Here is our list of the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World. These are our 15 favorite quick places to eat in Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Disney Springs, and the resort hotels. Some, like Flame Tree BBQ or Docking Bay 7, are once-per-trip dining spots. Others are hidden gems that even many WDW regulars haven’t tried. (Last updated August 11, 2019.)
For those unfamiliar with the term, counter service (or quick service) restaurants are Walt Disney World’s equivalent of fast food. Don’t let the negative connotation of ‘fast food’ (these are more like fast casual, anyway) dissuade you from trying these restaurants, as all of them have some excellent options. This list is based on value, food quality, and theme. Value and quality are regularly changing, as prices and menus both change.
As such, we update this list regularly to ensure that this list still covers what’s currently good at Walt Disney World. For 2019, there are a ton of changes to this list, with some of the top restaurants nearly falling off the list, and a new #1. There are so many good counter service options that it was difficult to narrow this list down to 10…so another change for 2019 is that we aren’t even trying to do that anymore, and we’ve expanded the list to 15 entries…
Below is a brief synopsis why each restaurant is a great pick for your next quick meal at Walt Disney World. Click the restaurant name for our full review (and lots more food-photos!) of each restaurant…
15. Sunshine Seasons – Epcot, Future World – How the mighty have fallen. Once at the top of this list, Sunshine Seasons now barely sneaks onto it. In the last year, Sunshine Seasons has replaced inventive items with “crowd-pleasing” dishes that are anything but–they’re among the worst items (including the worst pizza) at Walt Disney World. On some days, it has an entire ordering bay shut down, too.
On the plus side, Sunshine Seasons still offers something for everyone and still has inventive items. Delicious sandwiches, chicken, salmon, and an array of amazing desserts. The seating area leaves a little to be desired (perhaps a nice fountain in the middle, wink wink), but overall Sunshine Seasons remains strong, even if it’s no longer top 5.
14.Artist’s Palette – Saratoga Springs is home to the most underrated counter service restaurant in all of Walt Disney World. Even when we’ve stayed at Saratoga Springs, we’ve passed on this eatery, as it simply looks boring. It took us until last year to finally “discover” Artist’s Palette.
Once you get past the restaurant being inside the resort’s gift shop and the eating area being bland as can be, you’ll find a menu that’s filled with ambitious options, including desserts. The biggest downsides are that the menu is a bit pizza and sandwich heavy (but there are a lot of them!) and that the seating area is a snooze. Take your food outside, grabbing a poolside seat or going even farther for a waterfront view.
13. El Mercado de Coronado –Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort – After changing its name from Pepper Market to El Mercado de Coronado and adding build-your-own rice bowls, Coronado Springs Resort’s food court once again finds itself on this list. Portion sizes are more than ample for most appetites, and the sheer amount of variety here is insane.
The rice bowls are a new contender, but for me the rib entree is the highlight of the menu. Add to that a variety of good Mexican food, other international options, and pizza, and El Mercado de Coronado is a top notch counter service restaurant.
12. The Mara – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Jambo House – The Mara is exactly what you’d expect from a counter service restaurant at Animal Kingdom Lodge: full of unique and adventurous options, at least in terms of counter service dining. The plus side is that it also serves less-adventurous options, like the Pepperoni Flatbread.
The Mara’s flagship draw, and something we’d recommend everyone give a try regardless of preconceptions, is the African Potjie. The Vegetarian Falafel Bites with Hummus, Garlic Yoghurt, Cucumber and Kulcha Bread has become Sarah’s go-to at the Mara. The rotisserie chicken and ribs are solid uses of Disney Dining Plan credits. The final draw here is the Zebra Domes found in the coolers; make sure to get an order of them to split.
11. Gasparilla Island Grill– Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – After an extensive overhaul a few years ago, Gasparilla Island Grill surged to near the top of this list. A few strong items have been removed since, and the menu is still slightly lacking in diversity, but otherwise, this waterfront restaurant at Grand Floridan is strong.
From entree inventiveness to dessert quality, Gasparilla Island Grill is exceptional. This is among the best of the monorail loop counter service restaurants, and one worthy of Walt Disney World’s flagship resort.
10. Contempo Café – Disney’s Contemporary Resort – After removing several top-notch and more ambitious entrees from its menu, Contempo Cafe has fallen from our good graces. However, it still has those excellent cupcakes and a pretty solid menu, making Contempo Cafe one of our go-to Walt Disney World restaurants. We have dined here several times and always come away happy.
Not only are menu items delicious and unique, but the menu is huge, offering ample variety for everyone in your group. It does lack theming, feeling a bit like a loud food court, but when the monorail zooms by overhead, you realize the Grand Canyon Concourse is all the “theming” it needs.
However, Be Our Guest Restaurant remains very difficult to rank. If you manage to score a seat in the West Wing and are using Disney Dining Plan counter service credits to insult yourself from sticker shock, this could be among your best quick service dining experiences at Walt Disney World. If you pay out of pocket, wait in a long line, and are seated in the mess hall-like ballroom, you might think it’s overrated or worse. This ranking reflects a middle ground: Be Our Guest is the best counter service dining option in Magic Kingdom, but far from a perfect experience for everyone.
8. D-Luxe Burger– Disney Springs – The first counter service restaurant from Disney Springs to ever make this list, D-Luxe Burger is in a league of its own. While most of the other top counter service spots at Disney Springs are third party restaurants you could find in the real world (and we penalize them a bit for that), D-Luxe Burger is Walt Disney World owned and operated.
On the food-front, D-Luxe Burger serves what are–without a doubt–the best fast food burgers at Walt Disney World. These things are even better than some table service burgers…which is a good thing, given that price is a common criticism here. The fries and range of dipping sauces for them are also excellent, and we highly recommend ordering one of the two-person combos with burgers and fries to save a couple of bucks.
7.Four Rivers Cantina Barbacoa Food Truck – Disney Springs – Ask an Orlando local about the best non-Disney restaurants in Orlando. The most common reply you’ll hear is 4 Rivers Smokehouse. Their Winter Park, Florida location is one of the best BBQ places I’ve ever visited, with incredible Texas Brisket, Kansas City Burnt Ends, Tri-Tip, and more. (It’d be the #1 restaurant on this list by far.)
This food truck at Disney Springs isn’t as good as the local chain’s flagship Florida location, but it is decidedly different and nonetheless excellent. The taco cones and burrito bowls are among the most satisfying meals you can have at Walt Disney World for a modest price.
6. Landscape of Flavors – Disney’s Art of Animation Resort – With multiple ordering bays that have a diverse assortment of food (the best of which is the Tandoori Station), Landscape of Flavors has something for everyone. It also marked the beginning of higher quality food at the Value Resorts, which for years offered little beyond low-quality pizza, burger, chicken nuggets, and other assorted fried stuff.
We’ve eaten here on multiple occasions and it’s almost always exceeded expectations. The only knock on it is that it really doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of Disney theming, and is tough to visit unless you’re at Pop Century, Art of Animation…or you decide to take a leisurely Skyliner ride to Art of Animation!
5. Tangierine Cafe – Epcot, World Showcase, Morocco – Despite some really incredible table service options, the counter service food in Epcot’s World Showcase is generally lacking. Tangierine Cafe is the big exception, as it offers huge portions for fair prices, and has a fairly non-traditional counter service menu.
While it is somewhat adventurous, it’s still tame-enough that most tourists can find something here that they like. We usually split a meal at Tangierine Cafe because it’s that filling. Even if this appears outside of your comfort zone, we cannot recommend it highly enough.
4. Satu’li Canteen – Pandora: World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom – More ambitious menus are definitely a trend with new counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World, and Avatar Land’s mess hall is no exception. Per backstory, this cafeteria has been repurposed into a peaceful dining facility by Alpha Centauri Expeditions (ACE) and adorned with Na’vi art and cultural items. Despite that, the setting isn’t quite as interesting as you might expect.
No matter, as the food is absolutely delicious. The highlight at Satu’li Canteen is the “Create-Your-Own-Bowl” option, which lets you select a protein, base, and sauce. This gives you the option to choose among the fresh, high quality, and delicious ingredients to make something healthy, heavy and decadent, or in between. (I definitely go for the “wrong” end of that spectrum, and love the beef with potatoes and creamy herb dressing.) In other words, there’s something for everyone with the options at Satu’li Canteen.
3. Wolfgang Puck Express– Disney Springs – About a decade ago, Wolfgang Puck Express made everyone’s list. It was one of the best options in terms of cuisine, the best use of a Disney Dining Plan counter service credit, and even had some cheaper options for those wanting a filling meal without breaking the bank.
None of the above should be past tense. While Wolfgang Puck Express has largely been forgotten as Disney Springs has expanded in the other direction, this hidden spot (quite literally!) in the Marketplace at Disney Springs still delivers all of these things. It’s not thematically-rich (or themed at all for that matter), which hurts its score here. Nevertheless, it’s an exceptional meal and a nice break from the crowded stores around it.
2. Flame Tree BBQ –Disney’s Animal Kingdom – If you love meat, Flame Tree BBQ might sneak into the top spot on this list for you. The St. Louis Ribs entree that tops Flame Tree BBQ’s menu is the single greatest counter service option in all of Walt Disney World. While I love the ribs, my new go-to is the Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork. It’s delicious, interesting, filling, and a great value.
The details and view of Everest in the seating area also help Flame Tree Barbecue claim a spot near the top of this list. Only its dessert selection, limited menu for non-carnivores, and prices (which have soared in recent years) blemish Flame Tree BBQ’s otherwise near-perfect score.
1. Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo – Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios – Walt Disney World’s newest counter service restaurant is already its best. That’s good news, as this is the only place to get a full meal in Star Wars Land, and you’ll definitely want to eat while you’re here.
Docking Bay 7 truly fires on all cylinders. Its themed design is engaging and fun, its menu is diverse and delicious, and it offers some of the best desserts at Walt Disney World. In terms of the menu, there’s something for everyone. Vegetarians–and really, anyone–will love the Felucian Garden Spread (pictured below), while meat-eating enthusiasts might just prefer the Smoked Kaadu Ribs (pictured above) to those at Flame Tree BBQ. And that’s just two things on this stacked menu!
That wraps up the 2019 edition of our best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World!
Here are just a handful of the Walt Disney World counter service restaurants that didn’t make this list, but that probably could have: Sleepy Hollow Refreshments, Columbia Harbour House, Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie, Polite Pig, Blaze Pizza, Earl of Sandwich, Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory, Riverside Mill Food Court, Everything POP, Centertown Market, Woody’s Lunch Box, and Backlot Express.
If you’ve been reading this list for the past few years, you’ll notice it has really been shaken up and expanded this year. In the last couple of years, we have spent a lot more time eating counter service in resort hotels, and a number of them trump or seriously challenge restaurants on this list. Likewise, as Disney Springs continues to improve, there are a number of options there (in addition to D-Luxe Burger) that arguably deserve a spot.
If there is one “trend” we are noticing, it’s that resort food courts are improving, whereas in-park options have been on the decline (while prices increase) for the last year. (Even the new End Zone Food Court at All Star Sports impressed us in a way that we absolutely did not expect.) Hopefully, Walt Disney World starts giving more attention to the menus of its in-park restaurants, after making significant changes–for the better–to resort and Disney Springs dining over the last couple of years. We’ll keep you updated should anything else change!
Which Walt Disney World quick service eatery is your favorite? How many of these restaurants have you dined at? Which did you like? Dislike? Did we snub any deserving counter service restaurants? What are your top Walt Disney World counter service restaurants? Do you agree or disagree with our picks? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!