Sunday, April 15, 2018

My “Go to” Restaurants at Walt Disney World

Going to Walt Disney World can be overwhelming, especially if it is your first time there.  Although I am a travel consultant for Travel Time, I am also a seasoned veteran when it comes to visiting Walt Disney World.  You see, I have gone there at least once every year since it opened in 1971.  One time, I only got to spend 28 days there.  It was heaven.  I am an annual passholder, even though I live in Ohio and I am also a Disney Vacation Club Member.  I look for every opportunity to get to the parks.
Have you noticed that as soon as you mention the fact that you are considering a trip to Walt Disney World that everyone must tell you what you must do on your vacation?  I have even been told by my clients that some of their friends have even tried to plan every minute of their trip for them because they enjoyed their trip so much that my client must do the exact same thing.  What I tell my clients is that only you know your family as good as you do.  I also tell them that this is their vacation and that they should listen to their friend’s ideas but plan the vacation that is right for them. 
There are few restaurants that I not have tried.  I am a very picky eater so keep in mind that when I look for a place to eat I look for a restaurant that has a variety of menu items to offer.  When picking these restaurants, I took into consideration what I like but also what my family enjoys.  I have broken the restaurants by park or locations.

Magic Kingdom
Believe it or not, you will hear Cinderella’s Castle or Be Our Guest, as the place to go to, but they are not my favorites.  Yes, the food is good, but you go there more for the experience than the food.  I like the look of both places and they each offer something unique but when I start thinking of a place to go, they are not on my list of my top choices.
My first choice is Crystal Palace. 

Family with Eeyore
I pick this place because I think they have some of the best tasting food, as well as a variety of choices.  There is something for everyone.  

The restaurant is divided in half.  Each side has plenty of seating, but the best part is that each side of the restaurant has their own buffet.  Because of this I never feel like I am in a herd of cattle going through the line.  Yes, there might be someone in front of me or behind me, but I find myself traveling from table to table instead of going “through the line” to get my food. 
For the children, they have their own special bar.  It has everything that most children like.  There are chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese as well as spaghetti.  The menu of offerings can be different, but they usually have the standard fare.  Although I am an adult I visit this bar on each visit as well.  I may not take anything, which is rare, but I always must see what my choices are.

The adult bars offer many options.  There is a bar for salads and there are many types to choose from.  You have the lettuce and toppings, or you also have other types of salads.  Then you have the next bar that offers all of the side possibilities you can think of.  Then of course, the main dish which is the type of meat they are offering.  Again, there are many choices to choose from.  

I am not sure about you, but I like to choose what I plan to eat around the type of meat I am going to choose.  So, my first stop is to check out the children’s buffet, then my next step is to go and look at what the meat options are for.  I have not put anything on my plate yet.  Then I start to go through the line.  I think this might be one of my favorite things I like about this buffet as well.  Usually when you go through a buffet one or two sides are open but there isn’t much room to wander about the bar to see everything there is to choose from.  However, at the Crystal Palace, the buffet bar is in a wide-open space giving you lots of room to walk around and see all your options before you begin to fill your plate.  I even check out the dessert bar and ice cream stand before making my choices.

The other reason I like Crystal Palace is the atmosphere.  The theme of the restaurant is that you are visiting Winnie The Pooh and his Pals in the 100 Acre Wood. The inspiration for the restaurant is a Victorian greenhouse setting from the 1800’s. The atmosphere is light and airy. Although it is a character restaurant you can choose to signal to the characters that you are not interested in seeing them and they will move onto the next table. Or, if there are children in your family, pictures and autographs are a must.  Then if you are like me, I have to get their picture with my family each and every time.

Finally, it doesn’t matter when you go, the food is delicious, the atmosphere is terrific, and the buffet is awesome.  There is something for everyone.

Hollywood Studios

This is a hard decision for me to make. 

I would recommend several restaurants and for different reasons but every trip for my family must include 50’s Prime Time Cafe.

The atmosphere takes you back in time to an era when every kitchen had Formica tables and vinyl chairs.   You are sitting in “Mom’s” kitchen.  There are even TV’s at every table so that you can watch of what they would have seen in the 1950’s. 

This restaurant was chosen because they offer classic American food that was offered and cooked the way they cooked it in the 1950’s.  The food is cooked the way I was raised.  It is seasoned just right and again, there is something for everyone.

The fun for this restaurant also includes learning a little table etiquette. For example, don’t be surprised if they remind you that elbows do not belong on the table. I have heard people to be told to sit up straight.  It is all about the table manners as if you are a child sitting at your Mom’s kitchen table.

When I go there, I cannot go without getting their fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn.  It is the best.  I have tried to order different items, but it always comes back to this.  I think about this fried chicken often, even when I am home and how delicious it tastes.  My husband on the other hand, has tried almost everything on the menu and has enjoyed every meal he has ordered.
50s Prime Time Cafe Fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes

I won’t go into detail on my other two choices, but I can’t go without saying something about them.  My first of the other two choices is Sci-Fi Dine In Theatre Restaurant.  I chose this restaurant because it is a place to go to get a sandwich and it offers a unique dining experience.  This restaurant takes you back to a time of drive-ins where you stayed in your car and watched a movie on a big screen.  This is what you are doing here.  If I had to say a con about this restaurant is that to pull off sitting in a car only two people can sit on a seat so there isn’t an opportunity to sit down with your family for a conversation.  I would still recommend it.  Save room for dessert.  

My other “go to” restaurant at Hollywood Studios is Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano.  They offer a wide selection of Italian food but most importantly, they also offer a wide selection for the children.  I enjoy going there.  The restaurant is large, but they have managed to give you a personal setting by using dividers in the restaurant.  The atmosphere takes you believe that you are sitting in an Italian restaurant in Italy.

Animal Kingdom
My choice for the Animal Kingdom is the Rainforest Café.  I realize that this is a restaurant chain, however, where else can you eat where you feel like you are in the middle of a safari.  The animals come to live every 10 minutes or so to enhance your experience.
I like to choose my visit to this restaurant at the end of the day close to the park closing.  I do this because the restaurant is located at the entrance to the park.  You can visit the restaurant from inside the park or by entering the restaurant directly in the front without entering the park.  This saves on taking time once inside the park to make my way back to the entrance.

Again, I like this restaurant for the selection of items on the menu.  There is something for everyone.  I usually get a burger here or sometimes just an appetizer, but I don’t think my husband has gotten the same thing here twice and has enjoyed every meal.

If you are looking for a place for a character meal then I would recommend Tusker House.  Although the buffet restaurant consists of African food, they also serve a children’s buffet bar that consists of the standard American food for children.

There are two other places I like to visit while in the park that are fast food.  The one is Pizzafari.  I like to go there because they are quick.  There is not much of a selection to choose from but you can get an individual pizza of cheese or pepperoni.  The pizza fills you up and it doesn’t take much time to eat so that you can continue on your journey through the park.

The other place I enjoy visiting is the Flame Tree Barbecue.  This is also a quick service location.  Of course, a barbecue sandwich is the selection for me, but you can also get ribs and chicken.  Their portions are large and they give you plenty to eat.


The Garden Grill Restaurant is one of the hidden gems in Epcot.  This rotating restaurant is a family sit down restaurant that brings the meal to the table for you to serve yourself.  If you run out of a certain food just ask and they will deliver more.  The meats consist of turkey, pork, and pot roast.  Of course, the perfect salad and sides come with it.  This restaurant is also the place where you can find Mickey and Minnie but also Chip and Dale. 

Visiting with Chip at The Garden Grill
Farmer Mickey saying Hi at The Garden Grill

In addition to The Garden Grill you also have the Chefs de France and Le Cellier.  Both places excellent places to eat.  

LeCellier is a steak house.  It is pricier than the others but well worth the price.
Don’t be fooled by Chefs of France.  Many see this restaurant and see the white linen tablecloths.  Just remember that each restaurant at Epcot is a themed restaurant themed from the county it is representing.

If I had to choose a park that offered the best restaurants I would have to choose Epcot. 

I say this because you can pick a country for the type of food that you want to try and you can gain a new experience in the process.   

For example: Teppan Edo which is located in the country of Japan. This restaurant brings the Japanese culture to you.  While visiting this restaurant you can not only eat your food but experience a skilled professional cooking show in the process. 

Another fun thing to do is to eat your way around the world.  You can pick the countries that you would like to try and then pick an appetizer or two to share.  This allows you to try a little of something in every country.  If you choose to do this be careful not to have reservations for a large meal.  You will be too full.

Outside the Parks

Many people think that you have to experience the restaurants inside the parks.  However, there are just as many worth mentioning outside the park.  For example, while visiting the Magic Kingdom park you could hop on the monorail and get off at the Grand Floridian.  While there you can eat a meal at 1900 Park Fare.  
1900 Park Fare

If you choose to attend a dinner meal you will be met by Cinderella and her entourage.  Here you can meet Prince Charming but what I enjoy more are interacting with the Stepsisters. Should you choose to attend a breakfast meal then you could team up with the cast of Mary Poppins.  Either way, the food here is terrific.  Again, it is a buffet meal with plenty of food to offer.
Meeting Cinderella at 1900 Park Fare

Anastasia Saying Hello at 1900 Park Fare

Another diamond in the rough is Beaches and Cream Soda Shop.  Located in the lower level of Disney’s Beach Club Resort this soda shop is a great place to slip in for a burger, hotdog, fries or just some of the best ice cream sundaes.  The décor takes you back in time to the old ice cream parlors.  Reservations are a must and they go quickly so be sure to book early.  I like to visit Beaches and Cream Soda Shop while at Epcot.  When I get through the United Kingdom, head up the bridge then keep going straight to the resort.  There is an entrance in the back of the park so you will be able to get back in.  Then when I am finished I go back into the park and head on over to France.

The Boathouse at Disney Springs also has a variety of menu choices for the entire family.  In addition, the service and the food are excellent.  While you are there you can also sign up and pay for a boat ride in a car/boat.  That is another unique experience that you could check off your bucket list.

 Walt Disney World has over 370 restaurants so there is something for everyone.  The restaurants listed in this blog are just a very small few of the choices available.  To determine what is right for your family consider your taste buds.  Ask yourself “What types of cuisine do I enjoy best?” then look for the restaurants offering those cuisines.  Do not go out of your comfort zone.  If you want to try different cuisines, think about eating around the world when you visit Epcot.  Walt Disney World’s eateries include sit down restaurants where reservations are strongly recommended, counter service, pool bars, lounges and various types of snack counters so there is a little something for everyone and a variety for everyone’s appetite.  As the French say, Bon Appetite.  

By:  Cynthia Lohstroh 

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