Dining with teens

Hi! I’m a single dad planning a 2018 trip with my kids, who will be 17, 15, and 12 at time of travel. So far, the most intimidating planning topic to me is dining. My biggest question is one I thus far can’t find advice on as most is geared towards younger children.

I want to try a lot of variety in cuisine, particularly at Epcot. If you currently or in the past have raised teenagers, you know they’re often picky. When I look at the table service menus, I see many items I’d love to try but teens will balk at because they aren’t comfort food. Complicating things is the fact my oldest is a vegetarian with seemingly limited choices.

The other side of the coin is that they’re too old to expect kids pricing, even though the kids menus offer the comfort food choices that will keep them happy.

So, all that said, if you have experience in this area, I’d love advice

  1. Will restaurants allow teens to order off kids menus if they choose?
  2. For vegetarians, are they accommodating about making dishes without meat or with meat alternatives where possible?
  3. Am I better off just skipping the food exploration and just surrendering to a week of burgers?

Thanks so much!

First of all I want to tell you Disney is GREAT with taking care of vegetarians. My husband is a vegan and eats very well, so your daughter will too. At buffets the chef will come out and take her around letting her know what she can eat with her restrictions, and perhaps prepare something else for her.

I am focusing on table service as that is what you seem to want advice for. I have not eaten at many table service, but listen to liners. I tend to do mostly quick service or out of parks.

I suggest you pick through the restaurants at the parks and choose 3 for each park, print up the menus and let them pick from there. Also pick a few resort restaurants and again print menus and let them choose.

Oh and as to kid menus, anyone even adults can order off the kids menu.

At this age if you want a character meal, if they are not overly into it, I would pick Trattoria al Forno breakfast with Price Eric, Ariel, Rapunzel, and Flynn Rider.

At Hollywood Studios there is a lot who say Prime Time Cafe is good, it has a lot of comfort food and has some pretty awesome milk shakes.

Epcot - I have not eaten in many places, but hear a lot for Teppan Edo. There is Via Napoli which sees a lot of love.

Animal Kingdom, I have never eaten there. Tiffins has been getting a lot of new love, as well as Yak & Yeti.

Magic Kingdom I like Crystal Palace, but Be Our Guest is a hard to get favorite.

As far as resorts, I love Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness, great buffet, comfort food, awesome strawberry shortcake. And yes a vegan eats very well here.

Breakfast - Boma is my favorite.
Character - 1900 Park Fair Dinner

Overall I feel as if lunch menus are similar to dinner menus, but lunch seems cheaper.

This a bit dated but there is a lot of good here:

Again old, but my day one talks about my husbands meal at Trail’s End

My faves when I was a teen were Hollywood Brown Derby in DHS and Rose and Crown in EP. Both are just the right amount of adventurous for budding foodies if you ask me.

I also really enjoyed sci-if drive in, but not sure what’s on that menu that could work for a veg. Haven’t looked at it recently.

Sunshine seasons is a great QS in future world at EP in the land pavilion. Lots of options for all diets and very fresh veggies since they pull some produce from the greenhouses there.

For MK, maybe Liberty Square Tavern if you are after comfort food? If you want a QS I like Columbia Harbor House. Straight forward menu of fried items, Mac and cheese, green beans, etc.

For AK, I absolutely adored Satu’li. The bowls are very versatile (even offering tofu!). They do look a little eclectic due to the theming but they are solidly not weird. Tiffins is absolutely delish (perhaps my favorite) but it is a little eclectic.

I love the idea above of picking some options to choose from and then letting the kids look a the menus. I actually did that with my husband when planning my most recent trip.

My first thoughts brought me back to the days when I had to go to the buffets and watch my son get a plate of chicken and mashed potatoes. Will you have the dining plan?

I think no on the dining plan. Crunching numbers, I’m pretty certain I’ll come out ahead without. By my math, I can pay cash for one table service, one quick service, and a couple snacks per day for less than a standard plan (yes, I accounted for tips). My favorite idea, which I snagged from the guidebook, is to load a prepaid Visa with the dining budget. That way, I have a card I can use for reservations, go on the trip with the same peace of mind knowing the food’s already paid for, and if I come in under budget, get my money back

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Thanks for all your help, guys! This whole trip is a lot to take in for an old fart from Wisconsin who last visited WDW as a kid in 1993 :slight_smile:

You’ll definitely come out ahead without the dining plan, especially if they order from the kids’ menu. I’m taking DD16 this month (free dining) and we’re going back in November/December with no dining plan. I told her that over the summer she should order from the adult menu (though I’m not upset if she doesn’t eat everything) and when we go back she can order whatever she’ll eat. Even on the plan, I expect that we’ll likely share some QS meals as the portions are ginormous, so that’s another option for them as well.

I am an adult and I still order off of the children’s menu.

Not a lot to add… If you’re not doing the dining plan (I never do), than anyone can order off the children’s menu. Disney is incredibly good working with specific dining concerns (vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, gluten, allergies, etc). Buffets always have “comfort food” for families with kids who are picky eaters, but in all honesty other than Biergarten (one of my all-time favorite WDW restaurants), Boma, and Tusker House (the only CM I’ll do), I can’t really recommend any of them for quality of food.

My teens are now 19 and 20, so I have some experience with this, as we’ve been taking them for years and always do Free Dining, so have lots of TS experience. My kids are not super picky, but my daughter is a vegetarian, though she does love seafood.

in MK, BOG, of course, is awesome. The Ballroom has windows that has active snow outside - forget the Beast, this castle meal is awesome, just for the atmosphere. But it is hard to get. We have been to Skipper Canteen, but I’d call it adventurous, honestly, and wouldnt waste my money on it.

in Epcot, I second Teppan Edo - what we call “CHOP 'EM UP” this can be steak, chicken, shrimp or possibly tofu. Such a good meal, and teens love Chop 'em up! The chefs are great and put on a little show. Great food. Via Napoli is very good and best not on dining = large pizzas are HUGE and you can feel like you are eating “foreign” food = its in the Italy pavillion. Also, Chefs de France has a very good menu - steak, chicken, vegetarian entrees, and provides a nice “fancy” meal that is not too fancy.

AK I totally recommend Yak and Yeti - if they like “chinese” food. In fact, we’ve only done the sit down once, and though it was very good, I think we will go back to the chicken fried rice and egg rolls from the counter service. There is a great little seating area in the shade behind it - we use snack credits when on dining and this allows us to double up for a Signature meal.

HS - yeah, we dont sit down to eat there.

The Resorts are cool, though, for teens. They are all so different and are fun places to explore and depending on the season, there may be activities to do there, too. For example, Definitely go to AKL to see the animals, preferably at night with the night vision goggles. BOMA is a GREAT BUFFET where your little veggie will feel super special as the chef takes her and explains every vegetarian dish to her. There is different interesting african food to taste, but also delicious salad bar, prime rib carved, and comfort food. It’s pricey, but worth it. The desserts alone I could eat for a half hour!

Also, we LOVE Ohana - for dinner especially - they will likely not participate, but younger kids do some games and stuff and if you get a good table and the right time reservation, it is a beautiful place to see the fireworks. Yes, it is skewers of meat, but if your daughter eats shrimp, she’s good to go. I’m pretty sure there are some good fresh interesting salads as well? but you better check that menu.

If they like sushi - at all - there are fun places for that, too.

Disney Springs also has fun selections - we loved Paradiso 37 - its menu is huge, surely something for everyone. Also, if they like Music, the House of Blues is also a fun hangout.

Teens and Disney are awesome! Mine have really enjoyed and are now hoping to go as “adults” on their own. Happy Planning!

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You have gotten a lot of advise - and to be fair I haven’t read most of it. Basically - don’t get a meal plan - pay per meal and if they want things off the kids menu - in most cases they can order it. If not they can order something similar. I have a 14 year old boy that is getting quite adventurous in what he eats - I also have an 11 yr old and a 44 yr old - that if you split them open (please don’t though) you would find them filled with noddles and fishy crackers). So they always order off the kiddie menu - my wife has never been denied kiddie meals. So just don’t get the dining plan to increase your flexibility

I agree with Tigger and say pay as you go. Not sure you will get your money’s worth paying for a dining plan as I’m not sure three teenagers are going to want to sit down three times a day to eat rather than continue to ride rides. I would look for some dining experiences that really interest all four of you and plan for them, then snack the rest of the time. Remember Disney allows outside food so grabbing some protein bars and eating while waiting in a queue is a good way of seeing everything you want while not starving.

Yeah, I’m definitely anti-DDP. Here’s my logic: Say a plan costs $1,000, and when I go I find we actually consume $800 worth of food. If I bought the plan, Disney just made an extra $200. If I took that same $1,000 and loaded a prepaid Visa, the $200 savings goes in my pocket

the ONLY time I have seen where it was worth it was when we did a lot of character meals. But other than that - it is not the value it once was. Last trip we got pizza at the SWAN two nights. $16 for 4 people - that is a deal my friend