Disney World

Even though Mickey Mouse and old-school rides bring in the big bucks at Walt Disney World, the “most magical place on Earth” is hiding a secret—its equally amazing underground culinary scene—right under your nose (and fork).

One of the four Michelin-starred restaurants in Orlando, CAPA, a Spanish-inspired steakhouse at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando near Walt Disney World, has been open since 2022, and the city’s fine dining scene is booming. However, this is far from Disney World’s only claim to fame when it comes to its culinary offerings. The resort’s high-end lodgings boast tasting menus that have won AAA Five Diamond awards, Florida’s only wine bar owned by a master sommelier, and other restaurants that have been recommended by Michelin and Bib Gourmand.

However, many guests mistakenly believe that the menus at the Disney hotels and parks only contain hot dogs, which is far from the truth. In order to find out the best restaurants at Disney World, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and their respective resorts, we consulted Shay Spence, a food writer and Disney dining expert based in Florida. “I think the biggest misconception about Disney World food is that it’s all low quality and super expensive,” said Spence, who has almost two million followers on his website and gives food reviews and culinary suggestions as well.

“As far as quality goes, you don’t have to settle,” Spence stated. “Disney has world class restaurants spanning just about every cuisine imaginable.” “Even standard theme park snacks like churros and corn dogs are next level if you know where to get them,” he says, showing that he isn’t beyond playing it safe. Even though the most famous Disney foods—like Dole whip and enormous turkey legs—may be the first to come to mind, that’s hardly all. The culinary and beverage staff at the Magic Kingdom are always inventing new goodies using a top-secret flavor lab. Even for the most picky diners, Florida’s top tourist spot offers an overwhelming array of hundreds of restaurants. When visiting Walt Disney World, Shay Spence like to eat these seven foods.

Best for seafood: Flying Fish at Disney’s Boardwalk.

“This is one of the most underrated restaurants in Disney World, hands down,” Spence added. Flying Fish is set on the gorgeous BoardWalk, a turn-of-the-century style beachfront promenade with several amusements that tempt nostalgia. Disney World’s greatest seafood restaurant is the resort’s answer to modern, elegant dining – and anticipate the Mickey white glove treatment. “The service is effortlessly impeccable,” observed Spence.

A full menu of sustainable seafood and ever-changing seasonal plates awaits, but Spence’s favorite is one of the elegant spot’s long-time stalwarts. “The signature potato-wrapped red snapper with leek fondue is crispy on the outside, flaky on the inside and really a modern marvel,” he told me. While the food leans mainly toward the undersea variety, there are some surprises. “Meat lovers will love the char-crusted New York Strip,” Spence remarked.

Nostalgic American fare

Where to go for retro fare at Hollywood Studios’ Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre

The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is Spence’s next suggestion, and it’s delightfully offbeat. “Not all restaurants at Disney World are about the food,” Spence added. “It is a theme park after all, and you can’t beat the theming here.” As the diners’ eyes acclimate to the oppressive Florida light, they will be whisked away to a drive-in theater of the 1950s as they step inside a dimly lit chamber.

A huge screen plays loops of old-timey favorites, such as advertising for vintage kitchen appliances and goofy horror films, while guests munch on American comfort food in vintage-style automobiles. “I know there are some haters out there, but the secret here is to stick to the basics and not get any bright ideas,” Spence remarked. “Get yourself a burger, a shake, maybe some onion rings, and enjoy the show.”

This debatable rationale is another reason he appreciates it. “I love a restaurant where you’re encouraged not to talk to the people you’re with, especially after spending days in a hot theme park together – everyone can just shut up and chill out for a bit.”

Best for culturally influenced cuisine: Nomad Lounge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the resort’s most picturesque location, offers escapism on a silver platter. The theme park is a tried-and-true gastronomic destination famed for its diverse dishes, but the quirky Nomad Lounge is a favorite of Disney regulars, including Spence. “It’s just so pleasant, you don’t feel like you’re in a theme park,” he told me. “And cocktails are almost always on point.”

The menu of culturally influenced small foods is always changing, and Spence advises against getting too attached to anything. But there is one dish that, if removed, could spark riots: churros. Spence deems them the “best churros at Disney World” – a far cry from the frozen-to-fried version seen elsewhere. The pillowy bites are surprisingly gluten-free and come with dips such as a zesty strawberry-guava sauce.

With both indoor and outdoor seating, the adventure-themed lounge serves some of the best cocktails on the property from an exclusive menu. Spence recommends the Snow Leopard Salvation, a spin on the Moscow Mule. Beer enthusiasts will like the Kungaloosh Spiced Excursion Ale, a cardamom-forward amber ale produced particularly for Disney.

Best Splurge: Jiko – The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge.

When Spence wants to splurge, he goes straight to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The imitation safari resort, located on a beautiful grassland with towering African giraffes, will make you wonder if you’re actually in central Florida. And the well-themed resort is a hub of highly regarded restaurants. “The Indian-style bread service from Sanaa gets all the glory for good reason,” Spence remarked. “But my favourite thing to eat is actually from Jiko – The Cooking Place.”

Wood-burning ovens illuminate the resort’s elegant yet cozy restaurant. Its menu of experimental foods and twists on familiar dishes is created in an open show kitchen, and its extensive wine list includes the greatest collection of South African pours outside of Africa.

However, Spence’s attention is drawn only to one dish: the oak-grilled filet mignon with chocolate-red wine demi-glace. “The oak-grilled filet comes with the most delicious, garlicky four-cheese mac,” Spence went on to say. “I’ve never really ordered anything else off this menu because I’m so loyal to this dish.” Jiko has been pleasing diners for many years and is the stuff of Disney legends, making it one of the most difficult reservations to obtain.


The most hidden treasure at EPCOT is the Spice Road Table.

Although there are other noteworthy eateries at EPCOT’s World Showcase, a miniature version of the World’s Fair including eleven country pavilions, Morocco’s Spice Road Table is mostly overlooked. “I really don’t know why this spot isn’t more popular, but I’m grateful I can always get a table here whenever I want it,” Spence remarked. Tapas with a Mediterranean twist are available on the limited menu; Spence raves about the tiropitakia (phyllo triangles filled with cheese) and claims he has them in his dreams often. “The menu really is banger after banger.” It’s also where he gets his favorite beverage, the Moroccan Mule, which is vodka spiked with figs.

The ambiance is mesmerizing, created by the use of vivid colors and lighting fixtures adorned with golden accents. Plus, Spence knows something else about the best kept secret at Disney World. “This is the perfect little secret viewing spot for EPCOT’s night-time fireworks show, Luminous.”

Best guilty pleasure snacks: Sleepy Hollow Refreshments at the Magic Kingdom.

With one exception, the family-friendly Magic Kingdom isn’t recognized for its great dining selection. “This is, without a doubt, the highest-quality quick service establishment in Magic Kingdom,” Spence stated. Sleepy Hollow Refreshments is an unobtrusive kiosk situated away in the park’s Liberty Square portion that is all too easy to overlook. Its menu is tiny, but it has received a welcome upgrade to a Disney food rite of passage. “They have a Mickey waffle with strawberries and cream that’s so much better than any Mickey waffle you’ll get at your resort breakfast buffet,” Spence remarked.

His other favorites are a sweet waffle with Nutella and fresh fruit, as well as a savory waffle with crunchy slaw and spicy fried chicken. Spence passionately declared that Sleepy Hollow’s corn dogs are “the best in the business” and that he appreciates the made-to-order nature, hand-dipped and fried right in front of your eyes – “without a heat lamp in sight”.

Dessert heaven: EPCOT’s Karamell-Küche

Karamell-Küche, situated in the Germany pavilion at EPCOT, is the place to go for parkgoers who are both knowledgeable and addicted to sweets. The enticing scent of caramel wafting out of its doors will make it easy for them to find. Here you may find some of the finest delicacies on mouse premises, like the iconic Werther’s Original caramel popcorn, which Spence gushes about.

“Everyone tells you to get the caramel corn (which is valid) but really the whole pastry case is an absolutely stacked all-star line-up of sweets,” Spence added. “It’s hard to go wrong, but the Gingerbread Salted Caramel Cookie Sandwich is simply the best cookie creation ever concocted.” Indulge in the flavor of a thrilling Space Mountain ride with these freshly made spiced gingerbread cookies stuffed with buttercream and salted caramel.

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