56 Must-Read Disney Dining Secrets from Disney Food Blog

Disney may be the Happiest Place on Earth, but nothing can wreck the happy faster than poor planning.

This is especially true when it comes to one of the most important parts of your trip — eating!

After decades of Disney dining, we’ve perfected some expert tips and advice to get the most out of  your Disney World visit.

Today, we’re sharing our 56 Must-Read Disney Dining Secrets to ensure that you have the magical visit of your dreams!

Top Disney Dining Secrets

Let’s get started!

1. Make dining reservations. Even if you don’t follow any other piece of advice, we can’t say this emphatically enough. To fully appreciate the truly entertaining and delicious array of Disney Dining offerings, you must make advanced dining reservations. If you wait until you arrive at Disney to make table service arrangements, you may miss out on many of your top picks because they will be booked.

Book Dinner at Be Our Guest Restaurant 180 Days in Advance to Guarantee a Table

2. BYOP (Bring  Your Own Pepsi). Yep. Those of you who are die-hard Pepsi drinkers will be sad to note that any and all Disney establishments will not carry Pepsi products. It’s a Coke-only zone here! So either bring your own Pepsi, or plan to take a trip to a nearby gas station, convenience store, grocery store, or drug store to pick up your stash. You can also order it and have it delivered directly to your hotel from Garden Grocer.

No Pepsi Here.

3. Don’t miss the must-eat items! After years of eating Disney goodies, we here at Disney Food Blog have amassed quite a list of “must-eat” treats in Disney parks and resorts. Cult favorites like Dole Whip Floats, Zebra Domes, School Bread, and Mickey Bars are high priority when you’re visiting the Happiest Place on Earth. To read up on our favorites, head over to our Best Disney World Restaurants Page for some great “Best Of” posts like Best Cookie Snacks in Disney World, favorite Disney ice cold snacks, Disney’s best grilled cheese, and more! And if you’re headed to Disney World for the first time, you must read our Best Disney Restaurants for First-Timers article — very helpful!

Dole Whip Float! A Must-Eat snack for every Disney guest.

4. Make your reservations 180 days prior to your visit whenever possible. Nope — it’s not enough to just make reservations; you need to make them as early as possible. For most restaurants, that’s 180 days prior to the date you’re seeking. If you’re staying in a Disney hotel, you can book all of your reservations for up to 10 days beginning exactly 180 days before the first day of your trip.

5. Don’t pay for food you don’t want. One of my favorite Disney Dining tips is to be a squeaky wheel when you need to be. Disney is very good at customizing meals, and at counter-service restaurants, your customized meal might even save you some money! For example, [Read more…]

News! Menu Updates at Disney Restaurants

It’s that time of year again!! Disney World restaurants are updating menus left and right!

Thankfully, we have wonderful readers who help keep us all up-to-date with these changes. Here are a few of the updates… . And stay tuned for our review of the NEW Le Cellier Steakhouse menu coming up soon!

Beaches & Cream

According to a server, menu changes took place approximately two weeks ago at the Beach Club’s Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. Check out the addition of a Vegetarian Falafel on flatbread which replaces the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich.

Beaches and Cream Menu. Click image for larger version.

Here’s a pic of the new Falafel sandwich, thanks to ThatMattLynn on twitter!

Falafel Sandwich at Beaches and Cream

Also, prep for a Kitchen Sink Sundae price increase by $2 — it now costs $28.99. Thanks to Brent Hannon for the info!

Ice Cream Menu at Beaches and Cream. Click image for larger version.

Artist Point

Artist Point in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge has a few menu updates this Spring, according to DFB reader Elyssa Henry!

She says, “My husband and I just ate at Artist Point for the first time and it was AMAZING! Thanks for the previous reviews. They helped guide our choices. I also wanted to let you know that they just added two items to the menu and our server, Paul, told us tonight was their debut.”

Artist Point Cedar Plank Salmon

It sounds like the Wild Columbia River Cedar Plank Roasted King Salmon is back on the menu, and there’s also a seasonal dessert to sample: pistachio coffee cake and sea salted caramel vanilla panna cotta.

Kona Cafe

The Polynesian Resort’s Kona Cafe has a new dinner menu, which features a new cheese plate as an appetizer.

For entrees, a pan-seared chicken with [Read more…]

Disney Springs Rumor! New Restaurants Planned for Disney World’s Downtown Disney

You’ve probably heard the rumors brewing, but this is the first time that we’ve heard details about changes that may be planned for Downtown Disney Orlando!! Please note that all of this is subject to change (and probably WILL!).

Disney World's Downtown Disney

What’s the Latest?

Along with a new name (Disney Springs), parking garage (thank goodness!), and the re-imagining of Planet Hollywood, new restaurants and shops are now being named in these rumors!

A new “district,” which is being called the Town Center, may part of the proposed plan. Pleasure Island could be known as The Landing, and the Marketplace may return to its roots — The Village Marketplace. Only the West Side area would retain its current label in this structure.

Part of the remodel could bring a two-story entertainment area similar to City Walk at Universal Studios.

Possible New Restaurants?

This photo from Save Pleasure Island showcases a few possible options.

Possible Restaurants for Downtown Disney Orlando!

We can’t wait for more details to emerge, but of course we’re pretty excited about the possible addition of a Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, which we LOVE in Disneyland.

We'd love to see Trader Sam's in Disney World

Here a few other options that are apparently on the block for Disney World’s “Disney Springs:”

  • Planet Hollywood would become The Observatory.
  • Disney Character Dining (TBD)
  • Disney Burger (TBD)
  • Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar
  • Wine Bar (TBD)
  • The Edison
  • Disney Bakery (TBD)
  • Food Truck
  • Powell’s Sweet Shoppe
  • Italian Restaurant (TBD)
  • Argo Tea
  • [Read more…]

**Memorial Day Weekend Sale!** DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining e-Book

Great news as we start up this Memorial Day Weekend! If you need a Disney World food fix, are planning a trip to Disney World, or are wondering about the best places to eat in the World, we’ve got the perfect weekend activity for you.

If you don’t have your Disney Food Blog Guide to Walt Disney World Dining e-Book yet, this is the time to buy! We’re having a SALE!

The Disney Food Blog’s Guide to dining in Walt Disney World features 250 full-color pages of information, planning suggestions, tips, and details about eating in Disney World.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, “This comprehensive e-book is a valuable tool for both first-time visitors and Disney World veterans.”

DFB Guide Sample Page

This weekend, you can get your Guide for 20% off the regular purchase price using code: Memorial on the check-out page! The best news: it’s risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee! If you’re unsatisfied with the book for any reason, you can receive a refund, no questions asked. This discount will last for a limited time, so get your copy today :-)

To see more testimonials and recommendations, sample pages, and details on BONUS items when you purchase, visit http://DFBGuide.com!

Review: Animal Kingdom’s Restaurantosaurus

I’ll admit it — this is one of my very favorite counter-service restaurants in Walt Disney World. Where else can you find this level of detail and theming while dining on the best chicken nuggets in the world?


I have an unnatural love for Dinoland in the Animal Kingdom in the first place, and the extremely detailed theming and story behind Restaurantosaurus always makes me want to spend an hour or two just wandering around and looking at all of the decor in the different rooms.

Outdoor tables

The story behind Restaurantosaurus lies with the graduate students/paleontologists who live in the building. You’re not likely to see them, but you sure will see evidence of them. Who do you think “re-named” the restaurant and hauled those chairs and coolers up to the roof to enjoy the sunshine?

Throughout the restaurant, you’ll learn more about the students and their work.

Be sure to look closely, though — there are plenty of classic puns and jokes that you might miss if you don’t actually [Read more…]

Review: New Le Cellier Signature Dinner

You remember when we analyzed the brand new Le Cellier Steakhouse Signature dinner menu a few weeks ago, right? Well, I finally had the chance to try it myself.

For those who are just tuning in, one of Disney World’s most popular restaurants, Le Cellier in Epcot’s Canada pavilion, began offering a signature dinner menu (e.g. super expensive) at the beginning of March 2011. While the restaurant remained priced at one Disney Dining Plan credit for lunch, the dinner menu cost two Disney Dining Plan credits. For those of us who don’t purchase the dining plan, that means that the dinner menu was renovated and all prices bumped up a few bucks…or more.

The decor and atmosphere at Le Cellier hasn’t changed at all. You’re still dining in a very small “cellar,” featuring candlelight sconces on the walls (not real candles, of course), rich woods and deep maroon fabrics, and stone archways creating the structure of the restaurant.

Le Cellier Dining Room

Le Cellier Dining Room

Le Cellier Ceilings and Chandeliers

The only thing upon arrival that makes you think something might be slightly different is the presence of some snazzy new napkin rings (I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen napkin rings at a Disney World restaurant…) and candles on the tables… [Read more…]

Guest Review: Magic Kingdom’s Columbia Harbour House

Thanks to Bill Iadonisi for this guest review of a favorite Magic Kingdom counter-service eatery — Columbia Harbour House! Take it away, Bill!

With 98 restaurants on property and counting, Walt Disney World is a food connoisseur’s Mecca. With offerings from German, American, Asian, Haute Cuisine, Bistro and everything in between, there is something for every discriminating palate. Even guests with any food allergies can be accommodated. But an important part of the food scene in Disney is the counter-service or “quick service” restaurants. They are vital for two main reasons: Time and Money. But mention quick-service and most conjure up the universal burger, french fries, chicken fingers and Mac and cheese. Yes, there are restaurants that do serve up these perennial favorites, but there are many wonderful alternatives with the [Read more…]

Dining in Disney World With Kids, Part 2: Suggestions from the WDW Moms Panel

Hooray! Our fourth post in the Walt Disney World Moms Panel mini-series! Thanks to all the moms for their fantastic stories, tips, and insights.

Today, this post also serves as Part 2 of our Disney Food Blog Dining in Disney World With Kids series, in which the moms share their top picks for age-appropriate dining experiences. Take it away, Moms!

From Mom Erin F. — Kids’ Ages: 10-13

I’ve got the tweens and young teen segments. The 10-yr-olds love Crystal Palace and Chef Mickey’s. There are so many choices at the buffets (breakfast pizza is a favorite!).

Tables for Tea at the Grand Floridian

Tables for Tea at the Grand Floridian

I also enjoy the Grand Floridian tea. So much of the dining at Disney is the experience, not just the food. Part of that experience is allowing kids to learn and experiment in a safe arena. When working in New York City, I was invited to tea at the Waldorf, and I was completely freaked out. I didn’t know what to do. This type of experience can help kids to learn how to handle fine dining situations that they might encounter in the future.

Finally, there are some spots that the kids like, which offer great vegetable options. Garden Grill at Epcot offers fresh veggies from the Land, and Teppan Edo includes veggies mixed into the chicken. So you can get slightly healthier food.

From Mom Amber V. — Kids’ Ages: 0-5

My kids are 4 and 16 months. Obviously we’re in the character dining phase right now, and there are definitely character meals that are better than others! Probably my favorite character breakfast is with Lilo and Stitch at ‘Ohana. I have to say that while I enjoy the wider variety of foods available at a buffet, there is something to be said about the food being delivered to your table. I can’t count the number of times I’ve run up to a buffet to grab something and missed seeing my kids with one of the characters. At ‘Ohana you don’t have to worry about that, and the food that they bring to you is quite good. I’m a big fan of the breakfast potatoes. They are seasoned with just the right amount of salt, and your server will always bring more! We enjoy this breakfast from start to finish – the welcome bread and fresh fruit are a great way to start. Also, Mickey waffles . . . enough said!

Another favorite character meal is the Garden Grill at Epcot. Again, served family style which makes the whole experience so much more relaxing and enjoyable for Mom and Dad! My four year old daughter got a huge kick out of the fact the restaurant slowly rotates and just loved watching the changing view. The food is great and I like how the menu changes based on the season and what types of fresh fish and vegetables are available. They bring out food for the adults and the basic kid favorites like macaroni and cheese and fries for the kids who may not be so adventurous. The Garden Grill is another great meal from start to finish, and currently the only character meal to meet Chip and Dale!

From Mom Anna S. — Kids’ Ages: 4-18

Eeyore Leads a Parade at Crystal Palace

Eeyore Leads a Parade at Crystal Palace

I have kids that range in age from 4 through 18, so we have to work with a huge range of tastes and entertainment preferences. My oldest daughter has the most adventurous palate in the group, and at 18, she thinks she’s worldly and sophisticated. She loves places like Sanaa, can’t wait to try Kouzzina (Christmas week, I hope!), and raves about Restaurant Marrakesh.

The two little ones wouldn’t think a trip to Disney World was complete without a visit to Crystal Palace or Chef Mickey’s, but they are old enough now to really enjoy the entertainment at Whispering Canyon Cafe and ‘Ohana. The one place the whole family loves and returns to often is Boma. The kids are comfortable there, they love visiting the savanna before and after dinner, we enjoy the story tellers and the parade in the lobby, and the food is amazing.

From Mom Kara B. — Kids’ Ages: 7-14

We cherished the chance to bring my father with us to 50s Prime Time Cafe. He pretty much sat there talking about the shows he had watched that were on the TV as well as all the little knick knacks and decor he remembered. An absolute nostalgic moment for him.

TV Table at 50's Prime Time Cafe

TV Table at 50's Prime Time Cafe

Meanwhile, my kids were, of course, totally absorbed by the TV shows (they are such zombies if anything is playing on a screen) as well as all the antics of the cast members. So much giggling, and I didn’t have to ask them to finish their veggies or keep their elbows off the table! The funniest thing was my son disappeared into the bathroom for a suspiciously long time — he had been washing his hands thoroughly in case they checked beforehand.

Similarly, I think Whispering Canyon Cafe is a hoot! We ate there with my family, my brother’s family, and my parents. Immediately, the cast members placed bandanna hats of various shapes on all of our heads, so we were all laughing at one another (forgetting we each had hats). Then all of those mischievous antics of the cast members; we all laughed and laughed and laughed. The kids all enjoyed the pony races, too. And I come a family of huge carnivores (I’m constantly mocked, sadly, since I prefer soybean curd), so the endless platters of meat were perfect for them.

From Mom Joanne M. — Daughter’s Age: 9

There are really too many, so here are my nine year old’s current faves. Last month we visited the 50’s Prime Time Cafe for the first time, and she still hasn’t stopped talking about it. The decor is totally cool, with old fashioned TVs and furnishings. The service totally makes the experience! You really do feel like you’re in your granny’s kitchen, and the best part was when the server fed Nicole her veggies.

Whispering Canyon Cafe has been our must do for the past several years and remains in my daughter’s top two! The food is consistently good, but we go back for the activities, antics and excitement. Be forewarned, it’s LOUD! But guests of all ages get up and dance the hokey pokey, sing happy birthday to fellow diners, and participate in wooden horse races through the restaurant. No matter what you order, be sure to ask for ketchup!

From Mom Whitney P. — Kids’ Ages: 4-13

Because we have four children, from age four to 13, three girls and a boy, I am always on the hunt for restaurants with BROAD appeal both on the menu and in the experience. ‘Ohana’s all-you-can-eat fare fills up my growing 9- and 12-year-old boys, and is varied enough for my picky 4-year-old.

Wonderful CM at 'Ohana Dinner

Wonderful CM at 'Ohana Dinner

The coconut races and limbo are fun for everyone, even hula lessons for my teenager girl. If you’re not able to time your reservation just right to watch the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks from the restaurant while they pipe in the accompanying music, you can always head down to the Polynesian’s beach for the view!

Biergarten has become a perennial favorite because my kids love the buffet that’s heavy on meat and potatoes fare with familiar flavors. It’s the floor show that can get folks out of their seats, though, especially for the Chicken Dance!

If I could add a third, it would be Teppan Edo. The chefs do a fantastic job of slicing and dicing as entertainment, and with grilled chicken, meat, or seafood on the menu, there’s something for everyone.

From Mom Jo Y. — Kids’ Ages: 11-13

My girls are aged 11 and 13 and every trip they request the same 2 restaurants. Their favourite character spot is the Crystal Palace as they both adore the Winnie the Pooh characters. They also love all the food on offer; the choice is huge so everyone will be able to find something they like.

For fine dining they love Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian; they enjoy the fact that it’s a more grown up restaurant and it serves “posh” food. They also like a reason to dress up!

From Mom Kim L. — Son’s Age: 9

I went straight to my 9 year old to answer this question. My son says his two top picks are Chef Mickey’s and San Angel Inn. Chef Mickey’s is a hit because it’s fun with the characters and your family can ride the monorail after dinner. San Angel Inn is a top choice because if you request a water table, then your child is entertained by waving at people as the boats float by.

From Mom Kay B. — Kids’ Ages: Adult; Grandkids’ Ages: Toddler

First I will speak about my grandkids (toddler age): The top restaurant experience for this age is Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue in Fort Wilderness. Toddlers are hard to keep in their seats and here is a great spot where you can get them to eat some good food (same as you would get at the Hoop De Doo Revue) and where they can dance their evening away with the characters and the live country music band. This is the best up close and personal character opportunity as well, since they can choose the character to dance with and be with him/her for as long as they want. There are always a couple of characters who stand quietly off to the side for those who are more shy. Parents can sit back and enjoy a glass of wine or beer while their kids are happy and letting loose all their energy so they can go home and sleep well!

Chef Mickey at Chef Mickey's Restaurant

Chef Mickey at Chef Mickey's Restaurant

Second choice is the Chef Mickey character dining at the Contemporary resort. This is just a great place to see all the major known Disney characters all at once, and the food buffet is outstanding. You will often see more adults taking food from the “kids” section, and I will admit I have snagged some of the great mac and cheese myself. The dessert choices are wonderful, and the kids love making their sundaes topped with all kinds of unhealthy things!

Now for my kids’ age (young adults): My children have always enjoyed the opportunity to get dressed up and head out for some special dining experiences, so Victoria and Alberts is a top choice for this and especially the Chef’s Table opportunity. But for families watching their budgets this spot becomes more exclusive. So the other choices would be Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian, as their menu is sophisticated but still in touch with a young palate. It is off the beaten path for many guests and can tend to be a little more quiet then some of the other restaurants.

For entertainment purposes I have two second choices and those would be 50’s Primetime Cafe in Hollywood Studios and the Hoop De Doo Revue in Fort Wilderness. Primetime is a classic spot to remind your teens or young adults of their often forgotten table manners. They soon realize if they don’t heed your advice they could be singing “I’m a Little Teapot” to all the other guests and making that a stepping stone for their next Idol audition! Hoop De Doo Revue is just a fun and rowdy place for all ages to let down and get into the moment. If you are lucky enough to be chosen for a participating part in the show it is even more fun. Young adults can enjoy humor too!

From Dad Doug I. — 2 Princesses (not sure of the ages, Doug!)

The first is Chef Mickey’s. It has some of the best buffet-line foods, and the setting and character experience are ideal for younger children. The second is 50’s Prime Time Cafe. I think that the kids enjoy a bit of sassy fun, and the food is always great.

From Mom Heather R. — Kids’ Ages: 2-6

My daughters are younger — 6.5, 4, and 2.5 — so character meals and buffets are perfect for them right now. One of our favorites is the Play and Dine at Hollywood & Vine character meal in Hollywood Studios. It’s a buffet, so the kids can dig in immediately, which at this age is often very important so they don’t get restless waiting for food to arrive.

Little Einsteins Sign Autographs at Hollywood and Vine

Little Einsteins Sign Autographs at Hollywood and Vine

Breakfast there is good, but we prefer lunch. There are a wide variety of dishes to choose from (my girls adore the seafood pasta) and Jo-Jo, Goliath, Leo, and June (Little Einsteins) keep the kids entertained. The children are periodically invited up front to sing and dance along with their favorite characters, which is fun for the kids and gives mom and dad a chance to eat un-interrupted, if only for a moment. The only downside to this restaurant is that it shares restrooms with the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, and there is always quite a wait. I’d recommend taking your children for a potty break in the park just before you have your meal.

A fun, non-character meal for kids is dinner at ‘Ohana in the Polynesian resort. While not a buffet, the food is served family style so it arrives quickly, and service is always very attentive. You’ll also find a strolling ukulele player, leis for the kids, and fun games like coconut races and hula hoop contests to keep little ones entertained.

From Mom Jodi G. — Kids’ Ages: 3-5

My kids are age 3 and 5, and I recommend ‘Ohana (for breakfast) and the Garden Grill (for dinner) for families like mine.

From Mom Beth C. — Kids’ Ages: 11-13

Whispering Canyon Cafe in the Wilderness Lodge is one of my family’s favorite restaurants! This little restaurant tucked in the Wilderness Lodge has a simple, down home menu. Ribs, chicken, and pork chops are done with a northwestern flair. They have amazing all you can drink milkshakes. However, the fun at this restaurant is why we make it a regular on our trips! The jokes, the pony races and ketchup – trust me to ask for ketchup – make this a fun place to dine! You can be loud and get a great meal. It is near the Magic Kingdom via a short boat ride, and the Wilderness Lodge is a beautiful hotel. After a day in the park, it is nice to go somewhere else to eat. You can then go back to the park or head home for the evening.

California Grill Sunset

California Grill Sunset

Also, when my family goes on vacation, we like to treat ourselves. We do things that we would not do at home. It is also an opportunity to get dressed up and eat at fancy restaurants. While we live just outside Manhattan and have amazing restaurants near home, it is not something we do except on vacation. My husband, Jim, and I really believe that our girls will never know how to appreciate fine dining if they do not experience it. With this in mind, I would recommend the California Grill. We first visited this restaurant alone and then again when Jess and Nicole were three and five. We rediscovered it last year when we were looking for a special night out. The food is always different and seasonal – pumpkin raviolis are yummy in the fall. You can see the chefs preparing the food, which I think helps children appreciate the hard work that goes into the meal. The pastry chef even explained his dishes to my girls. The atomosphere is great, especially if you have an Advance Dining Reservation which overlaps the fireworks. Watching the fireworks from the top of the Contemporary is so cool. My husband’s only disappointment is that they no longer make the most amazing lemon chiffon souffle!

From Mom Margaret F. — Kids’ Ages: 6-12

Our top two locations to dine with our children are easily:
1. Chef Mickey’s: what could be better than dining with the big cheese himself? The location is fun and lively with the open area to the Contemporary resort and the monorail zipping though, it just has such a fun happy feeling to it. Of course the added bonus of Mickey and his pals can’t be beat, and my kids love the “dance parties” throughout the restaurant. There is a great selection of salads, fruits, vegetables, meats, and desserts, so even the pickiest eater should be able to find something to fill their stomachs. This is a great location to celebrate a birthday with the children and just enjoy the magic of Disney.

Teppan Edo Chef

Teppan Edo Chef

2. Coral Reef (and a close second Teppan Edo): While both of these locations may seem like they are better suited to an adult guest, they are very kid friendly. There are delicious choices on the kids menu, and personally my husband and I never have a problem finding an entree here. These two spots are all about the setting for our family. There is a great entertainment value here and my boys have always been mesmerized by the scenery and the “show”. Coral Reef offers an amazing view of the floor to ceiling aquarium that runs the entire length of the restaurant. My kids love watching all of the fish, sharks, and turtles (with an occasional scuba diver) swim by. It is like a science class while we eat. Teppan Edo offers a table side show performed by the very talented and entertaining chefs. The boys love watching them chop, dice, and grill our meal right before out eyes. At both locations there is never a cry of “How much longer”, or “I’m bored,” and that is priceless to us.

Thanks again to all the “moms” who are participating in the interviews! Be sure to check out the first post in this series if you missed it: Dining in Disney World With Kids, Part 1.

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!”