To save the most money and get the best value from counter service credits on the 2017 Disney Dining Plan, you will want to eat at the Walt Disney World restaurants on this list. The restaurants here offer the best ‘value maximization’ of counter service Disney Dining Plan credits because they serve the most expensive meals (meaning greater savings), but this list is entirely objective, so best “value” is solely in terms of money, not quality.
We update this list multiple times per year based on price and menu changes (this post was last updated on April 6, 2017). Menus do change often, and even though we try to keep this post current, we can’t always keep up. Please let us know in the comments if you think we missed something! Additionally, if value maximization is your concern, you should also make sure to get your “money’s worth” from Table Service meals (click here to see our tips for maximizing your table service dining at Walt Disney World).
While most Counter Service combos are priced right around $13, actual prices vary from a low of around $10 to highs of $19. Note that the 2017 Disney Dining Plan eliminated the dessert from counter service meals, so the value of a counter service Dining Plan credit has actually decreased this year as compared to last. There are a few other things to take into account with our rankings and costs…
This list calculated the most expensive meals by taking the highest combo and beverage available on the Dining Plan and adding them together. We did this as opposed to taking the median or mean since, if you’re truly concerned with saving as much money as possible, you’re going to be ordering more expensive menu items. We feel considering only the more expensive menu items is most helpful to Guests looking to maximize the Disney Dining Plan value, but your mileage may vary.
Additionally, since this list contemplates only expensive items, this list is completely objective. If a restaurant “scored” better thanks to its pricier options, it’s on the list. This is regardless of whether we think its food stinks. It’s very important to consider quality of food, not just prices, when determining where you want to eat. You’re not really getting more “value” for your money if you eat expensive food that you don’t like!
Which other Walt Disney World counter service restaurants made the list? Let’s take a look…
1. Flame Tree BBQ – This option really hits the ‘sweet spot’ in terms of value and quality. Also making our Top 10 Counter Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World–a list based on quality, Flame Tree BBQ is a can’t-miss option if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan. The multi-meat sampler is going to offer the best bang for your buck, but we’d strong recommend the St. Louis Ribs entree instead. This is the single greatest counter service menu option in all of Walt Disney World.
2. Wolfgang Puck Express – Due to the removal of desserts from counter service meals in the 2017 Disney Dining Plan, Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs falls from the #1 spot for the first time ever. It’s still really close to that top slot, so Wolfgang Puck enthusiasts need not freak out too much. 😉 Reviews of this restaurant are mixed, and with so many great places to eat being added to Disney Springs (including the exceptional D-Luxe Burger), it’s difficult to recommend. Still, it’s a great place to maximize the value of your Disney Dining Plan Quick Service credits thanks to the many expensive entrees, and that’s all that matters for the purposes of this post.
3. Be Our Guest Restaurant (Breakfast & Lunch) – This lavishly themed restaurant in New Fantasyland is still inundated by crowds. Thanks to the addition of a pricey breakfast last year, it moves up to the #3 spot on the list for counter service restaurants (for lunch, it would be lower) for 2017. If you’re able to get a table here, you’ll find interesting & delicious cuisine, an awesome environment, and somewhat expensive options.
While we aren’t huge fans of the breakfast at Be Our Guest Restaurant (it’s still a great value–and others love it!), it’s a different story later in the day. We really like Be Our Guest Restaurant for lunch, and think it’s a good place with unique options. It’s somewhere you should eat regardless of whether you’re on the Disney Dining Plan. It’s like an attraction in itself, but that’s doubly true if you’re on the Disney Dining, as you can get some bang for your buck!
4. Tangierine Cafe – One of the most unique, and arguably one of the best Counter Service restaurants at Walt Disney World, you really can’t go wrong with anything here. To maximize your value, try the Mediterranean Sliders Combo, which is the most expensive entree (and is very filling!).
5. ABC Commissary – You might be a bit surprised to see this Disney’s Hollywood Studios Counter Service restaurant make the list, but it has seen a number of menu changes recently. (The restaurant has change a ton since we last reviewed it.) Here, the Chicken and Ribs Combo Platter is the best option for value, but salmon and steak dishes also offer strong value. Everything else here is fairly average in price and quality, so don’t get too enthusiastic about ABC Commissary. I tried this combo last year, and was disappointed both in terms of its quality and size, so keep that in mind before just going for it because of the value.
6. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe – This is the restaurant that inspired this whole series of posts. When booked the Disney Dining Plan for the very first time, I knew wanted to maximize value, and saw the 1/2 Chicken and BBQ Rib Combination on menu. After that, I strove to find the best “deals” on other menus. Less experienced at the time, I only found Tangierine Cafe and Sunshine Seasons as the other “best values,” but we made up for that by eating at Cosmic Ray’s many, many times that first trip with the Disney Dining Plan. Since then, we’ve learned a thing or two. 😉 In my experience, the 1/2 Chicken and Rib combo can be hit or miss taste-wise. Sometimes it’s dry and/or rubbery, sometimes it’s flavorful and delicious. Still, Cosmic Ray’s is ranked reasonably well in our Magic Kingdom Counter Service Restaurant Rankings, so you can’t really go wrong.
7. Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory – This is a recent addition to the list, replacing Cookes of Dublin at Disney Springs (fine by me–I wasn’t all that impressed by Cookes). Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory makes the list thanks to its carving station. Recently remodeled and given a refresh (RIP “Friar Roz.”) We know what you might be thinking: great, more ribs and chicken. Nope! This station features prime rib, sustainable fish, and pork. Okay…it also includes ribs and (fried) chicken. There are a few choices for maximizing your value here, so meat lovers staying at either Port Orleans resort should check it out.
8. Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe – Pecos Bill overhauled its menu late last year, but remains on the list thanks to the Steak Fajita Platter. As I said in my Pecos Bill Restaurant Review, this new menu is a huge improvement over the old one, and the new toppings bar is the best anywhere at Walt Disney World. Even if you aren’t going for the high-priced steak fajitas, there are several other menu items that are above-average uses of DDP credits, and this is also one of the most filling restaurants on the list thanks to that toppings bar.
9. Pepper Market – Pepper Market is once again a full-time food court (instead of doing a lunch buffet). This restaurant at Coronado Springs has a lot of options (possibly because of the large convention space?) and a lot of them are expensive. A few of the Chef’s station combos are priced at or above $15 (the Aztec Burger and ribs are both strong choices) and many options are also up there in cost. Each of these combos are served with two sides, making them not only a good value from the perspective of price, but also from the perspective of what you get for your money. Just don’t order the 14″ pizzas, as those require two credits, and as such, are a poor value.
10. Sunshine Seasons – If you’ve ever read this site, it may not be surprising to hear that we’re pretty happy to see Sunshine Seasons make this list. Everything at “The Grill” is fairly pricey, as are items from other stations. Our top picks include the Oak-fired Rotisserie Half Chicken and the Pork Loin. It’s another restaurant that is high on our list of the Top 10 Counter Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World, so don’t pass up this gem just because it’s in Future World instead of the more culinary-oriented World Showcase at Epcot.
Really, once you get past the first five restaurants on this list, there’s not much that separates the remaining Counter Service Walt Disney World restaurants. Much like the New York Strip Steaks being the cornerstone of the Table Service list, “Combos” (usually chicken and ribs) seem to be pretty common on this list. Just because a restaurant isn’t on this list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dine there, either.
Based on our math, as of 2017 there are 9 restaurants at Walt Disney World that offer $20+ in maximum value, which is a pretty good number given that the dessert was eliminated from counter service meals this year. If you go by average value instead of maximum value, you can find a lot of Counter Service restaurants with $18-19 in “total value.” This means that the difference between the later entries on this list and other spots is sometimes only around $1-2. With that little at stake, you really ought to just eat where you want if the menus for these restaurants don’t look appealing!
You can find an entree that costs at least $10 at every Counter Service restaurant, and drinks are typically pretty close in price at these restaurants. Overall, the price differences at Counter Service restaurants are less drastic than they are at Table Service restaurants, but you can still come out pretty far ahead by eating at the right Counter Service restaurants.
Hopefully this list helps you get more bang for your buck on the Disney Dining Plan. Check out our Value-Maximizing tips for Snacks and Value-Maximizing Tips for Table Service Restaurants to get even more value out of the Disney Dining Plan! If you’re planning a Disney trip, read our other Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews and our 101 Delicious Walt Disney World Dining Tips. If you are planning a Walt Disney World trip, make sure to also read our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
What tips do you have for getting the most out of the Disney Dining Plan? If you have any tips to maximize your value at other Counter Service restaurants, please share them in the comments!