Dining is an experience at Disney World. There are few better than the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
If a serious part of your travel experience involves eating, you'll be happy to know Walt Disney World takes food just as seriously as its rides.
As we ate our way through the park, it reminded me of comedian Jim Gaffigan’s Disney routine. “Why don’t we eat something and then we’ll go get something to eat … after that we should probably get something to eat, though. Then we’ll eat something.”
By the end of the trip we were throwing caution to the wind, ordering hot popcorn, soft-serve twist cones and other serious snack food with abandon. We had a full license to snack. Oh, the joys of being a kid again at Walt Disney World without adult supervision.
Can I really consume one more Mickey Mouse Rice Krispies treat with chocolate-covered ears on a stick? The answer is a resounding and enthusiastic yes!
Only one day did I show great restraint in preparation for our seven-course meal at the Grand Floridian Resort's fine-dining experience, Victoria & Albert's. Our food pacing for the day was greatly rewarded.
Here's a look at what and where we'd eat again at Disney World.
Wine and dine at Victoria & Albert's
You'll open up your wallet wide for this star-studded dining experience, but it's worth every dollar.
Victoria & Albert’s options have universal appeal and seem to cater to more mainstream tastes. You won't find sweetbreads served here. That's OK because each of the seven courses on the prix-fixe menu is sheer delight.
We made our reservation a month in advance and got in at 8:45, so plan ahead. This also is the only place we booked that required us to dress up.
Thankfully, we were staying on property at the Grand Floridian Resort, so the walk in heels was manageable. If you have time before dinner, which we certainly did, grab a drink and enjoy the live music playing in the lobby of the hotel.
At Victoria & Albert's, a harpist added to the room's elegant atmosphere. While the conversation at our table was plenty scintillating, the domed ceiling made listening in on other conversations across the room possible. Our lips are sealed.
Favorite dishes included the Colorado bison with black radish slaw and kumquat, a masago-crusted Maine scallop with coconut-curry broth and the Berkshire pork with cabbage tart and Brussels sprouts. Favorite is probably too strong of a term. I really enjoyed all dishes equally.
Colorado bison with black radish slaw and kumquat
We especially appreciated having copies of our personalized menus along with a red rose sent home with us.
Get Down at Downtown Disney's Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe
This trip marked our third adult visit to Walt Disney World and we had never ventured "downtown." We seriously had been missing out on some great dining options.
We chose Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe as our Downtown Disney destination. We were off to a strong start with the bartender-recommended Martinez cocktail. Yowza! Our only misfire was an order of crab cakes, which were a bit on the fishy side of being great. The kale Caesar and mahimahi in a lobster-tomato broth more than made up for it. Ending with carrot cake was another wise move.
Walking back, we stopped in Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant to hear live music before heading inside to watch dancers perform moves that made my knees ache in sympathy. Next time, we've got to plan a meal around this performance.
Whatever you do, plan at least one meal and evening in Downtown Disney.
Eat beneath a volcano at San Angel Inn
This is a must-do every trip for us. I love the feel and cave-like quality of the San Angel Inn Restaurante at Epcot. The margaritas and food are pretty darn good, too.
How often do you get the chance to dine beneath a volcano? If you're lucky, it will erupt while you dine. Not to worry. Depending on your imagination, you'll be watching from a safe distance.
Something new for us was wrapping up dinner with a boat ride around the volcano as part of the Gran Fiesta Tour. Donald Duck as part of the Three Caballeros also comes along for the ride. It's silly but a fun way to experience a bit more of the Mexico Pavilion.
Be sure to plan the time of your visit around Epcot's fireworks and laser-show finale.
‘Steak’ your claim to Canadian fine dining at Le Cellier
We saved Le Cellier Steakhouse at Epcot for our last night. Admittedly, our stomachs were somewhat full and we weren't looking forward to the monorail trek back to Epcot.
It was worth it for the cheese soup and filet mignon alone.
Add to it an heirloom tomato salad, loaded mashed potatoes and creamed spinach with a parmesan crisp and Le Cellier means serious steak business. We've had a lot of steak and it rates as one of our most tender cuts. With a sizzling hot plate, it would have been perfect.
Being from the steak-proud state of Oklahoma, this is one experience we might have passed on to enjoy something closer to our hotel like Narcoossee's. It's a great restaurant at the Grand Floridian Resort where we've dined several times during past visits. Be sure to ask for a window seat and plan dinner at Narcoossee’s around Magic Kingdom's fireworks show.
Watch fireworks as you get your sushi fix at California Grill
California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort is located on the 15th floor and is your window to Cinderella's castle, the Grand Floridian Resort and Magic Kingdom's fireworks spectacular. Requesting a window seat also is recommended.
The food is great but the vibe feels a little more rushed. Our favorite dish was the crispy crab roll. Something seems a little wrong about having a truffle-laced sushi roll, but the flavor combination works. Next time we’d go all sushi based on that one roll, which left us wanting so much more.
The pork two ways – as in one fine belly and another perfectly grilled tenderloin – with a side of goat cheese and mushroom polenta is another popular and memorable course.
Catch up on B movies at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
My other required Disney dining experience is the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant at Hollywood Studios.
The makeshift drive-in projects clips of B-grade movies and advertisements from the 1950s. "The Horror of Party Beach" and “An Amazing Kong-Like Monster” are just a few of the titles you’ll see. Let’s just say special effects have come a long way.
The food is good, not great, but that's OK. As soon as the host seats you in your classic 50s car, you are transported and mesmerized. It's pure happiness. Besides, you need to save room for serious snackage later in the day.
Mix London and Paris in one dining swoop
We've found a daring way to combine two cities and lunches into one. First, place one order for fish and chips and a Bass Ale at the Yorkshire County Fish Shop. We'll call that an appetizer.
Then proceed directly to Chefs de France for croque monsier. That’s fancy French talk for a ham and brioche sandwich encased in crispy-grilled Swiss cheese. Pair it with the baked goat cheese salad and wash it down with some fine French red wine.
I was so excited about this dish I forgot to take a photo before I began devouring it. At least I left something on my plate.
Splurge further with the French bread delivered to your table in a paper sleeve. I’d even dare say it’s as good as the real deal in Paris.
We'll call the whole thing excessive, but doable.
Prepare for Expedition Everest at the Yak & Yeti
We love the old-world, exotic feel of the Yak & Yeti Restaurant in Animal Kingdom. The food is good and offers a nice variety of Asian-inspired offerings including Indian and Chinese dishes.
It's a great place to grab a quick bite before trekking to the Expedition Everest ride. Request a table on the second floor by the window for a nice view of the park.
Get patriotic over American fare at the Liberty Tree Tavern
It doesn’t get much more American than New England pot roast served over mashed potatoes.
Paired with a BLT sandwich, these classic dishes excel at Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom. Once again, we were schooled that it's almost always a smart choice to go with the waiter's recommendation.
It was hard to decide which dish we loved more.
In full disclosure, the bacon part of the sandwich was seriously upgraded with pork belly. Now that's good thinking, chef.
Great snack expectations
It's not just the restaurants that require advance planning. There are ample snacking opportunities for which to prepare.
Save room for these snacks:
- Chocolate-and-vanilla twist waffle cones, which are ubiquitous at the parks
- Buttered popcorn at the Hot-and-Fresh kiosks - consider waiting for a fresh batch
- Baked goods, including those addictive chocolate-covered Rice Krispies treats, at the Main Street Bakery near the entrance of Magic Kingdom
- The caramel-covered brownies at the Karamel Kutche (German for Caramel Kitchen) in Epcot looked amazing, but a serious shortage in stomach space caused us to pass for this time. My advice to you, plan ahead for this stop.
Disney applies its magic to culinary treasures across the park. We've found you really can't go wrong with any of them.
Where you can go seriously wrong is not planning ahead. What's considered one of the hottest reservations at Disney, Le Cellier Steakhouse, books 180 days in advance, so mark your calendar if you want to dine there.
Lunches are just as important to book.
Cancellation within 24 hours of your reservation time is required to avoid a $10 per seat charge.
Plan dining around your park visits to limit travel time. While we enjoyed Le Cellier Steakhouse, our tired selves just wanted to stay near our resort by the last evening of our trip.
Explore your options thoroughly. Plan ahead. And enjoy the culinary ride.
What are your favorite Disney restaurants and food choices?