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Best Disney World Restaurants Not on the Disney Dining Plan

As you know, Kim L. is our behind-the-scenes manager here at the Disney Food Blog, a Disney World Moms Panelist, and a blogger! You’ll begin to see her name more and more in that little author line! Learn more about her on our staff and contributors page! Here, she discusses her top choices for Disney World restaurants not on the Disney Dining Plan!

UPDATE 4/2012: The restaurants at the Swan and Dolphin Resort are not yet on the Dining Plan, but the others — T-Rex, Rainforest Cafe, Portobello, Fulton’s, Paradiso 37, Wolfgang Puck Cafe The Dining Room, and House of Blues, should now be on the Dining Plan!

Lots of guests want to know the top restaurants when dining with the Disney Dining Plan, but since those restaurants seem to fill up more and more quickly these days, we’ve also been getting requests for recommendations on restaurants not included in the Dining Plan. Here are my picks for the best table service locations that do not participate in the DDP! ;-)

Top 5 Restaurants Not on the Disney Dining Plan, for Adults

Portobello
For guests craving a casual meal with value, Portobello at Downtown Disney dishes out hearty Italian fare. Choose from a value dinner menu, wood-burning oven pizzas, signature sandwiches plus a meatball and beer bar!

AJ recommends the Bucatini!

House of Blues
Got late night munchies at Downtown Disney? House of Blues is open til 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights! The southern-inspired menu includes a large variety of sandwiches and seafood such as Creole Jambalaya. To soothe your soul, look for live musical entertainment on the indoor stage.

Seating and small live music stage

Shula’s Steak House
Located at the WDW Dolphin Resort, Shula’s Steak House focuses on steaks and seafood. The generous portions are appropriate for this darkly lit “man cave” owned by Miami Dolphins football coach, Don Shula. The casual elegance of this restaurant is well-suited for a business meal or special occasion.

Tables and Artwork at Shula's

Fresh Mediterranean Market
Before walking over to Epcot, rise and shine with a buffet breakfast at Fresh Mediterranean Market in the Disney World Dolphin Resort. The morning meal is served a la carte or you can graze at the buffet. The simple dishes have delectable flavors fresh from the garden. Lunch is also served. With a sandwich or salad, an unlimited dessert buffet is included!

Grilled Chicken Panini at Fresh

bluezoo
For your celebration, make a reservation at Todd English’s bluezoo in the WDW Dolphin Resort! Dine on cutting-edge cuisine with the emphasis on seafood specialties. The architecture and the food are works of art.

BBQ Swordfish

Top 5 Restaurants Not on the Disney Dining Plan, for Kids

Rainforest Cafe
There’s a large menu and lots of kid-friendly options at the Rainforest Café. Of the two convenient locations — Downtown Disney and the Animal Kingdom park — the latter is the least crowded. Kids will enjoy watching the audio-animatronic animals and thrill at the simulated thunderstorms. Impress your kids by ordering the volcano dessert to share. Your wild child will enjoy sipping on the frozen concoctions delivered in a souvenir cup!

Frozen souvenir beverage

T-Rex Cafe
If you have aspiring paleontologists or just little dino fans, gather up the family for a meal at the T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney. You’ll dine with audio-animatronic dinosaurs (and cute little woolly mammoths) while waiting for the next simulated meteor shower. The T-Rex Cafe offers a menu that will appeal to the carnivores and herbivores at your table. Kids will find their fare listed under Dino Favorites!

T-Rex Meteor Bites

The Fountain
At the WDW Dolphin Resort, The Fountain serves up kid-friendly eats and ice cream! In fact, the comfort food here is sure to please any weary traveler returning from World Showcase. For a touch of nostalgia, sit at the fountain’s counter! Stock up on a late night snack from the restaurant’s bakery choices. Delicious!

PB and J Milkshake

Garden Grove
Take the family to the Garden Grove at the WDW Swan Resort for the weekend character buffet breakfast. Evening buffets are themed such as Backyard Barbecue and Old South. The park-like setting is kid-friendly and fun!

Fulton’s Crab House
The kids will love dining walking up the gangplank at Downtown Disney to enjoy their meal on this stationary boat, Fulton’s Crab House! Along with fresh seafood, the kids menu includes familiar eats. Before disembarking, set your course for the make your own sundae!

Fultons Crab House

Other options for non-DDP dining include Paradiso 37 (we recommend tapas and margaritas!), Wolfgang Puck Café – Dining Room (the sushi here is great — as is the carrot cake!), Il Mulino (when you have a craving for pasta!), and Kimonos (karaoke anyone?).

Wanna Save Some Dough? Many restaurants at the WDW Swan and Dolphin Resorts plus House of Blues at Downtown Disney are participating at www.restaurant.com. The savings can add up when purchasing a discounted gift certificate.

What are your favorite meals at a Downtown Disney or WDW Swan and Dolphin restaurant?

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15 Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    I would have included Bistro de Paris on the adult list.

  2. Kim says:

    Kelly – Bistro is a great pick for the adult list! So many restaurants, so little time! ;-)

  3. Alan says:

    Between the places Kim has mentioned above and others off the WDW property, I feel the DDP has started to become more of a hindrance than a great idea. For those of us lucky enough to visit on a regular basis, maybe it would be a good idea to use the plan every other visit, so we can try the non-plan restaurants and not get locked into the same old choices.

  4. Mark D. says:

    Just a reminder to pay attention to those restaurant.com certificates as they often have days or times that they can only be used for as well as a minimum you must spend in order to use the certificate.

    Also, never pay full price for the certificate as they very often have 70% and 80% off sales.

  5. Adhi says:

    This is a great list, and it’s nice to see the variety of options outside the parks! I also agree with Alan, the DDP simply does not appeal to me due to it’s various restrictions. While there is obviously some savings associated with it, I feel that it certainly restricts some freedom in dining choices. That, and I’d feel the need to use all the credits even if I wouldn’t have had a snack or dessert otherwise. That being said, I know some people love it. I, on the other hand, can’t wait to try some of these non-DDP locations!

  6. Kim says:

    Alan – the DDP doesn’t really appeal to our family for those very reasons!

    Mark – thanks for the reminder! We always want to make sure to be securing the best discounts available!

    Adhi – The DDP restrictions certainly make it less appealing each year. I’ve got a few of these non-DDP locations on my next ADR list too!

  7. With the entry being located on Buena Visita Drive, it’s hard not to think of Bull & Bear Steakhouse at the Waldorf Astoria. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, and can’t wait to return!

  8. AJ says:

    Deej — We LOVE the Bull and Bear — and La Luce over at the Bonnet Creek Hilton as well. Good points. :-)

  9. Kim says:

    Adding more possibilities to my next WDW dining list!

  10. Jrriddle says:

    Absolutely Bistro de Paris! We love that restaurant, but it seems to get overlooked by alot of park guests. The food is always excellent and we never have a problem getting a reservation…so maybe I should just keep my mouth shut…

  11. Shelly Valladolid says:

    These are all non-Disney restaurants as well. Is there anything on property, that’s a Disney restaurant in a Disney resort or theme park that isn’t on the Dining Plan?

  12. Erin says:

    Shelly, Bistro de Paris does not take the Dining Plan.

  13. Diane_N says:

    Glad–but not at all surprised–to see bluezoo on the list. It’s one of my favorites, not just at Disney, but anywhere in Central Florida, but it’s overlooked by so many because it’s not on DDP.

  14. nikki says:

    has this since changed becuase it looks like all these restaurants are now included in the meal plans

  15. AJ says:

    Nikki — The restaurants at the Swan and Dolphin are not yet on the Dining Plan, but the others — T-Rex, Rainforest Cafe, Portobello, Fulton’s, Paradiso 37, Wolfgang Puck Cafe — Dining Room, and House of Blues, should now be on the Dining Plan! Thanks for the heads up; we’ll make sure the post is updated!

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