My 10 Favorite Disney (Land, World and Cruise!) Restaurants

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The first couple of months after making New Year’s resolutions involving “eating better” or “losing weight” may not be the best time to talk about food, but what the hay. Let’s do it! This time I decided to name my 10 favorite Disney restaurants no matter the location! Well okay, not any. I haven’t been to the Disney parks overseas, so I can’t fairly include them. So this list will include Disneyland (of course), Walt Disney World, and the Disney Cruise Line ships.

Let me confess right away about three I’m leaving off that should probably be included. Club 33, Remy, and Victoria and Albert’s. Club 33 isn’t an option for most people as it’s not open to the general public. I haven’t dined at Remy or Victoria and Albert’s yet, so I’ll leave those off, too, even though I know by all accounts they’re amazing. If you have eaten at either, I’d love to hear where you would rank them! But for now we’ll just acknowledge their greatness and move on.

Now for the usual disclaimer. These are my opinions!! They do not necessarily reflect that of anyone else on this blog or anyone else on the planet, for that matter. I certainly cannot fit every good restaurant at Disney in this list. As you will see, I’ve included fine dining restaurants, more casual options, and even a character meal (or two). But I do have reasons for my 10 picks, and I think you will agree with some of them. And for the ones you don’t agree with or feel I unjustly left off? Well, that’s what the comments are for.

1. Palo – Palo is my favorite Disney restaurant anywhere. And it only costs $20!!! Oops, that’s not really true because you have to pay for the cruise first, but it’s only $20 more! And it’s an amazing experience. The location, the views, and oh my – the food. Palo is an adult only restaurant on all four Disney ships with panoramic views of the ocean, Caribbean islands, Alaska, or whatever else you happen to be sailing by while dining. It can be booked for dinner or brunch (although brunch is only available on sea days), and I can’t decide which I like better. Dinner is a multi-course experience with a top notch server at your beck and call whose goal is to fulfill all your dining dreams. Can’t decide what to order? No need to. Odds are your server’s going to bring you multiple things to try. You won’t be disappointed. Brunch, on the other hand, starts with a gorgeous spread of pastries, breads, cheeses, fruit, berries and desserts. Of course you could just stop there and be happy, but you don’t have to! The Chef also has a wonderful selection of entrees to choose from. I’ve eaten at Palo over and over and never once felt like it was anything short of the perfect dining experience.

2. Napa Rose – Napa Rose in the Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at Disneyland is expensive and worth every penny. My favorite way to eat there is at the Chef’s Counter, but the food is delicious no matter where you are sitting. I devoted an entire blog post to why Napa Rose and its Chef’s Counter is so amazing, so I won’t belabor the point here. It’s wonderful. Try it.

3. Citricos – Citricos in the Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort gets overlooked, sometimes being in the shadow of the more well-known Narcoossee’s, but it really shouldn’t. The menu includes an Oak Grilled Filet of Beef that is to die for. And the risotto? Wow. There’s also a wonderful Chef’s Domain, which is a private room that seats up to twelve. The Chef personally creates your delicious menu. If you want to feel pampered and maybe even like you are king of the world for an evening, this is where you want to eat.

4. Steakhouse 55 – Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel became one of my favorites last fall. The main dining room is so elegant and yet not imposing at the same time. There’s a distinct Old Hollywood feel to it, which greatly appeals to me. The entrees are wonderful, and there is a 24-layer chocolate cake that awaits you at the end of the meal. That’s right, 24 layers. That is all.

5. Carthay Circle Restaurant – Carthay Circle at Disney California Adventure is the newest restaurant on this list, but it certainly deserves to be here! Carthay Circle is a gorgeous restaurant with wonderful service and food. The restaurant is modeled after the original Carthay Circle in Hollywood where Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937. It’s a stunning replica, and the inside is just perfect. The house biscuits are a fascinating blend of bread, cheese, and jalapeno peppers, and there are too many good entree options to list. It’s well worth a visit when you are on the West Coast.

6. California Grill – The California Grill in the Contemporary Resort has location, location, location going for it! The view of Magic Kingdom’s fireworks is excellent! Schedule your dinner for a time that coincides with the fireworks and either watch from your table or step outside on the viewing balcony. The location is all I am sure about with the California Grill, because it is currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment and is closed for the next several months! At this time, the only thing we know that won’t change is the location! But I’m very confident that when it reopens the new menu will be as wonderful as the previous one, so I couldn’t leave it off the list.

7. ‘Ohana – ‘Ohana in the Disney’s Polynesian Resort can be summed up in two words – unlimited meat. Meat and more meat. If you’re a vegetarian, that probably didn’t entice you to try it, so let me assure you there is more than meat. As someone who swore off vegetables at the wise age of 5, I can’t testify to its taste, but I am told the Vegetarian Platter is wonderful. But let’s face it, meat is the highlight here. Food is served family style with huge platters and portions. You start the meal with a salad, broccoli medley (Well, you start the meal with the broccoli medley; I don’t. No veggies, remember?), and lo mein noodles. Then your server will bring out a platter of fried dumplings and chicken wings. And that’s just a warm up for all the meat! Servers are roaming the restaurant with skewers of chicken, pork, shrimp and steak, just itching to put some on your plate. And just when you think you’re full, they come by again. With protests from no one, the meal ends with the insanely popular bread pudding served a la mode.

8. Le Cellier SteakhouseYes, I know, some people love Le Cellier in Epcot, and others feel it’s crazy overrated. I fall firmly in the camp of love. Let’s face it, there’s a reason it was so popular that it went to two credits on the Disney Dining Plan. The mushroom filet mignon will melt in your mouth. I could just eat the filet and be beyond happy. But it doesn’t start or stop there! The pretzel bread is so good! And the risotto that comes with the filet! And the chocolate desserts!! Oh my word, I am so hungry now.

9. Blue Bayou – Blue Bayou at Disneyland has some of the best theming of any restaurant at Disney. Its theme fits right in with the iconic Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. The boats float right by the tables and don’t feel out of place from the perspective of either the ride or the restaurant. You feel transported. The food’s not too shabby, either. The Monte Cristo, which is currently only served at lunch, is one of my favorites. The Jambalaya is delectable, and Filet Mignon with Blue Bayou Potatoes is tender and delicious.

10. Chef Mickey’s (or Cinderella’s Royal Table?) – I had a very hard time with this last one. I feel like character meals are a big part of the Disney experience for many guests and felt like I should include one. But which one was the question? Chef Mickey’s and Cinderella’s are pretty different as far as character meals go. If you have a princess lover in your family, go with a meal in THE icon at the Magic Kingdom – Cinderella Castle. The atmosphere is exactly what you would expect from a royal family. The food is good, and there are multiple princesses with time just for you. If your goal at Disney is to see the main mouse, then go directly to Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary (after making reservations about 6 months in advance, of course). Mickey and all of the Fab Five are usually there for breakfast and dinner. Breakfast is fairly standard (but good) fare, and the highlight at dinner is the Parmesan Mashed Potatoes. Or maybe it’s the dessert buffet? Nope, still going with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes. In fact I think I have had them for dessert before.

I know restaurants preferences are highly subjective and picking favorites is like picking a favorite child at times, but I’d like to hear your favorites! What did I leave out? What do you strongly agree or disagree with?

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Posted on March 1, 2013

25 Responses to “My 10 Favorite Disney (Land, World and Cruise!) Restaurants”

  • California grill is by far my favorite. I have to say ohana has become a disappointment. Each visit offers less and less food.

    • by Tammy Whiting on March 2, 2013, at 9:39 am EDT

      There has been a lot of grumbling about the menu changes at ‘Ohana. They didn’t bother me, but you’re not alone.

  • Boma! Boma is the best.

  • I can’t agree with you on the Blue Bayou. The quality of their food has gone downhill to the point where I wouldn’t want to eat there at half the price. The service was still quite good last time I went there, and the theming is terrific, but I can’t enjoy a $32 bowl of jambalaya that just isn’t tasty.

    However, I couldn’t agree with you more about Steakhouse 55, especially for breakfast. The breakfast there is wonderful and priced quite reasonably for Disney (e.g., $14 for eggs benedict).

    At WDW, I’m with Mel: Boma is the best!

    • by Tammy Whiting on March 2, 2013, at 9:40 am EDT

      Really, Marmorgan? That’s too bad. I loved my filet there on my recent visit.
      Steakhouse 55 is wonderful!
      And I do like Boma!

  • Maybe a follow on: top 5 restaurants to avoid and a suggestion as to the best alternative:

    For example, avoid Nine Dragons in EPCOT. Alternative suggestion: Yak and Yeti in Animal Kingdom.

  • My wife and I ate at both Citricos and Narcoosees last November and whereas the meal at Citricos was pleasant it wasn’t a patch on the meal we had at Narcoosees. In addition the atmosphere was noisy at Citricos and the service poor. Both were fantastic at Narcoosees. I wouldn’t put Citricos in my top 10.
    However my number 1 doesn’t even appear on your list and that is Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge. Everything about our experience there was sublime, from the room itself to the service to the food. It’s rare that I find a menu I want to eat EVERYTHING off but Artist Point achieved this, and the de,very and execution of each dish was simply stunning.
    I’d also put a word in for Jiko at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. The food here is excellent, the wine list to die for and it is the most ‘grown up’ of all of the dining rooms we encountered – elegant and, above all, tranquil.

    • by Tammy Whiting on March 2, 2013, at 9:42 am EDT

      Wow, David! I loved Citricos so much!
      I did figure Jiko and Artist Point would come up. Both are excellent.

  • I’ve eaten at Victoria and Albert’s twice, and if you had been there, I can guarantee it would be at the top of the list. It’s quite pricey, but there is reason they have 5 diamonds – it a fantastic meal, and you feel pampered at the same time. Every other place we’ve been (Jiko in particular) didn’t seem to live up the the hype. We’re planning Citrico’s this year; looking forward to it.

  • When you talked about Le Cellier, you forgot to mention the cheddar cheese soup and the chocolate moose!

  • If this is truly a “favorites” list as the title suggests, no one can really disagree with you. Your favorites are what they are.

    However, the disclaimer about restaurants at which you haven’t eaten potentially belonging on the list makes it sound almost like an non-exhaustive “best-of” list constrained to places you’ve dined with “favorites” in the title to provide that wiggle room.

    If the latter is the case, depending upon your criteria, I think 7-10 are tough sells. These restaurants are all insanely popular, but so is Cosmic Ray’s…popularity isn’t necessarily a proxy for quality.

    Going on cuisine quality alone, I’d replace 7-10 with Yachtsman Steakhouse, Jiko, Flying Fish, and Victoria & Albert’s (and reorder). If the list is based on something more than quality, I could see 7-10 all making it since they each bring something unique to the table, even if their food isn’t in the top 10.

    Interesting list, regardless!

    • by Tammy Whiting on March 3, 2013, at 3:49 pm EDT

      I see your point, Tom. The word “Favorites” really is my disclaimer. I’m a fan of 7-10 (not just because of popularity) but I wouldn’t disagree with your replacements either.

  • I have to go with Le Cellier and Artist Point. We ate at Artist Point while on our honeymoon, and it was fantastic. Will have to go back soon!

  • We love the Kona Cafe, for both breakfast and dinner. It is a great use of the DDP. Our favorite gift to take home to friends is the bagged coffee beans of their special blend.

  • I had a very disappointing experience on my honeymoon at the California Grill. Our goal was to have a very nice meal, enjoy the bottle of champagne Disney gave us on our cruise, and watch Wishes. Sadly, none of that happened.

    Despite making our reservations well in advance, we were still stuck waiting for 45 minutes before being seated. Bear in mind, we were staying at the Contemporary Resort, so if we’d known there would be a delay, we could have checked in and waited in the comfort of our room.

    Once we finally got to our seats, we were very disappointed to find out that we didn’t have the view of the castle that we’d hoped for. Being positioned near the bar, we couldn’t see any of the castle at all. We asked our server, and were told that they were very busy and couldn’t accomodate us.

    A bit later, we were greeted by whom we believe was either the manager or assistant manager. I thought we were going to be accommodated once they realized it was our honeymoon, but instead, we were interrogated about our bottle of champagne. I explained that we’d just come off a Disney Cruise, and the champagne was a gift from Rachel, the cruise director. Apparently unlike every other high-end restaurant I’d ever been to, the California Grill doesn’t allow outside beverages of any kind. I had expected that we’d simply pay a corkage fee and that would be it. But we were never informed otherwise, either when we checked in to the restaurant, checked in again at the desk, or when we were seated. The manager then brought a wine bag and asked us to conceal our bottle, so none of the guests could see it. We felt like we were being treated like criminals!

    When the food finally came, it was lukewarm and unappealing. Admittedly, this could be entirely because of the foul mood I was in, but I just didn’t feel like it lived up to the reputation the restaurant had earned.

    Even after all of that, it got worse. As the night continued on, the restaurant started to empty out. Guests near us all finished their meals and left, and the restaurant was left half empty, including the coveted window seats to watch Wishes. I asked our server if we could be moved to see the show, and were again denied. I told her that there was no one waiting, the tables were empty, and it was our honeymoon. Apparently we just weren’t important enough to get a nice view of the show. So as the lights dimmed and the show started, we sat in the dark, able to hear the music but unable to enjoy the show. (We finally did get to see Wishes, but literally stood in the rain at the Magic Kingdom the only other night we could see it, just so we didn’t go home having missed it.)

    Every other restaurant we’d been to was wonderful the entire trip. But this experience permanently put me off the California Grill.

    • by Tammy Whiting on March 15, 2013, at 10:49 pm EDT

      Wow! That is very surprising, Rob! I haven’t heard of an experience at the California Grill like that before. I don’t blame you for not wanting to go back!

  • Our favorites are definitely California Grill and Boma. We are all seriously bummed that CG won’t be open when we head down there next month.

    But Boma is the only (family) restaurant we have gone to both times we have been to Disney World and is the only one on our reservation list this year. We just love it, and the choices of food.

    We have not tried the other DW ones on your list. As we are staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge this time, we are trying Jiko for the first time and Sanaa for the second time (we loved it the first time).

    Victoria & Albert’s is an amazing dining experience. The cost is stratospheric, but the service, food and ambience are as well. We always manage to make an evening out for it and never regret it.

    • by Tammy Whiting on March 26, 2013, at 6:28 pm EDT

      You have a great list, Jonathan! I can’t wait to see how California Grill turns out. And I’m sure you will love Jiko! Victoria and Alberts is on my list for next time. :)

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