Most people tend to visit the same restaurants every visit, because they enjoyed the same place the last few visits and liked the food. Why mess with perfection, right? There are so many other restaurants that could be just as good, better and/or provide a completely different experience. I understand the need to eat in the parks during the day, but expand your palate to the resorts for dinner. The restaurants below are recommended by experience. The last 2 are on my bucket list. Also, keep an open mind. Not everyone’s palates are the same. Case in point: why do some people say cilantro tastes smokey and others do not? I, for one, LOVE cilantro and it is not smokey……to me, anyway.
- California Grill, Contemporary Resort — My number one pick, so far. There is only one word for this restaurant… …..EXQUISITE. We had a favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World for many years until we broadened our horizons and treated our palates to this place, which replaced our former favorite by a landslide. The taste of everything from the sushi, which I normally do NOT like, all the way to the desserts, had us awestruck. The scallops were the best we have ever had. The bison tenderloins were fantastic and the chicken was full of flavor. I do not like potatoes, but their potatoes are delicious! That says a lot by itself! I could not get enough of the fresh green beans. I do not like vegetables and I could not stop eating the perfectly-cooked green beans. Needless to say, my potatoes and vegetables normally get thrown away or eaten by someone else. I ate them and I cannot wait to go back. No wonder why it is so difficult to get reservations there. I am not a fan of sushi, but my son convinced me to try this certain dish. There was absolutely zero taste of fish. I took each bite of a new fish fearing I would not like it, but it only got better and better. I am drooling just typing this! We ventured out and tried the desserts, too. They are creative and EVIL!! (In a good way.)
- LeCellier, Epcot — Ooooh, la la! The food is fantastic and the service is always phenomenal. This is another restaurant that is so incredibly difficult to get into for dinner. We have been here a few times and it changes so I would recommend the scallops, if it is back on the menu. The lamb is cooked perfectly. The steak? Well, it is a steakhouse so it is phenomenal, which was paired with a great bottle of red wine. Great selection of different breads including pretzel bread. They have a good variety of different desserts to round off a perfect meal (so I have seen). I am usually too full from the generous portions they give you so I do not get a dessert, but my family thoroughly enjoys them. From the small bites I occasionally tried from their desserts, they are gooooooood!
- Liberty Tree Tavern, Magic Kingdom — We had the pleasure of dining here for the first time on Thanksgiving day. It is unlimited and served family style. Not only is that convenient, but the food is top notch. Fresh green beans sauteed perfectly with perfect spices and, once again, this is coming from someone who does not like vegetables! The turkey is moist and DELICIOUS! The stuffing is out of this world. Ok, I am getting hungry now. I could go on. Oh! By the way, save room for the dessert! Unbelievable! In any case, at one point, they discontinued this and began individual dishes, which are FANTASTIC! But, fear not! I am assuming due to demand, they brought back the traditional turkey feast, but did not discontinue the new dishes. Every time we dine here, there have been new dishes, which is during lunch time only. As it stands right now, the individual dishes and turkey feast is served at lunch and only the turkey feast is served at dinner. Either way, you want great food? Go here!
- Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, Hollywood Studios — This place surprised me. The food was much better than I expected. Bread is provided before the meal. There is a plate of spices on the table that the server adds the oil to. The variety of spices combined with the oil was absolutely fantastic. I know, it is a basic appetizer, but the specific spices on the plate are phenomenal and I wish I knew the details so I can make it at home. The large portion of pasta with shrimp had so much taste that I did not want to waste what I could not eat and had it boxed up to bring back to my room. In my opinion, this has the best tasting food at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
- Yak & Yeti Restaurant, Animal Kingdom Theme Park — This restaurant has some of the best food in all of Walt Disney World. It has delicious Asian dishes from various regions across Asia. It is located at the base of Expedition Everest in the Animal Kingdom Theme Park. It is decorated with the proprietor’s collection of Southeast Asian artifacts. The menu consists of items like sweet-and-sour chicken, ahi tuna nachos, pork pot stickers and Kobe beef burgers along with vegetarian options and kid-friendly choices like tempura chicken, cheeseburgers and mac and cheese. Save room for dessert. You will not be disappointed with any of the food this restaurant has to offer.
- Cinderella’s Royal Table, Magic Kingdom– Cinderella greets you in the majestic Grand Hall, before you are called to your table where you will walk up a spiral staircase to the banquet hall on the next floor up. (A gilded elevator is also available.) The tables are in a storybook setting surrounded by stone archways, medieval flags and stained-glass windows overlooking Fantasyland. While you are dining, princesses will make their way to each table to take pictures and autograph books. Character appearances are subject to change. The first time I had gone here, I was not too impressed with the food. The location is magical. The experience is fantastic, but the food was ok. I had the opportunity to go, again, with family who had not been before. The food has changed quite a bit. The experience is still fantastic and being inside the castle is a magical moment for all to see, but the food has skyrocketed to the top of my favorite and recommended restaurant list. It is worth the money. Keep in mind that the money you pay in advance when booking your reservation includes non-alcoholic beverages, tax and tip. If you buy the dining plan after you booked the reservation or you have an annual passholder or Disney Vacation Club discount, you simply tell your server when you sit at the table. They will adjust or refund anything you are due to the credit card you charged the reservation to.
- Coral Reef, Epcot — The large tank with all the different fish is great for everyone to see. Who needs crayons to take up time while you wait for the food? No one! The kids can just sit and watch the tank like they watch TV. It is interesting and fun! Just as expected of a specialty fish restaurant, the food is really good. The lobster ravioli is my favorite. Now, I live in Maine where I get Maine lobster for very inexpensive prices ALL the time. If I liked their lobster ravioli, they are doing it right.
- Via Napoli, Epcot — Most think, pizza is pizza, right? Ok, maybe not most, but I do. I am not a huge fan of pizza. Now I know the difference, though. Their pizza is fantastic! It makes me want to go to Italy to try all the Italian foods that I “think” are good, but you really do not know “good” until you have someone from Italy make it for you.
- Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom — This is one of the best table service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom. It is a buffet and a character restaurant. They have a great selection of food for people of all ages and different palates. They offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Be sure to book a reservation as soon as possible. This is a very popular restaurant for its location, food and characters.
- Tutto Italia Ristorante, Epcot — This restaurant is a pleasant place to sit back, relax and enjoy an authentic Italian meal after walking around half of the World Showcase. The staff is really nice, attentive and accommodating. Enjoy the fresh bread you can dip in olive oil and cracker/bread sticks. We enjoyed a glass of wine with our entrees, which are very good. I kept hearing my vacation party rave about their dishes. We have been here a few times and it does not disappoint. Save room for a cannoli for dessert!
- 50’s Prime Time Café, Hollywood Studios — This is a throwback restaurant where you eat in the kitchen and there are TV’s showing old black and white sitcoms. The entire visit is entertaining from the moment you walk in to the moment you walk out. We were hesitant after hearing people talk about the comedic statements that are made to you, because we are quiet diners who do not want attention. But, we heard so much about “wholesome, old, homemade cooking”; we had to try it at least once, right? My son made the mistake of secretly asking the hostess for their best (joker) server they had, because my husband and I had never been there, but my son had been there. My husband and I did not suffer any consequences, but my son did. It was hilarious. As for the food, IT IS all it is cracked up to be. The fried chicken is very good. The sampler is a great way to try everything. FYI, do not try to hide anything in the bones on the plate. We saw our server look under the bones to make sure all the meat is eaten off of the bones and there is no unwanted food hidden under the bones. Word to the wise, do not put your elbows on the table and make sure you finish all of your meal. Thankfully, my husband likes collard greens. If you cannot finish, they just make a joke out of it, tell you that you cannot have dessert and try to get you to finish your meal, just like mom used to do. If you like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, try the Peanut Butter and Jelly shake. Nummy!
Here are a couple of restaurants we have heard a lot about and we have added them to our bucket list to try at least once:
Jiko, Animal Kingdom Lodge–This is a signature restaurant (requires 2 table service entitlements of DDP). I am told that the menu changes seasonally and they have an African, Mediterranean and Indian influence. The restaurant is designed to mimic an African sunset.
Victoria & Albert’s, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa–Some restaurants have a dress code, which basically means no bathing suits, cutoffs, torn clothing, hats, tank tops, etc., but this place has a more strict dress code. Men must wear dinner jackets with dress pants or slacks and shoes. Ties are optional. Women may wear a cocktail dress, nice dress, dressy pant suit or a skirt with a blouse. This is not only a signature restaurant, but it is also fine dining and pure elegance. All diners must be 10 or older. There are three different dining experiences to choose from; The Dining Room, Queen Victoria’s Room and The Chef’s Table. There are over 700 wines available and your meal will consist of seven to ten courses. If you reserve The Chef’s Table, your menu will be created specifically for your tastes. They have won the AAA Five Diamond Award every year since 2000 and I cannot wait to find out why! (Hopefully, I can get reservations.)
Keep in mind that the first 11 restaurants are in my opinion and everyone’s taste buds are not the same nor can every restaurant please 100% of all patrons. Take a look at review sites like TripAdvisor. While reviews are great, there are some you need to take with a grain of salt. Not all reviews are fair and/or legit. The list I provided is based on food, ambiance and we scored 5 out of 5 stars. If it is not listed above, we may not have eaten there, yet, it was a 3 or 4 out of 5 stars (in my opinion) or we just did not care for the food, but the experience was top notch. Just ask me and I will tell you if we have dined there or not. Click here to see our group’s top choices in all of the parks and hotels.