There are more than one hundred different restaurants around the vast Disney World property, from simple quick service locations to extravagant sitdown culinary events.
Each location has its own unique feel, and typically a unique theme. All will make sure you don’t leave hungry. Many will transport you to a different time and place.
There are plenty of different ways to evaluate, categorize, and slice and dice the vast list of Disney restaurant options: availability, price, theme, type of food, etc. The list goes on and on.
For this article, I thought it would be interesting to list out the top five Disney restaurants in terms of showmanship. What do I mean by “showmanship”? One dictionary describes it as “presenting something in an attractive manner.” Now we could interpret that to mean how pretty the food looks when it shows up on the plate. But here I actually mean the entire package of the dining event.
Just to make the comparison interesting, I am focusing on dining options that are not dinner shows (like the Hoop-De-Doo Musical Review) and that are not Disney character meals (like Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort). You would expect a true dinner show or Disney characters to exhibit showmanship. But take those elements out, and it’s a harder task to pull off.
The Rainforest Café might deserve a runner up status, especially when compared to the real winners below, but it is worth a mention. Step through the requisite gift shop and into the jungle. The lights dim, the thunder claps, simulated rain begins (in sound only) and the animals all around you begin to stir and scream. No, it’s not a show of the highest quality, but it is a noisy, kinetic, and fun environment that – in its own way – demonstrates some above-average showmanship.
2 – 50’s Prime Time Café
Visiting the wild and wonderful 50’s Prime Time Café in Disney’s Hollywood Studios is quite an experience on several levels. The first is that you step back into time – a 1950’s kitchen complete with kitschy Formica countertops and old-fashioned tube TVs showing old-time popular shows like I Love Lucy. But beyond the ambiance, the Disney Cast Members who serve your meal are a hoot. They will scold you if you put your elbows on the table. They will point out that you didn’t finish your beans, so you shouldn’t get dessert. In general, they will act as your family members eating in your kitchen, and you all will have a great time play-acting together. It’s showmanship at its best.
3 – Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
Imagine a night out at the old-time drive in theater, back in time, complete with cheesy movies like “Plan 9 From Outer Space” playing on the big screen. The environment and the films are fun and showy on their own. But add in your servers wearing roller skates while taking your orders and delivering your food, and you are in for a real treat – and real showmanship.
4 – Be Our Guest
While the Cast Members really make the show in the 50’s Prime Time Café and the Sci-Fi Dine In Theater, it might more be the immersive environment that makes the Be Our Guest Restaurant in the Fantasyland section of the Magic Kingdom a lunch or dinner experience with great showmanship. Imagine walking along a bridge lined with gargoyles and then entering the huge doors into the Beast’s castle. Watch out as you pass through a hallway lined with suits of armor. Pick up your red rose pager, and soon your food finds you, delivered to your table. Look around – depending on your dining room choice, you might see the Beast’s rose petals falling, the beautifully painted ceiling of the ballroom, or the painting that shows the young prince transform before your very eyes into the ugly Beast. Wow – now that’s showmanship – all built into your surroundings all around you!
5 – Victoria & Albert’s
Maybe this one isn’t completely fair, but it only seems right. From the highest quality food to its beautiful presentation, from the ambiance of the elegant dining room’s décor to the best service possible, you get only the best of the best at Victoria & Albert’s in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. Whether it is a wedding proposal or dinner for an anniversary that ends in a “0,” this is the place to go – if you can afford it. Yes, you might expect amazing showmanship for a dinner that approaches $250 plus for two people, but for a special event, it is money well spent.
Which Disney restaurants do you think has the best showmanship?