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. Takumi-Tei – We consider this one a sleeper pick, but few World Showcase restaurants embody their host countries as well as Takumi-Tei in the Japan pavilion. The service is second to none, which is very on theme for Japan. (Hey, this list considers atmosphere an extension of theme–it’s not all design!)
The interior is no slouch, either. There are multiple dining rooms, each of which is quite intimate and very reminiscent of Japan. It’s not the pinnacle of Imagineering, but the complete package is pretty great.
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.
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.
16. 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.
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.
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.
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.
11. Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen – It’s rare for a restaurant in Magic Kingdom to be under-appreciated. Given the park’s popularity and the weak overall dining slate, anything even remotely good draws high accolades. Unfortunately, Skipper Canteen is the exception to that. Depending upon which of us you ask, this is either the #1 or #2 restaurant in Magic Kingdom. For me, it’s #1.
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!)
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!