The main complaint I hear regarding the re-instated 180-day window for Disney World Advanced Dining Reservations is that it’s impossible to get a seat in a restaurant “on a whim.” I wanted to address that concern and add another challenge: what if you don’t have park tickets, either?
I thought it’d be fun to tackle this situation and suggest a few spots in both Disney World and Disneyland for those who find themselves in this “pickle!”
Walt Disney World
Nope! I’m not kidding. It doesn’t have to be a hassle to find a good, table-service meal in Disney World — even when you don’t have a reservation or a park ticket! Here are four of my favorite go-to locations at all different price points:
Beaches and Cream $
Welcome back to the 1950’s soda shoppe! Beaches and Cream is located at Disney’s Beach Club Resort and doesn’t even take reservations, so you won’t ever run into the no ADR problem! This spot serves simple, but delicious, diner fare, from burgers and cheese steaks au jus to the most incredible ice cream sundaes you’ve ever seen!
Trail’s End Restaurant $$
This moderately-priced buffet has quite the cult following among die-hard Disney fans, but luckily its out-of-the-way location makes it an easier table to get with no reservation. Located in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, breakfast here has staples like Mickey waffles, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, and sausage; for lunch and dinner, expect stick-to-your-ribs grub like fried chicken, mac and cheese, seasonal vegetables, catch of the day, pork ribs, and home-made cobbler.
Portobello $$ to $$$
In the mood for excellent, rustic Italian food? Head over to Portobello! Located in Downtown Disney, Portobello has recently re-vamped their menu to include plenty of home-made Italian specialties including incredible antipasti platters, pastas, and even Osso Buco and grilled Tiger Shrimp. Don’t forget to try the new Meatball and Beer bar!
Artist Point $$$
Another favorite that usually doesn’t get the commendation it deserves is Wilderness Lodge’s Artist Point. This signature dining establishment features incredible flavors from the American Northwest, including a delicious Buffalo striploin, an incredible artisan mac and cheese, and highly-recommended cedar plank-roasted wild King Salmon, portobello mushroom soup, mussels, and berry cobbler. Try the venison pot stickers for something a little out of the ordinary!
By the way, two other mid-priced options to consider are Olivia’s Cafe at Old Key West Resort (try the Key Lime Tart!) and Turf Club Bar and Grill at Saratoga Springs Resort (the steak gets high marks, here)!
Click the link to see our index of Disney World table-service locations, including our reviews, links to Disney’s official menus, discount information, and dining plan information! Also, don’t forget to check out our related post about Best Disney World Restaurants When You Don’t Have an ADR, where our readers contributed their favorite suggestions!
While Disneyland doesn’t have nearly the same crunch for reservations as the Disney World Resort (guests can book most restaurants 60 days out), I still have some great recommendations for places I think will have seating for you even if you show up without a park ticket or a reservation.
Storytellers Cafe $$
This out-of-the-way restaurant features incredible decor and craftsman details throughout — which makes sense when you see that it’s located in Disneyland’s Grand Californian Resort! This location offers a character breakfast buffet and lunch and dinner menus that will make you want to sample everything you see.
Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen $$
This classic cajun-creole restaurant has been a favorite of Disneyland visitors for it’s spicy, flavorful food and great entertainment. Sample muffellattas, catfish, and jambalaya, then head to the jazz club to continue your evening. On Sunday, hit the “Nawlin’s Brunch Fest” complete with a new Bloody Mary Bar! Find it in Disneyland’s Downtown Disney!
Naples Ristorante and Pizzeria $$
If Italian is what you’re craving, run — don’t walk — to Naples Ristorante & Pizzeria. Every dish we sampled here was outstanding, from the arancini appetizer to the pollo pasta dish to the incredible thin-crust pizza. The light, airy dining room offers the perfect location from which to watch the chefs scurry about around the massive pizza ovens. Again, you’ll find this spot in Disneyland’s Downtown Disney. Highly recommended.
Steakhouse 55 $$$
For a luxurious meal from a bygone era, head to the Disneyland Hotel’s Steakhouse 55. The Hollywood decor, including black and white photos of famous tinsel town stars, and the hushed atmosphere in this secluded restaurant will instantly make you feel relaxed and indulged. Of course, steaks are the specialty here, but save room for some delectable desserts as well.
Two Great Tips For Getting a Seat When You Don’t Have an ADR
Here are few tried and true tips for how to have a great sit-down meal on Disney property at the last minute:
- Timing is Everything: By heading to your chosen restaurant before or after prime mealtimes, you’ll have a better chance of getting seated as a walk-up guest. Our favorites? Late morning (usually too early for many to consider lunch, but too late for breakfast), mid-afternoon (catch that sweet spot between the lunch and dinner rush), late night (while most Disney crowds are hitting the fireworks, Extra Magic Hours, or the hay!).
- Sit at the Counter: Many Disney restaurants are offering counter seating these days, including Disney World hot spots California Grill, Flying Fish Cafe, and Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe, and Disneyland’s Napa Rose. Read all about my favorite Disney World counter seating options here!
So what are your thoughts? Are there restaurants in your favorites list that you can recommend to folks with no park tickets and no reservation? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section below!
Photo Credit: Buffalo Striploin courtesy DFB reader Megan Dorsey.
Great advice, AJ. I know I would be very stressed out if I were planning a last-minute trip to WDW and had no ADRs. Nice to know there are some options.
My boyfriend’s supervisor just went down to WDW with 9 people and his SIL (who was in charge of planning) refused to make ADRs! I sent him down with a list of places he could probably get into. He apparently had success going right as the restaurant was opening for dinner.
Some other good ones at WDW: ESPN Zone (no ADRs avail. and the bar is first come, first served.) I’ve had some great success at Kona for breakfast. And I’m guessing Sanaa is pretty easy to get into.
This will come in handy tonight! I’m helping a friend make ADR’s for a trip that she’s taking NEXT WEEK (during free dining!) and she has no ADR’s!
Anyway, if I had to add to the list, I’d say O’hana and Kona…..although O’hana only fits into the no park ticket category….because you still have to book it 180 days out. But, we never have a problem getting walk up seating at Kona, and I’ve never had a bad meal there!
Matt Hochberg says
You can add to this list Captain’s Grill (Yacht Club) and Sandtrap Bar and Grill (Osprey Ridge) to the list. They are rarely busy and almost always available for walk ups and of course, no park admission required.
Agreed, Captain’s Grill is delicious, and is open Breakfast, Lunch, AND Dinner, all of which are good.
Beaches and Cream is a good place, BUT if you go at peak times (around Noon-1pm and 4:30pm-6:30pm) you’ll have to wait a while becuase of the limited seating, but the wait is worth it 🙂
Sarah Inkin says
Don’t forget about the great offerings at Downtown Disney (WDW)! We were able to easily get reservations and/or walk-up seating at T-Rex and Paradiso 37. We’d highly recommend Paradiso 37 and you can even make a reservation there at opentable.com! There’s also great grub at Earl of Sandwich, which is one of our top places to eat anywhere on property!
Chef BigFatPanda says
In the Magic Kingdom, I’ve been lucky to go right up to the Plaza restaurant on Main Street during crowded times and get in. It’s standard burger, grilled chicken choices but top quality and not very expensive. Their ice cream is great as well!
In June we hit up Kouzzina with ADRs, but at 5 pm (2 little babies.. early dinner!) the place was pretty empty. I would guess it would be possible to walk in, but I easily could be wrong. We might try it in January when we’re there for the Half Marathon.. go without ADR and use it as an experiment..
Bryan Irrera says
While I realize this is the “Disney” food blog and not the “Orlando parks” food blog, I’d like to see you tackle a similar article with the best food at Universal City Walk if you wouldn’t mind…(it would work as a nice contrast to Downtown Disney).
I love Artist Point so much! I am always shocked that it is so easy to get a reservation there. But good to know we can likely walk into it as well. And make sure to ask for Carlos- he is an amazing server!
If you try Beaches and Cream and find there is a wait, there is a convenient poolside bar a short walk away. Relax at the tables outside with a refreshing (Coke) and chill out for a while before eating. Don’t see it as a nasty wait – it needn’t be.
I’ve never had a problem getting into any Disneyland Resort restaurant that I wanted to eat at. There may be a wait for a table, but you can usually still get one. Have even gotten same day Blue Bayou table when stopping by in the morning. It doesn’t hurt to call ahead, but reservations are not even close to the big deal out here that they are at WDW. I am seriously scared to start planning a trip there. Having to know what I want to eat and where 6 months ahead of time is completely intimidating. Having to use spread sheets, scrounging this website and others, quizzing twitter friends. Seems like it’s going to be a full time job just to figure it all out.
Galloping Gourmand says
One of my personal favorites is the Big River Grille at the Boarwalk. The restaurant is part of a small chain of 4 microbreweries. The other three are in Chattanooga and Nashville. The food is good but what makes the place special is that they serve the beer they brew right there on Disney property. I think this is the only place in WDW that brews beer on premises. I’ve never had to wait to be seated, even in the summer. Your mileage may vary, of course.
Another good place is the Kona Cafe, as mentioned above by Dana. Often the place is mistaken as a waiting area for O’hana. The ginger crusted steak is quite good, in fact almost everything is at least worthy of your time. It is a little more expensive than it should be.
I have to second Galloping Gourmand’s recommendation for Big River Grille and Brewing Works. My husband and I were able to walk right in on our honeymoon in October, and we found it to be great food and drinks. The hubby ordered a burger, and I had the top sirloin. Both were actually really good, but the most memorable thing for me was the sangria! Excellent. And of course, the beer was also excellent (LOVE microbreweries as a general rule, and this was no different)…but the sangria, yum.
And after our meal, we enjoyed a nice stroll along the Boardwalk, playing a few of the carnival games and watching a really wonderful magician.
Within the parks, we’ve had great luck with no or last minute reservations at Biergarten in World Showcase’s Germany. This works best with smaller parties, since you eat at long tables with other guests, but usually they can squeeze in a couple of people. We’ve gotten lucky by going to Guest Services at the start of the day and getting lunch reservations for same day–even on Christmas Eve!
Galloping Gourmand says
Katie – thanks for mentioning the food.
the BRG also has one of my favorite embarrassing stories. I was having the beer cheese soup (Very Good) and it went down the wrong pipe. I managed to choke cough, and spray it right in the face of the woman across the table. The staff was wonderful, got a good chuckle, and even gave her a free shirt to wear back to the hotel room. I joked that I should spray her with soup at every restaurant. Maybe she can get more free shirts! Strangely she’s still my best Disney friend.
John Grigas says
The Kona Cafe is my “go to” in busy times. It’s great for any meal period.
If you need to save money, it’s a fun boat launch over to Ft Wilderness for Trails End, too.
Ralph Brennan’s has been really good out at Downtown Disney Anaheim.
You can Jiko – The Cooking Place. While staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge Jambo House, we went to Jiko and were told there were no availabilities for the evening. However, they told us we could sit in the Cooking Place. We watched them make bread and Goo Goo gave advice on the food and desserts.
DFB Sarah says
Greg, sounds like a great time!