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!
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.)
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…boring. Don’t get me wrong, they all fit the theme well, it is just that they don’t have that lively kick that the other three parks have.
The ABC Commissary is my least favorite counter service area in all of Walt Disney World. The menu is so plain, and the place itself doesn’t look like anything special. Backlot Express has a somewhat more interesting menu than The Commissary, and the props around the place make it more interesting to look at; but it still does not give that same sense of exploration as other counter service areas. The collection of Sunset Ranch Market certainly pushes DHS up in the food department, but it is not strong enough to push it up the rankings, especially with the competition it faces.
Nick’s Personal Preference: Though Sunset Ranch Market is the place to be if you want the best food options (you might be lucky enough to catch a Citizen of Hollywood performance), I enjoy heading to Backlot Express when the Jedi Training Academy is about to have a show. Get a seat outside and enjoy the entertainment.
3. Magic Kingdom
The Magic Kingdom has a lot of great options, which is what I like most about eating in this park. You can get a Hot Dog at Casey’s, Fish at the Columbia Harbor House, an Angus Burger at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn, or an entire selection of grub at Cosmic Ray’s. On top of the options, all of these places have a fantastic atmosphere to go along with the food. You can explore Pecos Bill’s and find all of the hidden references to the legends of the American past, or you can enjoy a Sonny Eclipse show with your dinner at Cosmic Ray’s.
The reason that WDW’s castle park does not rank higher on the list is that none of the food really stands out. Yes, it is all good and edible (thankfully), but there is not one single dish at any of the restaurants that is truly memorable. That is why I cannot rank it within the top two.
Nick’s Personal Preference: For food, Pecos Bill’s has an excellent selection of burgers and wraps. But one of my all time favorite things to do at any WDW counter service area is to head to Pinocchio Village Haus, find a seat beside the windows that overlooks it’s a small world, and wave to all the passengers as they embark on the happiest cruise that ever sailed.
2. Animal Kingdom
This is where we start to get the memorable dishes. Though Animal Kingdom doesn’t have the biggest selection of counter service options, it does have some of the best.
Flame Tree Barbecue has to be considered not only the best counter service option in Animal Kingdom, but one of the absolute best in the entire resort. As the name suggests, the Barbeque options here are to die for and are not-to-be-missed. The design of Flame Tree, that of Predator vs. Prey, is intriguing to look at. Pizzafari also shares the animal design, and the murals that focus on animals in hiding are absolutely wonderful. Anandapur Local Cafe brings out the unique, international flavor of Asia; and this park’s burger joint, Restaurantosaurus, has more hidden gags than one can find in a single trip. The only thing that this park lacks in counter service is a true African flair.
Nick’s Personal Preference: No doubt, Flame Tree for both food and atmosphere. I always try to get a spot by the river. Nothing better than Barbeque on the Waterfront.
Oh, where do I begin with Epcot? I guess we’ll start in Future World with Sunshine Seasons, which certainly can be argued as the best counter service in all of Disney World. Honestly, I don’t eat here much (more on why later), but I know that this menu offers a wide variety of excellent dishes and it is a place I’ve wanted to try before. However, I can never bring myself to eat there. Why? Because no trip to Disney World is complete without having lunch and dinner in the World Showcase!
The food options in World Showcase alone blow away anything that any other park can offer. Not only is the food selection fantastic, most of it is unique to Epcot. You can’t find UK’s Fish and Chips or Japan’s Sushi, or Germany’s Brats, or China’s Egg Rolls, or Mexico’s tacos anywhere else, and all of them are fantastic.
If you want just a traditional burger, you could head to my favorite burger place in all of WDW, Liberty Inn. This is all before even mentioning that the beautiful and realistic atmosphere of the countries makes eating the local grub so much more enjoyable. All of this together is why I think Epcot runs away with the counter service title.
Nick’s Personal Preference: No trip to Walt Disney World is complete without having some Fish and Chips while listening to British Invasion. I also love to take in a Brat while soaking in the wonderful old time feel of Germany.
So that’s my take on Walt Disney World’s counter service options. Agree or disagree? Leave a comment and let me know!
Thanks, Nick! I appreciate your taking the time to share these opinions with us here at The Disney Food Blog! I’m looking forward to a lively discussion!
Feel free to contact Nick @DisneyandBeyond on Twitter.
Note: Check out our readers’ picks for best Counter Service restaurants in the WDW Theme Parks here!