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 bad, they are great choices for a world famous place.
I absolutely agree with all of the choices you made, and particularly your recommendation of Be Our Guest. Magic Kingdom dining, in general, definitely gets less than stellar word of mouth, but there are few other quick service options that provide this immersive of a theme. Especially now that ADR’s are available for quick service, this restaurant should be on everyone’s to-do list. Fantastic article!
I completely agree with Contempo Cafe. It is close to cracking my top 10 @ DW period. Absolutely love the marinated steak flatbread (which I don’t think is even on the menu anymore, but they have always made it for me). My wife loves the turkey sandwich. Our kids love the size of the kids menu, and the desserts to top it all off. I am looking forward to trying the burger place at Disney Springs during our next visit.
The fried okra side at Port Orleans Riverside Mill is dabombdotcom. And a steal at about $4 — portion is huge!
If you are doing BOG lunch, you can order ahead online. That cuts the wait down significantly. Most times, we walk right up check-in and are sitting down within a few minutes of getting to the castle, whereas the line to order food is usually staggeringly long. You can always change your oder when you check in, so there is really no reason not to order ahead.
You can change your order when you check-in, I don’t know as though you can change your oder (or ordor, for that matter).
Ugh, auto correct changed odor to ordor (why? that isn’t even a real word?) thus ruining my hilarious joke. I am just going to go back to bed now.
One of the reasons I stayed in December 2016 at Coronado Springs and will return in 12 days is because of the Pepper Market.
Glad you added this one to the list.
I must make a stop at the Contempo!
My family has a trip comming up where we will have a quick service dining plan. (we usually do a regular dining plan so we are trying something new) We would like to have dinner outside the parks each night and would like to use this as an excuse to see some of the nearby resorts. For Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, we have some solid ideas such as Captain Cook’s at the Poly and the Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge, but we are blanks for EPCOT and Hollywood Studios areas. Anyone have any suggestions for resorts with quick service meals near these two parks? I know the Boardwalk area has many resorts but not sure what there is to offer in quick services meals.
In another post, Tom recommended eating at Crew Cup Lounge for dinner and then Beaches and Cream for dessert I think. Hope that helps!
Thanks! That does help!
We had a couple of awful meals at Pepper Market last year and rate it as pretty much the worst food on any Disney property.
We had a bad experience with service at Cosmic Rays (brilliantly resolved eventually by the duty manager) but the food was pretty good and deserves to be up there.
BOG is great too, we had lunch in the room with the rose and found it great value. Not sure if it’s as popular this year, we have reserved a table easily in June.
First – this site is amazing and appreciated. We referenced it years ago on our first trip to wdw and have regularly checked back several times a year since. I am disappointed to say that Mara is now off of our family’s fave list. It has been going downhill (in our opinion) over the last year. We were disappointed with our meals on our last two visits (July and Sept ’16), and dinner there last night was actually inedible. Meat in stew was too fatty to chew, hubs burger was like a brick and we had to go up and ask for extra marinara for my daughter’s pizza because it was so dry and sauce less. We set our expectations at a low-to-moderate level for quick service restaurants at disney, and Mara didnt live up to those standards. I feel that we are justified in judging Mara since we eat there at least 6 times per year. Unfortunately, we won’t be going back unless we are craving a zebra cupcake. But with your list in hand, we will have other options to try. Btw, we can vouch for the continued high quality of contempo cafe, columbia harbour house and captain cooks from our most recent years trip. And based on your review, we will brave the lines for Be our Guest on our next trip. Thanks for your site!!
this is a great blog sir ////////
Cook’s no longer has self-serve dole whip, at least they didn’t in January when I last went. It was replaced by the Pineapple Lanai outside and is not self-serve. Still wonderfully tasty, of course, but not self-serve. (I overate the self-serve stuff before it disappeared, so I’m actually kind of glad)
I would have to disagree with Columbia Harbour House falling to number 10; we haven’t had their seafood since discovering their Lighthouse Sandwich (hummus, broccoli slaw, and tomatoes on multi-grain bread) – it’s pretty much become tradition to get it every time we visit the Magic Kingdom. Not only does it taste great, it’s less than $10 and it’s a lighter, but still filling, option. Definitely doesn’t fall under typical “theme park food.”
Unfortunately, since BOG started accepting reservations for lunch, we have NEVER been able to dine there because it’s always booked solid. We’ve pretty much resolved that it’s virtually inattainable for those of us who don’t plan their vacations a full 180+ days in advance.
Agree with others Cosmic should be removed several others to consider in place:
Liberty Inn Epcot
ABC Commissary Hollywood Studios
Wolf Gang Puck Express Disney Springs
Thanks for your opinions, but as a frequent(yearly) visitor of WDW I have to agree and disagree on several eateries. My first thought is how in the world you even consider Cosmic Ray’s(awful in my opinion), but these are just opinions aren’t they. The food is the worst in the Magic Kingdom, I much prefer Caseys if your looking for a decent dog. I would agree on Flame Tree but would add its neighbor Yak and Yeti(pan Asian), might put those at 1 and 2.. Always enjoy their dishes. I have eaten at the Contemporary Cafe, it’s filling but not good enough to be rated so highly. I do agree with Stephen , Columbia Harbour House should be near top, good food and portions are plentiful. I would also recommend Sleepy Hollow in the Magic Kingdom for a late snack of chicken and waffles, quite tasty. I could go on but… Thanks for the article.
If only the chicken and waffles were still available at Sleepy Hollow…Both of the savory waffle choices are gone, as are the loaded waffle fries in Adventureland.
We really like the food court at Port Orleans Riverside. The build-your-own pasta station is great and a great value for the amount of food you get. Also, their carving station is excellent, in my opinion.
We also really enjoyed the Contempo Cafe, getting possibly our best meal of our trip there. I had a pulled pork flatbread, and my wife had a sandwich with turkey, Brie, apples, and honey butter. Delicious!
I also think that Friar’s Nook at MK shouldn’t be overlooked. BBQ chicken mac and cheese is awesome!
Finally, I don’t thin that they have self-serve dole whip at Captain Cook’s anymore.
From what I can tell, Pineapple Lanai now has the dole whip in Poly. Don’t know if it’s self serve though…
Hollywood Studios Commissary has the best grilled cheese panini and tomato soup anywhere! I would go to this park just to have lunch here and order this!
Great review and post. Thank you!!! Columbia House Harbor is better than a #10–the salmon, the veggies and being able to chillax on the second floor was awesome
Hi Heather from England here. Last time I was at Disney I was 10 and as a 30 yr old with a 10yr old myself I’m super excited for our trip in October 2016!! BUT I’m so confused, I’m looking up planning ahead n everything. We have paid for the dining plan where you get 2 quick service meals 2 snacks and 1 refillable drink, what I’d like to ask is when your mentioning in this blog about the restaurants are these some of the places I can visit within my dining plan? Like I thought be our guest restaurant wouldn’t be a quick service place I thought since you had to book ahead it was a table service restaurant. I’m really confused can you clear this up for me please?
Really enjoyed the read I’m a huge Disney fan and can’t wait to take my family esp my hubby he’s never been to America before, thanks aging kind regards heather
“Be Our Guest” restaurant is currently (and has been for a few years) a table service restaurant for dinner, but is considered a counter service restaurant for lunch, but it feels like table service. It is the only counter service restaurant that I am aware of that allows you to make reservations (which is a good idea, by the way). You can also place your order for your meal online ahead of time which saves a tremendous amount of time. It’s very large but, amazingly, the waiters deliver your meal to you at your table. How do they do it? GPS? It’s definitely something you should at least try once. But definitely make reservations.
Yes, these restaurants are available with your dining plan, however Be Our Guest does quick service at lunchtime but still requires a reservation to get in.
As I read through the comments I am grateful for so many options to be able to please the millions of different tastes that visit WDW. Our favorite is Flamin Tree at Animal Kingdom and Pecos Bills at Magic Kingdom. I am OK that not everyone likes Pecos Bills it is crowded enough. Visiting next month for our 13th trip and still enjoy reading about WDW to try new things. Thanks for your reviews.
Peco Bills is the best by far!!!
We go to Disney every year and one of our favorite quick service restaurants is Pizza Planet in Hollywood studios.