If you’re wondering “where should I make a reservation for at Epcot?” or “should I really sit down for character breakfast at Magic Kingdom instead of racing to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train”, well, I have a career’s worth of stories for you. But, if you’re wondering what I *personally* do when I’m in Disney World, look no further.Take it from me, a tired reporter who seeks out specific indulgences and air-conditioned respite to get through a hectic week. Sometimes I’ll visit Disney World like a real vacationer and luxuriate in my time, but more often than not it’s a series of 16-hour days of research and rabid note-taking, so I only tend to sit down for one proper meal a day.
If you’re with littles that have a full-stop obsession with princesses, by all means, ignore me and go to Cinderella’s Royal Table. The list below is just the top layer of what I’d recommend to a friend, or a friend with kids, or a friend who doesn’t consider chicken breast nuggets to be one of the four main food groups.
These are the meals I come back for again and again and again — sometimes for convenience, other times for protein, but more often because I personally think they’re the greatest options in Walt Disney World.
Here’s how I actually live m’life and stuff my face while lurking around Disney property:
Breakfast: A granola bar. Girl, if you woke up ass early, why are you sitting down for a plate of pancakes when you could be speed-walking through the Space Mountain queue?! Granted a lot of my work does not reflect this opinion as most people traveling to WDW are on vacation with their families and want to enjoy themselves, but not I! I’m here riding solo ready to W-O-R-K, so most of my meals are consumed on the WDW Transportation buses as I shiver beneath the A.C. vent, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Lunch: Columbia Harbour House. I crash v-e-r-y easily from sugar, so I stick to junk food for snacks and get the grilled salmon with rice and vegetables here for lunch, which is enough to sustain me through those long hot days in the park.
Dinner: Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen. Yes, I love this restaurant so much I actually know its proper name by heart. I cannot believe they serve this full, head-on fried fish INSIDE THE MAGIC KINGDOM and it fills me with such glee that I struggle to order anything else, simply in order to keep this bad boy on the menu. Children are a little freaked out by the Asia, Africa and South America-influenced food at this place, which is likely not aided by a crazy lady sucking the meat out of fried fish bones with her bare hands (Hi!), but Walt Disney intended this place to be for adults as well AND I’M GOING TO LIVE THAT TRUTH. And hey, the mere fact that Skipper Canteen is not what the everyday tourist would expect from Adventureland’s only waiter-service restaurant makes me love it all the more.
Breakfast: See Magic Kingdom, regretfully. I’d like to say Les Halles at the France Pavilion, where the divine pastries and buttery baguettes are churned out early in the morning before the rest of World Showcase is open, but the truth is I almost always shove a sad, cold handful of RxBar in my mouth instead and never actually make it there on time.
Lunch: Boy, I love Spice Road Table. It is chill at lunchtime, when you can easily roll up and get a waterside table and make a meal out of Hummus Fries and spicy shrimp appetizers. If I don’t take my lunch with an iced mint tea — omg how European does that sound! take my luuuuunch — I get a hot one at the neighboring Tangierine Cafe after sundown to walk around with.
Dinner: Trick question. I can’t pick sides when there are nine thousand sides to choose from, but more often than not, I’m sitting down at one of Italy’s three restaurants, or noshing my way through the World Showcase while heavily leaning on Mexico’s eats.
Breakfast: I…..don’t want to say until my Eater story comes out! But I will casually mention that the food offered at Yak & Yeti’s stand is as close as you’ll get to New York bodega breakfast while in the parks, and I mean that in the best of ways.
Lunch: Tie between Satu’li Canteen and Harambe Market. I rotate between different Satu’li bowls but always get a cheeseburger pod meal on the side, because I’m an adult and I can order two lunches if I want to!!! As for Harambe Marketplace — the problem is, I’ve been eating at the Pandora mess hall so often that I ~still~ have not made it back to Harambe since the menus and kiosks changed and there’s now apparently shave ice?! — but the grilled chicken skewer is a go-to. Even with my newfound unfamiliarity, I’ll go down swinging that the food is grand.
Dinner: Tiffins. You know Tiffins is one of, if not my absolutely favorite, restaurant on Disney property. I yelled at my editors so often about how good it was that we flew down to Orlando to shoot an Eater video about the property. (We were the first people ever allowed in a working kitchen to record this stuff, so it’s very near and dear to my heart!) Anyway, everything on the menu is accessibly elegant and tastes fantastic. I adore the Chef’s House-Made Charcuterie Board, as you’ll see in that video, the Whole-Fried Sustainable Fish for dinner (see a pattern here?!) and — curveball! — the cheese plate appetizer for dessert, but there’s a lot of new goodness on the menu worth trying. If you don’t have time for a leisurely meal, grab a seat and snacks at the bustling Nomad Lounge instead, but I assure you the experience and dishes served at Tiffins are well worth it.
And for all three: Ya gotta go to Tusker House. I think this is one of the best character meals, if not the best. The food is among the most “adventurous” you’ll find at Disney buffets which gives it a culinary edge above the others, and the character selection (Mickey! Goofy! Daisy and Donald!) is great. The room is nice and well lit, it’s themed perfectly to its surroundings, and I dig it!
Breakfast: I shouldn’t be eating a gravy-topped pile of tater tots at Woody’s Lunch Box to start my day….but I have, and it was worth it.
Lunch: I’ll hit up Woody’s Lunch Box if I didn’t go in the morning (until PizzeRizzo reopens and hopefully upgrades their pies) or Baseline Tap House. Yes, I am game to entire pretzel with beer cheese at lunchtime in lieu of a meal, so what! Wash it down with a Carrot Cake Cookie (sold at the Starbucks within Trolley Car Cafe) and…well…maybe wait a couple more hours to ride Star Tours.
Dinner: 50’s Prime Time Cafe, baby! Good god, I love this place. I come to Florida for THEMING and this place DELIVERS. As more and more Disney eateries go the way of millennial-friendly mixed-material decor and scale back on the over-the-top ideas of the ’90s, it makes me appreciate this veritable soundstage of tchotchke-lined home kitchens even more.
Wine Bar George. TL;DR: I love it here. More details (and story!) to come.
Morimoto Asia: Peking duck! Ramen! Sushi! What’s not to love! (The ribs are a religion and I am very observant!)
D-LUXE Burger: My favorite burger on property, served with fresh-cut fries and a buffet of sauces to dunk them in. If I’m eating a meat patty at WDW, I’m shoveling it in here.
Blaze Pizza: YES I am a BLAZE BB and I don’t care who knows it! When you start feel that you’ve possibly lifted that MagicBand-clad wrist a few too many times towards a reader and know that there’s a hefty bill waiting for you on the other side of that Magical Express bus ride, a $10 pizza is the exact thing to help you breathe a sigh of budgetary relief. Also: clutch dinner decision for when you’re 1-drink drunk from Dockside Margaritas.