HOLIDAY Tips from the DFB Guide: Where to Dine When You Don’t Have a Reservation in Walt Disney World

It’s a pretty common occurrence. You’re in the middle of your Walt Disney World vacation, it’s the holiday season, and you’d love to enjoy a table service meal.

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But there’s only one problem: you don’t have an advance dining reservation (ADR).

Maybe your plans changed, or the weather did. Or it could just be that you planned to grab counter service, but now you’re rethinking that move. Whatever the situation, you might think that all hope is lost. There’s no way you’re getting into any Disney table service restaurant that you didn’t book 180 days out. Right?

You might be surprised to learn that I book a lot of tables just days before I head to Walt Disney World. And it’s not all that rare for me to change things up at the last minute — even during the busiest times of the year!

How do I do it? Flexibility helps a LOT. But if that’s not an option, what you need are some tried and true spots where you can probably score a table with very short notice, or even as a walk up.

Here are our suggestions for Where to Dine When You Don’t Have a Reservation in Walt Disney World. And if you love what you see here, be sure to check out the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining for tons of great tips!

The Wave…of American Flavors

One of my favorite resort dining spots is The Wave…of American Flavors at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Bonus: it’s within walking distance (or monorail ride) of Magic Kingdom!

The Wave offers a hearty start to your day. Enjoy an a la carte breakfast of some of the restaurant’s specialties, like Sweet Potato Pancakes.

Sweet Potato Pancakes with melted butter and maple syrup

Sweet Potato Pancakes with melted butter and maple syrup

And if you can’t make up your mind between sweet and savory, you can opt for the Buffet.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

The Wave Breakfast Buffet

Personally, my favorite meal here is dinner. The restaurant takes a seasonal approach to their menu, so dishes change up regularly. I’d say The Wave is on par with many of Disney’s signature restaurants in terms of its interesting offerings. Don’t miss the Beef Tenderloin — it was one of my favorite meals during a recent visit.

Herb Salt Seasoned Beef Tenderloin

Herb Salt Seasoned Beef Tenderloin

And if the The Wave Bacon and Eggs — a combo of beautiful Pork Belly and a sous-vide “Perfect Egg” — is available on the dinner menu, get it!! You’ll thank me. :-)

The Plaza Restaurant

Imagine dining at an historic spot on Main Street USA, steps away from Cinderella Castle. You probably figure that you’ll need to book that table a full 180 days out. Well…surprise! You don’t. Not when you make a last minute decision to take in a meal at The Plaza Restaurant.

The Plaza Restaurant -- Outside

The Plaza Restaurant — Outside

Even though the restaurant is fairly small, you’ll find that it’s normally not very crowded. And now, the Plaza intentionally holds open space for walk ups.

There are some real winners on the menu. I’ve enjoyed many of the Sandwiches here, and the Chicken Strawberry Salad has a loyal following. And — you guys! — Plaza Loaded Fries!! Yasssssss!

Plaza Loaded Fries

Plaza Loaded Fries

But hands down, my recent favorite has been the Meatloaf Meal. Super flavorful and generously portioned, I crave this one from time to time!

Meatloaf Meal at The Plaza Restaurant

Meatloaf Meal at The Plaza Restaurant

And don’t forget to order one of their Hand-Dipped Milkshakes. Express delivered thanks to the Main Street Ice Cream Parlor right next door, these old-fashioned treats are some of our favorites.

Yak & Yeti Restaurant

Where can you go if you’re looking for a sit down meal in Disney’s wildest park? Yak & Yeti Restaurant is always a solid choice!

Located in the Asia portion of Animal Kingdom, Yak and Yeti is actually operated by Landry’s. But the attention to detail in the decor here would make any Disney Imagineer proud.

Be Sure to Pencil in Extra Time Just to Look Around!

Be Sure to Pencil in Extra Time Just to Look Around!

The fare is a wonderful mix of Pan Asian with some Indian flavors thrown in as well. And here’s a TIP: with small plates, “shareables”, and plenty of interesting cocktails, Yak & Yeti is a great spot to make a meal out of apps. I love the Dim Sum Basket for Two!

Dim Sum Basket for Two

Dim Sum Basket for Two

But absolutely save room for dessert. The Mango Pie gets super high marks, and the Fried Wontons are legendary!

Walt Disney World Lounges

When you find yourself without an ADR but wanting something more than fast food, Disney World bars are lounges are a GREAT alternative. They don’t accept ADRs, so seating is always first come, first serve. And inventive takes on pub grub throughout the ‘World makes these some of our favorite dining spots.

More Seating

Crew’s Cup Lounge at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort

Let’s take a closer look at a few of our favorite spots to enjoy tasty cocktails and delicious food in a relaxed atmosphere.

Nomad Lounge

Nomad Lounge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of my new favorites for sure. To begin, the space is gorgeous. Inside, soaring ceilings celebrate the romance of travel.

Nomad Lounge Bar

Nomad Lounge Bar

Outside, a wrap around terrace overlooks beautiful green spaces. And soon, you’ll be able to spy Pandora from here!

Outdoor Seating

Outdoor Seating

Be sure to take your time as you look at the menu at Nomad Lounge. It’s totally a work of art!

Nomad Lounge Menu

Nomad Lounge Menu

Menu Art and Spice Trader Classic

Menu Art and Spice Trader Classic

The drinks are as well. Try the Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale for something different. If your tastes run to cocktails, you’ll find some inventive ones, and there are also plenty of non-alcoholic cocktail options. We loved the Spice Trader Classic!

Spice Trader Classic

Spice Trader Classic

While bites are pretty light here, we love the option of Tiffins Bread Service in the Lounge!

Tiffins Signature Bread Service

Tiffins Signature Bread Service

We were impressed with Wings as well, and we can’t wait to try the African-spiced Wagyu Beef Sliders on our next visit.

Tune-In Lounge

For a taste of home — home in the 1950s, that is — check out Tune-In Lounge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The lounge is adjacent to 50s Primetime Cafe. In fact, it kind of serves as the waiting area for the restaurant.

Tune In Lounge

Tune-In Lounge

The full bar is a fantastic spot for people watching as you enjoy a drink — like the groovy classic, Dad’s Electric Lemonade!

Dad's Electric Lemonade

Dad’s Electric Lemonade

But here’s the best news — you can also order from 50s Prime Time’s full menu! So go ahead — enjoy Fried Herb and Garlic Cheese or Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken without an ADR!

Aunt Liz's Golden Fried Chicken

Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken

Territory Lounge

But we’ve saved one of our very favorites for last — Territory Lounge.

Territory Lounge

Territory Lounge Dressed Up For the Holidays!

This spot, located at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, is one of the best places to hang out at Walt Disney World. Whether I’m looking to just enjoy a quiet glass of wine, or I’m interested in some hearty bar food, they always have just what I’d like.

Wine! Yay!

Wine! Yay!

And the cozy atmosphere — and cool carved bears! — keep me coming back again and again. As for bites, DO NOT MISS the Fondue. It changes names — currently, it’s boasting Chardonnay in the mix — but it’s always amazing.

Pinot Grigio Fondue -- Up Close

Fondue — Up Close

And if they also have the donuts — GET THEM. You’re welcome.

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Ready for All of Our Best Tips?

We’ve got TONS of Disney World Dining Tips — including even more restaurant suggestions for your every need — in our big, bold 2017 DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining!

With more than 600 pagesThe DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining is full of tips and planning tools developed by Disney World experts over 20+ years of visits. We’ve done the research for you, so you’ll know just which spots will uniquely suit your family’s needs!

With sample dining itineraries, plus our “Disney Dining at a Glance” section, featuring “Where Can I Find?” options, you’ll have everything you need to plan your best vacation yet. Click here to get your copy of The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining E-book — and use code HAPPYPLACE for a 20% discount!

Now we want to hear from YOU! What are your best little-known tips, finds, and hidden secrets for dining in Walt Disney World? Leave a comment and share below!

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