Katsura Grill Review

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Katsura Grill is a counter service restaurant in the Japan Pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase at Walt Disney World. The menu here is quite expansive, and consists of teriyaki, udon, sushi, curry, and various combos. For an ostensibly Japanese restaurant, many of these options are fairly approachable and will appeal to a broad selection of guests. In other words, it’s fairly Americanized. You aren’t going to find poisonous fugu fish that will leave you with 22 hours to live if you eat it.

While Katsura Grill made our list as the #3 counter service restaurant in Epcot, it’s worth noting that it’s not in the same league as Tangierine Cafe or Sunshine Seasons. In terms of basic info, Katsura Grill participates in the Disney Dining Plan, but does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. It can be a reasonably priced or expensive meal depending upon what you order–it’s a solid use of a Disney Dining Plan counter service credit if you order one of the combos and are trying to maximize your counter service credit value on the Disney Dining Plan.

We tend to eat at Katsura Grill a lot. Here’s why… (more…)

Tips for Making Be Our Guest Restaurant Reservations

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With Advance Dining Reservations now available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, you might find yourself wanting to have a meal…or 3…there. After being shut out of getting ADRs there more times than I care to admit, I think I have some helpful tips to offer to ensure that you’re able to score those elusive reservations.

At first, I thought it was simply a matter of waiting for the initial hype of the restaurant to die down, as we were unable to get ADRs during our first couple of trips shortly after it opened. Fast forward almost 3 years later, and I still haven’t eaten dinner there. Some of this is because I simply don’t plan 180 days in advance anymore, which is when the window for booking ADRs opens for the restaurant. It’s a rarity for me to start planning 3 months in advance, and by that time, ADRs are long gone.

In fact, they’re often long gone by the 180 day mark. That may not make sense, but the first tip isn’t really a tip so much as it is a simple fact of life: if you’re staying on-site at a Walt Disney World hotel, there’s a good chance you’ll be shut out for dinner even at the 180 day mark. This is because on-site guests can start making ADRs 180 days before the start of their trip, not the day before they want to dine. In other words, if you’re staying on-site and have a 7-day vacation starting on September 26 (180 days from today), you could make ADRs starting today not just for September 26, but for the duration of your trip, whereas off-site guests could only make ADRs for September 26 or sooner.

Given that there are around 80,000+ guests staying on-site in Walt Disney World on any night, this is a lot of people who potentially can book reservations for Be Our Guest Restaurant before the window for off-site guests even opens. Granted, the vast majority of guests know nothing about ADRs and won’t try book reservations at the 180 window, but around 1% of those guests could book dinner and the restaurant would fill up.

If you’re staying on-site, it’s good practice to try booking Be Our Guest Restaurant as soon as your window opens, and for as far into your vacation as you can. Plan your park days around that. You might even make a couple of ADRs so that you can cancel one after park hours are released. If you’re not staying on-site, well, good luck. Try right when your 180 day window opens, and repeat as necessary for subsequent days of your trip.

Let’s just assume for a second that you’re unable to score one of those coveted ADRs far in advance of your trip. Fortunately, there are other options… (more…)

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Counter Service Restaurants Rankings

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This post ranks the best quick service restaurants in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, a park with notoriously bad counter service options. In fact, “best” here might be a bit of a misnomer, as it could be more of a question of which restaurants are the “least worst.” Rankings are based upon a restaurant’s overall appeal, with factors such as cuisine quality, theme, uniqueness, and menu variety taken into account.

While I think Disney’s Hollywood Studios is actually underrated when it comes to table service dining, the same cannot be said for its counter service options. It doesn’t have a single restaurant on our Top 10 Counter Service Walt Disney World Dining list, and accordingly is the only Walt Disney World theme park not represented. Now, the counter service options at Disney’s Hollywood Studios aren’t awful, there’s just no real draw or anything that leaves a lasting impression. If your budget allows, I highly recommend doing table service meals here; you’ll certainly have time given the lack of attractions currently operating in the Studios.

Note that these rankings focus only on the major counter service spots at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so not every outdoor vending cart and little location makes the list. We’ve dined at all of these spots, but have yet to review most of them…largely because there’s little to say. Our meals at most of these spots have been out of necessity when we couldn’t get into 50’s Prime Time Cafe or Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, and we simply had to eat somewhere.

Let’s get started with the Disney’s Hollywood Studios counter service rankings… (more…)

Top 10 Epcot Counter Service Restaurants

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This post ranks the best quick service restaurants in Epcot at Walt Disney World, including both World Showcase and Future World. Rankings are best on overall quality, with factors such as quality, uniqueness, menu variety, and more all taken into account. There are also photos of some of our favorite food items from each location, which might help you visual folks make the decision a little easier.

Epcot has long been regarded as one of the best dining options at Walt Disney World, with World Showcase in particular viewed as a culinary highlight. It should thus come as no surprise that we view Epcot as having the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World. There are a couple of things that probably will surprise you, though. First, this reputation is largely predicated upon its top 2 dining options: Sunshine Seasons and Tangierine Cafe, both of which are also near the top of our Top 10 Counter Service Walt Disney World Dining list. Second, there actually are not a lot of good counter service options in Epcot that have “full” menus as compared to Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Given that a lot of the spots that could be considered counter service restaurants around Epcot have very limited menus, and since I’ve learned from my mistake of ranking every counter service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom (including the Starbucks Main Street Bakery and seasonal places that are seldom open), I’m limiting this to a top 10. This means that some small stands aren’t on this list at all, which is either a product of them not being noteworthy, or of us just never having tried them.

All in all, we think that Epcot is a fairly straightforward park when it comes to counter service, with the good choices being undeniably good, and the rest being varying degrees of decent. There are a couple of surprises, particularly with restaurants we’ve previously criticized that have since improved. It is also worth noting that most of the options in World Showcase are highly dependent upon what you think of a particular regional cuisine. Namely, if you don’t like it at all, you likely won’t like its Epcot counterpart, and if you are used to highly authentic versions of a particular cuisine, you might find the Epcot versions overly Americanized or bland.

We’ve separately reviewed many of the Epcot restaurants in this post, so if you want to know more, those thorough reviews are the way to go. To read our full reviews and see additional food photos of each spot, click the restaurant name (if it’s not click-able, we have yet to review it).

Let’s get started with the Epcot counter service rankings…

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Trail’s End Restaurant Review

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Trail’s End Restaurant is a buffet in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground at Walt Disney World. This review features photos and thoughts about breakfast at Trail’s End. The buffet menu at Trail’s End features a lot of different country favorites, and I think offers the best bang for your buck at Walt Disney World. Trail’s End participates in the Disney Dining Plan, and accepts Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount. Given its low cost, it’s not a great use of a Disney Dining Plan table service credit if you’re trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan. However, it’s an excellent option if paying out of pocket.

Trail’s End is one of those restaurants you don’t hear a ton about, probably due to its remote location at Fort Wilderness. What you do hear is almost unanimous praise. I was a little concerned about all of the hype before I visited the Trail’s End for the first time (well, probably not the first time…my family used to camp at Fort Wilderness every year until Shades of Green opened, but I don’t remember any of those early-1990s meals), as I’ve found that hype tends to snowball in the Disney community, and some of the most popular things tend to be disappointments (Exhibit A).

Fortunately, that was not the case with Trail’s End in the slightest. Not only did it live up to every bit of that hype, but it also proved to be a fun location that is equal parts quaintness and quirkiness in terms of ambiance… (more…)