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:
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’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!
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!
Backlot Express – general fare but rarely crowded
The Commissary – Unique selections and plenty of choices!
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
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 much.
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!