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!
We are eating at Sci- Fi and Biergarten in December! I have been to Sci-Fi before, but my husband hasn’t. I figured it was a good meal to have before looking at the Osborne Lights. We booked Biergarten for the lunch package for the Candlelight Processional with Neil Patrick Harris. Neither of us has eaten there before, but it sounds like it’s going to be a winner!
I’ve heard that Biergarten at Christmas is incredible. Have a great time!
We enjoyed Coral Reef but with our large party it was hard to seat us together (there were 8 of us). Food was great though! My absolute favorite for food was Yak & Yeti. Seriously the best meal of my life. I’d love to see a list where you rank the top 10 based on the food alone!
Great article EXCEPT – – – Your #1 pick wouldn’t even make my list. I hated the Sci-Fi restaurant both times I ate there. Because the tables are cars, you don’t get to have a family conversation. It is so quiet there because know one faces each other. The food is mediocre at best and priced higher than virtually the same food at different restaurants. The idea of this restaurant is fun, the execution of it is not. It does not meet Disney’s standards for fun with family, but does allow pretending to have fun while ignoring your family.
Last time I went to the Sci-fi (last year) they had updated the “cars” and some were family style stretch cars so everyone could face each other
I appreciate your list. Some of the top 10 we haven’t tried, but will be there in December and I’m going to try to switch up our reservations. Our favorite Disney restaurant is definitely Ohana. Just thinking about the bread pudding makes my mouth water. Keep doing what you’re doing!
We, kids included, love San Angel Inn for the food and the atmosphere. Whispering Canyon is another definite top pick of ours. My son absolutely loves this place!
We recently had a chance to eat at San Angel Inn and we really enjoyed it. The ambiance was great, as was the food!
Cinderella’s Castle for lunch is a must-do for us. In the past, the food was not good at all and so we spent years skipping it. Last year, my son really wanted to go into the castle so we made reservations not expecting much (kinda like you guys and your second Coral Reef visit). Man were we surprised! The food has gotten much better and my son (4 years old at the time) was a huge hit since he was the only little boy without some kind of a sister there. If you don’t have kids, it may not be best. But if you do a breakfast, you can get great empty park pics with great views!
I had heard and read rave reviews of Prime Time and Sci-Fi, but I found them both to be mediocore. So much of a persons experience can be dictated by the waitstaff. Maybe that was our problem with those two experiences.
To add a restaurant from our top 5, would be Akurhaus. We do have two young ladies in our party, but I also feel the food is nice. Sixth trip this July!
A lot of people like 50s Prime Time and Sci-Fi, but a lot of people dislike them, too. I’m not too surprised to hear that you didn’t enjoy them, especially if your service was poor.
Tom, I hope you give San Angel a shot… It’s really one of the best dining experiences out there. I remember taking my other half there for the first time and he was so NOT thrilled. Not his type of food, nothing on the menu appealed to him, he was trying it only because of me. The appetizer came out and he was hooked… We now HAVE to go every trip, it’s his first (and favorite) place. I know there’s a lot of bad reviews and, honestly, before the big changeover in 2010/2011, it totally earned the bad buzz. When I went in 2007, it was practically inedible, and that’s something that most people remember. When you hear what the post-changeover reviews are, though, people are generally very positive, with the big complaints being that the tables are too close and it’s a little dark and can be loud.
Everytime we go to the Mexico Pavilion, my daughter always wants to go to San Angel Inn. She is so in awe with how “romantic” it looks, (and she is only 8). San Angel is definitely on our must do list as well next time we go to WDW. Tom, I like how open and honest you are with all of your comments.
Nice list. Another vote for San Angel Inn here, it is one of my favorites. I also would have picked the Sci-Fi Dine-In as #1.
Sounds like we need to try San Angel Inn soon so I can update this list!
The family and I ate at The Garden Grill last November for the first time. I appreciated the tie-in with Living with the Land, the character interaction, and initially the rotating platform.
After a while though, I surprisingly started to experience some motion sickness. Typically, I am impervious to any sort of motion induced illness, but the Garden Grill got to me. By the end of our meal, I was a touch queasy and ready for the world to stop spinning. Perhaps it was where I was seated (facing out) so I noticed it more. I’m glad I did it once, but I doubt I would opt to experience it again.
The only other restaurant I would include would be Restaurant Marrakesh. The inside is nicely themed and the belly dancer adds a unique touch.
My husband and I love love love San Angel Inn. The atmosphere is amazing, but their skirt steak is what keeps us coming back. We have a hard time saying No to San Angel Inn to try out Luther places. On our upcoming Feb. trip I’ve finally been able to talk hubby into trying someplace else and we’re going to see what “the best pizza in Disney” is all about at Via Napoli.
Give San Angel in a try, and I recommend the skirt steak!!!
8 of your top 10 (as well as Cindarella’s Royal Table) are on our list for our Honeymoon this year.
Excellent list… But… Plaza! One of MK’s more classy and subdued experiences. Solid menu, great views, honestly one of my favorites.
As far as themed restaurants on Main Street go, I’d say The Plaza in the Magic Kingdom is the weakest of the ones I’ve experienced. Disneyland and Disneyland Paris both have multiple restaurants on Main Street that surpass it.
I went to some of these on my most recent trip.
-50s Prime Time Cafe
I ended up eating at the bar here. I’m not sure how different the experience is there, but I liked the themeing, the company was friendly, and the meatloaf was very satisfying. I would definitely go back.
-Sci Fi Dine In
The themeing is wonderful and my waiter was fun, but I found the hamburger I had there to be bland and tasteless. How do you ruin a hamburger? The milkshake was decent, though, so I’d probably go back if I was taking someone who’d never seen it before and we’d just get a milkshake, not a meal.
I’ve been here on a previous trip and really enjoyed the atmosphere and food. It’s a little pricy, but worth it if you’re there as a couple.
-San Angel Inn
My whole family seemed to really enjoy this place. The food and drinks I had were yummy and I personally like the deep themeing and dark atmosphere. I managed to skip the ride that goes through it yet again, so I’ve yet to see it from that perspective.
-Be Our Guest
I was able to do both lunch and dinner here and would probably rank it higher than you did. The grandness, details, good food, and current great value made it the top dining experience of this trip. We’ll see if any future menu or price changes takes a little of the glow off the place.
-Yak & Yeti
This will be a must-do for all future trips to Animal Kingdom. Everyone in my party had a delicious meal and the adult beverages were yummy too. The themeing inside is just okay, but I’m not sure what else could be done that would still feel seamless.
good post. I will consider Biergarten for a future trip. I’ve avoided it up til now because I grew up going to the Festhaus at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and figured I should see something else.
Another vote for San Angel Inn…looks like we’ll have to stop bumping it and try it soon!
Unfortunately we are unable to get a reservaction at any time for any of these restaurants mentioned, not such a majical vacation! Feeling extremely dissapointed!!
i don’t have a comment on the article, i just wanted to say that i’m loving your blog more and more. you’ve really put in a lot of hard work to take it to the next level and it shows. we’re planning for our kids’ first trip in april and this site is invaluable. actually, i do have one comment…o’hana got jipped 😉
of course that is just imho.
Thanks! Ohana made it as an honorable mention. It was close!
i agree with every pick, except whispering canyon. the old canyon skillet ain’t what she used to be.
I love Sci-Fi. Not only is it really uniquely themed, it’s also the quietest restaurant in the whole dang resort. It’s dark and quiet…a refreshing treat for overstimulated eyes and ears!
I completely agree. Its one of our favorites for many reason. Your description of the ambiance (in conjunction with the top notch theming) hits the nail on the head, and is probably what keep us coming back.
I LOVED our Cinderella’s Royal Table experience. My husband and I (no kids) had a 9am reservation and it was wonderful walking into the park early. The breakfast was beautiful and delicious. There were other table with adults as well. I thought it was a lot prettier than the pictures I had seen online. Everything is decorated very castle-like. I love the experience where they announce you (Lord Robert and Lady Deborah) and they you wait and have your picture taken with Cinderella. Then you take the elevator/stairs up to the dining room – where we were seating next to one of those multipaned windows looking out over Fantasyland. We were served a bowl of fresh fruit cup, juice, danish rolls as well as our entree, coffee etc. It’s whatever you want.
I realize it’s 2 table service meals per person – but well worth it.
Glad to hear you enjoyed it! We’ll probably continue to stay away, though. For the price, I’d rather do a true signature meal.
How did you make a reservation etc ???
I’m a huge San Angel Inn fan. I think any food that started as exotic and has gone mainstream becomes divisive. San Angel Inn is trying to serve two audiences and has some items on the menu that are very good representatives of Mexican food and some that falls into the Americanized, overstuffed, lots of cheese and sour cream type of fair. Choose badly and no matter what you think of as “Mexican food” you can end up disappointed. So, give it a spin but ask questions of your wait staff.
“overstuffed, lots of cheese and sour cream type of fair.”
…not that there’s anything wrong with that! At least, not normally. I am far from the biggest fan of authentic Mexican food, but I still wish that restaurants would stay true to their roots rather than Americanizing. Sadly, I think they do it out of necessity to appeal to unadventurous diners (who make up a lot of their business).
San Angel Inn was always one of our favorite stops but the last two times we visited the food left much to be desired and probably would not go back, Sad for us since we always enjoyed it.