Here's the deal. I can think of very very few meals at WDW that I wouldn't be willing to have again, which makes narrowing down the list to only a handful of my favorite restaurants a daunting task. Today I'll cover everything from breakfast to buffets, both in & out of the parks. For the record, if you have a dining reservation at resort, you can drive & park there, but you will have to show an ID to get on the property. If you are staying on property, you can easily use various bus & boat transportation options to get from one resort or park to another. Without further ado, tie your napkin 'round your neck - Bon Appetit!
1) Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
I'm a picky eater & I'm happy to admit it. Salads are not in my vocabulary, but neither are a lot of ethnic foods. So clearly I was apprehensive to try African food on my first trip to Boma. I don't know what I expected it would be, but this place takes the cake for my favorite entrees from all over Disney property. I LOVE BOMA! I was surprised at how "sweet" some of the foods were, but the buffet line here gives you the perfect chance to try out new foods I doubt you can get in your hometown. My favorites are the different soups (there's usually 4, one of which is seafood based - though I adore the carrot-ginger soup), the nut-crusted salmon, fufu (a sweet potato/white potato combo), & the peanut butter rice. If you ask your server, Disney restaurants will usually give you the recipe for your favorite new food. Or you can just head over to AllEars.net and find the recipe there from ones people have requested in the past. I make the peanut butter rice at home at least once a month because clearly thats cheaper than 12 trips to Disney (you can find that recipe here). But don't worry, as in most all-you-can-eat places at WDW, there's mac & cheese, french fries, and chicken nuggets for the pickiest of kids (or adults). But be adventurous! It might change your tastebuds permanently like it did mine! Head over to dinner early & you can catch great views of the animals without having to pay for a ticket to Animal Kingdom too!
2) Chefs de France (France pavilion, EPCOT)
You used to be able to meet Remy from Ratatouille here, but don't get your hopes up as the mice have left the kitchen. But no worries, because the food is amazing. Classic French dishes served up in the finest of dining establishments. I usually go with the Gruyere mac and cheese (remember...picky eater). If escargot is at the top of your "must-try" list, then this is your place. There are always kids dining here, but it's a good choice for a parents night out too. I've been to Paris & I'd rather visit this version. Hands down.
3) 1900 Park Fare (Grand Floridian Resort)
There are plenty of options for character meals across property but this is my favorite. It's at a resort so I don't feel like I'm "wasting" park time by taking an extended break for a meal. It helps that my favorite of all time Mary Poppins makes a visit, along with Pooh, Tigger, Alice, & the Mad Hatter. This is another all-you-can-eat number, but it's got quite the variety of foods for breakfast - grits for all us smart Southern folk (who know better than to put sugar in them) & cream of wheat and oatmeal for the rest. They make omelets to order and don't forget the Mickey waffles! And bacon. ALL THE BACON YOU CAN EAT. Or that your cholesterol can handle. Your choice. The specialty at 1900 Park Fare is the strawberry soup - sure it sounds a little weird for breakfast, but it's totally worth a try. Imagine pureed strawberries and yogurt, it just works. Dinner brings out Cinderella & Prince Charming, but there's also the option of an afternoon tea!
4) Be Our Guest (Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom)
Since this opening of the new Fantasyland, this has been a hard reservation to come by. Breakfast and lunch are quick-service here, but dinner is a sit-down affair. If you are a Beauty & the Beast fan, this is an absolute must. The main dining room is identical to the ballroom from the movie, complete the ability to watch it snow out the windows. There are a few other seating rooms off the main area, even the West Wing where you can catch a glimpse of THE rose. But parents beware, this room may be a tad scary for your little ones. The food is good, but the scenery is what makes it a must! Don't forget that you can find "the grey stuff" here too!
5) Cinderella's Royal Table (Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom)
I think every little girl dreams of being Cinderella, & eating in her castle is about as close as you can get. Cinderella greets her guests on the way to dinner, so make sure you wear your finest for the picture! I have to say, I've been here twice and the first time was absolutely magical, but like most things in life, the second time wasn't quite the same. Call it familiarity or too high of expectations, but it just didn't live up to that first experience. So take your princess - it's a total must do once, but I'd suggest trying somewhere new rather than a second visit. That is unless you can get a reservation that is timed so you can see fireworks from the castle, because clearly that would be amazing. If you are on the dining plan, be aware that this requires 2 table-service credits per person.
6) 'Ohana (Polynesian Resort)
The ambience at the Polynesian sets the stage for a family-like atmosphere filled with an amazing Hawaiian meal. The meal setup is all-you-can-eat that is brought to your table. My crowd loves the peel & eat shrimp and the bread. Always the bread. There is a huge fire pit in the center of the restaurant where you can watch the skewered meats being grilled, all while you watch the kiddos take part in hula hoop contests & coconut races. There is a great view of the fireworks at Magic Kingdom from across the lake, so if you are up for a late dinner, aim for a reservation 30 minutes or so before they are scheduled to start.
7) Via Napoli Restorante e Pizzeria (Italy pavilion, EPCOT)
The fact that they named their ovens after the most famous of the Italian volcanos won me over at first sight. Then I tasted the pizza....and SOLD! Although I always recommend grabbing reservations in advance, we've had good luck getting a table walking up, but we usually aim for an "off-timed" meal (lunch at 2 or an early dinner at 4). I love the four-cheese pizza, but you can't go wrong with any of the options.
8) Kona Cafe (Polynesian Resort)
Although Kona is open for three meals a day, I prefer going there for breakfast (I had a kona coffee rubbed filet at dinner though, also tasty). They are famous for their Tonga Toast, which is thick cut sourdough that is stuffed with bananas, then deep fried and rolled in cinnamon sugar. Remember how I said I was picky? Yeah, so I won't eat a banana for love nor money. But the pancakes topped with pineapple sauce and macadamia nut butter? Bring me two helpings. I can't write anymore about it or I may have to pull out the griddle & make a snack now. And seeing as how it's almost midnight, probably not my smartest choice...so let's move on to.....
9) Boatwright's Dining Hall (Port Orleans-Riverside Resort)
My favorite resort is Riverside & Boatwright's never seems to be crazy busy, but it's hard to grab a table walking up so I feel like they don't staff to max out their tables. Regardless of that, the food options are great Southern & Creole options, which halfway through any trip to WDW is a welcome change from lunches of cheeseburgers & chicken tenders. In February my table ordered everything from chicken & waffles to gumbo to crawfish mac & cheese (that was me clearly). The walls are covered with ship building tools, and there is a partially built boat hanging from the ceiling, so there's no shortage of things to look at while you wait.
10) Whispering Canyon Cafe (Wilderness Lodge Resort)
This was one of the very first table-service places we tested out years ago. It used to be an all-you-can-eat place, but now serves off of a menu. I'd still opt to order the skillet which lets you try as much as you want of the ribs, barbecue, chicken, veggies, and more. The wait staff put on a great show, but if your family would describe you as a "stick in the mud" then this probably isn't your scene. Two warnings. Wash your hands & don't ask for ketchup. You'll understand if you head over to this lively place. Your kids may get the chance to participate in wooden horse races around the restaurant, or even ring the dinner bell if you have the first reservation of the night!
The Disney Food Blog is a great resource for checking out the menus at these & all other restaurants. If your top spot didn't make my list, please share! I'm always looking for new places to test out!