I’m a data nerd and vacation detail planner for my family. I do my research before we head anywhere on vacation to try to minimize how much money we spend and maximize how much we enjoy our time together. The same holds true at Disney – but as a mom with young kids, I sometimes find it frustrating that several of the most highly-rated restaurants (or attractions … or whatever) are generally more appealing to adults than to my kiddos. Sure, I’d love to go eat some steak at Le Cellier to wrap up a busy day. But my kids are going to get bored in the cool, dark cellar. And when they get bored, they get crazy – and no one enjoys that. So what are some Disney table service restaurants that get high satisfaction scores from families that include young kids like mine? And which ones should I avoid?
Explain the Math!
We collect restaurant satisfaction data in our post-visit surveys from all of you lovely TouringPlans users. One portion of the survey asks respondents to give each dining location that they experienced either a Thumbs Up or a Thumbs Down. I can aggregate (sum up) all of the responses for each particular dining location and tell you the percentage of parties that give that restaurant a “Thumbs Up”. That’s generally what we call the satisfaction at that restaurant, and it’s viewed as a percentage.
One quibble I have with this overall satisfaction score, though, is that it’s for ALL TIME. And as well all know, things can change very quickly (or 18 months can seem like they’ve lasted for 6 decades, but who’s counting). So I could solve this by only pulling surveys from a specific, recent timeframe. Or I could introduce a weighted average. And by introducing that, I get to teach you about it. So we’re going to go that route.
Let’s say that I want recent reviews to impact the overall satisfaction more than I want old reviews to impact it. So I need some way to give those older reviews less “weight”. There are lots of ways I could do this, but I want to keep it simple. That means for this analysis we’ll give any review from the last 3 months full “weight”. It counts as one response. But anything that was more than 3 months old, but less than 6 months old only gets half weight. It counts as half a response. Anything older than that, but less than 9 months old gets one-third weight. Anything older than that, but less than a year old, gets one-quarter weight. We can keep expanding that concept linearly:
- 12 to 15 months ago? 1/5 weight
- 15 to 18 months ago? 1/6 weight
- 18 to 21 months ago? 1/7 weight
- 21 to 24 months ago? 1/8 weight
- And so on …
That means that in order to “balance out” one “thumbs down” review from last month, you’d have to have eight “thumbs up” reviews from 2 years ago. Or vice versa. Old reviews still count, but they’re not worth as much. So my satisfaction is more reflective of what’s been happening recently, without ignoring the past.
In order to figure out how these satisfaction scores differ for parties with young kids … we have to know which parties have young kids. Thankfully, you’re also able to tell us the genders and ages of members of your party when you fill out your survey. I filtered the results to only parties that included someone under the age of 6 to get our “parties with young kids” scores. Every other survey fell into the “everyone else” bucket.
WDW Restaurants to Try with Young Kids
- 1900 Park Fare – (97% for parties with young kids, 85% for everyone else)
The food at 1900 Park Fare isn’t particularly inspiring, and the characters there do appeal to young kids (Mary Poppins at breakfast and the Cinderella crew at dinner). Unfortunately, as of the time of this article, 1900 Park Fare hasn’t reopened. Just in the past few weeks, a couple of buffets have reopened (or converted back from family style to buffet), so that change may be on the horizon.
Cape May Cafe – (90% for parties with young kids, 79% for everyone else)
This all-you-can-eat dining location reopened on May 18, 2021 after being closed for more than a year, but without the previous buffet style or characters at breakfast. Our in-parks team had a really terrible experience there back in June, but it appears that parties with young kids find the new experience just as satisfying as the old one. If you have little seafood lovers (they exist – I have one of them), this might be the spot for you.
- Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano – (94% for parties with young kids, 87% for everyone else)
The Italian fare at Mama Melrose’s isn’t going to win any awards. But it’s approachable, and the kids meals are remarkably customizable. Your youngest set will likely also be impressed with the “fancy” lights strung around the restaurant. And as an added bonus, Mama Melrose’s tucked-away location back behind PizzeRizzo means that you might not have to fight hoards of humanity for a sit-down meal.
Hollywood & Vine – (82% for parties with young kids, 76% for everyone else)
Hollywood & Vine is an often-overlooked restaurant right next door to 50s Prime Time Café. Breakfast here is basically specifically targeted for the young kid set, featuring Disney Junior stars like Doc McStuffins and Fancy Nancy (the latter of whom, by the way, was my kids’ top favorite meet & greet on their Disney Cruise). So it’s no surprise it performs better with the young crowd. Lunch and Dinner include visits from Minnie, Mickey, and friends. And at those meals, the food is no joke. It’s still over-priced, but it’s not phoned in just because your kids are busy staring at characters.
- Tutto Italia Ristorante – (96% for parties with young kids, 85% for everyone else)
Are you sensing a theme? It’s like young kids enjoy eating noodles or something. The upside at Tutto Italia is that the food is more authentic than Mama Melrose’s for the adult set, with a nice selection of wine flights. But the atmosphere is, well, loud and hectic enough that you won’t be embarrassed that you brought your under-slept three-year-old to a nice meal.
WDW Restaurants to Avoid with Young Kids
Sanaa – (84% for parties with young kids, 95% for everyone else)
Alright, I knew there would be a time that the data let me down. My kids love eating some bread service and watching animals out of the window. But I’ll admit that Sanna definitely has a more adventurous menu (and kids menu) than your average WDW restaurant. If your young child doesn’t like fish or doesn’t want to try butter chicken, their options are narrowed down to cheese pizza or a cheeseburger. On the other hand … what kid wouldn’t love to choose “Pumbaa’s Dessert Grub” as one of their two sides?!
- Tiffins – (71% for parties with young kids, 92% for everyone else)
At least at Sanaa, even if the food isn’t approachable for your kids, the atmosphere is welcoming and engaging. At Tiffins, you’ll be in one of three small, quiet dining rooms with nowhere for your boisterous toddler to blend in. And kids meal choices are even less mainstream than at Sanaa – as of now, you can choose from beef tacos, grilled shrimp, grilled chicken, or “Impossible Bunny Chow” (a curried stew of root vegetables and plant-based protein in a brioche bun). And they’re all on the expensive side for kids’ meals.
- Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria – (85% for parties with young kids, 92% for everyone else)
Wait … what happened to approachable Italian food being a winner for kids? I don’t know. Maybe the authentic Neapolitan take on pizzas doesn’t meet general American kid expectations. Or it could be that Via Napoli has a hard time getting pizzas and other food to come out at the same time, which can be especially frustrating for families with young kids. Whatever the case may be, Via Napoli isn’t resonating with these parties.
Kona Café – (80% for parties with young kids, 89% for everyone else)
Kona Café is an interesting mix of things that ends up not working very well for the young set. They can be bold and order chicken tacos or sushi, or they can stick with the safe burger or mac. But for sides? Pick two from green beans, fruit salad, or yogurt. Great for health-conscious parents. Not so great for your kid that wants fries or a dessert. It’s also a pretty cramped space, so good luck containing your rambunctious littles.
- Rainforest Café – Animal Kingdom – (67% for parties with young kids, 78% for everyone else)
Satisfaction scores are already so low at Rainforest Café that I didn’t think this one would make it to the list. But here we are. Rainforest Café has one of the most expansive kids menus on property, so selection of food likely isn’t the issue here. Atmosphere may be the culprit – many kids find the animatronic animals and jungle setting to be fun. But if your party with an anxious child happens to be seated next to a “big scary” moving animal, or the periodic thunderstorms throw off your groove, that could definitely ruin the experience. Plus, there’s always the chance that parents are just upset that they’re spending their Disney time in a restaurant that has meals you can find many other places, and exiting through a gift shop.
What Does This Mean For Me?
- Want a safe bet with young kids at Disney? In general, think Italian. But maybe not pizza.
- Character meals that aren’t in the parks are also spots that perform better with parties that include young kids.
- If you have picky eaters, save the restaurants with delicious, adventurous menus for date night or an adults-only trip. If it has an adventurous menu for adults, the kids menu probably follows suit.
Which WDW table-service restaurants are your family’s go-to spots? Have you had “that kid” in a fancy dining location after a long day? Let us know in the comments!