Eating at one of the many restaurants in Walt Disney World is an exciting experience, with options to please fans of every kind of cuisine and atmosphere. Sample delicious Mexican food in a beautiful twilight setting next to a Mayan pyramid at San Angel Inn Restaurante, or enjoy fresh seafood next to amazing sea creatures at the Coral Reef. Dine on Italian specialties at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, where Lady and the Tramp shared a plate of spaghetti, or have a breakfast adventure with Mickey Mouse, Donald, and their pals at the Tusker House. Be transported back to a 1950’s drive-in theater, and enjoy a classic American menu while watching black-and-white movie clips at the Sci-Fi Din-in Theater Restaurant. The choices are endless! Many of the restaurants are popular all year long, like Be Our Guest, ‘Ohana, Chef Mickeys, and Cinderella’s Royal Table, and getting a reservation here is a necessity. If you’re ready to try a someplace new or weren’t successful in securing a reservation at a favorite restaurant, consider the many eateries that might not receive the attention as the headliner establishments. Reservations are easier to get at these places or might not be needed at all, yet the menus are equally appealing, and the theming is just as amazing. Choose one of these as an alternative dining location and feast on that wonderful Disney magic. Here are a few of the restaurants that might not receive the adoration of the more popular spots, but are definite hidden gems in my book.
1. Olivia’s Café
Dining at Olivia’s Café at Disney’s Old Key West Resort features home-style dishes and specialties straight from Key West in a beachy, laid-back setting. Taking advantage of the boat transportation on the Sassagoula waterway adds an extra dose of relaxation.
2. Kona Café
Avoid the crowds at ‘Ohana and check out the Kona Café instead. A monorail ride to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort takes you to this delightful restaurant for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Menu highlights include Asian-inspired dishes and an on-stage sushi kitchen. Breakfast is my favorite meal at the Kona Café with its delicious Tonga Toast and macadamia-pineapple pancakes.
3. The Turf Club Bar and Grill
Tucked away in the Carriage House at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, the Turf Club and Grill is a truly a hidden gem. Dine on a top-notch menu of steak, pasta, and seafood among tasteful equestrian and horse racing décor. Large windows look out onto the lush golf course and Disney Springs, and patio dining is also available.
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4. Restaurant Marrakesh
Step into Restaurant Marrakesh in the Morocco pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase, and find yourself in another land. Enjoy menu items like couscous with chicken or lamb, meat rolls, and shish kebabs in an elaborate palace setting. Exotic belly dancers entertain guests from a center dance floor.
5. Nine Dragons Restaurant
Chinese restaurants are easy to find in most American cities, but don’t think that this is just another ordinary Chinese restaurant. Located in the China pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase, diners enjoy lunch and dinner in elegant dining rooms, decorated with beautiful lacquered wood and rich colors. The menu features the different regions of China and includes Kung Pao chicken, Canton pepper beef, stir- fry, sweet and sour pork, honey-sesame chicken, steak, and seafood dishes.
6. The Wave
Located at the Contemporary Resort a short monorail ride away from the Magic Kingdom, the Wave’s location makes it an excellent choice for a more relaxing meal. This restaurant is known for its sustainable ingredients and local offerings in a stylish, yet cozy setting. The Wave also features a nice bar area with an excellent selection of wines.
From the moment guests step into the lobby of Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, guests notice the mouth-watering aromas wafting up the stairs from Sanaa. Dine on slow-cooked African and Indian dishes, and be sure to order the Indian bread service. Huge windows let guests enjoy the African wildlife on the savannah as they dine.
8. Grand Floridian Café
Many people associate Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa with fancy and expensive restaurants. Don’t overlook the Grand Floridian Café, a charming eatery that is easier on your wallet. American fare is served in a Victorian-themed setting.
9. The Plaza Restaurant
Dining at the Magic Kingdom is more than a table at Be Our Guest or Cinderella’s Royal Table. Stop by the Plaza Restaurant on Main Street U.S.A. for casual dining in a great location. Family-friendly menu options include burgers, salads, sandwiches, and other comfort foods.
10. Flame Tree Barbecue
This eatery at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is often overlooked, but it’s a must-do on every one of my trips for its tasty menu and peaceful setting. Order a delicious plate of ribs, pulled pork, or chicken, and find a shady table by the water for an enjoyable and relaxing meal.