OL 021: Top 9 Walt Disney World Restaurants You Should Visit
Visit the 9 Top Walt Disney World Restaurants in Parks, Hotels and Disney Springs
Thank you for listening to The Orlando Local Show. We appreciate your time and we’re here to help.
Dining is a big part of any vacation and Disney has plenty of choices. We’ve chosen our 9 top Walt Disney World restaurants. They range from quick service to table service. Some are inside the parks, Disney Springs, or a resort hotel.
Each one has its own charms or benefits. While every one on our list of top restaurants inside of Walt Disney World may not be for you, we hope you find some new favorites or perhaps get a new reason to appreciate an old favorite.
What are some of your top restaurants while visiting Walt Disney World? Tell us in the comments and let us know why you love it.
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Show notes are available at: orlandolocal.com/21
Welcome to the Orlando Local Show, episode number twenty-one.
William: Hey everybody! How are you doing? Welcome to the Orlando Local Show, episode number twenty-one. Today we’re going to be talking about our top nine favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World.
We’ve already done our top ten for Orlando and we thought, you know, let’s just take one away for Walt Disney World because they have so much else.
Lee: Yes, they do!
William: Hi, my name is William Beem.
Lee: Hi, I’m Lee Beem.
William: And we are really glad that you are here with us. Before we get started, let me give you my usual little kind of preamble to everything. Show notes are going to be available at orlandolocal.com/21 and of course you can find a free transcript of the show there, created with love by Lee Beem.
Lee: Yes, lots of love.
William: If you’d like to subscribe to this show, that’s great. Just go to orlandolocal.com/21 and we’ll have links to subscribe there. And of course those are also included in the transcript that we send to you.
On Facebook, Twitter and on Pinterest you can find us at orlandolocal, and on Instagram we are orlando_local, because we’re special there.
Lee: Yes we are. We’re special everywhere!
William: That’s absolutely true! OK, I’m going to tell you, if we cough or something like that, it’s not really that we want to be rude, but both of us have been sick as a dog this week.
Lee: It was terrible. I never get sick and that kind of ruined my pride.
William: I know. It’s like we got a virus that’s been going around the area and we’re battling through it to bring this love to you.
Lee: Yes, we are. It’s worth it!
William: Alright, so why don’t we get to it? We’ve got a mix of different types of restaurants at Walt Disney World. We did a previous version for restaurants in Orlando that we really like and those are outside of the parks, but if you’re in the park sometimes it’s a real pain in the neck to try and leave to Walt Disney World area. It’s the size of Manhattan. You’ve got a long trip just to get out of the park and then go someplace else and come back in, if you’re inclined to do so. So it makes us understand. So what kind of restaurants can we recommend that are inside the parks?
Lee: Yes, I mean it’s not a quick cruise on the open road, either – to get out of there.
William: No, it’s really not, and so these aren’t necessarily in every park. Some of them are in Disney Springs, some of them are in different parks, but we just kind of want to give you an idea of some of our favorites and they are not in any particular order, except for the last one which is really our favorite.
William: So we’re going to start off and we’re going to count down.
Number nine: ABC Commissary in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Lee: Tové and I really enjoy that one. I think it’s different. We are not burgers and fries people, however that doesn’t mean that you can’t get them there; but you can find alternatives. My favorite used to be the grilled salmon quinoa salad. I think it’s actually a quinoa salad and you have the option of chicken or grilled salmon in it. It’s just a lovely meal and a bit of a change from the typical counter service meals that you get, especially if you are staying for a long time on the dining plan.
We quite enjoyed the desserts. I think there were some frozen sodas there. We kind of mixed it up every time we went over, but that was a little hidden gem. There was a time where we used to leave Hollywood Studios to go and eat because the services … not the services … the choices were just so urgh!
William: Well, it’s a safe place for everyone. I mean they’ve got the cheeseburger and they’ve got chicken nuggets, which … a lot of people like Disney’s chicken nuggets.
Lee: They do. Tové likes them and she wouldn’t eat chicken nuggets otherwise, but she would eat the Disney ones.
William: And there’s even a chicken and rib combo platter, so if you kind of like barbecue, you’ve got that. But there are kosher entrees and like you say, there’s a Mediterranean salad with chicken or with salmon.
Lee: Yes and I love that.
William: So you’ve got some nice changes. And this is the one that gets me: the Olaf cupcake.
Lee: Oh, that is so cute!
William: I mean one of the things I like about different Disney restaurants is they’ll try to theme something if they can.
William: And obviously Frozen was really hitting Disney parks pretty strong. So I understand why it’s an Olaf cupcake. That means that even though cupcakes are fun in themselves, if you’ve got a little character you can bite its head off, whether you like the character or not.
Lee: But I think you know what’s nice? A lot of the counter service restaurants in Disney have the same sort of options there. They almost play it safe and they treat people with one or two items here and there so when you get something special, even if it’s just dessert that looks unique and tastes the same as everywhere else, it changes things up a bit.
And keeping kids interested in food when there is so much else to do can be a little bit of a challenge. I mean even if your kids eat well, you get somewhere to sit down and they say, “But when can we go and see Mickey?”
William: And they’ve got a good child’s menu there as well. I mean you’ve got different choices. Whether it’s going to be a cheeseburger or a kid’s kosher entree and then they’ve got a little Mickey meal and they’ve got even a salmon meal. If your family is like tired of burgers and fries there’s something else there. Even if you’re tired of burgers and fries and chicken nuggets – because those are everywhere! And of course they’ve also got some adult beverages there as well. So whether you want some wine, they’ve got Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi in either Cabernet or Chardonnay and Yuengling if you want a beer.
William: And on those really cold days in Orlando, which we have five a year, they’ve got hot chocolate.
OK, this is one that I’ve been to a couple of times when I was staying out at Wilderness Lodge and that is the Whispering Canyon Cafe. This is not a place that you are going to go to if you are … actually I’m going to take that back. I’m an introvert. I was going to say you don’t go there if you’re shy or an introvert, because it is loud, it is proud and they just kind of … they’ll get kids marching through there and if you want Ketchup, you ask your waitress or waiter and he or she will shout out to everybody that you need ketchup and the next thing you know, you’ve got like twenty bottles of ketchup on your table.
William: And it’s just kind of a wild and rowdy place to be. But they’ve got you covered. Everything from breakfast on up through lunch and dinner. And when I was staying up there this was the place where I wanted to go for breakfast. You can go and get quick service breakfast at another place, but even if I were staying at another resort, I’d kind of want to go here because you get those kind of all you can eat platters or you can get your bacon and eggs, you can get a skillet …
Lee: You have lots of options.
William: I had a lot of options there. It’s definitely and eggs place. They’ll even upscale it a little. I mean to me, eggs Benedict … I would not eat eggs Benedict to save my life!
Lee: I don’t eat it.
William: But you know it something if you wanted it, it’s there. If you don’t really want to go for eggs – I mean I know there are a lot of people that just simply don’t like eggs – they’ll accommodate you there and they kind of have French toast and waffles and buttermilk flapjacks.
Do you know the difference between flapjacks and pancakes? A lot of people think they are the same thing. They are not exactly the same thing and this one says Summer Sandy’s Blueberry Buttermilk Flapjacks. I’ve got a feeling that it’s probably really going to be pancakes that say flapjacks.
Lee: But they’re pancakes.
William: I know. So if you’re one of those people that knows the difference between pancakes and flapjacks, you may be disappointed if you go to Whispering Canyon for breakfast. But even if you go there for lunch or dinner or something like that, again, it’s still kind of a rowdy place, but this is kind of like a meat eaters place. So you’re getting things like a full slab of pork ribs, a meatloaf and this one really confuses me: skillet fired red quinoa cakes.
Lee: Oooh, yummy!
William: See, you would eat quinoa cakes.
Lee: I love quinoa.
William: I prefer like the grilled New York strip steak! And for dessert, apple caramel pie. In other words, this is a place you go for comfort food, unless you want quinoa!
Lee: That’s comfort food.
William: I’m glad that you’re comforted by that. I’ll have to take you there sometime.
I really like the atmosphere. When you’re sitting at wooden tables, these big wooden chairs and they’ve got chandeliers overhead and like I said, people in there are kind of rowdy and yelling but it’s part of the atmosphere that goes with it.
You may not want this for every meal that you have, but it really is kind of a fun and lively environment. And I think that kind of adds to the charm that it has. It’s a very rustic kind of place over in the Wilderness Lodge. I’m happy to recommend it. It’s not going to be for everybody. If you like a quiet and stayed meal, this is not the place for you.
Lee: No, that’s true.
William: But you know, even if you don’t want to participate; you just kind of want to watch – so long as you don’t ask for anything …!
Lee: Actually if you speak to them they will be quite sensitive to your needs.
William: Absolutely. They are not out there to embarrass you. It’s part of the show that they kind of yell things around, but if you said, “Excuse me, please can you just …” They understand.
William: So the people who work there are nice and they are not going to embarrass you.
Lee: Also people who have children or maybe adults with them who don’t far well under those kinds of circumstances of being singled out, if you have a word with them they will accommodate you.
William: On the other hand, if you’re having a birthday and you want to call somebody out, they’ll do it very loudly.
Lee: Oh, yes!
William: OK, the next one is going to be a buffet at The Crystal Palace.
Lee: That is our best buffet in the Disney parks.
William: OK, so what made it so great? Did you go there for breakfast, lunch or dinner or all of them, or …?
Lee: All of them! Actually the first time we went there was for a breakfast. I looked at it and thought, well Tové was still a child and the children’s buffet prices are actually not too bad. I figured we wanted to meet the characters. They were scattered around – I think there was one of them and it might have been Piglet at the time? We are going back many years now, but he wasn’t available to meet other than at the breakfast and Piglet was Tové’s favorite. But I also thought if she wanted to get autographs we were going to be standing in line. It was Easter weekend and lines were long! You can figure that out.
William: So you can go there and get your … you can get in there ahead of opening time – park opening time – for breakfast.
Lee: Yes, you can.
William: And then you can get a meal and a character meet and greet for all the ones there.
Lee: Yes, so we got a first seating reservation so we got let into the park a little earlier. That wasn’t what we were after at the time, but it was really nice to get some photos of her [Tové] in front of the castle and in Main Street when it wasn’t super crowded.
And then we just went and checked in and waited outside and they seated us quite quickly. But she just loved it and we all kind of grew up with Winnie the Pooh stories and characters. I’m a bit Tigger fan so that as a draw to me.
Loved it! And you know, as they say, the rest is history! We kept going back. So we have done breakfast many times there, we’ve done many lunches. We did dinner there in 2014. I tended to stay away from the dinner meals. I don’t like eating very heavy meals in the evening if I’m going to be walking around, especially walking around the parks. But it was a 40th birthday meal and we decided to do something special so we went to The Crystal Palace because Tigger was there!
Look, I don’t eat enough substantial food to sort of justify the cost of a [dinner] buffet and I wouldn’t use that as a deterrent for anybody else going. I think the quality of the food as far as buffets go is very good.
The service has always been outstanding. We’d never had anything even less than stellar from any of our servers and as I say, we’ve been there more times than I can count now.
William: OK, so if you go there for breakfast at the buffet, you’re going to have the usual pastries, cereals, scrambled eggs, omelette station and that sort of thing and different potatoes and comfort foods. Was there anything there that you found that … were you looking for something that wasn’t there?
Lee: They seemed to have all the bases covered. I mean they had their oatmeal and grits and hot food. They also had warm salmon, smoked salmon … some of these things do change over time. It’s a little bit longer since we last were there for breakfast. The most recent ones were dinner and lunches. You know. They had your bacon and hot meat and sausages and things like that.
William: Then lunch time and dinner time, this is kind of where it catches my eye. You know, the spit roasted carved meats. I’m just like … I love that!
William: You get meat on a stick and carve it off and I just think yes! Carving off more and more meat!
Lee: There are so many options as well.
William: And it’s not just meat. I mean they’ve got fish, depending upon the season, they’ve got baked beans, they’re going to have fresh vegetables and pastas, so there’s kind of a little something for everyone.
At dinner time they bring in things that maybe – it says – I’m looking on the list here and it says spice boiled shrimp. I’d actually give that a try!
Lee: Yeah, that was good.
William: And then they’ve got different chicken, beef, fish and vegetable options, so as you go through the different meals they kind of add or change things through.
If you’re not familiar where The Crystal Palace is, you’re walking down Main Street; as you get past Casey’s and you start to get to the Hub, just look off to your left side and you’re going to see a big building with a glass kind of dome on top of it. That’s where you’re going to find it.
Lee: And Tigger’s inside!
William: And Tigger’s inside.
Alright. Coming down on our list to number six, is Flame Tree Barbecue and that is over in the Animal Kingdom. This is going to be one of your quick service/counter service restaurants and as you can tell from the way I was kind of salivating over the spit roasted meats, the reason I like this place is simply because it’s got meat. And my definition of a meal is there must be some form of charred animal flesh on the table.
Lee: That’s right. And preferably some potatoes to go with it.
William: And since it’s barbecue, it is kind of what you’re going to expect. You know, you’re going to have chicken, you’re going to have a slab of St Louis ribs, or you can get a full slab, or pulled pork, chicken and rib combo or they’ve even got a combo with all three in there – the ribs, chicken and pulled pork together.
Now if you’re not really into meat or you don’t necessarily want those kinds of meats, they’ve got a smoked turkey breast, which is still, to me, some kind of meat. And then there is a roasted chicken with mixed green salad. So basically everything you are going to get here is going to have some kind of meat on it and I think that’s delicious. I really – in my case – I wouldn’t get the salad because that means you don’t get as much meat.
Lee: Well they’ve actually improved the menu by expanding it a little. It is vastly better than what it was for people who are not into the straight ribs … it was ribs and chicken.
William: It was ribs and chicken. It’s a barbecue place.
Lee: It’s barbecue. And for people who don’t understand barbecue or people who just don’t care for red meat, like myself, there was really nothing else. I don’t like chicken on the bone either, so it sort of ruled it out for me. So I would pick up a fruit pot or something there.
William: They’ve added in there a watermelon salad and I think they’ve actually added more things.
Lee: They’ve added quite a lot there because the turkey breast has been added since. They did a big refurb a while back.
William: They did and it was a good thing to do. It was like even though the draw there is the barbecue, if you are going with a family, not everybody is going to like the same thing. You still need to have choices for people who simply don’t want to have the meat. And that’s where some of the salads and some of the side items come into it.
Or even like the sliced turkey, like you were talking about; some people will eat sliced turkey meat or something like that but they don’t want to gnaw something off of the bone.
Lee: Well some people they just don’t want to be eating with their hands and walk around with greasy hands. Some people have an aversion to that. What is nice there is the seating area outside at the back.
William: That’s one of the things I really like. It’s really one of the nice areas. It’s outdoor seating, but it’s still covered.
Lee: And there is more than enough seating.
William: And that’s a nice thing about some of these Disney park restaurants. There have been times where we’ve had a tray and we are walking around looking for a place to seat and there is just nothing to be found.
Lee: Well, I remember Tové being horrified. I was saying to you at lunchtime today, there was a time. It was over a busy season and we were in at Pecos Bills and we had our tray of food and we walked around for so long and there was absolutely nothing. Tové just stared at me. I dumped the tray, left it and walked out. She said, “What about our food?”
I said, “We’ll go buy some somewhere else.” I was that fed up. I’m talking maybe fifteen, twenty minutes getting bumped and having things knocked over us. There was nothing. So yeah, the seating matters.
I just want to say they have kind of taken control over the way that the seating is managed now when it’s busy, so that is not likely to be an issue.
William: One of the things some guests do is they will send somebody to go and get a table, because they know the seating is hard to get and it’s really frustrating when you’re standing there with your food and looking for a table and you see one person sitting at a big table not eating yet and you think, well, we could probably eat and be done by the time the rest of your party comes out. That’s another issue altogether.
William: As far as Flame Tree Barbecue, I actually enjoy the barbecue there. It’s not going to be the greatest barbecue you’ve ever had, but it’s not bad. I’m happy to go there any time we do. Just so long as you and Tové can find something to enjoy.
Lee: Well now the menu has kind of opened up for us.
William: It really wasn’t before.
Lee: We’re not meat eaters, but I did like the seating area; I liked the atmosphere and the environment there so we would go there and get something to snack on, you know, not during mealtime. We would go sort of mid afternoon or late afternoon.
William: And that’s the other tip. We typically try to avoid eating meals at traditional meal times.
Lee: Well, at Disney, yes. The lines are …
William: Yeah, the lines can be really large so we try to keep our schedule just away from when the crowd is going to be there. So if there’s a parade going on, for us that’s a good time to eat.
William: Alright, let’s head over to Hollywood Studios and Starring Rolls is the next one on our list.
Lee: Love Starring Rolls!
William: You want the desserts!
Lee: Actually all of it. We found that we’d eat a snack for breakfast, like maybe a granola bar or fruit pot or something, we’d head out to Hollywood Studios first thing in the morning, do the things that we really wanted to do; you know, like your headline attractions where the lines build very quickly. And our goal was always to be at Starring Rolls by 11 am.
William: At the very latest, yeah.
Lee: Yeah. By 11 am. I don’t know that they open that much before that? I think – do they open at 10 am? I’m trying to remember off the bat. But anyways, you want to be there before noon; well before noon.
William: Well it’s a breakfast and lunch place, so they open from 9 to 4.
Lee: Ah, so they are open from 9.
William: But when do they start serving lunch? I’m trying to see if I can find a time for that. I don’t really see it.
Lee: The menu … I believe the menu is the same throughout. But I mean, they do great sandwiches and you know at that time of the morning we didn’t want something too heavy and for a kid and a fairly small adult, it was absolutely fine for us. We did use the dining plan so we used to get our main, we used to get our side, which was usually a bag of chips and Tové would hang onto that and keep it for later. We’d get a large soda which was more than enough for us to split because we had bottled water with us as well. And we normally got the turkey sandwich, which is enormous. I don’t know if you guys have seen the turkey focaccias that they do. It is just really large.
William: It’s a big sandwich. It comes with chips or fresh fruit for about ten and a half bucks. And you split that between two people like you said, that’s actually a good meal.
Lee: Well once you add a cupcake in with it, which was part of our deal.
William: Oh that’s why I go there.
Lee: So that’s why we’d split it then we’d be able to split the cupcake. We’d have chips for later for Tové for a snack and we were good to go.
William: I never really went there for lunch. To me, Starring Rolls is a place where I go to get my cupcake or my brownie or some kind of dessert.
And also if you’re a coffee drinker, you’ve got plenty of options there: mocha cappuccino and espresso and different hot coffee, hot tea and flavored syrups to go along with that. You’ve got plenty of fountain beverages over there and it’s not necessarily any alcoholic beverages over there. I’m just kind of looking down the list. There are lattes and apple juice and hot cocoa and … for again, those five cold days in Florida.
Lee: Yeah, I think the trick here is to get there early for a few reasons. Number one is that you are going to be short on seating. There is very limited seating available. This is a small location. Also once they sell out they tend to start winding down early to mid afternoon, depending how busy it is. So you may not have all the options there.
If you do get there and it’s unavoidable and it’s a little bit late and you are struggling with seating, what we used to do was take our tray and walk over to Echo Lake and find a bench where there was shade somewhere over there and just sit down. I know you’re not sitting at a table with chairs, but we also learned very quickly if you don’t see a seat when you come out, just go.
William: Yeah, it looks like there are only five or six tables outdoors with a little canopy over them, so it’s not really a big restaurant; it’s not designed for a lot of people, but it is popular and that’s kind of why we are saying go early. Because once they run out of a particular cupcake or sandwich or whatever, they are not going to refresh it during the day.
Lee: That’s true. But if you do order and you think that there are no tables and you want to take your stuff for convenience in a take-away box, when you are at the register, just ask them for some boxes. You can stand where you get your condiments and your knives and forks and spoons and box it up, because that makes it easier to transport without having to worry. Get some lids for your cups and walk on.
William: For Starring Rolls I think that’s a better option than taking the tray out. Unless you’re early enough and there’s nobody else there for a table, I’d say box it up and then just take it someplace in the park that’s nice and sit down and have an enjoyable meal.
Lee: Oh, I took a tray as well.
William: I don’t want to take a tray because I don’t want to leave it in the wrong spot and I don’t want to lug it back.
Lee: See we didn’t mind lugging it back. It’s not actually that far to Echo Lake from there.
William: OK. Coming up next is kind of like a standby of ours. As a matter of fact, believe it or not, this is where I proposed to Lee.
Lee: It’s special. Standby! Oh my!
William: Cosmic Rays Starlight Cafe. And yeah, I know. Some of you are thinking, you proposed at Cosmic Rays?
Lee: I’m not an ordinary girl, guys!
William: We are different kind of people and the moment was right so I thought that’s our spot.
William: Anyways, Cosmic Rays. This is one of those places that is going to have a little bit of something for everyone. There are things we like and there are things they do that we think could be different or improve. What we like is the fact that we can find a bit of something for everybody.
So you’ve got your half chicken or pulled pork, you can get a burger or chicken nuggets. There’s a falafel burger which just amazes me. A burger should have some kind of meat inside of them. Falafel is not meat.
Lee: They are if you’re vegetarian.
William: Mmmm, then there’s a Greek salad with chicken.
Lee: That’s really … oh, that is so good!
William: And there’s a couple of other things. There’s a vegetable burger, there’s a hot dog, you know … grilled chicken club, fries or green beans on the side and they’ve got a couple of desserts out there. This is the one that gets me. It’s strawberry lemonade slushy featuring Odwalla. I don’t know what Odwalla is. We were asking the other day when we were out there.
Lee: Yeah that must be some current seasonal thing, because we were at Pecos Bills the other night when we saw it.
William: It’s a registered trademark. I don’t know what Odwalla is. But anyways, when you go into Cosmic Rays Starlight Cafe it’s going to be over in Tomorrowland, right across from the Speedway. And you walk in and there are going to be three different bays.
Here’s the part that I think is a bit frustrating. They serve different meals at different bays, and if you’re with a family and someone says, I want beef; I want chicken; I want a vegetarian meal … you have to split your family up and kind of go to different bays. I don’t understand why you can’t just order everything from the same bay.
Lee: It is very difficult. I think the kids meals you can get at any bay so the adults, which at Disney if you are ten you are an adult, so from ten years up you’ve got to sort yourselves out before you go and order.
William: So that’s the only frustrating part about it. There is plenty of seating available inside and then there’s – I hate to call it a lounge area – but they’ve got audio animatronic ….
Lee: Sonny Eclipse!
William: Sonny Eclipse, playing.
Lee: I like him!
William: A lot of people like Sonny Eclipse and there’s a Twitter handle for Sonny Eclipse!
Lee: Yes. What I do like, although it does get busy, it does get very full, but Cosmic Rays is particularly good at managing their seating.
William: The other thing at Cosmic Rays is like I said, I don’t want to call it generic, but this is the place where everybody can find something. Just sit down and relax and you’re kind of in a comfortable part of the park. You don’t really have to fight through getting through a parade if that happens to be going on.
Lee: Well, you’re offset from the Hub.
William: Yeah, you’re offset from the Hub. And I kind of like restaurants in the parks that are away from the center of activity, because maybe not everybody is going to come over to that side of the park to eat.
Lee: That’s true.
William: And I don’t know if it’s true with Cosmic Rays, because the last time we were there, there was a line out the door.
Lee: Yeah, we decided not to. What were they telling us? Thirty minutes?
William: Thirty minute wait to get into Cosmic Rays. I thought, alright I love Cosmic Rays, but I don’t love it that much that I want to wait thirty minutes outside.
Lee: It wasn’t even that busy. It didn’t feel that busy. I think that was the day of the Food and Wine … the Wine and .. The Run Disney ….
William: Run Disney races.
Lee: My goodness! You can tell I haven’t been well. My brain won’t even co-ordinate with my mouth!
William: We were there and the park didn’t feel that busy, but every place to eat was just jam packed.
Lee: I think we mentioned on a podcast just after that, it there were just lines everywhere.
William: Anyways, most of the time Cosmic Rays is going to be one of the busier spots during the traditional meal hours, but if you kind of hit it – you know – off axis or off those kinds of hours, you can walk in there and find plenty of seating available. It’s easy to get in and out of the bays.
William: You can pay for your meal and then just be done and go on. And I enjoy the food there.
Lee: The food it good. I like the food. I even like the kids’ meals there!
William: I haven’t tried the kids’ meals anywhere.
Lee: Yeah, see I eat kids’ meals.
William: OK, so the day that Cosmic Rays was really too packed for us, we made our way over to Columbia Harbour House.
William: And that was actually my first time being there, but I kind of want to go back now. This is not open for breakfast. It’s over at Liberty Square.
Lee: And they close kind of early in the evenings as well. You need to watch them. They are usually not open for special events and extended park hours, but the food quality is just lovely there. It’s been a favorite of ours for a while.
William: And it’s a change of pace. This is not a place where you’re going for burgers or fries, or even chicken nuggets. This is going to be more fish and … wait I take it back. They have chicken breast nuggets and fish there, so it’s kind of as a combo meal. I think Tové had that when we were there.
But you know, it’s like if you want to have a tuna sandwich, you can have that, but a battered fish platter which is basically a fish and chips kind of meal, is there. But also they’ve got a fried shrimp platter, they’ve got a chicken pot pie with steamed broccoli, they’ve got a grilled salmon, which I think is a nice change.
Lee: Oh, that is really nice. I love the grilled salmon. That was with broccoli and was it with quinoa as well? I don’t recall that.
William: Cous cous.
Lee: Cous cous. That’s it. Not the same thing.
William: Not the same thing?
William: Still something I would not want to have.
Lee: Have you tried cous cous?
William: Yes I have! I’ve tried cous cous.
Lee: You don’t like it?
William: You know, it’s not that I didn’t like it; it didn’t do anything for me. It’s just like I’m eating something because it exists, not because it tastes good.
Lee: Oh, what was it supposed to do?
William: It was supposed to taste good. Like you get good rice. When you eat plain, boring rice it’s like eating cous cous. But you can season it better and when I’ve had cous cous it’s never had a good seasoning or good flavor to it.
Lee: I always put cilantro and lime and lemon zest in mine.
William: Well, you can continue to do that. Let’s see, what else have they got over here? Lobster rolls with potato chips. What is a lobster roll?
Lee: Oh, it’s … you’ve got to like mayonnaise, which is why you wouldn’t have that.
William: I don’t like lobster either, so …
Lee: Yeah, it’s not really lobster.
William: It’s not really lobster? OK.
And then what’s the Lighthouse Sandwich? Hummus, tomato, broccoli slaw on toasted multigrain bread … where’s the meat?
William: It doesn’t say tuna.
Lee: Were you reading the …
William: Lighthouse Sandwich. Hummus, tomato, broccoli slaw on toasted multigrain bread with potato chips.
Lee: Lighthouse has always been the tuna sandwich, no?
William: No the tuna sandwich is the Anchors Aweigh sandwich. That’s the one where you get tuna, lettuce and tomato on the multigrain bread. I really like the multigrain bread.
Lee: Alright, you got me thinking now. I am not sure. Maybe that’s the vegetarian option. They did change up the menu about maybe … was it three years ago? I could be off one way or another by a year or two.
But they did change up the menu slightly.
William: I actually really enjoyed this when we went there and I had a good meal and it was kind of a nice atmosphere inside where you get that old – well it’s in Liberty Square – so you get that kind of old American kind of feeling.
We’ve got some friends who came over from the UK and they discovered if you go and eat there when the parade is on, he had the place almost to himself.
Lee: Yes, very quiet.
William: So it’s a place that doesn’t get as crowded. Maybe because it doesn’t look necessarily like a restaurant. It just looks like one of those old fashioned buildings outside. Some people may not even stop to think, oh, I can eat here!
Lee: Yeah. Oh, but it’s lovely. We really like it.
William: It’s kind of a bit of a hideaway restaurant.
Lee: And William likes it too so we will be back.
William: Yeah, I’ll definitely go back there. Alright, over in Epcot. La Hacienda de San Angel. You know, I’m not going to pronounce it properly, so … Angel.
Lee: That’s a sit-down restaurant that is actually attached to the counter service restaurant there, which we also really like. But we went there with friends – a friend and her little boy – and we were really impressed. I’ve only eaten there once, but I just thought that the food was wonderful.
William: And this is a dinner only restaurant.
Lee: It is, yes.
William: So it’s not …if you’re there just earlier, well you’re not going to get back there until past 11 o’ clock so there’s really no breakfast there in the World Showcase.
Lee: This is the one that is overlooking the water. This is not to be confused with the one inside the Mexican Pavilion, which is the San Angel Inn.
We went to La Hacienda and we liked the variety of the meals. We kind of liked – Mexican restaurants can get kind of a bustly, vibrant, chaotic feel to them sometimes; this sort of captured the atmosphere. There was still integrity in the atmosphere and the decor and theming, but I don’t know if it was the open feel to it, but it didn’t feel quite as loud as what we were expecting.
We were there at a busy time. We were there over …. we were having dessert when the fireworks started so we watched through the window there, but overall we were really pleased with the food. It’s not a dirt cheap restaurant.
William: No, it’s not.
Lee: But the food quality? We were happy when we left. I did pay out of pocket for that and I did not use the dining plan for that experience, so I’m just putting it out there, because for those of you who are paying cash for it, I was very happy to pay for that dinner.
William: This one is not a signature dining restaurant, I don’t believe, but it is still one of the … it’s kind of a higher priced restaurant. But you pay for that kind of experience. So for example, they’ve got a number of different types of meals. You can go in there and have your New York Steak if you want to, for $32, but also they’ve got some of their other offerings including the New York strip steak, they have a half chicken and chorizo and other things and that’s like $58. So in other words, not everybody is going to go for that kind of pricing, which means that you are not going to be as crowded in there in that restaurant.
You’re going to have a little bit more breathing room.
Lee: That’s true, but because they only have a dinner option and some people are trying to get some variety over their vacation, you do want to make your reservations as soon as you know that you are going to go, and what day. Don’t leave it to chance. I’m not suggesting that you won’t’ get a walk-up, but because of the limited operating hours and seating availability, you would be better off making the reservation.
William: I would agree with that. And this is the only other place in the world, besides when I worked for the culinary school, Cordon Bleu, that made corn ice-cream!
And I remember when they made corn ice cream at the school and I thought, what on earth possessed you to use corn to make ice cream?
Lee: Oh, it’s really good!
William: But they’ve got it here as a dessert, you know, corn ice cream served with candied popcorn.
Lee: What did you think of the corn ice cream? Did you taste it?
William: I thought it should have tasted like vanilla of chocolate.
Lee: Well you put flavorings in corn. I like corn ice cream.
William: I like corn. I like corn with black beans. I like my corn cakes with my Mexican meals. I like corn on the cob. But ice cream? I want it like Oreo.
Lee: Oh, well I like corn ice cream.
William: OK, well that’s why they made it! That was the first time I’ve ever heard of corn ice cream, was when I worked at the culinary academy. It just struck me as, like this is wrong! This is not something that anyone should do!
Lee: I tell you what. I come from a family with so many food sensitivities and food allergies, if there is some kind of weird ingredient used to make something; it’s not weird to me. I sometimes … I’ve probably had it. I sometimes forget that not everybody has grown up with these dietary alternatives.
William: It’s not so much about dietary alternatives for me. I grew up on a very simple and limited kind of dietary vocabulary. There was meat and two sides.
Lee: See I grew up for a long time with “three sides is a main.”
William: Yeah, that’s not true.
William? No, it’s not true. You come here and there’s going to be meat and two or three sides. That’s why they call them sides. Because it’s not the main.
Lee: But when you put them together they collectively become a main.
William: But then you don’t have any side dishes for your main!
Lee: Hmm. I don’t need them?
William: OK, and lastly … this is on the topic of this restaurant! If you like margaritas, they have plenty of options over there. Yeah and they actually make some decent margaritas. I’m more of a tequila person. I’d rather do a flight of tequila than margaritas.
Lee: No, I like my frozen margaritas. I tended not to drink – not as the only adult when I had my young child with me. Not because I disagree with it but just … I don’t know. I guess I was just funny about that.
William: I know there is tequila in the margaritas, but I don’t like the salted rim, I don’t really want all the flavors. I just want a flight of shots of tequila.
Lee: See I like the ice and the salt.
William: Go over to La Cava and they’ve got those flights.
Moving on. Our last one and probably our favorite. I don’t know if this will be for everybody, but that would be over at Disney Springs at House of Blues.
Lee: That’s the best. I think that is my favorite restaurant in Orlando.
William: On Disney property.
You thinking of all of Orlando?
Lee: I think that’s always going to be my go-to.
William: Alright, tell me why.
Lee: Do you know, it’s been consistent. Although they have tweaked the menu and made changes, which you sort of expect. You want little refreshers to come up on the menu. The thing that’s been consistent is I know what I’m getting with the atmosphere.
I love that little eclectic feel. I like that rustic feel when you go in there and almost the weirdness that makes it feel so great.
William: Just as you are walking up, I mean you’ve got the hard boards on the porch and then the hardwood floors inside so you kind of … just the feel of your footsteps is a little bit different when you go inside.
The light dims down quite a bit. There is very dramatic lighting. And then there are colors that kind of start to emerge all over the place.
Lee: And even the restrooms are themed. You are just immersed in it from the moment you walk through the doors.
When I say consistent, we have always had wonderful service and that’s really important to me.
William: That’s true.
Lee: And our hot food has been hot –you’ve probably heard me go on about this before – but I cannot stand it if I get served food from the hot kitchen, I expect hot food to be hot – and it always is. I like the choices there. I like the variety there. I like that I can have a substantial meal or I can put together a selection of sides (I know, here we go) or appetizers and have little samples of different things for some variety which is lovely if you want to share things.
William: This is one of the few restaurants – I mean they’ve got a very large menu – but for me since I’m such a picky eater, most restaurants I walk into I have a preferred meal for that restaurant. And when you are eating somewhere like the Cheesecake Factory, which has an enormous menu, there are really only two things on there that I’ll eat and I almost always eat the same thing.
This is different. I can go in here and I can find four, five, six different things that I want to eat.
Lee: And you have to make a decision.
William: Exactly. I’ve got to stop and make a decision.
Lee: That’s how I am as well. I think even Tové, who generally just goes for the same thing, is more likely and tends to be more willing to experiment with the things here, because there are more options that appeal to her potentially.
William: Well, even with the appetizers. You and I, we like their house favorite, which is the Voodoo Shrimp.
Lee: Oh yeah. That is awesome!
William: Sautéed jumbo shrimp, simmered in amber beer reduction on top of house-made japaleno corn bread.
Lee: I love corn bread.
William: We all love corn bread.
I like their old corn bread better, but I still like the corn bread there. But you go in there and you get the Voodoo Shrimp on the corn bread in that little amber beer reduction and I kind of almost call it a gravy; it’s not really a gravy. It’s a sauce that they put on it. It’s just absolutely delicious!
Lee: Oh, it’s wonderful.
William: The flavors of that reduction with the shrimp and the corn bread, they go together. You can eat either the shrimp or the corn bread and think OK, that’s not bad. But you put them together and like … Ohhhh! That’s really good in my mouth!
Lee: Yes. If you want a meal that’s really going to fill you up, but you don’t want to be over-full and you want to save room for dessert, that in itself, although it’s an appetizer, if you order that as a meal – I wouldn’t finish it as a meal, but I eat strangely – but that would be a substantial dinner for anybody.
William: Yeah, it’s a good portion and I’m not a beer drinker. I mean you like your dark beers; your stouts.
William: I am not a beer drinker. I don’t taste beer when I’m tasting that. So they’ve got a flavour that comes with it, but it’s not like if you’re thinking … don’t shy away from it if you’re not someone who likes beer. It tastes good, no matter what!
Lee: Yeah. You know, to be fair, I loved that dish a long time before I could tolerate beer – that was something that grew on me – so you definitely can’t taste it.
William: Pretty much for the table we like to go in there and get a skillet of corn bread with maple butter. They’ve got it now with jalapeno peppers and cheese. A few years back it was more of kind of like a cornbread cake with rosemary in it.
Lee: It was with rosemary in it. I think they used the fine ground cornmeal for that one and they’re using the coarser ground one now.
William: I don’t mind the difference between the fine or the coarser one. I still would have preferred the rosemary over the peppers and cheese that they put in there now.
Lee: Well, the rosemary has got a slightly sweeter flavor to it. I wouldn’t say a sweeter taste; I don’t think it’s sweeter overall, but the flavor is softer and sweeter.
William: And by no means am I saying that the corn bread now is bad. We get it every time! This is one of the changes they made. I think they changed chefs and someone made mixed up the recipe. I don’t know. But then you come onto the entrees over there. I mean, buttermilk fried chicken, you’ve got plenty of caesar salads with chicken, shrimp or steak, there’s a wedge salad … is a salad classic?
Lee: He’s going to go on about salad!
William: I know!
And cobb salads. I mean some people really love their cobb salads.
Lee: It’s one of the most popular salads. I don’t care for it. I don’t do blue cheese and I don’t do the bacon thing.
William: But it’s like some of the things I really like, like the French dip out there is wonderful. They serve it with horseradish; I ask them to leave it off because I just simply don’t like creamy sauces, but it is a wonderful French dip.
The jambalaya is … they had my favorite jambalaya of all time. They’ve kind of changed the recipe of that a few years ago as well, too. But I don’t have any problem recommending the jambalaya there. They also have market meals, as far as whatever the fresh fish is, pulled pork sandwiches and chicken and then you get down to the desserts.
Lee: Chocolate brownie.
Lee: The chocolate brownie! Is it on Instagram? I think it is on there. We’re going back a long time when that went up, if it did. I think it went onto the Orlando Local Instagram. But oh, that was just so good.
William: You know what’s scaring me is I’m not seeing it on the menu now.
Lee: Is it gone?
William: Well, I don’t know if it’s gone. It could be the menu is just not up to date, but they are showing things like bourbon bread pudding, the chef’s choice of ice cream, chocolate mousse, a key lime pie and a triple chocolate cheesecake.
We had a brownie out there that was just outstanding.
Lee: We did. Anyway, they may have changed it seasonally, but the key lime pie … a lot of people love key lime pie. Honestly, I haven’t been disappointed with anything served to me at house of blues.
William: No, and that’s why I am willing to go there and try a number of different things, because it’s a very good kitchen. They have good staff and service and the atmosphere I just really like! I like that old blues music; I like that rustic feel.
Lee: Yes and the bar is pretty cool too.
William: Oh the bar is great!
Lee: If you’re waiting for a table go sit there. The bar is just a lovely place to hang out for a while and have a few drinks.
William: We don’t get out there probably as often as we’d like, but you know what, when we go to House of Blues, we are very happy and we really enjoy it.
OK, that is our list of our top nine restaurants on property at Walt Disney World.
We hope you enjoyed this. We would love to know what you think. What are your favorite restaurants? Why don’t you go ahead to orlandolocal.com/21 and leave a comment. Tell us your favorite restaurants and why and then we’ll be happy to chime in with you and maybe it will help someone else choose something for their next visit.
Thank you so much for joining us on the Orlando Local Show. We are glad you’re here and we appreciate you! It’s getting closer to Christmas time and we did promise that we were going to do a Christmas show.
Lee: Yes we did!
William: Alright, next week: Christmas in Orlando.
William: But for this week, thank you very much. Of course, again show notes are available at orlandolocal.com/21 A free transcript is there and a place to subscribe to the show.
Thank you so much everyone. We appreciate you.