Disney meal plan and restaurant recommendations

My parents, my wife. and I may be going to Disney this winter as we have some close friends who are crazy about Disney and live in the park (or very close to it – not exactly sure). Anyway, I’m considering the meal plan where you eat at the park restaurants so thought I’d collect some information. Here are a few personal recommendations from people I know:

Epcot Canada = good steak and beer. Mexico is also good. Do not do too many buffets because you will be sick of it by then end of the week.

Liberty Tree Tavern = Buffet with family style turkey, beef and ham, potatoes and greens, plus characters for the kids.

At MGM-Disney Studios, the Sci-fi Diner is a hoot. You sit in tables which resemble cars at a drive-in movie. You watch old 50’s Sci-fi movie trailers while you eat. The food is not so great though.

San Angel Inn in Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion is a good one. Eat there for dinner and then go outside and watch the fireworks.

Coral Reef Restaurant at Epcot = you sit in a room where one entire wall is made of glass and you watch fish of all kinds swim by. Sharks, sea turtles, you name it. Food is very good too. Must have a reservation though.

The Flying Fish at the Boardwalk = the oak grilled New York strip was out of this world.

If you want to take a second mortgage out you can try Victoria and Albert’s in the Grand Floridian.

The Contemporary Grill was very good as well make sure you are there for the fireworks display from the roof, it is great.

Maya’s Grill in the Coronado Springs hotel = great steaks, one of the best buys when using the dining plan.

The Plaza Restaurant between Main Street and Tomorrowland = best kept secret in Disney world. A few bucks more expensive than fast food, but excellent. The strawberry/pear salad (depending on season) is great, along with the grilled chicken sandwich – nothing fancy, just excellent food.

Boma is terrific and located at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Best buffet I have ever been too. The chef there is excellent.

The buffet at The Cape May Cafe located in the Beach Club is also very good if you like seafood.

I don’t know if I’ll be there long enough to try them all! Anyway, I’m told that the Disney meal plan is good for one snack (Soda, popcorn ice cream up to $4.00), one counter meal (pizza, burger, chicken fingers-lunch), and one sit down dinner at almost any Disney restaurant, per person, per day. There are a handful of high end restaurants that aren’t covered, but you can trade two regular dinners for one of those dinners if you want. But please don’t quote me on that – check the Disney site for details like I will before I make reservations.

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  1. Linda Bator says:

    Actually, there are a couple of different dining options. The first is the Disney Dining Plan, and is the one you refer to, which includes a snack, a quick-service meal and a table-service meal per person per day. The second is the Deluxe Dining option, which gives the bigger eaters out there 3 meals (any combination of quick-service or table-service), 2 snacks and a refillable drink mug per person (per day). The last is the Wine & Dine plan, which gives you your choice of a botttle of wine per night per room from a designated list, at select locations throughout the resort. This last one can be added to either of the dining plan options above.

  2. c.marz says:

    There are so many great restaurants to choose in Disney . Whether you choose places at specific resorts or at parks, there are many choices. More than days you will spend there.

    Of the recomendations you listed, many are fine choices. We did the dining plan for the first time last year. Best decision we made. Seeing that this is the route you will take, it is best to take advantage of as many of the better restaurants you can, because the plan will be charged the same for chicken as a steak. Just be advised that the BEST choices in all of Disney can cost double meals. You need to get as much info on all the restaurants, and their menus as possible.

    Of the suggestions mentioned, definately do LeCelier in Canada for dinner . It is our favorite, as well as other folks. It is one of the most popular in Disney. I would do Maya Grill at Coronado Springs for dinner – another excellant choice ( I hear they have a great breakfast buffet also ). Boma in Animal Kingdom was also very good. We weren’t sure about the flavors / style, but we enjoyed it ( it’s buffet style ).

    San Angel in Epcot Mexico looks beautiful, but I have heard mixed reviews, which is why I haven’t tried it. Germany’s bufffet is a favorite also with us, but be forewarned, German Style is seated with strangers at your table. They will not seat you otherwise.

    There is no mention of Whispering Canyon at the Wilderness Lodge. I think this is a nice option also, but it can be loud and more geared to families with kids. Overall – all the restaurants are good. It seems the food is all the same everywhere, with a little twist of individual theme.

    The only real problem is that if you want to eat at the popular places, you better make reservations months in advance. Last years trip to LeCelier was made over 3 months in advance, and the only time left for dinner was 8:45 pm. So you need to make your choices, call Disney, and book them – even if you change your mind when you get there. I think the Dining plan has made it more difficult to eat without reservations because more people are eating at the popular spots. Because you can get the maximum for your dollar if you choose wisely.

    The resort you are staying at, and having a car rental helps making some better dining choices also. That is at least my opinion.

  3. c.marz says:

    For the record, the secret to the dining plan was always GRATUITY INCLUDED !! The waitstaff wouldn’t inform you of that unless asked, and it was easily missed on the bill as you signed off. So they were actually getting double gratuity. But I would always give them a little extra if they gave grood service.

    But last year they were saying they were phasing out the GRATUITY INCLUDED deal. So you may want to look into that also. Does anybody else know if gratuity is no longer included ? Because those tips could easily eat away at your spending money.

  4. coleen says:

    Dining reservations can be made at 180 days prior. If you want to secure decent times at most of those places you listed, especially Canada, you should be on the phone at 180 days exactly. If you have a good travel agent she or he may be able to take care of setting up your choices for you. I would also like to point out that California Grill and Flying Fish are considered Signature Restaurants and will require 2 of your sit down meal options. Also the number of meals you get is based on the number of nights you stay.

  5. Michi says:

    First determine if you will be staying in one of the park’s resorts or with your friends. No one actually resides on Disney property. I would not recommend the dining plan personally. You may want to try one or two of the in-park restaurants. Promise, you will be tired of Disney at the end of the day. If only adults are travelling, then Le Celier in Canada can’t be beat, and I agree the BeirGarten in Germany is a blast. For a taste of something different, Marrakesh is a personal favorite (and is one of Michael Eisners favorites as well!). If you do have children, do the Coral Reef and the breakfast at the Contemporary as well as the Beach Club’s Clam Bake. I also enjoy venturing to Downtown Disney. The Flying Fish and Wolfgang Puck’s are great meals and Bongo’s really put you in a festive Florida/Cuban mood with great food, music, and dancing. Hope this helps. Have a great time!

  6. Carol says:

    I can say that you might want to take out the Sci-Fi Theater and eat at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe. Sure, the cars are nice, but the drive-in snips are actually just like commercials, and they have a 12 minute loop. So if you are eating for 45 minutes, you’ll see the same thing 3 times.

  7. l dorr says:

    We go to Disney quite often, probably 20 times. The kids still enjoy going. We stay at the Yacht or Beach Club resort on the concierge floor. FYI…..they call YOU months in advance to set up reservations for dining, even if you don’t have a meal plan. We never took the meal plan.

    We have many favorite restaurants, but I think my favorite is Jikos over at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. African cuisine with exceptional food and wine choices.

    Canada has a nice steak house, but if you want steak we prefer Yachtsman Steakhouse at the Yacht and Beach Club.

    Whispering Canyon over at the Wilderness Lodge is fun!!! The waitors interact very well with the patrons.

    Victorias and Alberts is very nice and elegant. Just remember absolutely no children. It is expensive but worth it

    You will NOT need a car when staying at any of the Disney Resorts. If you don’t want to use their transportation system (i.e. buses, monorail, etc) the cabs are abundant. Why go through all the hassles of renting a car at the airport. Call ahead, and a limo service meets and greets you in baggage claim area. They handle your luggage, and you just sit back, take a nice relaxing ride in their car (about 30 minutes) to your resort. Once at the resort, the staff waits on you hand and foot, and are at your beckoning call. Completely stress free. We stay for 7 or 8 nights, and normally we only go to the park one day..

    Remember, you are going to the ‘Magic Kingdom’ where your money magically disappears!!

    We really enjoy Disney for our Spring break destination. If not, we wouldn’t keep going back.

    Whatever its worth, thats my opinion.

  8. Jill says:

    At the Magic Kingdom, try lunch or dinner at Liberty Tree Tavern, and the breakfast buffet at Crystal Palace is good. The Crystal Palace is a character breakfast and you’ll need reservations. Both are part of the dining plan.

    At Epcot, I don’t think there’s a really bad choice. I’ve tried a lot of them, and didn’t dislike any. Some were more overpriced than other for food value, but keep in mind it’s Disney and you get great value just for the atmosphere. Disney just renovated and reopened the Japanese restaurants at Epcot.

    We just had a birthday lunch for my daughter at the Sci-Fi Cafe. We found the food to be absolutely delicious; easily worth the money and the decor is fantastic. You really do feel as if you’re sitting in a drive-in circa 1955. We enjoyed it.

  9. Linda Bator says:

    C Marz is correct – gratuities are NO LONGER included in the price. But a dining plan can make good sense. After all, you ARE in the parks all day, and its not like you have a choice to eat elsewhere! For those who want to pre-pay as much as possible, or have to keep to a tighter budget, it works out very well.

  10. coleen says:

    Gratuity is no longer included on the Dining Plan. Plus appetizers at the sit down meals are also not inlcuded anymore in the Basic Dining Plan.

  11. Dawn says:

    We just got back from Disney and one thing I noticed was that no one mentioned the Hoop de Doo Musical Revue. It’s a dinner show, fairly expensive, and 2 table service meals on the dining plan. The food was good and the show was FABULOUS! So worth the money. Also Ohanas in the polynesian resort was very good too for dinner, its family style and they bring you skewers of steak, pork, turkey, and shrimp along with hawaiian sweet bread, salad, peanut noodles, veggies, and this incredible bread pudding with a bananas foster sauce. Ohanas also has some entertainment I can’t remember her name but its very interactive especially for the kids, my son did a coconut rolling contest and learned the hula all over dinner! Oh and I second getting your reservations as early as possible, we waited and then couldn’t get into a lot of things we wanted. Have fun!

  12. Chris from Seattle says:

    Polynesian Resort’s Kona Cafe also has the Tonga French Toast for breakfast. Think french toast with fresh banana inside and cinnamon & sugar all over the outside. Yummy, and no reservation needed.

    Rose & Crown (British) at EPCOT is one of the best places to go to watch the IllumiNations evening show. Sit outside on the balcony. Reservation Required.

    I agree that I loved the buffet at Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Probably the best food. Reservation recommended.

    Also, if you are staying at a Disney property, take advantage of the early access to certain parks and beat the crowds.

  13. kim hwa shin says:

    I think your travel plan in Disney is great. My friend who went there several times said to me that San Angel Inn view was magnificent.

    And the popular restaurants you want to go, maybe need reservations first. I don’t want you to waste time for just ‘waiting’. Well many people recommend me dinners at Liberty Tree Tavern’s in the Magic Kingdom.

    But wherever you go you’ll have a fantastic time. Have a great time!

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