Dining Values – They Do Exist in Walt Disney World

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Yes, much like the Loch Ness monster, we’ve all been told that there are good dining values out there at Walt Disney World, but no one you know has ever seen one. While good values do exist, they are few and far between to be sure. If you stick to the popular restaurants, you’ll miss out because of that whole supply and demand thing. Crazy, I know, but Disney charges more for popular restaurants. I was shocked, too!

If you’re willing to venture out a bit, though, you can find some very good deals, provided you are not one with the hugest appetite in the world and you understand that a value in Walt Disney World might be defined as a mediocre deal outside the Disney bubble. That said, here are a few of my favorite bargains when I’m out touring the parks and beyond.

This Tonga Toast will cost you $11 upstairs, but half that downstairs at Capt. Cook's

Cosmic Ray’s – Most people come here for the burgers or to visit Sonny Eclipse, but if you wander over to the barbecue bay, you’ll find a nice deal on the 1/2 Chicken & Barbecued Rib Combo. For around $15, you get ribs, half a chicken, mashed potatoes, and a vegetable. This much food is easily enough for two people. On one trip, we even squeezed three people out of this one meal by adding dessert to it.

Plaza Restaurant – Staying in the Magic Kingdom, if you find yourself wishing you had made an Advanced Dining Reservation but fear it’s now too late, make sure to try the Plaza Restaurant at the end of Main Street. Sandwiches there run from $12-$15, and if you get water to drink, you can easily come out of this table service restaurant for the same or less than what you’d spend at a counter service restaurant. I highly recommend the vegetable sandwich as a change of pace, but the club and burger are also great.

Sunshine Seasons – Some people know the secret of Sunshine Seasons in the Land pavilion at Epcot, but be thankful that more people don’t. You can go to the Grill section and get a meat dish and side for around $11, then add a side for just $2-3. You come out with a huge meal, suitable for sharing, for under $20 including tax and drinks. Or, if you want lighter fare, split a salad for $8, then each get a bowl of freshly made soup for $3-4. Either way, it’s much cheaper than some other options in Epcot.

The Chicken Shwarma Platter at Tangeriene Cafe is good food and a good value.

Tangierine Cafe – I’ve sung its praises before, but if you are willing to split, the shwarma platter is the way to go. The chicken and lamb combo for $13.99 includes roasted chicken and lamb, bread, couscous, hummus and lentil salad. It’s an amazing value, and the food is really good. Share this then meander around World Showcase to pick up dessert at Karamell-Küche or Boulangerie Patisserie, and you’ll be a happy camper.

Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner – Here’s one a friend turned me on to just recently. Right on Echo Lake in the Studios, there is a great deal at this boat-shaped restaurant. Grab the frankfurter in a pretzel roll, and for under $8 you have a very filling lunch. It’s so big that you don’t even need chips or fries!

Pizzafari – Let’s face it, Disney pizza isn’t the best. In fact, it sometimes can be downright bad. There are a couple of exceptions, one of which is Pizzafari in Animal Kingdom. When you buy a personal pizza here, not only do you get the pizza, but a salad, as well. Many is the time the wife and I have bought an extra salad and split the pizza, coming away full but not stuffed for under $15.

BoardWalk Pizza Window – Want al fresco dining but not looking to pay through the nose? Walk over to the BoardWalk from Epcot or the Studios to enjoy a full size pizza for only $20. With drinks, a family of four can sit outside and enjoy the atmosphere of Crescent Lake and a meal for less than $30.

Captain Cook’s – If you are dying to try some of the famous Polynesian fare, especially for breakfast, you cannot beat Captain Cook’s on the ground floor of the Polynesian’s Grand Ceremonial House. For just $6, you can get the famous Tonga Toast, which costs twice as much upstairs in the Kona Cafe. I always grab coffee from the Kona Island next to the monorail and enjoy breakfast down at Captain Cook’s before a busy day at the Magic Kingdom.

So those are but a few of my favorite dining values. What are some that you have found?

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Posted on April 2, 2012

8 Responses to “Dining Values – They Do Exist in Walt Disney World”

  • I can’t believe Earl of Sandwich was not mentioned! Best sandwich at Disney hands down! They go for $6 and are filling.

  • Ahh- Min and Bills… Well done!

    And, if I may add onto the Captain Cook’s treasures: Dole Whip. When you can serve yourself, you can pile it on!

  • The new waffle sandwiches at Sleepy Hollow in the Magic Kingdom are great tasting and big enough that 2 can share for lunch.

  • We visited Cosmic Rays on March 18. The ribs and chicken combo (which I is what I always get) is no longer offered. They didn’t have ribs on the menu at all.

  • As a single mom who has visited three times with my 7 year old son (who has a voracious appetite), I wholeheartedly agree with these suggestions. The dining plan is out of the question for us, since he would not subsist on kids’ hamburgers, chicken fingers, and mac and cheese for 7 days. We have shared meals at Tangierine Cafe (followed by dessert at Boulangerie Patisserie), Pizzafari (I eat the salad and sneak a piece of pizza), Cosmic Ray’s (we go for the 1/2 roasted chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes), and Flame Tree BBQ (they do have the chicken and ribs combo; the fruit plate is is a nice add-on). We do like to splurge on breakfast at Tusker House, but for the variety and quality of food, the price is good (we can typically skip lunch after getting our fill at this meal). ‘Ohana is also a favorite. Definitely a little more expensive, but the quality and variety of food here his also excellent. We get the early reservation (at 5 pm), and can typically snack on popcorn for lunch to tide us over.

    On our last visit a few weeks ago, I treated myself to the sweet and spicy chicken waffle sandwich. Son wasn’t interested, so I gladly savored the entire thing. But, this would definitely be a good choice to share, as would the fruit and Nutella waffle. I didn’t try the fruit/Nutella combo, but it looked absolutely delicious and was HUGE! We also always stop at Pecos Bill’s. The kid’s burgers there seem to be a bit higher quality, and by the time you add toppings from the topping bar, they are almost gourmet.

  • Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner is not open all the time!! We actually should make it more popular, because maybe then they would keep it open.
    I like the chicken ceasar salad inside the french bread sandwich thing that they have. I made a huge trek just for that only to find they were closed.

  • I find that for “value”, downtown disney can be a better “value” than the parks but it’s not really comparable.

    But if you’re going to include earl of sandwich, you’ve got to include the new pollo campero. If you’re staying in a resort attached to DTD (SSR, OKW, port orleans) or you have a car from ft wilderness or pop century or art of animation, then go over there for breakfast. The restaurant is practically empty because the rest of DTD isn’t really open yet. DTD from 8:30 to 9:45 am is really a great spot. So peaceful, not crowded, clean, fresh, and pretty. (Marketplace side; not really my impression of the west side or pleasure island area in the morning.)

    Don’t forget trails end buffet!! (Although trails end is a very expensive meal compared to cooking at your own camp site. That’s why it’s good for those not staying at FTW. It’s a much better deal than stuff at magic kingdom and in addition the playgrounds, theming, and stuff over on the north side of fort wilderness is a fun setting for kids).