By: Rona Gindin
Sure, you’ll find cheeseburgers with fries at Walt Disney World's Epcot, along with pricy table-service meals. But of all Orlando-area theme parks, Epcot stands out for its excellent fast food options. Half of Epcot, called the World Showcase, is comprised of 11 internationally themed pavilions situated along a 1.3-mile loop surrounding a lake. Each offers up a bit of cultural immersion, authentic merchandise – and representative meals, snacks, and beverages. We spent a day strolling and tasting the fare at kiosks and counter-service restaurants so you won’t waste your calories (or dollars) on so-so noshes and nourishment. Bypass the hot dogs and fuel up gleefully on globally influenced fare.
Hints of ginger infuse Lotus Blossom Café’s go-to grab-and-go item with extra flavor. You’ll receive three ground-pork treats, each encased in dough; they’re served with a flavorful dip. The accompanying options are familiar Chinese-American fare: orange chicken, beef noodle soup, shrimp fried rice, vegetable sitr-fry, and sesame chicken salad.
No one will blame you if you choose to fill up on a chocolate- or strawberry-preserves crepe at a kiosk outside the France pavilion, but we tend to favor Boulangerie Pâtisserie, where twin glass cases are loaded with Gallic sweets and savories. For lunch, grab a vegetable or ham-and-cheese quiche. The custardy, single-serve, eggy entrees come complete in a flaky pastry. (Make sure yours is heated through before walking outdoors to indulge; occasionally the center is chilly.) Baguette sandwiches and cheese platters are other apt precursors to the éclairs, elephant ears, and caramel soufflés.
Ok, this is like a hot dog. And you can even get a hot dog – an authentic frankfurter. But a bratwurst is more unusual, so grab a German sausage on a hearty (though sadly not crusty) roll topped with sauerkraut. Add on a warm, soft, hand-twisted pretzel and wash it all down with a Radeberger Pilsner, an Altenmünster Oktoberfest, Rumple Minze, or Jägermeister. You’ll miss out on the oompah music entertaining the troupes within the nearby Biergarten Restaurant buffet, but you’ll satisfy that Central European yen while sacrificing little money or time.
Pizza’s not exactly an exotic international treat – nor is $18 a bargain – but the Italy pavilion’s Via Napoli Ristorante E Pizzeria serves up one heck of a pie. The flour, sauce, and water are as authentic as possible (water that is similar in composition to Naples’ is brought in from out of state), and toppings like eggplant, spicy sausage, and arugula enhance the wood-fired specialty items. The menu at this casual table-service eatery, with indoor and outdoor seating, also features a shrimp-bean salad, fried calamari, eggplant caponata, spinach lasagna, and fried saffron-risotto balls. End with an Old Country specialty, coppa di brutti ma buoni. It’s amarena cherry and vanilla ice cream served sundae-style with cookies.
Granted, these addictive bean treats from a kiosk outside the Japan pavilion are a snack, not a meal – but what a healthful way to stave off hunger. Simply slip each green pod into your mouth, suck out the soft beans within, and enjoy. The Kabuki Café also serves miso soup. And the shaved ice treats topped with fruit-flavored syrups are a beloved Epcot tradition. Inside Japan’s Katsura Grill, you’ll find a cloyingly sweet teriyaki option along with udon noodle soup (the one topped with tempura shrimp is enticing); Okonomiyaki, a vegetable-based pancake; and cold ramen noodles with shredded crab and sweet soy dressing.
Land Pavilion, Future World
Oak-Grilled Sustainable Catch, Niçoise-Style, Sunshine Seasons, $10.19
We can’t promise that this delish fish dish will be available during your stay. If it is, put one on your tray. But this spacious counter-service restaurant (tucked away inside the Land Pavilion in Epcot’s Future World), has an enticing assortment of seasonal foods that are well prepared and wallet friendly. On any given day, you might choose from seared tuna salad, rotisserie chicken, turkey and muenster focaccia sandwich, roasted beet and goat cheese salad, ginger-Mongolian beef, and tofu-vegetable noodle soup — for starters. Sunshine Seasons has plenty of kid-friendly options too. Some ingredients are raised in the Land Pavilion by Epcot horticulturists.
Vegetable Platter, $10.99
Forget the belly dancing and mood lighting at Restaurant Marrakesh, the pavilion’s upscale option and make a beeline to the Tangierine Café, where tasty healthful fare is a magnet for foodies and waist-watchers alike. The vegetable platter is especially good; its hearty serving of hummus, tabboulah, bread, couscous, falafel, lentils and lettuce is an ample portion for two. For a heartier alternative, order a chicken or lamb schwarma platter, wrap or slider plate, or a ground beef kefta sandwich. Pastries and coffee from a nearby counter are an exotic end to a satisfying meal.
Salmon and Egg Sandwich, $7.99
Our two favorite Epcot cheap eats are sold in the Norway Pavilion’s Kringla Bakeri Og Kafé. The name “Salmon and egg sandwich” may be blasé, but the sandwich itself is a splendid open-face affair. A hearty slab of sourdough bread is toasted, spread with mild buttery goat cheese, then topped with silky smoked salmon, slices of hard-boiled egg, and red onion slivers. Club, roast beef, and ham-and-apple ‘wiches are available, too. But save room for the vegetable torte, a rich puff pastry stuffed with roasted potatoes, spinach and mushrooms, plus muenster and Jarslberg cheeses. Finish with “school bread,” a Scandinavian pastry flavored with cardamom, vanilla custard, and coconut.
Fish and Chips, $8.19
Get thyself a taste of Merrie Olde England at the Yorkshire County Fish Shop, a counter location outside the Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room. Each serving is made to order, meaning your plateful of two oversized breaded fillets plus what we Yanks call steak fries will be sizzling hot. Dip the tender morsels into tartar sauce or drizzle on malt vinegar, as the British do. Unwind while you’re at it with a Bass Ale or Harp Lager draft. Before you head out, step into the pub’s bar area to see if the Hat Lady is entertaining; stick around if she’s singing her raucous, spirited songs, changing into one comical hat after another throughout the show.
Barbecue Pork Sandwich, Liberty Inn, $8.59
If you’re a foodie, The American Adventure’s fast food restaurant won’t be your top Epcot pick. Although the atmosphere is inviting, with white and brick Colonial decor, most of the menu feels a little too familiar: burgers, chicken tenders, chicken Caesar wraps, etc. But the barbecue pork sandwich is pure Americana with its tender shredded meat and smoky-sweet sauce on a soft bun. Grab a platter and dine outside, perhaps while listing to live music across the promenade at the American Gardens Theatre. Liberty Inn always has a kosher meal on offer, and a kiosk outside stocks smoked turkey legs – a truly not-bad nosh that will fill up a mom and two kids for $9.19.
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