Visiting Walt Disney World is something that my family and I have done almost every year since I was five. And while my sister and I have grown out of most things since our first trip (RIP to my favorite Ariel dress), going to Disney with our parents will never be one of them. I still get excited for weeks before a trip, my mom still packs goodie bags for the plane, we still run around the halls of the hotel to the pool, and we smile like fools when we first enter the Magic Kingdom. The magic is real, and I always feel it deep in my bones, no matter how old I get.
One of the best things to do at Walt Disney World is eat (you’re on vacation, so calories don’t count). Between the Dole Whip (more on that later!), the Mickey Mouse-shaped waffles, and worldly cuisine, there is so much to choose from. Like, an overwhelming amount of places. Do you get a dining plan? Do you bring your own food to the park? Which restaurants are worth it?
There are a million tips, hacks, and recommendations out there when it comes to food at WDW, but since I like to consider myself a bit of an expert, I have 6 all-time favorites that we go to every single time. I’ve narrowed down this list to the places we actually plan our days around (the food is seriously that good!), all of which you can go to during a week-long stay. And, unlike some fancier spots that can be almost impossible to get reservations at (cough, Cinderella’s Royal Table, cough), you can almost always count on these. So, “Be My Guest,” and keep reading. 🙂
Boma is my absolute favorite restaurant in the whole of Walt Disney World. Located in the stunning Animal Kingdom Lodge, this African-infused dining experience is unlike any other. While there will usually be a long wait, you won’t even mind — just grab a drink at the bar and head out back to the “savannah,” where you can observe animals like giraffes and zebras (if it’s dark, there’s usually an employee there with night vision goggles), or sit by a fire and look at the stars in rocking chairs.
When you do sit down for dinner, expect to try decadent, rich, and flavorful food you probably haven’t had before. My favorites include pistachio-crusted salmon, warm and sticky coconut rice, carrot and ginger soup, and curried couscous salad. For dessert, you’ll have more than enough to choose from, with things like fruit tarts, warm and chewy cookies, apple crumble, and mini key lime pies. But that’s just the beginning, since the buffet-style restaurant wraps around the entire dining area. And just in case exotic food isn’t your thing, they also have a delicious selection of classic favorites, including spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, and french fries.
2. Epcot’s World Showcase
Eating in Epcot is a favorite for most Disney lovers, especially since you can travel all around the world without ever leaving the park. But while a lot of people choose just one country to dine in each time, my family and I have a beloved tradition of eating around the world. We plan ahead (I’m talking eating a small and light breakfast the day of), and all share one or two snacks from each country. The main restaurants in each country are usually always booked solid, but they each have a smaller take away spot to grab something. We have egg rolls in China, bratwurst and beer in Germany, fish and chips in England, baklava in Morocco, tacos in Mexico, and on and on and on. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and everything is so good. Why choose just one thing when you can have them all?
3. Bongos Cuban Cafe
When a Cuban restaurant is owned by Gloria and Emilio Estefan, you know it has to be good. My family and I stumbled upon this pretty much by accident, and it’s become one our all-time favorite restaurants not only in WDW, but anywhere.
Located in Downtown Disney, you’ll want to go to Bongos for the food, and stay for the amazing live music and dancing (most nights after 6 p.m.). I love to try new things, but me, my sister, and my dad all get the same dish every time we go: skirt steak with chimichuri sauce, rice, and fried plantains. Once you try it, I swear you’ll have dreams about it. Oh, and wash it all down with a sweet and refreshing mojito.
4. Captain Cook’s
Captain Cook’s will always hold such a special place in my heart because of the memories I have grabbing snacks there as a kid. Located in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, the quick meals and snacks spot is the perfect place to go in between trips to the pool (or on your way back to your room from the Magic Kingdom). They have essentials like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Disney sweets like Mickey Mouse Rice Krispie treats. But the absolute best part? They have a Dole Whip machine! Forget waiting for a ridiculous amount of time at the park. Grab one and go right here.
But the thing about Captain Cook’s that will really win you over is that it’s just so . . . Disney. It smells like Disney (Disney lovers will know exactly what I mean!), and you’re usually surrounded by excited little kids talking about what ride they have to try first while munching on a Mickey Mouse waffle. If Disney magic exists in a snack shop, it’s here.
5. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
One of the best things about Disney is its ability to completely transport you to a different time and place, and the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater does just that and more. The 1950s-inspired restaurant, which is located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, lets you go to a classic American drive-in under a bed of stars. While munching on things like burgers, fajita salad, and shrimp pasta, you can enjoy classic movie and TV show clips, including a cat who shoots himself to the moon, a giant man who can’t stop growing, and a groovy beach party that gets interrupted by a sea monster.
Side note: they used to have the BEST cupcakes I’ve ever had. While they aren’t on the menu anymore and it always breaks my heart, their milkshakes more than make up for it (I could bathe in the Oreo cookie one).
Going back to the Polynesian, Ohana is a family-style restaurant that literally makes you feel like you’re at home (in a Hawaiian home with a ton of other people, but still home). After the servers greet you by calling you “cousin,” they serve breakfast and dinner in a Lazy Susan dish for sharing in the middle of the table. If you go in the morning, expect to start with freshly-made coconut and pineapple breakfast bread, followed by Mickey Mouse waffles, scrambled eggs, sausages, and fried potatoes. Also great? They have one of the best character breakfasts I’ve ever been to at Disney, including cute appearances by Lilo and Stich.
For dinner, you’ll munch on pork dumplings, peel-n-eat shrimp, and stir-fried veggies. And since you always want to save the best for last, ask for the pineapple drizzled in caramel sauce. Since it’s fruit, it’s basically healthy, right?