For the well-versed Disney traveler, it’s common knowledge that meals and snacks are also considered attractions by many Disneyphiles. In fact, one of the biggest part of the Disney vacation planning is determining when your 180 day window opens to start making dining reservations. Food is a big deal, and Walt Disney World has so many options, it’s difficult to choose!
Dining at Walt Disney World can be tricky and usually involves making reservations six months in advance in order to secure a spot at your favorite restaurant. As a solo traveler this is less important since reservations for one are easier to come by. If you travel in peak times, however, you’ll still want to make a reservation at those popular dining locations.
I like to be adventurous and take advantage of some great spots that offer a unique setting for those dining alone. Here are my top five dining options for solo-travelers:
Jiko – The Cooking Place in Animal Kingdom Lodge
Jiko is a signature dining restaurant by Disney standards, which means dining here can cost you 2 table service credits if you’re using the Disney Dining Plan, and also means the menu prices might be a bit steeper than other general table service restaurants around the resort. Don’t let this deter you though, you can easily dine here on a budget. Focusing on the appetizers and creating your own tapas-style dining experience can really help you save some cash, if needed. Jiko features an inventive menu of African, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisine that offer a change a pace from traditional menus, but aren’t so spicy or bizarre to alienate a less adventurous palate. Jiko also boasts one of the most extensive wine provisions in Florida, so if you like a glass or two, this is the place for you!
Besides the amazing food, one of the reasons I list Jiko as a top five dining experience for solo-travelers is the Cooking Place – the actual bar top where you can request to be seated to watch the chefs cook and prepare meals for your fellow diners. This is a great way to engage in conversation with some remarkable cast members and maybe even pick up a cooking tip or two!
Hollywood Brown Derby in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Brown Derby is, in my opinion, the best restaurant located in a theme park, even topping the contenders over in Epcot. This is my pick for solo-travelers looking for a bit more of classier lunch. Brown Derby has quickly earned a place in my heart and become one of my “must-dos” when at Hollywood Studios. It’s also a signature restaurant, which means that its menu, even for lunch, can add up. My no-brainer order is always the Margarita Flight, the entrée portion of the famous chopped Cobb Salad, and a slice of Grapefruit cake. A filling and decadent meal, that doesn’t dent the wallet too severely.
Citricos in the Grand Floridian Resort
Citricos is another of Disney’s signature dining options offering American fare with a Mediterranean flair. It has an open kitchen which is great to watch chefs as they slice, dice, flambé, and sauté, or plan ahead and make reservations for the Chef’s Domain. It’s so entertaining and engaging that you don’t need a dining partner to enjoy this atmosphere. The wait staff is also impeccable and knowledgeable, they are happy to make your dining dreams come true and offer recommendations. Besides the open kitchen and show provided by the chefs, one of the reasons I list Citrico’s as a top five for solo diners is that you never feel rushed. Sit, enjoy your meal, chat with your server, indulge in a dessert; it’s your vacation and you deserve to savor it.
California Grill in the Contemporary Resort
California Grill is another Disney signature restaurant that offers traditional food with a California twist. This usually results in fresh, vibrant plates filled with food that is both comforting and adventurous. California Grill has some of the best sushi plates I’ve tasted anywhere, and the flatbreads are creative and filling. A solo-traveler can easily make a meal of just these two items and leave California Grill feeling both full and satisfied without the sticker shock that sometimes comes with signature dining.
One reason California Grill ranks among the top five for solo-travelers is the famous view, of course. While looking over the Magic Kingdom all aglow, it’s easy to dine alone and not feel awkward. You can also enjoy the observation deck during the Wishes fireworks display, or ask to sit closer to the bar area to watch the bartenders prepare exotic cocktails or chefs whip up culinary delights.
Most signature restaurants offer an adjacent lounge. These locations offer a limited, but no less tasty menu of dining choices, some not even available in the main dining room. Since these locations also do not take advanced dining reservations, if you time things right, you can just walk-up and find a small table or a seat at the bar. Here are a few of my favorite lounges.
- Crew Cup Lounge – in the Yacht Club Resort
- Territory Lounge – in the Wilderness Lodge Resort, next to Artist Point
- Tune In Lounge – in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, next to the 50’s Prime Time Cafe
- Mizner’s Lounge – in the Grand Floridian Resort
- Trader Sam’s – in the Polynesian Resort
- Tutto Gusto – in the Italy Pavilion at Epcot
These are my top fives for solo-travelers, what are some of your favorite dining spots when you travel to Walt Disney World on your own?