Opinions on restaurants, as we used to say in the 50’s and 60’s, are like Volkswagen bugs – everyone has one. Preferences in this area are very personal and are developed for many reasons. I mention that so you know that I don’t consider myself to be a total authority in this area but just someone who has experienced a majority of the restaurants at Walt Disney World and has very particular preferences. I feel that a lot of these preferences are shared by a lot of other Seniors.
I may be lucky but I have never had a bad experience at a Disney restaurant. I do, however, have an issue with one thing that is prevalent in most Disney restaurants – portion size!! They are generally huge and way more than most Seniors are comfortable eating. That said, I will present my preferences for Character Meals, Park Restaurants, Signature Restaurants, and what I consider to be the best restaurant at Walt Disney World. Please remember I have picked these restaurants as a Senior and for Seniors.
Character Meals – My favorite Character meal, unfortunately, no longer exists but was dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern. Cinderella’s Royal Table (breakfast) is a favorite because of the atmosphere (my goodness, it’s the castle after all) and the joy of watching children interact with the princesses. The food is very good and definitely plentiful. 1900 Park Fare has an excellent buffet and good character interaction. In both of these restaurants the characters were very aware and actually asked if we wanted to interact or just watch.
Theme Park Restaurants – We are not big fans of the Animal Kingdom and only make short visits for such things as the Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo. We haven’t eaten at any of the restaurants there because we are just not in the park long enough. In the Magic Kingdom we really have two favorite table service restaurants that are ideal for seniors. These are the Liberty Tree Tavern and the Plaza Restaurant. Both have excellent food in manageable portions and are generally a bit more laid back than some of the others. One word of caution with the Liberty Tree Tavern, if you have an issue with stairs please use the restrooms in the park on the way to the restaurant because they are upstairs (quite a few stairs) at the Liberty Tree. Our favorite counter service is definitely the Columbia Harbour House. It has very good food and is a welcome air conditioned break from the park. Epcot is a foodies dream!! There are so many excellent restaurants that selecting one is nearly impossible but our favorite table service restaurants are Les Chefs de France, Restaurant Marrakesh, and Tutto Italia. The food is excellent in all three locations and service is generally excellent (sometimes a bit hurried at Les Chefs). Two counter service locations stand out. They are Sunshine Seasons in the Land Pavilion which has a huge variety of very well prepared food and the Tangierine Café at the Morocco Pavilion. Seniors please don’t be afraid that the food at Marrakesh or the Tangierine Café will be too “exotic” for you, it isn’t. It is well prepared and delicious. Our favorite non signature restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is the 50’s Prime Time Café. It has excellent comfort type food and is a lot of fun if you want to play along. Here also, the Cast Members are a very aware group and if you don’t want to play along with their antics they are terrific at recognizing that and do not force the fun and games. For counter service at the Studios try the ABC Commissary, there is a decent variety of good food on an International menu and the décor is very nice. It doesn’t feel like a typical counter service restaurant.
Signature Restaurants – The Signatures are ideally suited to us as Seniors. The food and service are both excellent, the pace is perfect, and eating in these restaurants is more than a meal it is a dining experience. They are more expensive than other restaurants at Walt Disney World but I truly believe we are worth it!! The California Grill at the Contemporary is as good as any of the Signatures. The menu is varied (sushi to steaks) and it has an open kitchen so you can watch their talented chefs prepare the food. If you time it correctly you can go outside and watch the fireworks with a spectacular (but a bit loud) view. If you are a big fan of salmon you must try Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge. The Cedar Plank Salmon is always perfect and for desert try the berry cobbler. In the Parks the Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is outstanding. You can dine inside or outside and the food is terrific. If you are a seafood fan the grouper is outstanding. Salad eaters will enjoy the Cobb Salad. Don’t miss the Grapefruit Cake here for dessert. You can not go wrong at any of the Walt Disney World Signature restaurants – enjoy as many as time and your budget permit.
Best Overall Restaurant – Anyone who has dined at Victoria and Albert’s in the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa will likely back me up here. It is absolutely the premier restaurant at Walt Disney World and the only Five Star restaurant in Central Florida. They do have a couple of rules though – jackets are required for men (ties optional) and evening wear for women. I know “evening wear” is not a specific term but I’ve never met a woman who does not know exactly what that means. Unfortunately for the grandchildren, children under ten are not permitted. The menu changes daily and the meal is a five course delight. There are at least two basic selections for each course and there are also additional selections for an added cost. Stick with the standard selections they are always excellent. Wine flights are available for those who enjoy wine with dinner. If none of the standard selections appeal to you just mention it to your server and the magic will happen. My wife had a particular soup on a visit in 2003 that was not on the menu in 2007 so I asked the server if they even served it anymore and he said yes they did and the Chef prepared it right then and there for her. What a delight! They have a harpist who plays during dinner which definitely adds to the experience. If you are celebrating a special occasion let them know when you make your ADR (separate phone call, they make their own reservations) and when you confirm your reservation with them at least 24 hours in advance. At the end of your experience you will each receive a personalized menu and the ladies each receive a rose. If it fits your budget it is a must do!!
If you have special dietary issues or needs Disney is equipped to handle them. Please add these needs to your ADR’s when you make them. Here is a page that gives specific/additional information for these matters: http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/special-dietary-requests/ .
If you would like to view menus for these or any other restaurants at Walt Disney World you can locate them here: http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm . These menus are current for the most part and are regularly maintained.