Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Best Restaurant
You just started planning your family vacation to Walt Disney World and you realize that there are over 100 places to eat. How in the world do you choose the best Disney restaurant?
Quick service, table service, signature, casual, family style, the list is endless!
I’ll never forget when I was planning my first trip for my family.
A friendly Disney Cast Member was helping me determine which Disney Dining Plan I needed (boy, do we miss those!), and he just laughed and said, “Lady, are you looking to be fancy or dine with a duck with no pants?”.
Disney has the full gamut of restaurants to suit everyone’s needs: Budget, Family-Friendly, Character, Foodie, Boujie, Date Night, Lounges, and Disney Magic.
The perfect Disney restaurant for us may not be the perfect one for you so we’ll break down the top 3 for each category to simplify your planning. We got you!
The criteria for the budget category is that the average price of an adult meal is around $25. Of course, remember, you can always get a snack of appetizers at a table service restaurant to save money. There’s no rule that you MUST have entrees.
Funny enough, all three of our choice budget restaurants are in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Take a step back in time to your cousin’s kitchen for a hearty stick-to-your-ribs meal of classics like mashed potatoes, meat loaf, fried chicken, and pot roast.
Be sure to mind your manners and eat your vegetables! Just trust us.
We all know that one person is just always hankerin’ Italian food. As far as food goes at Mama Melrose, think of a cleaner, nicer Olive Garden.
It’s not the best Italian food you will ever have, but it’s pasta, sauce, and bread. No one is going to complain.
This Disney restaurant is not only budget friendly, but it is also a lot of fun, and a great way to spend some time out of the heat of the Florida sun. Remember drive-in theaters?
No tornado is going to rip through this one (Twister movie reference). Disney Imagineers have created a space that looks like you’re outdoors at night in a drive-in theater and you get to sit in a classic ‘57 Chevy. Well, a Chevy with a twist.
These cars have been converted to have tables in them. Get yourself a greasy cheeseburger and a milkshake while you enjoy clips from classic movies like “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” in the AC.
If you eat out with kids, you know at times it can be stressful. You’re worried that they’ll get bored quickly, hate all of the food, and just make a mess of the joint.
I think that’s why I never really minded taking my kids to iHop, because well, everything was already sticky when they got there so my kids weren’t really going to make a difference.
The restaurants in this list are easy going, quiet-ish, simple food, and fun. If you have kids, these are your best stress-free places for a bite.
I don’t care if there is a separate section specifically for character meals and Garden Grill is also a character meal. This restaurant is one of the best restaurants for kids.
First of all, it’s quiet. Kids are over-stimulated from the parks already, so the quiet is a nice reprieve for them to relax. The food is simple food that they have seen a million times.
It is served all-you-care-to-enjoy family-style, which means there are tons of choices and you can get more of everything. If your kid wants to eat 4 plates of green beans, they can knock themselves out.
Garden Grill is also a character dining experience that features Mickey, Pluto, Chip and Dale in their farmer’s costumes. Here’s the best part about the characters in this restaurant.
Because the space is small, they will come to your table 2,3, as many as 5 times for interactions! Think about it, the kids will be distracted and you can actually eat in peace! You’re welcome.
Remember how that last restaurant listed “quiet” as being a positive attribute? That is not the case with Whispering Canyon Cafe.
Here, there are server antics that encourage guests to get loud and goofy. One of my kids is never very quiet, so a place where she can appropriately be loud and silly was a win.
Bonus: Dining reservations are super easy to get at this restaurant. You can find them for pretty much any time of day you want.
You know, Liberty Tree Tavern just does not get the love that it deserves. Celebrating the history of our nation with an everyday Thanksgiving feast, Liberty Tree Tavern does classic American holiday dishes, and does them well!
Even the pickiest of kids will find something they enjoy here because everything is very recognizable. This restaurant is also served family-style and is all-you-care-to-enjoy.
If you didn’t go to a character meal did you really go to Disney World? It’s like a rite of passage to hug characters in between stuffing your face!
There are quite a few character dining options in Disney World, and each has its own advantages.
Chef Mickey’s is almost as iconic as the resort that it is located in – Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
It’s basically an unspoken law that every family must visit Mickey and the whole gang in their chef costumes for a loud, but very fun dining experience.
It’s important to reiterate that Chef Mickey’s is loud, not like Whispering Canyon yelling for ketchup loud, but more like tons of families and kids excited to eat waffles and see Mickey loud.
Sensory issues beware on this one.
This unique character restaurant has very different experiences from breakfast to dinner. In the morning, you will be dining with your pals from popular Disney Junior shows like Doc McStuffins, Vampirina, and Fancy Nancy.
In the evening you are enjoying a movie premiere after party with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Daisy, and Donald.
For an extra dose of fun, the characters’ costumes change with the season. Their themes are Halloween, Christmas, Spring, Summer, and Hollywood Glam.
Looking to sneak in a character dining experience on your next Disney vacation rope drop Animal Kingdom for Avatar Flight of Passage? Tusker House will do 2 birds with 1 stone, my friend.
This adorable slightly, African-themed safari restaurant is hosted by Mickey, Minnie and friends in their safari costumes.
You can snag a breakfast reservation before the park even opens, so you can be among the first in line for your favorite attraction.
Yes, there are some African inspired flavors in foods here, but there are also a lot of choices for picky eaters who are not looking for an adventure.
Food has really become the hottest new art form, and we are here for it! Bring me the honey!
Even though most Disney food caters to the masses, they have excellent restaurants for those looking for a little something extra!.
Ohana means family, and family means no chicken wing left behind… or forgotten. This is one of the most popular restaurants in all of Walt Disney World, and for good reason.
The food is plentiful, for sure, and features a Polynesian flair. The food is so sticky, delicious that they will even bring you a hot towel to wash your hands! Now, don’t fight! This is an all-you-care-to-enjoy meal, so go ahead, order more noodles.
Jungle Cruise Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen
Often referred to as just Skipper Canteen, this restaurant can be sometimes just downright weird. But weird in a good way. Disney chefs somehow combine Asian, South American, and mysterious cuisines to come up with flavors that just work.
If you’re a pickier eater, you will find things that you may like, but this is one you might want to skip.
Signature restaurants in Disney World means fancy food and fancy service, also for fellow cheapskates, fancy prices. Tiffins in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a signature restaurant that features African cuisine with class.
Imagine what your Instagram followers will say when you show a picture of your fried fish. Fried with the head and everything attached… And eyeballs are looking at you…Sorry Mr. Bubbles. You were delicious, albeit, a little creepy.
Sometimes you gotta be just a little extra. Celebrating a special occasion? Birthday? Engagement? Or is this trip just a once in a lifetime trip?
If budget isn’t an issue, check out these expensive bougie places to have a special meal.
Victoria & Alberts
This restaurant is hoity toity fine dining to the max. Victoria & Albert’s is a fancy schmancy restaurant with not only a dress code, but also an age requirement.
This is the only restaurant on property to require guests to be at least 10 years of age. Be ready to shell out the cash for this fine dining experience. Dinner starts at $295.
Currently under a complete refurbishment, Narcoossee’s fine dining for seafood lovers.
Nothing says romance like fish breath, but if you love all things seafood in a cozy space, Narcoossee’s in the Grand Floridian is where to go.
California Grill is all about the views. Okay, it’s about the food, too, but when you’re situated at the top of Disney’s Contemporary Resort overlooking the Magic Kingdom, it’s all about that view.
Food is fun with plenty of sushi and fusion dishes, but back to the view! A view from this restaurant is magical at night and a great way to watch the fireworks.
Timing a reservation for that is nearly impossible, but fear not, my friends!
If you eat at the California Grill or its lounge at any time of day, simply bring back your receipt and be allowed onto the outdoor patio for fireworks viewing.
I don’t know about you, but a good steak equals a solid date night. If you’re a parent, any food that is not regularly dipped in ketchup constitutes a date night location.
Located in the Canada pavilion is Le Cellier, a beautifully dark steakhouse where you can bask each other in the candlelight and then… eat the candlelight. Yup, you read that correctly.
The charcuterie board includes a beef fat candle that you can spread on a cracker. Disney is all about fun new experiences! And yes, the steak is fantastic.
Steakhouse 71 is the newest Disney restaurant and is also the most affordable steakhouse on property. This isn’t just “Disney affordable”, either. You can get a great steak for only $38!
You would be hard-pressed to find a deal like that even outside of the Disney bubble. Plus, if you love Disney history, this restaurant is adorned with black and white photos documenting the creation of the “Florida Project” that we now know as Walt Disney World.
Chefs de France
I don’t have to tell you anything about the menu and it already sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Chefs de France is in the France pavilion in EPCOT and offers approachable French cuisine in a romantic atmosphere.
Don’t worry, it’s not so fancy that you will look silly in your Minnie ears. Go ahead and order the ratatouille and see if that first bite takes your back to your childhood in the French countryside.
Lounges around Disney World are a great option if you don’t have a reservation to the main restaurant, of course with a few exceptions.
Typically, you will have access to the restaurant’s full bar menu and a smaller taster menu, and sometimes that’s all you want!
FUN NOTE: For hot restaurants like Space 220 you can eat in the lounge and not only avoid that high prix fixe cost, but you get to have the same elevator into space experience as the restaurant guests. Win!
Remember that exception? Here it is! Oga’s Cantina in Hollywood Studios’ Galaxy’s Edge is perhaps the hardest reservation to get in all of Walt Disney World. Not only is it a hot ticket for Star Wars lovers, it is also very, very small. Like tiny.
While I definitely don’t recommend you eat anything here unless you want to pay a fortune for string cheese and pork rinds (don’t ask), the drinks are a lot of fun!
You can have cool Star Wars themed concoctions with souvenir cups or go with what everyone is talking about: The Fuzzy Tauntaun. This orange fruity drink is topped with a buzz button foam that makes your whole mouth go numb!
The Enchanted Rose lounge in the Grand Floridian just does not get enough love. As a 80s/90s baby, Beauty and the Beast was my favorite movie, and Disney found a way for me to enjoy it as an adult!
This is a super classy French themed bar with light touches of the films, both animated and live action, with props and themed drinks. You just can’t help smiling at the blend of your two selves, the inner child and the sophisticated adult.
If you’re not a member of Disney’s Vacation Club, go ahead and skip to the next section because this is not for you.
Villain’s Lair opened in July 2022 and is the new DVC member lounge in the Bay Lake tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
The theme has been reimagined to, you guessed it, Disney Villains. The artwork and furnishings have been changed to reflect its new bad side along with a fully themed cocktail and snack menus. Sorry, this is only open to DVC members.
Walt Disney World truly is the most magical place on Earth. There are details in the parks that not even our most wild dreams could have ever created.
Imagineers have even incorporated these super immersive magical experiences into some of our dining experiences.
Cinderella’s Royal Table
Nothing is more iconic to Walt Disney World than Cinderella’s castle at the end of Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. As beautiful and awe inspiring as it is to look at, you can actually go inside and have a meal fit for a princess!
The food is a very approachable fancy style, which basically means that there are no chicken nuggets, but we’re not going too far into fancy that there’s things like foie gras.
Prior to the closure, Cinderella’s Royal Table was a full Princess dining experience. As of Summer 2022 there is still only Cinderella herself, and she is available at the entrance for a photo op in place of visiting you at your table.
Keep an eye out on www.MickeyBlog.com for updates because in June 2022 Disney promised that more character dining will be returning soon!
Want a truly magical experience? Book the last reservation of the day so when you leave the restaurant, you will be one of the only people left in the park at night and you can get the most incredible pictures down Main Street.
Be Our Guest
Here we go again with Beauty and the Beast, but this time everybody knows about this restaurant and are fighting you for reservations.
Be Our Guest is in the top tier of popular dining reservations at Walt Disney World. Be sure to wake up early – 60 days prior to your vacation. The reservation system opens at 6:00 AM EST, so be logged on ready to go by 5:45.
Be Our Guest is located in Beast’s castle and is the meal from the movie! Let’s be honest, we’re all there for the dessert so we can see for ourselves if the gray stuff really is delicious. Yes, yes it is.
What is also really unique about this restaurant is that there are 3 different themed rooms. First, there is the ballroom. This is the room where Belle and Beast had their dance and fell in love, complete with huge windows showing that it is slowly starting to snow outside. Yup, snow in Florida. Only Disney could do that!
The second room is the Rose room. One cool thing about this room is a giant music box in the middle of the room that was made by Belle’s father, Maurice, as a wedding gift, but that’s it.
The third room is really cool, but beware if you have small kids who are afraid of thunderstorms. Welcome to the West Wing. It’s forbidden!
Every 15 minutes there is a thunderstorm that rolls through and you can see the ripped Beast’s photo change.
Space 220 is the newest immersive restaurant to open in Disney World, in EPCOT of all places. We had to wait for what felt like forever for this restaurant, but the experience was worth the wait!
Leave the planet entirely for a meal 220 miles away in space. Did you know you can get to space by elevator now?
Food is American cuisine dished up in a futuristic spacey vibe. We were getting some serious Zenon vibes here. Zetus lapetus!
While you’re enjoying your prix fixe meal you can look out the windows to see Earth far below and other space junk and asteroids floating by.
Space 220 is understandably a difficult reservation to snag, so don’t forget that tip about the lounge!
What do you think the best Disney restaurant is? We want to know!
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