Dining in the House of Mouse: Walt Disney World's Top Tables

Best is a loaded word. And when you take the near innumerable dining options available at Orlando's Disney World complex it is a Herculean task, but we’ll take it on. For some, the Disney experience is about its classic characters and iconic imagery. If that's so, you can't do better than Cinderella’s Royal Table. You can’t argue with breakfast, lunch or dinner in a castle. For buffet fans, Boma, set in the resplendent digs of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, not only offers up all the traditional fare a plain-jane foodie would love, it allows for a safari of the palate amid a host of offerings culled from more than 50 African nations. And also the option to see real African animals out back. Kitsch – along with Mom’s meatloaf – is in abundance on the menu at 50’s Prime Time Café, where TV tables bring diners back to the era of ducktails and drive-ins and at Raglan Road you can slake your sun-baked thirst with a pint of Guinness or a flight of selections from the Emerald Isle while filling your belly with fare that’s miles above what you might have expected at a casual Disney Springs Irish pub. The pinnacle of gourmand experiences is reserved for the prix fixe elegance of the Grand Floridian’s Victoria & Albert’s, a dining event if ever there was. 



Generous portions of lamb, chicken, falafel and more fill the reinforced paper plates at the Tangierine Cafe, a fast-casual dining option in "Morocco" at Epcot's World showcase. You'll definitely want a tray for your order. Tabouli and lentils and hummus - along with hearty bread for wrapping and dipping - round out the ample plate. Disney isn't known for its drive-through $1 menus, but you'll get serious value (even for a theme park!) here and quite a bit of flavor to boot. This is one of the best fast-casual venues for veg-heads, as well. Meat abstainers won't be limited to sides and/or salads while everyone else fills up.

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This is the apex predator of Disney Springs dining with kids in tow, though grown-ups should be aware that a visit to T-Rex will awaken your long-dormant inner paleontologist. Stellar theming to the Nth Degree is this restaurant's biggest cache. Animatronic dinosaurs tower, loom, roar! The littlest ones in your party may not love them right away, to be sure, but the rest? It's dino-heaven. Food runs the gamut from burgers to ribs, salads to sandwiches, a full bar will slake your post-theme park thirst. Regular meteor showers make dining even more theatrical. T-Rex is undeniably fun and an absolute spectacle.

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Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World


There are a number of AYCE options in the Disney realm (that stands for "all you can eat," by the way), many of which are worth a visit, but Boma â€" Flavors of Africa is a cut above. Why? While there are a plethora of menu items that fall well within the comfort zones of the less adventurous diner, the rotating roster of dishes inspired by those of more than 50 African countries. Fare is notably fresh, served amid the lovely Afrocentric décor of Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. Buffet prices here are a tad higher than several other Disney buffets, but the selection â€" and massive South African wine list if you happen to be attending for dinner â€" along with the resident animals you may spot while on site at the Lodge, make this one worth it for most who give it a try.



The Disney experience isn't complete without at least one special character interaction. Clearly that could come from a photo-op in Ariel's Secret Grotto or an impromptu encounter with Goofy somewhere in Frontierland, but the pinnacle would have to be a meal inside on of the most pervasive Disney icons of all time: Cinderella's Castle. It's the centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom and the delight of children of all ages. And to dine inside it? A Disney wish upon a star come true. Cinderella's Royal Table is open for breakfast, lunch or dinner â€" guests receive a complimentary photo with the glass-slippered princess herself â€" and a bevy of other famous Disney femmes meander about, greeting guests, signing autographs and posing for photos as families enjoy a set , fixed-price menu (you'll leave full, fear not). The setting â€" soaring ceilings, stained glass, majestic flags â€" are just what your family's tiny royals would have expected. Now if you could just turn that pumpkin into a coach....

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While exemplary fine dining can be found throughout the Disney compound, none surpass the level of service delivered during a Victoria & Albert's prix fixe, seven-course meal that can only be described as a top-of-the-line culinary experience. Meals here are an event, whether served in the elegant dining room or, if intimacy and knowledge of the kitchen's inner-workings are more your game: the Chef's Table. Here, six guests will dine in the kitchen alongside the chef, learning the ins and outs of running a AAA Five-Diamond restaurant. The Queen Victoria Room holds just four tables. Diners here enjoy traditional gueridon service where waiters prepare much of the meal from tableside trolleys. Unless you're a regular on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," Victoria & Albert's is an eatery probably best reserved for very special occasions, but meals here â€" and the service that comes with â€" are guaranteed to become memories that will last a lifetime.

Epcot ®


Gone are the fun house mirrors and Ferris wheel parts of its predecessor, Disney-fan favorite the Flying Fish Cafe. The newly minuted version comes with a shortened name â€" Flying Fish â€" and exceptionally swanky decor that pairs brilliantly with its sustainable seafood. Plancha-seared scallops, wood-fired Spanish octopus, crispy soft shell crab and Maine lobster nero pasta are among the phenomenal entrees. Got a dining companion who's less than keen on joining the Little Mermaid "under the sea?" Turf items such as Wagyu filet mignon should do nicely. Walking in on a busy evening? The restaurant's beautiful bar is an idea spot to wait, imbibe and peruse the evening's catch, or you can head next door to the steampunk-Houdini haven of AbracadaBar where the drinks are imbued with so much Disney magic, you'll want to make a couple disappear.

Disney's Animal Kingdom ®


With a vault of South African wines unmatched outside the country and an array of African natives in the form of zebra, kudu, gazelle and more roaming on the grounds of its home in the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort, Jiko â€" The Cooking Place offers one of the most unique dining experiences on park property. Its menu melds African, Indian and Mediterranean cuisines and offers dishes to delight the ardent carnivore (braised short ribs, oak-grilled filet mignon) and options for the veg-heads, as well. Jiko's artisanal cheese selection makes for an excellent appetizer or dessert selection. This restaurant also offers South African wine tastings. Check the Disney site for details.



Exceptional Pacific coast cuisine awaits guests as they are whisked by private elevator to the 15th floor of Disney's Contemporary Resort. Cocktails and wine, fine charcuterie and fresh sushi--try the Dragon Roll! --kick things off while entrees like the oak-fired filet of beef (a long time favorite) and flaky Pacific halibut lead diners into the home stretch. Save room for dessert if you can. Floor-to-ceiling windows afford guests sweeping views of the Walt Disney World kingdom below â€" and the nightly fireworks if you time your meal accordingly. Many choose to enjoy the latter on the observation deck instead.

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Cold pints and a warm, convivial vibe are always on tap at Raglan Road, which isn't lying when it calls itself a genuine Irish pub. In fact, the whole place was built in Ireland and then shipped to Orlando where it was lovingly reassembled to the delight of locals and visitors alike. Think of it as Disney magic with a little help from the leprechauns. On the menu: a selection of hearty fare with some modern spins on Irish classics like shepherd's pie, fish and chips and a mixed grill featuring a lamb chop, steak, a Guiness banger, black pudding and bacon. Beer flights let you sample what the Irish are brewing along with a host of other fine draughts and even an impressive selection of craft cocktails.

Disney Springs ®


Walt Disney World's big, beautiful Boathouse venue can accommodate up to 600 seafood and steak lovers amid its nautically themed confines. Views of Lake Buena Vista beckon from throughout; in fact, you can drink and dine al fresco here, as well. Wine, craft beer and cocktails pair well with market-fresh catch and even caviar while diners watch the classic-car-themed amphicars sail past. A beautiful place for special-occasion lunches or dinners, the restaurant's three distinct dining spaces set a lovely tone; private rooms are available for functions, as well. Come hungry. You won't want to miss the wild-caught shrimp or decadent desserts.


Meet A.D. Thompson

Amy Drew has spent nearly three decades as a professional writer and roughly half her life as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.

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