As you know, Kim L. is our behind-the-scenes manager here at the Disney Food Blog, a Disney World Moms Panelist, and a blogger! You’ll begin to see her name more and more in that little author line! Learn more about her on our staff and contributors page! Here, she discusses her top choices for Disney World restaurants not on the Disney Dining Plan!UPDATE 4/2012: The restaurants at the Swan and Dolphin Resort are not yet on the Dining Plan, but the others — T-Rex, Rainforest Cafe, Portobello, Fulton’s, Paradiso 37, Wolfgang Puck Cafe The Dining Room, and House of Blues, should now be on the Dining Plan!
Lots of guests want to know the top restaurants when dining with the Disney Dining Plan, but since those restaurants seem to fill up more and more quickly these days, we’ve also been getting requests for recommendations on restaurants not included in the Dining Plan. Here are my picks for the best table service locations that do not participate in the DDP! 😉
Top 5 Restaurants Not on the Disney Dining Plan, for Adults
For guests craving a casual meal with value, Portobello at Downtown Disney dishes out hearty Italian fare. Choose from a value dinner menu, wood-burning oven pizzas, signature sandwiches plus a meatball and beer bar!
House of Blues
Got late night munchies at Downtown Disney? House of Blues is open til 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights! The southern-inspired menu includes a large variety of sandwiches and seafood such as Creole Jambalaya. To soothe your soul, look for live musical entertainment on the indoor stage.
Shula’s Steak House
Located at the WDW Dolphin Resort, Shula’s Steak House focuses on steaks and seafood. The generous portions are appropriate for this darkly lit “man cave” owned by Miami Dolphins football coach, Don Shula. The casual elegance of this restaurant is well-suited for a business meal or special occasion.
Fresh Mediterranean Market
Before walking over to Epcot, rise and shine with a buffet breakfast at Fresh Mediterranean Market in the Disney World Dolphin Resort. The morning meal is served a la carte or you can graze at the buffet. The simple dishes have delectable flavors fresh from the garden. Lunch is also served. With a sandwich or salad, an unlimited dessert buffet is included!
For your celebration, make a reservation at Todd English’s bluezoo in the WDW Dolphin Resort! Dine on cutting-edge cuisine with the emphasis on seafood specialties. The architecture and the food are works of art.
Top 5 Restaurants Not on the Disney Dining Plan, for Kids
There’s a large menu and lots of kid-friendly options at the Rainforest Café. Of the two convenient locations — Downtown Disney and the Animal Kingdom park — the latter is the least crowded. Kids will enjoy watching the audio-animatronic animals and thrill at the simulated thunderstorms. Impress your kids by ordering the volcano dessert to share. Your wild child will enjoy sipping on the frozen concoctions delivered in a souvenir cup!
If you have aspiring paleontologists or just little dino fans, gather up the family for a meal at the T-Rex Cafe in Downtown Disney. You’ll dine with audio-animatronic dinosaurs (and cute little woolly mammoths) while waiting for the next simulated meteor shower. The T-Rex Cafe offers a menu that will appeal to the carnivores and herbivores at your table. Kids will find their fare listed under Dino Favorites!
At the WDW Dolphin Resort, The Fountain serves up kid-friendly eats and ice cream! In fact, the comfort food here is sure to please any weary traveler returning from World Showcase. For a touch of nostalgia, sit at the fountain’s counter! Stock up on a late night snack from the restaurant’s bakery choices. Delicious!
Take the family to the Garden Grove at the WDW Swan Resort for the weekend character buffet breakfast. Evening buffets are themed such as Backyard Barbecue and Old South. The park-like setting is kid-friendly and fun!
Fulton’s Crab House
The kids will love dining walking up the gangplank at Downtown Disney to enjoy their meal on this stationary boat, Fulton’s Crab House! Along with fresh seafood, the kids menu includes familiar eats. Before disembarking, set your course for the make your own sundae!
Other options for non-DDP dining include Paradiso 37 (we recommend tapas and margaritas!), Wolfgang Puck Café – Dining Room (the sushi here is great — as is the carrot cake!), Il Mulino (when you have a craving for pasta!), and Kimonos (karaoke anyone?).
Wanna Save Some Dough? Many restaurants at the WDW Swan and Dolphin Resorts plus House of Blues at Downtown Disney are participating at www.restaurant.com. The savings can add up when purchasing a discounted gift certificate.
What are your favorite meals at a Downtown Disney or WDW Swan and Dolphin restaurant?