Dining at Disney

I mentioned in some of my previous posts that we love eating at Disney World. The variety of food options available means that I am no where close to having checked all of the restaurants off of my Disney Bucket List. It also means that I have never been without delicious choices. Growing up, my family ate at a few quick service restaurants mixed in with sandwiches and snacks we would bring ourselves. As us kids became teenagers and eventually (kind of) adults, and as my parents could afford, we started to add in a table service or two. It wasn’t until my first trip with my husband, which also happened to include my parents and my brother and his wife, that we really experienced a wider example of the amazing offerings Disney has for its guests.

On that trip in 2013, all 6 of us ate on the standard Disney Dining Plan. We had a sampling of quick services at all four parks, including our favorite at each: Magic Kingdom – Cosmic Ray’s, Epcot – La Boulangerie, Hollywood Studios – Backlot Express, Animal Kingdom – Flame Tree Barbecue. We ate around the world at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. And we dined at some new (to us) and a few old favorite table service restaurants. This post is a review of the table service restaurants that we have experienced at one time or another, arranged by location.

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Before I get to the actual reviews, I wanted to hit the main reasons why Disney Dining options are amazing:

  1. Variety. Having so many choices, not only between restaurants, but between the meals they offer, leaves everyone happy. I was an incredibly picky child and teenager, but now I am one of the more adventurous eaters in my family. I have never been disappointed.
  2. Value. While Disney is obviously more on the expensive side of the vacation spectrum, there are food options that are more affordable. And no matter the price, most meals are a good value for the money.
  3. Portion Size. I have never had a portion too small.. That being said, sometimes I didn’t want a particular dish to end, but that is more a testament to its deliciousness than its size!
  4. Deliciousness. I have eaten at many fine dining restaurants around the country and world; I have eaten on really nice cruise ships; I have eaten my mother’s food (she is Italian and amazing). More often than not, I find myself comparing all meals I eat to those at Disney. They are that good.
  5. Options. I know this is a repetition of the first point in this list, but it’s on here for a different reason. This is specifically referring to the vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. options that are available. My mother has to eat gluten-free and she is always given a special menu or a walkthrough with a chef of the buffet to point out what she can eat. Not only are special dietary needs met, but there is a big emphasis on seasonal items and sustainability. This also means that menus can change often, but that just means there are more dishes to love!

On to the reviews! Here are the table service restaurants we have tried, listed by location, and a quick takeaway on each. I have rated them with my own arbitrary system, based completely on quotes from Disney movies (naturally).

Magic Kingdom

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Be Our Guest-

I am including this one despite the fact that I have not eaten at the “table service” Be Our Guest, and only experienced the “quick service” Be Our Guest. (We have reservations for the table service version on this upcoming trip! I’ll add that experience afterwards.) This quick service restaurant is a welcome addition to the fare found at Magic Kingdom, which has never been known for its varied and amazing meal options. Disney knows that the people that want good food will be going to Epcot or the many many options found around the resorts. The people at Magic Kingdom are there, usually with smaller people (also known as children) with smaller appetites, that want french fries and hamburgers over more adventurous fare. Not only that, but many of the target guests at Magic Kingdom don’t have the time to sit and eat, but want the aptly named Quick Service options found in every “land” in the park. Anyway, Be Our Guest has wonderful options for those that want to spend a little more time sitting and enjoying their food in the Beast’s castle. And you are eating in the Beast’s Castle, either in the Ballroom, the West Wing (no President Bartlet, unfortunately), or Rose Gallery. The food is French Provincial in theme, with options including (my favorite soup in Disney World) Potato Leek Soup, Braised Pork, Croque Monsieur, Tuna Niçoise Salad, and Carved Prime Chuck Roast Beef Sandwich. The dessert options are small and I was underwhelmed by them, but I am not really much of a dessert person anyway. They do have a cupcake topped with “The Grey Stuff”, so that is at least a really fun option! I have never (before our upcoming trip) been able to attain the elusive reservation at this restaurant, so the two times we have eaten here, we waited outside in the sun for over an hour. In true Disney style, there were Cast Members handing out umbrellas and water to keep everyone from getting overheated. Even so, I thought it was well worth the wait, but I have always been obsessed with Beauty and the Beast, and I could eat Potato Leek Soup every day and be happy!

Rating: “Some [meals] are worth melting for.”

…And that’s it right now…Not many locations in Magic Kingdom, I know! Well there was that one time in 1997 when we ate breakfast at the Crystal Palace…but I remember precious little except for Winnie the Pooh and company. Part of the issue is the lack of options, as I stated above, but after this trip, I will be able to add a few more reviews!

Animal Kingdom

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Tusker House

After I graduated from college in 2010, I left the next morning with some classmates and a few staff members to travel to Swaziland in Africa. We were there for a History of Medical Missions in Africa class that was 3 weeks long and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. A small detail that surprised me when we were there was the number of Indian and southern Asian influences on the food. I had more curry dishes than I ever have in my life. I’m sure it’s related to colonial ties. Anyway, that knowledge and experience allowed for a much greater understanding and appreciation of the wide, and I mean wide, variety of dishes served at the buffet at the Tusker House. Firstly, the theming here (as with almost every Disney restaurant) is on point. You feel like you are in a marketplace somewhere in a small town in Africa. There are “offstage” noises: talking, clanging, general moving about. And let me tell you, I did not leave there hungry! Nor would I have if I was a less adventurous (read: in my pickier years) eater. A smaller consideration is that, like most Disney buffets, this is a character meal. While we were there, for lunch, the usual Donald, Goofy, Pluto (I think) gang was there to take pictures and sign autographs, in safari gear of course. I have yet to experience breakfast or dinner at this restaurant, but I have heard that all meals are comparable to the options available at Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. You can find great salads, fresh fruit, carved meats, yummy desserts, and many many foods of the exotic (curry/couscous) and not-so-exotic (mac and cheese/chicken nuggets) kind!

Rating: “The bare necessities; the simple bare necessities.”

After our trip in October, I will report back on Tiffins (new signature restaurant!) and Yak & Yeti for your reading pleasure! Animal Kingdom is becoming a favorite location of ours for food options, for sure.

Look for my second part of this post coming soon!

-Until-

Bethany

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