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…]

Top 6 Disney Dining Plan Snack Credit Values for 2012

As always, we want to make sure all of us are getting the best value with our Disney Dining Plan snack credits!

For those who are unfamiliar with the Disney Dining Plan, it’s a way for guests to pre-pay for their dining when visiting Disney World. “Snack credits” are used by guest to purchase items like popcorn, candy, ice cream, and other low-cost treats.

I’ll list my top six choices, then you tell me your experiences. Let’s work together on finding the best snack credit deals!

Note that snack credits are usually accepted for items that are a single serving, and cost $4.50 or less (though some cost as much as $4.99 out of pocket).

1. Bakeries

A Disney Food Blog staff and reader favorite — bakeries! Not only can you use your snack credit for some incredible treats, but you can also get a pastry for your morning meal. Hey, it’s vacation!

Don’t forget to check out our Disney World Bakery Throw Down to see some of the very best spots to spend those credits.

Disney World Cinnamon Roll at Main Street Bakery

Consider some of these options at bakeries around Disney World: cinnamon rolls, butterfinger cupcakes, caramel cupcakes, white chocolate elephant cupcake, crepes, school bread…and so much more!

These are all great deals for one single snack credit.

2. Ice Cream Sundaes and Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches

Recently, I’ve been overwhelmed with what kinds of sundaes you can get for a snack credit in Disney World! Easily costing $4.50 or more out of pocket, these sundaes are awesome deals!

Stop by Storybook Treats in the Magic Kingdom to snag a Cookie Fudge Sundae that you can easily split between two! Other options at Storybook Treats include a Brownie Sundae and a yummy Strawberry Shortcake Sundae!

Hot Fudge and Caramel Cookie Sundae at Storybook Treats

Another ice creamy treat that’s not-to-be-missed is the homemade ice cream cookie sandwich. You can get these at all four parks, and while the snack credit payment option [Read more…]

Sunshine Tree Terrace Updates Entrees, Adds New Desserts

Editor’s Note: Menu entree items are seasonal and may not be available on your visit.

I absolutely love Sunshine Tree Terrace in the Magic Kingdom, and I’m always excited to see it expanding its menu!

After years of neglect and closure, Sunshine Tree Terrace has really come into its own again this past year. The menu has bounced around a bit, but it looks like entrees are back again, and there are even new drinks and desserts! (Thanks to @MansonRepublica for the tip and menu photo!)

MENU — EARLY APRIL 2012

Sunshine Tree Terrace Menu April 2012 -- click for larger image

The menu has added:

  • Orange Glazed Chicken with Rice
  • Asian Barbecued Pork Sandwich with apple slices or chips
  • Tuna Salad with Croissant
  • Asian Salad with Chicken
  • Asian Pineapple Salad…and EVEN
  • KEY LIME PIE!!!!

These entrees and desserts are available from 11AM to 4PM. For kids, a Turkey Sandwich and PB&J have been added to the menu.

Of course, that Citrus Swirl is now officially on the main menu! And you can now also get All Natural Lemonade with Wildberry Foam (whatever that is). As you can see, Dole Whips are [Read more…]

DFB Podcast Episode 2: Counter-Service Finds

Hey all! Thanks for your generous welcome of our new DFB Podcast into your listening list!

Just wanted to drop a line this afternoon to let you know that the second episode of our DFB Podcast is now posted and ready for downloading!

In this episode, we take a look at Disney Food News, answer listener questions, reveal our trivia winner from last week, and take a look at some new (and new-to-us) counter-service options that we found on our recent vacations!

Click here to go to the Podcast page. And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast via RSS or on iTunes!

Take a gander and a listen and let us know what you think! Your feedback is important to us — we’re still super new at all of this and want to make sure we’re packing the podcast full of info that YOU want.

Friday Happy Hour: Downtown Disney Margarita Bar

Situated on the boardwalk of Downtown Disney’s Marketplace in Orlando, the Margarita Bar serves up margaritas, bottled beverages, a Rum Runner, draft beer, frozen drinks, and yes, even cigars! It’s a handy little escape prior to a dinner reservation, or to relax on a sunny Orlando afternoon.

This week (and for several weeks previous, according to the bartender), the drink special was a Grapefruit Margarita.

Atmosphere

The Margarita Bar is tucked a bit out of the way of the main Downtown Disney thoroughfare — in fact, it’s a few steps down and situated right on the dock next to the Downtown Disney Marina!

The Bar itself is more of a kiosk — a small island-esque shack on the dock with several umbrella-clad tables close by.

Margarita Bar

Thankfully after strolling around in the hot Florida sun, those tables alongside the marina provide some shade! And the live music on the waterfront invites guests to unwind. Frequently, [Read more…]

Guest Review: Gasparilla Grill and Games at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort


Editor’s Note: The lobster mac and cheese is no longer offered at Gasparilla Island Grill.

Thanks to Chantel B. for sending along these great photos and mini-reviews from Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort’s Gasparilla Grill and Games!

Gasparilla Grill and Games overlooks the marina at Disney’s Grand Floridian. Open 24-hours (!!!), this quick-service restaurant makes a great late night stop when leaving the Magic Kingdom. Dinner items are served until 11:30 p.m., then late night snacks are available overnight.

Dining indoors can be a bit noisy since this space also functions as the arcade. For a view of Cinderella’s Castle (and a quieter atmosphere) in the distance, dine at an outdoor table.

View from Gasparilla Grill

You can check out our full review with more atmosphere pics here! But let’s take a look at Chantel’s reviews of some very popular Gasparilla dishes…

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese

If you’re not staying at the Grand Floridian, this dish is worth a trip to the resort! The Lobster meat was small, not chunked. And the gruyere cheese blend had a nice creamy texture.

Lobster Mac and Cheese

Chicken Sandwich plus Mozzarella & Tomato Salad

Served on a wheat bun, this sandwich had a nice flavor (obviously marinated) and not dry! The salad was [Read more…]

Sunshine Seasons Strawberry Shortcake: A “Best Snack Value” in Epcot

As you know, we’ve just released our brand new The DFB Mini-Guide to Epcot Snacks, and we’ve got a special tip from the book today!

As many of you know, it can be difficult to decide how to get the best value with your Disney Dining Plan snack credits or vacation dollars while in Walt Disney World. And while you can get a Mickey Bar anywhere, some guests want a more unique treat.

Here’s where we com in! When visiting Epcot, Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion is a convenient location in Future World for a great snack. The restaurant is located downstairs — just steps from Soarin’ — and offers dozens of market-fresh treats and meals. One of our very favorites is this Strawberry Shortcake, which has quickly reached cult favorite status for repeat Disney guests!

Sunshine Seasons Strawberry Shortcake

Smooth, creamy whipped cream, decadent vanilla shortcake, and fresh strawberries make this snack an incredible value for the dollar — and it’s [Read more…]

My Three Favorite Disney World Counter-Service Breakfasts

Let’s admit it — most of us don’t have time to grab a long, leisurely breakfast when we’re in Disney World. Usually it’s up-and-at-‘em, throw some clothes on, grab the kids, and get over to rope drop for the park of the day!

But sometimes I like to take a few minutes to grab a classic Disney counter-service breakfast, and when that happens, these are my go-to options! I’d love to hear your favorite counter-service breakfasts — share your top choices in the comments section below!

Tonga Toast

This is one case where you can get one of the very best menu items at a table-service restaurant…but fast! Disney’s Polynesian Resort’s Tonga Toast is an icon of Disney food — sweet bananas all wrapped up in thick french toast and covered in cinnamon and sugar!

Disney's Polynesian Resort Tonga Toast

It’s an amazing treat, and you can get it for cheap at the Polynesian’s Captain Cook’s Snack Company counter-service restaurant. Only available in the mornings, it’s a great way to start your day!

Main Street Bakery Cinnamon Roll

You’d think that you would be able to eat a cinnamon roll on the go, but not one of these! The monstrous breakfast rolls are truly out of this world, and anyone who knows me knows that I’ll always ask for the extra scoop of frosting on top!

Disney World Cinnamon Roll

Stop into the Main Street Bakery in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for this awesome treat! Check out my review of [Read more…]

Disney Food Post Round-Up: February 19, 2012

New Temporary Italy Kiosk in Epcot

Viva Italia! The temporary Italy kiosk in Epcot is now serving up some tasty eats including ravioli — along with glasses of wine!

Disney Food News

We’re serving up the latest foodie news this week!


For more delicious food news, stop by our Disney Food News Pin Board, where Disney Food News is updated on a regular basis!

On to the Round-Up

Carmi’s Art Life World Check out the Mickey Retro Kitchen Series — it’s miniature Japanese collectibles!

Walt Disney World for Grown-Ups visits the lounge at the California Grill. Cheers!

MousePlanet stops by Germany’s Biergarten in Epcot!

Burger Invasion (c)Yesterland

StudiosCentral.com analyzes how to get the best values with your Disney Dining Plan credits at counter-service restaurants in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Yesterland takes a look back at the Burger Invasion in Disney California Adventure.

Kevin Kidney reminisces about a long-lost mural from the Plaza Pavilion and welcomes the new Jolly Holiday Bakery to Disneyland.

Main Street Gazette pays tribute to the Cobb Salad at The Hollywood Brown Derby.

Guest Review: The Mara

I’m happy to welcome back Bill Iadonisi with another enlightening review. This time he explores the counter-service eatery, The Mara, at the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House. Take it away, Bill!

Hello Disney Food Blog fans! I know it’s been long between reviews, so let’s get started on this month’s eatery! I have always said that Disney’s resorts hold some of the best places to eat on property. Usually much quieter and less hectic then the restaurants in the parks, and many times you can just walk in and sit down.

Today we are going to the dark continent of Africa for this review. Well, maybe a quick safari trip to Disney’s Jambo house is what we’ll do. The main attractions at this beautiful resort are the breathtaking views of the African Savanna from select rooms. But it’s also home to some of Disney’s finest restaurants.

Although not a five-star eatery, Jambo House’s counter-service establishment, The Mara (named after the Mara River in Africa) is a wonderful place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and it does all three equally well.

The Mara Story - click image for larger version

Atmosphere

So before we explore the eats, let’s take a look at the décor.

Themeing and Decor
Located very close to the Jambo House pool, the Mara is themed (like all Disney eateries), but not as strongly as, say, Pizzafari or even the Flame Tree Barbeque.

Entrance

Inside is a spacious dining area with a colorful mural of African flora and fauna on the two back walls.

Spacious Dining Area

The tables and chairs are plain and Spartan, but overhead are metallic cut-outs that resemble tree leaves, and several support posts that have large wooden beams resembling tree limbs make it appear as though you are [Read more…]