Everyday we receive lots of mail from you, our awesome DFB readers, asking for restaurant suggestions and recommendations. And while we certainly have our favorites, we know that you do, too!
So when a Disney first-time visitor recently asked what restaurants we would recommend for their upcoming trip, we couldn’t think of a better panel of experts to ask than YOU!
When I put the question out on the Disney Food Blog Facebook page, I was overwhelmed by the huge and immediate response that I got!
Let’s take a look at your recommendations for the restaurants first timers must experience on that inaugural Walt Disney World trip!
If you have other thoughts or ideas — or, better yet, stories of your favorite restaurants during a first-time visit — please share them with all of us in the comments section! More suggestions are always better!
Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
When it comes to first-time Disney dining, the winning restaurant recommendation is, hands down, Chef Mickey’s in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Many of you agree that anyone visiting the Happiest Place on Earth for the very first time MUST experience a buffet that includes lots of character interaction.
But the suggestion is practical, too. Readers pointed out that a character dining experience offers terrific value for your Disney dollar, with an all-you-care-to-eat option. And with the addition of characters, you have a less rushed (and air-conditioned!) meet and greet opportunity that guarantees you’ll see lots of characters without waiting in long lines in the parks.
Also, don’t forget that Chef Mickey’s is walking distance from the Magic Kingdom. This is a great place to start or end your Magic Kingdom day!
Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland
Judging from the reader response, we’d say that Disney definitely hit the mark with Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom’s Fantasyland.
Set in Beast’s Castle (from Disney’s animated classic, Beauty and the Beast), you can stop here for brunch (available from 10AM to 12PM), lunch, or dinner. The restaurant used to be a counter service location for lunch and table service location for dinner however, this changed when the parks reopened in 2020. Now, guests need an advanced dining reservation or can try their chances at scoring a spot on the walk-up waitlist to dine here.
The menu has a French flair — and chefs worked hard to create tasty, interesting meals for the younger set as well.
Be Our Guest Restaurant also has the distinction of being the first spot within Magic Kingdom where guests could order beer and wine (this has since been expanded to a variety of locations around the park!). It was the French-inspired menu at Be Our Guest that prompted the change — after all, the French are known for their wine pairings!
Many guests celebrate special occasions at Be Our Guest Restaurant, and if that’s you, be sure to mention it to your server. They may actually bring you a celebratory taste of “The Grey Stuff” — mentioned by Lumiere in the film!
Guests seem to be loving this spot for many reasons, and Advanced Dining Reservations for any time of day remain hard to come by.
While we’ve tasted just about everything here and agree that the food’s quite good, most of you especially love it for the incredible, immersive theming.
Here’s a TIP: if at all possible, snag a table in the West Wing and keep an eye on the Prince’s portrait!
‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
The fan base for ‘Ohana in Disney’s Polynesian Resort came out loud and clear in support of their favorite restaurant.
We heard from lots of you that a Disney World vacation isn’t complete without at least one meal here, with dinner enjoying the highest number of votes.
While ‘Ohana can be a little uneven at times in service and quality, we’ve heard from many of you lately that it’s back on top in both areas. With an all-you-care-to-enjoy, family-style menu featuring items like Spicy Peel-n-Eat Shrimp, first-time visitors will walk away with an experience that is both unique and delicious. And, don’t forget to save room for one of the best desserts at Disney — ‘Ohana Bread Pudding!
But another huge reason for the ‘Ohana love is the fantastic view of Magic Kingdom fireworks that you’ll have if you happen to time your dinner reservations just right. Between that and the bread pudding, you’ll be a Disney fan for life!
50s Prime Time Cafe in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
You had better eat those veggies and keep your elbows off the table! While DFB readers love good eats, fantastic theming and engaging (sometimes downright cheeky) service also win big points. Many of our readers said that anyone venturing to Disney World for the first time must be sure to book a table at 50s Primetime Cafe.
Located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this table service spot serves comfort food with a hearty helping of nostalgia. Tiny black and white TVs roll clips from old sitcoms as you feast on Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes or Fried Chicken. Don’t forget to ask for a “TV Table” when you check in!
Of course, we highly recommend you order our favorite Disney menu item of all time — the fried herb and garlic cheese appetizer!
And ordering a drink from Dad’s Liquor Cabinet is a way fun bonus!
If you book a table, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to explore all the fun decor here. It’s truly an amazing throwback to the mid-20th century. And, here’s a TIP: if you go to the restroom, be sure to note the color of the soap. After all, your “Cousin” (that’s your server) may ask to make sure you washed your hands! (If you’re a 50s Primetime newbie, be sure to read some of our favorite readers’ experiences here!)
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Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square
While some of you can’t wait to book a table with Mickey and Minnie, still others feel that the quintessential Disney dining experience is tied more to history and reliably good food. Those were the top reasons why you cited Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom as a must-do for your first-timers dining list.
Liberty Tree offers all-you-care-to-enjoy, family-style meals for lunch and dinner. The Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake is to die for and if you’re feeling like adding on something unique to drink (for an extra cost, that is) you can try a DOLE WHIP SLUSH (also known as the Tavern Punch on the menu)!
Plus, the meal at Liberty Tree — basically a traditional Thanksgiving meal served family style — has a big following, too!
Via Napoli in Epcot’s Italy
Throughout all of the many comments we received, there was another resounding suggestion: first-timers must eat somewhere in EPCOT’s World Showcase. One of your very favorite international-inspired spots is Via Napoli in the Italy Pavilion.
And why not? Located in the Italy Pavilion, Via Napoli offers some of the best pizza that we’ve had anywhere, ever (and especially at Disney!). Pizzas are thin-crust and made with imported water to better reach the dough consistency you’d experience if you were dining right in Naples, Italy. Try the Piccante Pizza, our favorite Quattro Formaggi, or one of the many other pizza options on the menu! And don’t forget to sample some of the amazing beers that they feature here!
Of course, pasta might also be your choice.
We also love the setting, including the three enormous wood-burning ovens named after Italian volcanoes. You definitely won’t go wrong — food-wise — planning a meal here.
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness Resort
We were super excited to see that many of our readers loved and suggested Hoop De Doo Musical Revue Dinner Show at Ft. Wilderness as a favorite for first-timers! We couldn’t agree more and the rootin’ tootin’ show returns to Disney World on June 23rd, 2022!
This classic “hootenanny” combines singing, dancing, and wacky comedy for 2 hours of family fun that will keep you rolling.
While you enjoy the entertainment, you’ll also be eating some delicious foods – Fried Chicken, Barbecue Ribs, plus yummy sides.
Grownups can also enjoy unlimited beer, wine, and sangria, and soft drinks are available, too. And be sure to save room for the awesome and delicious Strawberry Shortcake!
Boma at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and/or Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Sometimes at Disney, you need a little something different, and many DFB readers passionately avowed their love for the restaurants on property specializing in African flavors! But of all of them, Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge and Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom were your favorites.
With similar menus, you can’t go wrong by choosing one or the other of these buffet-style feasts.
Featuring African specialties like Cape Malay Green Curry Shrimp, Berbere-marinated Pork, and beautiful pastries, breads, chutneys, and spreads, you’ll find a lot to tempt your taste buds. Check out our Tusker House Review for dozens of food photos!
One point of distinction: if you’re looking for a character experience, choose Tusker House for breakfast, lunch, or dinner! Characters do not make an appearance at Boma.
Be sure to try the Jungle Juice, too!
Le Cellier Steakhouse in EPCOT’s Canada
Many readers agreed that a first visit to Disney World should include a stop at one of the resort’s signature restaurants. While a few different spots were mentioned, Le Cellier in EPCOT’s Canada Pavilion garnered the most buzz.
With some of the best steaks that we’ve ever tried, this spot wins rave reviews for its consistently good food and cozy setting. The service is often very good here as well.
Our favorite items here are the Poutine and the Le Cellier Filet Mignon. But don’t take my word for it! There are plenty of options to sample. Just remember, this restaurant is a signature meal — which means a hefty price tag — for both lunch and dinner.
And if dessert is on your radar, we are big fans of the Maple Crème Brûlée!
Les Halles Bakery in EPCOT’s France
For your final food stop, First Timers, DFB loyal readers want to make sure you don’t miss out on one of EPCOT’s staple Quick Service spots, Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie.
Tucked into the back of EPCOT’s France pavilion is this charming bakery that is packed with truly tasty treats, both sweet and savory.
It’s also a terrific stop for those who would like a gourmet coffee or glass of French wine. Check out an extensive Epcot Les Halles Review here!
Cinderella’s Royal Table in Magic Kingdom
But we can’t wrap up our list without a nod to Cinderella’s Royal Table. I mean, the castle is so iconic that it’s the Disney logo, for cryin’ out loud. And are you kidding me that there’s a restaurant in there, too???
Personally, I think that a meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table has to be on the bucket list of every self-respecting Disney fan. How can you possibly go through your charmed Disney life without seeing inside those walls?
Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table ensures character interaction, too — a BIG plus for us. While you enjoy your meal, Cinderella’s princess friends meet and greet and take pictures and offer autographs. (Cinderella doesn’t actually mingle, but you have a chance to meet her before you’re seated.)
Note that currently, Cinderella’s Royal Table features a modified character meet and greet experience with guests being able to pose for photos with Cinderella at the entrance only.
In the past, the food here was considered largely overpriced and forgettable. But in the last few years, that has changed a little. We’re seeing more updates on the breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus as chefs are steered by seasonal ingredients and hot food trends.
And breakfast has been the sweet spot here for a long time — especially the Pastries and the Stuffed French Toast, which changes up now and then.
The characters and ambiance are still the big draw. But chances are nowadays, you’ll enjoy your meal here as well.
And, Now It’s YOUR Turn to Share Your Suggestions!
So there you have it! Our DFB Readers’ suggestions for the Disney restaurants that you simply must try on your first visit to Walt Disney World! It’s a big list to be sure, so we recommend taking a few of these picks and incorporating them into your plans. Or, if you’re anything like us, just try them all!
We’d like to thank you for stopping by and making all sorts of fantastic recommendations. And while we couldn’t list them all, we really appreciate all of your input!
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What are your favorite recommendations for a first time diner at Disney? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Rob from Canada says
I’m very surprised to see Chef .Mickey’s as a must-do. AJ nearly always says the food there is mediocre at best, and she recommends Garden Grill in Epcot as a much better alternative. With respect to character interaction, because Chef Mickey’s is a buffet, you run the risk of missing the one and only chance to interact with characters if you happen to be up at the buffet when the characters come by. In contrast, at Garden Grill, service is family style, so they bring the food to you and you won’t risk missing the characters. And characters usually come by multiple times during the meal, which is usually NOT the case at Chef Mickey’s.
Sherry McMahan says
Yay!!! Most of these are on my list of restaurants we are going to so I am really excited to know that. I have been researching since January for our July trip to Kearney about all of the restaurants and what’s happening in the parks…[i just hope the coronavirus (COVID-19) doesn’t mess up our plans. ]
Steve Iwata says
From California and been to WDW 6 times since 2007. In between DL in Cal. Musts are Ohana, Teppan Edo, Flame tree Bar B Q ( lunch), Be Our Guest ( dinner), Akershus ( breakfast) . The rest varies each trip, 6 day park hopper, and a WDW resort. Always travel mid October-Early Dec. Get Standard DDP. others too much food. Went in Oct 2019 and spent total of $24.00 on food etc outside of the DDP. WELL worth it !! Back in 2021 for my 70th Birthday.
Chef´s Mickey restaurant is also my first choice when it comes to eating well and eating meals with Disney characters.
Thanks for the help! I plan to do to WDW the first week of March. How busy do you think it will be?
1st timers should consider character dining, you get your photo opportunities out of the way, no chasing characters around the parks or waiting in long lines; Chef Mickey or Tusker House would be my pick. Sci-fi Dine-in is a great pick for unique dining, eating under the stars at this drive-in, the food is good too. The food court at Disney’s Port Orlean’s Resort Riverside has great food, grab some of their beignets and take the water taxi from the resort to Disney Springs for some shopping.
California born/raised on Disney/DCA and after 25 years (my whole life) I finally get too visit DisneyWorld in July for my 25th birthday for the first time. We’re only doing 1 day and Magic Kingdom as our destination but I’d welcome any recommendations! I love Disney not only for the experiences but the food and artwork as well (Burbank WD Studios were my backyard).
Wow, quite a list, most of which we would never go to.
Boma – we love the food but when we had to pay adult prices for a 12 year old that only wanted a handful of chicken fingers we skipped it for awhile. Go when your kid is children’s pride!
Cinderella’s table us GREAT for the first time with a kid who want to meet the princesses! Also nice as a lunch break in the hot weather.
Be our guest-we like it but before it was a set price!
Liberty Tree Taven – never been and have 0 nostalgia even though I’ve been going since the 70s. Menu totally different than above.
Prime time cafe – food was horrible and no “experience” when we went. Kids like Sci-fi diner experience but the food was bad last time.
Counter service in star wars land and toy story were good last time but if we want a sit down meal we duck out and eat at one of the Swan/Dolphin places then go back.
Hoop-de-do is not sonething that we ever wanted to do but it is a never miss for my Aunt.
Epcot- SO many different countries. Never had bad meal at any of the places in France. Never ate at Napoli because we have tons of pizza places at home in the Northeast (I am sure it is good). We debate Canada ever time but the price is outrageous !!! So many good places in Epcot and we have had very nice steaks around Disney for 1/2 the price! Not to mention you go to one of the set price places with limited choices and you want the steak to get your money’s worth.
I love your blog articles but sometimes the menus I see photos of and the menus on the Disney World site just don’t seem to match up.
What’s the deal? Are the menus on the Disney World site the full official offering or examples of the most popular dishes?
A foodie wants to know…
If I’d have taken this advice I would never have returned to WDW!
I guess everyone has different tastes, but the food at pretty much all these places is mediocre at best!
Tiffins is great (although not as good at pre-pandemic), Jungle Cruise place is good/OK, Tepoan Edo entertaining and good enough food.
Via Napoli is awful, and most quick service places are ‘meh’!
But it’s a theme park. Fast food with a massive price tag. Stick to snacks, Epcot good booths and save your cash for Disney Springs, especially Wine Bar George and The Boathouse
we ate dinner at o hana recently – bad
go for breakfast – micky lilo stich fun and food was good basic but good
i agree about avoiding chef micky as well
we were also disappointed at beast castle exp ok food but loud – i know its a kids place but it echos
love via napoli love le celliar (but exp)
also Calafornia Grill wonderful also expensive