WDW Moms Panelists Consider: What Are Some Underrated Disney World Restaurants?

Here’s our third 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 and their thoughts about the best dining values in Disney World. Today we get to hear what restaurants the moms think might not grab the spotlight as much as they should…

From Mom Erin F.

The Wave Trio of Desserts

The Wave Trio of Desserts

The Wave – really nice stuff and good wine flights. Good tasting desserts, and they have really lovely food.

Another one that I tried – Raglan Road – had really delicious food. And I was very pleasantly surprised by the food on the plate (I had shepherd’s pie). The Strawberry Salad was poppin’ in your mouth delicious. If they can make a basic green salad so tasty, they’ve got something good going on.

From Mom Amber V.

The two places that come to mind are the Grand Floridian Cafe and Maya Grill. I think they both get lost in the shuffle, especially if you aren’t staying at the Grand Floridian or Coronado Springs. When we ate at Maya Grill, we were able to walk up and get a table without an ADR, which was a surprise. We found the menu, service and atmosphere to be really wonderful. The Grand Floridian Cafe is a great choice for a refreshing, light lunch and is also a nice respite from the parks.

From Mom Anna S.

It seems to me that the one restaurant I can ALWAYS get a reservation for is Restaurant Marrakesh at EPCOT, and I love it there. We have had some of the best, most attentive servers of our Disney dining experiences there, and there is never the feeling that you are being rushed so they can turn the tables over. The kids enjoy the music and dancing, and the food is delicious. We eat here at least every other visit.

From Mom Jennifer W.

Flying Fish Cafe! I rarely hear anyone talking about makings ADRs here, and it is one of the best restaurants at WDW! It is a bit on the pricey side but worth every dime. The chef will even come to your table to personally discuss your order if you like. The atmosphere is a calming change from the hustle and bustle of many restaurants and the food is top notch. I highly recommend The Flying Fish to all my friends who are looking for something different at WDW.

From Mom Kara B.

Walt Disney On-Screen at Sci-Fi Dine In

Walt Disney On-Screen at Sci-Fi Dine In

Disney provides a chance to experience something new and exciting around every corner, so often for us a magical Disney experience may be more about the experience rather than the actual food. For example, Sci-Fi is an absolute must see for us every trip, regardless of the constant criticism regarding the food. Stick with hamburgers and milkshakes and all is good (I’ll gladly share that their tofu entree is de-lic-ious!). However for us, it is clearly the atmosphere that makes this restaurant a must-do. In the middle of a hot trip (we visit in June), escaping into the cool “night” air is so relaxing. The kids sit in the front seat; my husband and I sit in the back. We feel like we are on a date because the kids are shockingly silent watching those campy movies. In fact, the entire restaurant is eerily quiet. Again, total relaxation. And of course, we all get those silly drinks with light-up ice cubes and use them at home for a fun souvenir.

From Mom Joanne M.

1. Fulton’s Crab House, Downtown Disney. Awesome view, fantastic food, and great selection. We love going there for lunch before heading to DisneyQuest. It’s not on the Disney Dining Plan, so we’ve never had a problem getting a table.

2. Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian Resort. The food is great, and where else can you simply turn your head and watch Wishes?

3. Kona Cafe – I have to say I’m not sure that this one is underrated, but I was so pleasantly surprised by the dining experience I have to mention it. The service was fabulous and attentive, menu varied, and great food! And the Kona Kone is the coolest dessert on Disney property!

From Mom Heather R.

In the Magic Kingdom I think the Plaza Restaurant is a real hidden gem. The location is quite convenient, and while the menu is somewhat limited, the food is excellent and the portions are quite large. My Chicken Strawberry Salad was not only delicious, but HUGE – easily shared between two people.

At the Fort Wilderness Resort, the Trail’s End Restaurant serves up home cooking style food at a very reasonable price, and since it’s a buffet (and a reasonably priced one at that!) it offers a good bang for your buck.

The Grand Floridian Cafe (guess where?) is also a real hidden gem. I can’t recommend any one particular standout menu item, but I know that every meal I’ve had there has been very good, service was attentive, and I leave intending to visit again. In a way I like it when that happens, because if I eat somewhere and have a particularly fantastic dish, I’m very likely to never try anything else! It’s good to branch out. :)

From Mom Whitney P.

Where do I begin? The Boardwalk Pizza take-out window is one of the best values, with a pepperoni pizza slice at $3.99! Its crust is like no other pizza on property! My indulgence is opening packet after packet of parmesan cheese and topping it off. I like to eat it outside at one of the nearby tables and people-watch. That, with a view of the water, is a great dining experience whether you’re alone or with your family.

If you’re looking for night-life, I recommend Kimono’s at the Swan. I’m a fan of karaoke and can sing with the best of them–from the comfort of my seat! It has the most extensive sushi menu on property, in my opinion, and if no one has the guts to get on the small stage and belt something out, you can sing along with the evening’s hostess.

From Mom Jo Y.

My family love Kona Cafe at the Poly, last trip I had the most delicious steak there, I much preferred it to Le Cellier and recommend it to everyone. I love how they have sample desserts on show as you enter the restaurant and if you time it right you can wander down to the beach afterwards to watch Wishes!

From Mom Kim L.

The Paint Room at Backlot Express

The Paint Room at Backlot Express

My family loves to eat at the Backlot Express at Disney’s Hollywood Studios when we are looking for a counter service meal. There’s always a quiet corner with fascinating props to view.

Also, Olivia’s Cafe at Old Key West serves wonderful dishes in a relaxing atmosphere. This is a hidden gem.

From Mom Kay B.

I think one of the most underrated food spots is Citricos. This is an unbelievable restaurant that is constantly being overshadowed by Victoria and Alberts at the Grand Floridian. It is family friendly yet can still be a romantic spot with a table in the inner room by the windows. The food is excellent from appetizers through desserts and the service has always been outstanding. They also have a nice wine room that can be reserved for a little more intimate dinner opportunity.

Another table service restaurant that is often forgotten and shouldn’t be is Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge. This is another outstanding location for food, service and ambiance.

In the counter service category I would say that Flametree in the Animal Kingdom park is not remembered and this is the one place we will go and not try to get dining reservations because we would all rather just eat at this counter service location. The barbecue is excellent, served in large portions, and then the area to sit in is quiet and relaxing. We take the path down to the lake and sit under the cool trees to catch a breeze on a hot day.

From Dad Doug I.

I think that Biergarten does not get it’s due as a fun dinner venue. While I can think of a few German classics that should be added to the menu, the buffet combines a lot of great choices, as well as some americanized selections for choosy kids. And the entertainment value is a nice plus. Finally, I love that you can meet people in their long table seating arrangements.

I also like San Angel Inn more than most. Having grown up in Mexico City, I think that some of the selections there are more authentic Mexican than you can typically find in the U.S., but it seems to get panned for cuisine, often by guests looking for more Tex-Mex style choices (which I love too!).

From Mom Jodi G.

I think sometimes the resort restaurants are overlooked, and the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge are top-notch.  Jiko, in particular, is my favorite restaurant on property.

Sleepy Hollow's Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich

Sleepy Hollow's Homemade Ice Cream Sandwich

From Mom Beth C.

The Sleepy Hollow in Magic Kingdom is a great spot to grab a treat. They have homemade chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches. You can watch them bake the cookies right there! Sleepy Hollow is located right over the bridge as you cross into Liberty Square. It is a great place to get a snack before the parade or fireworks or if you are walking to the other attractions in this area.

From Mom Margaret F.

One location that our family really loves and I think misses some of the spotlight is Mama Melrose at Hollywood Studios. While it is often crowded, I think it often does not get the attention it deserves. We love the feel of the restaurant, with the warehouse setting and open kitchen. It is very family friendly and comfortable. The menu slection is top notch. The flatbread choices are delicious, and the bruschetta is superb. The pasta choices have a perfect blend of herbs and spices. My favorite here is the sirloin with grilled asparagus and red wine sauce. Mouth-watering for sure!

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

Don’t forget, if you’d like to share your “most magical Disney Dining moment,” send me an email! I’m collecting stories and will post them in the next post of “Chicken Soup for the Disney Foodie soul!”


  1. Jackie Tatsopoulos Psarianos says

    On our most recent trip last August 2009, we decided to try Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney and were we surprised!!

    We loved being able to order quick service style and then take a seat while the server brings us our food and the food is just delicious. It reminds me of good and nutricious home cooking and we returned for a meal everyday of our trip.

    I absolutely LOVED the butternut squash soup and my autistic son LOVEd the pizza and french fries with parsley sprinkles. We tried a lot of the menu items for many lunches and dinners and were never disappointed.

    The prices are great and you get free re-fills brough to you….what an amazing experience.

  2. says

    Good post! There are some excellent suggestions here for my future trip (which, sadly, won’t be for awhile, but it’s never too early to start planning!). Flying Fish, for instance–I agree, whenever I hear anyone talk about it, the reviews are very positive–but I hardly ever hear anyone speak of it! I hear mixed reviews of Fultons, but I think it would be a nice upscale dinner and fun to be dining on the boat. I kind of wish I were going back soon, because I think I could easily eat at all-new, wonderful restaurants without necessarily repeating old favorites.

  3. says

    The Moms have some great choices, and these are some of our family’s regular spots as well! Backlot Express is always our go-to spot for counter service lunch at the Studios…and we also visit Kona Cafe every visit too it seems! I love the Plaza restaurant for exactly the reasons Heather R. stated and Sci-Fi is also a family favorite!

    Hungry now!! ;)

  4. says

    Jackie — Great thoughts on Wolfgang Puck Express! I’ve always loved that spot, too, and haven’t been back for a while!

    Gray — I hear the same about Flying Fish. Everyone seems to love it.

    Zanna — I think Backlot Express is someplace everyone should visit just to wander around. The props and themeing are fantastic.

  5. Caitie says

    Two trips ago, we LOVED Restaurant Marrakesh and decided it should go on our “every trip list”. Well…this last trip in August made us change our minds. We had HORRIBLE service. We waited 15 minutes for someone to take our drink orders…and it wasn’t even our waiter! Another waiter felt bad that we were waiting and got us drinks. The food was only okay that night also…and the time before we loved it.

  6. says

    Caitie — Service is SO critical to whether or not we enjoy a restaurant. I’m always amazed that something that’s NOT food can make such a huge difference to our experience. Sorry to hear that you had a bad time at Marrakesh — “inconsistency” is never a good thing.

  7. says

    awesome post! Im always interested in finding other places, since I rarely get the opportunity to eat at table services when I go with other places. I would like to say, though – Jennifer W says she rarely sees people at Flying Fish, and i’m wondering if it’s because you always have to travel to there by a bus (or boat? not sure if boardwalk does ferry). At least for me and my family, It’s kind of an inconvenience for any restaurant if you can’t get there by monorail or it’s not in a park, with the exception of Downtown Disney, since we only stay at the resorts with a monorail attached for convenience of my disabled sister. If i ever do a solo trip, though, i’ll have to look into it!

    I’d like to add, one of the BEST places for me personally was Earl of Sandwich. I can still remember their amazing pasta salad and the sandwiches are just endless – it was one of the best meal purchases I made outside of the phenomenal Tonga Toast at the Polynesian. My friend and I also went to Wolfgang Puck Express, and that meal was pretty good too! I never really paid much attention to the Downtown Disney area for food, but i cannot believe that at 24 years old, on all of my previous trips that I neglected Earl of Sandwich. My new motto is a trip is not complete until I get that (…. and then a dole whip….. and then a gigantic cookie ice cream sandwich at main street bakery….. and then a rice krispie mickey ears treat….. okay trips are never complete for me!! LOL)

  8. says

    Rachel — I was hoping someone would mention Earl of Sandwich! I just wish that line wasn’t so long…

    I just tried Paradiso 37 and LOVED it — be sure to check that out in DTD the next time you’re there.

  9. allyn says

    i can’t agree with the comments about flying fish. my wife and i had a very ho-hum meal there last year. the night after we dined at california grill and everything from the food to the service was off-the-scale fantastic. we’ve never had a waiter as good anywhere else. on the way out i told the manager that we wished we had eaten at california grill twice and skipped flying fish. obviously california grill isn’t underrated. but there’s a reason people don’t talk about flying fish much and that’s because there isn’t much to talk about. we won’t be back.

    we weren’t that impressed with kona cafe, which everyone else seems to love, when we dined there several years ago either.

    our favorite restaurants on property are v&a’s, california grill, jiko, boma. like the above folks we also love flametree bbq.

  10. says

    Allyn — Thank you for your comments and insights. I’ve had a few similar experiences where everyone seems to love certain spots that just don’t “wow” me at all. Then, if I return a year or two later, I can have a completely different experience.

    I have to agree with a lot of your favorites — Jiko and California Grill are two of my favorites. I look forward to finally getting to try V&As.

  11. says

    Good to hear Artists Point getting a nod. I had one of the most enjoyable meals anywhere at AP, but I rarely see it mentioned by people as a favorite. The dining room is beautiful and I’m still thinking about the mushroom soup.

  12. frank says

    I think we have eaten at all of the upscale places (except V&A) and Ca. Grille is definitely at the top of the heap. Agree that Flame Tree BBQ (Animal K.) is a standout amongst quick service places. Anyone eaten at the new Italian place (EPCOT)? Looks a little pricey.

  13. Jenn says

    I agree that Mama Melrose’s does not get its proper due. We have gone several times and have never been disappointed! In fact it is the only WDW restaurant where I have been compelled to write a letter about the exceptional service that we received while there. Our server Sherry went above and beyond and touched our hearts by talking to and engaging our children, who have autism (you wouldn’t believe how many servers ignore people with special needs). Amazing experience!
    Frank, we have eaten at both Italian restaurants at Epcot (Tutto Italia and Via Napoli). Via Napoli was good, but Tutto Italia was exceptionally good.
    Another underrated restaurant in my opinion is Teppan Edo. Delicious!

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