Walt Disney World is full of fantastic dining opportunities, and for many people like myself, the food has become an attraction all it's own. One of my favorite times in planning my trips to Disney is the day I make my dining reservations. I want to share with you a few of what I feel are the experiences you need to try at least once.
Sanaa is a beautiful restaurant hidden in the downstairs of the Kidani Village building at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. In the lobby you will see some beautiful examples of African art, and this theme is continued once inside the restaurant. However, you will probably not be noticing the art right away; what you will probably notice first are the large windows looking out onto the Savanna, with giraffe, antelope and other animals grazing just beyond the glass. Make sure you get a meal time while it is still light, either a lunch or early dinner in the off season, so you have good views of the animals while you dine. You may also consider asking for a seat by the windows, though you may have to wait longer, and at busier times they may not be able to accommodate that.
The food here is excellent, with African and Indian flavors dominating the menu. I encourage you to branch out and try something new if these flavors are unfamiliar to you. If you are a picky eater, fear not, there are options for you as well, though they may be more limited. Menu items change frequently, but there is always a steak, chicken, lamb and seafood option, as well as various other offerings. Everything I have eaten here has been delicious, with the Butter Chicken being my personal favorite. One thing to note, the bread service, which I highly recommend, is an extra cost, but comes with 9 dipping sauces and three kinds of bread, well worth the cost. Overall, eating with a view of Giraffes, or maybe a Tortoise sitting right by your table, is an experience you need to try.
View of Savanna near Kidani
Set in the back of the Morocco pavilion in Epcot, this restaurant is a hidden gem that not many find, or are even aware of. The Morocco pavilion is one that people do not spend enough time in. I love just wandering the small alleys and hidden corners and shops of this North African bazaar. Morocco now boasts two tables service restaurants as well as a counter service. At the very back of the pavilion is the original table service, Restaurant Marrakesh. Partially due to its off-the-beaten-path location, and also because of the different flavors, this place usually has seats available for walk-ups, or at least day-of reservations. This can be a big plus for a lot of guests, as Epcot dining reservations can be hard to come by in the busy season.
The food here has a definite Moroccan flair, and probably has less options for picky eaters than many Disney eateries do, but the food is excellent and has flavors that I have not found anywhere else. One slightly more expensive option for the foodies out there is the Taste of Morocco options. There are two of them designed to give you a sampling of the cuisine with multiple smaller dishes. This was a great deal of fun and let me try more options than I would ever be able in several visits. I did find the drink selection to be a bit more limited than most other Epcot options, but what was there was excellent.
The atmosphere here is meant to look like an open Moroccan palace, with decorated columns, chandelier lighting and North African plants. It creates a feeling of being in an old adventure movie, or if you prefer, Casablanca. In addition to that, at regular intervals a belly dancer comes out to entertain the crowd and teach some volunteers some moves. It is very entertaining and adds to the feel of the restaurant in a wonderful way. The belly dancers they use are very skilled, and excellent at interacting with the audience while still performing. This atmosphere makes this an excellent experience you should try.
Be Our Guest Restaurant
View of Morocco Pavilion
One of the newer dining options in the Magic Kingdom, situated in the back of New Fantasyland, the Beast's castle is now open for visitors to dine in. This is a dual purpose restaurant; at lunch it is a quick service and at dinner converts into a full table service setting. Both are excellent options, but I want to focus on the dinner option, as I feel it has a few extras to offer.
When you check in you will be given a pager and told to wait on the bridge leading to the castle, and after what is usually a short wait you will be called in for seating. Entering, you walk through a hallway lined with tapestries and suits of armor (who have a few things to say, if you listen closely). There is also strong air conditioning and cool lighting which gives you a feeling of being in a castle in Germany, not in hot, humid Florida. When you enter the main hall, you can see through the large windows on the far end into the village, though not too well, as it is snowing rather hard. It is an incredible scene which really completes the setting of the castle. The other rooms are not to be missed either, as you might be seated in the spooky west wing, where the enchanted rose sits and the torn up portrait of the prince hangs, or in the ballroom with a larger than life music box dancing in the center.
The food here is excellent, and easily the best available in the Magic Kingdom. Focused on French cuisine, but with some definite American influence, this is the easiest, or hardest if you have trouble deciding, place to find good food. Everything on the menu is well made and worth your time. When you are done eating, your server will bring a cart to your table with all of their desserts on it and allow you to choose if you like. This was a nice touch, as you actually get to see the dessert options, not just read about them.
Finally, on the way out, the Beast himself is there to say thank you for visiting, and you get your picture with him. This is a nice touch that is not advertised by Disney at all, but has been there since the beginning. It is possible that they will eventually end this, but for now it seems the Beast is here to stay. If you are a fan of the movie, or even just enjoy the immersive environments Disney is so good at creating, this is a must do.
This is my list of things to try, and I could come up with many more. If you haven't tried these restaurants, then check them out the next time you are down. Let me know in the comments what you think are the best experiences to have.
Be Our Guest Restaurant Entrance