A trip to Disney World is going to look a little different in the short-term, including dining at our favorite restaurants!
When it comes to choosing what to eat at a reopened Disney World, you may have to re-strategize a bit to choose what’s best for you and your family! Many of our old favorite tips don’t apply right now, so we’ve got a new and improved batch of tricks for you! Here are some tips to consider when making dining reservations and choosing where to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout a reopened Disney World!
Eat at Garden Grill instead of ‘Ohana
One of the biggest “Disney reopening” shocks came when we learned that our beloved ‘Ohana would not reopen right away with Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
This is most likely due to the fact that character dining has largely been put on hold throughout Disney World for the time being and because the Polynesian has only opened its Disney Vacation Club Villas to date.
But if you want a similar character experience, Garden Grill Restaurant in EPCOT IS offering a modified character dining experience. Garden Grill, like ‘Ohana, serves their food family-style, meaning you can enjoy their “all-you-care-to-eat” menu without worrying about traveling to a buffet table.
If you’ve read DFB before, you might know that we have a not-so-secret love for Garden Grill. The food is reliably fresh and delicious and the smaller size of the rotating restaurant means WAY more character interactions than most other character meals. We even ranked Garden Grill as our FAVORITE restaurant on Disney World property to meet Mickey Mouse!
The new experience features the same delish food, the restaurant still rotates (giving you an awesome view of Living With the Land below!), and there are still LOTS of chances to spot characters. Due to the distancing procedures in place, Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale won’t give you a hug or sign an autograph book but they do circle the interior of the restaurant frequently popping over to say hello!
Note that right now ONLY lunch and dinner are available due to EPCOT’s later opening time each day. Don’t sweat though — our next tip will help you out of that “what to do for a character breakfast” jam… .
Eat your character breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace instead of Chef Mickey’s
One of the most popular of Disney’s character breakfast options is easily Chef Mickey’s in Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This breakfast is always packed, is a bit hectic at times, and books up quickly.
When Chef Mickey’s reopened recently, we checked out the new breakfast-only dining (sorry guys, no brunch, lunch, or dinner for now!) and experienced what a socially distanced, all-you-care-to-eat family-style version of their buffet WITHOUT characters was like.
The verdict? It’s actually pretty enjoyable if you want a quieter, more laid back breakfast. But if your end game is meeting characters, you’ll likely be disappointed. That’s where Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort can step up to help.
Topolino’s Terrace was the first character meal to return to reopened Disney World. The plated breakfast is still just as delightful as it was on our last experience here, though the menu is a bit more limited for the time being.
You still get to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy in their Renaissance best, but at a distance. During our breakfast, characters took turns regularly parading around the center of the restaurant waving and posing for (distanced) selfies with guests. They even all did a short parade around the center with all four characters!
Guests get a printed autograph card to keep as a memento of their meal in lieu of getting real autographs in person.
We were pleasantly surprised by this dining experience. We still got plenty of attention from the characters, the food was still great, and we got a lovely morning view out of those giant windows surrounding the restaurant.
Eat at Sanaa instead of Jiko and Boma
Currently, most Signature Restaurants and buffets are closed, which means favorites from Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge like Boma and Jiko are unavailable. But fear not! One table service restaurant is still available over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and it just so happens to be one of our favorites!
Sanaa has officially reopened in the Kidani Village section of the resort! Although Sanaa isn’t a Signature Restaurant like Jiko or a buffet like Boma, it is still an incredibly unique restaurant with great views of the animals on the savanna while you dine.
If you’re looking for a dining experience unlike any other, we highly recommend Sanaa! The food here is a variety of African and Indian specialties, like our beloved Butter Chicken or their Indian-style Bread Service (with a choice of five types of bread and nine accompaniments to go with it. YUM!).
The food here has yet to disappoint us and the view of the animals makes it even better. Be sure to request a window table when you check-in (which you’ll currently do with Mobile Dine Check-In!).
Eat outside instead of inside
We’ve eaten at Disney World nearly EVERY DAY since it first reopened on May 20, so we’ve picked up a few tips to go with the new style of dining present in the parks. We’ve found that we have been more comfortable dining outdoors with plenty of fresh air and ventilation than dining indoors.
While indoor seating is spaced out to accommodate physical distancing, our preferred dining experience has been outdoors in the shade or near the water when possible, where we can stay cool.
The CDC currently is placing an emphasis on dining outdoors when possible because the increased airflow is considered safer than eating indoors. So if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of dining indoors right now, Disney has you covered with plenty of locations offering open-air dining. Some spots that offer shaded outdoor seating are the new patio as part of the Shine Bar and Social at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’, Geyser Point at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar in Disney Springs. We also enjoyed waterfront dining at The Boathouse in Disney Springs!
Eat at a sit down restaurant instead of a fast food restaurant
Sitting down to eat is one of the few times you can remove your face mask while at Disney World. The other exceptions include swimming, while you are in your hotel room, or in the “Relaxation Stations” throughout the theme parks.
So, if you’re looking for a little breather from life under a mask, you may want to seek out table service reservations that allow you more time to relax without a mask on while you eat.
Keep in mind that dining at a table service restaurant doesn’t mean you have to break the bank! There are several ways to stick to your budget, including splitting entrees as well as ordering appetizers as your full meal. Just remember to be courteous to your server and tip them fairly if you choose to skip out on ordering full entrees for each adult! Here are a few of our favorite budget sit down Disney World restaurants!
Get a reservation to eat at your favorite resort instead of in the theme parks
We know that for some folks, taking a trip around the “Monorail loop” to visit the resorts is as important as visiting the theme parks at Disney World! Others like to take a stroll along Disney’s BoardWalk or see the animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Unfortunately, simply visiting a resort on a whim isn’t as easy as it used to be, at least in Disney World’s initial reopening phase. Currently, the ONLY guests allowed at the resorts are those staying overnight, or those with confirmed dining reservations or Mobile Orders at one of the restaurants.
So, if visiting the Polynesian Village Resort is at the top of your “to do” list every time you come to Disney World, we would recommend you make a reservation at one of their open restaurants for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; or Mobile Order a snack at Capt. Cook’s. Consider making dining reservations at resorts INSTEAD of the parks if you’re big into resort hopping.
Still interested in dining at the theme parks? Here’s a FULL list of every restaurant currently open in the theme parks!
Dining in Disney World is certainly going to look and feel VERY different for the time being. In this initial reopening phase, we’re ALL going to have to make at least slight adjustments to what we’re used to when it’s time to make our dining reservations and sit down to eat.
While all of our favorite restaurants will come back someday, for now, it’s helpful to know about some alternatives and tips on how to adjust! We hope this gave you some ideas to consider if you are planning on visiting Disney World in 2020.
What restaurant are you most looking forward to eating at once again? Let us know in the comments!