Food courts and casual dining options abound throughout the resort. Most are lightly themed to align with the hotel or area in which they reside, and all deliver decent if thoroughly unspectacular food. When you’re serving hundreds of thousands of plates a day, it’s much more about being efficient than it is about being exceptional.
There are a handful of true destination dining options at the resort, however. They’re all a bit pricey, but each is worth it. You’ll need to make reservations for most of these restaurants, a process simplified by Disney’s automated dining reservation system; just call 407/WDW-DINE (407/939-3463) as far as 180 days in advance. While it’s likely that one’s schedule—and budget—can accommodate only one or two of these restaurants on a trip to Walt Disney World, any of them are worthy of a foodie’s attention.
Jiko — The Cooking Place (Animal Kingdom Lodge, 5:30–10 p.m. daily, main courses $19–39) features an African-inspired menu, accented by Mediterranean and South Asian flavors. Finding quinoa, rocket pesto, figs, curry shrimp, ostrich filet, samosas, and short ribs on one menu may indicate the height of catch-all folly, but an emphasis on strong rustic flavors and rich earthy spices weaves together this broad selection of dishes.
From the moment you step into the LED-lit tunnel that leads you into The Wave (Contemporary Resort, breakfast 7:30 a.m.–11 a.m., lunch noon–2 p.m., dinner 5:30–10 p.m., bar area noon–midnight, main courses $8.49–25.99), an atmosphere of stylish modernity is instantly established. This is technically a “casual dining” spot, offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner; although all three meals feature somewhat circumscribed menus, the quiet atmosphere and expert preparation of meat and pasta standards, super-fresh salads, and a daily “sustainable fish” dish make it something of a well-kept secret.
Todd English’s Bluezoo (Dolphin Resort, 5–11 p.m. daily, main courses $22–60) serves contemporary American cuisine in a sophisticated and modern environment. Of course, celebrity chef English probably won’t be in the kitchen preparing your Cantonese lobster or bacon-wrapped tuna, but the crew on hand does a marvelous job nonetheless. The emphasis here is on fresh seafood—especially fish dishes—but beef, pork, and poultry are also available; vegetarians are likely to find little here that they can eat.
Love great food? Hate crying babies? Head for Victoria & Albert’s (Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, dinner seatings 5:45–6:30 p.m. and 9–9:45 p.m. daily, six-course prix fixe $125 per person, $185 per person with meal-specific wine pairing). Long the grande dame of Disney dining, Victoria & Albert’s not only insists on a dress code (no jeans or capris, much less shorts or flip-flops; jackets are required for men), but recently instituted a rule that requires diners to be at least 10 years of age, the only restaurant in the park to have such a prohibition.
While some may fuss over the indignity of not being able to have their toddler along for a six-course $125 meal, the result is a consistently exquisite restaurant experience. From the accompanying harpist and the complimentary rose for the women at your table to the personalized menus featuring anything from elk and kurobuta pork to duck and prosciutto-wrapped lamb, Victoria & Albert’s is classic fine dining. If the prix fixe offerings aren’t quite extravagant enough for you, foie gras, caviar, and Kobe beef can be had for an additional charge. Also available for an additional charge (add $40 per person, $50 with wine pairing) is a seat at the chef’s table in the kitchen, where the chef offers up various nibbles for you to sample and a maid and butler are on hand to tend to your needs.
Artist Point (Wilderness Lodge, 5:30–10 p.m. daily, main courses $20–42) combines an upscale menu with the rustic ambiance of a classic Pacific Northwest hunting and fishing lodge. The result is a menu of fresh and hearty fish dishes, like the cedar plank–roasted salmon, which is glazed in a pear-ginger reduction and served with a hash of pear and smoked pork belly. Steaks, chops, and pan-seared scallops are also on the menu; vegetarians are restricted to potato-filled pot stickers served with edamame and wilted spinach.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition