ve never understood those complaints. My wife and I have always had a delightful time in the restaurant. She gets to order a delightful seafood dish such as scallops or salmon while I always pick the steak. Coral Reef surprisingly cooks one of the better steaks on the Disney campus, and I’ve found that it pairs perfectly with one of their dessert dishes, The Chocolate Wave. I would go so far as to say that Coral Reef’s overall dessert menu is among the finest at Walt Disney World.
The food isn’t really the point of Coral Reef, though. We eat here so that we can watch the fish live their lives. Coral Reef is a part of The Living Seas, and the aquarium seating section at the restaurant provides a bird’s eye view of this artificial habitat. Out of all the many wonderfully themed restaurants at Disney theme parks, I would argue that Coral Reef claims the title of most unique. It’s a serene dining experience for us that we repeat virtually every trip to Walt Disney World. Sure, the food isn’t special compared to the World Showcase offerings, but eating here is always memorable.
I want to state that I’m more of a Table Service restaurant guy at heart. I prefer to sit down and take my time through the course of a meal than grab and go. I use meals as park downtime wherein I can recuperate after an active day of pushing myself to do as much as possible. I say this to emphasize how out of character it is for me to choose a Quick Service restaurant as the best eatery at Future World.
Generally, Sunshine Seasons has much in common with Garden Grill. It, too, uses ingredients sourced from Living with the Land. Somehow, it has a much more open menu than the AYCE restaurant above it. The offerings at Sunshine Seasons are quite novel for a Quick Service establishment. Mongolian Beef and Vegan Korma certainly aren’t on the menu at Electric Umbrella. Similarly, Spicy Fish Tacos and Vegan Flatbread would be unusual at the World Showcase. Their presence is absolutely shocking on a Future World menu.
With Sunshine Seasons, Disney took a chance that they could provide international cuisine of the highest order at a counter service restaurant right across from Soarin’. Their gamble paid off, which explains why finding an open table at this restaurant is so tricky during lunch hours. It’s in the conversation for best overall Quick Service meal at a Walt Disney World theme park. And yes, that’s a ranking that we’ll do at some point here at MickeyBlog!
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