Trying to find the Walt Disney World restaurants with the best atmosphere and coolest design? Our part 2 of our best themed table service restaurants series covers the best themed choices with options in the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, and a resort (well, campground). It only features table service dining options–so no counter service or bars were eligible.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might recall that we did a post on the Top 10 Themed Restaurants at Walt Disney World (link opens in new tab) a few years ago. If you haven’t read that, you should start there before continuing with this post. As that post stresses, I think theme is incredibly important to Walt Disney World’s restaurants. You can get great food in the real world–but awesome theming is far harder to find.
I’m in the process of editing old posts, and the original top 10 was on the agenda last night. As I started editing, I realized I had about 15 worthy restaurants that weren’t on the list–and that was just off the top of my head. Given how many thematically-worthy restaurants there are at Walt Disney World, I felt it was a disservice to cap the list at 10. Instead, I’ve expanded upon it with another 10 restaurants, and edited the original list, bumping some from the original top 10 for newcomers.
Just a friendly reminder (because many commenters on the original post seem to have “forgotten” 🙂 ) these rankings are based on theme, not cuisine. These restaurants could be serving cardboard covered in copious amounts of stale gravy and still make the list. (That’s not to say you should dine at a restaurant serving cardboard, but you get the idea.) We might briefly mention food just so you have an idea of what we think of it, but the rankings are in no way cuisine-based.
Here are our rankings along with a brief synopsis of each restaurant. Click the links within the synopses to read our full reviews of each restaurant. All of these restaurants participate in the Disney Dining Plan.
20. Beaches & Cream — It seems like Beaches & Cream finds itself on every top 10 list we make for Disney Dining. What can I say—we love the place. It combines a charming, bygone-era soda shop with great food and cheap prices.
What’s not to love?! The theme here is fun and well-executed, but it’s those latter two variables (great food and cheap prices) that separates Beaches & Cream from the pack to give it the last spot on our list.
19. The Boathouse – It might seem odd to find the Boathouse on this list given that theme was one of my quibbles in our review. However, that was in the context of the price points, and our belief that it skewed a bit too casual given the menu.
Standing on its own, the theme is interesting and varied, with a huge fleet of classic watercraft that include amphicars, water taxi, and myriad other boats, almost all of which are exotic in appearance. This is where the Boathouse scores points with us and earns it a place on the list. Elements of the interior design are imperfect, but you’ve gotta give this place props for all those boats. The whole package here has made this a new go-to spot for us.
18. ‘Ohana – Everyone seems to love ‘Ohana, but the reasons cited for that typically don’t pertain to its theme or atmosphere. However, we think these are essential elements of the restaurant’s fabric (no, not the flooring fabric). Yeah, the food is great, but the restaurant itself has a certain palpable energy.
It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what that is, but I think it ultimately boils down to conveying the feeling of a relaxed, no-cares getaway on the isles. It’s the essence of being in “vacation mode” with no worries–disconnecting from society and connecting with fellow vacationers for a bit of communal fun. Maybe I’m reading into this more than what’s there, I dunno. For me, few restaurants accomplish a pitch-perfect “vacation” vibe as well as ‘Ohana.
17. T-REX Cafe – There’s no subtlety in the theme of T-REX, but it’s not as if dinosaurs are creatures renowned for their peaceful dignity and grace. T-REX has a vibrant and raucous energy, and I love every minute of it.
While there are parallels to Rainforest Cafe (a restaurant of which I am no fan), T-REX feels like a more extravagant and polished production (and one with better food). T-REX certainly won’t appeal to everyone, but for any red-blooded, dinosaur-loving patriot, it’s a hoot.
16. The Restaurants of Pioneer Hall – By taking a minimalistic approach to theming and letting nature do the talking, Fort Wilderness makes perhaps the greatest thematic statement in all of Walt Disney World. There is no lavish design, no meticulous efforts to artificially age the woods, or anything of the sort. Rather, it’s as if Disney built a nice campground in 1971 and has let it grow into its rustic theme organically.
Trail’s End and Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue are extensions of this, both oozing folksy charm and down-home fun. At one point, Hoop-Dee-Doo was an annual tradition for my family (I haven’t been in years), while Trail’s End is a new favorite. Its rough-around-the-edges rustic style and great value make it feel like you’re far away from Walt Disney World. Oh, and if that’s not enough, how about that glorious restroom mural?!
15. Tusker House – C’mon, this is Animal Kingdom…it should be no surprise that the theming at Tusker House is top notch. The restaurant is styled to look like a weathered marketplace you might find in Africa, and the attention to detail nails this theme.
In this market, Disney characters roam freely while tourists graze from one of the best buffets at Walt Disney World; it’s the ultimate utopia that basically screams “IN YOUR FACE!” to all of that Orwellian nonsense.
14. Garden Grill – This is the second character meal that makes the list, and its presence has nothing to do with characters (character meals are a different category–check out our list of the Top Character Meals on the Disney Dining Plan). Instead, Garden Grill makes the list because it rotates and offers views into Livin’ with the Land during the meal.
Garden Grill also serves some of our favorite cuisine at any ‘all you care to enjoy’ restaurant, some of which is sourced from the greenhouses in Epcot. Ride Livin’ with the Land before or after your meal to complete the themed experience (and to learn something about your meal in the process!).
13. Sanaa, Boma, and Jiko – Of course no ‘best of’ list would be complete without a bit of a cop-out. Each of these three restaurants has a distinct theme, but they’re all similar enough that we’re rolling them into one. Each of these restaurants have some great African art and design, with their own twists as to why they are compelling choices.
Sanaa features a view of animals grazing on the savanna, Boma executes the mood and look of an African marketplace–and has delicious food, and Jiko has a more refined feel with brilliant lighting mimicking the sunset.
12. Yak & Yeti Restaurant – Yak & Yeti Restaurant is a hodgepodge, and I mean that as the best form of praise possible. Thematically, think of it as an episode of “Hoarders” but instead of collecting Santa Claus dolls or old newspapers, these proprietors in the Himalayas have assembled a treasure trove of gorgeous antiquities.
Despite all of the stunning artifacts and its size, the restaurant maintains an unexpected quaintness and intimacy. Arguably the most detailed restaurant in Walt Disney World, Yak & Yeti is a favorite of ours due to its theme and cuisine. High marks all around.
11. Hollywood Brown Derby – The first of three high-ranking restaurants at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (quite a feat for a park widely considered to have the worst dining, overall), the Hollywood Brown Derby makes the list for its mix of brilliant old hollywood charm and excellent cuisine, and because it’s a rare fine-dining experience inside a theme park.
Hitting these three notes is what makes it one of our overall favorite Walt Disney World restaurants. Not only is the restaurant’s design themed after the original Hollywood Brown Derby, but the menu draws inspiration from the original, too. Talk about getting the details right!
Even with this list now at 20 restaurants, there are still deserving candidates that didn’t make the list, potential restaurants we have not yet tried, and soon-to-open spots at Disney Springs that could make the list. That’s the problem with narrowing down a list like this to a top 10 or even 20.
Walt Disney World prides itself on theming, and there are at least 40 restaurants that do a really good job executing their theme. Our list still just scratches the surface of these, and probably skews a bit towards some of our sentimental favorites. Perhaps this list is deserving another sequel…? (Hey, if the Transformers franchise can keep getting sequel after sequel despite its flagrant sucktacularness, anything is possible!)
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. Once you arrive at the parks, our Walt Disney World “Ride Guides”are great for determining what to do and when to do it. 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? Your top 20? Any here you feel should be higher…or not on the list at all? Share which ones you think we missed and the ones you think we got spot-on in the comments!