[Updated March 2017]
If you’ve ever planned, or are in the midst of planning, a Disney World vacation, you know that there are dozens of decisions to make. Where should you stay, and for how long? What kind of tickets are you going to buy? Where should you eat?
The last question might be the hardest to answer, because there are more than 80 table-service restaurants throughout the resort. Here are a few suggestions for different types of guests, and for those picky or adventurous eaters.
If you’re going to Disney World by yourself for business or leisure, you’re in luck; the resort is conducive to solo travel. Biergarten Restaurant is a place to consider if you’re dining alone. You’ll be seated with other guests at communal tables, where you can peacefully enjoy your meal, or make new friends. A lederhosen-clad band even encourages guests to sing and dance, if you’re feeling extroverted. Another option is the ESPN Club, which is perfect if you want to cheer on your favorite sports team -- or any sports team. Nearly any live game taking place anywhere in the world is shown there on 100 monitors. Lastly, if your budget allows, the Dining with an Imagineer program lets you eat with one of the resort’s creative staff at either The Hollywood Brown Derby for lunch.
Sweethearts needn’t be concerned about finding quiet, romantic dining spots in Disney World. Three of those establishments are Victoria & Albert’s, Yachtsman Steakhouse, and Artist Point. Victoria & Albert’s is Central Florida’s only AAA Five-Diamond restaurant, so you should expect beautiful linens, crystal, and silver to go with the dining selection that could include anything from local oysters to Japanese beef. Yachtsman Steakhouse offers views of the lagoon outside Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. Exposed wood beams and hardwood floors give this place a homey, cozy feeling. Murals line the exterior of Artist Point and iron-ring chandeliers are the hallmark of the interior. Oversized windows provide views of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Bay Lake.
Families with children:
You’re probably thinking “Aren’t all Disney World restaurants suitable for children?” While that sentiment can certainly be true, there are two that offer games and activities during the meal to keep kids busy and content: Whispering Canyon Café and ‘Ohana. Be prepared to get up and do the hokey-pokey or watch kids participate in a pony race at any given moment at Whispering Canyon. (Of note: Cast Members here love to tease and aren’t afraid to take away your phone if you’re texting during dinner.) At ‘Ohana, kids can put their skills to the test during the restaurant’s hula-hoop and coconut-rolling contests. If you’ve never eaten in the middle of the Amazon, there are places to do just that: at the Rainforest Café in Disney Springs and just outside the gates of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Audio-animatronic animals fill the restaurant, massive fish tanks are the centerpiece of the dining room, and the wildlife react to a “thunderstorm” that threatens overhead while you eat.
Buffets are the way to go if you’re traveling with a picky eater. Three of these include The Crystal Palace, Chef Mickey’s and Trail’s End Restaurant, all of which serve typical American fare. The buffets have a variety of beef, chicken, seafood, pork, sides, soups and desserts -- enough to appease everyone in your group.
Those seeing more adventurous fare should try Boma or Tusker House Restaurant. Both offer African-inspired dishes including Boma’s watermelon rind salad, Tunisian couscous salad, and African-style breads. You’ll find chutney and curry dishes at Tusker House. Or, book a lunch or dinner reservation at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, where you’ll enjoy a cold buffet of Norwegian cheeses, meats, seafood, and salad before ordering off a menu that includes kjottkaker, or ground beef and pork dumplings.
Disney World restaurants are usually accommodating when it comes to special dietary requests. So if you would like for your meal to be kosher, vegetarian, gluten-free, peanut-free or anything else, let the Cast Members know when making your advance reservations.
When Pandora — the World of Avatar opens in Disney's Animal Kingdom on May 27, 2017, it'll debut a new restaurant called Satu'li Canteen that will bring the park into the future. And we don't just mean because this is a futuristic land with blue aliens — the restaurant will be the first in Disney's parks to debut Mobile Order (a feature that's rolling out to other Disney restaurants by the end of the year). Instead of waiting in line, guests can order and pay for their meal through the Disney Experience app. You just have to tap the "I'm here" button in the app when you've arrived, and the app will alert you when it's ready to pick up. The restaurant will serve health-conscious dishes, including personalized bowls with a choice of wholesome ingredients such as quinoa, kale, sustainable fish, and wood-grilled chicken. Other dishes include bao bun-like "pods" and dough-wrapped hot dogs.