Walt Disney World’s Top 20 Sit-Down Restaurants for Value

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[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.

 

 

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Posted on April 9, 2011

35 Responses to “Walt Disney World’s Top 20 Sit-Down Restaurants for Value”

  • Great List Len. Comments: Boma “Extensive Wine List”. Plaza: “for a late dinner ask for a seat by the windows, great view of Memories and Wishes right from the table.” Havent been to Bluezoo; but, surprised it isnt on the list has gotten some great reviews, especially the steaks.

    • Bluezoo is anything but inexpensive. It’s at the top of the list of excellent dining experiences, but unless your budget is $75-100 per head for dinner, you might want to dine elsewhere.

  • I would have listed Trail’s End as a great deal.

    Not sure about Kouzzina, though. The portions were huge, but the price was not a good value.

    • Thanks Jeff! I’ll mention Trail’s End to Anna.

    • I also noticed Trail’s end was missing. The price had gone up there, but I still think it’s the best for fried chicken on property at a reasonable cost. Think: same food they serve at the Hoop-De-Doo without the expense of the show.

  • One of the things I like to do, especially to save a little $$, is schedule my sit down for a late lunch/ early dinner time. For most table service the prices are a little cheaper during lunch – even though most of the offerings are the same. Also, I find that if I schedule our “big” meal for say somewhere between 1:30 -3:00, we don’t need a full meal later on and can just get a snack instead of a full meal – So that saves a little money too. There are exceptions obviously, like we always eat at Whispering Canyon for dinner (some restaurants only offer certain experiences at certain meals. But I find we can afford more table service overall by eating this way.
    example: Chef’s De France (I’ll butcher the French name but it’s basically a half a roasted chicken) is $17.95 for lunch but $25.95 for dinner. Sometimes the savings are not quite that much but every $ counts on a budget!

  • I kind of feel you should separate out the buffets from the full-service restaurants. It’s a different beast. I’d second the Trails End recommendation on price alone, even though I’ve never been there. I would also think biergarten belongs on the list… maybe I value dinner ‘and a show’ more than some. That said, whether it takes this form or not this is absolutely an essential article for the next Guide, given the way Disney has jacked its prices up over the last couple years. I would also love to see the five Worst values in WDW… Le cellier better be on that one now!

  • I would add Kona Cafe and Biergarten. Kona is always impressive and very inexpensive. I just had lunch there: 2 pork tacos with bacon slaw, lime sour cream in homemade shells and mac salad for like $12! And Biergarten, like most buffets, could be a great value — depending on how much you eat. The food there is excellent, but I saw some people eating only 1 plate of food and then pick at desserts. What’s the point? Not a great value for them, but if you’re like me and can sit there for 45 mins and eat nonstop, then it’s a bargain!

  • No way this list is completely accurate. No mention of places like Trails End or Sand Trap Bar and Grill but T-Rex cafe? C’mon, I don’t believe it.

  • Got to agree with Boatwrights. I rarely here you speak about it on the podcast, but this place is very reasonable. The Prime Rib is pretty good, and its close to Ye Ha Bob!

  • I know the UG does not usually rate it very highly, but Grand Floridian Cafe is a reasonably priced and relaxing place to go for any meal. My son LOVES the chicken dinner (pretty basic roast chicken but good and reasonably priced), and the sandwiches and salads at lunch are really excellent. Also, they have small sized desserts, which are just a few dollars. We always have at least one lunch and one dinner there on our trips.

  • by Yvette Testut on April 10, 2011, at 9:45 pm EST

    Yes, I think this would be a good addition to the book. We are a family that can afford to eat at any of the WDW restaurants but that doesn’t mean I am always happy about what a meal has cost. I think value for dollar is the best way to eat in Disney World. Thanks for this list – I will certainly use it for our next visit. Lastly, I would include Biergarten in the list.

  • I would remove T-Rex from the list and add Trail’s End, given that Trail’s End might be one of the best values on property.

    Also, I would replace Kouzzina with Kona Cafe.

    Great idea for a section in the UG!

  • $25 for breakfast buffet at Boma (press pot of coffee *not* included) has to be one of the most expensive breakfasts on property. We have it booked for our next trip, and it has received universally high reviews, but I don’t think it qualifies as a “Value.”

  • Didn’t a recent WDW Today podcast have Len saying that Boatwright’s Dining Hall for dinner was awful? If so, no place could be a great value if the food isn’t good.

  • Can’t agree with ESPN Club on this list of otherwise good food places. I’ve been to WDW each year for the last 10 years and ESPN Club was by far the worst meal I’ve ever had. Drop it and add one of the suggested restaurants listed in others’ comments. And, oh yes, do include this in the next edition.

  • It’s not clear to me how any of the restaurants are “values”, especially when 3 of the top 4 are listed as “expensive.” Some explanation seems necessary.

  • I definitely think this list (or a similar version) should go in the next UG. I would say replace ESPN with some of the other restaurants mentioned (Trails End or Biergarten. Even though I’m trying to find value in eating at Disney, I make it a rule to not eat at restaurants on vacation that I can go to anytime when I’m home. I would say the same goes for House of Blues.

  • I would remove T-Rex. Even the theming can’t make up for the terrible food and service. Biergarten, however is fun, and delicious! And add Trail’s End for pete’s sake!

  • I don’t think any of the buffets, except Trail’s End, are a good value unless you are on the dining plan. I certainly think the buffets should be called out separately. A buffet is not table service, not matter how it counts on the DDP! In fact, the notion that a sit-down meal is something other than counter service is a DDP invention. The implication is that you eat your counter service meal standing up or at a curb. Maybe treat the two experiences differently in the UG–”Getting the most value out of the DDP.” and “Saving money at full-service restaurants when you’re a cash customer.”

    Not sure why Momma Melrose’s isn’t on the list. The food is pretty good and the prices are reasonable. If you don’t live in an area where excellent Italian fare is common (i.e., someplace other than New Jersey) it’s darn good.

    I find some of the better values at the high-quality counter service venues that also offer seating, which you should include if you think a buffet is the same a full-service:

    1) Flame Tree Barbecue–we (2 adults) usually split an order of ribs and find a place to sit down next to the “river.” You can’t beat the ambiance! And the portions are so huge that you should split your meal with a friend or order a few and create your own buffet for larger groups.

    2) Yakitori House in the Japan Pavilion. Grab a bowl of Udon and sit out on the patio next to the head of the water fall–very relaxing, very yummy and very inexpensive.

    3) Tangierine Cafe in the Morocco Pavilion. It’s all very good food and certainly a far cry from burgers and chicken fingers. The only downside is that the seating isn’t as much of a treat as at either Flame Tree or Yakitori House, but you can still sit down. ;-)

  • I’m also a MaMa Melrose fan. We eat there every trip. And how about Kona Cafe? Love it! Not sure if I agree with Teppan Edo. Also a favorite but it is usually one of our more expensive meals. Might be the Sake!

  • I would also add Chefs de France for lunch. The pre fixed lunch (I think it is $19?) for soup/appetizer, entree, and dessert is a good deal and a lot of great food! I also agree with Kona. Different, delicious food and not too expensive.

  • For dining plan value, I would add Akershus. For one dining plan meal (unlike the 2 meal price at the castle) you get to make your daughters happy with 5 major princesses, and you get good and plentiful food which combines buffet items with made to order entrees and tasty deserts. Added to that, you actually get a packet of pictures with the hosting princess for free, unlike chef mickey’s or Tusker House which charge extra $ for their pictures. Great article!

  • One thing I would like to see in your 2012 book is a listing like the counter-service meals, which are listed starting on page 151. It was nice to see such a condensed list, sorted by park, and a quick blurb about each one. It made making the decision easier. With sit down meals, I have to come to the website, click on the park, and then click on the individual restaurants to get a better idea of what to expect.

    Just idea of how to make my life easier. :)

  • Of the restaurants listed, we’ve only tried five, and have mixed reviews to offer: Boma (DH and I went for adult time and were disappointed by the food selection and atmosphere – kids running wild… We MUCH prefer Tusker House for an ethnic buffet. It’s a favorite stop on our AK visits); Kouzzina (we were just going to get pizza slices on the boardwalk, but checked the wait time for dinner and decided to stay. We were all disappointed by the food and felt isolated in a back room with no life. Not going back); Plaza was to be our low cost alternative to Crystal Palace for a relaxing lunch, but we hated our table, were underwhelmed by the food and atmosphere, and were not impressed by the bathroom location. Not going back).

    We LOVE Crystal Palace. We’ve celebrated DH and DD7′s birthdays there and very much enjoy the food options and characters at lunch. We’ll be back for sure. Rose & Crown: we lucked out and got in easily one evening on a whim. Food was decent and beverages were nice too ;) Plan to go back to eat during Illuminations some time.

    Note – I’m a vegetarian and generally view WDW as an OK place for food options. I have several favorite counter service locations for a yummy veggie meal throughout the parks, resorts and DTD. We’ve been enjoying Fresh A-Peel / Babycakes on recent trips. DH & DD get chicken while I enjoy beans & rice and the salsa bar. Then dessert – Yum!