Your Top-Rated Magic Kingdom Restaurants

by on January 16, 2017 22 Comments

Filed under: Dining, Walt Disney World (FL)

Top Rated Magic Kingdom Restaurants

After every trip to Walt Disney World, we send our TouringPlans members a survey to see how satisfied they were with each part of their vacation.

The Dole Whip in both its glorious forms

In 2016, we got back more than 122,000 responses on Walt Disney World restaurants, up from 97,000 responses in 2015. To put that in perspective, we have more surveys about Disney World restaurants than Yelp and TripAdvisor combined.

In this blog post we’ll cover your ratings for the Magic Kingdom’s restaurants, from best to worst. Let’s start with the Magic Kingdom’s quick-service restaurants, using our straightforward “thumbs up/thumbs down” rating system. Restaurants in green are rated better than average; those in pink are worse than average; and the ones in red are much worse than average.

Restaurant Number of Surveys Thumbs Up Pct
Aloha Isle Refreshments 2362 98.1%
Sleepy Hollow Refreshments 723 95.3%
Columbia Harbour House 2067 93.3%
Main Street Bakery (Starbucks) 1264 93.0%
Gaston’s Tavern 1496 91.8%
Casey’s Corner 1190 88.1%
Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe 1554 86.0%
The Friar’s Nook 362 85.1%
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe 1919 81.8%
The Lunching Pad 378 81.5%
Pinocchio Village Haus 1256 81.2%
Golden Oak Outpost 127 81.1%
Tortuga Tavern 140 80.7%
Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant 232 77.2%
Westward Ho Refreshments 33 72.7%
The Diamond Horseshoe 117 70.1%
Mean=89.7 Sdev=6.1

The Best Quick-Service Restaurants in the Magic Kingdom

Y’all rated Aloha Isle Refreshments, the Adventureland home of the Dole Whip, the best counter-service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom in 2016. And while it may be stretching the definition of “quick-service restaurant” to include Aloha Isle, we’ll go with it this year.

Two Liberty Square restaurants made the top 3: Sleepy Hollow Refreshments and Columbia Harbour House.  Sleepy Hollow’s culinary philosophy can be summed up as “everything tastes better on a waffle,” if everything means chicken or fresh fruit. As someone who once drove his family to Compton for Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, I get the appeal. The Fruit Waffle even earned Sleepy Hollow a spot in our Top 6 Overlooked Restaurants post in 2016.

Columbia Harbour House has been highly rated for several years now. I really like their grilled salmon, the lobster roll, and the Lighthouse Sandwich, a hummus, tomato, and broccoli slaw on multigrain. If you’re getting a side with those, go with the house-made potato chips.

The other Magic Kingdom quick-service places to do well are the Starbucks (Main Street Bakery) on Main Street, and Gaston’s Tavern in Fantasyland. I’m mildly surprised at the high rating for Starbucks, because it’s a 20-minute wait for coffee every time I’m there. You’d think that kind of wait would drive their numbers down, but no. As for Gaston’s Tavern, I think it shows the appeal of decorating with antlers. Lots and lots of antlers.

The Worst Quick-Service Restaurants in the Magic Kingdom

As far as the lowest-rated Magic Kingdom restaurants go, the old rule used to be ‘Don’t eat in Fantasyland‘. That was before Be Our Guest opened (we’ll get to BOG in the table-service section below). The new rule seems to be ‘Don’t eat in Tomorrowland‘ because Cosmic Ray’s, The Lunching Pad, and the often-shuttered Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant all posted results more than one standard deviation lower than average. I’m not a huge fan of Cosmic Ray’s, but I have to think that the inconvenient ordering system, with salads in one line, burgers in another, is not making anyone happier about the food.

Along those same lines, Adventureland’s not-always-open Tortuga Tavern is on this list. Bringing up the bottom is the Diamond Horseshoe Saloon, which is only open when the Magic Kingdom has run out of any other option for feeding people.

The Best Sit-Down Restaurants in the Magic Kingdom

Here’s a list of the best and worst sit-down restaurants in the Magic Kingdom. As before, those in pink are worse than average; and the ones in red are much worse than average.

Restaurant Number of Surveys Thumbs Up Pct
The Crystal Palace 1579 91.1%
Be Our Guest Restaurant 3891 90.3%
Liberty Tree Tavern 1159 87.9%
Cinderella’s Royal Table 1191 85.7%
The Plaza Restaurant 496 85.1%
Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen 596 80.9%
Tony’s Town Square Restaurant 579 76.9%

It’s mildly surprising to see The Crystal Palace, a character meal buffet, narrowly beat out Be Our Guest for the top spot in this survey. I think the food is good at both places. In fact, I think

Do meals taste better with life-sized stuffed animals? Or just when Len pays? Yes.

either restaurant is a better experience than Cinderella’s Royal Table. It could be the combination of characters at Crystal Palace, along with huge crowds – and long waits to order at lunch – at Be Our Guest, contributed. We don’t separate the survey results of Be Our Guest’s quick-service lunch from its table-service dinner, but we may start.

Adventureland’s new Jungle Navigation Co Skipper Canteen did not get off to a good start after its opening in 2016.  They were not helped by a ‘no reservations’ policy early on, because Disney has spent years conditioning people that they need reservations to eat in the best restaurants. And while the food and service was good, I thought it was expensive and some of the dishes were heavy for what you’d expect, especially for lunch. The theming is great, though. Hopefully the menu can be updated and lightened.

Restaurants to Avoid in the Magic Kingdom

At the bottom of the list – every year – is Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. It might as well be called Tony’s Last Chance Saloon, because it’s the place you eat when you’re desperate and just not able to walk to the Contemporary.

My all-time favorite tip for eating at Tony’s comes from TP alumna Scarlett Litton, who can apparently find the good in anyone and anything. Scarlett had this idea for a blog series titled something like ‘The One Thing to Order at a Bad Disney Restaurant’ – where she’d find the single decent dish on the menu at every low-rated restaurant in Walt Disney World.

For Tony’s Town Square – and honestly, I didn’t want to know how many times Scarlett had to eat here to figure this out – her suggestion was a Make-Your-Own-Chicken-Alfredo. Scarlett would tell the server she wanted the plain, breaded chicken cutlet from their chicken parmigiana entree, smothered in the cheese sauce from one of their appetizers, with a side of pasta. It’s one thing to order off-menu. But when the customers are telling the restaurant how to reassemble their ingredients to make better food, that’s a sign that something’s not right.

We’ll cover the best restaurants in Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Animal Kingdom, Disney Springs, and the Disney Resorts, in follow-up posts. In the meantime, let me know in the comments below your favorite tips for finding the best food in the Magic Kingdom.

Posted on January 16, 2017

22 Responses to “Your Top-Rated Magic Kingdom Restaurants”

  • I loved the Skipper Canteen! I had the Noodle Bowl with Duck (which was pho), which was one of the better bowls of pho I’ve had anywhere (plus, my 9-yo discovered he liked duck and was chagrined to find ALL restaurants don’t serve duck). I don’t remember what the rest of my family had (except for the Thai Exotic Melon Coca-Cola), but it was my favorite meal of the whole trip. Who expects to eat duck pho at the Magic Kingdom?

    • Thanks Dawn! It’s always surprising to hear when something like duck is on a Disney theme park menu, especially if they do it well. Glad to hear your son enjoyed it. (I think they also do a great job with lamb in the resort restaurants, for what that’s worth.)

  • Great survey and I agree with the results. I was wondering if you thought about doing a weighted average to account for the differences in the amount of people reviewing some of the restaurants.

  • I work at Cosmic Rays and all three bays NOW serve the same food

    • This is very good news. Cosmic Ray’s is my daughter’s favourite quick service at MK, but coordinating who was getting what from which bay was always quite an inconvenience.

      Unfortunately, we can’t eat at Columbia Harbour House because of my son’s shellfish allergy. We did try once, but the cast members taking the orders basically said that there was no hope of preventing cross-contamination and we had to go elsewhere.

    • That’s a great change! Thank you for your hard work in what has to be one of the busiest and unforgiving quick service places in the parks.

    • This is great news! Thanks!

  • I know that Cosmic Ray’s is often panned, but the fact that you can get a roasted half-chicken, steamed green beans and mashed potatoes is pretty awesome for families looking for something besides burgers and nuggets for a quick-service meal at MK. That alone was worth putting up with the mildly-inconvenient ordering system, and that meal remains one of our top MK food picks.

    • To me, Cosmic Ray’s is the “safe” quick-service choice. Not everyone wants rice bowls or exotic cuisine. Similarly, against many bloggers’ advice, I ate at Electric Umbrella in Epcot last year and had a similar reaction. Sometimes you just want simple, safe food no matter how mediocre it might taste.

  • Hope this isn’t too much of a spoiler, but Len’s comments on the Disney Dish with Jim Hill podcast–that I listened to on my way to work this morning had me laughing out loud! Of course the Daily Poutine is the best quick service at Disney Springs! I wish I would let myself try a version other than the Breakfast Poutine. It is a reason to stay at Saratoga Springs! @Len, I am sorry you still have that wet/dry food issue. You’re really missing out!

  • This is such great information Len! I’m already planning our second trip to Disney for June and had Crystal Palace on my list of places to try this time around. Thank you so much for collecting and crunching the data so we can make better informed decisions!

  • I was sorry to see that Skipper’s Canteen did so poorly – we loved it. It was really raining the night we dined there and they had to move our table several feet because there was a leak in the ceiling that was splashing down on our table, which naturally brought on some Dr. Albert Falls comments. The food and experience were both wonderful.

  • We loved Skipper Canteen! Just had dinner there in January and the only downside was the slightly slow service. The sustainable fish and appetizer we had were delicious. Char sui pork was very good and my kids like their meals.

  • Thank you for your usual high standards and presentation!
    I know that Cosmic Ray’s has a few downsides. But we stop every trip for the entire Sonny Eclipse show. We still find it hilarious. 🙂

    • I mean, they lyrics and jokes are worth the trip.

    • IMHO Cosmic Ray’s has decent food by WDW standards. The show is actually what causes us to look elsewhere (usually Columbia Harbour House). The acoustics just create this overload of sound. I’m glad we did it once, and like I said the food’s fine, but we go elsewhere now.

  • I was one of the ones who gave Skipper Canteen a negative review. The server was entertaining, but I did not think the food was good at all. Maybe we just ordered the wrong things.

    I would be curious to see how BOG faired if broken up into lunch and dinner. I think it’s the best lunch in all of WDW (except Flame Tree), but I will not be back for dinner. All the work and planning to get in and the food was mediocre at best, in my experience.

    • We had a similar experience, albeit a couple of years ago. The food at dinner was terrible, so bad that a manager comped us a lunch later in our trip. The lunch food was actually far superior to what was served at dinner.

    • Our dinner at BOG was our best meal of the trip. Our food and server were excellent, and eating in the west wing was awesome. I think I’d be disappointed if I had to sit in one of the other areas next time.

    • I think we will separate these out.

      Flame Tree did really well this year, as always.

  • I had salmon and couscous at Columbia Harbor House this past summer and both were absolutely delicious! Definitely worth their top ranking.