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Never Settle for Mediocre Fare at Disney

Never Settle for Mediocre Fare at Disney rsz_2017_oct_epcotimg_2684

I don’t know what’s more fun about Walt Disney World, the park-hopping or the eating. Attractions are great, but new ones take years to build. Menus, restaurants, and food booths change quickly, and it’s a big reason to come back again and again.

While there are lots of food staples that should be great but aren’t (yes, cheeseburger, I’m talking about you), there is no reason to eat bad food at Disney. There are many really, really good offerings available. The trick is timing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve settled for a mediocre, hockey-puck-on-a-stale-bun because I’m starving and too tired to get to a better venue.

To avoid that problem, I keep a list of my favorite foods sorted by location on my phone’s Notes App. That way, when hunger strikes I can remind myself what’s nearby. Here are my 18 park and resort favorites.

Magic Kingdom

Chili-Cheese Hot Dog (Casey’s Corner/Main Street U.S.A.): There are two places I enjoy a hot dog — at Comerica Park in Detroit and at Casey’s Corner. Casey’s traditional chili-cheese dog is to die for and will keep you full for maybe six hours. The fries that come with this are good, too. You can get a regular size dog for $10.99 or a foot-long for $1.50 more. I think they take a few dollars off if you forgo the fries.

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S.E.A. Shu Mai (Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen/Adventureland): I love lots of things on the menu at this relatively new Disney table service restaurant, but my favorite is the S.E.A. Shu Mai dumplings. They are on both the lunch and dinner appetizer menus for $11. These dumplings are filled with pork, shrimp, water chestnuts, shallots, edamame, and arugula. Sriracha in the filling and sambal oelek in the dipping sauce give them some heat.

Caramel Apples: (Main Street Confectionary/Main Street U.S.A. & Big Top Treats/Fantasyland) I love Disney’s caramel apples. My favorite is the standard granny smith dipped in caramel, but Disney is genius at mixing ingredients together into amazing flavor combinations. When you order an apple, ask a cast member to slice it up for you. It makes it so much easier to eat and share while you’re at a park. Prices vary from $6 to $11. (Caramel apples are available at other Disney parks, too, such as Karamell-Kuche in Epcot, Zuri’s Sweets Shop in Animal Kingdom, and the Goofy’s Candy Co. in Disney Springs).

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Chip’s Sticky Bun Bake (The Garden Grill/The Land Pavilion): I used to think a cinnamon roll was a cinnamon roll. Then my family had the family-style character breakfast at The Garden Grill. Chip’s Sticky Bun Bake was the starter, and we were wowed. What made it fantastic was that it came warm, in a cast iron skillet from oven to table. It was perfectly cooked (which means not underdone in the middle) and it came with a big bowl of vanilla icing, so everyone could sweeten it to their own liking. My husband and I — who feel that character meal dining is ridiculously expensive — loved this breakfast treat so much that we joked we’d pay the $32 per person price tag just to have the sticky bun.

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Funnel Cake (The American Adventure): Like the cinnamon roll at The Garden Grill, I think I love this funnel cake because it’s served freshly made and hot. The cakes also are very large, so they are easy for a group to pull apart and share while strolling. The basic cake with powdered sugar is $7.

Shawarma Chicken and Lamb Platter (Tangierine Café/Morocco): This platter includes a lot of delicious food for $14.99. It comes with a traditional shawarma chicken, lamb, hummus, tabbouleh, couscous salad, and fresh bread. It’s my favorite lunch at Epcot because it’s filling but not so heavy that I want to take a nap.

Kakigori-Rainbow Flavor (Kabuki Café/Japan): Our family gets this $4 ice treat in hot weather or cold. It’s basically a snow-cone in a cup, but the shaved ice is extra soft like a Kona Ice. Kakigoris are giant and topped with fruit flavors like melon, tangerine, strawberry, cherry, or a three-flavor combination.

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Napoleons (Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie/France): I apologize to all my close friends who hear me rave about this pastry constantly. But, it truly is the best dessert in all of Epcot, perhaps in all of Disney. It’s layers of crisp puff pastry and cold pastry cream topped with a combed glaze of vanilla drizzle and chocolate ganache. It’s a bargain, too, at only $4.25.

Hollywood Studios

Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie (50’s Prime Time Café): Normally I like to stay away from heavy entrees if I plan to be in a park all day. However, Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie ($21) is way too good to pass up. I love the crust, I love the gravy-like filling, and I usually have to use my fork as a weapon to keep the rest of my family from swiping a spoonful.

Charred Filet of Beef (Brown Derby): I love the old-Hollywood atmosphere of the Brown Derby as much as I love this entrée. How this dish is prepared makes it my favorite beef dish on property. It also comes with a side of creamy mashed potatoes and tasty vegetables. Pair it with a glass of Fairy Tale Celebration by Iron Horse Cuvee Brut, and you have the perfect romantic night out. Save this one for a special occasion, because it’s pricey. The entrée is $49 and the cuvee is an additional $15.

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Indian-Style Bread Service With All Nine Accompaniments (Sanaa/Kidani Village – Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort): Imagine bread that melts in your mouth like butter. This is what you get when you order the bread service at Sanaa. You can get three dips and bread for $13, but spend two bucks more for the deluxe and get all nine accompaniments. You will not be disappointed and none of it will go to waste. Even if I were eating alone I would order this and only this as a meal. It is the best item on any Animal Kingdom Lodge menu.

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Potjie Inspired-Braised Beef (Sanaa/Kidani Village – Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort): However, if you are with a group at the Lodge and you can’t eat all the bread service yourself, then order the Potjie entrée. Potjie means “little pot” and it’s a combination of Dutch and African cooking (basically, cooking with a Dutch oven over an open fire). For the Sanaa Potjie ($26), I like both the braised beef and butter chicken choices, but you can also choose curry seafood or spicy shrimp. All the sides are great, too. Be bold and let your server choose one for you.

African Potjie (The Mara/Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort): If you don’t have time for a sit-down meal at Sanaa, or you’d like a lighter meal, head over to The Mara and get the quick service African Potjie. This stew is made up of beef, turkey, ham, carrots, potatoes, peas, chickpeas, and raisins over rice.  It sounds incompatible, but it works. And, it’s only $8.49.

Old Fashioned Sundae (Beaches and Cream/Beach Club Resort): I always feel like I’ve scored big when I get a reservation at Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. The place is tiny. I’ve learned to dine in reverse so I never miss out on my favorite dessert. I always choose the same $7 sundae — two scoops of chocolate ice cream covered in a double drenching of peanut butter. (It also comes with whipped cream and a cherry on top.) If I’m hungry after that, then I order a grilled cheese.

Arancini (Il Mulino/Boardwalk – Walt Disney World Swan Hotel) Il Mulino is the best Italian restaurant on Disney property. The first item on the menu is an appetizer called Arancini and it is delicious. They are Italian rice balls served with spicy marinara sauce for $9. If you like croquettes you will love these.

Tonga Toast (Kona Café or Capt. Cook’s/Polynesian Resort): Disney fans would lose their minds if Tonga Toast ever went away. This is a very rich breakfast entrée, and I would recommend sharing it. It is an extremely delicious blend of French toast, banana, and cinnamon sugar. It’s $8.49 at Capt. Cook’s — At Kona Café, it’s $16 and served with ham, bacon, or sausage, which you need to cut the sweetness. If you are staying at the Polynesian and are in the mood to splurge, order this from room service for the ultimate breakfast in bed.

Beignets (Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory/Port Orleans French Quarter): French for “fritter” or “doughnut,” beignets are basically square pieces of fried dough covered in powdered sugar. The pastry is raised in steam to create a hollow center. This makes beignets light, fluffy, and delicious. They are fresh-made in the bakery shop every day. You can purchase three for $3.99 or six for $5.49.

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All The Parks & Resorts

Mickey Waffles (Most Disney Breakfast Venues): I love these waffles so much that I actually buy canisters of Carbon’s Golden Malted Flour direct so that I can make these same tasty waffles at home. You can get them pretty much anywhere breakfast is served on property, so prices vary.

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Food is expensive at Disney, so making sure you get something delicious is worth the effort. I apologize if I’ve left out one of your favorites, but please tell me about it; I keep another list of foods to try based on recommendations made by other uber Disney fans, like you.

As you can see I don’t have any Disney Springs recommendations. With so many new establishments, it’s a list that needs some serious revisions. I’ll be working on that over the summer, and hopefully have 18 more recommendations soon.

Editor’s Note: All prices you see in this article are subject to change at any time without notice.

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I'm a writer living in East Lansing, Michigan. I have loved Disney ever since my first visit in 1977, and I always keep my Annual Pass in my wallet just in case the opportunity to visit WDW comes up (you never know). I publish a weekly e-newsletter called MAIN STREET POP IN and can be found anytime at www.mainstreetpopin.com.


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