Walt Disney World Resort is home to so many wonderful dining options to choose from. Quick-service picks are always great for when you’re on the go with limited time to spare, or you’re just looking for something casual and convenient that doesn’t require much waiting around for. Plus, you get to choose your seating, if you do decide to sit down. But it’s not uncommon for first-time visitors to also want to try out a few of those world-renowned table-service recommendations that are often highlighted as part of the legendary Disney experience.
Because there are so many eateries and establishments of great acclaim here, you obviously won’t be able to try them all out the first time around. It’s also worth mentioning that not every restaurant comes recommended for newbies experiencing what Disney World is all about on a premier visit. Here’s a look at some of the restaurants to avoid on a first-time visit to Disney World and the reasons why they make less-than-ideal suggestions.
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50’s Prime Time Café
Based in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I would be lying if I said this isn’t one of the most sought-after, themed restaurant experiences among seasoned Guests who know just what to expect. Furthermore, the menu consistently garners praise for its flavorful presentations of well-known comfort food classics, with decent pricing for what you get.
So why, then, would this not be a perfect first-timer recommendation? If this is your first-ever encounter with the all-out immersive theming Disney is prone to embrace during dining experiences, be warned. This is one of the thickest demonstrations of character play-acting from any waitstaff ensemble. And if you aren’t a particularly playful person and are not prepared for a nosey, hovering waiter or waitress picking at you to keep your elbows off the table or scrutinizing how well you finish your plate (or not), the experience may just be a little intimidating.
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Whispering Canyon Café
You will find this restaurant, which is most notably famed for its bountiful all-you-care-to-enjoy skillets, on location at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Operating around the clock, any meal here dishes out hearty helpings of western staples and other specialties, including plant-based alternatives and even excellent accommodating items for those with specific allergies.
As is the case with 50’s Prime Time Café, however, the play-acting here can be a bit too much to handle if you are only just starting to become acclimated to Disney’s all-immersive theming. While not on the same invasive level as the aforementioned establishment, the waitstaff here is prone to pay you unwanted attention at times, particularly if you are celebrating a milestone like a birthday or even if you request ketchup. And if you’re not expecting to have straws thrown at you, that can be a bit of a shocker too.
But perhaps one of the biggest turnoffs for a first-time diner here is the fact that it is a deliberately noisy atmosphere—an attempt to live up to the misnomer reputation implied by its name. If you are visiting Disney World for the first time, you may already feel a little overwhelmed while trying to get your bearings. And you will probably end up with an understandable tension headache at some point. So, do you want to eat in a noisy mess hall with screaming servers while battling a headache?
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Disney Springs is the renowned bustling social scene at Disney World, laden with numerous shops and dining establishments. While you will find several specialty callouts in both the aforementioned categories, there are also many well-known chains on location here. Sure, having a familiar favorite on hand can be a welcome comfort, but let’s be honest and admit that most of us like to seek out more unique novelty experiences while on vacation rather than those we can easily have any other time at home.
It’s no secret that Planet Hollywood is one of those chain restaurants with locations scattered all throughout the nation. And the brutally honest fact remains that it really doesn’t hold its own when compared to the other chain restaurants on the scene here. In short, the menu is more mundane and there really aren’t any impressive callouts that set it apart from other Planet Hollywood locations elsewhere.
Similar arguments can be made for other chain restaurants throughout Disney World. The Rain Forest Café is one example, as is T-REX Café. But in both instances, these establishments fit into the mold of traditional Disney Magic immersion with their impressive in-house effects and overall atmospheric wow factors. Dining at Planet Hollywood, however, really isn’t anything to write home about.
Le Cellier Steakhouse
The 11 different national pavilions comprising the World Showcase over in EPCOT boast some of the most distinguished dining options around. And Le Cellier Steakhouse, based within the Canada Pavilion, is no exception. The menu features an enticing array of well-known steakhouse classics along with several unique specialties that are always a hit with folks dining here. And then there is that whole Canadian château ambiance, which reinforces the fact that this is essentially a signature dining establishment yet does it in a way that’s warm, welcoming, and foregoes all the unnecessary pomp and circumstance.
So then, what’s the problem? In short, it all comes down to the cost of dining here. This may be an excellent establishment, but menu prices are admittedly inflated. And if you are a first-timer to the Walt Disney World scene, you’re probably already contending with the initial shock of just how expensive things can get here. What’s more, even though the Disney Dining Plan still hasn’t made a comeback, let it be known that this is a two-credit meal option. While not odd for other upscale dining designations, it may be a shocker given its steakhouse setup. And on that note, Disney World is home to many other steakhouse options that may be a bit budget-friendlier for a newbie to consider.
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Here’s another pricey premium headlining the concept of elite dining within the World Showcase. But unlike Le Cellier, the bill you get won’t pack the same shock value because you already know up front that it is an EPCOT epitome.
On location within the Japan Pavilion, you’re presented with a first-class experience following a “House of the Artisan” motif with an elaborate natural element setup and five distinct dining rooms. But at well over $200 per adult and more than $100 per child, is it really worth the price for a multi-course prix-fixe menu? Again, this can be a real turnoff if you’re starting out on your premier Disney culinary quest. This is especially true when you consider the much cheaper yet arguably better experience awaiting you over at neighboring Teppan Edo, also within the Japan Pavilion. Because the latter brings forth than well-loved teppan-yaki setting, with performance preparations taking place right before your eyes, it may be a much better first-timer suggestion.
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Chefs de France
Here’s another establishment of great renown within EPCOT’s World Showcase. This one is based in the France Pavilion (obviously) and is one of those stellar options you may have heard about even before you arrived and are, therefore, under the impression that it’s an absolute must-do.
It can’t be denied that dining here is an experience for the books with its overall lavish décor and traditional French fixings. But honestly, this is also one of the most overrated restaurants. Furthermore, depending on just how well you like French cuisine, the overall meal appeal may not justify the overall worth of dining here. Particularly for first-timers who come in with high expectations, this option can be more than a little disappointing.
Hollywood Brown Derby
Here you have a very impressive recreation of the original establishment of the same name in Hollywood, California. The overall ambiance and motif are enough to wow any Guest even without the menu, which features an elaborate array of one-of-a-kind house recreations straight from the original restaurant’s menu.
The biggest issue here, however, again comes down to pricing. You may be surprised to learn that this is an upscale restaurant and the most expensive table-service option in all of Hollywood Studios. Furthermore, even with its flavorful enticements, many diners have commented on the fact that the portion sizes tend to be a little meager. You want to at least feel that what you paid for was worth it in both quality and quantity, right? So, there may be better options to consider when starting out a new Disney venture than this pricey hyperbole.
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Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue truly tops the list regarding dinner show experiences in general. But that’s to be expected at Disney World, where entertainment is always bigger and better. It’s a fun, family-friendly folly where the main performance occurs three times nightly within the wild west-themed Pioneer Hall, onsite at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. The ongoing vaudeville entertainment keeps you rightfully amused, and a bountiful all-you-care-to-enjoy family-style feast keeps you rightfully full and satisfied.
As exceptional as this experience is, it’s probably one that’s better suited for a follow-up visit. The combined meal and corresponding show span a lengthy two hours as it is. On top of that, Guests are required to arrive an additional 30 minutes before their reserved time. Taking out a huge chunk of time devoted to a meal-time experience can be very detrimental to a first-time visitor’s itinerary, especially if they’re trying to get in as many new experiences as possible.
On an additional note, let it be known that even though the family-style feasting here garners great praise with most folks. The options are admittedly limited for those who aren’t fried chicken fans or fans of other countrified foods.
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Victoria & Albert’s
This is, hands down, the most upper-crust dining experience anyone can ever hope to have at Disney World. On location at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, everything about Victoria & Albert’s signifies elegance, grace, and standout regality. It is, after all, a AAA Five-Diamond Award winner with both an atmosphere and world-class cuisine that are beyond compare on just about every level.
But it’s really all those impressive accolades that actually designate this as the ultimate establishment to be avoided by first-time visitors. For starters, this is the fanciest place to dine at on Disney property and therefore adheres to one of the strictest dress codes. Most first-timers would understandably want to keep things comfortably casual—something you can normally get away with (within reason) even at other signature dining spots.
Then there is the pricing, of course. According to updated costs per Disney’s official website, the prix-fixe menu begins at $295.00 per Guest, with optional wine pairings starting at $150.00 per Guest. Zero-proof pairings begin at $110.00 per Guest. Other more esoteric experiences, like reserved dining for two in Queen Victoria’s Room or the Chef’s Table directly in the kitchen, are even pricey affairs.
Lastly, there is the time factor. Again, most first-timers don’t want to sacrifice too much time on a sole dining engagement. And due to its long and drawn-out multi-course presentation, most meals at Victoria & Alberts span somewhere between four and five hours.
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The final decision on where to dine during your first-time visit to Walt Disney World Resort will essentially fall to you personally. All the same, this list is pretty straightforward in highlighting all those important aspects to keep in mind as you start finalizing your plans. It’s also important to remember to make all dining reservations well in advance, when you can do so, and to try and select locationally compatible mealtime options in conjunction with which areas you will be out and about at on specific dates.
Any meal at Disney World can make for a magical experience. There are just some that pack more magic for first-timers and others that do not.