It’s no secret that we LOVE food at Disney World’s theme parks.
And we will never turn down a Dole Whip, Corn Dog Nuggets, or anything served with PLASTIC CHEESE (yes, it’s our weakness and we are not ashamed). But did you know some of the BEST meals and snacks are actually found OUTSIDE of the parks?
That’s right, you don’t have to pay for a theme park ticket to get some amazing food at Disney World. And we would even argue that some dining locations throughout the resort are WORTH leaving the theme parks to try. So we’ve put together a list of 22 of our favorites (and honestly, we could probably come up with even more!).
Animal Kingdom Lodge
A lot of great Disney dining can be found at the resorts — and among our favorite resorts for food is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. This resort has an amazing array of African theming, including its food! One of our faaaavorite spots to visit is Sanaa, which is named after the Swahili word for “work of art.” you’ll find this at the Kidani Village portion of Animal Kingdom Lodge.
And that’s exactly what the food is here, right down to the incredible Indian-style Bread Service that gives you a variety of breads and a whopping nine sauces to dip them in. NINE!
But ALL of the food is solid here — the butter chicken practically melts in your mouth, and the desserts are enough to satisfy anyone with a sweet tooth. No wonder this spot is becoming harder and harder to snag a reservation!
Not all buffets are created equal and some actually serve food that you WANT to eat. Our next stop is back at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House. Boma is one of the few Disney World buffets that doesn’t need characters to create a special dining experience — the food here does that. And it’s all African-inspired. It’s got curry-flavored dishes, fire-grilled meats, African soups, and more! And big bragging rights here — this is the location that first gave us the chocolatey, incredible Zebra Domes!
Breakfast at Boma is also a great experience, with most of its breakfast items served with an African twist. Also, all you can drink Jungle Juice (AKA POG Juice!) is a must, as well as the French Toast Bread Pudding! Now we’re drooling just thinking about it!
Jiko…The Cooking Place
Noticing a trend here — Animal Kingdom Lodge has a LOT of great food! If you’re looking for African-inspired dishes with loads of atmosphere, we always recommend Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge — Jambo House. The food here is delicious and the atmosphere is romantic. If you’re looking for a date night spot, this is it! Here you can dine on some special dishes, too, like the Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon, Morrocan Lamb Shank, and Botswana-Style Beef Short Ribs.
But we won’t lie — we come here for the Macaroni and Cheese. Maybe that makes us basic, but if you’ve tasted the Mac and Cheese here, you will certainly understand. And yes, we order it from the Kids Menu — don’t judge!
Anyone who has eaten at ‘Ohana has probably eaten there more than once. This is probably one of the most beloved restaurants in all of Disney World. In the open kitchen guests can watch as chefs grill up all kinds of yummy meats, along with Hawaiian-inspired side dishes.
And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the ‘Ohana Bread Pudding, which we’ve tried to recreate at home multiple times (we are SO glad we have a recipe for this). This all-you-care-to-eat meal is one you will most certainly need a NAP after!
In the mornings, you can typically have breakfast here with Stitch and friends (though during ‘Ohana’s initial reopening, Disney characters are not present). It’s a really fun breakfast with all the breakfast food staples served family-style. This is a stellar option before a day at nearby Magic Kingdom. We think we sliiiiightly prefer dinner though — if you time it right, you can get great views of the nightly fireworks in Magic Kingdom!
Speaking of breakfast, no Polynesian breakfast is complete without Tonga Toast from Kona Cafe, in our humble opinions (but you can get it, sans strawberry sauce, downstairs at the resort’s fast food location, Capt. Cook’s, for slightly cheaper!). But lunch and dinner are great here, too. You can indulge in yummy sushi rolls, burgers, Dashi bowls, stir fry, and more. This is one of those underrated locations that we would happily leave the parks to visit.
The best thing about Kona Cafe is that you can score great food throughout the day here!
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto isn’t just a bar — it’s an experience. And in true Disney World style, stopping here for a drink and some appetizers comes with a LOT of Disney magic. Order certain drinks and you could trigger some wacky bartender antics as well as some cool special effects.
The theming here is fun, too — but what else would you expect from a bar themed around a character from The Jungle Cruise? There are nods to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, the Enchanted Tiki Room, and much more hiding in these elaborately decorated walls! Even the barstools hide secrets (this is one of the most fun parts of this bar!).
You can bring your kids here, too, until 8PM, but after that, it becomes 21 years of age and older. This spot is QUITE popular and VERY small, meaning waits can get up there when it’s open, so plan accordingly!
California Grill has been at the top of its game for a LONG time — for good reason. This is the spot where you go for an innovative meal that’s made with the highest quality ingredients. It’s not cheap — but it also comes with an unmatched view. This sleek restaurant is located at the top of the Contemporary Resort, offering great views of Magic Kingdom and incredible nightly viewings of the fireworks.
The menu changes often here, but that means you can try something new almost every time you stop by. In the past, we’ve enjoyed the Aged Gouda Mac and Cheese (yes, again with the Mac and Cheese!) and the Oak-Fired Filet of Beef!
If counter service is more your thing, Contempo Cafe is a good reason to leave the parks for a good meal. And although everything here is good, this is where you want to come for our favorite course — DESSERT! And there are always some fun seasonal sweet choices here, like the Chocolate Peppermint Yule Log that we got to indulge in over the holidays. YUM.
We’ve also found some good seasonal cupcakes here, along with cookies, and more! They even have some reliable treats you’ll only find here, like the Monorail Cupcake and, one of our favorites, the Peanut Butter Pie!
So be sure to save room for dessert so you can pick up a sweet treat at Contempo Cafe.
Topolino’s Terrace — Flavors of the Riviera
Are you looking for a top-notch signature dining experience? Look no further than Topolino’s Terrace! And yes, there is a really lovely character breakfast here in the mornings, but we really love dinners here. The service is top-notch and the menu is a great blend of French and Italian cuisine.
But this is also where you can get classic European cuisine such as Escargot, signature pastas, and a Veal Chop that will blow your mind. And you get to dine on top of the Riviera Resort, which also gives you great fireworks views! It’s a win-win!
Le Petit Cafe
But this location holds a secret. Because while it’s a good place to grab a pastry and coffee in the morning, at night, it turns into a wine bar with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails! C’est magnifique!
Beach Club Resort
Beaches and Cream
We have happy dreams about some of the wonderful ice cream concoctions at Beaches and Cream, and this is where we go to get our chocolate and peanut butter fix with the No Way Jose Sundae. But there’s also the gigantic Kitchen Sink, with its EIGHT scoops of ice cream, which at one point, came with a lot of fanfare (it’s a little subdued now, though).
But don’t let the “Cream” part of its name fool you, this location serves up some good lunch and dinner foods, too, including a pretty solid grilled cheese sandwich (yes, there’s our thing for cheese again). You’ll find classic diner comfort foods here — including massive piles of tots loaded with toppings!
Geyser Point Bar & Grill
Yes, we’re adding another bar to the list of places that are worth leaving the parks to try. Geyser Point Bar & Grill offers a little something for everyone, and it doubles as both a quick service AND a table service joint! The featured cocktails are usually a total hit, and the waterfront view can’t be beat.
Now three words for you — Barbecue Brisket Dip. Just order that and thank us later (and you will thank us). But we also really like the Charcuterie Board here, too, because we love charcuterie boards almost as much as we love cheese. Oh, their burger is good too. OK, we really like Geyser Point. Get it??
Story Book Dining at Artist Point with Snow White
Have you ever dreamed of having a meal with Snow White and the dwarfs? Or maybe get a photo with the Evil Queen? Well, Story Book Dining at Artist Point is the only place at Disney World where that can happen! Guests can enjoy a prix-fixe meal and meet characters that are very difficult to meet at Disney World otherwise.
This is one of the most memorable meals you can have at Disney World. The characters are fun, the theming and presentation of the food is unique, and it’s just an all-around great dining experience. Bonus, when the Disney Dining Plan is offered, it was only ONE credit for dinner here!
Grand Floridian Resort
Enchanted Rose Lounge
Sure, Magic Kingdom lets you dine inside Beast’s Castle at Be Our Guest, but you can also go to the Enchanted Rose Lounge to get the full Beauty and the Beast experience (on more of an adult scale!). And the bar here GLOWS beneath a golden chandelier and has a ton of other details inspired by the Disney classic animated movie.
But this is also where you go when you want to try out some gourmet bites, like Truffle Fries and House-Made Flatbread. Seriously, the truffle fries here are pretty killer!
There is an EXTENSIVE cocktail list, almost to the point that it’s overwhelming, but the bartenders here can mix up whatever you want, so all you have to do is ask.
Victoria & Albert’s
It doesn’t get much swankier than Victoria & Albert’s! This is fine dining at its…well…finest, and it’s one of the most critically-acclaimed restaurants in Florida with a AAA five-diamond rating.
During your meal, you will have your own dedicated servers, as well as personalized menus. There’s even a full menu of bottled imported WATER. The food is about as fresh and top notch as you’ll find.
And ladies? You get a long-stemmed red rose at the end of your meal. How’s that for NICE? There are several options available here, including a Chef’s Degustation Menu and an exclusive dining experience at the Chef’s Table IN the kitchen (three hours of food? Yes, please?!?!). This place is SPECIAL.
Review: Is There Such a Thing as TOO MANY Truffles? We Find Out at Victoria and Alber’s in Disney World!
Wine Bar George
If you’ve been reading us for a while, you know we often sing the praises of Wine Bar George. We can’t help it — they make basically the most perfect awesome little Crispy Mac and Cheese Bites (are you sensing a theme here?). But we love just about EVERYTHING at Wine Bar George, right down to the cocktails, small plates, and wine.
This is one of the few places we’ve been to multiple times that keeps continuing to impress us over and over, and, if given the choice between riding Pirates of the Caribbean again or eating here, we’d probably just hop in our car and head on over to Disney Springs. It’s THAT good. (OK, but maybe we circle back and ride Pirates too. Cause Pirates!)
Homecomin’ by Chef Art Smith
If you’re looking for ultimate Southern comfort food, Homecomin’ is where you want to go. Our go-to starter is almost always the Cheddar Cheese Drop Biscuits (yep, cheese…AGAIN), but we have also waxed poetic about something as simple as a salad here.
We also adore the moonshine cocktails and Chef Art Smith’s popular dessert — his take on Hummingbird Cake. And we know guests that can’t stop raving about how good the Fried Chicken is here. Pretty much everything on the menu is a home run in our book if you’re in the market for flavorful southern fare!
One of the reasons we love Morimoto Asia is that we can watch the chefs do their thing in show kitchens — so much fun! But we keep coming back for the food. The sushi here is solid (and, at times, PRICEY!), but there are some great dim sum options, too. That’s why we’ve always included this on the list of best places to eat at Disney World without a park ticket.
Stellar food aside, this place is straight-up gorgeous. We’re talking ALL the date night vibes, here.
Check out the cool one-piece two-story bar curving in front of you as you enter!
Entertainment is a little sparse at Disney World right now, so we take it where we can get it. And at Raglan Road, we can get a filling Irish dinner AND a show. This restaurant features classic Irish food and drinks, with real Irish dancers and live music!
This place is a whole lot of fun for dinner. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the show and the food is quite good!
And this Irish restaurant is actually quite authentic — the bars and furniture were built in the Emerald Isle. Also, the Rollicking Raglan Brunch is a lot of fun (but make reservations because seats go fast!)
There is a lot of talk about who has the best chicken sandwich, and we would like to nominate the chicken sandwiches at Chicken Guy! for the absolute best! And btw, did you know that food celebrity Guy Fieri is one of the co-owners of this quick-service restaurant? (TBH you can’t miss his face in the restaurant as well as his signature “Guy-isms” for certain foods!)
You also know a place is good when it has long lines, and there are almost always long lines to get in here. That’s some life-changing chicken right there. And with a selection of 22 sauces, you’re bound to find the Flavortown combo of your dreams. Go and stand in that line — it’s worth it.
The Chicken Guy! Reopening in Disney World Had LONG LINES and New Procedures. Check Out Our Experience Here!
So there you have it — a reason to skip the parks for dining to check out a myriad of other restaurants elsewhere. So save a day — or two, or three — during your next trip to Disney World to discover some of these great spots to eat!
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Have you been to any of these restaurants? Let us know in the comments!