Counter Service Hits and Misses at Walt Disney World

katsura

A lot of time is spent talking about Advanced Dining Reservations or how to maximize the value of your Disney Dining Plan, but the reality for most Disney World guests is that they’ll be eating mostly at one of the many counter service locations. So, I’ve put together a list of hits, misses, and some hidden gems for those dining on a budget or who just don’t want to take the time away from the attractions a sit down restaurant requires.

harour-house

Hits:

  • Sunshine Seasons – the freshest healthiest food on property. The price is a little more, but this is a step above every other counter service location.
  • Katsura Grill – the location and the food have both been upgraded recently. Don’t be afraid to be a little adventurous here, it’s worth it.
  • Columbia Harbour House – seafood (mostly fried) done right. This is my standby location for lunch in the Magic Kingdom.
  • ABC Commissary – Not a wide selection here, but more interesting than most counter service locations in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
  • Fairfax Fare – BBQ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, more expensive, but portions are large enough to share.
  • Flame Tree BBQ – Chicken or ribs you can’t go wrong with either.
  • Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie (for desserts) – French pastries. Yum.

Misses:

  • Electric Umbrella – Dry hamburger patties are the culprit here. Occasionally they have a specialty sandwich that is decent.
  • Lotus Blossom – Save your money and buy this stuff at the local mall’s food court.
  • Yak & Yeti Counter Service – Vastly over priced for the small portions.
  • Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie (for sandwiches) – Unfortunately, the portions of meat and cheese don’t justify the prices. Good bread, unless it’s stale, of course.
  • Catalina Eddie’s – Pizza and Hamburgers? Really they couldn’t do better at a Farmer’s Market themed location?

babycakes1

Hidden gems:

  • Starring Rolls Cafe – Serves some tasty gourmet sandwiches for lunch, is closed for dinner, and, oh yeah, breakfast rolls.
  • Kringla Bakeri og Kafe – A couple delicious items on the menu here and never a line. Don’t worry about the calories. You’re on vacation.
  • Tangierine Cafe – Shwarma!
  • Contempo Cafe (The Contemporary) – Want to escape the crowds at the Magic Kingdom? Catch a monorail to this location and enjoy these unique dishes.
  • Pepper Market (Coronado Springs Resort) – Recently changed a bit and I haven’t visited to see how it works now, but it’s always been a good find in the past.
  • Landscape of Flavors (Art of Animation) – Has Tandoori influences but also regular food if you so desire. Breakfast is good too.
  • captncooksCapt’n Cooks (Polynesian) – They make an effort to offer good food here and self serve dole whip… need I say more?
  • Polo Campero – A nice healthy option when you’re at Downtown Disney. Try the Yucca Fries.
  • Babycakes NYC – Vegan and Gluten free options for dessert without sacrificing the taste. Amazing.
  • Bongo’s Cuban Cafe window – Used to be a better deal, but they raised prices recently. Still great cuban style sandwiches and a regular stop on my Downtown Disney visits.
  • Earl of Sandwich – Greasy but delicious sandwich joint. Cost of sandwich is okay, but it gets expensive when you add on the extras.

What locations did I miss that make your hit and miss list?

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17 Responses to Counter Service Hits and Misses at Walt Disney World

  1. Steve says:

    Tamu Tamu Refreshments in Animal Kingdom’s Africa section. There’s a chicken salad sandwich made with dried fruit, a shredded beef sandwich and a quinoa salad. I’ve had the chicken and it was very good. The other two look good as well.

    I eat at Earl’s all the time and I don’t know what you mean by “greasy”. I’ve never had anything there I’d call “greasy”. AP gets 10% discount, AAA 15%.

  2. Larry says:

    Would it be possible for you to edit the post and add the locations (the park or resort) for all of the restaurants you mention? It would be very helpful to know if I’m even in the right park to look up your recommended locations. Thank you. :-)

  3. nick says:

    I’m really interested in this topic. I would like to see more fleshed out features on some of these restaurants rather than the little blurbs.

  4. Mary Ellen says:

    Tamu Tamu saved me this past trip when the rest of the gang wanted Pizzafari. Got the crew seated & ordering there & bolted up (through the raindrops!) for a delicious chicken salad. I don’t do bread, and they were happy to skip the bread & give me extra lettuce. YUMMM.

    Don’t skip the fried plaintains at Pollo Campero — that is our new favorite DTD spot! DD & DD RAVED about the fried chicken & the kids grilled chicken was nicely flavored and juicy (which is not always the case for grilled chicken). The window next to Pollo Campero has an adult Bananas Foster milkshake with Bailey’s irish creme that is worth every calorie!

  5. Dan B says:

    To the hidden gems list I would add Picabu in the Dolphin. It’s a nice casual “buffeteria” style resturant with good food, generous portions and it’s open 24/7.

  6. Colin Z says:

    Where was that picture of nachos taken?

  7. Dis Savvy says:

    We like Studio Catering Co at Hollywood

  8. Jon Simon says:

    Just returned from WDW. We went to Earl of Sandwich three times. It was a boat ride away from French Quarter. We even shared a couple. If you are a AAA (or CAA) member they provide a 15% discount. It’s not publicized much. It’s a good deal. Not all sandwiches are greasy. We had the caprese, holiday and a couple of wraps.

    Went to Harbour House twice and Sunshine Seasons, Flame Tree and Art of Animation and Les Halles (for Lobster Bisque) once each. It was tasty and only ok value.

    With the food offered at Epcot for Flower and Garden we didn’t go to any other Epcot restos.

    I agree with all of your hits and misses that I tried.

  9. Jim D says:

    Glad Katsura changed because it was low grade dog food in the past.

  10. Eduardo says:

    I know it is a bit more expensive, but Wolfgang Puck Express at Downtown Disney Marketplace is awesome! Food quality and service are both pretty good!
    Last January we were on the QSDP and went there three times, two for dinner and one for breakfast!

    One that we thought was a miss was Sommerfest in the Germany Pavillion. I had nice memories of it, but while the Bratwurst was good (nothing really special though) there was a large group drinking and talking REALLY LOUD around the plaza which surely made the experience a lot worse!

  11. Jay says:

    I love Earl of Sandwich. I wish the Disneyland one had been open last fall when I was there.
    I’m also a big fan of Cosmic Ray’s. The food is so-so, but the toppings bar is second only to Pecos Bill’s and the entertainment is, dare I say, out of this world.
    My all time worst counter service experience was on a rare occasion that Tomorrowland Terrace was open in Magic Kingdom. At the time they specialized in noodles (and being closed 97% of the time). The Orange Chicken wasn’t good in the least and the fortune cookie was so soggy or stale or something it wouldn’t break. I had to pull it open like taffy or something.

  12. jeffk says:

    I’ve always been a big fan of the Writer’s Stop at DHS for snacks—their carrot-cake cookies are fantastic, and it’s just a nice place to do some browsing. (It was also originally supposed to be the bookstore from the old Ellen TV series when it first opened, which seems so odd when you think about it now.)

  13. Paul Douglas says:

    My personal favourite counter service meal on our trip to Walt Disney World last August/September was Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café, specifically the BBQ Pork Sandwich. Delicious!

  14. Onezumi says:

    I am sad that Babycakes no longer makes the Wonder Buns!!! :(

  15. The Mommy says:

    I’m a big fan of the Writer’s Stop, too. Best muffins. Best coffee. Best place to get a little peace and quiet and relax while waiting with a sleeping baby (Mama tip – walk around the fountain – ANY fountain – with the stroller. Knocks ‘em out every time! Unless you’re at Epcot and the Fountain show starts…Ahem.).

  16. Gael says:

    I know you called the Electric Umbrella a miss, but for me it’s a good value. They have a large and very tasty chicken Caesar salad, plus the drink stations are out where you can fill and refill them. I don’t mind paying Disney prices for a soda I can refill.

    We also love the Yak and Yeti counter service, and my family of 5, including a 19 year old construction worker, all thought the portions were plentiful. I could split a meal there. I’ve eaten there 3 times, and it was consistent.

    My other favorites are Earl of Sandwich (a bargain), Tangierine Cafe, and Columbia Harbor House.

    Misses are Pinnochio’s, Pecos Bills, & Landscape of Flavors where I had my worst Disney food ever and politely approached 2 managers who then tried to tell me the stale bread was how it should be. No, there is a difference between a good, crisp crust and totally stale. They did nothing but stare blankly. They didn’t even offer to replace the sandwich, so being a former restaurant owner, that is all 3 strikes in my book. Heaven help them if they have to deal with someone who is actually upset.

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