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, hotels and beyond. Some are once-per-trip dining spots, while others are hidden gems that even many WDW regulars haven’t tried. (Updated December 1, 2023.)
For our Christmas 2023 update, we’re making a few changes to the list. First, several fan-favorite counter service restaurants are once again on the list. As we’ve been discussing for the last couple of years, scaled-back menus have really hurt the cuisine-quality and ambitiousness at many Walt Disney World restaurants. To be sure, that’s an ongoing issue–a number of locations still have dumbed-down menus, especially at Magic Kingdom–but it’s getting better.
Second, we’re continuing to “tip the scales” towards counter service restaurants inside the theme parks or easily accessible from them. As many of you have pointed out, it’s not practical to eat lunch at Disney Springs during a day in the parks, and we want this to be a useful resource. While it’s true that many of the best restaurants are at Disney Springs, we’re limiting the list to only two of the best counter service spots from that district. Every other entry is either in-park or accessible from one of the theme parks without boarding a bus.
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.
All of the Walt Disney World counter service restaurants on this list will participate in the 2024 Disney Dining Plan as counter service credits. While the Disney Dining Plan doesn’t necessarily impact the rankings, we do give a little bit of weight to locations with premium entrees that are expensive out-of-pocket but great values when using DDP credits. There are several counter service restaurants that fit the bill here, especially in the top 5!
Anyway, 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…
T15.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.
T15. Connections Cafe & Eatery– Epcot, World Celebration – Walt Disney World’s newest counter service restaurant makes the list, which is somewhat unsurprising–most spots start strong and see their menus diluted over time. Still, it does replace Electric Umbrella, which was notorious among some fans as being among the worst restaurants at Walt Disney World. So its successor making this list is noteworthy.
With that said, we are somewhat reluctant to include Connections Cafe, especially as there are so many more interesting and ambitious options in World Showcase (albeit with varying and inconsistent quality). In addition to that, most Epcot restaurants are easily surpassed by the perpetual festival booths, and Connections Cafe is not immune to that.
In other words, Connections Cafe is worthy of inclusion on this list in a vacuum, but our endorsement is pretty tepid when viewed in the broader context of eating at Epcot. Honestly, the same is true for Sunshine Seasons and Regal Eagle–but they’re good options if you’d prefer something more efficient and affordable than grazing the festival booths or doing a table service meal.
14. Trail’s End– Fort Wilderness Campground – This list is incredibly heavy on barbecue and comfort food, but we couldn’t resist including this newly-redone eatery at Fort Wilderness. We love the family style offerings at Trail’s End–ribs or fried chicken (why not both?!). These are served with cornbread and your choice of four sides, and–spoiler alert–all of the sides are fantastic, too.
This to-go family feast is considerably cheaper than its counterparts. If you’re not in the mood for a shareable option, Trail’s End also has enormous slices of pizza (or whole pizzas–another shareable pick). It’s a great midday break from Magic Kingdom, and an even better pick for those staying in the excellent Fort Wilderness Cabins, which are equipped with fridges and microwaves for convenient storage and reheating.
13. Regal Eagle Smokehouse– Epcot, American Adventure – A relatively recent addition, Regal Eagle replaces the infamous Liberty Inn at American Adventure. This “Muppet Meatery” serves up satisfying and filling BBQ, with ample portions that are both delicious and relatively inexpensive (at least, by Walt Disney World standards).
As “stacked” as EPCOT’s culinary scene is, the big blind spot has always been high-quality and crowd-pleasing counter service cuisine. With Tangierine Cafe now closed, there’s even more of a counter service void in World Showcase.
12.Roaring Fork – When it comes to restaurants near Magic Kingdom, everyone is going to focus on the monorail resorts. And that’s fair, as there’s a trio of excellent and fan-favorite restaurants at those hotel. However, this is another underrated spot that is accessible from Magic Kingdom without boarding a bus. The relaxing boat ride over coupled with the laid back resort atmosphere is a great way to decompress during a chaotic day at Magic Kingdom.
11. Woody’s Lunch Box – This is a fun spot with a stacked menu of crowd-pleasing comfort foods and indulgences. The cuisine checks the right boxes, with the perfect mix of inventiveness and deliciousness while being completely approachable to everyone. However, we love the idea of Woody’s Lunch Box more than the actual experience of eating here.
It can be a nightmare to try eating at Woody’s Lunch Box during the lunch or dinner rushes on an even moderately busy day. The seating area is undersized (even after expansion) and there aren’t enough cash registers–the “restaurant” should be at least double, if not triple, its size given the popularity of Toy Story Land. As a result, we seldom dine at Woody’s Lunch Box.
If you opt to eat here, we’d highly recommend going early or late. Whatever you do, don’t show up to Woody’s Lunch Box at noon. We highly recommend the BBQ Brisket Melt, Totchos, and Grilled Cheese. Oh, and don’t sleep on the Lunch Box Tarts, which are not just fancy Pop Tarts (they’re better than they should be based on looks).
10. Captain Cook’s – Disney’s Polynesian Resort– Thanks to great made-to-order lunch and dinner options, unique desserts, and Tonga Toast for breakfast, Captain Cook’s ranks very highly. Admittedly, I might also be biased by the Pulled Pork Nachos, which have been one of my Walt Disney World guilty pleasures for the last decade-plus. (One of the dishes that I regularly crave.)
We highly recommend taking your food outside (the small dining area inside is often crowded, anyway) and enjoying the sights and sounds of the Polynesian while you enjoy your meal. Pure bliss.
9. Gasparilla Island Grill– Grand Floridian Resort – After an extensive overhaul a few years ago, Gasparilla Island Grill surged to near the top of this list. As is often the case with new menus, they were a little too ambitious and several of the best items ended up being removed from the menu. Then the closure and subsequent reopening happened, and the menu was significantly scaled back.
Fast-forward to late 2023, and several of the best dishes have returned. There are fantastic bowls, flatbreads, burgers, salads, and more. I’m personally partial to the sandwiches–the bread is exceptional, and the toppings are top-notch. From the ingredients to desserts, Gasparilla Island Grill is exceptionally high-quality, and a cut above counter service cuisine at most other resorts. This is among the best of the monorail loop counter service restaurants, and one worthy of Walt Disney World’s flagship resort.
8. ABC Commissary– Hollywood Studios – You might be a bit surprised to see the “most boring restaurant” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios restaurant make the list, but it has seen a number of menu changes recently. Of course, the menu here changes with the wind, so don’t be surprised if it changes once again before your Walt Disney World vacation.
At ABC Commissary, our favorite option is the Buffalo Chicken Grilled Cheese Sandwich followed by the shockingly good Mediterranean Salad. There are several options that are tasty and ambitious, which is more than can be said about many in-park counter service restaurants right now.
7. Flame Tree BBQ –Animal Kingdom – If you love meat, Flame Tree BBQ might sneak up a couple spots 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 on 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 high score.
6. Primo Piatto — This is the relatively new counter service restaurant at Disney’s Riviera Resort. While outside the park, Primo Piatto is an easy Skyliner flight from Epcot or Hollywood Studios, meaning that it’s ridiculously easy to do it as a break from the parks.
Primo Piatto also has strong menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, making it a great option for multiple meals. It’s not as good as it was when Riviera Resort first opened, but the menu has largely been restored, and Primo Piatto climbs a couple spots up the list as a result. Some further “research” is needed, but it might move up another couple of slots in 2024, if we can confirm that dishes we’ve tried at Bar Riva (they share a kitchen) are just as good at Primo Piatto!
5. Columbia Harbour House– Magic Kingdom, Liberty Square – With Be Our Guest Restaurant now serving its prix fixe menu for lunch in addition to dinner, this spot in Liberty Square becomes far and away the best quick service restaurant in all of Magic Kingdom. It’s not even a close call, as even the next-best options only have a good entree or two, or are incredibly taste-specific. (Arguably the same is true with Columbia Harbour House, which is mostly seafood.)
Whether you want something on the healthier side or a platter of fried delights, Columbia Harbour House has got you covered. It’s also a great place to escape the crowds of Magic Kingdom. The portions are hearty, the dishes taste great, and Columbia Harbour House generally offers good value for money. From the Lobster Roll to the Grilled Salmon, the menu is ambitious and satisfying.
4. Sunshine Seasons – Epcot, World Nature – We are very pleased to report that nature is healing and Sunshine Seasons is once again in the running to be one of the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World. Several years ago, it was #1 before falling off entirely and slowly climbing back up the list. Thankfully, many menu items have been restored since then, with other new options added.
Once again, Sunshine Seasons offers something for everyone, with inventive items and familiar favorites. 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) as does its lack of dinner hours, but overall Sunshine Seasons is strong again.
3. 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.
2. 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, while meat-eating enthusiasts might just prefer the Smoked Kaadu Ribs to those at Flame Tree BBQ. And that’s just two things on this stacked menu!
1. Polite Pig– Disney Springs – This list’s lone entry from Disney Springs, even though several are deserving from a quality perspective. It’s also one of the most popular dining spots at Disney Springs, and is likely to become even more of a destination restaurant thanks to its recognition in the Florida Michelin Guide.
It’s impossible to deny the quality of countless dishes at Polite Pig. The Baby Back Ribs with the polite rub and layla’s sweet bbq sauce are the best at Walt Disney World. The Pork Shoulder and Half Chicken are similarly fantastic. These are all quite pricey, but the quality is undeniable. For cheaper options, the sandwiches do not disappoint. Ditto the shareables and market sides.
That wraps up the Late 2023 edition of our best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World! In all likelihood, we’ll be back with another update fairly early in 2024, as the return of the Disney Dining Plan will likely result in menu changes across Walt Disney World. Hopefully those will, by and large, be menu changes for the better.
As always, don’t feel bad if your favorites didn’t make the cut. 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, Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie, Earl of Sandwich, Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory, Riverside Mill Food Court, Centertown Market, Katsura Grill, Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe, Chicken Guy, and D-Luxe Burger. 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!