If you ask a recent visitor to Walt Disney World about the food, you are likely to get one of two answers. Either it is “overpriced typical theme park food”, or it’s “amazing – a foodie haven!” With such polarizing reviews, which is accurate? Actually, they both are. The quality of Disney dining is really variable based on what restaurants you choose, and this is especially true of the quick service options. If you do your research and plan ahead, you can get some really tasty and unique meals at Disney’s counter service restaurants. But beware, if you just bee-line to the closest option when you’re hungry, you might end up with that “typical theme park food” and your stomach and your wallet may not be happy. We are here to help you out with our picks for the best, and the worst, quick service restaurants at Walt Disney World.
1. Flame Tree Barbeque
This delicious BBQ joint at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is a winner for the food, the location, and the ambiance. It’s conveniently located on Discovery Island, so you can reach it easily from any area of the park. It’s a great change from the typical theme park burger and fries, with heaping plates of tasty barbecued meat and Flame Tree’s Signature Baked Beans and coleslaw. The food is great, and the seating may be even better. With tables scattered amongst a shady woodsy area, you can escape the hustle and bustle of the park and enjoy a little nature while you eat.
2. Sunshine Seasons
Located in The Land pavilion at Disney’s EPCOT, this food court makes the list because of the great variety it has to offer as well as its quality. It’s a great place to eat with big parties because everyone will be able to find something they are happy with, whether that’s pizza or an overflowing plate of rotisserie chicken with black beans and rice. Sunshine Seasons is also a great place to cool off in the middle of the day, since it’s fully indoors and the temperature in The Land pavilion tends to be quite pleasant!
3. Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo
You don’t have to worry about feeling like you’re eating typical theme park food here, because from the moment you enter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge you are transported to a different world. This quick service spot keeps with all of the detailed, out-of-this-world, theming of its host land. They offer several interesting meat and plant-based meals made with ingredients from around the galaxy, and you can choose to sit inside the working hangar or outside among the crumbling walls of the marketplace. Whatever you choose, you’re sure to enjoy this unique, definitely-not-found-at-any-other-theme park experience!
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4. Satu’li Canteen
For an other-worldly eating experience at a different park, check our Satu’li Canteen over at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This popular quick service restaurant is located in Pandora, where you are fully immersed in The World of Avatar. There are no signs of Mickey and Minnie here, and no signs of typical theme park food either! If you’re dying for a burger they do have you covered in their own unique way with the Cheeseburger Pods but the highlight for most diners is the selection of bowls with grains, meats, and unique sauces. Topped off with Pinterest-worthy desserts, this is a quick service spot you won’t want to miss!
5. Columbia Harbour House
You can come back to Earth for our next entry, but you will probably feel like you’re going back in time a bit. Located in Liberty Square in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Columbia Harbour House has an historic, nautical feel to it. The menu keeps with the nautical theme and offers Lobster Rolls, Shrimp Skewers, and Grilled Salmon. Land lubbers have some interesting choices too, with a Chicken Pot Pie, Hummus Sandwich, and salads to choose from. To be honest though, the big draw for me is actually the allergy chicken nuggets, which they are famous for in the food allergy and gluten-free communities!
6. Bonus Pick: World Showcase Quick Service
At Disney’s EPCOT, almost every country has a quick service option, and most are quite good. It’s too hard to pick just one to put on this list, especially since they all have something unique to offer.
This quick service option is a lot like the rest of Dinoland in Disney’s Animal Kingdom – just meh. The menu is really limited, with burgers, some fried stuff, and one salad. There is some cute dino-themed décor, but other than that it’s a “typical theme park” meal in a park that has plenty of more exciting options.
2. Backlot Express
Take Restaurantosauras, move it to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, add a Cuban Sandwich and more alcoholic drink options, and you’ve got the Backlot Express. Hollywood Studios doesn’t have as many great quick service options as Animal Kingdom, but you can find more interesting options and atmosphere at several other restaurants.
3. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café
Somehow this cavernous quick service spot in Tomorrowland at Disney’s Magic Kingdom manages to stress me out anytime I go there. In addition to a lackluster menu and mediocre burgers, there’s something about the space that just feels chaotic. It’s loud and often crowded, without any real theming aside from the giant audio-animatronic Sonny Eclipse who provides musical entertainment. The menu has a little more variety than the previous two locations on our list, and the Cheshire Café Cat Tail is a fun treat for dessert, but I’d recommend passing on this one and heading to Fantasyland, Adventureland, or Liberty Square for better options.
4. Yak and Yeti Local Food Cafés
Not to be confused with its Table Service sister restaurant, Yak and Yeti Restaurant, this quick service option can’t quite figure out what it wants to be. It has a few Asian options, like Vegetable Tikka Masala, and also offers more “standard” fare like burgers. The kids menu is limited to a burger, chicken nuggets, and PB & J, ignoring the fact that kids might want something different too! With all the unique food Disney’s Animal Kingdom has to offer, this place just falls flat.
5. Main Street Bakery
This quick service option at the end of Main Street, USA at Disney’s Magic Kingdom makes our “worst” list because of how it compares to what it once was, and what it could be. If you look at blog posts from as recently as ten years ago, you see an authentic bakery with homemade cookies and cakes and cute tables to sit and enjoy a breakfast treat. Originally sponsored by Sara Lee and then by Tollhouse, the bakery fit right in with the nostalgic feeling the rest of Main Street exudes. In 2013, Disney turned the Main Street Bakery into one of its new Starbucks locations, and the feel of the place totally changed. The cute tables made way for winding ques. The unique fresh-baked treats made way for more standard Starbucks bakery items. Even as a bona-fide Starbucks addict, I would give up access to my Grande Iced Caramel Macchiato (with light ice and extra caramel) for the Main Street Bakery of the past!