This post ranks the 10 best & worst quick service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. Despite the park’s poor reputation for counter service dining, there are some good options, especially for families with kids who are picky eaters. (Updated June 11, 2022.)
By contrast, most of Magic Kingdom’s top 10 counter service restaurants are only mediocre to good. Rather than being a “best of” list, this is probably more accurately a list of “least bad” options. On top of that, several of the good locations have incredibly limited menus or only serve a specific type of food, meaning they probably aren’t even going to be good options for families wanting a range of crowd-pleasing options. This makes Magic Kingdom’s quick service dining more difficult to rank than any other park…
In other words, you really have to work for it if you want to do two good counter service meals at Magic Kingdom. There’s one excellent eatery that’ll work for almost everyone, but the other quick-service restaurants all have pitfalls. Whether it be that they have large menus of mediocre food, small menus of good choices, or are loud and chaotic–most of the choices leave something to be desired.
To make matters worse, almost every Magic Kingdom restaurant has had its menu scaled back in the last two years and the previous #1 pick is no longer a counter service restaurant at all…
N/A. Be Our Guest Restaurant – New Fantasyland – Once the unequivocal #1 counter service restaurant in Magic Kingdom, Be Our Guest Restaurant now serves an all-day menu (see our Be Our Guest Prix Fixe Lunch/Dinner Review). This means it’s only table service, with the same appetizer, entree, and dessert options all day long. It has been this way since Magic Kingdom reopened, and remains the case nearly two years later.
At this point, we’re not optimistic that Be Our Guest Restaurant will revert to a counter service lunch anytime soon. That’s really unfortunate, as most of the alternatives leave something to be desired. Even the “good” entries on this list don’t offer something for everyone, so good luck on getting your family to agree on 2 meal locations in Magic Kingdom!
N/A. Tomorrowland Terrace – Tomorrowland – Located at the edge of Main Street, this location has long been seasonal. It last served up “greatest hits” from the menu at Columbia Harbour House before that reopened.
At this point, it seems unlikely that Tomorrowland Terrace will reopen unless or until attendance caps increase significantly in Magic Kingdom. It also hosts a slew of fireworks dessert parties, and it’s probably easier to not use it for regular dining purposes prior to those. If or when Tomorrowland Terrace does return, it’ll have another new menu, so we’re removing it from this list for now.
10. Aunt Polly’s –Tom Sawyer Island – In total, Aunt Polly’s is probably only open for a handful of weeks per year. It’s usually open during peak season around Christmas and New Year’s, plus Spring Break, Easter, and other holidays. It hasn’t been open at all in the last 2 years, but we expect that to change this Thanksgiving.
Pre-closure, the menu at Aunt Polly’s was limited but superb. Its location on Tom Sawyer Island is a nice respite from the crowds–a blissful escape when Magic Kingdom is at its most bonkers, crowd-wise. We recommend going out of your way to seek it out. The overall experience is way better than the #10 ranking might suggest–it’s only this low because 95% of you won’t even have a chance to experience it.
9. Pinocchio Village Haus – Fantasyland – Disney got swept up in the flatbread craze several years ago, and Pinocchio Village Haus became the default location in Magic Kingdom for those. The menu started strong, but has gone downhill since, and it’s long overdue for another new concept. Nevertheless, you can occasionally get lucky with a freshly-made flatbread that tastes great.
Another upside of Pinocchio Village Haus is the window views overlooking “it’s a small world.” That’s really fun and unique, and we love late nights seated here when the restaurant has cleared out. The downsides are pretty much everything else. Pinocchio Village Haus is the Fantasyland restaurant, and that’s evident during the lunch and dinner rushes. It’s loud and chaotic with families and small children, and the food usually is okay at best.
8. The Lunching Pad – Tomorrowland – This walk-up window under Astro Orbiter has expanded from being Magic Kingdom’s hotspot for delicious pretzels to finally living up to the pun in its name as a place for a fully-fledged lunch.
The hot dogs are nothing special and you’ll find similar options at a range of counter service restaurants throughout the parks. The “If You Had Wings” jerk chicken strips are slightly better, and what elevates the Lunching Pad to this spot. Or you could go full-on “vacation mode” and simply order two of the incredible Cream Cheese Warm Stuffed Pretzels for lunch. Not sure about the nutritional wisdom of that, but it’d be a delicious decision.
7. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe –Tomorrowland – Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Cosmic Ray’s used to be our favorite counter service restaurant at Magic Kingdom, and we dined here with regularity. The menu always had some standouts, including “experimental” burgers, bbq ribs, rotisserie chicken, and at least a couple of interesting healthy options. Add to that the excellent toppings bar and an expansive menu of ‘safe’ choices that could be piled high with a heaping helping of tomatoes, pickles, and condiments.
All of that is gone now–except for the safe options. There is no toppings bar and nothing interesting or unique on the menu. It’s all standard theme park fare. Like Pinocchio Village Haus, it’s also a madhouse during prime dining hours, which makes it somewhere you’ll want to avoid during the peak lunch and dinner rushes if you want a reprieve from the crowds and chaos.
Still, it’s home to the lounge lizard Sonny Eclipse, the alien Audio Animatronics performer who is the epitome of the type of ‘little thing’ that makes Walt Disney World special. We still go there on occasion just to see one of Sonny Eclipses sets, but we’re seldom impressed by anything we eat at Cosmic Ray’s.
6. Tortuga Tavern – Adventureland – A few years ago, Disney refurbished the seasonal El Pirata y El Perico and renamed it to Tortuga Tavern. A lot of decor was new, with a heavy pirates motif and some witty signs. Our expectations were high, because the restaurant looked cool, but for some reason it remained seasonal.
Since then, Tortuga Tavern has been open more regularly, while receiving a revolving door of new menus. The good news is that for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, Tortuga Tavern has received a slew of classic items from the Adventureland Veranda, while also retaining its beloved Peanut Butter, Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread, and Banana Sandwich. As of Summer 2022, this makes Tortuga Tavern a shockingly good option…but that could all change with another new menu.
5. Casey’s Corner –Main Street USA – Magic Kingdom is home to many iconic attractions and must-dos for the rite of passage Walt Disney World vacation. Arguably, Casey’s Corner is one of those. The hot dogs are shockingly good, but it’s the plant-based slaw dog that is most delicious (yes, really).
Then there are the famous Corn Dog Nuggets. If you ate these anywhere else, they probably would be utterly ordinary and forgettable. As a late night Fourth Meal with a view of Cinderella Castle while waiting for the fireworks? They are pure perfection.
4. Sleepy Hollow Inn – Liberty Square – With its menu of basically only waffle sandwiches, we’re pushing it a bit by including Sleepy Hollow on this list. However, we love these waffle sandwiches so much that we’d be remiss to leave them off.
Some find that the waffle sandwiches have an interesting flavor profile, and we agree with this to an extent, but they’re interesting in a very good way. The waffle sandwiches are freshly made, and are filling enough to serve as a meal. We now eat here more than any other restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, and the only reason it’s not higher on this list is because of its limited menu.
3. Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe –Frontierland – Pecos Bill used to be the Frontierland equivalent of Cosmic Ray’s, but it now serves a menu of Mexican cuisine plus some typical theme park foods. The variety alone makes it one of the better choices in the Magic Kingdom, even if most of the entrees are on the bland side.
Despite being one of Magic Kingdom’s massive eateries, Pecos Bill also benefits from a superior seating area. It’s subdivided into a lot of different sections, and while the first one you approach will be crowded and chaotic–just like Cosmic Ray’s–during prime dining hours, the others are typically better. We prefer eating outside or cutting across to Tortuga Tavern’s seating area for the most relaxed experience.
2. The Friar’s Nook – Fantasyland – This unassuming food counter serves up some delicious guilty pleasures for breakfast, plus mac & cheese centric dishes for lunch and dinner. For Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, there’s also a slew of Mr. Toad inspired items, a couple of which are pleasant surprises. Those dishes coupled with our “hack” of eating up on a balcony overlooking Fantasyland and Cinderella Castle are what earns the Friar’s Nook it’s surprisingly high spot.
That this is enough to rank #2 on a list of counter service restaurants should underscore just how weak the lineup is in Magic Kingdom. In any of the other 3 parks, the Friar’s Nook wouldn’t crack the top 5. It’s really disappointing that Walt Disney World’s most popular park has such a lazy lineup of casual dining options.
1. Columbia Harbour House – Liberty Square – Columbia Harbour House is a favorite of ours, thanks to its solid seafood menu and very relaxed upstairs seating. 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. There are still some basic options and it won’t appeal to those who dislike seafood, but for seafood fans, it’ll be the easy #1 pick in Magic Kingdom. This is the only full-scale counter service restaurant in the entire park that is currently worthwhile.
Based upon these descriptions, you can probably understand why it’s so difficult to rank some of the Magic Kingdom’s counter service restaurants. The top of the list has some good options, and there are a few choice items here and there at the rest of the restaurants, but by and large counter service dining in the Magic Kingdom is a sea of ‘meh.’ The Magic Kingdom is the worst park in terms of counter service dining, with Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios all having substantially better counter service options. It’s really not even close.
Fortunately for Magic Kingdom guests, really great options are only a monorail or boat ride away in the Magic Kingdom Area Resorts, and lunch at one of these counter service locales might be a good way to break up the day. You can certainly have a nice meal in the Magic Kingdom, but we feel Walt Disney World’s flagship theme park really needs to up its game in terms of dining. Be Our Guest Restaurant was a good start, but now that’s gone and other menus around the park have gotten even worse.
Which Magic Kingdom counter service restaurant is your favorite? Have you dined at these restaurants? Which did you like and dislike? What are your top Magic Kingdom counter service restaurants? We love to hear from readers, so if you have any thoughts or questions, post them in the comments!