Menu Monday: Best Counter Service in Epcot

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This article is the final installment in a series ranking counter service restaurants at each of the Disney Parks at Walt Disney World. In case you missed them, you can review each article regarding Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios.

One of Epcot’s most notable experiences is the unique dining options. So notable, in fact, that every Fall it plays host to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, a must try if you haven’t already experienced it. Epcot has simply dozens of restaurants, carts and kiosks to try little morsels of culture. Though many of these carts and kiosks are considered by Disney to be “counter service” most of them are stands, windows, or carts, allowing guests to grab a specialty food item and continue their journey around World Showcase. There are actually relative few “counter service” locations that offer multiple menu selections and ample seating on the same level as other counter service option in the other parks.

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

If you use the Disney App, or the Disney website and filter restaurants by “counter service” and “Epcot”, the results will yield 24 locations. However, upon further inspection, these 24 locations also include options like popcorn carts and coffee stands. For the purpose of this article, I’ll limit the term “counter service” to only include options that offer meals, and not merely snacks (though there is something to be said for “snacking around the world”). This brings the results down to eleven locations. So, let’s start our culinary adventure!

To refresh your memory, here is the grading scale I’ve used to determining how each counter service location has earned its ranking:

  • Value (portion/cost ratio) = 10 points
  • Flavor = 10 points
  • Originality = 5 points
  • Atmosphere = 5 points
  • Grand total = 30 possible points

Sunshine Seasons

Sunshine Seasons – Future World, Land Pavilion

Value = 9/10

Sunshine Seasons gets a rare nine in the value category. The portions are generous and the menu selection has the most variety in all of Epcot. It’s even one of the rare counter service locations to offer breakfast (and not just pastries!). One of the best things about Sunshine Seasons is its “cafeteria” style ordering system. You can watch the Cast Members put your order together and customize your meal with the sides you want. The mashed potatoes are particularly yummy.

Flavor = 8/10

As I mentioned before, there are a wide range of options, from Asian-inspired cuisine like Mongolian Beef, to rotisserie chicken and hearty turkey sandwiches. Though World Showcase has “safe” options for all kinds of picky eaters, Sunshine Seasons is great for being a one-stop-shop for everyone in your group.

An expansive menu means there's something for everyone. Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
An expansive menu means there’s something for everyone.
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Originality = 4/5

Definitely not your everyday burger ‘n fries joint. Sunshine Seasons gets bonus points for thinking outside the box and offering some high-quality options for the counter service price. They offer some great healthy and vegetarian options but also allow guests to indulge in some hearty decadence (cheddar mashed potatoes!) without being the same fried menu you’ll find at other locations.

Atmosphere = 4/5

It may shock you to see such a high atmosphere ranking here. I’ll admit the ambiance is similar to a mall food court. I gave it a high score for two primary reasons, 1) ample seating, and 2) air conditioning. This is one of the few Epcot locations that has plenty of seating for all of the Sunshine Seasons patrons. It does get busy during the lunch hours, especially with the proximity to Soarin’, but I’ve always been able to find a seat.

Grand Total = 25/30

Good food, good variety, and plenty of tables make Sunshine Seasons one of the top picks for counter service options. Its menu and quality rival even some of Disney’s renowned table service restaurants. Even if you’re dying to try out the exotic options of World Showcase, don’t cross Sunshine Seasons off your list.

Tangierine Café – World Showcase, Morocco Pavilion

Value = 8/10

Some people baulk at the prices on this menu, but that’s fairly unwarranted. The most expensive item, the Chicken and Lamb Platter, is $14.99 but it can easily be shared between two people. It’s not necessarily a filling meal for two people, but with the baklava case so close, you’ll be glad you have a little tummy room to spare.

Tangierine Café offers delicious Mediterranean pastries. Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
Tangierine Café offers delicious Mediterranean pastries.
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Flavor = 8/10

The chicken and lamb wraps offered here are excellent. They have great seasoning that isn’t too overwhelming or exotic, and the self-assembly means that you can make sure you can customize them exactly how you want them.

Originality = 4/5

Tangierine Café offers Moroccan and Mediterranean cuisine, so you won’t find hot dogs or hamburgers here. It’s definitely a nice change of pace from the standard counter service fare you’ll find at other Walt Disney World restaurants. But don’t let titles of the entrees intimidate you, the food is flavorful, but Americanized enough not to be too adventurous.

Atmosphere = 4/5

The café offers ample indoor and outdoor seating. If you can, try to score a seat outdoors but in the shade. This can really enhance your feeling of eating in an exotic location as the Morocco Pavilion is one of the most architecturally stunning in all of World Showcase.

Morocco Pavilion is filled with beautiful details. Take a seat, enjoy your meal, and soak it all in. Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
Morocco Pavilion is filled with beautiful details. Take a seat, enjoy your meal, and soak it all in.
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Grand Total = 24/30

The secret of Tangierine Café has gotten out, and I’m glad more people are willing to try this hidden-in-plain-sight gem. Still, you can usually find plenty of open tables and not long lines at the ordering counter. Even if you’re a bit apprehensive about the options, talk to the super friendly Cast Members inside and they’ll gladly help you find the option that’s best suited for your palate.

Le Halles Boulangerie and Patisserie – World Showcase, France Pavilion

Value = 8/10

The greatest value on the menu is the softball-sized Croissant Jambon Fromage (Ham and Cheese Croissant) for only $4.75. You could easily make a meal out of this option for a mere snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan. All of the pastries, entrees, and desserts are of the highest qualities and very reasonably priced, even as far as theme park prices go. It also hold the unique title of being open at 9am for breakfast even though World Showcase doesn’t open until 11am. If you enter Epcot through the International Gateway, be one of the lucky few to have breakfast in France!

Flavor = 8/10

Everything I’ve tried from this menu has been superb. All of the bread and pastries are baked fresh on site. Beyond the Croissant Jambon Fromage, which is my go-to for a light lunch while touring World Showcase (no one wants to walk that 1.3 mile loop with a greasy rock in their stomach), I love the Quiche Lorraine

Les Halles food

Originality = 3/5

Perhaps more commonly known for the decadent pastries and desserts, Les Halles offers some exceptional sandwiches, salads and even a gourmet cheese plate. All entrees are rooted in the French cultural cuisine, but have a familiar comfort to them.

Atmosphere = 3/5

In late 2012, Disney expanded Les Halles allowing for more ordering room and increased the seating area. This was a welcome change, but you may still find it difficult to find a table during the busier times. If you dine outside of the lunch hour, you may be lucky enough to score a patio table just outside. This really enhances that feeling of dining at a French bistro.

Save room for dessert! Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
Save room for dessert!
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Grand Total = 22/30

Les Halles is a fan favorite for good reason. The food is delicious, the selection is wide but unintimating and the desserts alone are worth a trip. In fact, I highly recommend you make a meal of the desserts. You’re on vacation, so it’s ok.

Can you resist the temptation of the school bread? Photo by Ryan Kilpatrick
Can you resist the temptation of the school bread?
Photo by Ryan Kilpatrick

Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe – World Showcase, Norway Pavilion

Value = 8/10

When it comes to Kringla, I say, split a sandwich and everyone gets their own dessert. That’s the only way to dine here. In fact, I encourage you to order what I’d consider a “dessert flight” three or four pastries to share and taste several things. The prices are the most reasonable you’ll find considering the quality of decadence you’re about to enjoy.

Flavor = 8/10

Most people think Kringla Bakeri is synonymous with school bread. And, that is how it got its claim to fame. In fact, I’m pretty sure if you visit Kringla and don’t have school bread, you’ve broken some sort of Disney law out there. But it does have more to offer. If you can manage to make it past all of delicious and artful pastries to actually order a sandwich, then I think you deserve a medal.

Norwegian Club Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
Norwegian Club
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Originality = 3/5

The Norwegian Club and the Ham and Apple Sandwich are unique contributions but with familiar ingredients. Sometimes the bread can get a bit hard after it’s toasted, but the flavors are complex and delicious.

Atmosphere = 2/5

There are several tables outdoors under a covered patio and plenty of wall ledges and benches nearby to find a seat. The seating area is tucked behind the Stave Chapel, so you don’t get much of a view or ambiance, but do get plenty of shade.

Grand Total = 21/30

Frozen seems to be invading all of Walt Disney World, especially in the Norway Pavilion. I’m hoping its popularity doesn’t overtake Kringla, where Olaf and Elsa cupcakes replace our pastry favorites. But barring that, it seems that Kringla will always hold a top spot as a counter service option in Epcot.

Katsura Grill – World Showcase, Japan Pavilion

Value = 6/10

Some dishes offered here are more filling than others. The Teriyaki plates and Combos are good portion, and possibly a shareable portion if you want a little more room to try some exotic Japanese snacks from the nearby Mitsukoshi store. The sushi and udon, however, only seem to qualify as a high-priced snack, to me.

Sushi roll Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
Sushi roll
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Flavor = 8/10

I’m a sushi fan, and the sushi offered here is of surprisingly good quality considering it’s “pre-packaged”. The one down fall, is that I can easily pack away 2 or 3 rolls, so one of these pre-packaged entrees just isn’t enough for me. I do find the teriyaki plates to be a bit salty, that could just be my palate.

Originality = 4/5

I love that Katsura offers a range of Japanese inspired options. Beyond the obvious options of sushi and teriyaki, they also offer udon (thick spaghetti-type noodles in savory broth) and curry. I haven’t tried their curry dishes, yet, but I’ve seen others order them and they both and smell pretty good and are on my list to try next.

Outside Katsura Grill seating Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
Outside Katsura Grill seating
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Atmosphere = 3/5

Inside, Katsura kind of reminds me of a traditional fast food restaurant with its glowing menu boards and ordering queue structure. If that were all Kastura had to offer, it would definitely rank a one in this category. However, if you venture outside, you’ll find yourself is a beautiful Japanese garden with umbrella covered tables, Japanese lanterns, a waterfall and a koi pond.

Grand Total = 21/30

Katsura Grill is a little oasis in the middle of World Showcase. Even if Japanese food isn’t your favorite, or if you’ve manage to gorge yourself on other World Showcase treats before making it all the way to the Japan Pavilion, this is a beautiful location to retreat to even if it’s just for some green tea ice cream. But in my opinion, there’s always room for sushi!

Liberty Inn – World Showcase, America Pavilion

Value = 7/10

The portions are decent and the prices aren’t astronomical. If you’re looking for a standard burger or other patriotic dining options at Epcot and just can’t manage that stroll back to Sunshine Seasons, then Liberty Inn will work. Luckily, over the past year or two, they’ve been expanding their menu and improving the food quality. Still, for my dollar, I’ll find some place more thrilling to eat.

Nothing more American than steak and potatoes, right? Photo by Tom Bricker
Nothing more American than steak and potatoes, right?
Photo by Tom Bricker

Flavor = 7/10

Again, this restaurant has really improved in quality of its food as well as the options available. The steak is surprisingly good. It can’t compete with Le Cellier, Artist Point, or Yachtsman Steakhouse, but for a counter service steak, it’s a pleasant surprise. The Red, White and Blue Salad is also very flavorful and refreshing.

Originality = 3/5

When there are so many unique and delicious options all around World Showcase, why eat in the American Pavilion? Well, not all of us have adventurous palates, so Liberty Inn really does help fill that void. About two years ago, all you could find on the menu were the standard counter service burgers, hot dogs, fries, and the occasional salad. I’m happy to find the menu has expanded to really try to represent the depth of American cuisine. The introduction of the New York Strip Steak, Louisiana Shrimp, and Maryland Crab Cakes is definitely a step in that direction – but I hope the menu keeps walking. It would be awesome if they’d have a seasonal state represented and each month offer a unique entrée or dessert from that location: Texas style ribs, California fish tacos, Chicago (Illinois) deep dish pizza, etc. Imagineers, give me a call!

There is indoor and outdoor seating. Photo by Daisy Lauren
There is indoor and outdoor seating.
Photo by Daisy Lauren

Atmosphere = 3/5

Liberty Inn offers plenty of indoor seating in its bright, sunlit dining area. Historic flags decorate the brick walls. If you sit closer to the front of the dining area or outside at the covered tables, you can even catch a view of the Fife and Drum presentation in front of the American Adventure Pavilion.  And on a hot, summer day, sometimes all you need for good atmosphere is lots of air conditioning!

Grand Total = 20/30

Liberty Inn has taken great strides in improving their menu and their food. It’s still not my favorite place to grab a bite in World Showcase, but at least it now offers some good options that I can truly enjoy.

Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Yorkshire County Fish Shop – World Showcase, United Kingdom Pavilion

Value = 7/10

This is a good value as a meal, a great value as a sharable snack. Servings are 2 decent sized fish filets on a pile of chips (French fries).

Flavor = 8/10

This is the Yorkshire County’s strong suit. The fish is always fresh and hot, like it’s served straight out of the fryer. The batter is crisp, well-seasoned, without being soggy or greasy. There’s a condiment stand nearby with packets of tartar sauce, malt vinegar and ketchup.

Classic English fish and chips. Photo by Scarlett Litton
Classic English fish and chips.
Photo by Scarlett Litton

Originality = 2/5

It’s original in that it’s one of the few Disney counter service options to offer fish and chips, but that’s where the originality ends, especially considering that’s all it offers.

Atmosphere = 2/5

The atmosphere here is hit or miss. There are a few large, umbrella-covered tables nearby, but they’re almost always filled with previous patrons or other visitors to the UK pavilion enjoying a pint. If you’re lucky enough to score a table, the atmosphere point value could instantly jump up to a 5/5 because this is a great spot to enjoy your meal and the view of the World Showcase lagoon or Illuminations Fireworks. However, it’s more likely that you’ll end up walking and eating, balancing your meal on your knees on a bench, or hovering over a nearby trashcan.

Grand Total = 19/30

Even as a fan of Yorkshire, this score seems low to me. It really took a hit on the lack of seating and the limited menu. But if all you want are some authentic style fish and chips and you score a great seat nearby, then this place may be your new number one of Epcot.

Traditional counter service ordering queue at Lotus Blossom Café, but with some bright Chinese pizazz. Photo by Daisy Lauren
Traditional counter service ordering queue at Lotus Blossom Café, but with some bright Chinese pizazz.
Photo by Daisy Lauren

Lotus Blossom Café – World Showcase, China Pavilion

Value = 6/10

The portions are generous for the price. But you know what they say about Chinese food, you’ll be hungry again in an hour. The prices here are actually relatively low for the counter service options around it. This could make a good out-of-pocket option, but a poor Disney Dining Plan option in terms of value and bang for your buck.

Flavor = 6/10

It’s been compared to “mall Chinese food” or Panda Express. I think this is neither a compliment nor an insult. It’s just Americanized Chinese food. Unfortunately, it’s the quality of the cuisine that is a bit unpredictable. My best recommendation is if you want to eat a meal here, hit it early, before the crowds and the typical dining hours. It seems that food is mass-prepared and then sits until it’s ordered, resulting in sometimes gummy or dried out options. One thing that is predictable is the grossness of the eggrolls. I never thought you could screw up an eggroll, but somehow, Lotus Blossom found a way. Beware, and steer clear.

Originality = 3/5

You’ll find what you’re hoping to find, egg rolls, fried rice, pot stickers, and the like. If you’re hoping for authentic Chinese food, you’ll find yourself disappointed. But if you like Asian Fusion, try the Sesame Chicken Salad.

Lotus Blossom Café has a few enclosed open-air tables. Photo by Daisy Lauren
Lotus Blossom Café has a few enclosed open-air tables.
Photo by Daisy Lauren

Atmosphere = 3/5

Lotus Blossom does offer open-air, enclosed seating directly off the ordering area. So though you won’t find many designs or decorations in the seating area, it does allow you to look out into the rest of the China Pavilion.

Grand Total = 18/30

I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you dine here, just as long as you have the proper expectation. As long as you know it’s on par more with a Panda Express than a PF Chang’s, I think you’ll be satisfied.

Sommerfest is little more than an ordering kiosk with a few tables, but the brats are great eat-while-you-walk food. Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
Sommerfest is little more than an ordering kiosk with a few tables, but the brats are great eat-while-you-walk food.
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Sommerfest – World Showcase, Germany Pavilion

Value = 6/10

A hot bratwurst on a roll with some sauerkraut is delicious, but sometimes isn’t enough to make a full meal. Add a full pint of beer and it’ll fill you up, but that’s not a combo option on the menu. I think this location would be a light meal or a heavy snack, but for the price, I hope for a little more substance.

Flavor = 7/10

The flavors here are fairly authentic. I find the sauerkraut to still be a bit vinegary, but luckily there’s a condiment station with plenty of spicy mustard to help power down that vinegar taste. If you opt for a dessert here, get the cheesecake if it’s available. It a different twist on a classic dessert, if it’s not available, the black forest cake is dense but also tasty.

Only thing missing is a pint of good German beer. Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
Only thing missing is a pint of good German beer.
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Originality = 2/5

It’s true to the German culture, but limited on selection. If you want a good bratwurst, this is your spot. If you’re not a fan of these sausages, though, you won’t find much on this menu to make you happy.

Atmosphere = 2/5

There is very little indoor seating and only a few tables and benches available in the German Pavilion just outside, so this is definitely an eat-and-walk type of option. If it’s not too hot, you may want to make your way to the benches overlooking the World Showcase lagoon.

Grand Total = 17/30

Limited menu selection and limited seating, limits this locations ranking. But don’t be fooled, it’s still full of flavor!

These are the Electric Umbrellas that give the restaurant its name.
These are the Electric Umbrellas that give the restaurant its name. Photo by Katie McNair

Electric Umbrella – Future World

Value = 7/10

The sandwiches and burgers are hearty, but not exactly a “shareable” size. If you and your family are jonesing for a burger and fries, though, this is a decent place to hit up. One factor that contributes to the value score are the free drink refills.

Flavor = 6/10

The food quality has vastly improved over the last few years. The French Dip Burger is definitely the hit of this menu. Though I can think of several other spots I’d prefer over the Umbrella, it’s still a decent place for a burger and fries.

Originality = 2/5

Electric Umbrella offers the more traditional counter service fare in Epcot. Here you’ll find burgers, sandwiches, and a salad or two. The menu is small, usually with a rotating specialty burger and sandwich they change seasonally.

Atmosphere = 2/5

The seating area is similar to Cosmic Ray’s without the humorous Alien entertainment. There’s a good amount of seating indoor and outdoor. If it’s available, try going up to the second level. Snagging a spot by the window is a great place to watch the Fountain of Nations or people watch while you chill and chow down.

For a great view and fewer people, go to the second level of Electric Umbrella. Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
For a great view and fewer people, go to the second level of Electric Umbrella.
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Grand Total = 17/30

The Electric Umbrella isn’t the culinary tragedy it has been in the past, but for me, it still has a ways to go before it’s a real contender with the other dining options in Epcot.

Sometimes, you just need nachos. Photo by Daisy Lauren
Sometimes, you just need nachos.
Photo by Daisy Lauren

La Cantina de San Angel – World Showcase, Mexico Pavilion

Value = 6/10

I’m from the southwest, I’m used to seeing a wide range of authentic Mexican food at some pretty classy joints, and usually even their prices don’t compare to La Cantina. Plainly said, La Cantina is overpriced. Let’s look at the Tacos de Barbacoa (Beef Tacos). La Cantina charges $12.50 for three very small tacos (seriously, I could probably finish one in two medium-sized bites) some rice and beans. Rice and beans are cheap, and the seasoned brisket they use in the tacos isn’t a specialty cut of meat. I would say a reasonable (theme park) price for this meal and these portions is $9.99.

Sure, they look good. But do they look $13 good? Photo courtesy of Disney (c)
Sure, they look good. But do they look $13 good?
Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Flavor = 6/10

The flavors aren’t bad they just aren’t there. Mexican food, is classic, fresh, complex with a variety of textures and spices. La Cantina, even for an Americanized version, is just bland. Mexican food doesn’t have to tongue-enflaming hot, but it does need flavor.

Originality = 2/5

I do give La Cantina props that it’s not just bean burritos and nachos. I just wish the food it did offer was a bit more flavorful.

It seems like there's a lot of seating, but it fills up quickly! Photo by Daisy Lauren
It seems like there’s a lot of seating, but it fills up quickly!
Photo by Daisy Lauren

Atmosphere = 2/5

La Cantina has a beautiful open-air seating area overlooking World Showcase lagoon. It’s probably because this seating is so big and beautiful that it can be so hard to find a seat! Families of World Showcase trekkers often crash here which makes find a table a challenge. In fact, all of the times I’ve eaten here, I couldn’t find a table was force to hover over a trash can to eat my meal.

Grand Total = 16/30

Not my pick of World Showcase, but if you have a group that just wants some simple nachos to go with their margarita, La Cantina could fit the bill. My best recommendation (besides going somewhere else) is if you can, split up your party, have some order at the window while the rest of your party scopes out a table. Hopefully with a divide-and-conquer mentality, you won’t have trash can hover, like me!

Summary:

Epcot has so many great dining adventures and the opportunities for growing and expanding are endless! Here is how the line-up measures up:

What do you think? Would you re-arrange this ranking? Which Epcot counter service is your favorite? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

Lisa Gilmore

My passion for Disney runs deep; I've got pixie dust in my veins. Everyone loves the famous Mickey Mouse, but Disney vacations host a wealth of sophisticated experiences, too. On my bucket list is to seek out and enjoy every last one of them!

5 thoughts on “Menu Monday: Best Counter Service in Epcot

  • March 16, 2015 at 9:51 am
    Permalink

    For La Cantina de San Angel you can eat indoors and still have a wonderful view. There is plenty of seating in there and clean restrooms.

    Reply
  • March 16, 2015 at 11:27 am
    Permalink

    I have not much to complain about here. Nice summary. The Tangierine Café is a favorite of mine. Another issue with La Cantina is the San Angel Inn is right beside it, and while you can’t compare counter service to quick service, I’m likely already having mexican food inside because the San Angel Inn is one of my favorites.

    One issue is with the entire theme of the article – eating well at Epcot is rarely a problem for anyone. The problem, on a long disney vaction with the DDP, is that we eat *too much* at Epcot – there’s simply more quality choices there than anywhere else. With the dearth of dining choices at DHS, and the limited but appealling choices at MK and AK, Epcot becomes the most overutilized dining park in Walt Disney World.

    Reply
  • March 16, 2015 at 5:48 pm
    Permalink

    You nailed it! So happy you had Katsura Grill highly rated. I love that place!
    I maybe would flip flop Sommerfest with La Cantina. That roll is way too big for the sausage. And, really that is something anyone can easily make for themselves at home. It’s 3 ingredients! We tried the paprika chips last time too…nothing I’d get again.
    Thanks for the article!

    Reply
  • March 17, 2015 at 9:15 am
    Permalink

    We visit Sunshine Seasons every visit and get the pork chop and mashed potatoes every time. It’s absolutely one of the best counter-service meals available in any of the parks!

    One of our sons is on the autism spectrum and has a very limited range of foods he’ll eat. One of the things he likes is fish and chips; unfortunately, the available seating near the Yorkshire fish & chips stand is also home to several aggressive squirrels. They made a real nuisance of themselves and generally freaked him out. Last time we took his meal out to the benches behind the UK stores — no table, but no squirrels either.

    Reply
  • March 18, 2015 at 12:01 pm
    Permalink

    I see a hidden Mickey in the first picture 🙂 Don’t know if it was intentional!!

    Reply

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