To get the best value from counter service credits and maximize your savings on the 2019-2020 Disney Dining Plan, you’ll want to eat at the Walt Disney World restaurants on this list. These offer the most ‘bang for your buck’ of quick service DDP credits because they serve what would be the most expensive meals, if you were paying out of pocket. (Last updated August 9, 2019.)
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).
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 vacation planners 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!
One final thing to note before we get started is that Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is not currently accepting the Disney Dining Plan. We don’t know when this will change, but we suspect it’s a temporary thing to artificially suppress demand (and inflate revenue from Disney Dining Plan users who will pay out of pocket to dine there). We fully expect Docking Bay 7 to be on the 2020 Disney Dining Plan, and if/when it’s added, it’ll instantly jump to the top 5 here. (We’ll keep you posted on that!)
Which other Walt Disney World counter service restaurants made the list? Let’s take a look…
10. El Mercado de Coronado – Formerly Pepper Market, El Mercado de Coronado is the “new” food court, and it’s exactly the same as the old one aside from the name and a light remodel. This restaurant at Coronado Springs has a lot of options and a lot of them are pricey.
A few of the Chef’s station combos are priced at or above $15 (the various burgers and ribs are all 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.
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. 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.
7. 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.
6. 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. It seemed like the menu changed a few times last year, so don’t be surprised if it changes once again before your Walt Disney World vacation.
Here, the BBQ Ribs Platter is the best option for value, but other 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.
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. Following the debut of new and more expensive lunch menu items (with a new breakfast menu supposedly coming soon), Be Our Guest Restaurant remains the best use of a Disney Dining Plan counter service credit in Magic Kingdom.
2. Polite Pig – One of the relatively recent additions to Disney Springs, Polite Pig is another BBQ joint. While our Polite Pig Review was mixed, we would still recommend trying it if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan given the value proposition. We’ve heard from plenty of readers who really enjoy Polite Pig.
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 what matters most for the purposes of this post.
1. Wolfgang Puck Express – If you order one of the other expensive entrees, this is the place to go to stretch the value of your Disney Dining Plan credits at Disney Springs. If you order the delicious but cheap pizza, it’s not such a good use of a DDP credit.
The Bacon-wrapped Meatloaf (pictured above) is the best of both worlds: one of the most delicious counter service entrees at Walt Disney World, and also expensive. It’s what we’d recommend most highly at Wolfgang Puck. Add to that a variety of expensive wines, and you’ve got the best bang for your Disney Dining Plan buck at Walt Disney World! (The only downside to Wolfgang Puck Express is theme–it’s totally bland.)
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 3 restaurants at Walt Disney World that offer roughly $30 in maximum total value and 9 restaurants 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.
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!