Editor’s Note:Welcome back to the WDW Radio Exchange, where a panel of Disney experts answer Disney vacation planning questions from a variety of unique perspectives.  Today, our awesome panel takes on a popular question–what is the BEST counter service dining location?  Check out how the members of our roundtable answered this note from Lou’s mailbag, and please add YOUR ideas in the comments below! 

Big news!!  We will select ONE person at random who comments by April 18 to receive a WDW Radio Mystery ticket!  So, come on!  We KNOW you have an opinion!  Tell us how YOU would answer this question:


“Hi, Lou!  I wanted to send you an email and get your opinion.  My wife and I are taking a trip to Walt Disney World in a few months.  This is the first time we both have been there in a long time.  I have not been since 2003 and my wife has not been since she was young in 1990.  We booked the Disney Dinning Plan. What are the counter service restaurants that are not to be missed in any of the four parks?  Any help would be great!  –Justin”


 

Jim (The Chairman): Some of our favorite counter service restaurants are:sunshine

Magic Kingdom – Pecos Bills and Columbia Harbour House. Also, if you are in the mood not much beats a hot dog at Casey’s Corner.

Epcot - Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the UK, Katsura Grill in Japan, The new Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles in France (although we haven’t tried this new one I think it’s a safe bet it will make the list), and finally Sunshine Seasons in the Land Pavilion

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – it gets a little harder here…Fairfax Fare, Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner.

Animal Kingdom – here it it hardest of all – not too many choices… I would say Flametree BBQ or Restaurantosaurus.

 

Brian (Timekeeper): Even though I’m the guy who helps people maximize their time in the happiest place on Earth… and this isn’t technically a time question… I can’t resist throwing a few of my favorite suggestions your way :)

Magic Kingdom -Columbia Harbour House – great theming and food

gaston'sGaston’s Tavern – Pork shank… and you get to meet the one and only Gaston!

Pecos Bill’s – GREAT burger… and an even better fixin’s bar!

EPCOT

Sunshine Seasons – Anything you could want.. and the food is better quality than most other walk-ups

England – Yorkshire County Fish Shoppe – Fish and Chips… Greasy but yummy!

HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

Backlot Express – general fare but rarely crowded

The Commissary – Unique selections and plenty of choices!

ANIMAL KINGDOM

Flame Tree BBQ – Yes…yes…yes.  Come early and come often.  Great food! (and an awesome view of Expedition Everest from the back patio)

Yak and Yeti – Unique choices and great environment

Enjoy!

 

Tonya (SuperMom): Welcome back to “the World”, Justin.  You chose a great time to visit.  Counter service meals are one of the great assets that Walt Disney World has to offer.  Of course you can find great “traditional” counter service meals at countless places throughout the parks (Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café – Magic Kingdom; Sunshine Seasons – Epcot; Backlot Express – Hollywood Studios; Restaurantosaurus –Animal Kingdom) but if you’re looking for counter service meals that may be a little “out of the box”, the options are limitless.

While visiting the Magic Kingdom, I have to recommend Be Our Guest in the new Fantasyland.  The dining plan is only accepted here during lunch (dinner is not counter service).  This is one of the most upscale quick service meals that you will get.  State of the art ordering via terminals from your table, china, flatware, and French specialties make this a restaurant not to be missed!

Animal Kingdom is home to one of my favorite barbecue restaurants.  Although it’s not African or Asian inspired, Flame Tree Barbecue is a great place to dine.  Here you can choose from a mild tomato based or spicy mustard based barbecue sauce to go with your ribs, pulled port or smoked beef brisket.  You will find this restaurant on Discovery Island with seating available along the river.

Sunset Ranch Market is located in Hollywood Studios.  It’s a series of food stands where you can find sandwiches, salads, pizza, fruits, brisket, chicken and turkey legs.  Grab your food, head to a table under an umbrella and watch people stroll down Sunset Boulevard.  It’s a great place to sit and relax for a little while.

The gem of counter service meals may be found in World Showcase in Epcot because you can eat from virtually any country!  Choose two countries (or more), select one entrée at each and share.  Also take note that you can use snacks from the meal plan in many of these countries, too.  I suggest looking at the map and choosing countries separated around the World Showcase Lagoon so you have more time to snack in between!  Looking for a little spice, try the Tangierine Café in Morocco; want something different, head to the Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe in Norway; the fish and chips at the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom are out of this world.  My only suggestion in Epcot is to experiment and share.  All of the food is great but maybe not fit for all people’s tastes.

Great food is one the perks of a Walt Disney World vacation.  Enjoy you visit!

 

Alyssa (The Newlywed):Counter service restaurants are the best option when you want to keep moving during the day.  Here are our favorites:

In the Magic Kingdom, don’t miss Pecos Bill’s.  My favorite food there lately has been the taco salad.  Don’t worry when they give you an empty shell with taco meat–you just fill it with all your favorite veggies at the Fixins’ Bar.  Brandon usually sticks with a burger.  On our last trip he tried the Deluxe 1/3 lb. Angus Cheeseburger (which is topped with bacon, onion rings, and barbecue sauce) and decided it was a little cantinamuch.

In Epcot we mostly resort to La Cantina de San Angel as we are fans of Mexican food; however, for our upcoming trip in May, we are determined to try Sunshine Seasons.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios is my favorite place to eat.  Make sure to try the Backlot Express! This indoor/outdoor venue has many menu items that are completely different than the normal “park food.”  The Southwest Salad with Chicken and Grilled Vegetable Sandwich are two of my favorites.  They also offer self-service drink stations, which means that you can refill your drink more often and not have to pay for it!

Animal Kingdom has two options that we usually alternate between and they are completely different in cuisine choices.  If you are looking for comfort food and don’t mind birds begging for scraps, then Flame Tree Barbecue cannot be missed (the roasted chicken is my favorite).  However, if good Chinese food is something you are craving, then Yak and Yeti Local Foods Cafe is a great stop, where both Brandon and I enjoy the chicken fried rice.

 

JJ (Teenager): Counter service dining is prominent across the four Walt Disney World, but over the years, my family and I have narrowed down choices and found our favorites that we keep going back to. A day’s trip to Magic Kingdom is incomplete for me without a meal at Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Café. Taking after what Lou has said himself, I can also confidently say that this Frontierland restaurant has the best burger in the park, if not the best burger at any WDW counter service location. Moving to Epcot, a dining MUST is the Yorkshire County Fish Shop at World Showcase’s UK Pavilion. The fish and chips served there are superb and the experience feels very authentic and peaceful. Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a heavier emphasis on table service options (Hollywood Brown Derby, 50’s Prime Time Café), but we’ll always make a stop over at the Backlot Express by Star Tours for some chicken or a burger. It’s a great place to eat and cool down (and if you’re seated outside at the right time, check out young padawans battling Darth Vader nearby at the Jedi Training Academy). Lastly, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a family favorite is Anandapur Local Cafes. It’s small and seating can be harder to find on a busy day, but the Asian food served is always very delicious and filling after a couple of rides on Expedition Everest.

 

Richard (Grandparent): Hmm, counter service restaurants in the parks. There are two that I like in the Magic Kingdom. They are Casey’s and Pecos Bill’s.

In EPCOT, we like Sunshine Seasons in The Land, indeed that whole food court approach. I like the portions and the variety. In World Showcase the Fish and Chips stand in England, The Yorkshire County Fish Stop is a great little stop.

In Hollywood Studios we like Starring Rolls and can’t say that anything else has appealed to us.

In the Animal Kingdom we like Flame Tree Barbecue!

 

Darby (Disneyland): Disneyland also has counter service restaurants that are not to be missed. My ultimate favorite will always be Rancho Del Zocalo in Frontierland. They specialize mostly in quick Mexican fare however, it’s not only hardly ever busy, but you get great bang for your buck there! I usually get the Citrus Fire-Grilled Chicken (half breast) which comes with beans, 2 flour (or corn) tortillas, spanish rice and a lil salad for $14! Best value in the park if I do say so myself. Other counter services places of note in Disneyland Park itself include the French Market (home of the Monte Cristo Sandwich), Royal Street Veranda (specialty is the Sourdough Bread Bowl of Clam Chowder) and Bengal BBQ (home of my personal favorite, Cajun Chicken Skewers! Even if the portions have shrunk a tad lately….maybe Trader Sam’s gotten a hold of them! LOL!)  In DCA, since the renovation of the park, a number of new eateries have cropped up. Though most people want to go to Carthay Circle Restaurant, to me that’s super expensive and more of a sit down experience than a counter service one. The best counter service joint in DCA to me, is Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta. There, they have pastas and pizzas obviously, but my favorite is the Sun Dried Tomato Basil Penne plate.

 

What are YOUR thoughts?  Post your advice in the comments below–and remember!  One person who comments will be chosen at random to receive a WDW Radio Mystery Ticket!

16 Responses to "WDW Radio Exchange: Best Counter Service Locations in WDW!"

  1. Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles in Epcot is very crowded and the ordering process is weird, but OMG, the food choices are worth the wait! It is all about timing, if the lines are long, step outside and wait a few.

    Gaston’s Tavern in Fantasyland – two words… Pork shank… get there now!!

    Sunshine Seasons in Epcot, great spot to grab a few items for breakfast and people watch.

  2. barb huddleson says:

    Magic Kingdom….Pecos Bills
    Epcot….Sunshine Seasons
    Disney Studios…Backlot Express
    Animal Kingdom…Flame Tree

    we do these on every visit….they all have nice portions to share too

  3. This one is easy for me. My husband and I often talk about our favorite quick service restaurants and what sets them apart.
    Magic Kingdom – Columbia Harbour House – for it’s wide variety of choices and the ample quiet seating area upstairs. We like the food at Pecos Bill, but the seating can be a bit chaotic at times.

    Epcot – Tangerine Cafe in Morocco- we just love the shawarma platter (chicken and lamb combo) and the portions are large we often share the platter among us unless we feel hungry and get the vegetarian platter as well, with the falafel. If we are feeling hungry while at Futureworld, we eat at Sunshine Seasoning at the Land.

    Hollywood Studios – Backlot Express. We like the grilled turkey sandwich and a big plus to the place is that the drink station is out in the restaurant so the fountain drinks are refillable.

    Animal Kingdom – Flame Tree BBQ – one of use gets the ribs and the other the 1/2 chicken and we eat in the relaxing setting by the water. This is one restaurant we never skip when going to Animal Kingdom because it might be our favorite counter service restaurant in all of WDW.

  4. This was a no-brainer for me. I love Backlot Express. Not necessarily for the food, but because it seems to never be crowded and you can eat inside if it’s really hot outside or outside if the weather is more moderate.

    I used to love Sunshine Seasons at Epcot, but ever since they added Soarin’ it always seems really busy and super, super loud.

    I have a feeling that Gaston’s Tavern is going to climb up my favorites list now that they have *the* cinnamon roll in addition to the pork shank.

  5. Norman Cavey says:

    My Favorite in MK is Peco’s Bill & Liberty Square Market which has great sandwiches and not a lot of people know about it.
    DHS – Backlot Express I like that you can get refills of your drink
    Epcot we usually go to The American pavilion
    Animal Kingdom is Restaurantosaurus

  6. We loved Flame Tree & Yaki and Yeti in AK, Yorkshire Country Fish Shop, & Sunshine Seasons in Epcot, Studio Catering Co. & ABC Commissary in DHS, and Cosmic Rays & Be Our Guest (lunch) & Pinocchio’s at the MK.

  7. Lindsey Davis says:

    I loved Yak and Yeti and was surprised at how good the food was for counter service. We also ate lunch at Be Our Guest in December and were in awe with the rest of the country with the atmoshpere – it is totally worth the wait and the line moves a lot quicker than it looks. We still missed our fastpass return time for The Little Mermaid by 15 min. Pizza Planet is our favorite at Hollywood Studios for Toy Story Love reasons only – the last time we also ate at the Backlot Express and indulged in the adult beverages offered next door! Sunshine seasons in Epcot is one of the best counter services in the World to satisfy different people in a group, as was the case of our group of 22 in December.

  8. Tony E (BacksideOfWater) says:

    Magic Kingdom- Be Our Guest (Fantasyland)
    Epcot- Sommerfest (Germany pavilion)
    Hollywood Studios- ABC Commisary
    Animal Kingdom- Flame Tree BBQ

    But I feel your cheating yourself out of some great places to eat by bypassing Downtown Disney. My favorite counter service place there is Earl Of Sandwich (yes it’s on the Dining Plan)

  9. I would say Columbia Harbor House in MK.. Flame Tree BBQ at AK.. Sunshine Seasons at Epcot for it’s wide range of selections.. And The Commisary at the Studios because that is the only one we have ever really eaten at.

  10. Magic Kingdom: hands down Be Our Guest is the best; the lunch offerings are far better than anything else in the park and even if you eat your meal somewhere else go there for dessert. Cosmic Rays was a favorite for a little while, but they seem inconsistent. I’ve had some really good meals and some where the same food wasn’t prepared nearly as well.

    Epcot: Sunshine Seasons, though during Food & Wine or Flower & Garden the kiosks around World Showcase are the best places for a quick meal (unless you want air conditioning or to get out of the rain, then stick with Sunshine Seasons).

    Hollywood Studios: Pass. Every counter service meal I’ve had (recently at the Commissary, Backlot Express, Starring Rolls, and Pizza Planet) has been mediocre. Nothing bad, but nothing I really look forward to eating.

    Animal Kingdom: Yak & Yeti and Flame Tree Barbecue have some of the best counter service food on property. It almost makes me want to spent more time in the park just to eat at both during the same trip.

  11. We have a picky eater in our family, so we tend to go where there is a lot of variety. All of these locations have at least one thing that everyone is happy with :)

    Magic Kingdom – Cosmic Ray’s
    Epcot – Sunshine Seasons
    Hollywood – Fairfax Fare
    Animal Kingdom – Flame Tree BBQ

  12. Since I usually get the basic dining plan each time I visit WDW, I like to think I know my way around quick service dining, having to end up using it once a day. Here’s my park by park breakdown:

    Magic Kingdom: Casey’s Corner, corn nuggets and a nice hot dog… enough said
    EPCOT (Center): Tangierine Cafe in Morocco, a perfect introduction into the exotic and incredible cuisine of Morocco
    Hollywood Studios (Or MGM as it will always be to me: ABC Commissary, no stand out items here, just all around tasty food. You really can’t go wrong with any of the menu items.
    Animal Kingdom: The building itself is very bright, colorful, and fun. Also each pizza meal comes with a ceaser salad, making each meal very well balanced in each food group. Also if you want to throw off that balanced diet, the chocolate and strawberry parfaits aren’t too bad either!

  13. Daniel Young says:

    Animal Kingdom: Flame Tree BBQ – Quality barbecue and pleasant surroundings make it an easy number one selection at Animal Kingdom. It’s also in the top five best counter service locations in all of Disney World, so be sure to give it a try if the menu sounds appealing.

    Epcot: Sunshine Seasons – While the Asian-inspired items aren’t great, everything else at Sunshine Seasons is reliably the best quick service food at any of Disney’s theme parks. Most items are grilled or otherwise prepared fresh while you wait and the selection and quality are better.

    Hollywood Studios: Starring Rolls Cafe – If you’re in the market for a sandwich, Starring Rolls is your best bet with easy ordering and decently comfortable outdoor seating. They also offer up a ton of treats that are almost universally better than other options.

    Magic Kingdom: Be Our Guest – The new Be Our Guest Restaurant wins out for the total experience – plentiful air-conditioned seating in an interesting environment, high quality food served on “real” plates with silverware, refillable drinks, and an interesting menu.

    Downtown Disney: Earl of Sandwich – You can’t really go wrong with the counter services at Downtown Disney. On the Disney Dining Plan, you’ll probably want to use your credits at Wolfgang Puck Express or Cooke’s, but out of pocket the Earl of Sandwich just can’t be beat. Although it does get crowded, the lack of seating is the only real deterrent.

  14. Magic Kingdom: Columbia Harbor House or Be Our Guest at lunch. Harbor House has different choices from regular theme park food, large portions that taste great, and it’s cool and semi-quiet! Be Our Guest is a good way to see the restaurant without a dinner reservation and the food is good.

    EPCOT: Sunshine Seasons has a lot of different choices and Boulangerie Patisserie is nice if you’re in World Showcase.

    Hollywood Studios: Starring Rolls is usually overlooked and you can get a delicious cupcake with a snack credit here, too!

    Animal Kingdom: Flame Tree BBQ has good food and generous portions.

  15. Hands down it is Wolfgang Puck Express. Almost table service meals for a counter service price.

  16. Caitlin Corsello says:

    This is my list of favorites:

    MK – Columbia Harbor House (the Lighthouse Sandwich is the best!)

    Epcot – Sunshine Seasons. Always. The turkey chiabatta sandwich and strawberry shortcake seal the deal for me.

    DHS – I’m not a huge fan of the quick service locations here, but if I had to pick it would be Staring Roles for the Butterfinger cupcake.

    AK – Yak and Yeti for the atmosphere and the food. Restaurantasaurus is a close second for the atmosphere alone.

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