7 Disney Restaurants You Need on Your Dining List
When you’re at Walt Disney World, you must eat, right? And everyone is always telling you about the best places to eat, right? The strange thing about Disney is that so many people talk about it that trends emerge. You hear so much about certain restaurants that you tend to ignore all the rest. Today, why don’t you take a chance on something different? Here are seven Disney restaurants you should try and the reasons why you should try them.
Beaches & Cream Soda Shop
On vacation, I’m a huge fan of simplicity. I tend to overthink most parts of my life and frequently suffer from paralysis analysis. When I’m at Walt Disney World, I love the homey comfort of a sit-down meal at a place with a clear theme. Beaches & Cream at Disney’s Beach Club Resort is perfect for me.
This resort is a throwback malt joint, the kind of place you’d see when Richie Cunningham and the Fonz wanted to grab a burger. There’s even a jukebox at Beaches & Cream, although I wouldn’t recommend punching it. The food here is basic burger and sandwich fare, although it’s elevated above what you’d eat at a Quick Service restaurant. Beaches and Cream is one of the Disney restaurants you’ll go back to over and over.
The real stars of the meal are the ice cream treats, though. Beaches & Cream serves many dairy delicacies, including the world-famous Kitchen Sink, a 10,000 calorie delight for an entire table to share. Your traveling party will never forget the time that you ordered the Kitchen Sink.
Cape May Café
This place hosts the most underrated character meal at Walt Disney World and a savory seafood buffet for dinner. Each morning, Minnie Mouse is the hostess for Minnie’s Beach Bash Breakfast, an All-You-Care-to-Enjoy (AYCE) meal full of Mickey Waffles and other delights like sausage and bacon. Most importantly, Minnie and her friends dress up in their most stylish beach outfits and wander around the dining room, entertaining guests along the way.
At dinner, Minnie and friends are nowhere to be seen. In her place are all the seafood dishes you could possibly eat. The highlight of your plate will be the crab legs, but don’t skimp on the serving station goodies, either. Something I like about Cape May Café is how easy it is to find. You simply exit the lobby of Disney’s Beach Club Resort and let your nose guide you toward the unmistakable fish scent hovering in the air.
You’re starting to understand that many of the less heralded dining options are at Disney resorts. My favorite of all official Walt Disney World hotels is Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. I think of it as my home away from home, having spent countless nights there over the years.
Capt. Cook’s is the Quick Service restaurant just off the lobby of the Polynesian. In the mornings, you should walk in here to grab a bite of Tonga Toast…and when I say bite, I mean the largest piece of bread you will ever see. Somehow, Tonga Toast is bigger than a breadbox, so I don’t understand how it gets shipped to the restaurant.
At lunch and dinner, Capt. Cook’s serves a couple of to-die-for sandwiches, the Aloha Pork Sandwich and the Big Kahuna Sandwich. As far as loose meat sandwiches go, these are the best of the best. The restaurant also serves some Polynesian dishes when you’re in the mood for something spicy.
Earl of Sandwich
Okay, I’m cheating a bit here. Earl of Sandwich isn’t as much of a secret as most of the other restaurants listed here. I’m still including it as a sort of public service. Anyone who doesn’t know about this place is really missing out. It’s not just a sandwich place; it’s legitimately one of the best restaurants in Orlando.
Don’t take my word on this. Trust TripAdvisor voters instead. They’ve ranked more than 3,000 restaurants in the greater Orlando metropolitan area. At the time of publication, Earl of Sandwich is ranked 75th overall! For some perspective, Be Our Guest is #394, Cinderella’s Royal Table is #170, and California Grill is #69. Yes, it’s on a par with or substantially better than the classiest restaurants at/near Magic Kingdom.
This seems like the optimal time to mention that two people can eat at Earl of Sandwich at Disney Springs for about $20. It’s a cheap date’s dream come true. Don’t get me wrong. You’ll impress your date a lot more if you take them to California Grill, though.
The Polite Pig
Arguably the first vacation maxim was, “When in Rome…” The underlying philosophy of this premise is that when you visit a place, you should behave like a local. And The Polite Pig is as central Florida as it gets.
The Petrakis family has earned quite the reputation in the south for its barbecue skills. The business is owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of James and Julie Petrakis plus James’ brother, Brian. Their food has earned a James Beard nomination for its excellence, and their other two local restaurants, Cask & Larder and The Ravenous Pig, are among the most popular in town.
Disney loved the Petrakis family’s food so much that they requested the family to open a restaurant at Disney Springs. The Polite Pig is the messy barbecue result. Seriously, each table comes with a roll of paper towels. There’s a chance you’ll need a refill, because you’ll want to try every sauce in sight.
Some of them will get on your fingers. The impolite but expedient option is to lick your fingers. It’s the best way to avoid wasting some of the most delicious sauces on the planet. The Polite Pig hasn’t quite earned the reputation it deserves among Orlando vacationers, but the locals know the deal.
There are 24 Rainforest Cafes in the United States. Not including coffee places, it’s the only true restaurant chain represented at Walt Disney World. This fact also makes it the least Disney place to eat on the Disney campus, which is odd since there are two of them. So, why would you eat there?
Rainforest Café is a known commodity. It’s an eatery that you’ll find in more than 10 states. Odds are decent that you’ve eaten at one since they tend to be in tourist and major metropolitan areas. Whereas most Disney restaurants are kind of a risk, you’ll have a certain comfort level when you eat at Rainforest Café. Plus, the one at Disney’s Animal Kingdom usually has tables available on the day of your visit, making it an easy reservation to get. And who doesn’t love staring at aquariums?
PS: The Disney Springs restaurant generally has better food in my experience. If you’re vacillating between the two, choose the Disney Springs location unless you’re already at Animal Kingdom.
Trattoria al Forno
The restaurants at Disney’s BoardWalk are eclectic by design. Park executives want a host of options for guests. One of the most recent entries is Trattoria al Forno, an Italian joint that replaced the beloved Cat Cora joint, Kouzzina. The new place has faced an uphill climb since a lot of Iron Chef fans weren’t willing to keep an open mind about it. Their stubbornness is regrettable, because they’re missing out a terrific character breakfast.
The Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast is a meal hosted by Flynn Rider and Rapunzel from Tangled alongside Ariel and Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid. And the menu during this meal features standouts such as King Triton’s Shipwreck al Forno (a gigantic calzone with eggs) and the Royale Breakfast (steak plus a Cheesy-Egg Torte). It’s the heartiest of breakfasts plus a character meal with a lot of charm.
At dinner, you’re going to eat Italian food, even though a steak is one of the menu options. Classic dishes like lasagna, meatballs, and chicken parmesan are on the menu. They all feature modern recipes that squeeze every ounce of flavor out of the ingredients.
Each bite is like a free trip to Naples. When you’re in the mood for Italian food, avoid the crowds at the World Showcase. Simply head out the International Gateway to the BoardWalk and eat at Trattoria al Forno instead.
What Do You Say?
Are you excited to try these seven Disney restaurants on your next vacation? Let us know in the comments!