The Columbia Harbour House in Liberty Square is the best option for guests looking for a quick service meal with good atmosphere (the restaurant is spacious and decked out completely in dark wood) that isn’t hot dogs, burgers, or chicken nuggets. OK, in fairness, the restaurant does have chicken nuggets on the menu, but it also has grilled salmon, broccoli peppercorn salad, battered fish plate, fried shrimp plate, tuna sandwich, lighthouse sandwich (with hummus), and a lobster roll. Although, if you really want a lobster roll, head to Tomorrowland Terrace instead. The menu is otherwise basic, but the eatery offers fantastic views of the castle from the outdoor dining patio.
Did you know there’s a Tex-Mex joint in the Magic Kingdom? It’s called Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café and it’s located in Frontierland. Menu options include the standards — fajitas, burritos, nachos, salads, and a burger — but the food is surprisingly good. There’s no table service; it’s a Chipotle-like eatery with counter service and ample seating. Speaking of the seating, the area is shared by the Tortuga Tavern, which offers barbecue food, but is only open seasonally. If it does happen to be open, and the line is too long at Bill’s, chances are it will be much shorter at Tortuga. Another insider tip: The restrooms at Bill’s/Tortuga’s are spacious, and usually not crowded. Whether you’re dining here or not, it makes for a good pit stop.
Probably the most educational place to eat at Disney World (no, wait, keep reading!), the Liberty Tree Tavern in Liberty Square has six rooms, all of which commemorate a different important figure in U.S. history: Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, and George Washington. While lunch offers options like the New England pot roast or Freedom Pasta with sautéed shrimp or grilled chicken, a unique feature is the family-style dining at dinner. Families can dig into a “Patriot’s Platter” of roasted turkey, pot roast, and sliced ham with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, and herb stuffing — which should be more than enough to satisfy any eater. (Except maybe for vegetarians, although the large portions of sides should help a bit.) Prices are similar to those at The Diamond Horseshoe (below), and so are the menu options, so keep that in mind when choosing.
If you’re looking for a non-buffet, sit-down meal near Liberty Square and Frontierland, head to The Diamond Horseshoe. Originally a popular dinner-and-a-show attraction called The Diamond Horseshow Revue, the establishment fell out of favor toward the end of the twentieth century, and closed in 2003. It then reopened a few years later as a seasonal dining option in busier months, offering counter service. Disney has now scaled it back up for daily lunch and dinner service, and just rolled out a new fixed price menu that costs $33 for adults and $19 for children, with an option of barbecue pulled turkey, spit-roasted ham, or stewed beef — all of which are served in large portions with a starch and seasonal vegetables. Dessert is either a campfire brownie or apple tart. Not the flashiest of Magic Kingdom restaurants, but a good spot for a solid meal in a unique, Old West setting.
Looking for a sit-down Disney dining experience that won’t break the bank? Opt for Italian cuisine at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, Main Street, U.S.A. More casual and affordable (entrées run from $18 to $34) than one of the castles (see numbers 1 and 2), Tony’s offers a number of pizza options (by the pie), and large portions of shrimp scampi, chicken parmigiana, and a New York strip steak. Of course, at least one person needs to order the spaghetti, as the restaurant is modeled after the one from Lady and the Tramp — with the film even playing in the lobby and a fountain of the two main characters. Make a reservation an hour before the nearby parade is scheduled to start and request a patio seat for a fantastic view.
Can’t get into either of the castles? Head over to The Plaza Restaurant on Main Street, U.S.A. for a casual meal in a handsome dining parlor with exquisite light fixtures, mirrors, and a solarium. Since it’s located at the end of Main Street (on the way to Tomorrowland), it’s not nearly as crowded as other locations in the same area. The Plaza is also one of the cheapest places to get a table service meal in the whole park. The menu is mostly sandwiches and burgers (try the Angus chuck cheeseburger, beef brisket onion burger, or vegetarian sandwich), but it also offers a solid amount of desserts. The treats come from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor next door, where you can also visit, but the wait is a bit shorter at the restaurant, and the setting (and experience) is much more elegant and memorable.
For the most unusual lunch and dinner food in all of the Magic Kingdom, the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen (a.k.a. the “Skipper Canteen”) in Adventureland is the place to be. Diners can choose between three different rooms — the colonial-era Mess Hall, Dr. Albert Falls’ Jungle Room, and the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.) Room — for house-made arepas (slow-cooked beef, black beans, tostones, and queso fresco), falafel, shu mai (fried dumplings stuffed with pork, shrimp, mung beans, and spices), Dr. Falls’ signature grilled steak (asado-marinated strip loin), a rice noodle bowl with duck or tofu, and grilled lamb chops, to name a few. For the variety, quality, and portions, the prices are reasonable (entrées run $17 to $34), and there’s really nothing else like the Skipper Canteen in the entire park.
Parents traveling with little ones will enjoy The Crystal Palace, on Main Street, U.S.A., for a number of reasons. First, it’s buffet-style, so picky eaters can choose to have as much or as little of the fresh salads; pastas; spit-roasted carved meats (like flank steak or oven-roasted chicken); and chicken, beef, fish, shrimp, and vegetable creations as they’d like. (And don’t forget about the homemade sweets and ice cream!) Additionally, the kids will also be entertained throughout the meal by Disney characters who roam around the restaurant signing autographs and posing for photos. The Crystal Palace is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Prices ($25-40 for adults and $15-20 for kids) might seem a tiny bit steep for a buffet, but the overall experience is worth it.
Is there a more iconic place in which to dine at Disney World than Cinderella’s Castle? Clearly not, and Disney didn’t forget this when designing the upscale Cinderella’s Royal Table experience. Upon entering the two-story stone foyer, guests meet Cinderella before proceeding to the red-carpeted, winding staircase to the dining room of Cinderella's Royal Table. Surrounded by royal flags, huge chandeliers, and stained-glass windows that look out onto your "royal subjects" playing their day away in the Kingdom, guests can feast on pork belly confit, pan-seared scallops, gnocchi with roasted vegetables, and slow-roasted pork tenderloin. Kids’ options include beef tenderloin and chicken nuggets. As they dine, Disney princesses (and sometimes a prince or two) chat with each visiting family, and gifts can be added to each dinner package for an extra special experience. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner is available at the Castle, but booking during the latter can offer spectacular views of the nearby fireworks. Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance — and you’ll need it.
Even visitors who haven’t dined at Be Our Guest Restaurant are probably familiar with it, but they might not know all the spot has to offer. Located in Beast's Castle (from Beauty and the Beast, obviously) in Fantasyland, the 550-seat restaurant offers all the aesthetic luxury you’d expect from a fine-dining experience, with lots of Disney twists. Diners can choose from three rooms — the Grand Ballroom, the West Wing, and the Castle Gallery — each offering a different feel, but the same menu, so you won’t miss out on any of the fantastic food offerings. These include French-inspired dishes like pan-seared chicken breast, a rack of pork chops, or shrimp and scallops with lobster sauce, with grilled steak, fish, or Mickey meatloaf for the little ones. Disney World guests can also stop by at breakfast for a Croque Madame or lunch for turkey baguettes or braised pork. As extra treats, guest can also choose to add a “First Wish” gift or “Disney Fairy Tale” basket to their table for the kids before arriving. Reservations can be made up to 180 days in advance. Also, if the day is starting to wear you down, this is a good place to end; it’s the only restaurant in the Magic Kingdom that serves alcohol.