So, I know what you are all thinking. You’re all thinking, “I Googled ‘Walt Disney tickets.’ How did I end up at this weird blog with ‘Disney’ in the title yet recently did a post about So I Married an Axe Murderer?” Well, I am sure most of you are thinking that. Jerks.
But some of you. The ones that actually read this blog. Some of you are thinking that I already did a Top 5 sit-down restaurants post. And I did. I actually did two – here and here. But those posts were done ages ago. Way back. In 2015.
That may not seem like THAT long ago. But to put things in perspective, Obama was still in office, Return of the Jedi was still considered the chronologically latest chapter in the Star Wars universe, and it was like 8 Bachelors/Bachelorettes ago. No one even KNEW who Colton Underwood was in 2015.
But most importantly (well, most importantly as it pertains to this post,) Walt Disney World has come out with a BUNCH of new restaurants since that post and we have gone on A BUNCH of Walt Disney World trips since then. And the fact that this old Top 5 has been just hanging out there while so much has shifted gives me serious anxiety.
And I think I am going to structure this Top 5 a little differently than the last. With so many new restaurants coming out since 2015 across so many different categories, I am going to actually have to split the whole Top 5 sit-down thing into a few different posts. Not one. Not two. But three. THREE BLOG POSTS. WHAT THE WHAT. Three. It’s a magic number.
For those that don’t know, Disney dining experiences are broken into multiple categories. I mean, yes, there are counter-service (no waitstaff usually) and table-service (sit-down, waitstaff) dining experiences but even within the table-service category there are tons of different categories. So I am going to break the posts into three different Top 5 lists:
- 2-Credit Dining Experiences (Signature/Dinner Shows) – Signature dining experience are usually Disney’s more upscale choices, offering higher quality food, ambiance, service, etc. On the Disney Dining Plan, these require 2 credits. And since they ARE 2 credits, I am also going to be throwing dinner shows in there as they also require 2 credits. And for those of you that are worried, don’t be. You still can eat at these places if you’re not on the Disney Dining Plan. Just bring some smelling salts for when the bill comes. On account of you could start to feel a little woozy.
- Standard table-service – This covers all the 1 credit sit-down choices. To be honest, there are multiple categories even within this larger group of experiences (casual, theme, buffet, etc.) but I will be sort of lumping all of them together into one post. Well all of them except…
- Character meals – These are typically 1-credit meals as well (with one exception) but they kind of deserve their own category since decisions in this category aren’t simply based on food or service or ambiance but also character interaction. Plus it makes it so I don’t have to make such tough choices. Win-win. Well, win. In that I am really the only one winning.
So what I am saying is I am updating my original Top 5 sit-down restaurant post due to Disney introducing a number of new experiences since and me finding new places to love but am turning the original 1 post into 3 posts to cover a multitude of dining categories.
Let’s start at the top, shall we? Onto…
WAYNE’S TOP 5 2-CREDIT (SIGNATURE/DINNER SHOW) DINING EXPERIENCES
I figured I would start with the most expensive experiences to lure you into a false sense of envy. At my whole “being such a boss” thing.
You’ll see most of these are designated as dinners on account of we usually don’t do signatures for any of our other meals. Except in one incredibly incredible instance. Which you will see in a little bit.
As a caveat, we have not eaten at every single signature experience at Disney but we have eaten at most of them. But places like Citrico’s, Monsieur Paul, and Victoria & Albert’s are still uncharted territory for us so this is based on trying nearly all of them.
Usually, I am all “these are in no particular order” but today I am in a particular-order-kind-of-mood. So let’s work our way to the top, starting at #5. And keep in mind all of these are in the top 5. So they all kind of rule.
Please click on each restaurant name if you want to be brought to its official page on the Disney website.
5 – Jiko (Dinner)
For so many visits to Walt Disney World, Nickie and I would be like, “we have to go to Jiko this trip” but we just could never make it over. Most of the time, it was simply too out of the way, over at the Animal Kingdom Lodge but even when we would make it to Animal Kingdom Lodge or Kidani Village for a meal, we would opt for the Boma buffet or Sanaa.
That was until our November 2017 trip when we split-stayed part of the trip at Kidani Village. We decided we would finally do it. And I am just gonna put this out there – if you are questioning the trek over to Animal Kingdom Lodge for Jiko, know this – it’s 100% worth it.
Once you walk into Jiko, you can tell it’s someplace special. It’s beautiful in there. Dimly lit. It’s probably the most “romantic” place on here. I mean, we went with family and friends so it’s not like you have to be all coupled up, but if I were asked to recommend a place for a romantic dinner, this would definitely be on the list.
The extensive wine list doesn’t hurt none either.
It’s hard to recommend a dish here as the menu is always changing but the filet is always a good bet and seems to be a constant on the menu (even if the sides served with it change.)
Speaking of sides, I don’t know if you can see it under the filet there but the bobotie mac and cheese is legit. As of right now, this is NOT served with the filet but you can order a la carte. Which you should. A la always.
Another stand-out for me when we ate there was the wild boar tenderloin appetizer. Thing put the “tender” in tenderloin.
You can read more about our meal at Jiko here.
4 – Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue (Dinner)
And now we come to the singular dinner show on the list. Really, this is the only reason I even added the whole “dinner show” thing to the list. Because we love this place that much.
Hoop-Dee-Doo is a really good time. And it’s funny to follow out-of-the-way Jiko with this one because Hoop-Dee-Doo is also a bit of a haul. Located in Fort Wilderness, most really have to go out of their way to get here but once again, it’s completely worth it.
Hoop-Dee-Doo is old school Disney. Thing’s been running since 1974 and while certain elements of the experience have been tweaked, it’s still pretty much the same core idea – good hearty comfort food paired with Vaudevillian entertainment. The show is always pretty much the same but we haven’t gotten tired of it yet.
And the food is definitely part of the draw. Served family-style and all-you-care-to-enjoy, you get fried chicken, ribs, cornbread, salad, mashed potatoes, beans, and corn.
Oh, and their strawberry shortcake is bomb.com.
And. AND. It’s bottomless glasses of beer and sangria.
I know. I kinda buried the lead there. Anyways, you can read about one of our Hoop-Dee-Doo experiences here.
3 – Yachtsman Steakhouse (Dinner)
This right here is a prime example of why I need to update these lists once in a while. This at one point was my #1 restaurant in all of Walt Disney World. It’s now dropped to the #3 slot.
And that’s no knock against the Yachtsman. Nothing has gone down in terms of anything there. The food. The service. It’s all still impeccable. It’s just that other places have come along and pushed it down. Just a little. It’s still a favorite and we visit almost every trip.
Located at Disney’s Yacht Club, the steaks are of course the big draw here. I tend to always go with the rib-eye, which has never failed to be amazetown.
The truffle mac and cheese and creamed spinach are probably my two favorite sides here. And I LOVE their charcuterie. Their cheese plate is also quite good.
But it’s also the service that keeps us coming back here. The waitstaff is always attentive and seems to love talking about the menu. Meat is an underserved topic of conversation. It’s nice to see it get the focus it deserves at the Yachtsman. And we love a good long meal. I think our average meal length at the Yachtsman has to be about 3 hours or so.
You can read about our most recent meal at Yachtsman here.
2 – The BOATHOUSE (Dinner)
And yes their name is all in capital letters on the Disney website. You know a place is good when they write their entire name in capital letters. I am, however, going to refrain from ALL CAPS. Because I don’t like confrontation.
I really love the Boathouse, man. In fact, this is one more example of how things change so much. If you had asked me less than 6 months ago what my #1 restaurant in all of WDW was, this would have been it.
Located in Disney Springs, I love everything about the Boathouse inside and out. Inside, it’sThe location is perfect, right on the water in Disney Springs. Like literally, you can sit ON the water outside on the floating deck out back, which we have done before and loved. There is also an outdoor area to sit overlooking the water. If it’s a nice night, I definitely recommend sitting outside.
On some nights, they even have live music outside, which takes requests. We know this because we requested a lot.But the inside is nice as well. The inside décor is a modern-chic and (I mean, obviously) fashioned after a boathouse – lots of polished wood, nautical theme, that whole chestnut. So yeah, not really a bad seat anywhere.
The service here has always been super laid-back, yet attentive. I don’t think we have ever had a bad server here.
The food though…its the star. I can honestly say I have not eaten anything I didn’t enjoy here. And, like, I have eaten a lot of things at the Boathouse. The starters are all great – the firecracker shrimp, the (I believe not on the menu anymore) fish dip, calamari, beef carpaccio…all have been amazing.
But if you are going to the Boathouse, you most certainly HAVE to order from the raw bar. The oysters are especially good. They have a wide selection at the raw bar from different regions, in different sizes. All have always tasted extremely fresh.
And the entrees have all been great as well. The seafood is the big draw for me. I have tried the seared Ahi Tuna here as well as the crab-stuffed lobster. Both of which have been incredible (though I have dreams still about that lobster.)
But don’t overlook the steaks here either. All are Gibson steaks and all are delicious as well.
So yeah, LOVE the BOATHOUSE. Check out a meal we had back in 2017 here but I think the 2016 meal is worth mentioning as well here.
1 – California Grill (Brunch for sure, but dinner is not to be missed as well)
Ah, California Grill. Throughout our times going to Walt Disney World, you and I have had an up-and-down relationship. We had been there a few times on trips of the past and our experiences were really hit-or-miss. We would have a great meal one trip, then a meh one next trip. But I will admit it now – you have a fan in me. As far as signature dinners go, you at least crack the top 5. Your sushi. Your filets. Your view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. You win. You have worn me down. And I love you.
While the dinner at California Grill is amazing and not to be missed and would definitely crack my Top 5, it’s the brunch that secures the #1 dining experience spot. The California Grill brunch is, without a doubt, my favorite dining experience ever at Walt Disney World.
We tried the California Grill brunch for the first time back in November of 2018 and literally everything was perfection. Like, right when you walk through the doors.
Going to CA Grill is always a special feeling. I mean, the place has its own elevator in the Contemporary. But once that elevator door opened onto the brunch, you knew it was special. The attentive and welcoming staff make you feel special right away, offering you a Mimosa to sip on as you make your way to the table. And as you make your way to your table, you’re already fully in. From the beautiful presentation of the buffet offerings….
…to the incredible make-your-own Bloody Mary bar…
…to the manned stations…
…to the live musicians playing standards and Disney songs (and Christmas songs in November)….
…to probably the best view in all of Walt Disney World (and one we were so used to only seeing at night)….
…It kind of already became my favorite experience before we even ate.
But the food. My God, the food. The way it works at this brunch is you get both a buffet and plated entrée. I already showed some of the buffet above, but it is worth mentioning everything they have available there – sushi, deviled eggs, charcuterie, salads, pastries, quiches, etc.
And for the entrees, there is so much awesome to choose from. The nice thing is they usually encourage you to order more than one, so ‘choosing’ is a little easier. Last time around, I got both the steak and eggs and the lobster benedict. Both were delicious. The steak was a legit steak on this steak and eggs.
But the lobster benedict was drool-worthy. Seriously the best lobster benedict I have ever ever EVER had. So. Frakkin. Good.
Oh and did I mention the Bloody Mary bar?
I haven’t even gotten to the dessert tray, which they thankfully allow you to take to-go.
The California Grill brunch is expensive. But so worth it. And definitely an experience I hope to repeat when we visit the World again. I can’t recommend it enough.
You can read more about our California Grill brunch experience here.
And that’s it – my Top 5 2-credit dining experiences at Walt Disney World. Keep an eye out for my Top 5 1-credit (non-character) experience and Top 5 character meal posts coming soon!