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5 Best Quick-Service Dining Plan Values

Wolfgang Puck Express

You heard about our Five Best “One-Credit” Table-Service Values last week, so I wanted to share what I believe to be the five best quick-service values today! These are my picks based on what you get for one quick-service credit on the Disney Dining Plan; they may not stand up as the best when we consider paying out of pocket.

Hopefully this will be useful to those of you heading down to the World for free dining this fall!

Wolfgang Puck Express in Downtown Disney (West Side and Marketplace)

With the famous (and delicious) rotisserie chicken ringing up at over $14 plus tax, it costs more than some table service meals. Some of the salads and sandwiches alone will cost $13. Desserts cost as much as $4.95. Cha-ching.

Snippet of Wolfgang Puck Express Menu

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park

When it’s available, the Picnic in the Park Tier II Rotisserie Chicken meal can be a great value on the dining plan.

Animal Kingdom Picnic in the Park -- Rotisserie Chicken

To my knowledge both the Tier I and Tier II meals can be bought for the cost of one adult counter-service credit per person (please let me know if the rules have changed!), which means you’re getting a lot of food for one credit. It’s also an interesting experience, which adds to the value in my opinion. Reminder: You can’t use a kids’ counter service entitlement on this meal. If you order the picnic for three, it will cost you three adult counter service credits.

Unfortunately, Disney’s been wishy-washy with the picnic since its launch in spring 2009. It’s been available sporadically since January 2010, so your best bet is to arrive at the Animal Kingdom on the day you’re hoping to picnic and ask about it at guest services. If it’s not available, just go to Flame Tree Barbecue and enjoy yourself just as much ;-)

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Magic Kingdom and Fairfax Fare in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Cosmic Ray's Ribs and Chicken

Cosmic Ray’s and Fairfax Fare have similar menu items in their half rotisserie chicken and rib/brisket meals, which offer what feels like a metric ton of food for $13.99. I won’t vouch too heartily for the food quality, but I will say, if you have a big eater in your midst, this will definitely work well for you!

Pepper Market at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort

Many Disney World guests have a love/hate relationship with this Coronado Springs cafeteria-style eatery, but there’s no denying that the dining plan can save you some big bucks if you happen to be dining here. The Steak Ranchero rings in at almost $13, and other items including sandwiches and rotisserie chicken top out at $10 and $12.

Most folks love the food, but hate the price — using the dining plan could solve all that, now couldn’t it? :-)

The Mara at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort

Ah, the lovely Mara at AKL! This sweet, little counter-service spot will give you a half rotisserie chicken dinner for a cool $9+.

The Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge

Again, the wonderful amenities of the AKL — including watching the animals on the savanna, taking part in resort activities, and just exploring this gorgeous place — add to the value here. (But, rest assured, that is a pretty expensive piece of chicken.) Tip-of-the-day: Use your snack credits to get some Zebra Domes!

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

As always, I can’t wait to hear what you think. I haven’t eaten everywhere, so let me know in the comments section below what your best and most valuable counter service experiences have been on the dining plan.

Also, if I’ve gotten any of the details wrong here, just drop me a line or say so in the comments! :-)

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39 Comments

  1. Nicola says:

    Fantastic post!!! After just recently booking a 2 week stay for sept 2011 at okw with the DDP, your DDP posts are helping me choose dining for 3 first timers and 2 who know what they like!! (and getting us excited about this yrs trip!!)

  2. Remy says:

    Although I agree with most of your choices AJ, except for Pepper Market, I’m surprised by the omission of the Riverside Mill. With the choices of create your own pasta and the chefs station with freshly sliced beef and turkey, it’s tough to beat for the price. This has easily become one of the best places to eat for a counter service meal for a reasonable price.

  3. Dana says:

    We used to go to Wolfgang Puck Express all the time, until Earl of Sandwitch opened up…I guess it’s time to go back to an old favorite!

    I’ve also wanted to try the Picnic in the Park, but couldn’t bring myself to give up my pulled pork from Flame Tree…is the food really that good from Picnic in the Park?

    And LOVE LOVE LOVE the Zebra Domes….I’m excited to find out that you could purchase them in Mara—I had no idea!

  4. Evan says:

    Tangerine Cafe and Yakitori House really offer a lot for the counter serve credit. The portions there are big and the food is very good. The slider Combo or a Shwarma platter at TC will set you back around 13 dollars normally, but with the dining plan that isn’t an issue.

  5. Stacey says:

    Here is a little secret I recently found out. If you look at your dining statement (the one your concierge can print for you), the quick service credits are all listed as adult meals. They do not break down the quick service into a child’s category like they do for the table service meals. So, I asked a lady who worked at the Mara and yes it is true. Children can get adult meals at quick service resturants. That worked great for my son who was 9 and had a bigger appetite. So, at the picnic in the park it wouldn’t matter if you had kids, except you cannot get a kids meal. Now the secret is out and Disney will probably start dividing the quick service category into children and adult if they haven’t already done so. My 9 year-old son ordered adult meals for almost every quick service resturant. I have read though you are supposed to order off a kids menu if available, but apparently are not required to do so. By the way, our trip was in Jan of 10′. Hoping free dining is extended into Dec. 2010.

  6. Did it work out by coincidence that chicken is the option that all of the restaurants featured? LOL

    The Mara is a great value and I love to go to AKL and grab something from there and enjoy it at the outdoor seating by the pool.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    We didn’t have the chance to go to any of those when we went to WDW in March but I have seen the menus and everything sounds so good.. not to mention the prices aren’t horrible.. so we may have to try those out when we go back :)

  8. Elizabeth S says:

    We really enjoyed Sunshine Seasons in The Land at Epcot for a huge quick service meal. Unlimited drink refills, huge portions, large desserts. And it actually tasted good!

  9. Sandy says:

    I was just there the week of May 9th and tried to do Picnic in the Park and it was “temporarily unavailable”. Hope that means they are bringing it back. Also, I tried to get an adult meal for my 9 year old at Pecos Bills and the cast member could tell I had 3 kids and 3 adults and made me change the order. Disney usually closes their loop holes pretty quick!! I agree about the pasta bar at Riverside Mill. Also loved Pepper Market – my husband had prime rib and I had grilled tuna for counter credits!!

  10. clete says:

    We always love the pepper market with the dining plan. I’ve been able to get a 20.00 steak with a quick service credit.

  11. @aboutwdw says:

    Hi!
    You included one of our faves–Cosmic rays (love the ribs!). I also like Yak & Yeti (the outside counter takes 1 cs), & Columbia house. For some reason, my husband adores the ABC commissary as well.

  12. chris says:

    I’m really picky about counter service, but I love both Mara and WPE. The turkey sandwich at Mara is sooo good. WPE is an excellent value and the food is much better than you generally expect from counter service. The first time I went there, I was shocked at how good it is.

  13. Kelly says:

    Tangieriene Cafe in Morocco is A) one of my favorite CS and B) has large enough portions to feed 2 people off 1 credit. The Combo Platters are $14!!! Certainly a value on the DP, not so much out of pocket!

  14. I think you might like that rotisserie chicken :) Another quick service restaurant that leaves you feeling like you’ve come away with a good value is Pecos Bills in Adventureland at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. Not only do you get a GREAT burger, you can pile it as high as you want with all the toppings from caramalized onion and sauteed mushrooms to the basics of fresh tomato and other fixins.’ Sink your teeth into that one! :)

  15. Gray says:

    These are great choices, and while I wouldn’t disagree with any of them, I, too, would add Tangierine Cafe to the mix.

  16. Janna says:

    We ate at WPE in April while on the QSDP. It was the best meal of the trip! My younger son got the macaroni and cheese and I have just one word for it: decadent.

    I also agree with Cosmic Ray’s. The chicken and ribs are far superior in taste to similar counterparts at Fairfax Fare.

    I do hope to try both Pepper Market and the Picnic in the Park at some point.

  17. Rori Paul says:

    I was actually very disappointed by Wolfgang Pucks. For the price vs food, the food wasn’t worth it. Sure there’s a lot to a portion, but it was not very good – not what it should be! There’s a place in Scottsdale – Bada Boom – that blows Wolfgang out of the water for 1/2 the price. Ok, you’re not in Scottsdale, but the point is, at Wolfgang Pucks you’re paying 100% for the label & since you’re not wearing it, I don’t think its really worth it.
    We found Earl of Sandwich to be a much better choice for the money – though I don’t know if you can use the dining plan.
    We were at the parks last weekend & heard literally 3 different occasions people talking with the Cast Member at check out – apparently they’re always having a run on people trying to use up their snack points. I’m even wondering if the Dining Plan is worth it the way its being run.
    But if it it is – & you can use it – Earl of Sandwich & at Magic Kingdom, Columbia Harbour. Their chowder is out of this world!

  18. Shiraz says:

    I also find the Tangeriene cafe combo platter to be one of the best values for a quick service meal on the plan. It means you don’t have to pick between the chicken and the lamb. It also comes with enough food for two people to share.

  19. Kim says:

    We love Sunshine Seasons. As a matter of fact I look forward to eating there at least twice when we’re there for a week. I love seeing the rotisserie going in the back and knowing my food is being freshly prepared right there. I usually get a half chicken rotisserie and instead of two separate sides I get a double salad. And the desserts are great too. I always get the strawberry shortcake or key lime tart! Super yummy…hey, if you’re gonna splurge on dessert, might as well be worth it!

  20. Pudge the Fish says:

    WPE is our traditional last vacation lunch at Disney. Lunch, last minute shopping at DTD and then off to the airport. We were there the last week in April and I was disppointed to see that the Neiman Ranch Beef flatbread sandwiches were no longer on the menu. (All beef items were removed.) I loved those sandwiches. Had a great pizza though and we will continue to go back. My wife loves the Chinois Salad. We were on the dining plan but the lunch for 4 adults and a child totaled over $95.00!! You just can’t find a better quick service value in all of the World. BTW, huge fans of Cosmic Rays too.

  21. Lynne says:

    We loved Wolfgang Express when we were there last year and are looking forward to using the dining plan in September. When we were there, we paid full price, but I gotta say, on a cold, rainy night at the end of the trip when all of us were getting sick, it was just what we needed!

  22. Mark says:

    Ive heard about Cosmic Rays, however didnt go before, but will make sure to do so in September.. .I thought the picnic in the park was a Table service and not a counter.. would be very interested in doing that as well. Thanks for the info!

  23. AJ says:

    Nicola — Glad to help!! Thanks for the positive comments!

    Remy — Thank you so much for the Riverside Mill comment. There are just too many to choose from, and I had to pick five only — but Riverside is right up there (and, oddly, one of my favorite food courts in the resorts.)

    Dana — I think I’d go for the pulled pork over the picnic…just sayin… Also, YES — you can get a little container of zebra domes in the Mara!

    Evan — Thank you for the positive review of Tangierine and Yakatori! Great ideas!

    Stacey and Sandy — Thanks for the info about the adult meals vs. kids meals on the quick service credits. Sounds like it’s one of those loopholes that some folks at Disney are strict about and some aren’t. Interesting info indeed.

    Matt — Isn’t that weird about the chicken (I do like my chicken, but rarely order it at counter-service!)? Anyway, thanks for the corroboration on the Mara. I know it wouldn’t be a choice if folks are trying to “save time,” but when your goal is leisure and good food, Mara is a great choice.

    Elizabeth — Let us know what you try!

    Elizabeth S — Sunshine Seasons is a top-rated counter service, to be sure! I love that place! The prices aren’t astronomical, though, so I can’t call it a “value” on the dining plan, but it really has some of the best counter-service food on property.

    Clete — Thanks for the back-up on Pepper Market! I actually really like the food there, too.

    AboutWDW — The Anadapur Local Cafe is one of my favorites! Thanks for mentioning!

    Chris — I’ve never had a bad experience at WPE — I love that place. Haven’t been in a while, though; looking forward to going back in the Fall.

    Kelly and Shiraz — GREAT points on the sharing of counter service — talk about value!!! Thanks for the tip!

    Lori — Pecos Bills almost made the list! The toppings bar is phenomenal (as it is at Cosmic Ray’s).

    Gray — I know you love Tangierine! (And wrote a great post about it, too.) Can’t wait til you go back to WDW so I can read all of your dining reviews.

    Janna — I haven’t tried the new menu at Fairfax — is the food quality really that inferior to Cosmic Ray’s? I would have thought it would be the same stuff.

    Rori — Thank you for the insightful comments (as always). Would love to see you do a review of the dining plan some day. Also, Columbia Harbour house also almost made the list, just for the relaxing experience in the middle of the Magic Kingdom (but now Hubby has to try the chowder.)

    Kim — Glad to hear you like the key lime tart — I never have good experience with key lime desserts at counter service spots, but if this one’s good, I’ll take your word for it and try it (I LOVE key lime pie..)

    Pudge — Thanks for the WPE suggestions. Any idea why the beef items were removed? (Love the pizzas there, too!)

    Lynne — WPE is just the closest you can get to a comfortable table service meal when you’re dining counter service. I really enjoy heading there — it’s a different experience altogether than most CS spots.

    Mark — Let us know what you think!

  24. Nancy Toby says:

    Coincidentally, I just asked about the AK Picnic in the Park over at the Disney Mom’s Panel and this is their response:

    http://disneyworldforum.disney.go.com/questions.aspx?where=home&sort=&page=&qid=87534&pid=46&cid=108

  25. kate says:

    just wanted to add that cosmic rays and wolfgang puck express were very good at catering for my boys allergies when we were there last summer. he has many allergies including gluten, dairy, sweetners, they were very good as we hadn’t really expected to be able to get him a CS meal at all. everything pop at pop century were also very good at providing allergy meals for my boy.

  26. AJ says:

    Nancy — Thanks for the update!

    Kate — Great points; Disney’s always great with allergies, but to know that you could eat counter service with no problem is awesome.

  27. Eric K. says:

    Here’s how I understand the whole kids vs. adult quick service credits: The cashiers know you’ve got 2 adults and 2 kids (for example) on the meal plan because it’s printed on your key card. So, if you try and order 3 adult meals at once, the attentive cashier will tell you to change one meal to a kids one. So, if you only order as many adult meals as adults on the plan, you’re OK.

  28. Heidi says:

    Great post AJ! I love Sunshine Seasons as well and Contempo Cafe at The Contemporary is another good quick service choice!

  29. Helen says:

    Speaking of the toppings bar at pecos bills, I recently went in there, asked for just a plate and cup of ice water, went to the toppings bar and made an amazing free salad with lettuce, tomatos, salsa, carmalized onions, sauteed mushrooms, and cheese… mmmmm… and it’s free!

  30. Sarah says:

    Aj, thanks for the great post. We’re trying to decide what CS options to choose to best use our credits and this helps out quite a bit.

    I also love Sunshine Seasons, the chicken there was really fresh and I liked the mashed potatos.

    Helen, unfortunately that’s called stealing and I know the argument will be that we already pay a lot for things in WDW but really, making a “free” salad from a topping bar is just a little too bold for me. I do look forward to enjoying the toppings on the burger I’ll buy when we’re there in December.

  31. frank says:

    For those trying to save a buck and have a good meal (like me) Sunshine Seasons (EPCOT) and Cosmic Ray’s (MK) can’t be beat. Atmosphere is zero but you will feel GOOD that you spent a small amount (for Disney) on a real meal. I have done Shula’s , Kouzzina’s , Ca Grille, Jiko, Artist Pointe
    and some other high end places and they were great but when you get down to it, food is food. I will do some of these places in the future but very sparingly. Like every 5 years or so.

  32. I have several counter service restaurants that I always visit on a trip to WDW. Sunshine Seasons has a great variety, as does Riverside Mill. If the weather is nice, we always enjoy going to Flame Tree BBQ and sitting in one of the back decks. At Magic Kingdom, I really like Columbia Harbour House. Pop Century has a nice food court as well.

  33. Nikki says:

    HIGHLY recommend Wolfgang Puck in Downtown Disney! We ate breakfast — Smoked Bacon Pizza — AMAZING! and HUGE! …then we did some shopping and came back for lunch to go…..We had three quick service meals left (and we were leaving that night) so we used them all to get items to go — Meatloaf EXCELLENT! Turkey Club was great as well as the the Turkey Cobb Salad….I suggest the cheesecake for dessert!! Yummmmy!

  34. Ed says:

    USELESS for anyone who doesn’t feel like constantly ingesting rotisserie chicken. How could you not start feeling a bit odd after suggesting it in EVERY post? Now I just have to go through the menus myself to find practical, useful answers… And ps: the shrimp is as much or more than the chicken at Mara…. Why not use that instead? Are you a chicken farmer?

  35. AJ says:

    Hi Ed! I’m not actually a chicken farmer :-( Thanks for your feedback and suggestion of shrimp at the Mara! And seeing as this post was written a while ago, we really should go through and update with new options. Great idea!

  36. John says:

    I used to have Cosmic Ray’s on my list, however they removed the chicken & rib platter from the lunch menu sometime over the last year or so. Now we frequent Pecos Bill’s when in the Kingdom.

    AFAIK, Fairfax Fare in HS does still have the chicken & ribs combo…strange…

  37. John says:

    Also, regarding the adult vs. child QS meals…

    The number of adults and children is printed right on your key card. So if you have 2 & 2, you will need to make multiple trips if you want to order 4 adult QS meals. The cashiers will not let you order more adult QS meals at one time than you have printed on your card.

    If you ordered 2 adult meals, paid for them, then went back up and ordered 2 more adult meals, you should be fine.

  38. Ilker says:

    Besides the great books you have listed, you can also get recpie cards directly from WDW restaurants. We stumbled upon this hidden gem, one year when we ate at Le Cellier. I had eaten the Fillet Mignon with Mushroom risotto and mentioned to the waiter how great it was. At the end of dinner, he came out with the a pre-printed recpie card of the mushroom risotto! The waiter mentioned that most Disney restaurants will provide the recpie cards for the favorite dishes.’We have tried the mushroom risotto recpie at home and were somewhat successful. The risotto we made was good, but not as good as it is in Le Cellier. Of course!

  39. Bliss says:

    One year we got pastry along with breakfast combo at Pop for 1QS meal. Is that still the case?
    Thanks,

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