Dining, DISNEY DINK-Style
There are two categories of food at Disney: food for fuel, and food for enjoyment. When we’re on the clock—hitting rope drops, crushing Fast Passes, dominating Touring Plans, slaying two parks per day—we’re interested in food as fuel. In fact, a 2015 Daily Mail article detailed just how many calories a person burns traversing the four WDW parks (it ranges from 1255 at Hollywood Studios to 1560 at the Magic Kingdom). As Keanu would say, those are some serious deficits, brah!
All of this is to say that when we’re going all Sasha Fierce, we want food that’s fast, (somewhat) healthy, protein-rich, and that doesn’t slow us down. We almost never do Table Service for breakfast or lunch (the one exception being Be Our Guest), because it’s time-consuming and simply isn’t our priority while touring.
Dinner, on the other hand, is a different story. After a full day of walking and riding, queuing and cavorting, after navigating the Seven Seas Lagoon and the more daunting seas of humanity, after weaving through throngs of strangers, encountering a steady succession of sticky seats, sweaty clothes, and screaming children, we’ve worked up two things: a voracious appetite and an equally insatiable need for calm, quiet, relaxation, and good service.
Enter Disney’s Fine/Signature Dining. We like good food, we know good food, and we’re happy that WDW has no shortage of good food. And yes, it costs. But for us, it’s more than worth it to unwind over three expertly prepared and artfully plated courses as we relive the day, decompress, and savor a couple hours of peace and fine dining.
So our food breakdown isn’t going to be as comprehensive as a lot of other resources. But it’s what works for us and our Dink life. Oh, and we sure as hell don’t do character dining.
We’ll break our preferences down by meal, park, and resort.
We eat at the resort with a focus on efficiency and fuel. The only exception is if breakfast is the only time you can snag a reservation at Be Our Guest, then go for it—it’s a must-do (though we prefer lunch), and worth planning around.
POLYNESIAN VILLAGE RESORT
Capt. Cooks: Quick service mainstay for American breakfasts, breakfasts burritos or sandwiches, or the famously decadent Tonga Toast. Easy, fast, and affordable.
Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Gasparilla Island Grill: Quick service mecca featuring breakfast standards (wraps, quiches, burritos) as well as a large selection of pastries and espresso drinks.
Be Our Guest: Dine in one of three rooms inside Beast’s Castle (the dark and stormy West Wing is our favorite, though it’s also the hardest to secure a table there) on tasty and filling breakfasts ranging from Croque Madames, open-faced breakfast sandwiches, quiches, and a calorific croissant doughnut. Pro tip: Ordre in advance through the My Disney Experience website (MDX) and you can skip the often long ordering line.
A DISNEY DINKS Asterisk: Club Level breakfast: If you happen to be staying at the Club Level in your resort, the included breakfast spread is your best bet.
We tend to favor quick service over table service (again, time equals money), and our goal at lunch is basically to stave off hangriness, not to be gourmet-foodie-snowflakes (we save that for dinner). However, there are a couple table service restaurants we enjoy from time to time.
More often than not, we also just return to the resort and grab a quick service lunch there to eat in the room or by the pool.
Magic Kingdom, table-service
Be Our Guest: An elevated lunch menu, the immersive castle setting (again, try for that West Wing!), and servers magically wheeling your food over to you in covered carts (how did they know where you were sitting and what you ordered?) make for one of our favorite lunch experiences in any of the parks. And be sure to try to the gray stuff—it is, indeed, delicious.
Magic Kingdom, quick-service
Columbia Harbour House or Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe: The former has New England seafood options (chowder, fish sandwiches, fried shrimp, lobster rolls), the latter standard Tex-Mex fare. The Harbour House is our favorite, but can busy, so factor wait time into your decision.
Magic Kingdom, snack
Aloha Isle: Dole Whip. Enough said.
Restaurant Marrakesh: We love the immersive theming, there’s rarely a wait, and the food is a welcome break from standard park fare. The menu also allows you to sample a lot of different tastes and flavors if you’re sharing.
Sunshine Seasons: Healthy, lots of options, plenty of seating, and centrally located. Everything you could want in a quick-service restaurant.
50s Prime Time Cafe: Along with Be Our Guest, this is one of the only lunch reservations we make in advance (and is the only place where we’re consistently told to get our elbows off the table). The place is kitschy and fun, the servers are sassy, and the food is surprisingly toothsome. Don’t skip dessert!
Hollywood Studios, quick service
ABC Commissary: Large, air-conditioned, and a menu where pretty much everyone in your group can find something. It’s not going to blow your mind, but it’s utilitarian, which sometimes is all you need.
Hollywood Studios, snack
Trolley Car Café: A nicely themed spot for a sweet treat (cupcakes, cake pops, scones) or something slightly more substantial (sandwiches, salads). Also: caffeine!
Animal Kingdom, table service
Yak & Yeti: You can probably knock it for being a bit too pan-Asian (it features Chinese, Thai, Indian, and Korean flavors), but the flavors are generally good and the portions plentiful.
Animal Kingdom, quick service
Harambe Market: With various vendors (read: service windows) plying skewers, ribs, rice bowls, sausages, and flatbreads, Harambe Market provides a wide array of options and flavors in a Disneyfied post-Colonial African market setting.
Animal Kingdom, snack
Royal Andapur Tea Company: A wide assortment of hot and cold teas as well as a refreshing selection of frozen drinks (chai, coffee, and tea based) and baked goods.
A DISNEY DINKS Asterisk: Tiffin’s: a new Signature/Fine dining establishment, and its adjoining Nomad Lounge has recently opened to take advantage of, err, serve the influx of Pandora-crazed crowds. We hope to go in October, but judging from the online menus, it certainly looks like a fine edition to the Disney dining collection.
Dinner is where Disney dining really shines. You can find some of the best restaurants in Central Florida right on property, and it’s a great way to end your day.
Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Narcoossee’s: Super fresh, creatively prepared, and artfully plated seafood is the way to go at this cozy cottage fronting Seven Seas Lagoon. This place is always busy, and reservations are often hard to come by, so if you can snag one, we recommend it.
Citricos: Bold and bright Mediterranean flavors adorn thoughtfully sourced proteins and local vegetables in a dimly lit, gold-and-blue hued dining room on the Grand Floridian’s second floor.
Victoria and Albert's: Our first experience at the heralded Victoria & Albert’s awaits us in October 2017. Though from all we’ve read and hard, we’re confident that if Michelin awarded stars in Florida, V&A’s would secure at least one.
Polynesian Village and Resort
Kona Café: One of the best Casual dining restaurants in all of WDW. They serve a mix of Asian-influenced appetizers and entrees that run the gamut from poke, dumplings, and sushi to steak, duck, pork, and shrimp.
‘Ohana: A family favorite destination featuring all-you-wish-to-eat skewered meats grilled over a giant open flame as well as family style accompaniments and the famous bread pudding dessert. It’s part dinner, part show, and always booked well in advance.
California Grill: Another hard reservation to secure, partly because of the excellent and elegant west-coast cuisine and partly because California Grill’s 15th floor location affords Central Florida’s best views of the Magic Kingdom and the nightly fireworks show (even if you dine early, you can come back to enjoy the fireworks).
Artist Point: Soaring wooden ceilings and impressive chandeliers provide a dramatic backdrop for this gourmettour of the Pacific Northwest. Classic plates include cedar-plank salmon, buffalo strip loin (and sometimes other wild game like elk and venison) as well as smoky portabella soup, mussels, scallops, and halibut.
Animal Kingdom Lodge
Jiko—the Cooking Place: Jiko’s flavor profiles are some of the most complex and unique anywhere at Disney World. Employing African and Subcontinent spices, ingredients, and techniques, Jiko’s take on fine dining and high-level execution makes for a memorably delicious experience.
That, in a large nutshell (like a Brazil nut), is the Disney Dinks overview of dining at Walt Disney World. We’ve got a lot to say on the subject, and this is really just scratching the surface. But if you’re currently in the throes of planning and looking for a quick lay of the land, we hope this helps.