180 days before our trip, I made some advanced dining reservations (ADRs). Out of those, I kept Via Napoli, Biergarten, Chef Mickey’s, Be Our Guest (lunch), and I made a new reservation for the Coral Reef restaurant. I ended up canceling Le Cellier just because Jess and I didn’t want to spend half of our date night at Epcot at dinner.
Just as a refresher, Disney allows you to make ADRs at most of their sit down restaurants up to 180 days in advance. If you are staying on site, you can book for your entire trip 180 days before the first day of your trip. Here are my impressions of the five places we hit up with reservations in chronological order, and a few thoughts on some of our favorite counter service experiences at the parks as well.
Coral Reef Restaurant (Epcot)
Located outside of The Seas with Nemo and Friends, the Coral Reef restaurant is essentially what you would expect if you were dining in an aquarium. Seating is set up across four levels, all with views of the gigantic ocean tank of The Seas. You’re definitely making this reservation for the view, not for the food – which is passable but nothing spectacular. We arrived at our 5:30 PM reservation to find the restaurant already quite full. We were seated on the second level – I wonder how early you have to get there (or who you have to know) to get seated at the tables right up against the glass. Still, we had an amazing view and M spent most of the time staring at fish and sharks instead of eating.
The food is general seafood fare, portions are decent, and if you or your kid likes eating fish everything will be fine. M doesn’t really order from the kids’ menu so I can’t speak to that, though you pretty much can get chicken fingers anywhere you want in Walt Disney World. I thought this was a nice restaurant for the view, but if you’re pinching pennies or not into aquariums this is definitely an easy place to cut off of your list in my opinion.
Biergarten (Germany Pavilion, Epcot)
Ever since we visited Bavaria two summers ago, I’ve been craving some good schnitzel. I figured the Biergarten in the Germany pavilion would have some decent German fare, plus I was interested in checking out the musical performance. The Biergarten was a bit of a mixed bag, I really enjoyed it but my wife and parents were a bit cooler on the whole thing. It is a buffet and thus it can feel pricey (about $30 for adults for lunch), but think of it as paying for the show as well.
Speaking of which, the show only happens at certain times – pretty regularly but if you are scheduling around a naptime or don’t think your kid can sit for forty five minutes to wait, make sure you note those times. (I want to say they happened on the :45s, but don’t quote me on that. I’m pretty sure the show we saw was at 12:45 because we had a 12:00 reservation and I was like how are we gonna kill 45 minutes).
I thought the food was great – fried schnitzel, sausages, and spatzle are enough for me! Soft drinks are included, though you have to pay extra for beer – I got a flight and was quite pleased (maybe that’s why I enjoyed it the most?). Everyone agreed – the show is great, there’s a lot of fun to be had plus they showcase some unique instruments like gigantic horns that stretch from the stage to the floor that keeps things light and fun. Plus M got to hit the dancefloor at the end which is always a plus. You’ve also got the added benefit that the Germany pavilion is further inside World Showcase so you can work off the calories on your way back to Future World!
Via Napoli (Italy Pavilion, Epcot)
While I wasn’t blown away by those first two restaurants, I’d have to say that Via Napoli might be one of the best restaurants on all of Disney property. Good pizza? Check. Good pasta? Check. Low price? Check in spades. The great thing about Via Napoli is you are ordering pizzas to share, so while they still run on the expensive side (like $30), two pizzas for four people at $60 is way cheaper than four $25 entrees at other restaurants.
We ordered the Candele pasta and a Mezzo Metro sized pizza ($41, supposed to feed 3-5 people). Add a salad and it was plenty of food for all of us and our cheapest non counter meal in all of Disney. What makes this all even better is that the pizza is excellent and the pasta was very good as well. Generally the food at Disney felt marked up, but it felt like average food marked up to the prices of excellent food. This was excellent food marked up to excellent food prices, and it still was cheaper than everywhere else. Make a reservation for Via Napoli 180 days in advance and ENJOY.
Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom)
Be Our Guest gives you the chance to eat in the Beast’s castle. This is another restaurant worth the reservation with an added benefit: at lunchtime it’s counter service so the prices are only a little higher than you’d pay to eat anywhere else in the park. After you order, you are given a “magic beacon” of sorts and then your food magically appears 5-10 minutes later. Think of it as the most beautiful cafeteria you’ve ever eaten in. There are three distinct rooms – each with their own themeing and feel. We ate in the ballroom so that we could take in the Christmas tree that was still up.
If you have a reservation, one super clutch thing you can do is order online beforehand. This gets you past the lines to order at the counter (and your reservation gets you past the line to get in). So you’re basically going straight to your seats and waiting for your food. You can also amend/add to this order when you’re paying, so I’d highly recommend it.
I thought the food was a notch better than regular park counter food – it’s all French themed. French onion soup, croque monsieur, coq au vin, that kind of stuff. We all thoroughly enjoyed our food. Dinner is an even hotter ticket, as the restaurant transforms into a sit down restaurant – see Tiny Urban Kitchen’s review for that (and better pictures!).
Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary Hotel)
We saved our best ADR for last. I wrote about Chef Mickey’s in my last post, so I won’t go into it too much here. But I had a super happy three year old and I had eaten three Mickey waffles and like 15 chicken fingers by the end of it so I’d say it was a rousing success all around. The one downside is you don’t get to spend too much time with the characters, but it makes up for lack of depth with tons of breadth, plus in our experience they were fairly nice about taking extra pictures later on anyway (some of our original pictures got washed out from bad sunlight).
Counter Service restaurants worth mentioning
Here are a couple of counter service highlights we had.
Columbia Harbor House
One of the best options for healthy-ish food in the Magic Kingdom. You can get grilled salmon with a ton of broccoli to help balance out all the french fries and chicken finger you’ve been eating. There were also serving a pretty sweet looking seafood (lobster?) macaroni and cheese when we were there if you’re not feeling healthy. I took my wife on a date there Friday night and then took my daughter on a date there the night after – both enjoyed it!
Flame Tree Barbecue is supposedly the place to go in the Animal Kingdom and I totally buy that. But for shorter lines, check out Harambe Market in Africa. The themeing really was top notch (apparently Dia’s talked to the people behind it) and there was a good variety of food to choose from. I’d say the only thing to avoid are the corn dogs, there were two Spaniards who bought some and didn’t seem too pleased, haha.
L’Artisan des Glaces
Really, it’s tough to go wrong across the entire World Showcase, it will pretty much have something to suit your tastes if you just poke around. I want to give a special shout out to L’Artisan des Glaces though. We love eating ice cream and the ice cream there was top notch. Jess and I stole away thirty minutes when the kids were napping to go enjoy this place one afternoon and we ended up going back on another day. I will just leave you to think upon these pictures of the Croque Glace – any flavor of ice cream in a warm brioche bun.
Obviously, it would take months to review all the Disney food out there, so take everything I said here with a grain of salt, PUN INTENDED. I would say from my experience and what I’ve read though, I am quite confident in recommending Via Napoli and Be Our Guest. Also – Mickey Mouse ice cream bars. Bon appetit!
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