[Note from Len: We're considering this article for the 2012 edition of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World. We're trying to help families have great sit-down dining experiences and stay within their budget. Comments and suggestions are welcome. ]
If money is no object, there are several places within Walt Disney World to have a great dining experience. However, with many theme park restaurant entrees now approaching $25 each, families are having to look a little harder for good value at sit-down restaurants. Below is a list of the 20 best sit-down restaurants for value, taking in to account food quality, the restaurant’s setting, portion size and price.
Each listing includes the restaurant name, its location, the type of cuisine it serves, and its price per person. $ — Inexpensive ($15 or less per person); $$ — Moderate ($15-28 per person) and $$$ – Expensive ($28-35 per person).
1. Boatwright’s Dining Hall Port Orleans Riverside Southern $$
Hearty supper fare – prime rib, pork chop, Andouille-crusted catfish, pecan pie. Casual dining room, friendly staff.
2. Boma –Flavors of Africa Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge African $$$
Consistently voted a top favorite by local diners, fill up at the expansive buffet that’s a mix of traditional tastes with African-inspired stews, chutneys, sauces and sides. Take an after-dinner stroll and see wild animals on the resort’s savanna.
3. Cape May Cafe Beach Club Seafood $$$
Old-fashioned clambake theming with all you can eat mussels, clams, peel-n-eat-shrimp, barbecued ribs, roast chicken, corn on the cob and more. A pleasant walk to Epcot.
4. Crystal Palace Magic Kingdom American $$-$$$
Lunch is the best bargain. Plentiful buffet, great service, Disney characters, conveniently located right on Main Street, U.S.A.
5. ESPN Club BoardWalk American $$
Fill ‘er up, all-American style: nachos for two, hot wings, oversized sandwiches, piles of fries. TVs everywhere for sports fans. Make all the noise you want. Great for plate sharing.
6. Garden Grove Swan Resort American $$
If Disney characters are a must, breakfast tab is about half the price of other Disney character dining (8-11 a.m. weekends only). All-you-can-eat buffet. Only two characters at a time, but they make frequent table visits.
7. House of Blues Downtown Disney West Side Southern $-$$
We’re happy with a table of shared (under $12) appetizers or a $6 bowl of turkey-shrimp gumbo. Stick with appetizers, salads and sandwiches for the best (and most economical) fare. But you can get a grilled rib-eye or New York strip steak for considerably less than Disney restaurants.
8. Kouzzina by Cat Cora BoardWalk Greek/Mediterranean $$$
Delicious, quality dishes – it’s easy to share the Greek-style lasagna, cinnamon-stewed chicken, lamb shank. Or make a meal of appetizers, like a bowl of mussels of crispy calamari. Do save room for the hot, crispy Greek donuts drizzle with honey.
9. Liberty Tree Tavern Magic Kingdom American $$-$$$
Best deal at lunch – delicious, filling pot roast, turkey and dressing. Dinner is all-you-can-eat turkey, beef and ham. Friendly service, great location in Liberty Square.
10. ‘Ohana Polynesian Asian $$$
Request a seat close to the on-stage kitchen for noisy, chaotic fun for kids. Filling fare is great for carnivores – skewers of turkey, beef, pork. Not the spot for a quiet dinner for two.
11. Olivia’s Café Old Key West American $-$$
Laid-back ambience, a competent kitchen – we love the breakfast Cuban, the generous burgers at lunch and hearty pork chops, coconut-crusted mahi and steaks at dinner. You’ll spend less here for fresh steaks and seafood than at other Disney steak ‘n seafood hot spots.
12. Paradiso 37 Downtown Disney Pleasure Island Central, South, North American $$
Dine on the waterfront, a variety of “street food” starters under $10 are great for sharing (and 37 kinds of tequila). Stick with the basics: tacos, chips ‘n salsa, burgers.
13. Plaza Restaurant Magic Kingdom American $
Tucked away at the end of Main Street, U.S.A., this little restaurant is a great spot to cool off and relax with congenial service and plentiful portions. Try the Reuben or the club. Or just go straight for a milkshake or banana split.
14. Raglan Road Downtown Disney Irish $$
Average entrée price up to 20% lower than inside Disney parks. Food gets high mark with creations of noted Irish Chef Kevin Dundon. Fish and chips, loin of bacon, flourless chocolate cake.
15. Rose & Crown Epcot United Kingdom pavilion British $-$$
Among cheapest eats at Epcot, and the best seats for IllumiNations. Sunday roast, Shepherd’s Pie, fish and chips, corned beef. Grab your grub in the pub and it’s even cheaper for fish and chips, corned beef, bangers and mash.
16. Teppan Edo Japan pavilion Epcot Asian $$-$$$
Generous servings of quality meats, veggies, udon noodles around a communal teppan grill – no pb&j for the kids, they love the live show with the chefs artfully chopping and tossing. Different, filling and delicious. Same menu a few bucks less at lunch.
17. T-Rex, A Prehistoric Dining Adventure Downtown Disney Marketplace American $-$$
Sensory overload for dinosaur-loving kids, en expansive menu that’s affordable if you selectively choose – and share, as portions are huge (like half a roasted chicken with two sides for $20).
18. Via Napoli Epcot Italy pavilion Italian $
On a budget you can’t stray far from the pizza, but feed a family of four with the half-meter cheese pizza (12 slices) for $39 – it’s all relative, this fresh mozzarella pie is delicious. Add a $4 per person house salad and you’ve got a meal.
19. Whispering Canyon Cafe Wilderness Lodge Resort American $$
The all-you-can-eat skillet at lunch and dinner (ribs, pork, chicken, beef brisket) is the best bargain, but even entrées such a trout and pork loin are reasonably priced. Family friendly – lunch is quiet; dinner, boisterous.
20. 50’s Prime Time Cafe Hollywood Studios American $$
Fill up on quality fried chicken, meatloaf and pot roast in a ‘50’s-era kitchen with “mom.” Comfort food fuels a day in the park. The servers insist on fun, so be patient.
Anna is an author and dining reviewer based in central Florida.