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.
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. ‘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.
18. 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.
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. Restaurant Marrakesh – If you look closely, there are still vestiges of the bygone days of EPCOT Center scattered around the park. Restaurant Marrakesh is undoubtedly one of these. Its design is intricate and beautiful, with ton of texture, from the floor to the ceiling, and everywhere in between (which is no surprise, as this is where the Morocco pavilion excels). There’s also entertainment (belly dancers and musicians performing traditional Moroccan music), and the food is quite solid, too. This is a hidden gem that we’d rank among the top table service restaurants in World Showcase.
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. Cinderella’s Royal Table – This is a restaurant inside Cinderella Castle–need I say more? Originally King Stefan’s Royal Banquet Hall (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 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.
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!)
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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!