It’s time to start heading out on Spring Break trips or planning that summer vacation and that means a lot of people planning a Disney vacation.
One of the top requests I get from people planning a Disney vacation is about the food. People want to know if they can afford it (probably!), will there be something the kids like (YES!), and if there’s more than just burgers and fries for the parents (definitely!). Before I go any further, I suggest checking out the info I have on the Disney Dining Plan. It includes information on saving on Disney meals, what restaurants are included on the dining plan, and how to eat for free this fall.
Disney has two types of restaurants, Counter Service (also known as Quick Service) and Table Service. Table Service can be anything from a pub to a formal steakhouse while counter service will remind you of your favorite fast food restaurants back home. Tomorrow I’ll cover all things Table Service but today is all about Counter Service.
There are between 8 and 12 counter service locations open in Magic Kingdom depending on the season. I have two favorite table service restaurants in Magic Kingdom.
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
This is not your typical burger restaurant even though it may look that way on first glance. Located outside of Tomorrowland, the restaurant has a futuristic design. The regular menu includes safe bets like a bacon cheeseburger, hot dogs, BBQ pork sandwiches, and chicken nuggets. The kids menu here features sandwiches or chicken nuggets with healthy sides.
Two standout dishes are the 1/2 rotisserie chicken and the 1/2 rack of ribs. Both are served with mashed potatoes and a seasonal vegetable. You could also get a chicken and rib combo. If you’re on the meal plan these are all some of the best value meals for your plan and if you’re off the meal plan these meals are perfect for splitting between two people.
Columbia Harbour House
Columbia Harbour House is themed as an old New England Inn. The regular menu includes fish, chicken, and shrimp. You’ll also find classic New England favorites like clam chowder and lobster rolls. Kids can enjoy tuna salad, PB&J, mac & cheese, or chicken nuggets.
This is a great place for vegetarians or healthy eaters to dine at. The popular Lighthouse sandwich is hummus, broccoli slaw, and tomato on multigrain bread, and there’s vegetarian chili and two types of salad. For a light option with meat, try the grilled salmon with couscous.
Epcot has 15 locations that qualify as counter service locations. Many double as snack stands with meal offerings so make sure you check out the menus ahead of time to get the best bang for your buck. Here are my favorites.
All three meals of the day are served at this food court style pavilion. There are 4 separate lines to have your food made so make sure each diner has a Key to the World card or cash on them. You can have food from the Asian area, Soups and Salads, Sandwiches, or The Grill. Kids can enjoy certain items at each location with their choices being sweet & sour chicken, mac & cheese or Chicken Caesar salad, pizza panini, PB&J, or a chicken leg.
Popular dishes here include Mongolian Beef, Rotisserie Chicken, and the slow roasted Pork Chop. This is a great place to eat as a vegetarian and also a great place to wait for your Soarin’ fast pass.
You might be a little hesitant to eat at Epcot’s Moroccan food offering but it’s one of the best value meals in Disney. The Shawarma platters offer more than enough food for two people. You can pick from chicken, lamb, or a combination of the two and you get hummus, Tabouleh, couscous salad, and Moroccan bread. For the more wary you can try a chicken wrap. Either way, Disney displays the meals outside the restaurant so you know what each dish is. Kids can play it safe with hamburgers and chicken tenders or share off your plate while they look out for Aladdin to stop by.
I haven’t been mentioning the dessert at counter service locations but Tangierine Cafe has some amazing desserts. They offer a pastry case to choose your treat from but you can’t go wrong with the baklava.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Hollywood Studios has 10 counter service locations. In my mind they have the weakest offerings of the parks so I typically detour to Downtown Disney when the crowds get heavy at lunch time but I’ve still had good meals here.
Toy Story Pizza Planet
This one will be a big hit with the kids. It’s the pizza place from Toy Story come to life. The star of the menu is of course the pizza, with vegetable, pepperoni, and cheese being the big three options. You can also get entree salads (chicken, caprese, or mixed greens) and the kids option includes cheese pizza as well. Kids will love the arcade here and the Mickey Mouse rice krispie treat for dessert.
There are 8 counter service locations inside Animal Kingdom including my favorite counter service spot. The restaurants here are more eco-friendly to be kind to the animals of the park so expect things like paper straws in your drinks.
Flame Tree BBQ
This is my favorite counter service location. Part of the appeal is that you can dine under outdoor pavilions overlooking Expedition Everest and Discovery River. It feels so peaceful to eat here.
The menu isn’t any joke either. You can get 1/2 a slab of ribs, 1/2 a chicken, pulled pork, or even a chicken and ribs combo. Then you get beans or coleslaw as a side plus dessert. You can see above how much food my husband and I got on the meal plan for our last visit and every bite was amazing. Kids will love the chicken drumstick but there’s also a hot dog and PB&J.
Yes, there’s even counter service options at Downtown Disney. If you need a break from a resort, I love coming here for lunch or dinner and getting in some shopping or some eating.
Wolfgang Puck Express
There’s technically three Wolfgang Puck locations in Downtown Disney so make sure you head to the one on the marketplace side to use your counter service credits. All three meals of the day are served here so if you stay at a resort nearby this can be a great early morning treat.
I love Wofgang Puck’s pizzas. My husband and I each got a pizza here our last stay, he got BBQ chicken and I got a 4 cheese pizza. The menu is also quite popular for its mac & cheese, pennette chicken alfredo, half rotisserie chicken, and you can get favorites from Wolfgang Puck like the salmon or bacon-wrapped meatloaf. The kids menu is huge here with chicken fingers, spaghetti, cheese and pepperoni pizzas, and mac & cheese all for the little ones.
What’s Included? If you are on the dining plan you can redeem counter service credits for any meal of the day and your meal includes an entree and drink for breakfast or an entree, drink, and dessert for lunch and dinner. If you aren’t on the dining plan you can pick and choose between individual meals or combos without any rules or limitations besides what’s in your wallet.
How can I save? Share meals! I’ve featured meals I think could easily be split between two adults or an adult and child without any hassle. The portions at Disney are huge so when in doubt, scout out what other people are eating before ordering and splitting. If you aren’t on the dining plan, feel free to order off the children’s menu for adults. It helps with portion control too.
What if I’m on a special diet? Disney is great about accommodating your needs. You can even speak to a cast member before your trip to help plan out your dining based on your dietary requests (or email firstname.lastname@example.org). They’ll help you get set up with appropriate forms, restaurants, and link it all to your reservation. At counter service locations, notify the cast member working the register that you have dietary concerns and they’ll send over a cast member with knowledge of the full menu to make sure all your needs are met.
AllEars has a small list with regular menu items that are vegetarian or vegan but it may not include newer items. They also have advice for people with gluten intolerance, food allergies, Kosher eating, low-carb diets, or any other need from diabetes to post-weight loss surgery diets. Disney serves millions of people a year so they have a lot of experience with special diets.
Are there counter service options at the resorts? What about at the water parks? Yes and yes! At the water parks you can expect to see typical pool park treats like burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and pizza. The Warming Hut at Blizzard Beach even has a menu similar to Flame Tree BBQ. The restaurants here are also good about letting you go back for your ice cream treat after your meal so it doesn’t melt while you eat the healthy stuff.
At the resorts you can usually find at least a food court. Check for the full list of counter service restaurants here. Pepper Market at Coronado Springs is one great way to use food service credits. Their pizza was a life saver after a rainout of a day.