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Best Disney World Restaurants for First Time Disney Visitors

Everyday we receive lots of mail from you, our awesome DFB readers, asking for restaurant suggestions and recommendations. And while we certainly have our favorites, we know that you do, too!

So when a Disney first-time visitor recently asked what restaurants we would recommend for their upcoming trip, we couldn’t think of a better panel of experts to ask than YOU!

When I put the question out on the Disney Food Blog Facebook page, I was overwhelmed by the huge and immediate response that I got!

Let’s take a look at your recommendations for the restaurants first timers must experience on that inaugural Walt Disney World trip!

If you have other thoughts or ideas — or, better yet, stories of your favorite restaurants during a first-time visit — please share them with all of us in the comments section! More suggestions are always better!

Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort

When it comes to first time Disney dining, the winning restaurant recommendation is, hands down, Chef Mickey’s in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Many of you agree that anyone visiting the Happiest Place on Earth for the very first time MUST experience a buffet that includes lots of character interaction.

Chef Mickey's is highly recommended by our DFB Readers!

But the suggestion is practical, too. Readers pointed out that a character dining experience offers terrific value for your Disney dollar, with an all-you-care-to-eat option.

A View of the Castle from Chef Mickey's

And with the addition of characters, you have a less rushed (and air conditioned!) meet and greet opportunity that guarantees you’ll see lots of characters without waiting in long lines in the parks.

Also, don’t forget that Chef Mickey’s is walking distance from the Magic Kingdom. This is a great
place to start or end your Magic Kingdom day!

Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland

Judging from the reader response, we’d say that Disney definitely hit the mark with one of its newest restaurants, Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland.

Be Our Guest Restaurant Bridge Entrance

Set in Beast’s Castle (from Disney’s animated classic, Beauty and the Beast), the huge eatery is a counter service location for lunch and table service location for dinner (see our “Everything on the Menu!!” Review Here!).

Be Our Guest Restaurant Ballroom

The menu has a French flair — and chefs worked hard to create tasty, interesting meals for the younger set as well.

Be Our Guest Restaurant also has the distinction of being the only spot within Magic Kingdom where guests can order beer and wine. While it broke with tradition when Disney announced the decision to offer adult drinks in the otherwise dry park, they felt it was necessary in keeping with the French-inspired menu.

The Beast occasionally greets visitors in his study during dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant

Many guests celebrate special occasions at Be Our Guest Restaurant, and if that’s you, be sure to mention it to your server. He may actually bring you a celebratory taste of “The Grey Stuff” — mentioned by Lumiere in the film!

This cookies and cream panna cotta truly is “delicious!”

The Grey Stuff -- It's Delicious!

Guests seem to be loving this spot for many reasons, and Advanced Dining Reservations for dinner remain hard to come by.

While we’ve tasted just about everything here and agree that the food’s quite good, most of you especially love it for the incredible, immersive themeing. So, remember that even if you can’t get a reservation for dinner, you can still enjoy the restaurant itself — including getting a peek at all three dining rooms — if you dine here for a counter-service lunch!

braised pork -- coq au vin at Be Our Guest Restaurant -- for LUNCH!

Here’s a TIP: if at all possible, snag a table in the West Wing and keep an eye on the Prince’s portrait!

‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

The fan base for ‘Ohana in Disney’s Polynesian Resort came out loud and clear in support of their favorite restaurant.

We heard from lots of you that a Disney World vacation isn’t complete without least one meal here, with dinner enjoying the highest number of votes. (Though the delicious character breakfast featuring Mickey, Lilo, and Stitch is no slouch!)

'Ohana Fire Pit

While ‘Ohana can be a little uneven at times in service and quality, we’ve heard from many of you lately that it’s back on top in both areas.

With a unique family-style feast of Polynesian-style “churrascaria” and a show kitchen that can’t be beat (all that meat!), first time visitors will walk away with an experience that is both unique and delicious.

And don’t forget to save room for one of the best desserts at Disney — Pineapple Coconut Bread Pudding with Bananas Foster Sauce!

Bananas Foster Bread Pudding at 'Ohana

But another huge reason for the ‘Ohana love is the fantastic view of Magic Kingdom fireworks that you’ll have if you happen to time your dinner reservations just right. Between that and the bread pudding, you’ll be a Disney fan for life!

50s Prime Time Cafe in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

You had better eat those veggies and keep your elbows off the table! While DFB readers love good eats, fantastic themeing and engaging (sometimes downright cheeky) service also win big points. Many of our readers said that anyone venturing to Disney World for the first time must be sure to book a table at 50s Primetime Cafe.

50s Prime Time Sign

Located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this table service spot serves comfort food with a hearty helping of nostalgia. Tiny black and white TVs roll clips from old sitcoms as you feast on Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes or Chicken Pot Pie.

Don’t forget to ask for a “TV Table” when you check in!

Our TV Table at 50s Prime Time Cafe

Of course, we highly recommend you order our favorite Disney menu item of all time — the fried herb cheese appetizer! It was newly brought back to the menu after years away, and we couldn’t be happier!

Fried Herb Cheese

And ordering a drink from Dad’s Liquor Cabinet is a way fun bonus!

Dad's Electric Lemonade

If you book a table, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to explore all the fun decor here. It’s truly an amazing throwback to the mid-20th century.

And here’s a TIP: if you go to the restroom, be sure to note the color of the soap. After all, your “Cousin” (that’s your server) may ask to make sure you washed your hands! (If you’re a 50s Primetime newbie, be sure to read some of our favorite readers’ experiences here!)

Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square

While some of you can’t wait to book a table with Mickey and Minnie, still others feel that the quintessential Disney dining experience is tied more to history and reliably good food.

Those were the top reasons why you cited Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom as a must do for your first timers dining list.

Liberty Tree offers an a la carte menu during lunch and a family style, all you care to eat affair at dinner, meaning that you can actually have two meals here and have completely different experiences.

Lunch at Liberty Tree Tavern offers pasta, sandwiches, this incredible Pot Roast (which my husband orders on every visit), and the to-die-for dessert — Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake!

Liberty Tree Tavern Pot Roast

Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake at Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom

But the dinner at Liberty Tree — basically a traditional Thanksgiving meal served family style has a big following, too!

Roast Pork, Turkey, and Beef with Cornbread Stuffing and Chutney at Liberty Tree Tavern

Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy

Throughout all of the many comments we received, there was another resounding suggestion: first timers must eat somewhere in Epcot’s World Showcase. One of your very favorite international-inspired spots is Via Napoli in the Italy Pavilion.

Via Napoli's Pizza Ovens

And why not? A recent addition to the Italy Pavilion, Via Napoli offers some of the best pizza that we’ve had anywhere, ever (and especially at Disney!).

Pizzas are thin-crust and made with imported water to better reach the dough consistency you’d experience if you were dining right in Naples, Italy. Try the Italian Margherita, our favorite Quattro Formaggi, or one of the many other pizza options on the menu! And don’t forget to sample some of the amazing new beers that they are starting to feature here!

Via Napoli Pizza Margherita

Of course, pasta might also be your choice… Isn’t this gorgeous?!?

Candele from Via Napoli

 

We also love the setting, including the three enormous wood-burning ovens named after Italian volcanoes. You definitely won’t go wrong — food-wise — planning a meal here.

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness Resort

We were super excited to see that many of our readers loved and suggested Hoop De Doo Musical Revue Dinner Show at Ft. Wilderness as a favorite for first timers! We couldn’t agree more!

This classic “hootenanny” combines singing, dancing, and wacky comedy for 2 hours of family fun that will keep you rolling.

Napkin Twirling and other Audience Participation Will Occur

While you enjoy the entertainment, you’ll also be eating some delicious foods – Fried Chicken, Barbecue Ribs, plus yummy sides.

Hoop Dee Doo Revue Bucket of Fried Chicken

Grownups can also enjoy unlimited beer, wine, and sangria, and soft drinks are available, too. And be sure to save room for the awesome and delicious Strawberry Shortcake!

Strawberry Shortcake

Boma at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and/or Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Sometimes at Disney you need a little something different, and many DFB readers passionately avowed their love for the restaurants on property specializing in African flavors! But of all of them, Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom were your favorites.

Atmosphere and Buffet at Tusker House

With similar menus, you can’t go wrong by choosing one or the other of these buffet-style feasts.

Featuring African specialties like Quinoa Porridge, Bobotie, and beautiful pastries, breads, chutneys, and spreads, you’ll find a lot to tempt your taste buds. Check out our recent Tusker House Review for dozens of food photos!

Boma Breakfast Pastries

One point of distinction: if you’re looking for a character experience, choose Tusker House for breakfast or lunch.

Characters are not there for dinner at Tusker House, or for any of the meals at Boma.

Goofy strikes at pose at Tusker House in Disney's Animal Kingdom

Be sure to try the Jungle Juice, too!

Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada

Many readers agreed that a first visit to Disney World should include a stop at one of the resort’s signature restaurants. While a few different spots were mentioned, Le Cellier in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion garnered the most buzz.

With some of the best steaks that we’ve ever tried, this spot wins rave reviews for its consistently good food and cozy setting. The service is often very good here as well.

Inside Le Cellier

Our favorite items here are the Poutine and Mushroom Filet with Risotto. But don’t take my word for it! There are plenty of options to sample.

Just remember, this restaurant is now a signature meal — which means 2 Disney Dining Plan credits and a hefty price tag for out of pocket payers — for both lunch and dinner.

Mushroom Filet Mignon with White Truffle Butter Sauce and Micro Chevril

And if dessert is on your radar, we are big fans of the Maple Crème Brûlée!

Maple Crème Brûlée

Les Halles Bakery in Epcot’s France

For your final food stop, First Timers, DFB loyal readers want to make sure you don’t miss out on one of Epcot’s newest stops, Patisserie Boulangerie Les Halles.

Les Halles

While there has been a bakery stop in the France Pavilion for quite some time, a recent upgrade to this super popular counter service eatery has resulted in some much-needed indoor seating, and more room for the lines (which can sometimes get quite long).

Les Halles Seating

There has also been an expansion to the menu. Now, in addition to pastries and sandwiches, you can enjoy many more soups and salads here as well.

Salads at Les Halles

It’s also a terrific stop for those who would like a gourmet coffee or glass of French wine. Check out an extensive Epcot Les Halles Review here!

Chocolate tart, creme brulee, strawberry tart.

And Now It’s YOUR Turn to Share Your Suggestions!

And there you have it! Our DFB Readers’ suggestions for the Disney restaurants that you simply must try on your first visit to Walt Disney World! It’s a big list to be sure, so we recommend taking a few of these picks and incorporating them into your plans. Or, if you’re anything like us, just try them all!

We’d like to thank you for stopping by and making all sorts of fantastic recommendations. And while we couldn’t list them all, we really appreciate all of your input!

What are your favorite recommendations for a first time diner at Disney? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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125 Comments

  1. Samantha says:

    Fulton’s Crab House and Kona Cafe were the best we ate at. obviously Be Our Guest was fantastic too although we only had lunch…twice! :-)
    Overall ambiance goes to Coral Reef and Cinderella’s Royal Table
    Can’t wait to go back and eat at all of these places again!!!

  2. Paul Saint says:

    I cannot go from reading this article without recommnded a couple of places that are not only providing great food. They are also a VERY good value, especially if guests are visiting on a budget. I have a place in each park to suggest for first timers. First off, is one of my favorite places in all of WDW: FlameTree Barbecue. I’m not a ri b fan, though they do look tasty. But I NEVER miss the chance to get the half-chicken, which comes with cole slaw and baked beans (with wonderful flavor!). I always get the onion rings, too, which is simply tradition with me and those who go with me there. They’re just as wonderful. From the Magic Kingdom, I actually have two places: Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Columbia Harbour House. The Inn, with its taco salad, that my roommate NEVER gets tired of and the chicken sandwich, which is my fave, has the condiment area, including sauteed mushrooms and grilled onions. Harbour House is a wonderful change from the usual park grub. I’m currently hooked on the healthy option of grilled salmon, broccoli and couscous. From EPCOT, you cannot do better than Sunshine Seasons, with its five areas to choose a meal from, ranging from sandwiches to salads to full meals, you have more than enough choices. Just do not forget to stop by the dessert counter at the end! Finally, at Studios, I LOVE the Backlot Express, nearby Star Tours and Indiana Jones Show! I have never been disappointed by the food there. Plus, there are enough set pieces and memorablia to keep your occupied while you finish your meal. Hope this helps some of your first-timers out. Happy Disney Dreams and Meals!

  3. Lisa Brown says:

    I’d like to suggest Whispering Canyon at the Wilderness Lodge!

  4. Carole Hodge says:

    The tea room at the Grand Floridian! It is an experience like no other at Disney. It is a great break for Mom and daughter or the girls. I did it for Mothers day with my daughter.

  5. Courtney says:

    Thank you for this list. My family will be going to Disney World for the first time in the fall and I have no clue where to go this seems to be a great list I’m so excited to try these places!

  6. Jan D says:

    As seniors, we LOVED most of the restaurants, but our top two were Citricos and the Flying Fish. Both had fabulous service, and yummy food, beautifully plated, and desserts we are still talking about 5months later.

  7. Judy B. says:

    We’ve had great meals at the Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios. Be sure to try the grapefruit cake. Don’t forget many of the Epcot restaurants if you are willing to try food native to other countries. Germany is great and you will be entertained by the German live music. Last year we returned to the Coral Reef restaurant and while a little disappointed in what we felt was a limited menu, the food was good and it was fun to watch the fish swim by in the huge aquarium. And don’t forget Tony’s on Main St. in the Magic Kingdom. It’s good place to have a late afternoon lunch and watch the parade.

  8. Meredith says:

    Our family never misses the Biergarten in EPCOT’s Germany pavilion! It is great for larger families and they offer something tasty for even the pickiest eaters. The kids love to get out on the dance floor for some German-style dancing and might even do “The Chicken Dance.” We also love to get a dinner reservation around 7:30 and head out for a great viewing area for the EPCOT fireworks. We have ended our WDW vacation like this and I think we had a permanent smile on our faces for weeks!

  9. Jenny St Louis says:

    Looking for affordable options. Going on a tight budget.. We are fine with quick service like food if need be.. I don’t want to pay 40-50$ everytime we eat.. Is this possible? HELP if anyone has any suggestions on price breakdowns please email me at stlouisjenny@gmail.com

  10. chris says:

    Am I the only person that thought Chef Mickeys was overrated? Maybe we just had a bad experience but the wait was unbelievably long, the food was not that great, the noise level was super high and the character interaction was not that great. We had to track down Minnie Mouse because she never made it to our table. We have been to Disney twice and done nearly every character mean and both of our kids, now 9 and 14, agree that the only one they really want to do again and again is the Garden Grill at Epcot. Food is amazing, it’s all you can eat but they bring it to you rather than you having to get up over and over, the restaurant spins, and you get to meet Chip and Dale along with Mickey and Pluto. Even my husband loves it there. It’s even better if you go on the Behind the Seeds tour first. Apart from that I agree with everything else on the list. Liberty Tree in particular is a wonderful place to eat.

  11. Ashley P. says:

    I absolutely LOVE Coral Reef in Epcot, which has an amazing aquarium view of the aquarium from The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Also, there’s NOTHING like eating at Cinderella’s Royal Table. How could you go wrong eating in Cinderella’s Castle???

  12. Buffy says:

    Jenny, I would suggest getting the disney dining plan. It will allow you to budget, but also you don’t have to worry about how much a sit down entree costs. Drinks are included with the quick service meal and sit down. Plus you get refillable mug. You can also arrange through a grocer like garden grocer to have water or other items delivered to your room. It makes a huge difference.

  13. Tyisha says:

    Another option for a morning character breakfast is Cape May Cafe, located at the Beach Club Resort. I’ve never been to Chef Mickey’s and tried to get reservation there, but not successful. Luckily, Cape May Cafe doesn’t seem to book as quickly and the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet offered lots of delicious choices. We got to meet Minnie, Donald, and Goofy. All were dressed in their beach attire. It may be missing a few characters, but the food and service were great!! After we left, I didn’t feel do bummed about missing out on Chef Mickey’s. Of course, I still would like to go there since I’ve heard so many great things, I would not hesitate to book Cape May again.

  14. Stacy says:

    Whispering Canyon Cafe, for sure, especially with kids…we also liked the Sci-Fi Dine in at the studios, and Coral Reef at Epcot…

  15. Tami TX says:

    Our first Disney Dining experience was Sci-Fi and in 1991. We have been going to Disney every other year since then and every trip, my kids and now grandkids always make sure the I have a reservation at Sci-Fi. There is no place like it. Atmosphere, burger, onion rings, YUMMY!!!

  16. Sue Y says:

    The 50′s Primetime Cafe is my family’s favorite place but it really depends who is going and at what stage in life they are at…..and the characters really adapt to whatever stage in life you are at. We went to the Cinderella dinner at 1900 and the table next to us was a mom with 3 small children. The mom was so nasty to the step sisters and Lady Tremaine. When Lady Tremaine got to our table she made fun of me for reserving this venue full of children and then insisted we get a picture together as our streaks of gray hair matched. It is one of my favorite Disney moments ever….and I loved how they made faces when you took a picture…..

  17. Diane says:

    We have been to Disney many times and have used the meal plan frequently. We just returned from a visit last week. We ate a Mama Melrose’s in Hollywood Studios for the first time, and it may be our new favorite. Our party ranged in age from 6 to 18 to 50 plus and all six of us we well pleased with our meal.

  18. Kristin says:

    The Sci-Fi Drive-in theater at Hollywood Studios. That’s a favorite
    And never miss it on trips to Disney. It’s a must do when we visit.

  19. Tammy says:

    I agree with most of this list. But Chef Mickey is totally overrated. Every other character meal we have had at WDW has been amazing. Just not that one.
    For first time visitors I would also recommend Sci-Fi @ Hollywood Studios.

  20. Harry Gephart says:

    They are all very good choices, but yiu left out the Grand Floridian Cafe. They’re fare is fairly simple but extremely delicious. The prices are very moderate and the offerings are averagely priced depending on your order. I’ve had the steak which melts in your miuth, the shrimp and grits and the pork chops. My wife and daughters always order the burger topped with lobster. The staff is very friendly and accommodating and try to take care of your every wish within reason. You also mentioned the Hoop De Do Revue. It’s a good place to go for first timers, but it seems that lately they try to rush you to eat and get out. I understand that this is a dinner show, and they have to keep a schedule, but making you force food down your throat is not all that much fun for me. The food is good, especially the strawberry short cake, but if you’re not wanting to watch a show, they offer the same food next door at the Trails End in a buffet setting which is just as good, and this usually our choice since we have an RV and stay in the campsites, or as we like to sat luxury roughing.

  21. Steve says:

    All first timers have to eat breakfast at Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom. Great variety of food choice with Winnie the Pooh characters. This is a for sure for us every time we go.

  22. Ed Adams says:

    Pepper’s Market at the Coronado is delicious and inexpensive. Skip the Hoop-de-doo if your budget is tight and eat at the Trail’s End restaurant instead. Same basic food. Right next door. Great atmosphere. Kids love picking out what they like to eat. Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club has a great, all-you-can-eat seafood bar. We visit Olivia’s at the Key West pretty often on our trips. For inexpensive, try the waffle sandwiches at Sleepy Hollow in Magic Kingdom.

  23. Brittany says:

    Crystal Palace for breakfast gets my vote! I’m happy to see 50s Prime Time was already included, too. As far as Epcot goes, you can’t go wrong eating in Japan – green tea ice cream is the best food ever invented (and I say this as a serious ice cream fanatic).

  24. Kara says:

    I would also suggest Tony’s, the Lady and the Tramp inspired Italian Restaurant. It’s a very nice setting and the food is delicious! The waiters are very kind as well.

  25. Katheryn says:

    I really enjoy Raglan Road in Downtown Disney. The food is delicious and the ambiance is very neat expecially when the dancers are on stage.

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