by: guide4wdw – Collin Kendall
8 Underrated Disney Dining Locations You Should Try!
With the Disney parks continuously changing and growing year after year, it’s almost inevitable that a few dining locations throughout the parks and resorts will “fly under the radar” of most guests. Those little known or often overlooked dining locations tend to be some of the very best food offerings in all of Walt Disney World.
In my opinion, dining is a huge part of any Disney vacation. It’s time to recharge after hours in the parks, a time to gather around the table with family or friends, and a time to create memories that you never quite expect.
Disney dining, in many ways, has a unique way of bringing families together in ways in which we don’t always take the time to do when we’re at home and dealing with busy lives and different schedules that make it almost impossible to gather around the table as a family. To me, no matter how simple or how luxurious a meal is, a meal at Disney is a time to set the worries of life aside and is an opportunity to reconnect with those we care the most about. Often times it’s not about the meal itself, or the theming, or even the food (as much as I love the food!), but rather just being there in the moment.
Today’s list hinges on that thought process but we’ll also be looking at some of the lesser known or largely overlooked dining locations and meals you should consider during your next Disney vacation. Our “underrated selections” aren’t necessarily the least popular meals or even the tucked away gems of the parks, but rather the dining locations that many first time and even some returning guests walk right past or never even stop to consider before attempting to book the most popular table service locations or heading straight to the iconic counter service locations. We all have our favorites but you never know when something new may exceed your expectations and become a new favorite you return to year after year. One of our goals when we travel is to try one new dining location each and every trip, and inevitably those new offerings become staple elements of future Disney trips.
(Katsura Grill Gardens – #8)
Geyser Point is one of the few restaurants at Walt Disney World that I can say I’ve eaten at since it’s very first days open to the public. We loved it from day one! The location is spectacular, the views are second to none, and their cheeseburger paired with waffle fries is one of the best burgers on property. The outdoor area, which is full of fans and moving air, is perfect for a sunset meal overlooking the water and is the ideal hangout spot for warm summer nights or those perfect Florida spring temperatures.
The location itself is a unique set up. There is a bar present, but there’s also designated seating for a table service-esque style meal. In addition to that there’s a walk up counter service area which is great for a quick meal. The food is great no matter how you order or what you order. I have yet to try anything I didn’t like. I you’re staying at the resort, consider heading to the Boulder Ridge pool where a cast member will bring your order out to you poolside! For a full look at the menu check this out.
(Geyser Point Late Night Views)
2. Garden Grill
Garden Grill is one of those restaurants that has undergone change after change over the years. Some changes were good, others were awful, but now the breakfast is one of the very best family style breakfasts on property.
A few years back, we gave Garden Grill a second chance when their breakfast meal time offering debuted, and despite previous bad experiences, it exceeded our expectations. In previous years we had been really disappointed in the dinner menu, but we had always loved the unique scenery of the restaurant and the subtle rotation of the dining area so that guests could peer down on Living with the Land below. It’s an incredibly unique dining experience, but one that you hear very few things about in the online Disney community. If you’ve not tried it, be sure to add it to the list for your next Disney Vacation. The breakfast sticky bun is worth a visit all on it’s own! Here’s a closer look at the menu.
In my opinion, this is the best table service breakfast in Epcot and while the price is fairly high, you do get the added bonus of it being a character meal for the kids in your group or those of us that are kids at heart.
3. Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn
Moving over to a different realm of dining, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn is one of the best quick service restaurants in Magic Kingdom. The menu is relatively unique and features tacos, taco bowls, fajitas, and even nachos! The best part about all of this is that once you pick up your food there’s a large topping bar to add as little or as much as you’d like to your meal. There’s a variety of salsas, cheeses, and typical Mexican fare toppings and it is all kept incredibly neat and clean despite the massive crowds that can fill this restaurant during peak attendance days in the parks.
You may be asking why this is on our list if it’s crowded on most peak attendance days, but the answer is relatively simple. So many guests wrote off this dining location when the menu changed from burgers and fries to tacos and Mexican food. I’ve always been a huge proponent of a broader variety of food in the parks. This location is an ideal example of that! As a result, if you’re in the parks and want something other that burgers and fries, you not only have 1 alternative here but also Columbia Harbour House a short walk away with equally unique food that tastes great. Last but certainly not least, there’s no denying that Disney food is expensive, but if you’re getting food that tastes higher quality and is different that what you can find at other vacation destinations, it tends to make the cost more “worth it” in the end result. For a look at the whole menu check this out.
4. Kona Cafe
Kona Cafe over at the Polynesian has notoriously been a dining location that you can typically walk up and get a reservation for. There are some exceptions to that on peak travel times, but for the most part it’s an overlooked hidden gem of a table service location. Kona often gets overshadowed by Ohana, but the food at Kona is much better that it gets credit for. The menu is unique and features a polynesian flair with the addition of pineapple and other citrus flavors into the food. It’s a pleasant change of pace when compare to some dining locations on property.
Personally, I love Kona. Part of that is due to the atmosphere as you sit on the second floor off the lobby in the Polynesian, you can see the monorail pass outside, and you can smell the classic scent of the Polynesian resort all around you. It’s a great place to sit down and enjoy a relatively quiet meal before catching a monorail and making a quick trip over to the Magic Kingdom.
One word of caution is that the menu here isn’t quite as kid friendly for the less adventurous eaters out there. They do have kids offerings, but it’s not going to be quite the same experience for kids as it is adults. If you’re on the dining plan with kids, skip Kona and use your table service credit for a meal at Ohana instead. If you’re traveling with adults and want to try something unique, Kona will not disappoint! Cape May Cafe is honestly one of my absolute favorite buffets on Disney property. It is the pinnacle of great buffets and one of the cleanest buffets I’ve ever been to. There is literally a chef at all times wiping off the bar if a piece of pasta falls out of a bowl or a shrimp tumbles off of the pile. It’s an unbelievable level of attention to detail.
If you like seafood, and in particular crab legs, Cape May is a tucked away hidden gem dining location at Disney’s Beach Club Resort just steps away from Epcot’s rear international gateway entrance/exit. It’s a fairly expensive meal, but one that will exceed your expectations. Reservations are typically plentiful and oftentimes even “day-of” reservations are available if you’re flexible about what time you want to dine.
6. Yak and Yeti
Yak and Yeti is another dining review we recently put together in our article Yak and Yeti Restaurant Review – The Overlooked Gem of Animal Kingdom?. The food exceeds expectations and is a location that many guests completely overlook. The indoor table service dining is excellent and offers a great variety of asian cuisine while being a near perfect escape from the brutal heat of Animal Kingdom in the summer. Paired with the table service dining and offering some carry-over dishes, the adjacent counter service Yak and Yeti Local Food Cafes is a great option for those on a tighter budget or looking for a quicker meal that is almost as unique. The outdoor seating of the counter service location isn’t ideal for the hot summer months, but if the weather is good it’s a uniquely themed area that fits quite well with the overall experience of Animal Kingdom.
7. Roaring Fork
Roaring Fork over at Wilderness Lodge underwent a refurbishment rather recently and I have to say the resulting experience is a hidden gem dining location. With both typical resort dining quick service fair mixed with more unique options like chicken and waffles or a pulled pork sandwich the menu is quite varied but fits so many different tastes. As an added bonus, there is both indoor and outdoor seating. The outdoor seating is quite nice and underneath of a covered overhang that sits right next to the flowing waterfalls of the resort.
Roaring Fork isn’t quite as good as Geyser Point, a few steps down the path, it does offer a greater variety of food and is a touch more kid friendly. It is one of the more impressive resort quick service locations and one that I highly recommend visiting if you’re staying at the resort or are at Magic Kingdom and want to escape the crowds for a few minutes. Not only is the food great but if you’ve not visited Wilderness Lodge before, it is well worth making the short (free) boat ride from Magic Kingdom over to grab a meal and explore the vastly intricate theming of Wilderness Lodge. That boat ride can be so spectacular that I even devoted an article talking about a journey on that lake at sunset!
8. Katsura Grill
Katsura Grill is perhaps one of the very best tucked away gems of Epcot. As a little “hut” in the gardens of the Japan pavilion, Katsura Grill welcomes guests into a relaxing environment complete with sushi that sushi fans deem incredible. Personally I’m not a huge sushi fan, but it doesn’t stop me from exploring this area. It sounds a little strange, but if you take the time to walk up the hill and to wander the gardens surrounding the restaurant, it’s surprising how authentic the whole experience feels. At times, you don’t even feel like you’re in Epcot. It’s incredibly difficult to describe in words, but the restaurant and surrounding seating area makes you feel like you’re miles from the hustle and bustle of the city. It doesn’t make sense but it’s well worth a visit!
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Last but certainly not least, if you’re starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You’ll probably even save money along the way.