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Disney for Foodies

photo: My children visiting with Mickey Mouse at the Tusker House character buffet in Animal Kingdom.

In preparation for my family’s vacation to Walt Disney World, I interviewed AJ from Disney Food Blog. Disney is a foodie’s paradise, so I’m happy to turn the reigns over to an expert when it comes to wining and dining at the World!

What is your favorite restaurant in each of the four theme parks (not including water parks and Downtown Disney) at Walt Disney World?

It’s always difficult to pick a favorite! Chefs, menus, and preparations change every once in a while, so restaurants can go in and out of favor as the years go by. That said, here are my answers (table-service) *today*:

Epcot: Le Cellier — This was slipping off my list for a while, but the arrival of some new dishes has put it back up there.

Magic Kingdom: Liberty Tree Tavern — food quality is always good, service is top-notch, and they have a great burger for lunch.

Hollywood Studios: 50’s Prime Time Cafe has always been a nostalgic favorite of mine, and it’s a great representation of Disney imagineering and performance.

Animal Kingdom: Tusker House — I loved this restaurant when it was a counter service location and like it even more as a table-service buffet/character meal. It’s interesting, has some different foods to try, and always has great service in my experience.

I’ve got a picky eater in my family. Where can I get a good meal and still make the kiddo happy?

Disney park food is geared toward families visiting with kids, which means you’ll always find something your picky eater can enjoy; unfortunately, that same fact might make some adventurous eaters feel stunted. Just about any restaurant you visit in a Disney park or resort will be able to get their hands on some mac and cheese or chicken strips, so head to a restaurant you’re interested in visiting, and trust that the kids’ menu will provide. My suggestions for straight table-service: California Grill at the Contemporary for a fancy meal and Chefs de France or Rose and Crown in Epcot for a mid-priced meal. My suggestions for buffets/family style: Cape May Cafe Clam Bake at the Beach Club Resort or Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. My suggestions for counter-service: Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom and Sunshine Seasons at Epcot’s The Land.

I’ve heard that the Disney buffets are some of the best to be found. Are the rumors true? Do you have a favorite?

Disney buffets are excellent and easily beat out just about any other buffet I’ve had anywhere. They’ve had a long time to tweak and improve their buffets, and you’ll now find some more intriguing dishes along with the standards. If you only have space for a couple of buffets, try to get to either Boma at the Animal Kingdom Lodge or Tusker House at the Animal Kingdom; these will offer you some interesting African dishes that you might not have the chance to try otherwise. Then, for a character meal, visit either the Cape May Cafe Clam Bake at the Beach Club Resort, Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom, or Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort. Each offer fun, location-specific dishes that are legendary among disney-goers.

I’ve got the time and budget for one character meal – what do you recommend?

First, choose whether you’d like breakfast, lunch, or dinner (breakfast will always be cheapest). For breakfast: ‘Ohana’s Breakfast with Mickey and Friends. What makes this the winner is that you’re seated at your table and they bring the food to you, which means you’re free to focus on the characters (and you won’t miss one while you’re getting more Mickey waffles!). This one also gets you close to Mickey, who, let’s face it, is the character we all want to see without waiting in line. For lunch or dinner: Chef Mickey’s would be my choice. It’s a nostalgic favorite; you get to take the monorail into the Contemporary Resort, which is a neat experience; and they have a decent selection of dishes. Plus,this is one of the only places you can meet and greet all of the fab five characters.

I would like a night out with the hubby while gma watches the kiddos. Budget and reservation problems aside…where do we eat?

For incredible food and service, make a reservation at Victoria and Albert’s. Orlando’s fanciest and highest-rated restaurant, you won’t be sorry. For a great “show,” book dinner during the fireworks at the California Grill in the Contemporary Resort — delicious food here, too. And for romance, head to Jiko in the Animal Kingdom Lodge; the dark atmosphere and rich dishes are why we chose this for our Valentine’s Day dinner this year.

What restaurant offers the most unique menu in the World?

While California Grill’s and Victoria and Albert’s market-inspired menus change consistently, always bringing delicious, fresh dishes to their guests, I’d have to say that Kouzzina on the Boardwalk and Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village currently have the most unique menus. Inspired by Greek and African/Indian flavors, respectively, these are the restaurants where you’ll see more ethnic authenticity right now.

It’s time to play favorites – what is the best overall restaurant at Walt Disney World?

Again, Victoria and Albert’s is rated by those in the know as the best restaurant in Walt Disney World for food and quality. That said, if I were to choose the “best overall restaurant,” I’d have to include entertainment/show (as that’s what Disney’s known for), along with service and food considerations. With those qualifications, we rarely schedule a trip without visiting the California Grill. The show kitchen, sunset and fireworks views, and incredible quality make this a not-to-be-missed experience. I’ll also add that my husband’s first response to this question was Citricos in the Grand Floridian Resort. His idea of a wonderful dinner is quiet, comfortable, and delicious, and Citricos, which is tucked into a back dining room of the Grand Floridian, can’t be beat if that’s what you’re seeking. California Grill, on the other hand, with it’s show kitchen and the prevalence of kids, can get loud.

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