Even though my husband and I enjoy cooking, we do tend to eat out fairly frequently. The area around Walt Disney World (and Walt Disney World itself) has no shortage of restaurants to try. Tacky tourist restaurants, fine dining, family-style restaurants, and more—we’ve tried a bit of everything. So when I hear a teaser on the news about a local restaurant so bad that it had to be shut down not once, but multiple times, I tend to pay attention. While that particular restaurant was not at Walt Disney World, it did make me wonder how Disney stacks up when it comes to restaurant inspections. Thankfully, that information is available to the public, so into research mode I went.
In a perfect world, all Disney restaurants would have no violations at every inspection. But even with all the pixie dust around, Disney still exists in the real world. In general, restaurants at Disney fare no worse than restaurants anywhere else. In fact, after reading dozens of reviews about local restaurants outside of Walt Disney World and reviews inside Walt Disney World, I am very confident in the safety at any place I eat at Walt Disney World.
There still have to be the best and the worst, however. In general, the smaller the menu, the higher the inspection rating because there is less that can go wrong. When looking at the most recent inspections for the Magic Kingdom, both Cheshire Café and Storybook Treats received perfect inspections. Here’s how some of the other places stacked up.
Editor’s note: Please be aware that these ratings are based solely on the restaurant’s recent inspections, not the quality of the food or any personal experiences with them. If you have disagreements about the “rankings” take it up with the government inspectors…if you can find them…
Best Counter Service: Gaston’s Tavern.
This restaurant had one minor violation: the single-service knives were “not inverted or protected from contamination at front condiment area”.
Each of these restaurants had two violations each. For Cosmic Ray’s, there was water leaking inside a cooler located at the fry station that was not sloped well enough for complete drainage and there was no waste receptacle next to the handwash sink. Sleepy Hollow had dust behind the stove on the fan cover and the inspector witnessed one employee handling soiled equipment and then clean equipment without washing hands at the sink area.
Technically, The Crystal Palace had the best inspection most recently (a perfect inspection score), however I had to put an asterisk on this one because an inspection just two months before had nineteen violations, making it the worst table service location just a few months before.
Once that is removed from the list, both Tony’s Town Square Restaurant and Be Our Guest came in with only three violations each. The issues at Tony’s included a leaking faucet and problems with the hot water at the employee handwash sink. Of greater concern, the inspector noted “raw animal food stored over ready-to-eat food (raw chicken stored over ready to eat eggplant in production cooler)”. For Be Our Guest, it was noted that the plumbing system was in disrepair. There were also two food-related issues: “Raw animal food stored over cooked food (raw tuna stored over cooked quinoa and cooked turkey legs in blast freezer)” and “beef roast not held at minimum required cook temperature for length of time specified in cooking chart before serving (beef roast at 105F in a holding unit; chef put beef roast in oven)”.
Many of the eight total problems at the Tomorrowland Terrace seem to be maintenance issues (accumulation of lime scale in dish machine and ice machine, rust around some of the screws in an ice machine, soil/debris on baseboards and storage containers, food debris in microwave). Perhaps some of this comes from the fact that this restaurant is not open as often as some other places.
Also scoring eight violations is Pecos Bill’s. The violations here are also tied to equipment in disrepair, including dust on a pipe, a cooler low boy door that won’t shut tightly, lime scale in ice machine, and vacuum breaker missing at a hose bibb, encrusted material on a can opener blade, and floors not smooth and durable in front of the topping bar. There were also issues including a spray bottle with “toxic substance” (probably cleaning solution) not labeled inside the topping bar and a training issue where a dishwasher handled soiled equipment/utensils and then handled clean ones without washing hands.
Worst Table Service: The Plaza Restaurant*
With seven violations, The Plaza Restaurant has some minor issues on its inspection report, including accumulation of food debris/soil residue in and on handwash sink, lime scale in the dishwasher, equipment with dust (the monitors over the sandwich prep station), a lemon slicer blade guard in poor repair, ice buildup in the walk-in freezer, walk-in cooler shelves soiled with encrusted food debris, and utensils stored in “cracks between pieces of equipment” at grill area. But as I mentioned earlier, there is one table service restaurant that has it beat when it comes to inspection problems this year.
No sugar-coating this one—the inspection in April was a bit of a disaster, with 19 issues noted by the inspector. A majority of the issues were problems with the maintenance of the dishwashing machine and problems with the temperature of water from the faucets. There were also problems with the buffet: “Displayed food not properly protected from contamination—no protection over pastries and strawberry topping at buffet bar”; “In-use utensil not stored with the handle above the top of potentially hazardous (cold smoked salmon) food.” There were also problems with some of the food before it got to the buffet (“Uncovered food [green beans] cooling in walk in freezer exposed to splash”). There were also some minor cleaning issues that were noted. Thankfully, Disney took this inspection seriously and when the restaurant was re-inspected in June, it got a perfect score.
Having read through the inspections, even the worst of the inspection reports would not scare me away from eating at any of these restaurants again. (And an example of the “severity” of a minor issue is shown in the photos below for comparison.) But what do you think? Are these inspection reports what you would expect or are they better or worse? Are there any places you are surprised about one way or the other? Any places you would be certain to eat at or likely to avoid based on these inspections? Let me know in the comments. Stay tuned for future articles as we explore the inspections of restaurants at the other Walt Disney World resort theme parks!