DINING- Counter Service or Sit Down?

We currently only have one sit down dining reservation- for the Fantasmic show.

My question is, for those who do NOT have the dining plan, what would you do as far as eating? We only have one day in each of the four parks. Our kids are 9, 11, 14. I keep hearing how many counter service restaurants are often better than sit downs!

Can you please recommend ONE place you love in each park (either sit down or counter service) and also ONE restaurant for our family at Disney Springs (we probably will head there one day/evening on a day off).

This is quite a wide open question, with lots of variables and subjective opinions.

Perhaps it would help to know what the criteria you are weighing?

For example, we pretty much never eat at table service places…just quick service. We don’t do this because of the quality of the food, but because it is cheaper, as well as less time consuming. We don’t care about characters, so character meals don’t matter. And with a larger family, eating a TS can get to be quite expensive.

So, we make our choices based on what food we will be most okay with that is cheap. :slight_smile:

We then usually have one Table Service meal for the trip as a treat. (But, our taste in what constitutes a good TS place isn’t that great, since we’ve done Rainforest Cafe twice!)

Keeping that in mind, then, here is what we tend to pick:

MK - Either Cosmic Ray’s (if we’re over near Tomorrowland), Pinocchio Haus (near Fantasyland), or Pecos Bill (for Adventure/Frontierlands)

EP - Electric Umbrella, since we focus on FW usually…but it is no longer an option.

HS - Good question. No good answers, since we’ve struggled to find some place everyone likes that is QS. TS has more options…we just haven’t done them.

AK - Again, we’ve struggled to find something we like there that is QS.

DS - We did Rainforest Cafe, as I said…but for cheaper fare, Earl of Sandwich.

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We have never had the dining plan, although we may get it for our trip in December.

MK Liberty Tree Tavern at lunch or Skipper Canteen, both TS
EPCOT TS Biergarten QS Kringla in Norway
HS Ronto Roasters
AK Tusker House TS and Satu’li Canteen QS
DS. Wolfgang Puck Express

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QS locations:

AK - Satu’li Canteen
DHS - Ronto’s Roasters
EP - Tangerine Cafe
MK - Casey’s — If you like hot dogs
DS - Polite Pig

TS locations:

AK - Tiffins
DHS - Mama Melrose – I get the lunch F! dining package
EP - Biergarten
MK - Liberty Tree Tavern
DS - Splitsville


Thanks !!

Thanks! This is great!

Yes, we don’t really care about characters- kids are older now that it’s not a “thing”.

My criteria is more based on food. We get a little worn out of the fried options at every turn- so healthier/fresher options would be nice. If there are any unique experiences that are fun, I’d love to check those out too. Are there any restaurants to snag to get a view of parades, fireworks etc?

And to be honest, my husband and I would love a cocktail/beer/wine where offered ;)! I know it’s not in Magic Kingdom, but that’s part of getting us through these days in good spirits too! Ha!

MK - not a fan of the QS here, I’d pick CP for breakfast or LTT for lunch.

HS - ABC is very good these days for QS. I’d pick Sci Fi for TS.

AK - Flame Tree BBQ, the only TS we’ve done here is TH brunch which was fine but I’m not in a hurry to repeat it.

EP - Sunshine Seasons is our favourite QS. You’re spoilt for choice with TS but we keep going back to BG dinner.

DS - so many good choices here! Polite Pig, D Luxe burger, Blaze pizza for QS. Raglan Road and Homecomin for TS.

Sorry, too hard to pick just one!

You can get alcohol with TS in MK, just not with QS.

Oh, I guess I should have mentioned that’s our go-to at HS with options limited.

You can absolutely get beer & wine at MK. I’ve been know to start my days by going to CRT for breakfast and sipping on a couple mimosas and having beers at dinner at BOG

When I made my list, see above, I didn’t include character meals. I go to CRT every visit. You get to meet 5 Princesses at once and eat inside the Castle! Plus, the food is superior to most MK offerings.

My absolute favorite in each park:

MK: Be Our Guest (dinner). The food is top notch. The atmosphere is amazing and magical.
EP: Garden Grill. It’s an odd choice to be sure, but the food is also fresh and delicious. The characters and the fact that it rotates and you can see Living on the Land from a different angle make it that much more awesome.
AK: Satu’li (QS), but the food is fresh and delicious. The desserts are beautiful… Plenty of seating.
HS: I have not eaten at Docking Bay 7 (QS) yet but I’m hoping it’s my favorite because all the restaurants are pretty meh.

This is a tough one. Let me just say this, if you are tired from a day at the parks and want to sit down and relax a bit, you have to do table service in my opinion. WIth your kids I think it would help. It is frenetic sometimes and the table service really gives you a chance to breathe in and relax a bit. Quick Service can be an absolute free for all and many times a very noisy solution as well. As far as table service at each park:

MK Jungle Navigation
EPCOT San Angel Inn (super relaxing, cool)
AK Yak & Yeti
HS Sci-Fi Drive In (very cool theming, dark and relaxing as well)

As far as Disney Springs, lots of good choices. Paddlefish is a great restaurant if you are a foodie and seafood is on the menu.

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For unique experiences I’d go with the following:

MK–Be Our Guest
AK–Satu’li Canteen
HS–Sci Fi
DS–Raglan Road

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AK - Flametree BBQ (QS);
EPCOT - Morocco (both the QS and TS restaurants and the Spice Road Table… all good); Biergarten is also fun, but the food is just average (experience here is better than the cuisine)
MK - Columbia Harbor House is the only QS I eat at and I have never done TS except for Be Our Guest, which is a thing in itself.
HS - good luck here. HBD for Table Service is my choice. I think all the QS is mediocre at best. Never been to the taphouse, but am interested to try.

Have fun!

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We aren’t big QS people but I’ll chime in where we have experience! I love TS as it’s a built in break from the heat and gives your legs a nice rest. I’m also a big fan of Signature Dining and it’s often less expensive for the kids depending on how they order (as an example I spent more on Trattoria breakfast than Jiko dinner last summer with myself and 4 kids).

All that taken into consideration, here’s my list. Oh, and we’ve never been to Disney Springs so I’ll add my fave resort TS. :slight_smile:

Magic Kingdom - BOG dinner (TS), Main Street Bakery I guess (we haven’t really eaten at any other QS here)
Epcot - La Hacienda and Garden Grill (TS), Tangierine Cafe
HS - Sci-Fi (TS) and Ronto Roasters (QS)
AK - Tiffins (TS), Nomad Lounge (does this count as QS?? Lol.) and Satu’li Canteen
Resorts - Artist Point (WL), Sanaa (AKL), Jiko (AKL) and Trattoria (BW)

MK: Columbia Harbor House has surprisingly good seafood, and although mostly fried the salads are good too. It is also not usually too crowded (especially upstairs) and has mobile order. I also think Be Our Guest is a good lunch option if you can get a reservation. Unlimited refills is a nice bonus on a hot day. For a fun/different choice - Sleepy Hollow for a chicken and waffle sandwich!

AK: Flame Tree BBQ - outdoors, but lots of seating, big portions and fun food options of the pork variety. I also like Restaurantosaurus for the AC and free refills (there’s a trend). Mostly standard theme park food unless you do the Burgers and Sundae thing (if thats still available), but sometimes I like going there to get a basic meal and save some decision fatigue. Usually empty in the evening for dinner. Satu’li is definitely going to give you the unique menu though.

HS: Usually my group heads to the “food court” on Sunset Blvd of Catalina Eddie’s, Rosie’s All American and Fairfax Fare. Everyone can get something a little different and sit together. Nothing super delicious in my opinion though. Do have beer on tap though. No AC, so if thats needed on the day, would lean more towards Docking Bay 7.

EP: I almost exclusively take advantage of the food booths in QS, especially if there during a festival (which is almost year round). Can’t really go wrong with those and you get unique food at pretty much every stop! And of course lots of alcohol options.

DS: I haven’t had a bad meal here, but have only done TS. I loved Homecomin’, even though that is pretty regular food here in Charleston. Raglan Road is great too with the entertainment.

DS8 (almost 9) says:

MK: Columbia Harbor House for salmon and fried seafood
Be our guest dinner (though we went before new menu)

Epcot: Festival booths for QS
Garden Grill (characters) for TS

Woody’s lunchbox for QS snacks and sandwiches
Leave park for Cape May Cafe at Beach Club for seafood buffet dinner

AK: restaurantosaurus and ice cream carts
We haven’t done TS in AK

MK: QS = Columbia Harbor House; although my kids love the burgers at Cosmic Ray’s
TS = The food is the best at BOG; The buffet at CP is good though…
EP: QS = Sunshine Seasons
TS = It’s a toughie but right now it is LeCellier
AK: QS = Flame Tree Barbecue’/ Tie with Satu’li Canteen (Love the beer at the stand outside Satu’li).
TS: Not a ton of great options we normally do Tusker House
HS: QS: Backlot Express
TS: HBD - Its pricey but good food.

Keeping in mind your preferences for fresh/healthy…

DS: Homecomin’ (TS). Their specialty is fried chicken, but DH and I each ordered different salads, and they were both absolutely delicious.

MK: Columbia Harbor House (QS). We ordered the grilled shrimp, which came with green beans and rice

AK: Satuli Canteen (QS). Lots of customization available with the bowls. We got greens as a base, and it was still filling and yummy.

HS: Only ate at Ronto Roasters (QS), Sci Fi Dine In (TS), and had the charcuterie at BaseLine (QS). We didn’t eat anything particularly healthy at these places, but Ronto Roasters was good! We had the breakfast Ronto Wraps.

EP: We only ate from F & G booths, and it wasn’t hard to keep it healthy. It’s fun trying stuff from all the booths too.

MK: BOG lunch. We are trying LTT for lunch in May
Epcot: Garden Grill
AK Yak and Yeti
HS: Sci Fi
We haven’t been to DW in 2 years, so we haven’t tried some of the new QS in HS.
DS: Blaze Pizza

We don’t do DDP. We are foodies and went last December. Over 15 days, we didn’t eat any hot dogs or pizza and just 1 meal of fried food. We shared a salad at every meal (4 of us) I don’t have a QS and TS at each park. But others have listed lots of options. I’m listing based on taste.

MK - BOG for lunch. QS but they bring you your food. You get your own drinks. Pecos Bill has good food and a fantastic condiment bar. Seating is decent.

AK - Flame Tree and Satulli’s. Both QS. If you have a choice, go to Satulli’s for dinner. There weren’t that many people there. AC and plenty of seating at dinner. The desserts are amazing.

HS - Woody’s. QS but we loved it so much we ate 2 breakfasts and a lunch there.

Epcot - Coral Reef for TS but the portions are small. We also like Le Cellier for TS. Food and desserts are fabulous, but expensive. For QS, we like Yorkshire a Fish and Chips but there is no seating. We also like Les Halles for sandwiches, salads, and desserts! Seating is limited. Another QS is Katsura. Food is decent for the price. Seating is okay. La Cantina is also good and seating is okay.

DS - D-Luxe for the only burger during the trip. Food is delicious and seating is decent.

You didn’t ask for resorts but we love, love CA Grill at the Contemporary and go every time, even though we are cheap! Story Book Dining at Wilderness Lodge is character but the food is delicious and plentiful for the money. We all ordered prime rib and had the equivalent of 1 1/2 pieces left after the 4 of us ate. We were stuffed.