Top 10 Table Service Meal Values at Disney World
This list features our picks for the best restaurants at Walt Disney World to order cheap(er) table service meal, potentially paying counter service prices for cuisine of better quality. This list combines a mix of objective and subjective menu analysis to provides one way of getting more value for money during your Walt Disney World vacation.
In the last couple of years, we’ve noticed counter service price increases at Walt Disney World have outpaced price increases at table service restaurants. The result of this has been a narrowing of the gap between the cost of an expensive counter service meal and inexpensive table service meal. It’s been interesting to watch pricing trends as Walt Disney World tries to eke out additional profits of elements of the experience with price elasticity.
Note that this list is not geared towards Walt Disney World guests using the Disney Dining Plan. In fact, if you’re using the Disney Dining Plan, you should be steering clear of these options. The cheaper the price in dollars, the less value you’re getting out of the Dining Plan. (Accordingly, we have a list of Best Value Table Service Options on the Disney Dining Plan.) And as you might know by now if you’ve read our Disney Dining Plan posts, I think if you’re actually on a tight budget, you should never pay for the Disney Dining Plan. With that preface out of the way, here’s our list of the best-value (inexpensive) table service restaurants at Walt Disney World…
10. Garden Grove – Going strictly by the numbers, the Swan & Dolphin restaurant at which you should dine for cheaper prices is The Fountain. However, that means eating the food at The Fountain, which is pretty basic fare. Garden Grove is slightly more ambitious and slightly pricier. Still not the best option in the Crescent Lake/Epcot area, but still worthy of consideration. (This applies to lunch only.)
9. Plaza Restaurant – 5 years ago, this and Beaches & Cream would’ve been near the top of this list. Now, Plaza Restaurant barely makes it and Beaches & Cream doesn’t at all. This is probably in part due to both seeing a spike in popularity due to making so many “hidden gem” lists and Disney adjusting prices accordingly.
While Plaza Restaurant now has some pricey entrees, it also has a number of quality sandwiches at near-counter service prices. It’s really the only value table service option in Magic Kingdom, and makes the list on that basis. Click here to read our full restaurant review (with food photos).
8. Splitsville Dining Room – I have a theory about Disney Springs restaurants: since they are outside the gates of the parks, there is less of a ‘captive audience’ element, and more guests who are locals. Those locals are more cost-sensitive and they have greater access to real-world restaurants that don’t have a location, Disney-name, or Dining Plan surcharge.
As such, the Disney Springs restaurants cannot charge as much of a premium. (They’re also largely third party restaurants that aren’t quite as quick to raise prices as Disney.) Splitsville is just one of several restaurants that could have made the list on this basis, and it is the best exemplification of my theory. Here you have pizza and other options, some of which work out to be cheaper than comparable counter service alternatives.
The food is nothing remarkable, but it’s better than what you’d expect for a bowling alley, and cheaper than what you’d expect for the portion size and quality at Walt Disney World. Click here to read our full restaurant review (with food photos).
7. Via Napoli – I’m a bit reluctant to include this one. On the one hand, there’s the workable “hack” of splitting a Mezzo Metro pizza among 5 people for a ~$10/person (out the door) meal. On the other hand, I once split a Mezzo Metro pizza with fellow pizzatarian, Guy Selga, and we were both hungry afterwards.
While we are pigs, I don’t think this pizza is nearly as filling as it might look. Additionally, the rest of the menu seems overpriced to me, so you pretty much have to threaten your family, “big pizza…OR ELSE!” here if you’re going for value. Click here to read our full restaurant review (with food photos).
6. Sanaa – Despite slightly higher entree prices, Sanaa makes this list because it’s a restaurant where you can get excellent, ambitious cuisine and be out the door for under $20/person at lunch.
Our recommendation here is actually to (mostly) ignore the entrees. Do a mix of appetizers, and share them among your party for a ‘build your own tapas’ experience of sorts. Click here to read our full restaurant review (with food photos).
5. Nine Dragons – We sang the praises of Nine Dragons in our review, and while reader feedback was somewhat mixed in response, we think it’s hard to deny the value of the lunch entree options (and specials) here.
Plus, since we’re the ones making this list, we can ignore all you haters and rank this one highly, as we think the food here is really exceptional–especially given the prices. Click here to read our full restaurant review (with food photos).
4. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant – This one might come as a shock. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater has several overpriced options (I would never pay $30+ for whatever their idea of a steak is), but it now has several relatively inexpensive sandwiches that are basically the same price as nearby counter service options, and taste much better.
Given that many counter service meals at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are basically cardboard masquerading as food, this restaurant would be on our list simply as a good way to avoid the park’s counter service options. That plus the excellent ambiance at Sci-Fi catapults it to near the top of the list. Click here to read our full restaurant review (with food photos).
3. Morimoto Asia – When viewing the entire menu, this might be a “controversial” (to the extent that a list of Walt Disney World restaurants can give rise to controversy) pick. Although its menu has plenty of more expensive items, there are also a number of high-quality under $20 entrees that are great.
The emphasis in the value proposition at Morimoto Asia is more on the quality side than the price side. (Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming almost makes this list on the same basis.) Even with slightly higher prices than the norm on this list, Morimoto Asia makes up for that being offering even higher quality. Click here to read our full restaurant review (with food photos).
2. Crew’s Cup Lounge/Ale & Compass – If you felt this list was automatically “invalid” when you read that Beaches & Cream didn’t make the cut, this is why it didn’t. Everyone fawns over Beaches & Cream, and while it’s a great option for desserts, for entrees you are better off going to one of these nearby restaurants, which share a kitchen.
Unfortunately, as with Beaches & Cream, popularity and good value have given way to more expensive menu options in the last year at Crew’s Cup Lounge. However, the quality here is better than Beaches & Cream, and the prices are comparable. There are plenty of sandwiches on these two menus that qualify as great values, and they’re surprisingly good. As for Ale & Compass, although it’s one of the dullest restaurants at Walt Disney World, there are some menu standouts that aren’t too expensive, but are excellent-tasting. Click here to read our full restaurant review (with food photos).
1. Trail’s End Restaurant – Without question, this wide selection of comfort foods is the best buffet value at Walt Disney World. For half the price of the dinner buffet at Chef Mickey’s, you can get a meal that tastes better and offers a more pleasant atmosphere. (You do miss out on character photos, but unless those are worth ~$25/person to your party, this is the far better option.) Click here to read our full restaurant review (with food photos).
A few parting thoughts. First, as mentioned, Disney Springs is generally a good place to go if you’re looking for better value. Just be sure to consult menus in advance, as some locations are across-the-board expensive. Second, if you look past the most popular restaurants, there are several table service lunch values throughout World Showcase. Third, table service restaurants at the Moderate and Villa resorts, generally speaking, have at least a few less-expensive items per menu. Finally, at restaurants with separate lunch and dinner menus (some now do an all-day menu), you’re almost always better off doing a late lunch as opposed to dinner; you pay a premium simply to eat at a later hour.
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!
Do you agree or disagree with our list? 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 going to Disney World in February 2020. We already have reservations at 50’s Prime Time Cafe for lunch and Via Napoli for dinner. We are also doing Chef Mickey’s Character Breakfast since our 4 year old grand daughter will be with us. Looking for a few reasonably priced options in Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom for lunch or dinner. Can you suggest a few please? Budget friendly.
I might vote for Rose and Crown. We had lunch there on our last day and left feeling VERY happy – more so than several other places that were significantly more $$$
I would really enjoy a full review of Captain’s Grille. The menu there not only attracts for the items, but also the prices. It also seems to be an underrated gem based off comments I’ve read various places.
I also understand if you are holding off on it in hopes of keeping it an unsung and not too busy place. 😉
I can share my opinion now using the app in phone—try it ifavr.org
I have to agree that Trail’s end is my favorite. Not only as a Vegan the in-house Chef TJ will create a full Vegan multi-fare experience.
If you are vegan with non-vegan family members #1 would also be a great option.
Interesting thoughts and I largely agree with most of them. I do find Disney Springs to be loaded with great tasting and fairly priced locations (I’d argue about the vastly blogger overrated Homecoming though). Love Morimoto and think the Boathouse is even better … filet sliders with huge baked tater (subbed for fries for free) and $8 salad (with dressing that is about 95% of the original 1970s and 80s WDW Italian recipe) IS the best deal for me at DS.
Since I have a very unfair (as I know you’d agree) rep as a disagreeable Spirit, I’ll take issues with two of your choices. I finally tried Via Napoli last month, after hearing bloggers rave about the very pricey pizza since it opened. Maybe it was just having got off the Disney Fantasy and seven nights of big eatin’, but I found the place loud, the tables tiny and too close together and the pizza to be just OK. Too chewy dough, not enough flavor on the sauce.
Your final choice USED TO be one of mine. But understand I became a regular in 1995 when the Disney Dining Experience (now TiW) came out. Lunch was $5.99 with drink and all the now upcharge desserts included BEFORE the 20% discount. I’ve watched them methodically lower quality and variety and raise prices. Now, they won’t even serve lunch at all after removing the buffet for a while. I can’t patronize places that gouge Guests. You are telling people to eat here because they gouge less than Chef Mickey’s. I would simply say that people that dine at CF either are addicts or don’t know the value of money.
BTW, kudos for saying that Beaches and Cream is overrated and overpriced. That could get your Official WDW Blogger Gold Card revoked. But that place was worth it back in the 90s. Not now. Fountain at Dolphin is much better as is Garden Grove.
What is CF? Do you mean Trail’s End? That’s what Tom compared Chef Mickey’s. And why would people be “addicts” for dining there?
Are you sure Trail’s End upcharges for certain desserts? I’ve never heard that before.
Interesting list. A lot of times, we save money by ordering something that sounds really big and splitting it. I would be interested in a list of top ten “big enough to split” options. Recently we were at Animal Kingdom and ordered the bbq chicken, pork, and rib plate at Flame Tree (yes, I know that’s counter service, I’m just giving an example). It was $20 but it was totally enough food to split, so it came to $10/person. I’d be interested to know where else we might find plates like that (counter or table service).
That’s a really solid idea–I’ll keep it in mind!
Kona. It’s better than Ohana at 2/3rds the price.
People on the message boards are reporting Trails End got a price bump to $32+
Interesting. I wonder if that was a temporary “seasonal” increase for New Year’s/Marathon Weekend, or if it’s the start of permanent 2017 price increases…
We were just there on Sunday (1/15) and our bill came out slightly higher than I expected, even with our new AP discount. I didn’t look at the receipt, since my husband paid the bill with his credit card, so I can’t confirm exactly what we paid, but I think that the 32 price is probably accurate. The food was still as delicious as ever.
Can adults order from kids menu? I don’t have a big appetite.
No hidden gem awards for turf club?
Why you gotta go and tell folks about Crew’s Cup?
Haha, given the crowds (or lack thereof!) we observe at Crew’s Cup and Captain’s Grille, they could use a few more guests, not less. Remember, Disney has a habit of closing restaurants that underperform. (RIP Ariel’s Restaurant.)
Was just at Crew’s Cup over Marathon Weekend and they have changed the burger on the menu. It now more of a gourmet burger with toppings like bacon jam. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like bacon jam as much as the next guy, but sometimes I just want a cheeseburger. Thankfully, they will still make the “regular” cheeseburger, though it is now an “off menu” item. It is also now $16 – but worth it with the truffle fries. Can say that this could be the best burger that I have had at WDW.
As a side note – at the Plaza Restaurant, you can get the Plaza fries as a side to your sandwich, they just “upcharge” you for the bacon and cheese at a total of around $1.30. Best $1.30 I have spent at WDW!!!
Tom, completely agree about Trails End and Saana. Trails End also has an excellent breakfast (used to be brunch but I’ve heard they stopped that) and the bread course at Saana is worth the, unfortunately long and tedious, trip. My family likes Splitsville as well although I’ve only had drinks there. In that spirit, I might also suggest Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar for consideration. The food is good, fairly reasonably priced, it is family freindly and the drinks, while expensive, are excellent.
Definitely agree with you for Trail’s end being #1! I personally prefer their breakfast buffet, which is also super cheap. I regularly crave that pecan sauce on a Mickey waffle. Morimoto though I just found to be really expensive versions of the same thing I can get at my local Chinese restaurant. Maybe I’m just lucky to have great Asian restaurants in my area!
Great round up, Tom. Happy to see our favorite, Sanaa, make the list. The Nomad lounge might make it in the future as well if our experience is any indicator! (Lounges of all varieties might get an honorable mention, come to think of it)
Like many guests, we have our routines, meaning, Pirates of the Caribbean, first attraction, and Captains’s Grille, first dinner. The food here is consistently good, the tables aren’t smooshed together, and as Disney restaurants go, it’s really quiet. The perfect travel day restaurant.
On our last trip, we dined at Raglan Road for the first time and thought the prices, food and entertainment were all quite good. Kona Cafe is great whatever time of the day. The best restaurant in HS is any that’s outside HS.
We have enjoyed lunch at Sanaa many times. However, if you’re relying on WDW transportation, know that it will take a big chunk out of your day. Personally, I think it’s worth it.
Have never dined at Nine Dragons, but based upon your review Tom, will give it a try.
You’re totally right about Captain’s Grille. Save for Free Dining “season” when it can become a spot for people who didn’t think to make ADRs, it’s almost never busy. We were there in November for Christmas, and were also pleased to see Christmas decorations in the restaurant this year. Not sure if that’s new (I think so?) or not, but it was a nice touch we had not noticed before. Still need to try the breakfast there someday…
I believe you’ve brought this up before, but I would eat the Cobb Salad and Grapefruit Cake at the Brown Derby twice a day for lunch and dinner and breakfast on Sundays.
Good memory! If we’re going to have laser focus and point to specific things to order, that would probably make the list (or a different list about squeezing value out of expensive restaurants), but I wanted this list to have a bit more wiggle room than that.
Sci-Fi is also something of sort of a hidden gem for vegetarian options. The rest of Hollywood pretty much leaves you with salad and pizza, but Sci-Fi is loaded with delicious options.
Thanks for the tip. I hadn’t heard that before, but it’s good to know!
We tried Trail’s End on our past trip and really loved it! Especially given the current 20% AP discount, I felt like we were getting a great deal. The food was delicious, Fort Wilderness has an awesome atmosphere and the restaurant made me feel like I was back at summer camp in the mountains. I think this will be a restaurant that stays on our must do list going forward.
Yeah, Trail’s End is one of several resort restaurants that offers solid discounts that makes it extra-appealing for APs, DVCers, etc. We do it almost every trip now!
I shared a chicken fried rice and an orange chicken dish with somebody else when I visited Morimoto Asia in late December and felt like the value was indeed pretty good. I’m happy to hear some good things about Sci-fi Dine-in as I’ve finally decided to return there in April after a very forgettable meal there in December of 2012.
Do you have a recommendation for a single person eating at Via Napoli?