There are some places that everyone knows you should eat at Walt Disney World; reservations at the popular restaurants like Be Our Guest, Chef Mickey’s, and Cinderella’s Royal Table are booked up six months in advance, with other restaurants filling up just as quickly. As a Central Florida local, we’ve eaten at almost every restaurant on Disney property, and many times we’ve found that the most popular places aren’t actually the best; sometimes the food isn’t great, or the service is rushed, and we’ve found ourselves disappointed that a restaurant we’ve looked forward to for six months didn’t turn out to be that great. On the other hand, we’ve often tried places we might normally have overlooked because everywhere else was booked up – and LOVED them! Over the last few years, we’ve tried some amazing hidden gems and often go out of our way to recommend them to people we know coming to town. So I’m here to share with you our 10 most underrated dining experiences at Walt Disney World that you might not ordinarily think to try.
Sanaa at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge has, in my opinion, the best food of any of the Walt Disney World resorts; Jiko and Boma are two extremely popular restaurants, and with good reason. But away from the main lodge, over at the villas at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Kidani Village, you’ll find Sanaa. This restaurant is a blend of African and Indiana flavors with excellent food, friendly and knowledgeable service, and arguably one of the best dinner views at any restaurant. Sanaa overlooks the African savanna, so as you eat, you’ll watch giraffes, zebra, gazelles, and a whole host of other animals strolling past your window. Since Animal Kingdom Lodge is a little further out than many of the other Disney resorts, this restaurant is one we’ve always had little trouble getting a reservation at, especially at lunch time. Not every table sits next to a window, but the view is unbeatable from pretty much any table, and the food really is fantastic quality. If you’re an adventurous eater and want to dine somewhere truly unique, absolutely check this place out on your next trip.
‘Ohana Twilight Feast at the Polynesian Village Resort
‘Ohana is a family style restaurant at the Polynesian Village Resort which is quite a difficult reservation to get; the breakfast is a character dining experience with Lilo and Stitch, and the dinner is famous for its amazing quality meats, as well as a to-die-for bread pudding. But did you know that, if you’re staying at the Polynesian, you don’t need a reservation to try that amazing food – in fact, you don’t even need to leave your hotel room! Room service at the resort offers the ‘Ohana Twilight Feast, where all of the delicious food from the restaurant are delivered right to your room. The meal includes everything you’d get at dinner: Hawaiian bread, salad, pot stickers, noodles, all of the fantastic grilled meats and veggies, and of course, the bread pudding – you even get fruit juice! The price comes in at $40 per adult, but the portions are huge, and two adults could easily share. Sitting on your balcony in peace while you dine on this delicious meal might actually be one of the best nights you spend at this resort!
Flame Tree BBQ at Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom has a number of really great places to eat, but our family favorite is the Flame Tree BBQ. To the right of the Tree of Life as you enter the park, Flame Tree BBQ is a quick service location with great food, and an even better view. The menu features ribs, BBQ chicken, beans, corn, and everything else you’d expect at a BBQ restaurant; the quality of the food is great, and the portions are easily big enough to share. My favorite thing about the restaurant is the outdoor seating area, which was recently expanded, and now has more than enough tables to accommodate guests looking to dine with a view. The tables down on the water overlook the new Rivers of Light theater, and beyond that, Expedition Everest towers above you. The area is peaceful and quiet, a great place to eat lunch away from the crowds (and a great place to eat if you have a baby sleeping in a stroller, as we recently discovered!) Definitely give this place a try!
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto & Tiki Bar at the Polynesian Village Resort
I wouldn’t necessarily say that this place is underrated, but it’s hidden and out of the way, and not somewhere you’re likely to stumble upon by accident. Trader Sam’s is located at the Polynesian Village Resort, and has both an indoor and outdoor seating section. The outdoor Tiki Terrace is first come, first serve, and all of the drinks and appetizers served inside can also be found outside. The location is beautiful; overlooking the Seven Seas lagoon, with lanterns and a waterfall, it definitely feels tropical. But I promise you – inside Trader Sams is where you want to be! The bar is incredibly well-themed with artifacts covering the walls from 20,000 leagues under the sea, and you almost don’t know where to look first. You’ll certainly know where to look, however, when someone orders one of the specialty drinks; lights flash, thunder rumbles, and the interactive bar comes alive! I won’t spoil the surprises, but the bartenders, servers, and other guests all get in on the fun. There are two disclaimers that come with this recommendation: the first is that guests under 21 are not permitted after 8pm, and waits for the indoor bar can get very long, very quickly. If this is somewhere you know you want to try, then get there early and be prepared for a bit of a wait!
Olivia’s Cafe at Old Key West Resort
Old Key West is the first Walt Disney World resort that I stayed at with my husband when we first started dating and as such, I have a real soft spot for the resort. It is laid back and relaxed, with a real old-Florida feel to it. The resort only has one sit down restaurant, Olivia’s Cafe, and it is one of my favorite places to eat. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and you can almost always get a reservation here – I would even say that just walking up, you won’t find too much of a wait. Since Old Key West was Disney’s first Disney Vacation Club property, many DVC owners have been staying there for years, and you can find pictures of past and present owners on the walls of the hallways leading to the restaurant. Olivia’s is casual and friendly, prices are reasonable, and the food is really good; the Mallory Square Cobb Salad is one of best salads I’ve ever tasted! If you’re staying at Old Key West then eating here is a no-brainer, but even if you’re not, it’s worth a bus or a boat ride over here to have a meal in a relaxed atmosphere.
Tangierine Cafe in Epcot
Out of all of the Walt Disney World parks, Epcot has the most diverse dining locations; you can literally eat your way around the world (showcase!) and try something new on every visit. While the masses flock to Le Cellier in the Canada Pavilion or Via Napoli in the Italy Pavilion, I always head to the Morocco Pavilion to their quick service location, Tangierine Cafe. You won’t find burgers and fries on this menu, but instead you’ll find the most delicious meat and veggie platters with chicken, lamb, couscous salad, hummus, tabouleh, and baklava. I’m a pretty adventurous eater so this kind of food is right up my alley, and it’s so great to be able to get something so flavorful and different in a theme park! I’ve never seen much of a wait here, and there are usually plenty of seating options in the area, so this is a great place to grab lunch or a light dinner on your next Epcot visit.
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot
The ultimate Disney Princess restaurant is, of course, Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom. Dining with the princesses in Cinderella’s Castle is pretty amazing…and pretty expensive…and pretty impossible unless you make your reservation months in advance! However if you don’t manage one of these coveted reservations, don’t despair – this isn’t the only place to dine with a princess! Over at Epcot, Akershus Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion hosts a breakfast with the princesses every morning, where you can meet Belle, Cinderella, Aurora, Snow White, and Ariel as you eat your scrambled eggs. This breakfast is still a tricky reservation to get, but nowhere near as difficult as Cinderella’s Royal Table, and it’s a less expensive option. A huge perk of dining here for breakfast if you can nab one of the early reservations is being in the most perfect spot to jump in line for Frozen Ever After once your breakfast is complete!
Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian Resort
The Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian Resort is the epitome of elegance and style. A traditional British afternoon tea is served in a tea room overlooking the lobby on one side, and the Grand Floridian grounds on the other side. On the menu you can expect to find varieties of tea and sandwiches, as well as scones, pastries, trifles and fresh strawberries, with choices for younger guests as well. This reservation can be hard to get due to the size of the tea room, but if you want to enjoy an elegant afternoon tea in a beautiful setting, definitely look into giving this place a try.
Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge in Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Brown Derby, the signature dining location at Hollywood Studios, is based on the original restaurant of the same name in Los Angeles, and the folks at Disney take this very seriously. The restaurant is very well themed, and the food and service are outstanding. It’s sometimes hard to get a reservation there, but they do offer the Hollywood Brown Derby Lounge, a first come, first serve outdoor patio with food and drinks that are just as good as indoors. There is a bar where you can just grab a drink, or you can wait for a table and experience appetizers and small plates, including the famous Cobb salad and grapefruit cake. We’ve sometimes had a bit of a wait for a table here, but it’s always been worth it to try the amazing food and watch the streets of Hollywood Studios.
Landscape of Flavors food court at Art of Animation Resort
I would never normally recommend that you go out of your way to eat at a value resort food court, but Art of Animation is not just any value resort, and Landscape of Flavors is not just any food court! The resort itself is so fantastically well themed and immersive that, if you have some free time during your trip, it is worth taking a ride over there just to look around – and if you do, stop by the food court for a bite to eat. This food court is head and shoulders above the rest of the Disney food courts, with a wider range of options such as Mongolian Grilled Fish, Saffron Seafood Pasta, and an amazing Surf and Surf Burger made with crab and popcorn shrimp. They also have amazing desserts, including gelato and smoothies. I would absolutely recommend stopping by this food court if you are staying at Art of Animation (or Pop Century across the water) but even if you don’t, it really is worth taking some time to check out this resort and this fantastic food offering.
Where do you love at Walt Disney World that you think is totally underrated? Let me know in the comments!