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WDW Moms Panelists on Best Dining Values in Disney World

I’m really excited about this post in the Walt Disney World Moms Panel mini-series! You’ve met some of the moms and heard about their most magical Disney dining moments, but today we get into the nitty gritty of Walt Disney World planning: what restaurants offer the best value for the money?

Looks from the answers that the Picnic in the Park at Animal Kingdom, the Flame Tree Barbecue, and Teppan Edo were big winners in this category, along with Whispering Canyon Cafe’s skillet!

From Mom Erin F.

I’d suggest any of the buffets – particularly if you go for lunch. Have a bagel or coffee breakfast, and chow at a buffet lunch; that will get you through the day. For counter service, I’ve had good experiences with Tangierine Café – you get a variety of food and great vegetables. And my kids love flame tree barbecue.

From Mom Anna S.

A Full Plate at Teppan Edo

A Full Plate at Teppan Edo

Good food at a worth it price for table service is Teppan Edo. Plus you get the show the chef performs in front of you to boot! We’ve always gotten very generous portions here, more than enough to share with each other without feeling like you’re sacrificing half the meal for the kids to each have a taste, and I can’t remember a time when we’ve eaten here and not had something leftover!

I’m not sure this technically counts as counter service, but I could talk all day about the Picnic in the Park at Animal Kingdom. My husband and I went with our two younger children, ordered the rotisserie chicken for three, and left with our desserts in the nifty bag they give you, we were so full! This was an awesome Disney dining experience, and we can’t wait to do it again!

From Mom Kara B.

I’m totally cheating here and going for the non-counter/non-table service restaurant: the picnic in the park at the Animal Kingdom. What a smashingly brilliant deal. We had a TON of food for a family of 5 — so much so that we brought nearly half of it home with us (glad we were at a resort with a fridge) and were left with a shopping bag that I still use all the time. I love having comments about it as clerks bag my groceries. The park is filled with all sorts of fun places to picnic; we opted for the secret path by the Tree of Life and nearly had the area to ourselves (just a few people walked through). Not to mention, ordering the picnic is simple and with little to no wait.

From Mom Joanne M.

Hands down, for me the best counter service for taste, selection and value is Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney. The menu selection has something for everyone, from pizza and pasta to sandwiches and rotisserie chicken. The food and service are consistently excellent. We often stop in on our last day and pick up a pizza for the flight home!

If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, Le Cellier in the Canadian Pavillion at Epcot (I’m really not biased) offers one of the best deals for one dining credit. The mushroom filet absolutely melts in your mouth, and similar meals are two credits at some of the other resort restaurants. And the chocolate moose dessert is super cute
and soooo good!

For overall value, I always recommend going to some of the more expensive restaurants for lunch. This way, you get to experience the finer restaurants at reduced prices. One of my new favourites is Epcot’s Chefs de France in France. They currently have an awesome table d’hote special for $20, which includes decadent
lobster chowder or the best French onion soup ever, a main course selection (including a rich quiche), and dessert. Service is fabulous, and the setting is very francais!

From Mom Amber V.

I think a great table service that offers good food at a value is the Plaza Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. Granted, the food is nothing fancy, but the portions are plentiful and we have always enjoyed excellent service here. You really can’t go wrong with any of the sandwiches, and there are occasionally chef specials as well. The desserts alone are a reason to visit the Plaza, and they are definitely
large enough to share!

For a great counter service value we go to Cosmic Rays at the Magic Kingdom. Their combo meals are absolutely large enough to share. I also love Columbia Harbour House. It is one of my favorite counter service restaurants at Disney. I feel that the menu selection is diverse and the food is good quality and decent portion sizes.

From Mom Heather R.

The Plaza Restaurant and the Trail’s End Restaurant both fall into that category. Really, any buffet will offer bang-for-the-buck, particularly if you have big eaters (or teenage boys!) in your family.

While not the least expensive option out there, I’d highly recommend the Canyon Skillet at the Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge. It’s a family-style meal that is both delicious and bottomless! If you’re watching your budget, consider booking a late lunch for a $9 savings over dinner price.

At that same price point, for dinner I really like the clam bake at the Cape May Cafe in the Beach Club resort. It’s a buffet so you can eat till your heart is content, and I’m particularly fond of their miniature desserts (so yes, you finally can sample one of each!)

Lots of Choices at Cosmic Ray's

Lots of Choices at Cosmic Ray's

For counter service, I think that the Bacon Double Cheeseburger at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in the Magic Kingdom is a very good value. It’s served with fries and is really quite large, easily split between two people. Although the price point is higher, the 1/2 chicken and BBQ rib combo there is also a large meal, and a step up from typical counter service restaurant offerings.

I also found that I was unable to finish my counter service lunch of Honey Chicken from Yak and Yeti, as the portion was larger than I was expecting. When eating there the next time I’ll plan on sharing it with one of my children so we don’t have as much waste.

From Mom Whitney P.

I see “value” through two different lenses: the food plus experience and just the food. If we’re talking food plus experience, three top my list:

If you’re a parent, you may have been urged by friends to seek a Character Dining meal while at Disney. I’ve seen many parents get stressed over these meals, especially with the inability to get advanced reservations for last-minute trips. A comparable memory-making dining experience for many children can be found, however, at the animatronic restaurants of T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe. In fact, Rainforest is probably the most-requested restaurant by my kids! PLUS: the menu is more affordable than the Character Dining buffets.

A close third is Sci-Fi Dinner Theatre. It gets panned by many who are on the dining plan, and rightfully so, because you could spend that same dining credit on more expensive fare. But when I go to Disney without the dining plan, and I’m looking at paying for both the experience as well as the food, Sci-Fi fits the bill for creating a memorable theme with food that’s comparable in price to some counter-service combo meals! My husband loves the Reuben.

Your View From the Flame Tree Barbecue

Your View From the Flame Tree Barbecue

If we’re talking food value sans experience, I tend to lean toward the counter-service restaurants. Again, three come to mind, all in different parks:

1. Flame Tree BBQ, Animal Kingdom: Our family of six can order two 1/2 slabs of ribs and the 1/2 chicken combo and we’re good. Top this off with a seat under the tree canopy down by the water behind the restaurant and you’ve got my number one value for food and experience for family-eating in the parks.

2. We can do the same thing at Cosmic Ray’s with its 1/2 Chicken and BBQ Rib Combo, but because the food is so similar, we usually don’t eat at both Flame Tree and Ray’s on the same trip. (By the way, while my family is gorging themselves on the ribs, I’m eating all the delicious green beans–YUM!)

3. Sunshine Seasons, Epcot: What I call their “blue-plate special” line (The Grill) offers up some pretty hefty
meals that can satisfy big appetites for under $10! The rotisserie chicken can be split between two of my boys. The seared-tuna salad is large enough to share, also!

From Mom Jo Y.

We are normally on the DDP so don’t tend to choose restaurants for the best value, rather where we’d like to dine. Saying that, though, for counter service I would say Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney offers great value for money. Although you need to stand in line to order your food like
at a regular counter service a waiter actually brings your food to the table, so it feels like a table service. The portions here are huge and the choice is extensive!

For table service I’d choose the Cape May Clam Bake; for under $30 adults can eat as much as they want from a large selection of foods including soups, salads, prime rib, shrimps, clams, vegetables etc

From Mom Kay B.

My husband insists the answer is Liberty Tree Tavern for dinner, since they will keep bringing the platters of food until you say no more! He loves the turkey and roast beef and all the “fixins” that go with that! I think there are several spots in EPCOT where you get a lot for your money and those are Nine Dragons in China and Marrakesh in Morocco.

For counter service spots, Flametree Barbecue comes to the front, and then also Cantina De San Angel in Mexico….good portions, full meals, decent pricing.

From Dad Doug I.

For table service I actually think you get a lot of good food for your money at Whispering Canyon Cafe at the Wilderness Lodge.

Mosey On Down to the Whispering Canyon Cafe

Mosey On Down to the Whispering Canyon Cafe

You have to be hungry to take advantage of it, but the Skillets really work out to be a decent deal in the world of Walt Disney World dining.

For counter service I think there is no better choice than Flame Tree BBQ at the Animal Kingdom. The BBQ is fantastic, and the seating area, down in the riverside grottos complete with a dense, jungle-like tree canopy, is a real treat. I think it is a better dining experience than many table service restaurants!

From Mom Jodi G.

I think the Tangierine Cafe [in Epcot's Morocco] is a great value — my personal recommendation for those who want to try out some new foods and fill up at a great price. As for table-service, I love the Crystal Palace buffet (especially dinner) because the buffet has some great food at a good price.

From Mom Beth C.

Teppan Edo in Japan is my choice for the best value for its price. The food is fresh, delicious and cooked to order. The food is served as soon as it is cooked, which is awesome. You have a lot of food for a reasonable price and you get a “show” for free. This is also one restaurant where everyone eats everything and we have no room for dessert (and we love dessert).

For counter-service, Animal Kingdom offers the All American Family Picnic. This is a unique idea on an American classic. Guests can preorder their lunch at Island Mercantile Shop before 1:30. You have a choice of sandwiches or roasted chicken. Everyone recieves their own sandwich, dessert and drink. The sides and roasted chicken are portioned to the number of people in your party. You pick up your lunch at the Tusker House in a reusable tote you get to keep. You can then take it to one of the many picnic spots located throughout Animal Kingdom. We ordered sandwiches for four and we had food leftover. The food is from Tusker House which buffet is very good and the picnic lunch is just as yummy.

From Mom Kim L.

We get the best value at the Boma breakfast buffet. Great food, awesome atmosphere and no one leaves hungry. For counter-service, I think Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney provides a great meal at a value price.

Liberty Tree Tavern's Pot Roast Lunch

Liberty Tree Tavern's Pot Roast Lunch

From Mom Margaret F.

I think the best deal for counter service on property has to be Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios. For approximately $10, each guest can choose an individual pizza, salad and drink and for just a few dollars more a yummy dessert,. The pizza is a great portion size and easily fills us up, plus it is actually very yummy. My kids love the salad and t is just the perfect size.

For table dining locations, we love the value of the Liberty Tree Tavern lunch menu. The menu offers a great selection of hearty home cooked favorites like pot roast, the pilgrim’s feast of turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing and the catch of the day all under $20 and most around $15. The food is delicious and quite filling. The dinner menu is also a great selection of turkey, roast beef, potatoes, vegetbale and dessert served family style at approximately $30 per guest. Still a great price compared to some of the menu prices at other Disney dinner locations and my kids never leave food on the plate here.

Thanks again to all the “moms” who are participating in the interviews!

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8 Comments

  1. Kristin says:

    I have really enjoyed reading through all of the great responses! There are definitely a lot of places they have each listed that I’ve never tried – which is sad considering I’ve been to WDW over 20 times! I am really hoping to try the Flame Tree BBQ and maybe even the picnic – they both sound great! I am looking forward to hitting Whispering Canyon on my upcoming trip. We enjoy the Plaza Restaurant at the Magic Kingdom and also Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney. The breakfast at the Crystal Palace is wonderful also. The food at WDW is always good, I have a hard time narrowing it down!

  2. This is seriously making me hungry…lol! We have reservations at the Cape Mae Cafe for the Clam Bake and look forward to that, and also Teppan Edo in the Japanese Pavilion in December…so thanks so much for especially mentioning these two restaurants! Great post!

  3. Stephanie says:

    I would also add Tony’s Town Square in the Magic Kingdom. It is an especially good value for lunch.

  4. Kelly says:

    The best tip I have as far as value is concerned is to look at lunch menus! In many cases you can get the same food for far cheaper!

  5. I can’t believe there was a dining experience I did not know about. I had never heard of the Picnic in the Park at Animal Kingdom. Just when you think you know it all, you learn something new and this is why I LOVE this blog!

  6. Sandra Knight says:

    Is the Picnic in the Park at Animal Kingdom, available during the week of November 28 thru December 4, 2010? We are coming during that week and would like to get a Picnic.

  7. AJ says:

    Sandra — Here’s the latest incarnation of the Picnic. This news is as of May 30th, 2010.

  8. Jean Hoffman says:

    I am a DVC Member and like to stay at different resorts, but no matter where I stay I always make it over to Wilderness Lodge to Roaring Forks (the counter service restaurant) and get at least one Wilderness Salad. It has chicken, cheddar cheese, croutons, candied nuts, diced apple and a wonderful apple dressing. I try to replicate the salad at home but I do not do it justice. I also love the beet and feta cheese salad at Roaring Forks. I am not a salad lover, but I have walked more than a mile for both of these salads.

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