Top 10 Themed Disney World Restaurants
Every restaurant at Walt Disney World has unique atmosphere, so narrowing down the top 10 best themed table service restaurants at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom is not easy. Nevertheless, we’ll try to rank the pinnacle of Imagineering in this list! (Updated March 22, 2022.)
Some Walt Disney World restaurants are subtle in their theming, conveying their backstory through barely-noticeable props and photos on the wall. Others offer something unique that isn’t necessarily a part of any elaborate backstory, but is simply an element that makes the experience more entertaining than your average restaurant. In the most extreme examples, the theme and story are abundantly clear, as the restaurant puts the guests on what could pass as a movie set, making them a part of the action.
Of course, even at Walt Disney World where show and story reign supreme, a good themed restaurant also must have good food. However, since this is a list ranking restaurants based upon theme, and well-executed theme is paramount in the theme park environments of Walt Disney World so this list is based entirely on theme. We make passing references to food quality, but the list is not dependent upon it.
Our rationale for putting so much weight on theme? Weeks after you visit a Walt Disney World restaurant, your family probably won’t be raving over one burger they had versus another, demanding that you phone Zagat immediately. However, you may light up when talking about the time they ate in a classic car outside at night while watching sci-fi movies when it was actually daytime in the “real” outside.
With that said, we understand you might put more of an emphasis on food than theme, in which case we have comprehensive reviews that address cuisine at each of these restaurants–click the links within the synopses to read our full reviews of each restaurant. Anyway, on with the rankings…
10. Whispering Canyon Cafe – Whispering Canyon is an open-air restaurant offering views into the expansive lobby of the Wilderness Lodge, with some “Old West” design touches in the restaurant itself. This makes the list not because of themed design, but because of the service, which is a spectacle in itself.
The waiters and waitresses gently pick on guests, making meals a real hoot. Via Google, you can find some things to say that will typically cause a “reaction” from the wait staff, but many of these hijinks have been toned down in recent years. Regardless, we recommend that you just go in and let the act naturally unfold for you. Whispering Canyon Cafe also has some excellent American favorites. We recommend the Canyon Skillet.
9. Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen – It’s rare for a restaurant in Magic Kingdom to be under-appreciated. Given the park’s popularity and the weak overall dining slate, anything even remotely good draws high accolades. Unfortunately, Skipper Canteen is the exception to that. Depending upon which of us you ask, this is either the #1 or #2 restaurant in Magic Kingdom. For me, it’s #1.
Thematically, it feels like a mash-up of three of my favorite Disney eateries: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, The Explorer’s Club Restaurant, and Magellan’s, plus a dash of Jungle Cruise thrown in for good measure. There are a couple of misfires with the menu, but both it and the theme are ambitious and solid as a whole.
8. Cinderella’s Royal Table – This is a restaurant inside Cinderella Castle–need I say more? It was originally known as King Stefan’s Royal Banquet Hall, and I’d imagine at the time, “why does Sleeping Beauty’s father have a restaurant inside Cinderella Castle?” rivaled “what time is the 3 o’clock parade?” as most asked question in Magic Kingdom.
The gothic design and medieval flourishes of Cinderella’s Royal Table are well-executed and reiterate that you’re dining inside of a castle. Even as someone who finds meeting characters who can talk to me to be awkward, I still really enjoy the experience of Cinderella’s Royal Table. The food is surprisingly good, too.
7. Coral Reef – A divisive restaurant when it comes to food (we like it), there is no question that Coral Reef excels when it comes to atmosphere. The restaurant features tiered seating with one entire wall being a window into the large Living Seas tank. Disney claims this is the largest inland saltwater environment ever created, with more than 85 species of tropical fish.
We recommend arriving early for your reservation (or, ideally, making a reservation for the very first seating of the day) and requesting a seat next to the tank. Even if you have to wait a little longer for a close view, it’s worth it. Coral Reef also has fish spotting guides to make the experience more fun!
6. Be Our Guest Restaurant – The second of two in-castle dining experiences at Magic Kingdom, Be Our Guest Restaurant puts guests inside Beast’s Castle. Be Our Guest Restaurant ranks highly for its special effects, including snowfall outside the ballroom, and falling rose petals in the beautifully designed (and spooky) west wing. Be Our Guest is a formidable contender thanks to its cool effects and design.
The biggest downside is that the ballroom feels a bit too much like a mess hall, with the cavernous area getting loud and chaotic when the restaurant is busy–which is always. Check out our Prix Fixe Lunch & Dinner Review of Be Our Guest Restaurant for thoughts on the current menu. Here’s hoping the counter service breakfast and lunch menus return soon!
5. San Angel Inn Restaurante – For years, Blue Bayou has been the most iconic restaurant at Disneyland for its night-time atmosphere overlooking Pirates of the Caribbean. San Angel Inn is Walt Disney World’s Blue Bayou, and although Gran Fiesta Tour does not have the same name cachet as Pirates, the experience here is every bit as good.
We highly recommend arriving early to your ADR, requesting a waterside table, and being willing to wait. The food skews towards the Tex-Mex side of the things and isn’t all that memorable, but it’s still a satisfying dining experience.
4. Biergarten – Every restaurant in the World Showcase at Epcot is well-themed, but the highlight of these is Biergarten. Offering authentic German buffets, Biergarten’s food has been good (not great) in our experience, but the atmosphere more than makes up for it.
Themed to be a nighttime Bavarian Village, Biergarten celebrates Oktoberfest year round. Throughout the course of the meal, musicians perform traditional German songs and encourage guests to come to the dance floor to join in the fun. We especially love Biergarten at Christmas-time.
3. 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. When you’re actually seated, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. Too close or too off-center, and it’s a lot of dark space. Those far-side front-row tables would probably drop this to #5. Farther back, or if you’re dining as day transitions to night, and Space 220 restaurant makes a strong case for #1 on this list. We’ll split the difference with this ranking, while also noting that the lounge works out to be the best of both worlds–the option for a la carte meals and the best view.
2. 50’s Prime Time Cafe – My parents’ favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World when I was a kid, we always dined here on our annual trips. Here you’re dining in Mom’s house (and Mom has not updated the place since the 50s!), and by Mom’s rules. If you put your elbows on the table or slouch, expect to be reprimanded!
Mom will, however, let you watch TV during your meal, and many classic sitcoms from the 1950s play on televisions at certain tables. 50’s Prime Time Cafe specializes in comfort food, with the highlight of the menu being the milkshakes. Even when we aren’t dining here, we frequently stop at the Tune-In Lounge to grab a quick milkshake!
1. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater – The easy number one pick for this list, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is 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.
Even with this list now numbering 20 restaurants following our latest reshuffling and new post covering the Top 20 Themed Walt Disney World Restaurants (11-20), there are surely some snubs (I almost have enough in mind for restaurants 21-30!). Don’t feel apprehensive if restaurants you’ve booked didn’t make the cut, or if your favorite was left out. There are so many restaurants that have excellent themes that it’s difficult to narrow the list down to just 20 restaurants (or in this case, twelve).
For where else to eat, try out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. If you want to save money on tickets or determine which type you should get, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. For where to stay, check out our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews page, which offers quick-hit capsule reviews of the strengths and weaknesses of every Walt Disney World hotel. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at unconventional things you should take on your trip. For overviews of all of these topics and so much more, the best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
With so many well-themed restaurants at Walt Disney World, there’s bound to be some disagreement on this one. Which restaurants would be in your top 10? Any restaurants you think we missed? Which ones do you think we got spot-on? in the comments! 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!
I agree with your list and have loved all your selection except SPACE 220. Haven’t been able to get a table yet…fingers crossed for snatching a last minute reservation in April. I would have to say Restaurant Marrakesh would rank higher on the list for me than Whispering Canyon, and I DO HOPE IT REOPENS! What could be more fun than eating baklava, sipping coffee, and watching belly dancers in that beautiful restaurant? Perfect afternoon rest spot during busy Epcot day!
Restaurant Marrakesh was on the list, but got removed with the latest update because I’m not confident that it’ll ever reopen. Hopefully I’ll be wrong and have to re-add it–we loved that place!
Hard to disagree with that list. Not technically table service, but Oga’s Cantina and Docking Bay 7 may warrant consideration, though I find Oga’s Cantina vastly overrated.
San Angel Inn is a restaurant I continue returning to, despite being underwhelmed by the food every time. You truly cannot beat the ambience and it’s my favorite place to end a day at Epcot after making my way through the World Showcase. The Mexico pavilion is one of the most transportive experiences at WDW for me.
Not sure how The Royal Table is not number one. After all this is a top ten DISNEY World themed eateries and nothing is more themed than climbing a spiral staircase to the stained glass lined dining room in CINDERELLA’s castle.
I would put Artist Point over Whispering Canyon, possibly even Tusker House. I just feel like you can find Whispering Canyon level decor at a lot of Mom & Pop restaurants going log cabin theme. It just doesn’t have that level of uniqueness the others on the list have.
I agree with the list but I might shuffle it a bit.
Love Sci-fi Dine-in Theater atmosphere and food and typically try going once each trip. One big disappointment being a family of three is that table conversation is hindered having usually me sitting in the back seat with my wife and son in the front. It’s difficult being part of any conversation being the sole person in the back only getting part of conversation without them constantly having to turn to include me.
Mike, we were just there and the car next to us had a table in it so the family in it faced each other. To be honest I didn’t know these existed. If you search online you can find a picture of one of these. Maybe next time you can request one of these.
Joanna – Yes I know those exist but the kid in me never request to sit in one because it doesn’t look as fun. It’s not a true car. I have learned to sit in the middle of the back seat so I can kind of be involved in the conversation. I go into knowing our dinner conversation isn’t the same but the Sci-Fi Movies and environment make up for my awkward back seat enjoyment.
Have you thought about updating your top 10 Disney Bars and Lounges post? I’m wondering where Oga’s Cantina, Ba Riva, and Space 220 lounge would rank or what would take the place of Jellyrolls on the list? Speaking of Jellyrolls, I wonder if it will ever re-open?
That’s a great idea for an update–that one wasn’t even on my radar, but it’s long overdue, so thanks!
For what it’s worth, Jellyrolls *is* open, just not Monday through Wednesday.
I had thought that the Blue Bayou had closed? I had dined at it twice in Disneyland..I wasn’t aware that they opened one in Disney World.. So is it still open, and quality of food there now?
We’ve always loved Liberty Tree Tavern!! The theming transports you back in time!!
I am so grateful to find your particular post
Do NOT go to Sci-Fi unless grease is your normal first ingredient in food items. I’m sorry to those that may like it, but dripping grease coming from your food is not appealing. We actually felt ill after eating there.
Hey! So San Angel Inn isn’t Tex Mex. It’s actually Mexican and the second location of an actual Mexican restaurant in D.F. (Mexico City). Hit up the website–restaurant name plus .com. The food isn’t kinda good, it’s great if you expect MEXICAN not Tex Mex. The soup is fantastic as are the margaritas (love the passion fruit), but I enjoy the entire menu. My brother and I make a beeline for the Mexico pavilion for this restaurant every time we are in Epcot. We get to Florida more than D.F. I personally think Blue Bayou can’t hold a candle to this place. San Angel thankfully doesn’t have the noise level and its menu and drinks are on another level. San Angel is actual dining worthing of the name. I think you missed the mark twice now: first leaving it off your list and second calling it Tex-Mex!!! LOL Nope. Mexican. The second location of a 5 star diamond restaurant from D.F. at that! 🙂 Try it again with fresh eyes. And get the soup–they do it right.
For both good food AND theme, would you suggest Sci-fi or 50’s Prime Time? It’s for me and my 18 year old son.
On our 2 most recent WDW trips (November 2016 and August 2017), we’ve dined at several of the restaurants on your list. We’ve done Be Our Guest for both lunch (November) and dinner (August), Coral Reef for dinner, and 50’s Prime Time Cafe for lunch.
Coral Reef we booked because we thought our then 7 year old would love the location, but after about 2 minutes she was engrossed in the kids menu/coloring sheet, while my wife and I were mesmerized by looking at the marine life (and the divers in the tank with them).
Prime Time Cafe was a hoot, especially our waiter. The only thing that kept me from getting berated from him (for wearing my hat to the table) was that he was afraid my daughter might get upset if I was getting “punished.”
Fabulous! Walt Disney World transports you to a fantasy world, and these themed restaurants are in the same league. What’s fantastic is the uniqueness of each of these restaurants. And, of course, every bit of the ambience has been though through and is aligned with the theme.
I have yet to see a review for hoop dee doo musical review?! Have you been?! Do plan on trying it?!! Wondering if it is good and if children enjoy this experience or is it more geared to adults?!
Hi, Tom, great list! I do want to point out that while the theme is great at Sci-Fi, something to note for those who haven’t been there before is all seats face forward. I was with a party of 3 on my last trip – 2 in the front with me behind them – and they awkwardly tried to turn around and include me in the conversation periodically. I felt like I was dining alone, normally something I don’t mind but not as Disney! It would have been much better if we were an even numbered party.
I have to agree! My daughter absolutely loves Sci-Fi theme, me not so much because of the separation. For such a polarizing choice there’s no way it can be number one in theme. It’s either a love or hate.
Thank you for showing some love to the Biergarten! It’s my family’s favorite and I feel like everyone overlooks it. My family traditionally didn’t really plan the food portion of trips that much when I was younger so, the fact that we could pretty much always get in without a reservation, the delicious german food, the chance to talk to some other travelers, and the awesome show always made it a highlight. For us, Biergarten was the magic of Disney.
Side note: my family REALLY likes German food so, this is a pretty biased opinion.