Think you can’t find a decent meal at a Walt Disney World restaurant because all the good ones are reserved months in advance? Think again! I’m happy to share my off the radar faves, where I’ve always found a table, even without reservations. I’ll also share some tips on finding space at that must-do restaurant.
I’m always amazed by my friends who stalk Disney Dining Reservations 180 days out to the minute to make sure they get a prize table at the marquis restaurants. You know the list: Victoria and Albert’s, Le Cellier, breakfast at ‘Ohana. I’m awed at their organization, but I’m just not that person. My trips to the mouse house tend to be more opportunistic – a last minute fare deal, hotel special or one way car rental.
If you’re more in the spontaneous camp like me, don’t fret. You can spend years eating your way through Walt Disney World. Trust me, I’ve tried! As long as you steer clear of the hot dog and fries joints, you can find memorable meals all over the place.
My favorite seatings at most Disney World restaurants are the very first and very last lunch times. Each can easily keep you full for most of the day and lunch prices are bargains compared to the dinner menu. Just look at the operating hours and search for the opening and closing times when seeking reservations. Best of all, none of my faves are out of the average family’s price range. Just like I use Undercover Tourist for discount Disney World tickets, I stalk Walt Disney World resort for the value gems.
My Tried and True Favorites
Skipper Canteen, Magic Kingdom
I keep waiting for the word to get out on Skipper Canteen, but it hasn’t yet. Skipper Canteen is kind of hidden across from the Jungle Cruise and carries the adventure theme – and the pun theme – to the extreme. Crave some “tastes like chicken- because it is!” or “a lot at steak salad”? You’re in the right place!
Skipper’s deserves special credit for the shout-outs to Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland. Be sure to take time to review the library. Where else will you find such gems as “Fleas Navidad and other Winter Insects” and “Sandy Claws: Indonesian Beach Tigers”?
Olivia’s Cafe, Old Key West Resort
Olivia’s is probably my favorite off the beaten path restaurant in all of Disney World. I love taking the ferry over to Old Key West from Disney Springs for a change of pace. If you do take the ferry, be sure to schedule extra time for the 20 minute ride and up to 15 minute wait.
Olivia’s is marketed as “Old Florida Cuisine” with Conch chowder, Caribbean Bean and Rice and Key Lime Pie. The menu also has a large serving of southern comfort: ribs, buttermilk fried chicken and some of the best cornbread I’ve ever tried – and as a Virginian I know my cornbread!
Grand Floridian Cafe, Grand Floridian Resort
The Grand Floridian Cafe is an oasis of calm that is a perfect break from the Magic Kingdom. For not much more than a hot dog, you can enjoy a wonderful bowl of Gorgonzola onion or butternut squash soup and a salad you would have to pick yourself to get fresher. I highly recommend the salads as when chatting with the waiter I learned that Disney World sources from its own farms and it’s a different salad every day based on what the chef finds.
The Wave, Contemporary Resort
Everyone runs to California Grill in the Contemporary (with good reason) but I suggest you check out this little gem. The Wave also makes a terrific break from the Magic Kingdom as it’s just a monorail stop away. The menu specializes in locally sourced and organic ingredients with a long specials section that changes daily. Even the beer is organic.
Bluezoo, The Dolphin
Bluezoo is a terrific seafood restaurant by celebrity chef Todd English. You may know some of his other ventures including Olives and Figs. It’s definitely on the pricey side, but you can often find coupons on orlandocoupons.com or other local discount sites.
However, the seafood is not the only reason I recommend it. I love Bluezoo because it comes with free childcare. You read that right! When you book a meal at any Dolphin restaurant you can also book two hours free at Camp Dolphin for one kid per diner. They even get fed while you dine in peace!
Trader Sam’s, Polynesian Resort
Trader Sam’s bar is a staple from California and is mecca to Disney Fanatics. You’ll think I’m crazy suggesting Trader Sam’s when you get there and are handed a pager with a four-hour wait (as we were on a recent visit). Trust me on this one. Walk past the bar, turn the corner to the right, and straight ahead of you is a patio where we easily found a table at 8 p.m. Saturday night. The bartender confirmed seats are usually empty.
You could technically make a meal of the South Pacific themed snacks, but Trader Sam’s is all about the drinks. Most come with a souvenir Tiki mug to take home, and no worries: lots of non-alcoholic varieties are available. Now kids aren’t welcome after 8 p.m., but if you’re up for an adult evening complete with a ukulele performance and show-stopping view of the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks, Trader Sam’s patio can’t be beat.
Wyndham Lake Buena Vista Sunshine Breakfast
Did you sleep on booking a character breakfast? Don’t fret! We’ve got you covered with the Wyndham Lake Buena Vista (Disney Springs) breakfast with Goofy and friends. You’ll get photos with two of the “Big Five” and save a ton of money as the Wyndham’s breakfast is half the cost of ones at the Disney owned resorts. If you’re taking Disney tranportation, take the bus to Disney Springs- the Wyndham is just across the footbridge next to the Bibbiti Bobbiti Boutique.
If You’re Dying for a Specific Meal, Don’t Panic
You’d be amazed how many places get last minute dropouts. I think folks overbook not realizing they’re just not going to want three sit down meals every single day. Use the My Disney Experience App to find real time availability. I’ve found last minute meals at Sanaa and Brown Derby recently just by checking the app moments before.
What’s your favorite hidden Mickey restaurant? Please share in the comments.