California Grill Restaurant

20 Essential Dining Experiences at Walt Disney World

One of the best parts of a Walt Disney World vacation is not enjoying the attractions throughout the four parks, but rather dining at some amazing restaurants. There are hundreds of dining locations in Walt Disney World that include everything from grab and go markets and quick service meals to fine dining experiences and character dining. With so many options to choose from, deciding where to dine can become a little overwhelming. Thankfully, all of the dining options in Walt Disney World are amazing in their own ways, so there are no bad choices. However, there are some restaurants that simply rise above the rest thanks to amazing cuisine, ambiance, service, and more. Here are the twenty essential dining experiences in Walt Disney World that guests have to try!

1. ‘Ohana

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort brings the tranquility of the South Seas to life with tropical vegetation, white sand beaches, and tiki theming that extends into a popular dining location. ‘Ohana is one of the most popular dining experiences in all of Walt Disney World and is open for breakfast and dinner each day with family-style meals. The dining room at ‘Ohana is an airy environment with exposed wooden accents, tropical bright carpeting, and floor to ceiling windows that overlook the Disney Resort’s grounds, Seven Seas Lagoon, and the Magic Kingdom in the distance. Breakfast features a family-style meal with dishes including Pineapple-Coconut Breakfast Bread, scrambled eggs, pork, fried potatoes, biscuits, and Mickey Waffles. Dinner is also served family-style with menu items reflecting Polynesian ingredients and flavors such as Honey-Coriander Chicken Wings, Pork Dumplings tossed in Garlic-Ginger Sauce, Island Shrimp Casserole, Woodfire-grilled Teriyaki Beef, and the famous ‘Ohana Bread Pudding.

‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (Credit: Disney)

2. California Grill

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is home to California Grill, an extremely popular dining experience that wows guests with its cuisine and views. Located on the top floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort, California Grill features an upscale, modern interior that is perfectly complimented by massive windows that offer sweeping views of Seven Seas Lagoon, the Magic Kingdom, and the surrounding area. Guests can also access outdoor viewing decks where they can take in stunning views of the nightly fireworks in the Magic Kingdom. California Grill is open for dinner each night and features cuisine that highlights the flavors of the Pacific Coast with menu items such as hand-rolled sushi, Alaskan King Crab Tart, Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli, Oak-fired Filet of Beef, Colorado Lamb Loin, Black Grouper, and Grilled Pork Tenderloin.

3. Narcoossee’s

Another essential dining experience that guests absolutely love can be found at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, a Deluxe Disney Resort that evokes the elegance and beauty of Victorian charm and architecture. Narcoossee’s is a signature dining experience that is located in its own building right on the shores of Seven Seas Lagoon, offering beautiful views of the water and the Magic Kingdom in the distance from the indoor dining area as well as an outdoor viewing deck. Open nightly for dinner, Narcoossee’s menu focuses on fresh American seafood which pairs perfectly with the light and airy dining room with white wooden accents and bright blue tablecloths. Menu options include items such as Shrimp and Grits, Maine Lobster Bisque, Blackened Salmon, Grilled Line-Caught Swordfish, and Surf & Turf. Guests who are not seafood lovers are still sure to enjoy dinner at Narcoossee’s thanks to menu options such as Barbecued Crispy Eggplant, Caesar Salad, Filet Mignon, Milk-Brined Duroc Pork Chop, and more.

4. Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera

Disney’s Riviera Resort is the newest resort option in Walt Disney World and is also home to one of the most popular dining experiences that guests now consider to be essential. Topolino’s Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera is situated on the highest level of the Disney Resort, offering sweeping views the surrounding resorts and water that pair perfectly with the location’s cuisine that features French and Italian flavors and ingredients. The restaurant is open daily for breakfast and dinner and offers two unique experiences for guests to choose from. Breakfast a la Art with Mickey & Friends allows guests the chance to see some of their favorite characters in art-inspired outfits while dining on a prix fixe menu with entrée options including Quiche Gruyere, Smoked Salmon, Sour Cream Waffle, Wood-fired Butchers Steak, and Spiced Sausage Hash. Dinner is a more indulgent meal focused more heavily on the French and Italian flavors with menu items such as Gnocchi, Beets Barigoule, Rigatoni, Bouillabaisse, Filet Mignon, Tomahawk Veal Chop, and Tarbais Bean Cassoulet.

Credit: Disney (Topolino’s Terrace)

5. Sanaa

An essential dining experience that is absolutely unique in both its cuisine and atmosphere can be found at the beautiful Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Kidani Village. Sanaa welcomes guests into a warm and inviting dining area that features bold patterns and designs paired with traditional African artwork and stunning windows that overlook the savannah and animals right outside. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Sanaa’s menu focuses on African cooking paired with Indian flavors resulting in a menu that is unique for Walt Disney World. Guests who dine at the restaurant can enjoy menu items such as Shahi Turka French Toast, Boere Breakfast, Enriching Grains and Fruit, Indian-style Bread Service, African-inspired Biryani with Shrimp, Potjie Inspired, and Grilled New York Strip.

6. Beaches & Cream Soda Shop

A favorite dining experience that many guests consider to be essential can be found at Disney’s Beach Club Resort which is nestled on the shores of Crescent Lake just steps from Epcot’s International Gateway. Beaches & Cream Soda Shop is designed to feel like a nostalgic eatery from the Atlantic seashore where guests feel as though they have stepped back in time and can enjoy classic favorites that pair perfectly with the jukebox pumping out oldies. Open daily for lunch and dinner, the menu at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop takes American classics and kicks them up a notch with big flavors, huge portions, and decadent desserts that make any meal there unforgettable. Those who dine at the restaurant can dig into menu items such as Cheddar-Bacon-Ranch Chicken Sandwich, Angus Beef Burger, Beaches & Cream Grilled Cheese, Cheese and Bacon Tots, Onion Rings, and more. While the main course and sides are fantastic, dessert is where Beaches & Cream Soda Shop really shines and guess can enjoy indulgent milkshakes and sundaes including the Classic Banana Split, Kitchen Sink, No Way Jose, Fudge Mud Slide, and Root Beer Float.

7. 50’s Prime Time Café

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is home to several eateries which can be considered essential, including one that brings guests back in time for an unforgettable “family” meal. The 50’s Prime Time Café transports guests into the family home of the 1950’s where the servers are cousins, the décor is vintage, and the food focuses on classic American comfort favorites. In addition to the quirky décor and televisions playing shows from the era, guests can also lean into the fun as servers remind them of rules such as no elbows on the table and finishing their vegetables- and those who don’t behave are sure to get into some interesting and fun situations! The 50’s Prime Time Café serves up lunch and dinner daily, and the menu features comfort favorites such as Grandpa’s Crab Cake, Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken, Cousin Megan’s Traditional Meatloaf, Mom’s Old-fashioned Pot Roast, and Cousin Harold’s Vegetable Garden. Guests who save room for dessert or go fully indulgent throughout their meal can also enjoy the classic Peanut Butter & Jelly Milk Shake which takes a childhood favorite to a whole new level!

8. The Hollywood Brown Derby

Another essential dining experience that must be enjoyed in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is The Hollywood Brown Derby which celebrates the history and glitz of the golden age of Hollywood while paying tribute to the historic Brown Derby restaurant that once existed in California. The interior of The Hollywood Brown Derby features classic caricatures of some of the most famous individuals in Hollywood over the decades which pair perfectly with the upscale, yet inviting atmosphere created by dark wooden accents, vaulted ceilings, and ornate lighting. The menu served for lunch and dinner at the restaurant focuses on contemporary American cuisine with options including Lobster Bisque, Shrimp Cocktail, Filet Mignon Steak Diane, Ora King Salmon, Wild Mushroom Risotto, Our Famous Cobb Salad, and Seafood Cioppino. Guests can also enjoy crafted specialty cocktails as well as delicious desserts including the classic Grapefruit Cake.

9. Be Our Guest Restaurant

The Magic Kingdom is home to Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland where guests are given the chance to step out of the real world and right into the Beast’s castle from Beauty and the Beast. The restaurant serves up French-inspired cuisine in The Grand Ballroom where Belle and the Beast shared their famous dance, The West Wing, and the Castle Gallery. Be Our Guest Restaurant is open each day for lunch and dinner and guests love the perfect combination of opulent setting and delicious menu selections. The prix fixe menu features delicious options such as French Onion Soup, Assorted Meats and Artisanal Cheese Selection, Maine Lobster Bisque, Center-cut Filet Mignon, Pan-seared Sea Scallops, Poulet Rouge Chicken, and Herb-salted Pork Tenderloin. In addition to the delicious starters and entrees, Be Our Guest Restaurant serves up a dessert trio with the choice of a Lemon Jam Macaron, White Chocolate “Chip” Cup, Dark Chocolate Truffle, or Vanilla Cake with Lemon Curd.

10. Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen

Guests who are fans of the Jungle Cruise in the Magic Kingdom are sure to consider the Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen an essential dining experience as it is run by the famous skippers from the attraction. The restaurant serves up lunch and dinner with menu options that have flavors and inspiration from the farthest corners of the world which guests can enjoy in the Jungle Room, Dr. Albert Falls’ family parlor, or the S.E.A. Room. Each room is filled with details that enrich the entire experience such as lofted ceilings, bright colors, and wooden accents. The eclectic menu at Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen includes items such as Fall Family Falafal, Orinoco Ida’s Cachapas, Dr. Falls Signature Grilled Steak, “Tastes like Chicken” Because it is!, Curried Vegetable Crew Stew, and Perkins Thai Noodles. Guests are also sure to love the Kungaloosh!, a dessert which pays homage to the former Adventurer’s Club in Pleasure Island that features a chocolate cake with caramelized bananas, cashew-caramel ice cream, and coffee dust.

“Tastes Like Chicken” Because It Is! at Jungle Skipper Canteen (Credit: Disney)

11. Tusker House Restaurant

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to an essential dining experience that features an immersive environment, incredible detail, and amazing food in the Africa section of the park. Tusker House Restaurant is themed to feel like the bustling Harambe Marketplace with a central atrium and dining areas off to the sides. Tusker House Restaurant typically operates as a buffet with normal character interactions, however it is currently operating as a modified experience due to the pandemic. Guests now can enjoy their American and African-inspired cuisine as a family-style serving on their table for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and wave to Mickey and friends in their safari gear from a safe distance. Some menu items offered at Tusker House Restaurant include Mickey and Simba Waffles, Durban Chicken & Egg Curry, Moroccan-spiced Beef, Spit-roasted Herb Chicken, Cape Malay Green Curry Shrimp, Berber-marinated Pork, and Jasmine Rice.

12. Yak & Yeti Restaurant

The Asia area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom is home to the Yak & Yeti Restaurant which features an extensive menu of pan-Asian delicacies that pair wonderfully with an intricately designed interior. The restaurant features two stories of dining areas that are filled with authentic artwork, statues, artifacts, and décor that were all collected by Imagineers from Southeast Asia. With dark wooden beams, eclectic lighting, upper level windows overlooking the paths outside, and so many pieces to look at, a lunch or dinner at Yak & Yeti Restaurant is an unforgettable experience. The menu is one of the largest in Walt Disney World and serves up everything from small plates and shareables to wok and grilled options. Some popular menu choices at Yak & Yeti Restaurant include Pork Egg Rolls, Firecracker Shrimp, Ahi Tuna Nachos, Lo Mein Chicken, Bhaktapur Duck, Chicken Tikka Masala, Honey Chicken, Korean Beef, BBQ Ribs, and Teriyaki Chicken. Guests should also be sure to save room for the Fried Wontons which combine pineapple and cream cheese wontons with vanilla ice cream and a honey-vanilla drizzle.

13. Tiffins Restaurant

Also found in Disney’s Animal Kingdom is another essential dining experience that celebrates the diverse flavors of the world as well as some of the influential Imagineers that helped to create the park. Tiffins Restaurant is located right next to Nomad Lounge on the bridge that connects Discovery Island and Pandora – The World of Avatar and features an interior bursting with photographs, artwork, artifacts, and more from around the world. Tiffins Restaurant features three different dining rooms- one that celebrates the spirit of Africa, a second that celebrates the spirit of Asia, and a third that honors exotic animals from around the world. Guests who dine at the restaurant for lunch and dinner can enjoy delicious menu options such as Tiffins Signature Bread Service, Spiced Chickpea Falafal, Butter Chicken, Whole-fried Sustainable Fish, Surf and Turf, Tamarind-braised Short Rib, North African-spiced Tofu, and South American Chocolate Ganache.

14. Rose & Crown Dining Room

Epcot’s World Showcase is one of the most concentrated areas of great dining options in Walt Disney World with eleven different pavilions all featuring cuisine from various countries around the world. The UK Pavilion is home to the Rose & Crown Dining Room, a full service restaurant that feels like an authentic British pub with traditional pub food, an upbeat atmosphere, and cozy interior. Guests who enjoy lunch or dinner at the restaurant can either dine indoors in rooms filled with charming fireplaces, tea sets, and décor, or outdoors on a spacious patio that overlooks World Showcase Lagoon and features a wonderful breeze. Some traditional menu items that can be enjoyed at Rose & Crown Dining Room include Scotch Egg, Fish and Chips, Shepard’s Pie, Bangers and Mash, Welsh Pub Burger, and Chicken Masala Curry. In addition to the wonderful menu choices, guests can also enjoy draft pints as well as special pub blends that combine favorites such as Harp, Guinness, and Smithwick’s.

15. San Angel Inn Restaurante

The San Angel Inn Restaurante in Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion is considered to be an essential dining experience thanks to its unmatched ambiance and authentic Mexican cuisine. Located inside of the pavilion’s ancient pyramid, it is always nighttime at the restaurant and guests can enjoy beautiful views of the courtyard marketplace on one side and the gently flowing boats, Mayan pyramid, and distant volcano on the other. With traditional and simple table settings, the ambiance and cuisine are the true stars at San Angel Inn Restaurante where guests can enjoy lunch and dinner each day. Some popular menu items on the menu include Queso Fundido, Guacamole, Tacos de Ribeye, Camarones a la Diabla, Pollo a Las Rajas, Enchiladas de Pollo, and Carne Asada. To complement their meals, guests can also enjoy signature margaritas at San Angel Inn Restaurante including The Cucumber, Pina Loca, El Diablo, and the San Angel Inn Margarita.

16. Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria

Southern Italian cuisine is dished up in a fun and inviting atmosphere at Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria, a full service restaurant in Epcot’s Italy Pavilion. The large restaurant is well-known for its Neapolitan-style thin crust pizzas that guests can enjoy while surrounded by frescos depicting the Italian countryside, vaulted ceilings, and beautiful lighting. The pizzas are prepared in large wood-burning ovens, each featuring a face depicting Italy’s three active volcanos- Mount Etna, Mount Vesuvius, and Stromboli. Lunch and dinner menu options at Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria include Calamari Fritti, Mozzarella Caprese, Ravioli di Ricotta e Spinaci, Branzino, and Chicken Parmesan in addition to pizzas such as Quattro Formaggi, Carciofi, Prosciutto e Melone, and Piccante. Pizzas can be ordered as Individual, Large, or Mezzo Metro size, and the metro can feed a crowd!

17. Wine Bar George

Disney Springs has many amazing restaurants that guests can enjoy that offer up unique menus inspired by tastes from around the world. Wine Bar George is a very popular dining location that serves up over one hundred different wines that pair perfectly with a small, but delicious, menu. Run by Master Sommelier George Miliotes, Wine Bar George allows guests to sip on wine by the glass, bottle or ounce and features tastes from wineries both new and old from around the world. Open for Wine Country Brunch on the weekends and lunch and dinner otherwise, Wien Bar George’s menu features cuisine specifically designed to pair well with the amazing wines. Brunch options include French Toast, Sausage Gravy and Biscuits, Eggs Benedict, the Wine Country Omelet, and more. Lunch and dinner feature small plates like Burrata, Crispy Mac & Cheese Bites, and House-Made Meatballs, boards including the indulgent Big Board with six cheeses and five meats plus condiments, and family style plates like Skirt Steak and Grilled Whole Greek Sea Bass which serve two to four guests.

18. The Boathouse

Also found in Disney Springs is The Boathouse, a very popular dining location that is considered to be essential thanks to its delicious cuisine and stunning views. The Boathouse is nestled right on the shore of Lake Buena Vista, offering guests the chance to enjoy waterfront dining on outdoor decks and beautiful views from nautical-themed dining rooms. The menu at the restaurant focuses on American seafood and steakhouse favorites as well as more casual options with optional enhancements. Guests who dine at The Boathouse for lunch or dinner can choose from an extensive menu that features items such as Jumbo Lump Crab and Avocado, Oysters on the Half Shell, Coriander-seared Ahi Tuna, Cedar Planked Gulf of Maine Salmon, Peel and Eat Key West Shrimp, Fried Atlantic Clam Strips, Maine Style Lobster Roll, Filet Mignon Sliders, Petite Filet Mignon, Boneless Ribeye, and Truffle Fries.

19. Morimoto Asia

Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs is run by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto who combines his years of experience and love of pan-Asian cuisine to bring a unique and amazing menu to life. The restaurant is located in The Landing area of Disney Springs and brings the flavors of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisine to life in a two story dining area featuring exhibition kitchens, sweeping staircases, and modern light fixtures and décor. Morimoto Asia is open daily for both lunch and dinner and guests who dine at the location can enjoy menu items including Miso Soup, Pork Dumplings, Crispy Popcorn Shrimp Tempura, Beef Lo Mein Noodles, Morimoto Gomoku Fried Rice, Morimoto Peking Duck, Orange Chicken, and Kung Pao Cauliflower. Morimoto Asia also features fresh sushi rolls including Spicy Tuna, Spicy Salmon, California, Shrimp Tempura, Eel & Avocado, and Spider.

20. Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’

The final essential dining experience on the list can also be found in The Landing area of Disney Springs and focuses on Southern comfort favorites with a Florida twist. Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ is run by the famous chef and combines his family recipes with the flavors and ingredients of Florida. The restaurant features both an outdoor seating area as well as an indoor dining space that features a combination of rustic wooden beams and vaulted ceilings and industrial light fixtures and glimpses into the kitchen. Chef Art Smith’ Homecomin’ hosts The Rise ‘n Shine Brunch on weekends where guests can enjoy menu items such as Biscuits, Church Lady Deviled Eggs, Hush Puppy Benedict, Fried Egg & Avocado Toast, French Toast, and more. The restaurant is otherwise open for lunch and dinner where guests can dig into favorites such as Thigh High Chicken Biscuits, Bunch of Puppies, Fried Chicken Sandwich, Art’s Famous Fried Chicken, Chopped Pork Barbecue Plate, Fried Chicken & Doughnuts, Fried Catfish, and Braised Short Ribs. In addition to the amazing cuisine, Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ also features some delicious specialty cocktails and moonshine such as Florida Crush, Moonshine Mash, White Peach Sangria, Old Fashioned Elder, Muleshine, and Cucumber Cooler.

About Caitlin Kane

Caitlin Kane first started visiting Walt Disney World when she was two years old, and despite spending most of that trip quarantined with the chicken pox she managed to fall in love with the place. Visiting WDW every year since, she especially loves learning all about the history and small details of the parks and eating/drinking her way through the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival each fall. When she's not in Disney, Caitlin lives in New York and spends her time counting down the days to her next trip.