Top 10 Disney World Counter Service Restaurants
Here is our list of the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World. These are our 10 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 June 19, 2022.)
For our Summer 2022 update, we’re making a few changes to the list. First, several one-time favorite counter service restaurants are closed or have significantly scaled back menus. Consequently, there are popular options missing from the list (hopefully temporarily). Others have restored or refreshed their menus, and reclaimed spots on this list as a result.
Second, we’re “tipping the scales” towards counter service restaurants inside the theme parks in response to reader feedback. 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 the best counter service spot 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.
During normal times, most of the Walt Disney World counter service restaurants on this list participate in the Disney Dining Plan as counter service credits. Unfortunately, the Disney Dining Plan is still temporarily suspended as of Summer 2022. (See When Will the Disney Dining Plan Return? for more on that.)
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…
T10. 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.
T10. Katsura Grill – Epcot, Japan – If you’re looking for an inventive counter service restaurant in World Showcase that’s open daily and has a full menu, Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion is the strongest option. Unlike a lot of its counterparts, the menu here is well-rounded and offers something for pretty much everyone.
We’ve long been fans of Katsura Grill for its fun menu of Japanese comfort cuisine and relaxing outdoor atmosphere. It rockets up this list in large part because new items have actually been added to the Katsura Grill menu, whereas most restaurants at Walt Disney World have scaled back their menus during the phased reopening.
T9. P & J’s Southern Takeout – Fort Wilderness Campground – This list is incredibly heavy on barbecue and comfort food, but we couldn’t resist including this criminally underrated eatery at Fort Wilderness. We love the Family Style offerings at P & J’s Southern Takeout: the Full-Slab Barbecued Ribs and 8-Piece Fried Chicken Family Meal. These are served with cornbread and your choice of four sides: Coleslaw, Cowboy Beans, Macaroni and Cheese, or Mashed Potatoes with Gravy.
This to-go family feast is considerably cheaper than its counterparts, and serves more manageable portion sizes of the same delicious dishes from Trail’s End and Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. It’s a great shareable option for a 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.
T9. 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.
While its cuisine is not as good as Polite Pig, the value proposition is typically better with some of the best entrees being several dollars less expensive. Primo Piatto also has strong menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, making it a great option for multiple meals.
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. 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.
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 – Once at the top of this list, Sunshine Seasons dropped to #10 last year due to its limited menu that was almost exclusively “crowd-pleasing” dishes that were anything but. 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), 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 Summer 2022 edition of our best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World! Hopefully, we’ll have another update later this year once more menus return to normal. There are a ton of Walt Disney World counter service restaurants that didn’t make this list, but could once they restore their full menus.
If you’ve been reading this list for the past few years, you’ll notice it has really been shaken up 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.
Prior to this, one trend we had noticed is that resort food courts were improving, whereas in-park options have been on the decline (while prices increase) for the last year. Hopefully, Walt Disney World starts giving more attention to the menus of its in-park restaurants once things are back to normal. This would be a welcome improvement, 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!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
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!
Not sure if anyone is checking these comments lately, but I’ve been debating between Pepper Market and Landscape of Flavors as they both have a Crab Cake Sandwich, though the one at LoF is called a Surf and Surf Burger and has popcorn shrimp on it. I was wondering if anyone has tried both and could recommend which to go to. I’m looking for only one more counter service place to visit and would like it to be one of those two places for the Crab Cake sandwhich. Thanks!
Me & my family cannot go to Disney’s Hollywood Studios without stopping at Fairfax Fair. Delicious food & we always leave stuffed! Also me & my husband came in February & we loved the breakfast at Donald’s Safari in Animal Kingdom so many choices on the buffet! Of coarse we always like to try something new.
Does Captain Cook’s still have self service Dole Whip?
I just returned from a Christmas WDW trip December 20-25. Based on your recommendation, we visited the Contempo for lunch during our stay. I must say I have to agree that the food was fabulous! They have beautiful salads too.
Thanks for the tip!
Glad to hear you enjoyed Contempo Cafe! 🙂
We stayed at Art of Animation last summer 2013. Its all in knowing how to order and what to order and if you like to try new things. My daughter created and ordered a couple of fresh baked Pizza’s for all of us & that was great. It took awhile but was worth it! My husband and I swam with the grandchildren until she came with the pizza! Several asked where we got it! I would make the trip from Pop to AOA to order that. Another time she ordered some noodle dish topped with chicken and sauce, and I don’t know what else, but she created it and it looked really good! At the same dinner time my husband and I ordered what was ever flashing on the board instead of creating something and our meals were not as good! I ordered (forgot the name)something that looked like stew over rice with acorn squash. It was OK except I personally wouldn’t ever order the squash again. Just thought I would try something new! LOL! My husband ordered some chicken dish and it looked like they had poured a can of dog food over rice. No meat was in it. I thought it couldn’t be that bad and he is just being picky! He gave me a bite and it was really that bad! My husband was starving, but…He actually got up and threw it in the trash(he has never done that) LOL! If he paid for it he ate it! LOL! Especially that hungry! He went and ordered a hamburger and fries that looked great but he wouldn’t share a bite of it with me! LOL! I don’t care what terms they used with their cooking, I thought Breakfast was about the same standard meal as other counter service. It was good! I was surprised they didn’t have ice cream! I’m not really into smoothies, and that’s another one of those things you had to create yourself and they would make it! LOL! My daughter did! She thought AOA was great! Her husband and children(2 & 4) seemed to be OK with her selections there, too!
The picture at the top of the post, with the green beans – where is that from? I want to eat there!
Would I be allowed to walk into a restaurant (Be Our Guest) just for a minute to look at it? I am not interested in the long lines to eat there, but everyone says the décor is just amazing to look at…
In most restaurants, they will allow this. Not sure about Be Our Guest. It’s very busy with little downtime. Try your luck, though. The worst they can say is no! 🙂
Hi there! We were at MK in June 2013. Lunch had a very long wait so I asked if my family could go in just to look and the CM outside said no. It doesn’t hurt to ask though. I plan to eat there when we go next summer. Good luck!
I am surprised that Starring Rolls at Hollywood Studios didn’t make the list. They have excellent desserts and for lunch they have great big sandwiches and sushi! It is one of my faves!
Look for it on the upcoming list of best bakeries! 🙂
I’ve eaten at all of the top ten mentioned, except Mara, I would add to the list The food court at Port Orleans – Riverside. Their Pasta Station is fabulous and the portions are quite large(have never been able to finish) and also their salad station is great. Wolfgang Puck Express (Downtown) is another great option, especially on the DP, they have a very ambitious and large menu. The new menu at the revamped Boardwalk Bakery is also great- Lobster -yum! and – last two, newly reopened counter service in France, Lots of yummy choices and Gasperella’s a Grand Floridian was alwys great, but I haven’t been there since they revamped so it might have changed.
what made you rank contempo over sunshine seasons? I have not eaten at the former, but I do think sunshine gives great value for quality with a large diversity of dishes.
I agree with your list, especially the changes you’ve made for 2014. Boardwalk Bakery is my favorite place to go for Counter Service though. The menu is somewhat limited (sandwiches for lunch and only 2 or 3 options for breakfast) but the Lobster Roll and the Salmon sandwich are the best Counter Service entrees I’ve had (although Flame Tree BBQ comes close). You also get a much wider variety of desserts to pick from at this restaurant and they are delicious.
You didn’t mention Landscape of Flavors at Art of Animation.
I know they have limited menu options, but I love Gaston’s Tavern. LeFou’s Brew is my favorite MK drink/treat and the pork shanks are awesome!
We are going to Disney in Dec 2014. I booked the Wilderness Lodge with the dining plan that inclues 1 table service/1 counter service/and 1 snack per day. Our son is 2 so he will eat for free from us. I’m doing a lot of research and I was thinking of using our table service for Chef Mickey & Crystal Palace. Can we use our counter service for dinner options? Reading your list there are quite a few that I think would serve that purpose if available for dinner like Gaston’s Tavern, Captain’s Cook, Coamic Rays, Contempo Cafe& Roaring Forks(which is in our resort). We are only there for 3 nights/2days.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks!
The only restriction on credits is the table/counter/snack distinction you already noted. You can use them any time of day. If doing character meals, I’d recommend doing them for dinner rather than breakfast. Have fun! 🙂
Although I agree partially that Character dining is better at dinner than breakfast (value for money/more food given its using table service credit) I would suggest to opt for the best time based on when your son has most energy, as you’ll want to avoid a melt down during Mickey’s/Tigger’s trip to that table or if he is asleep also and misses the wonders completely..
I took my little man there in June ’13 (just under 2 yrs) and taking him back again in May ’14.. (just under 3 yrs)..
I found him loving character time at breakfast time.. even to the point of putting his milk bottle in Donald’s mouth (to laughter of several tables around us).. This year, as his eating habits are more developed – im planning on more early evening dinner dining moments (between 5pm – 6:30pm) but have booked a few breakfast character meals just for that early more excitement again..
Have a great time
What would be your recommendation for counter service at the Studio? That’s the one park where I feel completely lost when it comes to dining.
Backlot Express has some decent sandwiches, but other than that, it’s pretty slim pickings. You can always sit at the bar/lounge of 50’s Prime Time or the Brown Derby and order there- not exactly ‘counter service’ per say, but depending on the time of day (peak lunch hours at QS are insane!!) you may get your meal in the same amount of time, or even faster, and have a nice place to sit without having to fight for a table with a tray full of food.
Starring Rolls cafe has some nice sandwiches too, but they close at 4.
I am surprised to see Wolfgang Puck Express did not make the list. Hands down the best QS! Both for quality, variety and value!
Counting the days already til our next trip back to WDW in December. Flame Tree BBQ and those St. Louis Ribs you speak of are at the top of my list! Your blog is much appreciated!
We have been over past few years and had regular dining service for 2-3 weeks so we have had most of recommendations. Totally agree on sunshine seasons. The desserts are enough to bring me back regularly. Also agree on Colombia hh and gaston tavern, queue too long last July for be our guest so went in here. But not on the list is sleepy hollow in liberty square MK and I love the waffles here. It’s always a relaxing area with a fab view of castle. Could do with a good awning to keep sun off you when having a cup of tea with your strawberry waffle.
I loved your choices, especially Captain Cooks. This past trip we took (2/26-3/04/13) I was surprised to find that a few of our counter service meals trumped some table service meals so I thought I would share with you. In Animal Kingdom we went to sit in the Dawa Bar area for some shade and a Margarita while the kids napped, and I spotted Tamu Tamu across the way so we thought we should check it out for a quick bite. Let me tell you..the pulled beef pita was one of the standout meals of the trip!!! Paired with an African Margarita, I was one happy girl lol. Another memorable meal was in Mexico in Epcot. I grabbed us a couple of the delicious Margaritas from “La Cava Del Tequila” and we walked over to secure a waterfront table under the pavilion. We both had the carnitas tacos with chips and delicious salsa for lunch. Those were definitely two of my favorite meals of the trip, out of both table and counter service options!
I think all we’ve ever had from Tamu Tamu is a cupcake. We’ll have to give it a try! Thanks!
I love Tamu Tamu- it’s a great spot to find a ‘fresh’ option. For that matter, DAK in general has some nice, unique dining options that steer clear of the ‘fried-in-a-basket’ theme. I really enjoy it.
Just got back and had to report back! Loved the Studio Catering Co’s buffalo sandwich, and the breakfast choices at Starring Rolls Cafe (you can get phenomenal pastries and whopping sandwiches there at breakfast/ lunch). Didn’t adore Seasons at Epcot like so many people seem to. Flamin Tree was good. Our absolute favs were the Landscape of Flavors at Art of Animation where we stayed (hello to the tandoori choices, the make your own pasta bar was yum and the burgers were out of this world) and Be Our Guest in MK. We didn’t even mind the hot 20+ min wait to get in BOG so much that we did it twice. It was as close to table dining as you were going to get in a quick service place. And so much food that my family of 6 was able to stretch a 5 day meal plan to 6 days; you just had to plan and order smart (like get the bottled drink from the resort meal option, use your refillable cup for that meal, and pair the bottled drink with your snack for a whole breakfast the next day). Dole whip was delish and I even liked the LeFou brew better than butterbeer! Thanks for the suggestions. It was fun trying your suggestions!
Sounds like your dining experience at Walt Disney World was great! Glad we could help! 🙂