“I’m hungry!” Even though you may not be hungry, somehow, as you walk through one of the four Walt Disney World theme parks the smell and look of food everywhere is playing a trick on you. It’s making you believe it’s time to eat something even though you just ate about 30 minutes ago. It’s understandable. It’s not often we are surrounded by the opportunity to eat some of our favorite theme park foods in a setting complete with mouse ears and theme park attractions. When strolling through the theme parks we tend to gravitate to some of our favorite dining options. Just the other day I was thinking what type of dining do I enjoy in each of the 4 Disney World theme parks; table service, counter service, or snacks. Continue through the page break and let’s rank the dining types in each theme park.
It’s true, each of the four theme parks has a distinct dining personality. What separates one park’s dining options from another may have to do with theming, restaurant budget, management, or even where the dining outlet is located inside the theme park. Among Disney fans, certain parks have a certain reputation for different foods and dining outlets. We won’t all agree on which is best, but typically the general theme park fan population pretty much knows where the dining gems lie and where the poor food hides.
Let’s take a visit to each theme park and rank the dining types. Some parks are known for their snacks. Some parks are known for a few great counter service locations, while other parks have a myriad of terrific table service restaurants. Let’s burn some calories and begin our journey before we start daydreaming of all this theme park food. Off we go!
The Magic Kingdom
I decided to start here because most guests tend to go directly to the Magic Kingdom when they arrive at Disney World. One of the best aspects of the Magic Kingdom is the smell of food as you walk around the park, especially up and down Main St. USA. I can recall several occasions when the Main St. Bakery lured me in by pumping its cinnamon inspired smells out onto the street. Other counter service locations in the Magic Kingdom include Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn, Columbia Harbour House, and Casey’s Corner which seem to stand out over Cosmic Rays, Pinocchio village Haus, and the Tomorrowland Terrace.
As I mentioned before the smells throughout the park are very good, especially the popcorn. I love the popcorn smells. Also, ice cream options are everywhere. The infamous Dole Whip and now the orange swirl at the Sunshine Tree Terrace is available as well. Some of my other favorite snacks in the Magic Kingdom include the Nutella Waffle at Sleepy Hollow and the cinnamon almonds and churros located at the snack carts throughout the park.
Walt Disney World’s signature park has always seemed to have a bad reputation for table service dining. Near the front of the park in a prime location is Tony’s Town Square. It typically seems empty most days. The most popular location is Cinderella’s Royal Table inside the castle. This is a popular choice for first time visitors simply because of the location and characters. Maybe the best table service location is the Crystal Palace, and one a lot of guests seem to forget is the Liberty Tree Tavern.
- Counter Service
- Table Service
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
This park always leaves me scratching my head when it comes to food. There continually seems to be a lot of changes to the food choices, especially in the counter service outlets. Experimenting with food choices isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it often leaves me wondering what to eat at certain locations before I get there. The counter service outlets here seem to offer a lot of the same fare, except for Starring Rolls and Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner (when it’s open). Starring Rolls is really the star in this category with some great sandwiches and delicious pastries.
Let me start by saying I believe the table service dining to be a bit under rated at Hollywood Studios. The Brown Derby is a terrific signature restaurant, Mama Melrose may be the most under-rated Disney World restaurant on property, and the food at 50’s Prime Time isn’t bad at all. Although the Sci-Fi Dine in Theater has great theming, the food isn’t always the best and there’s nothing special about the Hollywood & Vine restaurant except the unusual and different characters.
The snacks throughout Hollywood Studios seem more geared towards pastries. The famed carrot cake cookie and Butterfinger cupcake are high on the list for sugar comas and guest satisfaction. What I find lacking at DHS is a solid warm snack besides popcorn, churros or a turkey leg. Maybe I just haven’t stumbled across it yet.
- Table Service
- Counter Service
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
I recently came across some different snack items at the Animal Kingdom. Both of the new snack items were healthy choices. One was a trail mix with a hot or spicy flavor and the other was a peanut mixture with coconut and raisins. Both snacks were pre-packaged, but it’s good to see Disney is giving us new and healthier options. Most of the other snacks throughout the park are standard fare like popcorn, churros, ice cream, candy, etc. I think some thought goes into what might happen if a snack item was fed to the animals. Disney may be more conservative with their snack options with respect to the wildlife in the park (no plastic lids for drinks).
Moving on to the counter service options there are a few to choose from. There are 2 that are standard fare like Restaurantosaurus and Pizzafari, however there are a couple of good salad and sandwich choices in those locations. Probably the highlight of the counter service offerings at DAK is Flame Tree Barbeque. There you can get great barbeque offerings with a terrific view of the theme park in the back seating area. I just wish they had indoor seating. Over in Asia you can get foods from the continent like egg rolls, fried rice, and other Asian-inspired dishes at the Yak and Yeti counter service dining. Again, seating is outdoors.
Looking inside the theme park you really only have 2 table service options to choose from. Technically, the Rainforest Café sits outside the park so we won’t consider that an option. However, the two options inside the park are quite good. I consider the Tusker House character breakfast the best character meal on Disney property. The lunch and dinner are very good too. At the Yak & Yeti restaurant you have Asian-inspired dishes and quite a variety to choose from on the menu. I also consider this restaurant under-rated. It really depends if you enjoy Asian-inspired foods or not.
- Table Service
- Counter Service
I’ve saved the best for last. EPCOT is all about bringing people together. Food brings people together better than anything else, making EPCOT the food Mecca at Walt Disney World. I thought long and hard about all of the food and drink offerings inside the park and the number is mind-bending. EPCOT is the most food-rich theme park at Disney World. Trying to break down snacks, counter service, and table service locations would be a challenge indeed.
After looking at about each dining category I kept thinking of the great choices in the park. Nothing really stood out more than the other. There are unique snacks, possibly the best counter service location at Disney World is Sunshine Seasons, and specific table service cuisine from several countries around the world. Do I have my favorites? Yes, but I have a favorite in each category and nothing really is better than the other.
EPCOT is a perfect example that food is indeed a theme park in itself. Sorry, but I have to take the easy way out here for good reason. It’s a three-way tie.
- Counter Service, Snacks, Table Service
So, that’s it. I don’t know about you, but I’m stuffed and tired. That was quite a trek. Eating around all 4 Disney theme parks may seem like a food critic’s dream, but trust me even though we are on vacation we have to be careful not to have too much of a good thing.
What are some of your favorite dining options and categories in the 4 Disney world theme parks? Do you have a specific snack or location that tips the scales in favor of one dining category over another? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on the DIS’s official Facebook page. If you are having trouble remembering the abundant food choices at Disney World you can visit the DIS’s Food Porn Facebook page to spark your memory. There are a ton of food photos for you to enjoy. And we all know there are no calories when we look at food pictures, right. Or are there?
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Category: Disney World