To save money and get the best value from counter service credits on the 2018 Disney Dining Plan, you’ll want to eat at the Walt Disney World restaurants on this list. These offer the best ‘value maximization’ of counter service Disney Dining Plan credits because they serve the most expensive meals. (Last updated February 17, 2018.)
While most Counter Service combos are priced right around $14, actual prices vary from a low of around $10 to highs of over $20. Note that the Disney Dining Plan eliminated the dessert from counter service meals last year, and added alcoholic beverages this year, and these two factors have caused a lot of changes to this list (namely, Magic Kingdom restaurants offer less value since their counter service restaurants don’t serve alcohol).
Since this list determines Disney Dining Plan value based upon the most expensive prices, you should not use this list if you’re paying out of pocket. If Dining Plan value maximization is your concern, you should also make sure to get your “money’s worth” from Table Service meals (click here to see our tips for maximizing your table service dining at Walt Disney World).
This list is calculated by taking the highest combo and beverage available on the Dining Plan and adding them together. We did this as opposed to taking the median or mean since, if you’re truly concerned with saving as much money as possible, you’re going to be ordering more expensive menu items. We feel considering only the more expensive menu items is most helpful to Guests looking to maximize the Disney Dining Plan value, but your mileage may vary.
Additionally, since this list contemplates only expensive items, this list is completely objective. If a restaurant “scored” better thanks to its pricier options, it’s on the list. This is regardless of whether we think its food stinks. It’s very important to consider quality of food, not just prices, when determining where you want to eat. You’re not really getting more “value” for your money if you eat expensive food that you don’t like!
Which other Walt Disney World counter service restaurants made the list? Let’s take a look…
10. Pepper Market – Pepper Market is once again a full-time food court (instead of doing a lunch buffet). This restaurant at Coronado Springs has a lot of options (possibly because of the large convention space?) and a lot of them are expensive.
A few of the Chef’s station combos are priced at or above $15 (the Aztec Burger and ribs are both strong choices) and many options are also up there in cost. Each of these combos are served with two sides, making them not only a good value from the perspective of price, but also from the perspective of what you get for your money.
9. Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory – This is a recent addition to the list, replacing Cookes of Dublin at Disney Springs (fine by me–I wasn’t all that impressed by Cookes). Sassagoula Floatworks & Food Factory makes the list thanks to its carving station. Recently remodeled and given a refresh (RIP “Friar Roz.”)
We know what you might be thinking: great, more ribs and chicken. Nope! This station features prime rib, sustainable fish, and pork. Okay…it also includes ribs and (fried) chicken. There are a few choices for maximizing your value here, so meat lovers staying at either Port Orleans resort should check it out.
8. Wolfgang Puck Express – Once the place to go to stretch the value of your Disney Dining Plan credits at Disney Springs (and one of the few counter service restaurants there, period), that’s no longer the case. Due to the removal of desserts from counter service meals in the Disney Dining Plan, Wolfgang Puck Express at Disney Springs has fallen a bit on this list.
Reviews of this restaurant are mixed, and with so many great places to eat being added to Disney Springs, it’s difficult to recommend from a quality perspective. Still, it’s a great place to maximize the value of your Disney Dining Plan Quick Service credits thanks to the many expensive entrees, and that’s all that matters for the purposes of this post.
7. Landscape of Flavors – Changes to the Disney Dining Plan and recent tweaks to the menu have elevated Landscape of Flavors onto this list, and we couldn’t be happier about that. We are huge fans of Landscape of Flavors at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, and even though the entrees we enjoy here are generally on the cheaper side, it’s just good to see some truly quality options make this list (unlike #6 below!).
While the pizzas or Chef’s Specials are the way to go here if you’re looking strictly for value, consider pretty much anything at the “World of Flavors” station if you’re looking for a delicious meal with quality ingredients and inventive flavors. We’re especially partial to the curry and grilled fish.
6. Restaurantosaurus – The inclusion of this restaurant–which I consider to be Walt Disney World’s worst counter service option–really underscores the objective nature of this list. We really want to reiterate that we aren’t endorsing Restaurantosaurus; with Satu’li Canteen in Pandora – World of Avatar offering much better cuisine and Flame Tree BBQ providing better value for money, there’s really no excuse to make this your Animal Kingdom meal.
With that said, if you do for some reason, there are a couple of burgers here that offer “great” value for money. That is, objectively speaking. In reality, these burgers are awful, and likely made from a mix of cardboard and mystery meat. On the plus side, if you do make the mistake of eating here, at least the theme is cool.
5. ABC Commissary – You might be a bit surprised to see this Disney’s Hollywood Studios Counter Service restaurant make the list, but it has seen a number of menu changes recently. (The restaurant has changed a ton since we last reviewed it.) It seemed like the menu changed a few times last year, and has already changed once in 2018, so don’t be surprised if it changes once again before your Walt Disney World vacation.
Here, the Chicken and Ribs Combo Platter is the best option for value, but salmon and steak dishes also offer strong value. Everything else here is fairly average in price and quality, so don’t get too enthusiastic about ABC Commissary. I tried this combo last year, and was disappointed both in terms of its quality and size, so keep that in mind before just going for it because of the value.
4. Tangierine Cafe – One of the most unique, and arguably one of the best Counter Service restaurants at Walt Disney World, you really can’t go wrong with anything here. We are huge fans of Tangierine Cafe, and the only reason we don’t eat here more is because it’s fairly expensive when paying out of pocket, but that’s not a problem on the Disney Dining Plan!
To maximize your value, try the Saffron Rotisserie Chicken, which is the most expensive entree (and is very filling!). If you’re not preoccupied with getting the most bang for your buck, the Shawarma Chicken and Lamb Platter is our favorite thing on the menu.
3. Be Our Guest Restaurant (Breakfast & Lunch) – This lavishly themed restaurant in New Fantasyland is still inundated by crowds. Thanks to the addition of a pricey breakfast last year, it moves up to the #3 spot on the list for counter service restaurants (for lunch, it would be lower). If you’re able to get a table here, you’ll find interesting & delicious cuisine, an awesome environment, and somewhat expensive options.
While we aren’t huge fans of the breakfast at Be Our Guest Restaurant (it’s still a great value–and others love it!), it’s a different story later in the day. We really like Be Our Guest Restaurant for lunch, and think it’s a good place with unique options. It’s somewhere you should eat regardless of whether you’re on the Disney Dining Plan. It’s like an attraction in itself, but that’s doubly true if you’re on the Disney Dining, as you can get some bang for your buck!
2. Flame Tree BBQ – This option really hits the ‘sweet spot’ in terms of value and quality. Also making our Top 10 Counter Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World–a list based on quality, Flame Tree BBQ is a can’t-miss option if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan.
The multi-meat sampler is going to offer the best bang for your buck, but we’d strong recommend the St. Louis Ribs entree instead. This is the single greatest counter service menu option in all of Walt Disney World. As far as snacks and sides go, the French Fries with Pulled Pork and Cheese are a solid choice.
1. Polite Pig – For 2018, we have another new #1 restaurant, and another one at Disney Springs. We also have another high ranking BBQ joint. Where Polite Pig bucks the trends is in being a third party restaurant, but one that’s locally owned and operated (the second location of an incredibly popular restaurant in Winter Park, Florida), rather than being part of a chain like Blaze Pizza or Earl of Sandwich.
While our Polite Pig Review was mixed, we would still strongly recommend trying Polite Pig if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan given the value proposition. The potential of this restaurant is through the roof, and if you have a good meal, it’s going to be really good. It still doesn’t compare to the exceptional D-Luxe Burger for us, but we’re hoping Polite Pig finds its footing. Still, it’s a great place to maximize the value of your Disney Dining Plan Quick Service credits thanks to the many expensive entrees, and that’s all that matters for the purposes of this post.
Really, once you get past the first five restaurants on this list, there’s not much that separates the remaining Counter Service Walt Disney World restaurants in terms of average value. Many restaurants only have one expensive entree that puts them on this list, and often that’s a combo like the popular chicken and ribs one. Just because a restaurant isn’t on this list doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dine there.
Based on our math, there are 9 restaurants at Walt Disney World that offer $20+ in maximum value, which is a pretty good number. If you go by average value instead of maximum value, you can find a lot of Counter Service restaurants with $18-19 in “total value.” This means that the difference between the later entries on this list and other spots is sometimes only around $1-2. With that little at stake, you really ought to just eat where you want if the menus for these restaurants don’t look appealing!
You can find an entree that costs at least $10 at every Counter Service restaurant, and drinks are typically pretty close in price at these restaurants. Overall, the price differences at Counter Service restaurants are less drastic than they are at Table Service restaurants, but you can still come out pretty far ahead by eating at the right Counter Service restaurants.
Hopefully this list helps you get more bang for your buck on the Disney Dining Plan. Check out our Value-Maximizing tips for Snacks and Value-Maximizing Tips for Table Service Restaurants to get even more value out of the Disney Dining Plan! If you’re planning a Disney trip, read our other Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews and our 101 Delicious Walt Disney World Dining Tips. If you are planning a Walt Disney World trip, make sure to also read our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
What tips do you have for getting the most out of the Disney Dining Plan? Have any tips to maximize your value at other Counter Service restaurants? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!