It is funny seeing advertising about “progressive dining” at Walt Disney World that offers a set menu at each resort around the monorail loop for a whopping $170. In true fashion, this is Disney monetizing a trend that has been occurring for years. We have always found ourselves “progressive dining” frequently when visiting Disney World, as it gives us the opportunity to eat at multiple places. It is always a win-win to have our favorite dishes from different dining locations in one meal.
Where can you experience progressive dining?
Most dining locations are in close proximity, so progressive meals can be experienced almost anywhere on Disney property! Both inside and outside of the theme parks, there are options that allow exploration of different dining settings for one meal. Our Disney trips are typically short, so this allows us to get our favorite dishes since we do not have time to eat at every dining location for a full meal.
Who is progressive dining good for?
It's good for those that have the time to devote to the experience and want to do it. For those Disney foodies out there that want to try as many dishes as possible and would rather eat than be on rides, this is for you! This is not the easiest nor is it the most time-efficient way to dine. This may also be more challenging with larger groups where moving as a unit may be a task unto itself.
Quick service versus table service experiences?
We have done progressive dining with both styles of meals. Quick service is certainly the easier of the two as it takes the element of reservations or relying on availability out of the equation. That being said, we have utilized lounge and bar seating at the table service locations with good success. There have also been occasions where the lounge or bar area has been full and instead moved to a quick service location.
To take advantage of splitting or sharing dishes - double the fun and half the stomach space
You can always mix and match your favorite quick service and table service options to create the perfect progressive dining experience for you
The bar and lounge options at signature dining locations are often forgotten, but available
With the highest density of dining options in one spot, this is an obvious and ideal choice at which to have multiple meals with so many good restaurants to choose from. Locations can be mixed and matched to create a different progressive dining experience over and over again. In addition to the restaurants, there are also food trucks and bars that all offer great food. A fun aspect about Disney Springs is that several restaurants offer dine in or carryout options that allow flexibility, such as Wine Bar George, Morimoto Asia, Jaleo, Raglan Road, and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill. With so much to chose from, you cannot go wrong however you choose to choreograph your progressive dining experience.
Quick Service: There is The Daily Poutine for the Canadian delicacy of poutine (fries topped with cheese curds and gravy). Swing by Chicken Guy and grab some chicken tenders and sauces to create your favorite combination (and also an affordable option). Finally, stop at Sprinkles to round out the evening and satisfy your sweet tooth with cupcake and ice cream offerings.
Table Service: Morimoto Asia is known for their popular spare ribs, so this is a great place to start. Continue to Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' and split a chicken platter or order any of the other chicken-based dishes for that battered goodness. One peek inside Amorette's Patisserie, and you'll see that it feels like a fancy sit-down restaurant. Be sure to enjoy one of their artful delights.
Epcot is probably the originator of the progressive dining craze as all of the festivals promote eating many small-portioned dishes to serve as a meal (or two!). The festivals make it easy to pick your favorites or try new things to create a full meal. Word to the wise: these items add up quickly, so set a budget or item limit ahead of time if needed. This alternative to dining also offers alcoholic beverages - beer, wine, and cocktails - which is not common at quick service establishments. While drinking around the world is very popular, eating around the world is a way better option for foodies.
Quick Service: Best bet here is to wait for a festival (not many weeks of the year anymore without one!)
Table Service: Far into Italy's pavilion is Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar. This is one of our favorite hiding spots. While there are many choices for wine and cheese, you can get the full Tutto Italia menu here as well. A few countries away at Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room, you can grab fish and chips with another good opportunity to split the large portion size (fish here is better quality than at the outside stand). An easy dessert favorite at World Showcase is France's L'Artisan des Glaces or Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie for an overwhelming amount of deliciousness. Yes, both are technically quick service locations, but they cannot be missed on the dessert trail.
In my opinion, this is the most romantic area for a progressive dining experience. The crowds around here are always low, evenings at the Boardwalk are wonderful, and you are always close to nighttime fireworks at either Disney's Hollywood Studios or Epcot. Plus, walking from resort to resort allows for digestion between courses. There are five resorts around the Boardwalk loop with a variety of dining options, including four lounges between the Swan and Dolphin alone (Il Mulino, Kimonos, Shula's Steak House, Todd English's Bluezoo).
Quick Service: I would opt for the Epcot quick service option here as there are not a ton of great options to make several stops - wait for a festival!
Table Service: Start at the Flying Fish for that mouth watering pork belly appetizer. There is generous seating at the bar with entertaining servers who make this stop a fun experience. Walk over to the Swan where Il Mulino is highly rated - order one of their many pasta dishes. No trip around the Boardwalk loop would be complete without a stop at the Beach Club's Beach and Cream for any ice cream sundae you can imagine. Beaches and Cream is currently closed for refurb, but a temporary location offering ice cream treats has been set up just around the corner and inside at Ariel's.
This is definitely our favorite place to progressively dine, and I know we are not alone since it is now monetized by Disney! Hop aboard the monorail and visit each of the resorts all while keeping Magic Kingdom in your line of site. We even like to walk from the Disney's Polynesian Village Resort to Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa - it is so peaceful! Finish off the evening by watching the fireworks from your favorite resort.
Quick Service: (Ironically, similar recommendations to The Dis Vlog!) At the Polynesian, stop by Captain Cook's for the Thai Coconut Meatballs. There are also sushi options upstairs at Kona Island if Captain Cook's doesn't appeal to you. At the next stop on the monorail loop, the Grand Floridan, order a Create-Your-Own Salad at Gasparilla Island Grill as it offers a great value and healthy options. Finally, jump on the cupcake bandwagon for specialty cupcakes over at Contempo Café. If you prefer, you can always ride the monorail another time to grab a Dole Whip back at the Polynesian.
Table Service:California Grill at the Contemporary has seating available in a lounge/bar area with the full menu available. Appetizers here are just as outstanding as the entrees. Grab sushi, my personal favorite Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli, or any of their other seasonal dishes. Since there is the chance of California Grill's lounge area being full, go downstairs to The Wave for an updated, tasty menu (I haven't tried it myself but I hear the praise of the Bacon and Eggs). Over at the Polynesian, head downstairs to Trader Sam's Grog Grotto. Inside seating is limited, but there is plenty of outdoor seating that allows you to enjoy the same menu. Finally at the Grand Floridian, Citricos has a bar area with nice options for dessert. Depending on the time that you are landing for dessert, seating at any of the three resorts might be a challenge due to firework viewing. Keep that in mind.
These are just a few of the ways that you can create a progressive dining experience. There are so many combinations to make the perfect meal for you. What is your favorite trio for progressive dining?
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