Walt Disney World known for fine dining, not just burgers and fries

Posted Tuesday, September 22, 2009 9:55 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Over the past two decades, Disney World has gone from fast food to fine dining, garnering attention from serious chefs and foodies alike. Its dozens of restaurants cover almost every cuisine, from regional American to South African. Its wine lists are full of prized (and often hard-to-find) bottles from across the globe.

Read more from The Palm Beach Post.

Thursday, September 24, 2009 11:04 AM

I kinda think that about most of their restaurants - they serve really good (fill in the blank) food. Have you ever been to a really good (fill in the blank) food restaurant? It's the same thing, but inside Disney.

I'd say "perfectly fine" rather than "really good", but I live in a town with a pretty healthy batch of restaurants. About the only thing we don't have here in the People's Republic is competent Mexican, but then again neither does Epcot. ;)

There's another category at WDW for me---the "you can't really do this anywhere else" experience. These are almost never about food, and usually about atmosphere. Naturally, the character meals fit this, but so do lots of other places. Several examples in Epcot come to mind.

There aren't too many other seafood restaurants with Coral Reef's floor-to-ceiling aquarium. The food there is perfectly fine, if a bit dated (it reminds me of a place that would have been really au courant in the mid-90s) but it's the room that makes the place.

There are plenty of places that serve better French food than Chefs de France, but very few outside of the Left Bank that just hit the Parisian Bistro vibe so perfectly. If the drink prices on the chalkboards weren't in dollars, it would be perfect.

Marrakesh is another example. The food is good, not great. There are several places I can get a better lamb couscous, and it's a little more Americanized than I'd prefer, but the room is *stunning*.

Last edited by Brian Noble, Thursday, September 24, 2009 11:05 AM
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Thursday, September 24, 2009 9:08 PM
ridemcoaster's avatar

Hmmm all this food talk reminds me that the Food and Wine festival is about to begin..

MMMMM.. Now thats a good time to explore the World Showcase.


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Thursday, September 24, 2009 10:01 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

ridemcoaster said:
Disney Dork

What? Somebody rang?

Oh. Yeah. we don't go to WDW unless we get the dining plan. I don't care if it's free, I'll gladly pay for it, because it really is that good of a deal.

One of these days, I'd like to go all out for the signature dining plan with the wine option, but I'm not sure I could handle that many signature meals in a week. Citricos pretty much spoils me for the entire year.


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Thursday, September 24, 2009 10:16 PM
ridemcoaster's avatar

Ahh .. theres my DD counter part.. Where have you been??

Btw Raven, Just picked this up for our Disney room. ;)


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Friday, September 25, 2009 1:59 AM
Raven-Phile's avatar

Sorry, busy night at work. The tapestry is
incredible. I will trade you my Oswald canvas for it :). I kid... That is a great price, too.


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Friday, September 25, 2009 9:45 AM
DaveStroem's avatar

I leave for the World in a few hours.

I think we chose the perfect week. Free Dining, MNSSHP & Food & Wine.Festival.

I plan on starting the El Toro Diet the week after we get back.


Before you can be older and wiser you first have to be young and stupid.

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Friday, September 25, 2009 7:28 PM
LostKause's avatar

That didn't even rhyme, Dave. :(

Have fun!


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Monday, September 28, 2009 3:03 PM

Raven-Phile said:
I'll gladly pay for it, because it really is that good of a deal.


I understand that the free dining plan promotion is a good deal. But help me understand how paying $40 per day per person is a good deal. The way I see it you have no flexibility to eat elsewhere while you are on vacation.

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Monday, September 28, 2009 4:23 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

I don't want to eat anywhere else while I'm on vacation. I don't even rent a car. We stay at Coronado Springs, and use the busing system. That, by no means, is an explanation of why it is a good deal, so here goes:

Most of the sit down meals are easily between $25-35 per person, not including the dessert, which rings in at another $6-8, and the fountain beverage at $2. Lest ye forget, you also are allowed 1 snack, which can be anything from a bottle of water, to a tub of popcorn, and a counter-service meal, which rings in around $10 (give or take).

So, at minimum pricing: 25+6+8 = $39 - I didn't even include the counter meal and snack.

Meal credits don't have to be used daily, either. Say you feel like leaving and doing dinner at a restaurant that's not owned by Disney, you could do 2 sit down meals on another day, or combine 2 credits per person to do an even fancier meal.

I really don't see how you can argue that it's not saving you money, unless you don't like to eat, which some people don't.

Last edited by Raven-Phile, Monday, September 28, 2009 4:23 PM
R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Monday, September 28, 2009 9:08 PM
Jeff's avatar

I'm in that boat too. I like good food, and I'm willing to pay for good food. Since Disney has lots of it, why would I bother leaving to get it? (And yeah, I don't even want to mess with a car when I'm there either.) Even if I were paying a full $40 outright without the current deal, that's the very least I tend to pay per day when I'm eating out on vacation. Heck, even if I was traveling for a job I'd spend more than that in a day.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Monday, September 28, 2009 9:31 PM
rollergator's avatar

The way I see it you have no flexibility to eat elsewhere while you are on vacation.

I think of it that way too....but I know most of Disney's guests aren't driving, they're flying. And I think Josh & Jeff above are representative of the very large market of those who don't even want to have a car on their Disney Vacation (not Orlando, not FL, Disney).

"Flexibility" means that the Mouse caters to every diners' desires, and you can tailor your meals around your specific tastes. "Freedom from responsibility" means you can eat and drink well - and heartily - while the Mouse will get you to your door safely. Everybody wins (the point of commerce). :)

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Monday, September 28, 2009 9:45 PM

Even if you can drive, unless you are staying in one of the Downtown Disney places or by AK you have a good 20 min drive to get to I-drive (which features all those great chains you can get back home) and youre even further from downtown. Seriously why would you ever want to leave, you waste all the money you save eating off property in gas (not to mention the time you waste.)

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009 8:19 AM

I understand the above points which are all very valid. I'm not arguing that the meal plan is not fair or even not a savings over paying regular Disney prices. I just think it's expensive and calling it a good deal is a stretch. I can eat at Applebee's for $15, Burger King for $7, and buy a snack at the Shell Station for $2. That's $24. Granted it's not Disney, but for us cheapskates it represents a reasonable comparison to the $40 per day that you are calling a "good deal".

Again, I am fine with the $40 and believe you get the value for it, I'm just not calling it a good deal.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009 9:30 AM

I think of it that way too....but I know most of Disney's guests aren't driving, they're flying. And I think Josh & Jeff above are representative of the very large market of those who don't even want to have a car on their Disney Vacation (not Orlando, not FL, Disney).

Over the past five years, I've probably spent about 50 nights in Orlando across seven different "Disney vacations". Three of those trips were in Disney-owned resorts, four offsite. We've had a car every single trip but one, and we drive ourselves most places, whether we are staying onsite. We are not a captive audience.

However, almost all of our restaurant meals are in Disney-owned locations. Heck, our most recent trip was just to the water parks, no theme parks, and we stayed at Bonnet Creek, not a Disney resort. Even on this trip, all but one of our restaurant meals were in Disney-owned places---the other was delivery from Giordano's (good deep dish!) Partly that's because Bonnet Creek is "inside the gates", so the Disney places are just more convenient. But that's not all of it.

We don't quite fit the parameters of the dining plans, for a variety of reasons---it always seems to work out for us to just go where we want to go, eat what we want to eat, and pay for it. When we're with the kids, we don't quite eat one table service meal each day, and some of them are less expensive meals, so the regular plan is overkill. When we're without the kids, we tend to eat more than one, but not quite two, so the regular plan doesn't cover us, but the deluxe plan is overkill.

But that's partly because we always stay in places with full kitchens, so we stock up on breakfast food for the mornings (either shopping ourselves or letting one of the grocery delivery services handle it for us), and we might have one or two other meals back "home" if we're too tired to go out---spaghetti and salad, tacos, that sort of thing. We also like the flexibility to be able to change our minds at the last minute, and that would be harder if everything were pre-paid.

If we were staying in "just a hotel room", we'd be all over the dining plan, no questions asked.

I can eat at Applebee's for $15, Burger King for $7, and buy a snack at the Shell Station for $2. That's $24.

The problem is that for your $16 in savings, you also have to take at least one extra trip from the parks to get to one of those offsite locations. Nothing is close to anything in Orlando, and you can pretty much figure on an hour, minimum, to get from inside a park, offsite, and back---it's more like 90 minutes from the Magic Kingdom thanks to the setup there. I don't know how much your time is worth, but my family's time on vacation is worth a lot more than $12-$16 per hour.


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Tuesday, September 29, 2009 10:56 AM
Raven-Phile's avatar

TerraCoaster said:
I can eat at Applebee's for $15, Burger King for $7, and buy a snack at the Shell Station for $2. That's $24.

Applebee's doesn't have a head chef. Applebee's doesn't cook up gourmet dishes with white truffles. Applebee's doesn't offer you the option of eating at Zagat Rated / AAA (4 and 5) Diamond Rated establishments. (not all of them, mind you, but there are quite a few on property)

I could keep going, but it's pointless. Like Brian said, leaving to go to an off site place will cost you more in time, frustration, and probably gas, than it would to just eat inside the gates.


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009 11:01 AM

Different people will have different price points. Nothing wrong with that. We got the dining plan this summer and although I didn't total everything up in detail, based on rough estimates of what we would have spent without the plan, I think we would have been better off not having the plan. And that doesn't take into account that we wouldn't have gotten dessert every nite had we been a la carte and we ended the week with 2-3 days of snacks left over on the last day. So I think that had we gone a la carte, we would have spent less on the dining plan. That would not be true for everyone though.

And a lot of folks do not care about head chefs or gourment food. I fall into that category (though I do not like Applebees).

Last edited by GoBucks89, Tuesday, September 29, 2009 11:05 AM
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009 12:27 PM

based on rough estimates of what we would have spent without the plan, I think we would have been better off not having the plan.

I don't have any data, but my gut tells me this is true for a surprising number of people---while it's a discount over menu prices, it's also probably an upsell for many families who wouldn't necessarily average one sit-down meal a day if left to their own devices.


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Tuesday, September 29, 2009 12:45 PM
Raven-Phile's avatar

To be honest, even if it wasn't as much of a deal as it is, it's nice to have vacation be "all inclusive" so to speak, and have everything prepaid at least 45 days before I arrive, so I don't have to worry about spending as much money when I'm there.

I can't tell you how many times I came back to the room the first time we did dining, and said "oh man, I've got to check how much we spent today" before I realized that gratuity and any possible merchandise purchases was pretty much it.


R.I.P LeRoi Moore 9/7/61 - 8/19/2008
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009 12:57 PM
Jeff's avatar

Josh beat me to the "all those places suck" response. Applebee's is barely passable as food, and I can't understand how people tolerate it. It's microwaved and deep fried crap, like fast food with servers.


Jeff - Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009 1:06 PM

So is the Sci-Fi Dine-In, but we enjoy it anyway. ;)


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