So you want to maximize your table service credit value on the 2016 Disney Dining Plan by eating at the most expensive restaurants? We don’t blame you! The Disney Dining Plan is expensive, as is Disney dining in general. (Even if you’re visiting during “Free Dining“, you want to get as much bang for your buck as possible.) Taking a trip while on the Disney Dining Plan can be a great way to efficiently hit the more expensive restaurants at Walt Disney World when on a budget. Note that he restaurants here offer the best ‘value maximization’ of table service Disney Dining Plan credits because they serve the most expensive meals (meaning greater savings), but this list is entirely objective. In other words, best “value” is solely in terms of money, not quality.
This list calculated the most expensive meals by taking the highest entree, dessert, and beverage and adding them together (tax and tip are not included). 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. Additionally, when we tested doing medians, restaurants that are clearly expensive dropped off of the list. Tutto Italia, for example, has a large menu with cheaper salads and sandwiches. However, the standard Italian entrees–the items most people order when they’re on the Disney Dining Plan–are mostly expensive.
Despite their higher menu prices, two-credit “Signature” Dining are not as good of a value due to its cost of 2 credits, so you will not find any two-credit restaurants on this list. Let me reiterate this, as some readers have asked about them: the total cost of meal at a Signature Restaurant is $75 per person, it is still not a better value than a 1-credit restaurant with a total cost of $50 per person, because the Signature Restaurant charges 2 credits, making its per-credit cost for that $75 meal equal to $37.50. For this reason, Signature Restaurants are among the absolute worst uses of Disney Dining Plan credits, objectively speaking.
If a restaurant ranked better thanks to its pricier options, it’s on the list, regardless of whether we think its food stinks. When actually planning where YOU want to dine on your trip, it’s very important to consider quality of food, not just prices, when determining where you want to eat. We thus recommend weighing these “value maximization” lists we have along with our subjective Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews when making your Advance Dining Reservations.
Note that this list was last updated in April 2016 taking into account new menu prices and fluctuations in seasonal price. During that update, several new restaurants made the list…
T1. Tutto Italia – The menu here seems to change partly (I think) due to the Free Disney Dining Plan. It seems like when that is being offered, a few of the $30+ items are not on the menu. If the Tagliata di Manzo, Lamb, or the Swordfish are on the menu, this is the #1 restaurant thanks to those and pricey and decadent Italian desserts. If those items are not on the menu, it might fall to #2, depending upon what is on the menu. All desserts are expensive, but you should, “leave the Cannoli, take the Copetta Sotto Bosco” if you want to completely maximize value. The Cannoli is a good option for value, too, though. Despite it being #1, we’re not fans of Tutto Italia. Total Value: ~$51.00.
T1. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Dinner) – Akershus is a good value if you’re looking solely at price (if you’re there at the “right” time, it’s the #1 restaurant…otherwise, it’s #2, so we’re going to give it the tie despite $53 being more than $51), but remember that it’s a princess buffet that also includes a photo package. If you’re paying out of pocket, you’re paying a premium for the princesses, but you’re paying an even bigger premium for the photo package. We’ve never eaten here, but we’ve heard the food is only decent. Point being, you might nix this option if you don’t have kids or you aren’t keen on eating with princesses. Ranked #4 by median price; actual prices vary by season. Total Value: ~$53.
T1. Cape May Cafe (Dinner) – Note that this is the seafood dinner, not the traditional beach character meal that’s so popular. This is one that has snuck onto a high spot on the list, thanks to the ever-increasing price of this meal coupled with high seasonal pricing. With crab legs, steamed clams & mussels, salmon, calamari, and much more, they are tons of options here–but it’s about quantity over quality (no surprise). Definitely not as good as Flying Fish Cafe across Crescent Lake, but a better objective value on the Disney Dining Plan. Total Value: ~$53.
4. Whispering Canyon Cafe – Surprised to see Whispering Canyon Cafe this high up the list? Us too. However, thanks to the Grilled New York Strip and the Sheriff’s Shakes (which, last we had heard, are still considered a drink on the Dining Plan), Whispering Canyon Cafe passes other restaurants with similar prices. A favorite of ours (which you can read about in our Whispering Canyon Cafe Review), the Canyon Skillet, also offers excellent value as an entree. Total Value: ~$48.
5. Chef Mickey’s (Dinner) – One of our absolute least favorite meals at Walt Disney World, Chef Mickey’s makes the list because it’s an objective one, not because we want to see it here. The food is undeniably awful–if it can even be called food. Beyond that, the ambiance is loud and the decor is dated. However, wonderful character interactions here will redeem it in the eyes of many families. Total Value: ~$48.
6. Via Napoli – This is a tricky one. Via Napoli has built a sterling reputation on its glorious pizza pies, but if you order one of these, the value is below-average on the Disney Dining Plan. Instead, you have to look to the traditional Italian menu choices, and choose one of the $30+ options. Then, you need to pair that with one of the more expensive desserts. Then–and only then–is Via Napoli a great value on the Dining Plan. Total Value: ~$48.
7. Chefs De France – Chefs De France has several expensive entrees, but the most expensive is the Filet de boeuf grille, sauce au poivre vert Gratin Dauphinois et haricots verts. The slightly cheaper Duck is also a great entree choice for maximizing value (and it tastes great). We aren’t big fans of Chefs de France, but it is a popular restaurant among other Disney fans. The last time we ate there on the Dining Plan, I was able to substitute the French cheese plate (typically an appetizer) for my dessert. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, you may want to inquire about this, but don’t be surprised if you’re told that you can’t. Total Value: ~$47.
8. Coral Reef Restaurant – The New York Strip Steak propels yet another restaurant onto this list. If you’d rather have seafood at this seafood restaurant (and it’s some of the best seafood on property in our opinion, even if it gets hit or miss reviews sometimes), fear not, as several fish entrees are priced in the mid-$20 range, and also provide excellent value. Total Value: ~$46.
9. Wolfgang Puck Cafe – Wolfgang Puck Cafe has an expansive menu, and although desserts (the menu items that seem to be outcome determinative in these rankings) aren’t all that expensive, several entrees and non-alcoholic DDP drinks help push Wolfgang Puck Cafe into the #6 spot. We have yet to eat here, but it looks like we might want to eat here or at Wolfgang Puck Express the next time we’re in Downtown Disney and on the Disney Dining Plan! Total Value: ~$45.
10. Grand Floridian Cafe – This one is a bit deceiving. There are lone expensive items in each category that put Grand Floridian Cafe on this list. By ordering the second-best items instead of the best ones, the “total value” of Grand Floridian Cafe drops to $33.67. I really love the steak at Grand Floridian Cafe, and it’s worth going for that…but not for much else. Basically, if you’re not going to order the Bone-In New York Strip Steak, take this off your top values list. Total Value: $46.
So there you have it–the top Table Service restaurants on the 2016 Disney Dining Plan if you’re looking to maximize your value. As you can see from the many caveats on this list, we aren’t big fans of some of the places represented. Objective cost and subjective value definitely aren’t the same. We happen to care more about the latter, but if the former is more important, that’s your call!
Moreover, our research into all dining menus has indicated that if you like New York Strip Steaks, you’re going to do well on the Disney Dining Plan! They rarely cost less than $30. After that, the price of desserts is the biggest factor here (ranging from high prices of $7 all the way to $14) and whether or not the restaurant serves smoothies, shakes, or some other sort of specialty non-alcoholic drink that is included on the Dining Plan.
Remember to always consider whether a particular restaurant or dish appeals to you before making your ADRs. While value maximization can be fun, it should not be the ‘end-all, be-all’ of your Disney vacation planning. Eating things you like is far more important!
Hopefully this list helps you get more bang for your buck on the Disney Dining Plan. Check out our Best Counter Service Credit Uses on the Disney Dining Plan and Most Cost-Effective Disney Snacks blog posts to get even more value out of the Disney Dining Plan!
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!
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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 Table Service restaurants, please share them in the comments!