Disney Dinner Recs Needed
I am going to Disneyworld in February with my family, My two sisters families and my parents. In total we will be eight adults and seven children, ages 1-12. Can someone please recommend a few restaurants for us to have dinner at. We will be staying at the Beach Club but are willing to travel a bit. Thanks in advance.
I was there for a couple of days last Spring, hadn't been for awhile. We were in a condo with a kitchen, so we ate breakfast at home every morning. We also packed water and light snacks (fruit, power bars) and despite warnings to the contrary, they were not seized by security!
Magic Kingdom: The character buffet lunch at the Crystal Palace, which I had um'ed and aw'ed about, was a great deal. The food was very fresh and much tastier than I expected, well spiced and properly prepared. The service was more than acceptable. I'd go again. Characters came back several times, nobody rushed us out, and it was very organized.
MGM: The food at the Brown Derby was tasty, fresh, and they adapted a meal to meet specific dietary requirements. It was good to get out of the Disneyfied rush and heat and sit in a "real" restaurant, however our waitress was appalling in every way.
MGM: Backlot Express: shockingly good grilled vegetable panini with black bean salsa on the side. I still can't believe that I ate that at Disney.
On past trips we've eaten at places on Irlo Bronson Hwy and in Celebration, and the only one I'd half recommend is the pizzeria at Old Town. It's decent, and very cheap.
We were just at WDW last week and were able to get into most places as walk-ins without a problem (but there were only two of us).
Coral Reef at Epcot (which we only attempted for sentimental reasons and certainly not for the rather bland food) said they didn’t have any slots available until later this week. The other place that we couldn’t get into which was never a problem in the past was Akershus at Norway. It has indeed changed to a character breakfast & lunch (which probably accounts for the fact that it was mobbed) but reportedly still offers an opportunity to dine without being mugged by Mickey at dinner. They still offer the “koldtbord” with cheeses, meats, etc. that I remember as being surprisingly tasty on my last visit several years ago. They no longer have Ringnes beer from Norway, unfortunately, as the restaurant and nearby counter-service spot both feature Carlsberg from Denmark.
The OP mentioned they were in a rather large group, so that could certainly make things trickier. When I have stayed at Disney resort hotels, I found the concierges to be helpful. However, if a particular place is important to you, call 407-WDW-DINE in advance of your stay.
Location isn’t as much of an issue once you are on property since you have Disney’s buses, boats, and the monorail at your disposal. One guidebook I would recommend to anyone touring is the Unofficial Guide to WDW 2009 (Bob Sehlinger with Len Testa). We’ve bought these since the early ‘90’s, and besides write-ups on all the attractions and hotels (including “field tested touring plans” to get the most bang for your buck), they’ve got a break-down on all the restaurants (sit-down and counter-service) at the Disney parks as well as surrounding areas such as Universal Citywalk and the never-ending array of buffets (if anyone in your party gets his or her swerve on at Golden Corral).
Since we were staying at the freakishly-imposing, Michael Graves-designed Swan this time, we ended up at Blue Zoo in the Dolphin next door one evening (although Il Mulino in Da Swan looked inviting). I have been disappointed with the Aspen outpost of Todd English’s Olives, so I had mixed feelings about dining here. We started in the too-cool-for-school bar/lounge with a tasty yet overpriced pineapple cocktail before walking to the dining room for dinner. We ordered a bottle of Champagne that our server spilled half of onto the floor and my better half’s foot (he always seems to be the recipient of table-side bubbly accidents). She brought in another staffer to provide the bottle-opening festivities for the replacement, so with that and a variety plate of east and west coast oysters and a lovely lobster tail with some mango salsa, we were on our way. We both had the miso sea bass, which wasn’t as good as Nobu’s miso black cod (or even Denver’s Sushi Den’s rendition, which is $15 less than Blue Zoo’s) but was still quite delicious. We substituted what we thought would be haute mashed potatoes for the sesame spinach, but they ended up having a runny gravy-like consistency. We weren’t sure if this was intentional or not, but we weren’t provided with much-needed spoons.
We tried Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge on this last trip and would definitely eat there again (and we’ve been to Per Se and other foodie haunts, so we didn’t just drink the Kool-Aid that Donald and Daisy handed us at the gate). Just a warning that it was only open for dinner, so don’t take a bus all the way over there expecting to sneak in for an early lunch. It seemed like a place loved by adults and children equally given the observations of our fellow diners and the effusive praise we heard in the restaurant and on the bus on the way over. A bonus is that you can walk outside the resort before or after dinner and take in some spectacular views of wildlife including giraffes and zebras without even paying a park entry fee. Our server delivered a barely-pausing, 90 mph run-down of the menu that went on a bit too long (kind of like this post), but the food did not disappoint. We split the barbecue chicken flatbread with grilled onions, thin strips of apple, mystery cheeses, and an “African” BBQ sauce (which did not appear to be KC Masterpiece). I had a roasted corn soup and Mr. rlm had the Taste of Africa (basket of different breads which was supposed to include naan but didn’t and a “trio of dips”--guess they were afraid to put words like chutney and hummus on the menu). I had halibut rolled in cornmeal (oh, I’m sorry it was “maize-crusted”…grin) with a nice array of veggies including edamame, potatoes, green beans, sweet potato crisps, tomatoes, and cauliflower. Flatbreads were 9-10 bucks, apps were $7-14, soups/salads were $7-11, and entrees were $26-39. We could’ve easily split an entrée, as the portions were quite large and filling.
The buffet at Boma near Jiko smelled great, but I must confess that I’m not a fan of eating Curried Coconut Seafood Stew that has been sitting out so that anyone could’ve dipped their Buzz Lightyear gun into it.
We have always enjoyed the food and wine at Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge, although I wish they would bring back the salmon pate and apple butter they brought out with the bread eons ago (or even offer it as an up-sell item). If I were going with a group of kids I would probably nab a spot at the boisterous Whispering Canyon Café, as the kids there always seem to be having a great time when we walk by on our way to the more-sedate Artist Point. The Mr. did request that we be brought out Mickey Mouse straws after seeing them at other tables, and I accepted a dare to suck Andrew Will’s 2003 Cuvee Lucia through it.
I like that the different pavilions at Epcot have outdoor alcohol procurement facilities now. “France” will serve you Mumm, Kronenberg, Kir Royales (which are handed over in plastic Champagne flutes with a red light at the bottom near Illuminations kick-off), Grey Goose and Grand Marnier slushies, etc . “France” has a wine shop with a tasting area (although there’s nothing special on offer…think Georges Duboeuf). My better half thought the margs were overly sweet at the Mexico pavilion. His endorsement for “best value for lushes” in the parks is the Bass Ale from Rose & Crown.
One day after being turned away at Coral Reef and Akershus at Epcot and being desperately hungry following our “drink around World Showcase” tour, we settled for some veggie samosas and fish and chips at the Rose and Crown. Not the best versions I’ve had of either, but better than a couple of the pubs we visited in the actual England as opposed to the fake one built by Walt.
The food at Disney Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM) is all rather uninspiring, imho, so if you’re stuck there to eat, you may as well pick something based on a fun theme such as the ‘50’s Primetime Café or the Sci-Fi Dine In Theatre. At the latter, you sit in cars like you are at a drive-in and watch old cheesy trailers such as Plan 9 From Outer Space, but I wouldn’t touch anything on the menu other than the burgers. Their cocktails feature an illuminated “ice cube,” but I prefer more than a thimble-full of alcohol when I’m paying 10 bucks for a drink.
I think it totally depends if you want to eat in a park or out. With 7 kids my recommendation would be to try to plan each day from wake up to bedtime - but allowing for some changes in plans! We like to be at the parks early come back and rest in the afternoon and then head back for the night. Just know that the food is made for the masses, it is not cheap and definitely not gourmet except for a few places. Check out the calendar on disney.com which will give you the dates for "Extra Magic Hours" (the parks opens early and stay open late for resort guests only) or special event nights as well that you may want to plan around. For instance, the Spectro-Magic Parade is only on certain nights at Magic Kingdom. A must see!
Crystal Palace - this is a buffet with Winnie the Pooh and friends which will be good for the little ones. Pretty good for a buffet as they will have something for everyone.
Cinderella's Castle - was VERY expensive and we thought it was one of the worst meals at Disney. If you really want to go, try it for breakfast but you will need to make reservations way in advance.
Liberty Tree - also is a character dinner and is a family style Thanksgiving meal.
Off the monorail...
Polynesian has Ohana (also has a Lilo & Stitch Breakfast) which is good for the kids as well as a luau which may be a little much for the little ones.
Grand Floridian has 1900 Park Fare which is our personal favorite. Great buffet and Cinderella is there too. For finer dining they have Narcoossee's (seafood) and Citricos.
Contemporary Resort - California Grill is good but it is also finer dining. I would recommend Chef Mickey's (also a great breakfast place).
At Disney Studios they offer a dinner package for dinner and preferred seating at the Fantasmic show. I think it is worth it with the number in your party! I would recommend the buffet at Hollywood and Vine. I believe the last seating is 4:55 but by the time you get there and eat it is 5:30. The other choices are Mama Melrose (below average Italian) and Brown Derby which is pretty good. The 50's Cafe is also fun.
Animal Kingdom - the only 2 I can recommend are Rain Forest Cafe which is pretty consistent and would be good for a larger party and we really enjoyed the Yak & Yeti (asian themed). It is further away from the rest of the resort area so I probably would tell you to look at these for lunch instead. The same goes for the restaurants at the Animal Kingdom Resort which are both excellent.
There are too many restaurants here to list but all of them are pretty good and would be able to accomodate your party. It also depends on your tastes! I believe you can take a boat right over from your hotel so this may be a good option.
Speaking of a boat ride away...
In the Beach Club we were told about Cape May but have never eaten there. They also have a character meal but it may be a breakfast. The Yacht club is right next door and is supposed to also have a good steak house.
Hop the boat again and you can get to the Swan & Dolphin Hotels. The Swan hosts our favorite Italian which is Il Mulino. Very pricey, finer dining, but worth it! It has a private dining room in the back which would be good for your family as well. The Dolphin houses Shula's Steakhouse and Todd English's Blue Zoo which we thought were very expensive and very over-rated.
Sorry this is so long but we are there every few months! Hope this helps!!
I second the recommendation for Hoop De Doo Review. We went in April and LOVED it. Fun, fun show and really yummy (but not gourmet) food. I can't wait to go back.
I also really liked 'Ohana, at the Polynesian. Food was very good, and it's a fun, festive place for the whole family, esp. the kiddos.
There are lots of family restaurants you can get to without even getting in your car.
I always go to www.wdwmagic.com and they have restaurant menus on the site.
I highly recommend Boma, as well.(for breakfast, too) Totally unique eating experience. There is every kind of buffet and sit-down you can think of at Disney. Also check out the Disney Dining Plan when you get your tickets. I've never used it, but I've heard its a money saver.
Yes, we would like a sit down dinner. The type of food is not that important. The three factors I am considering are comfort, cost and location. In terms of location I would like to be walking distance from the Beach Club. For comfort I want a restaurant that can easily accommodate a group of 15 people. As for cost, we do not need to eat at the most expensive restaurants. Thanks for asking. And thank you for those that have already responded.
Went to dinner at the Moroccan restaurant in EPCOT on rec from a friend who frequented Disney. Not expecting much but it was really great. A few months later on FoodTV I found out why. It seems the KING of Morocco sent his personal chef and staff to set up this place. Not very expensive, fantastic food and decor. It's a must. I do not know about reservations. The adults and kids will love it. Authentic decor, costumes and food.
Jiko's is more upscale than Boma's (buffet). Jiko's is at AKL (animal kingdom lodge) and you can catch the bus from Beach Club to Downtown Disney and transfer to AKL. That is what is awesome about Disney. You can park your car and use park transportation all week long.
The wine tasting in Germany was fun (EPCOT) as were the Margaritas in Mexico. You can walk around EPCOT and try several countries food. Filet de boeuf grille, sauce au poivre noir Gratin Dauphinois et haricots verts - Grilled tenderloin of beef with a black pepper sauce original potato gratin of Savoy and green beans $31.95 at Chefs De France in EPCOT was the best steak I've ever eaten out anywhere. I enjoyed eating at Cindy's Castle (make resses now) and breakfast is cheaper than dinner and the characters are there during the meal (Magic Kingdom). Make a late breakfast reservation and sleep in, then go eat as a family and then stay in the park while everyone else with kiddos goes back to the room for the afternoon.
The 50's primetime cafe at Magic Kingdom is hilarious as your cousins bust you for bad manners and talk to you like you are family.
Tony's Town Square is Italian. Their Calamari was awesome as was the salmon and other dishes we got. The service was impecable. It is near the entrance to Magic Kingdom.
I didn't enjoy Wolfgang Pucks.
If you are basketball fans you could go watch a game and eat at ESPN Zone. That is fun - but I doubt you could get a table for all of you in the same general vacinity unless you get there freakishly early.
The Hoop Dee Doo Review at Fort Wilderness (take the boat to get there) as a family would be a hoot. It would entertain the kids and give you a meal.
If you all want to eat together with such a large group you really must make reservations now.
I found Wolfgang Puck Express to be much better that the signature restaurant. Express is considered to be "fast food" aka counter service in Disney lingo also the Earl of Sandwich was really good, both are bargains if you are on the DDP. I enjoyed the California Grill, which is especially nice if you time your dining and the fireworks right.
I'll second the Boma recommendation from above, it is a african themed buffett which provides you the opportunity to try many of the local flavors.
Our family(girls 3 and 7)found the Princess Breakfast at Akershus (Norway) much more enjoyable than the castle, but you do need to eat at the castle at least once.
The restaurant in France is on our to do list next year. For some reviews and menus check out allearsnet.com, they are really good with keeping the most up to date information.
On my last visit to EPCOT, I was really disappointed by what they did to the restaurant in Norway. That was one of my favorite restaurants in Disney, especially since I don't know of any other places in Orlando to get Norwegian food (I love smoked fish). I was going to eat there on my last visit, and then found out it became a character restaurant and I decided against it. I don't know if the food is still the same, but having Disney princesses come to my table to interrupt my meal isn't something I want to pay $35 for.