New vs. Old: Deciding Disney Restaurants

The one vacation planning aspect that gives me the most joy is deciding where I want to sit down and enjoy a nice meal.

I wish so many of the people who heckle our return Disney Parks trips would just look at the array of food choices there are. It’s so vast, and just as fun as checking out new attractions (in my opinion, anyway).

Making a decision on Disney restaurants should factor in:

  • How frequently you visit
  • Cost
  • Who you are traveling with
  • How open minded you are about food
  • Recommendations from others

One issue that we stumble upon time and time again is how to balance our old favorites with newer spots. In the past, if we were going on a 4-day trip and knew we wouldn’t be returning for awhile, we stuck with the old standbys. But if it’s a longer trip with the chance to really spread ourselves around, we make it a mission to check a few new places off our growing list.

James looking at a menu at ESPN

With our upcoming 5 days in Walt Disney World and 4 of them in the parks, James and I have opted to try more new places than restaurants based on the nostalgia factor. He actually makes a good point… a few of the places we will be visiting are new places to him and spots I haven’t frequented since I was a kid. So there’s that.

brand new to us

Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco: This one is kind of a big deal; I feel like it’s a restaurant we’ve been working our way to because James has always been a picky eater. But over the years, he’s gotten to be so much better and after a few rave reviews, we will be dining here to discover it for ourselves.

Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge: For years and years I’ve been hearing such praise for this spot (especially from my former Disney Store co-workers). A buffet with a great variety of African foods and an opportunity to hang out in the Animal Kingdom Lodge are always a treat. (This is actually a step in the process to get James to eat at Jiko. Still working on it.)

Be Our Guest Restaurant at Magic Kingdom: Before we even booked a trip, I could not get a reservation here for dinner at all. We are going to attempt to have lunch there because, well, we just have to. We’ll definitely be following Disney on Wheels’ advice when it comes to getting in there. I do hope it’s a prime experience.

new to him but it’s been awhile for me

Artist Point at the Wilderness Lodge: Now I originally wanted to try Territory Lounge at WL but we do pick one nicer dinner per trip and this was it. I haven’t been here in over 7 years at least, and James has finally warmed up to the menu. I’ll be looking forward to hanging out in WL (it’s been another few years since I’ve been there at all) and trying out the lovely cuisine with a view!

Crystal Palace Character breakfast at Magic Kingdom: One of my favorite things about my husband is his love of character breakfasts. While Winnie and the gang aren’t our favorites (although Eeyore will always hold a special place in my heart), this reservation was born from a blog post idea. But it’s always fun to get to MK early in the morning, and have a nice buffet. We’ve barely enjoyed any meals in the Kingdom since we’ve been together, and I thought it was about time that we got back there.

we can’t quit you

Mama Melrose’s at Disney’s Hollywood StudiosThere’s not much of a choice at DHS, really. Since we had picked our fancy meal, we weren’t going to be trying The Brown Derby (which would fall into our second category) so we decided to return to one of our favorite places to dine together. I’ve told you about my love of Mama Melrose’s already but it doesn’t detract from my excitement of going there once again. Penne alla vodka, here I come!

Yak + Yeti at the Animal KingdomAs much as I enjoy Tusker House, it’s a nail biting decision between these two every single year. Since we’ll be spending a full day in AK without leaving for another park, we did finally book a late lunch to coincide with the Jungle Jammin’ parade! I’m hoping it all works out and we can see the parade for the restaurant windows!

Estelle eating at Ohana

There’s a very slim / minuscule chance that James and I will be reporting back to the Disney Parks this year, and while we’ve certainly cut back on some of the things we usually do (booking lunch and dinner reservations; park hopper opportunities) I stand by our current choices. I think it’s the perfect mix of restaurants that tug at our heart strings and also attempting to walk on the wild side and create new experiences.

How do you balance your restaurant loves with your need to try out new places?

10 thoughts on “New vs. Old: Deciding Disney Restaurants

  1. I use a lot of the same criteria as you do. The length of the trip really plays a big part for me. I hate wasting time on bus transportation, so I have to be really excited about a resort restaurant to be willing to make a special trip. I love to try new places, but I also have faves that I always want to return to. In years past, we’ve had a tricky time w/ our selections- with one omnivore, one vegetarian, and one very picky child, all trying to agree on ADRs. I recently went to WDW with just my sister, and I also recently started eating seafood- both of these things opened up a whole new world of dining opportunities! I was able to sample seafood places instead of always being on the lookout for veg dishes, and more importantly, I didn’t have to figure the picky child into the mix. I was able to try several places that I had never been before, and now I have a few new favorites. Your choices above look great!

  2. Oh my gosh, that picture of ESPN Zone just reminded me that when my sister and I ate there (she’s a sports fanatic haha) our waiter was from THE SAME TOWN that we’re from in IL. We were talking about high schools and local stores. It was so bizarre but added a weird little perk to the lunch! Haha.

    Sorry, totally off-topic, but I had to share that. It’s just so weird! Hey, Disney brings people together 🙂

  3. I think you made the perfect picks for new restaurants! Restaurant Marrakesh is such a hidden gem… and it’s so nice that it’s actually available for a walk-in dinner among so many others that are never even options due to reservations. And we can’t quit Boma. Ever. Have to go every single time!

  4. Well, out of your “new to both of you” categories, two of the three are among my favourite restaurants (I haven’t done BOG yet). I will go back to Marrakesh one more time when my kids are older – I think it’s a “no young kids” restaurant and that was the problem last time, because I love the rest. Personal preferences require me to say, go with chicken instead of lamb. 😉 I think even for somewhat picky eaters you’ll still be happy – not all of it is very exotic. OH but the pastries = SO GOOD. Boma, I have only done once, but I intend to make it an every-big-trip thing from now on.

    My every-time favourites include Garden Grill and, even though my husband does not like it, Sci-Fi Dine-In. Actually once I made reservations there for *after* I had eaten dinner at Backlot Express, just so I could have a drink and watch the movies. 😛 So it may not really count. 😉

  5. I love your choices and I like how you are mixing it up. It is so easy to get stuck in a Disney dining rut because it’s so hard to skip your favorites. I can’t wait to hear what you think about the new choices. And thanks for the mention! 🙂

  6. But Melissa isn’t a Disney Dining rut the very best kind of rut? Or are you saying there is more to life than Columbia Harbour House…. that can’t be it.

    Actually I am kind of in a rut. I always want to go to Boma and I always want to go to Kona. I’m a sucker for the four-letter names, I guess. (I love Jiko too. And the Wave. Wow.)

    So I have to go for a week in order to hit all those places for dinner, and it can’t be a Food & Wine week, so… dilemma.

    But regardless of old favorites, next trip we’re hitting Sci-Fi. My son just found out about it and now it’s one of his favorite topics.

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