Here at DFB, we know a thing or two about Disney restaurants.
But Disney World restaurants have certainly changed over the years! You might be surprised by JUST how much some have changed! We’re taking a look at the weird and wonderful Disney restaurants of the past. Do you remember these surprising things from back in the day?
There used to be WAY cuter paper products.
In the first few decades that Walt Disney World was open, the paper napkins at quick-service restaurants were branded with the Walt Disney World logo and whatever promotions were going on at the time. We’ve seen some special napkins pop up for special events, but mostly they’re a thing of the past.
Our hearts broke a little bit when we noticed that quick-service spots were starting to use plain brown napkins. It’s much better to wipe your face with a fun Disney napkin than a boring ol’ regular one!
Mickey. Butter. Sculptures.
This next one is one that many-a Disney fan remembers as very near and dear to their hearts. Many table-service restaurants used to have Mickey butter sculptures for each table!
Sure, we sometimes spot butter pats shaped like Mickey or even with Mickey’s detailed face on them. But, did you know you used to get a full, standing Mickey butter sculpture when you sat down to dine? Those were the days.
Some iconic table-service and buffets used to be quick service, and vice-versa!
Did you know that some of your favorite table-service spots used to be quick-service? AND some of your favorite quick-service spots used to be table-service spots! Do you remember any of these switcheroos?
Tusker House in Animal Kingdom is a super-popular buffet-style table-service spot but it used to be all about that counter-service life! Restaurantosaurus used to have character dining in the morning that made it a table-service style meal. Magic Kingdom’s Diamond Horseshoe used to be a quick-service spot (with a show!). And while you may know and love the sit-down meals at Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom, you might not remember it used to be a fast-food spot known as Adventureland Veranda — an opening day food option serving fast food with a tropical twist.
There were some SUPER fun now-extinct spots and some BIG changes over the years.
Sure we get excited about whenever we get a NEW Disney restaurant to try, but there have certainly been some eats of the past that didn’t exactly make us thrilled to say goodbye. In fact, there have been some SUPER fun restaurants that are no longer around.
Adventureland used to have a juice stand that served tropical sips in cups shaped like fruit, King Stefan’s Banquet Hall predated Cinderella’s Royal Table and brought us FRIED BRIE, and The Empress Lilly used to float where Paddlefish is now and had one of the first Disney character breakfasts.
Checked out the EPCOT Experience recently? The big building housing this experience actually used to serve a much bigger purpose. The area used to be an opening day restaurant called the Odyssey and served burgers, chicken strips, and more.
You might find yourself coming across a Disney fan or two that’s not too happy with all of these replacements (the nostalgia is STRONG with this topic)! We’re sure there are still plenty of folks who would take the Top of the World Supper Club over the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill. And there’s sure to be folks missing Minnie’s Menehune Breakfast at (what is now) ‘Ohana at the Polynesian Resort over the Lilo and Stitch-themed Best Friends Breakfast currently there.
The Disney Dining Plan used to be really different.
The OG Disney Dining Plan had some BIG differences from today. The Dining Plan (as we know it today) was first introduced in 2005 and has since grown in complexity with lots more offerings. We’ll tell ya, the original iteration might surprise you!
Originally, the Dining did NOT include alcohol. That’s actually a very recent addition in 2018. But it DID come with appetizers and desserts at sit-down meals AND tax and tip were included! Plus, at fast food locations, dessert was included. For one sit-down meal, one fast food meal, and one snack per day it was a LOT of food and was also surprisingly affordable — $35 per night per adult and only $10 per night for kids!
To get a comparable Dining Plan today (when the Dining Plan is offered) would cost you $78 per night for adults for one sit down meal, one fast food meal, and two snacks (with no tax or tip [or appetizer!] for that sit down meal and no dessert for your quick service!).
The coffee scene used to be…less than great.
Now it’s pretty easy to find a good cup of coffee in Disney World between the Starbucks locations, Joffrey’s locations, and Joffrey’s offerings at quick-service and table-service spots. But, that wasn’t always the case.
Disney used to pretty much exclusively have Nestle coffee and well…it wasn’t great. Many of our team members do NOT look back fondly on the pre-Joffrey’s/Starbucks era. It was brown water. It tasted like instant coffee. Stick to making chocolate (or even chocolate milk!) Nestle! Thank goodness for good coffee NOW!
BUT, Starbucks hadn’t taken over.
On the flip side of that, Starbucks moving into the park can be a touchy subject — especially for Magic Kingdom. As many who’ve been going to Disney World for the past decade or more know, Starbucks took over the beloved Main Street Bakery.
Sure, the spot kept some of the theming and the name but Starbucks pulled a lot of that charming real-feeling bakery energy right out of there. With the change, our beloved massive Cinnamon Roll moved to its new home in Fantasyland at Gaston’s Tavern. We certainly miss looking in the bakery case and seeing Disney pastries — not the same ones at every Starbucks around the country.
SELF. SERVE. PLASTIC. CHEESE. (And Dole Whip)!
Consider this next item on the list to be an ODE to perhaps the thing we miss the most from the past of Disney’s restaurants. You used to be able to dispense plastic cheese from a spigot — a NEVER-ENDING STREAM OF PLASTIC CHEESE. Okay…maybe it did end if the whole canister ran out, but we still miss the days when we could push a button to make our cheesy dreams come true. We seriously can’t stress the loss here. You used to be able to walk into Casey’s Corner and fill up as many cups of complimentary warm, gooey plastic cheese AS YOU WANTED! Now, alas, you must pay for sides of cheese at many locations.
We’ve also seen self-serve Dole Whip in the past which is basically a pure gift to humanity. Captain Cook’s in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort was kind of famous for it. As much Dole Whip as YOU could swirl in a cup. Yours. If you could swirl a 2-foot tall swirl of Whip, IT WAS YOURS! It was magical. This isn’t totally lost though — we saw this relatively recently at Disney’s All-Star Resorts. Why can’t that be a thing ALL the time!?
The value food courts used to have serious pizzazz.
Speaking of the value food courts, they used to have some serious pizzazz — and not just because of the self-serve Dole Whip. Don’t worry, we’ll elaborate. For one, Intermission Food Court at Disney’s All-Star Music used to have some AMAZING murals of rockers that gave us a serious giggle. check out pseudo-Jon Bon Jovi below!
Disney’s Pop Century Resort’s Everything Pop Shopping and Dining had some cool offerings too. Now, the iconic Tie-Dye Cheesecake comes in a cup, but it used to be an actual slice (that showed off the colors better IMO). Plus, you could grab TV Dinners for Mom’s Night Out with some pretty tasty options.
We miss some of the more unique options these spots used to offer!
Mickey Bars had an interesting look.
Mickey Bars might be the single most iconic treat in the Disney parks, but they didn’t always have the chocolate-shell appearance that they do now. In fact, they looked a lot more like this:
Yup, Mickey Bars had exposed chocolate and vanilla ice cream with a little face on them and chocolate ears. You could find these in grocery stores as well, similar to how we can find the current bars in many stores! One thing this shirt has wrong is that those faces didn’t turn to a frown when you took a bite. Thank goodness!
EPCOT made dining reservations high-tech.
Did you know that the way to make a dining reservation in EPCOT used to be through the use of a touchscreen computer? Well, that doesn’t sound too crazy nowadays but wait — this was in the 1980s! Touchscreens just weren’t a thing!
These screens, called WorldKey Kiosks, were a very cool technology at the time but maybe not the best way to make dining reservations. Guests would be connected to a Cast Member they could see on the screen and they could converse with them through a microphone to help make reservations. Typically, reservations would fill up by 10AM. Can you imagine having to be IN the park to make a reservation? The good ol’ days! Still, it’s pretty neat that EPCOT had some of the first touchscreens most guests ever encountered.
There used to be only one celebrity chef in Downtown Disney.
Disney Springs is a pretty cool place with lots of dining experiences — many of them introduced by celebrity chefs! There’s Raglan Road by Chef Kevin Dundon, Morimoto Asia by Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Wolfgang Puck, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Kitchen, Chef Rick Bayless’s Frontera Cocina, and more.
But there used to be just ONE celebrity chef back when Disney Springs was Downtown Disney. Can you guess who it was? Wolfgang Puck was the first to claim the Disney celeb spot!
So ya see, Disney restaurants are pretty different from what they used to be! We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the past of Disney dining and you know you can always count on us to report the present and the future. 😉
Join the DFB Newsletter to get all the breaking news right in your inbox! Click here to Subscribe!
Do you remember the past of Disney World’s restaurants? Tell us in the comments!