Doing Disney Part 3: Restaurants/Dining Plan

This is the third post in a five part series on a Walt Disney World trip. Click here for part 1 on Disney for Adults and here for part 2 on Accommodations.

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I’ve been to Disney World A LOT in my life. I mean I used to work there. So as much fun as the rides were on this past trip, my absolute favorite part were the restaurants! I may have taken a little break from Weight Watchers so I could fully enjoy that experience. I planned each restaurant we went to which meant that I also had to figure out which park we’d be in on which day. That was the only reason I did so much planning. Many of the popular sit down restaurants book up fast and we had a sit down meal every day of our trip. Why so many? Because we were on the Disney Dining Plan!

Before I get too far into this, I’ll preface it by saying that I’m glad that I got the opportunity to do a Disney Dining Plan (on my Dad’s dollar) but for my budget, we would have chosen a different plan. Not to say that the Dining Plan isn’t fabulous for someone who can afford it, but as a young family it wouldn’t have been possible on our budget.

 First things first, I’ll tell you all about the dining plan, but if you want to skip down a little further, you can read about my favorite restaurants.

Disney Dining Plan

So what is the Disney Dining plan? Essentially it’s paying in advance for meal credits that you can use around the park. You pay one flat fee per person and then you can get any meal that you want from approved restaurants. So in theory you save money. The plan we chose consisted of one snack credit, one quick service credit (fast food) and one table credit (sit down) per person per day. Each meal (excluding the snack) includes a drink and a dessert and in some places a side dish. It is SO MUCH FOOD!

Cons of the Disney Dining Plan

Con #1: The quest for the perfect snack

In my research before our trip I read that you should make the most of your snack credits. You could get a Mickey ice cream bar or a bottle of water OR you could get some gelato in Italy or the famous school bread in Norway. So my plan was to save my snack credits for Epcot. The only problem was that whenever I was in Epcot we had inevitably just had a big delicious meal and I was so full that I couldn’t even fathom wanting to find something else to eat, even if I did save it for later. So since I was saving my credits for the perfect snack I never actually found that snack and ended up being hungry in the morning when I could have used a snack credit on a breakfast pastry and having to spend my credits at a candy shop in Downtown Disney on the day we left.

Con # 2: The “all you care to enjoy” buffet

Two of the four sit down restaurants we ate at, though delicious, were, as Disney phrases it, “All You Care to Enjoy”. Good in theory but that manner of eating always makes me feel like I need to get my money’s worth and eat until spontaneous combustion seems a legitimate possibility.

Con # 3: SO MUCH FOOD

So along with the all you can eat sit downs, the fast food places give you an entrée which can come with a couple sides and a dessert. It definitely fills the void when you’re doing so much walking around the parks all day but between the buffet and fast food it really is just too much food. Yummy but too much.

So while the dining plan absolutely could save you money, usually no one in our group ate everything on their plate or took full advantage at the buffets making it a tad wasteful. If I were to do the dining plan again I would do the next step down which I believe is one snack and one fast food a day. Then if you wanted to splurge and do a sit down one night you could, but you wouldn’t have to do one every night.

For those of you that want more, there is a step up from the plan we had where you get more fast foods and more snacks I think.

That being said, I would not have gotten to experience the following delicious restaurants were it not for the dining plan.

Favorite Restaurants

50’s Prime Time Cafe-Hollywood Studios

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My absolute favorite restaurant was the 50’s Prime Time Cafe. It was just so good and charming and delicious and I’m still dreaming about the red velvet cupcake milkshake. I had the fried chicken which came with collard greens and was cooked to perfection. But according to other people in my party the meatloaf was also incredible and the roast cannot be missed. And you can get all three with the sampler!

At this restaurant a milkshake counts as a drink for the dining plan and you can get a dessert on top of that. I got the red velvet cupcake milkshake to drink and the Boston Cream Parfait for dessert. I wish I had gotten two milkshakes. The parfait wasn’t awesome. My sister and Mom got ‘Dad’s Brownie Sundae ‘which was just ridiculously awesome. (See picture above).

Neither of them finished it.

But the food wasn’t the best part of this place. Each table is set up like it’s in the kitchen of a 50’s home, complete with a TV showing primetime 50’s shows. Your server refers to themselves as cousin and will call you out for not eating your vegetables or putting your elbows on the table.

In fact our server, Cousin Sue, took a forkful of collard greens from my little sister’s plate and proceeded to feed them to her. It was hilarious.

Beirgarten- Germany in Epcot

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We were in Epcot the next day and enjoyed lunch in the air conditioned Biergarten in Germany. This restaurant is all you care to enjoy. It’s family style seating so that if your party isn’t big enough to fill an 8 person table, you’ll be seated with other families. But it was comfortable enough that we didn’t feel the need to make pleasantries with the couple who shared our table.

A server dressed in cute traditional German clothes kept our cups full and our dirty plates clear. Our drink options were any fountain drinks and a VERY wide selection of beer. I think there may have been more beer options than there were food options at the buffet. Our family doesn’t drink beer so we didn’t take part in that (and no alcohol is covered by the dining plan) but the buffet was a great selection of salads and sausages and desserts.

This restaurant also has a really fun show complete with music and yelling things out as you toast to your neighbors. It was delightful.

Garden Grill- Epcot

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So I mainly wanted to go to the Garden Grill because it’s a character meal and I used to work here (I was good friends with Chip and Dale). You can see Mickey, Chip, Dale, and Pluto. The cool thing about this restaurant is that all the food comes from Epcot’s gardens and farms. I’d highly recommend riding Living with the Land before you eat there. Garden Grill is a revolving restaurant and you’ll see scenes from the ride while you eat.

This place is also “all you care to enjoy” but not in the form of a buffet. Your server will bring a selection of food on a platter to your table, we got steak, salmon, turkey, and chicken all with vegetables. When you’ve eaten everything they’ll bring out another platter in case you want more. And more. And more. And then if you’re on the dining plan you get dessert after that. Plus delicious rolls and salad to start. All the food was really good but it was so much food that our family only got through one platter.

Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano- Hollywood Studios

Mama Melrose’s is probably the least fantastically decorated out of the four, it just looks like any Italian restaurant you might go to, but the food was amazing. In fact it was my brother’s favorite place. Our server was so great that we could hardly drink half of our drinks before they were magically filled again.

Both my parents had the charred  strip steak and raved about it.  I had the penne alla vodka with chicken but I think it would have been better on it’s own, without the chicken. It was great all the same though. My brother got the seafood arrabbiata and absolutely loved it. For dessert we tried the chocolate cannoli cake and the cheesecake and thought the cheesecake was much better.

Our quick service credits were spent here:

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland

The cafeteria at Art of Animation Resort

Earl of Sandwich in Downtown Disney

Flame Tree BBQ in Animal Kingdom

They were all really good and I’d recommend any of them (Although the ribs at Flame Tree were disappointing). If you want to find out more about the dining options at Disney World, you should definitely check out this blog here.

What are your favorite places to eat at Disney World?