When it comes to recommendations for restaurants at Walt Disney World, there are plenty of angles to consider. The list of recommendations could be quite different depending on whether you are looking for the best food, the best atmosphere, a unique experience, or a romantic evening.
When I thought about developing a list of the best restaurants at Walt Disney World for first-time visitors, I tried to think of a winner in each park that provided a quintessential Disney experience – something that was special to Disney World and that you simply couldn’t get anywhere else.
It just so happens to turn out that my list of recommendations for first-time visitors includes only table service restaurants.
It may not be a big surprise that nearly all of these restaurants are extremely popular. If you would like to visit any of these restaurants on your trip to Disney World, be sure to get your Advanced Dining Reservation as early as possible. Typically, that means making your reservation 180 days before you arrive for your vacation.
With that, let’s take a look at my recommendation of the best restaurants for first-time visitors. The list includes a winner as well as a runner-up for each park and for the Disney resort hotels in general.
Winner: Be Our Guest Restaurant
This may be one of my more controversial pics. However, if I had to recommend just one restaurant at the Magic Kingdom for a first-time visitor, it would be Be Our Guest.
Located in Fantasyland and directly beneath Beast’s castle, this huge restaurant Is unique in many ways. It serves a relatively inexpensive lunch with counter-style service but then converts to a sit-down table service restaurant for dinner.
The architecture and design of the restaurant itself is amazing. You will feel as if you have directly walked into the movie, Beauty and the Beast.
In addition, the food at Be Our Guest is unique in that it is inspired by French cuisine and, by the way, is very delicious. This restaurant also has the designation as being the only place in the Magic Kingdom that sells beer and wine. You wouldn’t expect to visit a French restaurant without at least the option for a glass of wine, would you?
Runner up: Cinderella’s Royal Table
I’m sure that, on many lists, Cinderella’s Royal Table appears as the winner for the Magic Kingdom. What could possibly be more iconic then actually enjoying a meal inside Cinderella’s Castle? It’s a great place to rub elbows with princes and princesses.
Winner: Le Cellier Steakhouse
There are a few people out there who say that this steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion in Epcot is overrated. However, I think nearly everyone would agree that Le Cellier one of the most iconic Disney style restaurants in Epcot.
As you approach the restaurant through the manicured Canadian gardens, you will immediately feel that you are in for a treat. The restaurant is dark and beautiful. It’s also expensive. Very expensive. However, you will be rewarded with some of the best steak available and a meal that you are sure to remember.
Runner up: Monsieur Paul
French food strikes again. This restaurant, located on the upper floor of the France pavilion in the World Showcase area, is just a little bit upscale and quite a bit delicious. If you have some extra time and some extra money to spend on your Disney dining experience, this is a great place to do it.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Winner: 50’s Prime Time Café
In my humble opinion, 50’s Prime Time Café is one of the most iconic Disney restaurants in all of Walt Disney World. There is truly nothing like it anywhere else in the world. You will feel as if you have entered grandma’s house which somehow got locked into place in 1954. From the decor to the shows on the television, the Prime Time Café makes you feel as if you really have traveled through time.
The menu serves up big and delicious plates of comfort food, and the servers will treat you like family – including reminders to keep your elbows off the table and a lighthearted scolding if you don’t finish your vegetables.
Runner up: Sci-Fi Dine In Theater
The Sci-Fi Dine in Theater is another one of Disney’s gems of a restaurant. Nowhere else can you find an experience quite like it. As you enter the darkened restaurant, you’ll soon be seated in your very own convertible where you can look up at the large movie screen and watch B movies from long-ago. The food is good, the drink offerings are varied, and the environment and entertainment are second to none.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Winner: Tusker House
When you walk into the Tusker House restaurant you will feel as if you entered a bustling marketplace. While the buffet options are designed to be family friendly, you will also find some unique African inspired food that is both fun to try and delicious.
Runner up: Yak & Yeti
Every time I read it, I’m surprised someone would decide to put the word “Yak” in the title of a restaurant. However, the atmosphere and the food seem to make up for any craziness of the name. Located in the shadow of Expedition Everest, the Yak & Yeti provides pan-Asian cuisine that is tasty and fun. In addition, the quick service edition of the Yak & Yet is directly connected to the sit-down restaurant. It allows you to try some very nice food choices without the time and expense of a sit-down meal.
Disney Resort Hotels
Winner: Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
What could possibly be more iconic than enjoying a meal with Mickey Mouse and his friends as the monorail glides by overhead? While the buffet meal isn’t extraordinary, the company and the atmosphere definitely is. Whether you are a kid or just a kid at heart, you are sure to enjoy a meal in this bustling restaurant.
Runner up: Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Even if you aren’t a big fan of country-style entertainment, you are sure to enjoy the dinner show at The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue. The food is hearty and plentiful and the show is entertaining and light-hearted. If you can get past the fact that getting to the restaurant itself it a bit hard to do – since it is tucked in the back of Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and away from easy parking options – you are sure to have a good time.
Which Disney restaurant do you recommend for a first-time visitor?