The Best Dining Values at the Deluxe Resorts Part I
Dining is a huge part of any Walt Disney World vacation, but it can also be one of the most expensive and overwhelming! The goal of today’s article is not to list the cheapest restaurants at Disney World’s Deluxe Resorts, but rather the restaurants and quick service locations offering the most for your money.
Note: The prices listed in the article are accurate to the date the article was written. Also, Disney changes their menus quite often so certain menu items mentioned in this article may not be available when you visit.
The Contemporary Resort
The Wave…of American Flavors – Table Service
Located on the first floor of the resort, The Wave serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I personally feel breakfast offers the best value. Guests have the choice of an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet or an a la carte breakfast menu with options ranging from glazed donut french toast to sweet potato pancakes. The menu is priced only slightly higher than what you find at quick service park restaurants too.
California Grill Lounge – Lounge
As I’ve said in past articles, I love a Disney lounge. Many offer signature restaurant dishes for a cheaper price and without the need for an advance dining reservation. Guests dining at the California Grill Lounge enjoy these benefits plus the restaurant’s incredible views of the Magic Kingdom’s Happily Ever After fireworks and piped in music from the show! Even if you’re not dining during the evening hours or when the show is taking place, bring your receipt back to the restaurant later before the show begins for access to the restaurant’s observation deck.
Contempo Cafe – Quick Service
Situated under the Monorail and by Chef Mickey’s is the Contempo Cafe. This quick service spot serves all throughout the day and provides a convenient grab-and-go section. Why is it a value? Despite its small size, the Contempo Cafe offers delicious variety, quality, and specialty options for a price comparable to your standard hot dog or burger meal in the parks. Options range from grilled cheese and tomato soup, or a “Chicago-style” Italian beef sub, to a seared chicken dinner with rice and veggies.
Most importantly, the Contempo Cafe’s bakery case is legendary! This is where you find a selection of those specialty cupcakes and other Insta-worthy desserts.
The Polynesian Village Resort
Capt. Cook’s – Quick Service
Capt. Cook’s is the definition of a dining value at Walt Disney World. In addition to serving both Polynesian and American fare for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Capt. Cook’s also serves the resort’s famed Tonga Toast (banana-stuffed French Toast rolled in cinnamon sugar). This breakfast entree is served upstairs at Kona Cafe. However, you can enjoy it a Capt. Cook’s without the need for a restaurant reservation and at around half the price!
Capt. Cook’s also serves an assortment of flatbreads, soups and salads, noodles, and sandwiches. There’s also a convenient grab-and-go section available 24 hours a day!
‘Ohana – Table Service
‘Ohana has long been one of the most popular table service restaurants at Walt Disney World. Why? It has a fantastic Best Friends Breakfast character meal with Lilo and Stitch. Dinners are all-you-can-eat Polynesian feasts with games and entertainment. Lastly, the restaurant offers great views of the Magic Kingdom’s Happily Ever After fireworks.
While the character breakfast is a great experience, I believe dinner offers the best value. The breakfast fare is yummy, but the dinner menu is far superior. We’re talking dumplings, lo mein noodles, and skewers of shrimp, steak, sweet and sour chicken… The finale? ‘Ohana’s famous Bread Pudding. Now characters aren’t offered at dinner; but along with games and music, there’s those unique views of the fireworks with piped in music.
Pineapple Lanai – Quick Service
Dole Whips are becoming easier to find around Walt Disney World these days, but the Pineapple Lanai is still my go-to spot for a fix. Unfortunately, Dole Whips aren’t any cheaper here than they are the Magic Kingdom’s Aloha Isle. Trust me, I checked. But I consider the Pineapple Lanai a value because it rarely, if ever, has a line. I also appreciate the abundance of shade and seating. If you’re going to splurge on a Dole Whip, why not do so without the wait and be able to truly savor it?
The Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Gasparilla Island Grill – Quick Service
The Grand Floridian Resort has an impressive slate of restaurants for a single resort. But since this is the Grand Floridian we’re talking about, you can bet the the best restaurants are expensive. The best value, in my opinion, is the resort’s quick service spot: the Gasparilla Island Grill.
If I’m at the Magic Kingdom for the day, this is where I often retreat to for lunch due to options like a chicken and brie sandwich, customizable salads, artisan burgers, and even house-made macaroni and cheese. Their bakery case is definitely worth checking out too! Also, like the Polynesian’s Capt. Cook’s, Gasparilla Island Grill is open 24 hours a day. But in addition to a grab-and-go section, guests can enjoy late night individual or family size thin crust pizzas. Almost all the family size pizzas are under $20.00 and serve up to four guests. That’s a very affordable meal at Walt Disney World.
Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Geyser Point Bar & Grill – Quick Service/Lounge
Still a relatively new addition to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, Geyser Point sits on the shore of Bay Lake. This open-air lounge/restaurant rarely has a wait and offers a peaceful, picturesque setting and nighttime views of the Electrical Water Pageant.
Now Geyser Point has two menus. One menu is for the lounge while the other is for lunch and dinner. Along with drinks, the lounge menu features crispy fried oysters, cheesy barbecue brisket, teriyaki chicken wings, and more. For lunch and dinner, items range from a yummy Bison Cheeseburger to grilled portobello salads, to turkey or chicken sandwiches. For a great meal with great atmosphere and minimal hassle, Geyser Point is well worth a visit.
Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White – Table Service
I have mixed feelings when it comes to character meals. Yes, they are the best way to meet characters and a Disney World must-do. Yet, they’re often overpriced and the food is often just okay. This is why if you’re going to do a character meal, make sure it offers as much magic and value for your money; and I think Storybook Dining at Artist Point does just that.
Here guests have their choice of themed menu items such as Brother’s Grimm Roasted Chicken or Miner’s Treasures. There’s a fun selection of themed non-alcoholic drinks too. While dining, Snow White, Dopey, and Grumpy visit each table for a meet and greet. The Queen, however, prefers to meets guests in her own designated area. Overall, this character meal offers a variety of character interactions for the whole family, and the themed menu truly adds to the dining experience.
Territory Lounge – Lounge
This cozy, rustic hideaway has long been one of my favorite retreats. While the menu isn’t expansive, it does include Artist Point’s mushroom bisque. Other items include little neck clams, pork sliders, cobbler with blackberry ice cream, and vanilla bean creme brulee. My personal favorite is the fondue with pretzel bread. It’s perfect for sharing with the family or a group.
Whispering Canyon Cafe – Table Service
Located in the resort lobby, Whispering Canyon Cafe is known for its western flavor, fun-loving servers, and all-you-can-eat skillets at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The prices for most entrees are surprisingly affordable for the amount of food you get, and the skillets are definitely shareable. In addition, the atmosphere and servers truly make Whispering Canyon Cafe an experience and not just a meal.
For those who don’t want to share a skillet, Whispering Canyon Cafe does offer a la carte items throughout the day which are equally tempting.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Boma – Flavors of Africa – Table Service
Located at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House, Boma – Flavors of Africa offers an all-you-can-eat buffet during breakfast and dinner hours. Now I’m going to be honest here. I’m not the biggest Boma fan. The food is a little too exotic for my tastes. Although, that doesn’t mean I don’t think Boma is a great value or quality restaurant!
Many Disney World regulars love this dining destination, and its perfect for those looking to sample and experience different cuisine. For instance, Boma offers flavors from 50 different African countries ranging from seafood to vegetarian to roasted meats. There is a selection of American fare for pickier eaters, like myself, as well.
The dessert buffet is also a highlight as guests can heap their plates with Zebra Domes! This particular treat has a cult following at Walt Disney World and can only be enjoyed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Sanaa Lounge – Lounge
Kidani Village’s Sanaa has long been a favorite due to its signature African and Indian cuisine, but perhaps more specifically for its famous Indian-Style Bread Service. If the signature dining prices are too steep, the Sanaa Lounge offers a smaller sampling of the bread service for a cheaper price.
The Mara – Quick Service
I consider The Mara at Jambo House one of the best dining values on property as it allows guests to experience African flavors at an affordable price while also serving up traditional favorites for guests looking for a quick, quality meal. There truly is something for everyone here.
The Mara is also where guests can get Zebra Domes without the Boma dining reservation! Guests can pick up packages of Zebra Domes from the grab-and-go refrigerated section for under $5.00. It’s the ultimate Disney treat hack and true dining value.
Those are some of our picks for the best dining values at Walt Disney World’s Deluxe Resorts Part I. What restaurants, meals, or treats do you consider to be a great value at the Deluxe Resorts? Let us know in the comments.
3 thoughts on “The Best Dining Values at the Deluxe Resorts Part I”
Just a note of caution. If you are driving a car, and want to experience a quick-service meal (no rsrvtns accepted) at a deluxe resort, you may run into problems being charged $25/day parking, regardless of how long you’re there. Evidently this has hppnd regularly at the Poly. Example: folks wanting brkfst “Tonga Toast” at Captn Cooks are not allowed to park for free, if at all. I get why this policy was started: why pay $25 prkng fee at TTC if you can park for free at a monorail resort?
But Disney needs to fix this. Maybe thru Magicbands or MDE app? (linked to credit card) Give ppl 1 hr. free prkng, THEN charge the fee if they haven’t left.
Although not convenient, one could park at Disney Springs for free and take the bus to resort.
The Italian beef is not actually Chicago-style, although it claims to be. It is more like a French Dip. Good, but NOT a Chicago-style Italian Beef.
I waited 20 minutes in line at Pineapple Lanai. There might not be a wait if you go at an off time, but the line is very long by about 8:30, before the fireworks.