Reader Favorites: Best Walt Disney World Counter Service Restaurants

Whelp, it’s time to re-visit one of our favorite topics around here: Best Disney World Counter Service Restaurants!

 

We polled our readers back in 2009 for their favorites, and things are looking slightly different these days… ;-)

We recently asked our Disney Food Blog Facebook Fans via the Disney Food Blog Facebook page for the best counter service restaurants inside the theme parks at Walt Disney World. Let’s find out where everyone is eating…

Best Magic Kingdom Counter Service Restaurants

Best Disney World Counter Service Restaurants

Winner: Columbia Harbour House
In a quiet corner of the Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square, the Columbia Harbour House sets the scene for traditional Americana in a colonial village — and steals our Best Magic Kingdom Counter Service title away from Pecos Bill’s this year!

Columbia Harbour House

The decor of the restaurant emphasizes a nautical theme with plank flooring and hurricane lamps. Downstairs, seating is divided into small dining rooms giving the space a colonial charm.

Here’s a Favorite DFB Tip: The upstairs seating area is usually the quietest and offers some tables with quaint views. Brick hearths add even more “warmth” to the dark-wooded rooms.

Grilled Salmon… this meal belongs on a real plate.

Serving popular soups (awesome clam chowder!), salads, and sandwiches such as the Lighthouse (hummus with tomato and broccoli slaw) and Anchors Aweigh (white tuna with lettuce and tomato) served on toasted multigrain bread; and recently adding a Lobster Roll and Grilled Salmon to the menu, Columbia Harbour House offers selections beyond the usual chicken nugget fare. (Although, there are those too!)

Lobster Roll with real chunks of lobster at Columbia Harbour House

Runners Up: Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, Be Our Guest Restaurant (lunch only), and Casey’s Corner.

Best Epcot Counter Service Restaurants

Winner: Sunshine Seasons
Soarin’ isn’t the only main attraction in The Land pavilion! According to our readers, Sunshine Seasons gets a lot of traffic too.

Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons

With five food stations including a [Read more…]

Star Wars Weekends Darth Vader Cupcake and Other Specialty Foods

Darth Vader and R2D2 are where it’s at when it comes to food at this year’s Star Wars Weekends in Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

This chocolate peanut butter cupcake has been upgraded with a white chocolate Darth and a couple of dueling chocolate light sabers on top! We found this one at Starring Rolls Cafe.

The taste is still out of this world, and the gooey, fudgey peanut butter chocolate center is well worth the cost of the cupcake!

Darth Vader Cupcake

If you’d rather fight for the good guys, pick up the [Read more…]

Give Kids The World: The Power of 10 Breakfast Buffet May 22, 2011

Dun dun dun, da da dun, da da dun… Dun dun dun, da da dun, da da dun… Are you hearing what I’m hearing? The Imperial March from Star Wars? Not so much?

Well it was worth a try in order too introduce this incredible fundraising event being put on this Sunday, May 22nd, by a group of Disney fans and web folks called The Power of 10 Confronts the Dark Side. Benefiting Give Kids the World Village, the event will be an opportunity for Star Wars, Star Tours, and Disney fans to get together and celebrate the re-opening of Star Tours, but also to raise money for a great organization that makes dreams come true for children with life-threatening illnesses every single day.

Event Details

When: Sunday, May 22nd 6:30-9:30am
What: Breakfast Buffet
Where: Inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios Backlot Express, adjacent to Star Tours

Breakfast will be served inside [Read more…]

New “Designer” Burgers at Disney World

After debuting the snazzy new hot dogs at Lunching Pad, Disney decided that it’s time to make bigger, better burgers!

Cheddar cheeseburger at ABC Commissary is topped with fried shrimp

Magic Kingdom
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe: Angus burger topped with Cheddar cheese, guacamole and bacon.

Epcot
Liberty Inn:
1. Veggie burger with Monterey Jack cheese, avocado, tomato and lettuce
2. Angus burger topped with smoked ham, bacon, smoked Gouda cheese, red onion, tomato, pickle, lettuce and mustard aioli sauce.

Electric Umbrella: Mushroom-blue burger with sautéed mushrooms, bacon, blue cheese, fried onion straws, lettuce and [Read more…]

Disney Food For Families: The Fab Four of Kid Food — Pizza, Pasta, Hot Dogs and Chicken Nuggets

Disney Food for Families columnist and Disney World Moms Panelist Erin Foster has more great info about kids’ dining in Disney World!

Casey's Corner Hot Dog, Fries, and Fixins

If your family is like mine, then at some point at least one of your children will go through a picky eater phase — where he or she will ONLY eat a certain type of food, texture of food, color of food, or food prepared in a certain way.

Luckily the chefs at Walt Disney World are well acquainted with the picky eater syndrome. They’ve seen it all before and can accommodate most childhood food idiosyncrasies. That’s one of the reasons WDW became such a frequent destination for us; dining out with our fussy daughter was a breeze compared to other vacation spots.

The Fab Four of Kid Food

Some common variations on the picky eater theme are the kids who will only eat pizza, or pasta, hot dogs, or chicken nuggets. While these favorites are, of course, readily available in the parks, they are not all available at [Read more…]

Guest Review — Theme Park Throw Down: Counter Service

After long deliberation, Nick T. of Disney & Beyond has ranked the four Walt Disney World Theme Parks based on his interpretation of the quality of their counter service offerings! Every once in a while we like to stir things up on the Disney Food Blog, so we’d love to hear your opinion on the matter — did Nick get it right, or would you change some things around?  Take it away, Nick!

Backlot Express

Just over a month ago, a friend and I, both avid readers of The Disney Food Blog, got into a debate about the best overall counter service options in Walt Disney World’s parks. What started as a fun, simple discussion quickly turned heated, and I started to wonder what the reaction would be if I shared my opinions with the world. Thanks to AJ, now I can. I’d simply like to rank, in my humble opinion, the four Disney World theme parks based on counter service offerings.

For this list, I have taken into account both food and atmosphere. The food part is obvious, but I take atmosphere into account because I feel that is what makes the experience uniquely Disney, and it can actually add to the dining experience. But enough of this chit chat, yak yak, and flim flam. Just refrain from hibernating and enjoy the show. (Some Disney Fudge to whoever is the first to recognize that line.)

ABC Commissary

4. Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Yes, I rank the park formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios as the worst overall in park counter service. Why? Well, to me, both the food selection and the atmosphere of the counter service restaurants in the park are quite [Read more…]

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!”