This page aims to help you find good food without going broke or tripping over a culinary land mine. More than 140 restaurants operate within the World, including about 90 full-service establishments, more than 30 of which are inside the theme parks. Disney restaurants offer exceptional variety, serving everything from Moroccan lamb to Texas barbecue. Most restaurants are expensive, and many serve less-than-distinguished fare, but there are good choices in every area of Walt Disney World.
Getting It Right
Although we work hard to be fair, objective, and accurate, many readers, like this woman from Charleston, West Virginia, think we’re too critical of Walt Disney World restaurants:
Get a life! It's crazy and unrealistic to be so snobbish about restaurants at a theme park. Considering the number of people Disney feeds each day, I think they do a darn good job. Also, you act so surprised that the food is expensive. Have you ever eaten at an airport? HELLO IN THERE? . . . Surprise, you're a captive! It's a theme park!
And a mom from Erie, Pennsylvania, struck a practical note,
Most of the food [at Walt Disney World] is OK. Certainly in our experience, more of it is good than bad. If you pay attention to what other visitors say and what's in the guidebooks, you can avoid the yucky places. It's true that you pay more than you should, but it's more convenient [to eat in Walt Disney World] than to run around trying to find cheaper restaurants somewhere else. When it comes to Walt Disney World, who needs more running around?
Our research team has eaten at every restaurant, kiosk, bar, cart, and food stand in Walt Disney World many times.
As you may infer from these reader comments, researching and reviewing restaurants is no straightforward endeavor—to the contrary, it’s fraught with peril. We have read dining reviews by writers who turn up their noses at anything except four-star French restaurants. We’ve read reviews absolutely devoid of criticism, written by “experts” unwilling to risk offending the source of their free meals. Finally, we’ve seen reviews in dining guides that are wholly based on surveys submitted by diners whose credentials for evaluating fine dining are mysterious at best and questionable at least.
How, then, do we go about presenting the best possible dining coverage? At the Unofficial Guide, we begin with highly qualified culinary experts and then balance their opinions with those of our readers— which, by the way, don’t always coincide. (Likewise, the coauthors’ assessments don’t always agree with those of our dining experts.)
To be as fair and thorough as possible, we display our readers' collective opinion of each restaurant right alongside our dining critics' evaluations. If you want to share your dining experience in great depth, please contact us.
Before You Make a Reservation
Disney requires a credit card to guarantee reservations at all sit-down restaurants. If you don't show up for your reservation and don't cancel before the day of your reservation, your credit card will be charged $10 per person on the reservation.
Only one person from your group needs to show up for your reservation to avoid the penalty. For example, if you have a reservation for 10 people at 8 pm at Jiko, only one of you needs to show up at Jiko to avoid the penalty.
Dress is informal in all theme-park restaurants, but Disney has a "business casual" dress code for some of its resort restaurants: dress slacks (or dress shorts) with a collared shirt for men and jeans, skirts, or dress shorts with a blouse or sweater (or a dress) for women. Restaurants with this dress code are:
- Jiko - The Cooking Place at the Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Flying Fish Cafe at the BoardWalk
- California Grill at the Contemporary Resort
- Citricos and Narcoossee's at the Grand Floridian Resort
- Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge
- Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht Club Resort
Food Allergies And Special Requests
If you have food allergies or observe some specific type of diet like eating kosher, make your needs known when you make your Advance Reservations. Does it work? Well, a Phillipsburg, New Jersey, mom reports her family's experience:
My 6-year-old has many food allergies, and we often have to bring food with us to restaurants when we go out to eat. I was able to make reservations at the Disney restaurants in advance and indicate these allergies to the reservation clerk. When we arrived at the restaurants, the staff was already aware of my child's allergies and assigned our table a chef who double-checked the list of allergies with us. Each member of the waitstaff was also informed of the allergies. The chefs were very nice and made my son feel very special (to the point where my other family members felt a little jealous).
There are plenty of chances to dine with favorite Disney characters while vacationing. This allows greater touring efficiency since you're eating and greeting characters at the same time, but has definite disadvantages--not the least of which is price. Our Character Dining page explains each meal in detail.
A Few Caveats
Before you begin eating your way through the World, you need to know:
- Disney World table service restaurants are extremely popular, and many of them book up with Advance Dining Reservations months in advance. If you want to sit down and be waited on for a meal in the World, read our content on Advance Dining Reservations.
- Be Our Guest Restaurant is currently the most popular dining establishment in all of Walt Disney World. Be Our Guest is quick service dining during the day and then switches over to a table service restaurant in the evening. You have a small chance of getting in for lunch via a long stand by line but your best bet is to make a reservation as soon as possible. Lunch (yes, you can make a reservation for a quick service lunch) and dinner reservations regularly fill up immediately when the restaurant's 180 day booking window opens.
- Theme park restaurants rush their customers in order to make room for the next group of diners. Dining at high speed may appeal to a family with young, restless children, but for people wanting to relax, it’s more like eating in a pressure chamber than fine dining.
- Disney restaurants have comparatively few tables for parties of two, and servers are generally disinclined to seat two guests at larger tables. If you’re a duo, you might have to wait longer—sometimes much longer— to be seated.
- At full-service Disney restaurants, an automatic gratuity of 18% is added to your tab for parties of six or more—even at buffets where you serve yourself.
- If you're dining in a theme park and cost is an issue, make lunch your main meal. Entrees are similar to those on the dinner menu, but prices are significantly lower.
- Disney occasionally adds a surcharge of $4 per adult and $2 per child to certain popular restaurants during weeks of peak attendance, including President's Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, plus every day from mid-June through mid-August (i.e., summer vacation). Thankfully, this hasn't happened in 2014, but it's always possible Disney could bring it back. If you've got reservations at the following restaurants, pay particular attention to the per-person costs during busy times of year:
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Princess Storybook Meals)
- Boma - Flavors of Africa (breakfast and dinner)
- Cape May Cafe (breakfast and dinner buffet)
- Chef Mickey's (breakfast and dinner)
- Cinderella's Royal Table
- The Crystal Palace
- The Garden Grill Restaurant
- Hollywood & Vine (Play 'n Dine character buffets)
- Liberty Tree Tavern
- 1900 Park Fare
- 'Ohana (breakfast and dinner)
- Trail's End Buffet at Fort Wilderness
- Tusker House Restaurant
Last updated on August 20, 2015