We have a lot of top 10 lists for eating at Walt Disney World. Ones for table service restaurants, counter service, bars & lounges, character meals, resorts, fireworks views, themed dining, and more. This ranks our absolute favorites–places we love and would do again and again.
For this, we’re going to do things a little differently. We’re combining them all…into a list with only 22 spots. But wait, there’s more. We’re also going to break the field down into 11 different categories with 2 entries in each. This produces a lot more variety, but also a lot more snubs. Paradoxically, it excludes a number of restaurants in our Top 10 Table Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World, including the #1 pick. But there’s a good reason for that!
Rather than viewing this in terms of the absolute top tier dining at WDW, the question that prompted this list is: which restaurants would we recommend to family & friends vacationing at Walt Disney World? That seems perfectly logical, but it’s something our past lists failed to do. As it turns out, the average visitors won’t do 5 nights at Disney Springs nor will families book a half-dozen Signature Dining experiences during their trip or splurge on a $600 per person evening. Who knew! The goal here was coming up with something actionable for the average vacationers looking to make their Advance Dining Reservations.
We view all of you as friends (those of you we like) or family (some of you can be a pain, but at least you don’t have us set up new printers), so we figured we might as well share this with you, too. Just don’t ask for methodology or an explanation beyond what’s given–this is more of a gut feeling than an analytical analysis.
With that said, each section does offer some explanation to give you insight into our thinking for each set of recommendations. Plus, some alternatives where relevant, making the list much longer than 22 recommendations. Here goes nothing…
Considered by many to be the worst food park at Walt Disney World, even Magic Kingdom has redeeming dining options. For our part, we think Magic Kingdom gets a bad rap. The real issue is depth, as there are too few good options, too little variety, and not enough quality on the counter service front.
We’d argue that at least a couple polarizing table service restaurants (Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest Restaurant) are actually good, and there are others where we enjoy at least a handful of menu items. In any case, here are our favorite restaurants–by far–at Magic Kingdom…
Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen – This has become our go-to sleeper pick in Magic Kingdom. The menu has a tremendous amount of variety, dishes are usually tasty and ambitious, and it’s usually easy to book an Advance Dining Reservation here at the last minute.
On top of that, Skipper Canteen is just flat-out fun. The humor, energy and eclectic nature of Jungle Cruise bleeds over into Skipper Canteen, making it one of the most unique restaurants in all of Walt Disney World. Now that’s a winning recipe!
Columbia Harbour House– This spot in Liberty Square serves far and away the best quick service cuisine 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–but we think there’s more or less something for everyone here.
Whether you want a healthy entree 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.
Widely regarded as Walt Disney World’s “foodie park,” EPCOT has a lot of dining options. World Showcase, in particular, is beloved among visitors who enjoy eating and drinking their way around the lagoon. Not to be contrarian, but we think this reputation is largely overblown.
To be sure, EPCOT does have a formidable food lineup and the perpetual festivals definitely contribute to that. If going by the sheer number of options that are at least okay, EPCOT stands alone. However, we’d argue that many (if not most) of these are mediocre to above-average. There are only a few true standouts, and a surplus of passable options. Here are our picks for EPCOT, both of which are fun restaurants with crowd-pleasing cuisine…
Space 220 – The experience here starts right after checking in, when you head inside the departures terminal and board a Space Elevators. This transports you what seems like 220 miles above Earth to Centauri Space Station, with a thematic assist from screens simulating a blast off from Florida and docking at the CSS.
Upon exiting the elevator, you walk through an entrance hallway with some space horticulture–definite Living with the Land meets Horizons meets the Martian vibes here. The arrival makes a strong first impression and Centauri Space Station feels pretty authentic–based on my extensive experiences with real space stations, naturally. Entering the seating area reveals a breathtaking panoramic view of Earth in the distance outside the windows. This is Space 220’s big wow moment.
The food at Space 220 is good, in our opinion. It’s not going to win any awards or itself make ‘best of’ lists when judging cuisine from all over Walt Disney World. However, outside of the next entry plus Takumi-Tei and Monsieur Paul (both of which are still in the reopening ‘process’ and have absurdly-priced prix fixe menus as a result, so they’re temporarily disqualified), you aren’t going to find award-winning cuisine anywhere at EPCOT.
Via Napoli – Often considered Walt Disney World’s culinary epicenter, World Showcase has a lot of good picks. Via Napoli stands out among the crowded field thanks to its tremendous range–it’s not just exceptional pizzas–and approachability.
Without question, Via Napoli serves the best pizza “pies” in all of Walt Disney World. We’d take that a step further, proclaiming it one of the few places we’ve ever dined serving truly authentic Neapolitan pizza, right down to imported ingredients, wood-burning ovens, and even the water-sourcing (no joke!). Simply put, Via Napoli is one of the best World Showcase restaurants, and a great value if you split a pizza. It’s a really fun restaurant, and it lives up to the hype.
If EPCOT is overrated, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is underrated. Its lineup is lean–with everything bringing something to the table, both literally and figuratively. One of the best Signature Restaurants, a banger of a bar (that’s often overlooked), a few great counter service restaurants (two of which are overlooked), top tier snacks, and two of the best themed restaurants in all of Walt Disney World.
Honestly, we had a harder time narrowing this down to two picks than we did the EPCOT list…
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater – The go-to restaurant for a themed dining experience at Walt Disney World. The dining area is a classic drive-in movie theater at night, complete with a large screen showing classic sci-fi B-movies from the 1950s. To complete the experience, the tables are classic 1950s cars.
Another layer is piled on top of this, as the whole drive-in area is actually a Hollywood set, making guests the star of whatever sci-fi B-movie is being filmed at the drive-in. It’s a story within a story! The main drive-in theme is fairly obvious (and awesome), but that extra layer of the movie set is something you’ll need to look for as you enter the lobby. Check out the various little details, such as labor law signs, that help pull this off. We love the food at Sci-Fi, which recently had its menu overhauled and is now decidedly better than it once was.
Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo– This is the main restaurant in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which is also home to Oga’s Cantina and Ronto Roasters. Each of those are must-dos (at least once) for their own reasons, but this is the only place to get a full meal in Star Wars Land, so you’ll definitely want to eat at Docking Bay 7.
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!
Similar to Hollywood Studios, this is a park with an underappreciated dining lineup. Part of that probably comes down to Animal Kingdom being a half-day park for most people, so they only do one meal here versus two at the other parks. In any case, Animal Kingdom has an underrated Signature Restaurant and attached lounge, plus counter service cuisine–both at dedicated restaurants and walk-up kiosks–that flies under the radar.
Oh, and Animal Kingdom also has Flame Tree BBQ. For ages, that was our favorite restaurant in Animal Kingdom, but it doesn’t make the cut here…
Tiffins – A tribute to the explorations and travels that provided the genesis of Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, Tiffins simultaneously feels like dining in an art gallery, and eating at a high-end, low-key restaurant where globe-trotting Imagineers would themselves dine. Fortunately, it’s not a hodgepodge or scholar’s den of eccentricities, and instead is a carefully-curated art gallery, with great attention to detail.
The menu at Tiffins is delightful, with a variety of ambitious dishes that are adventurous and reflective of the restaurant’s overarching theme. Again, it’s all about attention to detail here, with everything from presentation to the confluence of flavors making Tiffins a winner. There are several approachable options here, but Tiffins is a great place to challenge your taste buds, step outside your comfort zone, and take a veritable adventure in dining.
Satu’li Canteen – 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 ‘build-a-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.
If Walt Disney World has an actual culinary epicenter, it’s Disney Springs and not World Showcase. This shopping and dining district has really grown into its own since being reimagined, with a slew of celebrity chef restaurants, trendy fast casual dining, and other excellent options. A big part of it is that Disney Springs attracts a variety of visitors–including locals and convention-goers who could just as easily dine off-site.
The Boathouse — The best among the restaurants at Disney Springs is the Boathouse, which offers fine dining and a fun atmosphere. Food-wise, the Boathouse offers an expansive menu with great options at a variety of price-points.
On top of the exceptional cuisine, the Boathouse has excellent energy. It’s hard to define this, but there’s just always something happening here, especially in the main dining rooms and the dock. You can catch harbormaster flag ceremonies throughout the day, musical performances every evening, and a variety of other stuff you won’t find at other Walt Disney World restaurants.
Polite Pig– This is 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.
Seven Seas Lagoon & Bay Lake
Objectively, this is the most competitive category. It encompasses the monorail loop resorts, plus the Wilderness (Fort and Lodge). Among those restaurants, there’s a slew of Signatures, beloved character dining experiences, and other iconic eateries. Not to mention Victoria & Albert’s, which is the best restaurant in all of Walt Disney World.
But the thing is, how many Signature Restaurants are you going to do in one trip? Who really is out there shelling out $500+ to dine at Victoria & Albert’s based on the recommendation of some random blogger? (I also can’t really recommend Victoria & Albert’s in good conscience anymore, as I would not pay its obscene price myself.) Is Chef Mickey’s really a recommendation for friends & family…or enemies? We regret nothing.
With that said, there are some notable snubs. The obvious one is ‘Ohana, and even though we both think it’s overrated and overpriced, it’s a good choice for first-timers (it’s still something special in a way that’s hard to define). Then there’s Steakhouse 71, Grand Floridian Cafe, Whispering Canyon Cafe…the list goes on. A compelling case can be made for almost any table service restaurant on the monorail loop or in the wilderness, in all honesty. (I lobbied for P & J’s Southern Takeout at Fort Wilderness, but that pick was vetoed.)
After much deliberation and debate, here are the Magic Kingdom resort area options that we agreed upon…
California Grill — Offering incredible ambiance, sophisticated decor, and undoubtedly the best views of any restaurant at Walt Disney World, California Grill is a winner. When dining here, a window table is almost a must. Make ADRs for about an hour before the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks, and be willing to wait for a window table.
The views of Magic Kingdom and the fireworks finale alone makes California Grill a highly in-demand restaurant that’s bucket list worthy. Currently, California Grill serves a prix fixe menu for the World’s Most Magical Celebration. While we enjoyed this experience (see Review: California Grill 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner), it’s definitely limiting. Additionally, we miss the (still!) temporarily unavailable “Brunch at the Top”, which was the best meal at California Grill.
Citricos– The reimagined restaurant, purportedly inspired by Mary Poppins, won us over on Citricos. The menu is superlative, with sophisticated Floridian cuisine and an abundance of citrus infusions. These dishes are inventive, beautifully-plated, delicious, and in keeping with the spirit of Citricos. The only downside is portions and pricing–this is arguably the closest Walt Disney World gets to haute cuisine.
The atmosphere is a marked improvement over the previous incarnation of the restaurant. The style is supposedly influenced by Mary Poppins, but that’s almost totally unnoticeable. It’s simply modernized with design motifs that vaguely evoke visuals from the film. Citricos is now practically perfect, and this reimagining was a supercalifragilistic upgrade to both the menu and interior.
While World Showcase gets all the glory, the resort area behind EPCOT that’s a short walk from the International Gateway entrance is much more formidable for table service dining. There are multiple Signature Restaurants in this area, plus character dining, crowd-pleasing cuisine, and a number of mid-tier table service restaurants and lounges that all have distinct appeal. (And that’s without even counting the many excellent options at the Swan & Dolphin.) The only weakness is counter service dining, which underwhelms.
With that said, two restaurants in Crescent Lake stand out above the rest of the pack…
Yachtsman Steakhouse – A carnivore’s paradise, Yachtsman Steakhouse is the place to go at Walt Disney World for glorious cuts of meat. This is apparent as soon as you walk in the entrance where you see…a butcher in a case booth making the “magic” happen. It also manages an upscale setting, with sophisticated design, rich woods, and an elegant-but-straightforward interior. Yachtsman Steakhouse is classy, but not fancy or trendy. It’s an old school steak spot.
You really can’t go wrong with the cuts of meat at Yachtsman Steakhouse. No matter what you get, you’re in for a treat. Although Yachtsman Steakhouse has other menu items besides colossal cuts of meat, these are where the magic happens. It’s also the most approachable Signature Restaurant at Walt Disney World, and something that even “meat and potatoes” kinds of guests will enjoy for a nice date night or family meal that isn’t intimidating.
Flying Fish – What Yachtsman Steakhouse is to steak, Flying Fish is to seafood. That is to say, it’s the place to go at Walt Disney World if you want some excellent seafood. Located on the BoardWalk, Flying Fish is the perfect adult’s night out, as you can enjoy the ambiance of the BoardWalk after a meal at the restaurant. The ambiance of Flying Fish is also great, with nice decor and an open kitchen and nice bar that add to the energy of the restaurant.
In terms of entrees, we’d recommend the surprisingly delicious Char-crusted New York Strip, or Potato-wrapped Red Snapper. Those two used to be part of the Chef’s Duo, and they’re the only two dishes that have been on the menu since the beginning…for good reason. Otherwise, we recommend sticking to seafood. Dessert rounds out the experience with a lot of interesting options.
From International Gateway at Crescent Lake, we take the Skyliner gondolas and glide above the BoardWalk over to Barefoot Bay. This area is home to Disney’s Riviera Resort and Caribbean Beach, a Disney Vacation Club property and Moderate Resort, respectively. Technically, the Skyliner resorts also include Pop Century and Art of Animation, but both of those only offer counter service and lounge dining.
Nevertheless, the two resorts at Barefoot Bay offer a strong slate of dining options–including several hidden gems…
Topolino’s Terrace: Flavors of the Riviera – Nothing hidden about this one, as Topolino’s Terrace is one of two newish restaurants that offer superlative rooftop dining surpassing perennial favorites (the other being Toledo at Gran Destino Tower). Since it opened, we’ve done several dinners at Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera, which has become our go-to pick for a high quality and filling fine dining experience that also offers great views and atmosphere.
Sebastian’s Bistro – This sleeper pick at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is easy to access from Hollywood Studios, EPCOT, and a number of resorts. Nevertheless, it flies under the radar of most Walt Disney World guests–and that includes many longtime fans. The new family style service at Sebastian’s Bistro holds its own and offers exceptional quality on par with traditional table service dining.
Sebastian’s Bistro is arguably the best buffet or family-style meal, right up there with (spoiler alert) Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Far superior to Cape May Cafe, Tusker House, and (sorry) even ‘Ohana. That’s all without even taking cost or value for money into account. Sebastian’s Bistro completely trounces the competition on that front.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
That’s right, Animal Kingdom Lodge is its own category. (Coronado Springs was thisclose to getting its own, too!) The reason we view this one as appropriate is because Animal Kingdom Lodge is a destination-worthy resort, and one few Walt Disney World visitors staying elsewhere go out of their way to see.
The wild thing is, it was more difficult for us to narrow down this single-resort category than it was a couple of the parks or Crescent Lake. Literally every restaurant in Jambo House and Kidani Village are worthy of consideration here, and it pains us to snub Jiko. To a lesser extent, the same is true about the Mara and Victoria Falls Lounge, which is a solid sleeper pick.
Sanaa – Ask 10 longtime Walt Disney World fans to name a trio of underrated table service restaurants, and there’s a good chance half of them put Sanaa on their lists. Like pretty much all Animal Kingdom Lodge dining, it’s beloved by diehards and overlooked by most regular guests.
No matter how many times we offer effusive praise for Sanaa, calling it the best restaurant at which you’re not eating, it doesn’t move the needle. And we aren’t the only ones. Pretty much everyone we know loves Sanaa and openly praises it. (In a weird way, that should actually be reassuring. It debunks the common fear we hear that “everyone” who visits Walt Disney World follows the advice on sites like this, rendering it useless as a competitive advantage. To the contrary, the vast majority of guests do minimal planning.)
Boma – Flavors of Africa– This is far and away the best buffet at Walt Disney World. Like Sebastian’s Bistro above, Boma offers good value for money (by Walt Disney World standards), is a ton of fun, and offers something for everyone.
There are easily a dozen excellent items at Boma, from standout meats to supporting salads, all of which are ambitious and delicious. Far fewer things are phoned in than at a normal buffet, and there’s something for everyone at Boma. Even the soups are addictively delicious—and that’s saying something since I seldom want soup given Florida’s climate! And of course, every meal ends with those iconic Zebra Domes (which arguably aren’t even the buffet’s best dessert!).
For our last two categories, we pivot from places to types of restaurants. This is both as a practical matter–character dining is highly appealing to many families–and a way to “mop up” missing entries overlooked from their respective locations. While some parents and longtime Walt Disney World fans will undoubtedly quibble with one of these, this was the easiest category for us. (Noting that Topolino’s Terrace is already addressed above.)
Here are our top picks for character dining at Walt Disney World…
The prix fixe menu is mostly very good, and a great option for those wanting quality over the quantity found on a buffet. If you enjoy Snow White characters, Artist Point is a no-brainer. Unfortunately, all of these selling points make Artist Point the most difficult ADR to score in all of Walt Disney World.
At every Minnie’s Seasonal Dine we’ve done, the character interactions have been top-notch. The costumes are also incredible–far better than what you’ll find at the hard ticket events, in fact. Then there was the buffet itself, which offers a wide selection of cuisine. It was definitely not in the realm of Boma in terms of ambitiousness, but the quality was on nearly the same level for several entree and dessert items. If you’re looking for good comfort foods, you really can’t go wrong with Minnie’s Seasonal Dines at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Bars & Lounges
Saving the best for last, we come to the bars. While we don’t really drink anymore, we do frequent lounges at Walt Disney World. In fact, this is one of our favorite categories as a nice ‘in-between’ option with price points that aren’t that much higher than counter service restaurants, cuisine that’s far superior, and atmosphere that’s usually laid back.
If you’re looking strictly for a bar, there are better options for strong drinks and themed settings. This list is about dining, and there are two locations at which we eat more than anywhere else at Walt Disney World…
Geyser Point Bar & Grill – This lounge is basically an open air picnic shelter–one of the simplest restaurants in all of Walt Disney World. Unless you count the brick and wood of the construction, there are really no details to speak of. The very reason Geyser Point is so brilliant is because it gets out of its own way.
Geyser Point shines because of its beautiful setting on Bay Lake, and Disney made the right decision here in letting that be the star of Geyser Point. We think this was a wise move, and absolutely love the experience of sitting here and soaking up the serene natural beauty of the lakefront setting. At sunset or during the Electrical Water Pageant, it’s pure bliss. When it comes to the menu, Geyser Point basically makes the cut due to the Bison Burger, but the salmon, salads, and small bites also deliver.
Three Bridges Bar & Grill – Located at Coronado Springs Resort, this one is very similar to Geyser Point above in that both are hidden gems and neither accept Advance Dining Reservations. Since it opened, we’ve probably dined at Three Bridges more than any other restaurant at Walt Disney World.
We highly recommend the Three Bridges Signature Burger, Harissa Lamb Chops, and the Warm Churros are a must-order for dessert. You really can’t go wrong here. Although it’s more difficult to get here and arguably is not destination dining for those visiting Walt Disney World for the first-time or once per year, we nevertheless do recommend Three Bridges to friends for late night meals…and that’s the core criteria for this list, friends!
What would make your list of the top 22 restaurants at Walt Disney World? Any obvious standouts we’ve snubbed? What about restaurants that made our list that don’t belong? Any way you’d change the categories or choices? Do you agree or disagree with our choices? 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!