Tucked away behind the Ice Cream Parlor on Main Street USA in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, the Plaza Restaurant is in what would seem to be a high traffic area, yet it never seems to be too busy–at least not when we’ve stopped by. Perhaps this is because it’s a high traffic area when people are entering and exiting the Magic Kingdom, and at those times, a table service meal isn’t crossing the minds of most guests. The Plaza Restaurant’s menu consists of mostly American deli and soda-fountain classics, and is actually a lot like the Magic Kingdom’s version of Beaches & Cream.
The Plaza Restaurant participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a one credit table service meal. It also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. We always pay out of pocket when dining here, as this restaurant is a terrible value on the Disney Dining Plan (click to see top restaurants for maximizing your bang for buck on the Dining Plan) because the restaurant is so inexpensive.
In terms of ambiance, the Plaza Restaurant is basically a simplistic soda fountain with Victorian and Art Nouveau stylings. Its interior is very light and airy, with a lot of natural light plus some pretty, yet understated design flourishes. It’s not going to win any awards for being one of the best themed restaurants at Walt Disney World, but I would definitely call its design intimate and charming. Plus, it’s fun when the Mayor stops in to entertain guests or sing ‘Happy Birthday.’
We have dined at the Plaza Restaurant a few times, and the first couple of times we ate there, we were not sold on the place. It was one of those hyped up restaurants that many people sang the praises of, due to its regular availability and low cost as compared to other table service restaurants at Walt Disney World. In fact, with our Tables in Wonderland card, it is typically almost as cheap as a counter service meal. Even though we hadn’t been impressed with our first couple of meals there, we have returned, partly given the overall quality (or lack thereof) of counter service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom.
This review has been revised since our most recent 2014 visit to the Plaza Restaurant, at which time we finally understood the basis for some of its cult-like following. We finally had the level of meal that has earned this place a small cult following…
On one visit, I ordered the Plaza Club and Sarah ordered the cheese burger. A lot of things on the Plaza Restaurant’s menu sounded good, I actually sought advice from my Twitter followers as to what we should order. I made my order based on volume of Twitter responses (yeah, I really can’t think for myself, I guess). Sarah asked the waitress if the burger was comparable to the burger at Beaches and Cream. The waitress didn’t know, nor do I think she even knew what Beaches and Cream was, but she said it was a “real” burger as opposed to the burgers at Pecos Bill’s or Cosmic Ray’s. I knew it! Bill and Ray were serving imposter burgers! Alert the authorities at once!
I had no clue what she meant by a “real” burger. Sarah’s burger on that visit tasted no different than a burger at Cosmic Ray’s or Pecos Bill’s, and was certainly not comparable to Beaches and Cream. My Club was decent, but lacking overall. It seemed like it had about half the things listed in the menu’s description of it. On top of that, it was dry (it could have used a more liberal application of dressing). The dessert list looked good, but given how slow our service had been for the main portion of the meal (and the quality thereof), we decided to just get dessert later at a quicker location.
On a recent trip to Walt Disney World, we decided to give the Plaza Restaurant another try. They had a new ice cream dessert and we had heard about some changes to the menu that might be worth checking out. Plus, we were unable to get into Be Our Guest Restaurant for lunch, so figured this was a good alternative. It actually has some lunch entrees that are cheaper than those at Be Our Guest Restaurant for lunch—quite astounding given Be Our Guest Restaurant is counter service for lunch!
This time, I opted for the Beef Brisket Onion Burger, which our server said was relatively new. I was debating between this and the Cheese Steak Sandwich, but ultimately the presence of burger, brisket, and bacon (the 3 major food groups) made this win out for me. Our server seemed to agree, calling this by far the best item on the menu.
It did not disappoint. The 3 meats plus the provolone cheese, lettuce, and tomato fused perfectly for a mouth-watering burger bursting with flavor. Now this was a real burger! It reminded me a lot of one of the ‘gourmet’ burgers served at trendy places around us that use high quality sources and unorthodox combinations for some really intriguing flavors. I’m not sure that brisket on a burger is exactly unorthodox, but I had never tried it, and the overall quality and “flavor profile” (that might be a bit overzealous for describing a burger, but whatever) was of the same caliber. At ~$16, the burger was one of the more expensive items on the menu, but given the quality and filling portion size, I was not at all disappointed.
Sarah ordered the Vegetarian Sandwich, consisting of Fresh Mozzarella, Hummus, Basil Pesto, Cucumber, Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato, and lettuce on Freshly Baked Focaccia with choice of Broccoli Slaw, Homemade Chips, or French Fries. She described this as being really flavorful thanks to the basil pesto and mozzarella, which tied the sandwich together nicely and gave it a much more robust taste than an ordinary vegetable sandwich. As far as “healthy” theme park dining goes, this is a great option.
For me, this meal is what totally redeemed the Plaza Restaurant, and finally put it in the league that so many people claimed it was in, one of the “hidden gems” of Walt Disney World dining at a reasonable price point. Next time I think I will try the cheaper Cheese Steak Sandwich (at $13 it seems like a solid value), but I would not hesitate to recommend the Beef Brisket Onion Burger—it’s actually the best burger I have had at Walt Disney World!
This time, we split the Mickey Kitchen Sink Sundae, which was a relatively new special offering available here and at Beaches & Cream. When it was first introduced, it sold for $23, but in a rare move, Disney decreased the price to $14! I’m not sure whether this sundae is still available, but for $14, I think it is a very solid deal.
Unlike the Kitchen Sink at Beaches and Cream, this is entirely “normal” ingredients, consisting of hand-scooped chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream drizzled with hot fudge, strawberry, and caramel sauces and topped with chocolate and peanut butter chips, whipped cream, and cherries. We are pigs, and the two of us could not finish this by ourselves, so I’m thinking it safely serves 2-3 people. Four would probably be pushing it. If it’s still there when you visit, we highly recommend this–it’s a solid value at $14.
Overall, the Plaza Restaurant is now somewhere I’d highly recommend to others not wanting to do counter service, and instead contemplating the limited table service options in the Magic Kingdom. I still think some of the menu options are nothing special, but there are at least a couple that are excellent, and most (at the very least) are going to be superior to what you’ll find at a counter service restaurant for roughly the same price. That’s what’s important to remember here: this is a table service restaurant, but in terms of price, it is basically a Counter Service+ restaurant. Based upon the price points, it’s a great value if you’re paying out of pocket. However, it’s not going to be for everyone, as if you have limited time in the Magic Kingdom, it may not be worth the added time it will take you to sit down at this restaurant and be served, and the tip you’ll pay for the service on top of the food. On vacations when time is a precious commodity, the Plaza Restaurant just might not bring enough to the table to justify the use of that precious commodity. Yes, the brisket burger is great, but other items are so-so, and it certainly lacks the impressive theming found at other Walt Disney World restaurants.
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Overall Score: 8/10
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Have you dined at The Plaza? If so, do you agree, or do you think we’re way off and view The Plaza Restaurant as one of Walt Disney World’s hidden gems? What dishes did you order? Share your thoughts in the comments!