Sustenance being kind of important, the decision of where to eat each meal on our honeymoon was a matter of some discussion early on. Disney makes it both easy and hard by offering plenty of dining options at various levels of service and price points. (After all, they don’t want you leaving the parks for anything if they can help it, so they try to cater to (yes, I went there) as many different tastes as possible.) They also offer the Disney Dining Plan as a way to pre-pay meal and snack credits and on the plan we chose (Deluxe Dining) it gave our trip the feeling of being at an all-inclusive resort (well, almost–tips and booze were extra, just like on most cruises).
Let’s face it: very little is cheap at a Disney park or resort, but you go more-or-less expecting the mark-up. The Dining Plan isn’t always a money-saving device, but it is a hassle-saving device, and a no-sticker-shock device if you’re the type to get antsy at the thought of $30 entrees. It was just nice not to have to think too much about it in the moment.
Rather than go day-by-day, here’s a breakdown of where we ate by category and a few thoughts on (and plenty of pictures of) our experience with each. Who knows, if you’re still on the fence about where to dine on your Disney honeymoon, this might help sway your decision one way or the other.
Quick Service/Counter Service
This is the Disney-equivalent to fast food and we used it mainly for breakfasts at the resort and once in EPCOT (Sunshine Seasons in The Land). Breakfast fare at Disney is pretty standard: eggs in various ways, breakfast meats and sandwiches, with some specialties depending on your resort. For instance, there were beignets available at our resort seeing as it was French Quarter-themed. I stuck to simple, safe dishes like cheese omelets and oatmeal most mornings rather than having to go through the allergy procedure of calling over one of the chefs or managers and going through the big book of ingredients.
The one non-breakfast Counter Service meal we had almost doesn’t even count: lunch at Be Our Guest is sort of in limbo between Counter Service and Table Service. You stand in line and order your meal via touch-screen kiosks but then they seat you and bring out your food using either a “rose” pager-like device to match your meal to your table or, in our case, your Magic Bands. The fare is also somewhat elevated compared to most CS lunch menus and (it’s a small thing, but a nice one at that) is served on actual china; no paper plates or plastic cutlery. It was worth the 45-minute wait in line to eat here (the longest wait of the week for anything), but I’ll be really happy if they go ahead with the FastPass option for lunch. (It was being tested during our stay but we weren’t part of the random sample picked: rats!)
This was where most of our dining fell, both in deference to my food intolerances (easier to work around in a full kitchen vs the abbreviated CS-location facilities) and as a nice break from walking around the parks. It’s a good idea to allow 1-1.5 hours for a table service meal.
In Animal Kingdom we had lunch our first park day at Yak & Yeti and, unfortunately, it was the let-down of our trip. Despite my best efforts to notify the special diets department in advance of our trip, none of my information had been passed along to the restaurants and at Yak & Yeti they had the least flexibility due to the type of cuisine they served. Now, I will say that the chef who “helped” us could have been a bit better in his delivery of my options–describing everything as “plain” doesn’t exactly make my heart go pitter-patter, you know? But service counts for a lot, and our waitress as well as the manager who stopped by to chat after the meal really saved this experience for me, at least. This was also the only location to have a problem scanning our Magic Bands and they were having plumbing issues that day so they were just having a bad day, all around. What can you do?
That night we headed over to the Studios for dinner at the SciFi Dine-In which is known more for it’s atmosphere and milkshakes than amazing food, but we have no complaints. I was able to get a tasty turkey sandwich on a gluten-free wrap and T dug into their “Picnic Burger” (which features a burger topped with a split hot dog and sauerkraut) followed by their SciFi Candy Bar dessert which looked amazing. Of course we ordered milkshakes (lactose being the one problem “food” I can medicate for) and a tip for the dining plan: milkshakes can count as a beverage OR a dessert, you get to pick.
In EPCOT we chose Tokyo Dining in Japan. When I started the Low-FODMAP diet to combat my IBS, I was overjoyed to find that most sushi (one of our favorite night-out treats) is generally safe and if there are problematic ingredients they’re easy to switch out or avoid. Because of this I wasn’t anticipating any problems at Tokyo Dining and we had exactly that along with a very good meal. One thing to know about Tokyo Dining: it shares a building with Teppan Edo, the Japanese steakhouse, a popular choice among families with small kids for the entertainment factor. This led to slightly higher-than-expected noise levels but not uncomfortably so. If you’re not generally a sake fan but you enjoy Moscato and other sweeter wines, give the Hana Awaka sparkling sake a try–it was so good we picked up a bottle to take home with us!
Before the Christmas Party we had reservations at Tony’s Town Square in the Magic Kingdom. An Italian-style eatery with touches of Lady & the Tramp, this restaurant was extremely busy and I don’t think it was just because of the party. One woman who walked up to the hostess stand after us was told it was an hour and a half wait without a reservation! We’d had a late in-room lunch that afternoon which turned out to be unfortunate as Tony’s is one of the few eateries we encountered with the over-sized portions most American restaurants are known for (all of our other Table Service meals served much more reasonable portion sizes). We couldn’t do our entrees justice, though they were incredibly tasty, and I skipped the inevitable fruit bowl dessert. T got his tiramisu to go.
A bit of a subset of Table Service dining at Disney are the character meals, many of which are buffets or otherwise prix fixe. You’re paying as much for the character interaction as you are for the meal, but we think they’re worth it for the experience. There aren’t many places where Tigger comes over and sits down next to your new husband and starts checking his plate for leftovers. (Tigger was out of luck on that score.)
Wednesday night we ate at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom, which is home to Winnie the Pooh and friends. I’m actually not big on buffets in general (food quality usually suffers from holding under heat lamps, after all), but for characters I’ll make an exception. T definitely found enough to keep him happy and the chef made me a plate of salmon, rice, potatoes, and green beans that were all sans onion and garlic. (Seriously, those are the two hardest ingredients to avoid at restaurants and I hated telling the chefs that was one of my restrictions almost as much as I hated giving up the ingredients themselves!) They sweetly sent out a celebration cupcake at the end of our meal, as well.
Our other character meal was at Chef Mickey’s in the Contemporary Resort. Again, it’s a buffet , and at breakfast you find all the usual suspects (waffles, pancakes, sausage, bacon, fruit, pastries, potatoes in various forms, etc.). I was able to get some fruit and smoked salmon from the buffet but the highlight of this meal for me was getting some wheat-free Mickey waffles and maple syrup. I know it’s just a waffle in a fun shape, but it’s quintessential Disney to me. We all have our things.
Chef Mickey’s was also where our PhotoPass+ came in handy once again. Not only did we get to take advantage of every photo taken of us in the parks by the park photographers as well as many ride photos, PP+ also included the souvenir photos from Chef Mickeys (and other select Character Meals) both in digital form and print, the spiffy folder of which was delivered to us at the end of our meal. (For the curious, we pre-ordered our PhotoPass+ for $149. That sounds like a lot until you do the math: the 158 pictures we received on the PhotoPass disc would normally be $14.95 each, so we “saved” over $2000 in souvenir photos. Granted, we wouldn’t have bought them all if that had been the case, but now we don’t have to worry about it!)
You could almost consider Signature Dining as Table Service+. With the exception of Victoria & Alberts (which is a level unto itself), Signature Dining restaurants are the upper tier of Disney dining (and on the Dining Plan count as 2 TS credits per person). Originally we’d only scheduled one Signature meal, the Jiko experience I mentioned in part 1 of the honeymoon recaps. But when we changed some of our plans around during the week we realized we had extra dining credits that would otherwise go to waste, so switched on of our Hollywood Studios reservations from 50′s Prime Time Diner to the Hollywood Brown Derby and opted for a last minute reservation at Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Downtown Disney’s West Side before heading home on Saturday.
Actually, there’s still some debate about the Wolfgang Puck reservation. When we searched for DTD lunch Signature Dining on the My Disney Experience App it came up, but our check only reflected 2 credits used instead of 4. Oh, well, it’s not the end of the world. And it was a very good meal, regardless, and that’s what matters. I went with sushi again (safe and delicious) and continued my love affair with Pellegrino–I was never a huge fan of mineral water before, but I wanted something carbonated that wasn’t soda and I know it sounds silly but the more delicate bubbles in Pellegrino vs. any other mineral water I’ve tried make all the difference. But I digress. Mr. RT went with the more American side of the menu and got the Mac & Cheese and a delectable Brownie Sundae.
Service at the Hollywood Brown Derby is everything you’d expect from such a storied location (well, a replica of such a storied location), and the food matched the atmosphere to a T! My petite Cobb Salad followed by Duck with Herbed Goat Cheese Polenta Cake was divine and T went with a seafood theme and followed his Lobster Bisque with the Seafood Cioppino. We were seated at a corner banquette and had an excellent view of the dining room for people-watching, including one woman who wanted to know if she could be seated any farther away from a nearby child. Look, it might be the Hollywood Brown Derby but it’s still Disney!
Sipping the complimentary Champagne after lunch was a nice touch, too.
Each version of the Dining Plan comes with a certain number of snack credits, in addition to the meal credits, that can be used for ice cream, pop corn, sodas and bottled water (among other things). We, however, used most of our snack credits (the DxDP credits 2 per person, per night’s stay, so we had 24) for use at the Food & Wine Festival booths. Grazing away 2 meals is why we also ended up with so many leftover meal credits to use on Signature Dining.
We had a ball going from booth to booth of the Festival, though we didn’t try nearly as many items as we thought we might when looking over the lists at home. We also didn’t indulge in as many adult beverages as we might have–we just weren’t in the mood to drink much on this trip. Several people have asked us for favorites from the Festival and I’m here to say it’s just not possible to choose a favorite. We do want to go back next year, though, and do more of the Festival events that we didn’t make time for this go-round.
Okay, if you’ve made it this far (I know, it was long, but I wanted to wrap this up), I apologize for any hunger pains this post may have instigated. The tl;dr breakdown: Disney does a very good job of feeding people at various levels of service and cuisine. We really enjoyed the convenience of the Disney Dining Plan. PhotoPass+ is an awesome thing if you really like souvenir photos and want to make sure both you and your new spouse are in some together.
Thus concludes the Road Trip honeymoon recaps. As soon as the rest of the wedding photos are in I’ll be back with the wedding recaps in all their errant (yes, that’s really the word I meant to use) glory.