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SATURDAY SIX: The Most UNIQUE Dining Experiences in Walt Disney World

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This week’s SATURDAY SIX takes a look at The Most Unique Dining Experiences at Walt Disney World. Nobody enjoys eating at “The World” more than us. From family friendly desserts like the Kitchen Sink sundae at Beaches & Cream, to iconic snacks like the Premium Mickey Bar, to extreme eats like the Animal Kingdom poop snacks, to table service restaurants like Art Smith’s Homecomin’ or Jiko – The Cooking Place, food may have actually replaced attractions in what we look forward to the most on our Disney vacations. Can you blame us though? WDW has some of the greatest restaurants you will ever go to, with several one-of-a-kind experiences that you will never get back at home. So today we’re going to take a look at the six most unique dining experiences on property, starting with…

# 6 – T-REX (Disney Springs)

T-REX is a true dining experience that you can’t get anywhere else. Yes, it is basically “Rainforest Cafe, except with dinosaurs” but here’s a little secret…dinosaurs are cool. While there are several Rainforest Cafes across the country, there is only one T-REX, and it is located in Disney Springs. T-REX has over-the-top theme park level theming, an excavation site for kids to dig up fossils, a Build-A-Dino area, pressed penny machines, and a total sensory overload.

There are various themed dining rooms within T-REX, but also an area with bar seating.

T-REX. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
The fish tanks in T-REX are gigantic. (photo by Brandon Glover)

There are so many incredible photo-ops throughout T-REX.

Wooly Mammoth. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
T-Rex. (photo by Mike Sperduto)
Baby T-Rex. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Here we have a photo of my grandmother and my mother in front of the baby T-Rex. They are holding items bought from the T-Rex gift shop, so you know who to blame for my obsession with theme park merchandise.

One thing to keep in mind; T-REX is not your go to place for a quiet date night. In fact, T-REX may be the loudest restaurant in all of Walt Disney World, and if you’ve ever been to a breakfast buffet like Chef Mickey’s or dined at Whispering Canyon, you know how much ground that is covering. So while you won’t be able to have a table wide conversation discussing the various plot points of the latest episode of Moon Knight, you will be able to see the kids at your table having the time of their lives.

Ice caverns dining room. (photo by Scott Sanders)

What’s the most shocking about T-REX is that the food is actually good. No, it’s not going to win any Michelin stars, but places which attract kids like the Pied Piper know they don’t have to try because the little ones are going to make you take them anyway. T-REX puts in the effort. The menu is varied and you will not go home hungry.

While the kids will enjoy their dinosaur themed souvenir cups, adults may want to try a Cotton-Tini. This drink combines cotton candy, a staple of theme parks, with alcohol. This is a true marriage made in heaven. T-REX offers different varieties, but we went with the Candy Apple Cotton-Tini. Cotton candy is put into the glass, while the bartender mixes the cocktail in a shaker. The cocktail is then poured over the cotton candy and you get to see the liquid completely absorb the candy. It is a very sweet tasting drink and don’t be surprised to see a good amount of sugar at the bottom of the glass when you are done. As a bonus, you get to keep the shaker as well!

Candy Apple Cotton-Tini BEFORE. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Candy Apple Cotton-Tini AFTER. (photo by Brandon Glover)

So you have the stunning fish tanks…gigantic moving dinosaurs…and even an Ice Cavern room which constantly changes colors. It is going to take one heck of a dessert to draw your kid’s attention away from all that is going around them, but the Chocolate Extinction delivers on that end. Here is the description of the dessert:

A gigantic portion of chocolate fudge cake served with ice cream, whipped topping drizzled with fudge and caramel sauces and sprinkled with Butterfinger crumbs. Enough for four!

They had us at Butterfinger crumbs. In fact, we might have ordered a side of steamed asparagus with our entree if they sprinkled it with pieces of Kit Kat, or a baked potato with some powdered Snickers on top. The Chocolate Extinction itself is impressive, and you get a show when it is served. In the middle of everything on the plate is a container of dry ice that provides a great smoke effect that cascades over the food. There are several large portions of the fudge cake (think of giant brownies), and the Butterfinger crumbs sprinkled liberally around the plate were as good as advertised. We enjoyed the treat in the Ice Cavern room, and the changing of the lights combined with the smoke effect was really neat to see. Unfortunately, you do not get to keep the cool shaker which contains the dry ice, but you will get plenty of looks from neighboring tables when this is delivered to your table. 

The legendary Chocolate Extinction.

# 5 – Space 220 (EPCOT)

The newest restaurant in EPCOT is… out of this world (sorry for the pun there, but we just came from a T-Rex menu which was loaded with about 1,000 prehistoric puns, so we are still in that frame of mind). In all seriousness though, whereas T-REX has guests traveling millions of years in the past, Space 220 takes guests into the future and has us dining on a space station located 220 miles above Earth. The Space 220 entrance is located directly next Mission: SPACE, while guests then “travel” up into outer space.

Over at Universal Studios Florida, guests riding E.T. Adventure are given an “interplanetary passport” before going into the attraction. For Space 220, guests are given a “Space Elevator Boarding Pass” for their flight up to the restaurant.

The elevator simulating your travel into space shows EPCOT growing smaller and smaller via a screen on the floor and the station growing closer upon approach on a screen above.

(photo by @Blog_Mickey)

Upon stepping off the elevator, guests are in the space station where a hydroponic garden of lettuce (with serious Living with the Land vibes) is gently rotating. If the hydrolator-like elevator ride to space didn’t get you hyped, the view of spinning, sterile lettuce will.

The atmosphere once inside the Space 220 dining room is off the charts. It is sleek, ultra modern, and the closest many of us will ever come to experience something like the Galactic Starcruiser (which, SPOILER ALERT, we just may see later in this very article). Pictures do not do the experience justice as Disney completely nailed it.

Gotta say, this picture below is a literal dream come true for 10-year-old me.

Just stunning.

The presentation for Space 220 food items gets high marks, and the menu definitely has more adventurous fare compared to a restaurant like T-REX.

Neptune Tartare.
Galactic Lobster Globe.

But there is also  food for the “picky eaters” as well.

Centauri Burger
Planetary Punch, Milky Way, and Atmospritz.
Lemon Mousse.

One of the true “best kept secrets” at Walt Disney World  is various card collections that are available to guests for free. There are “wild about safety” cards featuring Timon and Pumbaa, Disney Transportation Cards, and now we have Space 220 trading cards available with kid’s meals. Now it’s Standard Operating Procedure in the theme park blogging world to order kid’s meals, even if you are an adult. However, Space 220 is one of the only restaurants at WDW which has a strict “kid’s meals are for kids” and are only available to those aged 9 and under.

# 4 – 50’s Prime Time Cafe (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

50’s Prime Time Cafe at DHS is one of the few interactive restaurants at Disney, and by that we mean the diners are part of the “show.” The entire restaurant is themed to an old timey kitchen, complete with black and white TVs. With chicken noodle soup, meatloaf, Mom’s old fashioned pot roast, and Cousin Megan’s traditional meatloaf, the menu is themed to home cookin’ meals that many of us had growing up. The servers are always in character, such as “Cousin Lilly” or “Uncle Bob,” and will playfully nag you during the meal, so don’t forget to eat those green beans! With great theming, a tasty menu, and the chance to possibly see a family member get an “airplane” of food brought to their mouth, 50’s Prime Time has to be experienced at least once because there is nothing quite like it in your hometown.

50’s Prime Time Cafe. (photo by Kristi Fredericks)
50’s Prime Time Café Waiting Area.
50’s Prime Time Café Waiting Area.
50’s Prime Time Cafe seating. (photo by Brian McNichols)
We are now on multiple generations of kids who have probably never even seen a non-flat screen TV before. (photo by Joseph Machado)

The fried chicken at 50’s Prime Time Cafe is right at the tippy top in all of Walt Disney World, which is high praise because there is some stiff competition.

Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken, and trust us, this fried chicken is as good as it looks. (photo by Joseph Machado)

However, A Sampling of Mom’s Favorite Recipes is such a great idea and practically everyone at TouringPlans wishes every restaurant did something like this. It was a good portion of fried chicken, meatloaf, and pot roast, with a big scoop of mashed potatoes. The pot roast could easily compete with the Beef Bourguignon at Chefs de France, which is not nearly as satisfying.

Sampling of Mom’s Favorite Recipes.
Traditional Warm Apple Crisp a la mode.
Dad’s Favorite Chocolate-Peanut Butter Layered Cake a la mode.

We mentioned earlier in the article about the real “best kept secrets” at Disney being fun things that guests can get for free that really can give you that magical moment while on vacation. Guests getting a score of 999,999 on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin at Disney’s Magic Kingdom can get a Galactic Hero sticker, while those dining at 50’s Prime Time Cafe and eat all their vegetables just may become an official member of the Clean Plate Club. Little things like this can make such a huge difference in a family’s vacation.

# 3 – Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge)

The Animal Kingdom Lodge may be our favorite resort on Disney property. Among other things AKL has to offer; it has rooms in which guests can look out at live animals, has one of the best collections of onsite restaurants at WDW including Boma and Jiko, and also has authentic African art found throughout the resort. Did we forget to mention zebra domes? You can never forget zebra domes. While AKL may be off the beaten path for most WDW guests, one restaurant worth going well out of your way to experience is Sanaa. Located in Kidani Village, Sanaa is the only restaurant at AKL which has a view looking out onto the beautiful savanna and all the animals. The decor of the restaurant is wonderful, with the chairs having backs echoing African tribal shields and lighting fixtures based on nests that Weaver birds would make. The dining room floor has beautiful representations of acacia trees while the entire room is filled with art, which is appropriate since Sanaa is the Swahili word for artwork. Sanaa is hands-down one of the most gorgeous restaurants in all of Orlando.

Sanaa also happens to be the home of one of the all time greatest foods at WDW: the Indian-Style Bread Service. With five different types of breads and nine varieties of “accompaniments” (which may or may not be the Swahili word for dipping sauces) this is one appetizer that needs to be on your Disney Bucket List. The rest of the menu is worth exploring as well, with many unique options that are far removed from chicken fingers, hamburgers, and pre-made flatbreads,

The famous Sanaa bread service while seated next to the Savanna. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Sanaa seating.

Sanaa is off the beaten path, but it is worth your time and effort, and is available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. How many places can you dine while looking out at a giraffe or a zebra?

Potje Inspired entrée has guests choosing from dishes including butter chicken, braised beef, Rajma masala, and chickpea wat.
Believe the hype, it’s THAT good. (photo by Scott Sanders)

 The restaurant also has a good sized lounge and bar area, so you can always stop by for some food and drinks without a reservation.

Sanaa bar area. (photo by Scott Sanders)

# 2 – Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)

Remember we talked about location earlier? Cinderella’s Royal Table has the ultimate location, inside Cinderella Castle smack dab in the middle of the Magic Kingdom. This is the place many children (and adults) dream of being inside, and it lives up to the hype. The entire process is a memorable one, including the walk up the stairs to the actual restaurant. There are so many little details in the building, and fun surprises for the kids throughout the entire dining experience.

Cinderella’s Royal Table. (photo by Scott Sanders)
Each part of the Cinderella’s Royal Table “story” is a magical one.

Some places have a “million dollar view” but this is the rare “billion dollar view.”
Wishing Star at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

Cinderella’s Royal Table is available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For lunch and dinner, guests are choosing one appetizer, one entrée, and one dessert from the menu.

Pan-Seared Sea Scallops.
Tenderloin of Beef.
This clock-shaped dessert,appropriately called “The Clock Strikes Twelve,” is a dark chocolate mousse with caramel, a crunchy praline center, and comes with chocolate sauce and hazelnut gelato.
Coffee Pots de Creme, a plant-based treat consisting of coffee-infused coconut custard with chocolate-espresso beans.
As one of the many anniversary-themed items available through Walt Disney World, Cinderella’s Royal Table features the Royal 50th Celebration Flight – a trio of champagne cocktails using Enchantée Champagne.

The current pause of character interactions at Cinderella’s Royal Table does come with one benefit, it is much easier to get a reservation than it ever was before. You also won’t leave empty handed as guests receive a Cinderella autograph card and either a magic wand or sword. Like the Clean Plate Club sticker at 50s Prime Time, in the larger scheme of things this is a really small addition to the meal that adds a huge amount to the overall experience and makes it feel special. Is it ‘worth it”? That is a question often asked of many Disney restaurants, but especially ones that come with a price point of $62 for adults and $37 for kids (lunch and dinner). Personally, I think as a “Disney fan” you can’t put a price on the atmosphere at Cinderella’s Royal Table. You are dining inside Cinderella Castle and there is something to be said for that.

# 1 – Sci Fi Dine-In (Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

We admit that the menu at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater at DHS is not going to win any foodie awards. In fact the food would have a hard time cracking the top half of WDW sit down restaurants. However, this list is about unique experiences and Sci-Fi delivers that and then some. The restaurant simulates diners being at a ’50s drive-in movie theater at night, and does so spectacularly. Guests are seated in a faux classic American car, which is an attraction in and of itself. Meanwhile all the cars are facing a giant movie screen playing classic clips from the 1950s. Our best bet? Get some appetizers and a couple milkshakes and just enjoy yourself. The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is what immersive theming is all about. The food may not be memorable, but the experience itself is something you will remember for years to come while telling people back at home, “you won’t believe where we ate at…”

Sci-Fi Dine-In. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Sci-Fi Dine-In photo op. (photo by Brandon Glover)
Sci-Fi Dine-In. (photo by Scott Sanders)

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. (photo by Stacey Lantz)
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater. (photo by Stacey Lantz)
Pan-Seared Salmon Pasta.

One thing Sci-Fi does really well is burgers, and they constantly change specials with their “Feature Film” selection of specialty burgers.

“Feature Film” burger: PIGS IN SPACE. (photo by @hastin)
Cookie Shake.

The house-made Sci-Fi candy bar dessert is legit and worth going out of your way for.

House-made Sci-Fi Candy Bar dessert.
Words to live by. (photo by Scott Sanders)

Honorable Mention – Dinner with Gaya (Galactic Starcruiser)

On the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served in the Crown of Corellia Dining Room just off the atrium; but while breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, dinner is the real highlight and the dining room is transformed through lighting and entertainment.

Crown of Corellia dining room during the day.
Area in Corellia Dining Room where Gaya performs at night. (photo by @Blog_Mickey)

When Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge first opened out in Disneyland, the hottest item was not a single piece of merchandise created for the land, but instead was a themed spork that was used in Docking Bay 7. Despite being a relatively impractical tool to eat your meal, the spork just look cool and definitely felt like “Star Wars.”  However, so many of the sporks were taken by guests that Disney stopped putting them out as silverware to use and started charging for them. The table settings for the Galactic Starcruiser dining experiences have that same coolness factor as the sporks.

The food offerings are certainly unlike anything you will find in a traditional Disney restaurant. For the Dinner with Gaya show, food is served in a style that is more akin to “family style.”

Spiral dumplings with dipping sauces and flora noodle salad.
Chandrilla Chef’s Selections of Bantha Beef Tenderloin, Stewed Shrimp, Tip Yip Chicken, Green Herbed Fluffy Rice, and Surabat Spiced Flora.
Jogun Fruit and Caramel Whip.

The performances by Gaya and her band are everything you want and then some, drawing raves from across the board (be sure to check out Blog Mickey’s Starcruiser review). It’s great news that the Hoop Dee Doo dinner show is coming back to Fort Wilderness, and a show similar to Dinner with Gaya would be a gigantic hit if implemented in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

Gaya. (photo by @Blog_Mickey)
Sandro and Ouannii. (photo by @Blog_Mickey)

The Dinner with Gaya show takes place during night one of your Starcruiser experience. For night two, there is a Taste Around the Galaxy dinner. No dinner show element, and instead of food being served family style, it is more of a tasting menu.

Iced Fulucian Shrimp Cocktail.
Seared Kashyyyk White Fish.
Chandrilan Air Cake.


So there you have it: The Most UNIQUE Dining Experiences in Walt Disney World! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

Tribute to My Grandmother (at the end of Ye Olde Disney Store Outlet Report)

Tribute to My Mother (at the end of this Father’s Day SAT SIX)

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Food Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX: Tribute to Josh easyWDW

The DAVID & DEREK Series

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

Bring a dinosaur sized appetite when going to T-REX Cafe. (photo by Michael Carelli)

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12 thoughts on “SATURDAY SIX: The Most UNIQUE Dining Experiences in Walt Disney World

  • Have eaten at all on your list except Sanaa (nor at the restaurant in the rich-people hotel). My ranking from best to worst:

    1) 50s Prime Time – my kind of food with a wonderfully fun atmosphere. We’ve eaten there several times.

    2) T-Rex – lots of fun. We sat next to a fish tank near the tyrannosaurs and enjoyed watching for which things were animated. I recommend walking through the entire restaurant before you leave.

    3) Sci-Fi Dine-In – If you’re not a fan of cheesy old sci-fi movies this isn’t worth it. I am, so it is, but as noted the food is mediocre, and larger folks will find the “car” a bit cramped.

    4) Royal Table – Probably great for little kids; for two childless older adults it was nice to tick off the list of must-dos, back when it was very hard to get a res. The food is not worth the price. We’re happy to have done it once.

    5) Space 220 – The atmosphere is fun for about 10 minutes, after which it becomes repetitive. The real disappointment was the food. Way over-seasoned, not well cooked and ridiculously overpriced. We won’t be back.

  • That makes a lot of sense, and unfortunately, doesn’t say much about the “creative spirit” of DIS right now.

  • T REX is not a Disney operated restaurant. They are 3rd party vendors, as are the majority of restaurants at Disney Springs. T REX
    Is owned and operated by Landrys.

      • That always makes we wonder how or why WDW decides to take on some restaurants themselves, and why they outsource others. Any insight on that?

      • For the most part, it seems Disney is getting out of the restaurant game whereas the Universal Orlando Resort is going the complete opposite way and going all in, replacing several third party restaurants with Universal run venues (Vivo, Toothsome, Big Fire, etc). I guess Disney likes the safe money of getting a “rent check” every month (for lack of a better term but it’s much more than that) rather than deal with all the headaches that come with running a restaurant.

  • Pretty surprised Hoop-Dee-doo review did not make the list given that it has been announced that it is coming back.

    • If Hoop Dee Doo comes back unchanged, it goes straight to the top of the list.

  • The fact the Polynesian Luau didn’t make the list speak volumes about how bad that experience and how disappointing it is. It was the worst meal I’ve had at Disney…even the hunky fire dancers couldn’t make up for the tepid buffet microwaved ‘polynesian’ food.
    Now, the breakfast at the Poly…inside was pretty dang good. As was upstairs before the water pageant.
    The Luau, unless it’s changed…was disappointing.

    • The luau at the Poly never came back after the entire WDW shutdown in 2020 and recently announced it would be permanently shuttered.

  • Thanks for this! The only place on the list I have eaten was Sanaa. The highlight of the meal was watching another family (not so nicely) try to get a window seating. They said they needed it for their poor old grandmother. Said grandmother looked up and yelled out “the only *——* animals I am interested in are the ones on my plate!”

    • We once went to Sanaa and for whatever reason it was EMPTY, which is a strange sight to see for any restaurant at WDW let alone that one. They walked my girlfriend and myself through the restaurant to this small two top right next to a server station. If the restaurant is busy, I get it. We’ll take whatever table is available and be happy. But when it’s empty I have to same something and got us “upgraded” to the window seating.


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