The very name “Disney” immediately evokes thoughts of parents and their children happily bustling around one of many theme or water parks in the United States, Tokyo, Paris, or Hong Kong. Meeting characters, taking rides, and watching spectacular live performances of kid-centric shows are all part of the fun.
But while Disney is certainly diverting for the young, it’s also enjoyable for the young at heart, which includes practically everyone.
Couples in particular enjoy the Disney experience and will find babysitters for their kids — if they have any — so they can walk, talk, play, and dine in the “happiest place on earth” all by themselves.
Disney parks have plenty of food options for kids, who typically prefer hot dogs to haute cuisine. But when you’re at Disney with only your significant other, you’ll be able to linger over a delicious meal at a fine dining establishment, just the two of you.
Planning is the key to enjoying your day at Disney. If you spend the morning or afternoon enjoying a Disney park and have your heart set on going to a specific restaurant for lunch or dinner, you may be disappointed when you get to the door to find out that there is a three-hour wait before you can get a table.
The solution is simple.
If there’s a fine dining restaurant you want to try, go to the dining section of each park’s website and click on the appropriate restaurant link. You will be able to check availability for a specific day and there will always be a phone number provided for you or your hotel concierge to call to make reservations. In some cases, online reservations are a possibility.
Epcot features a “World Showcase” of 11 countries, including Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, and Japan. As you walk from country to country, you will be greeted by cast members in appropriate regional clothing who will be happy to chat with you and answer any questions you may have.
One of the popular pastimes for food-loving visitors is to travel “around the world,” sampling cuisines from each destination.
The key is to try appetizers at each sidewalk vendor or walk-in café using their quick counter service, to ensure that you’ll have enough appetite to complete your culinary tour.
Check out the Lotus Blossom Café for Chinese food, for example; Sommerfest for German; and the Tangierine Café for Moroccan and Mediterranean food. Then, it’s off to Japan for a stop perhaps at the Kabuki Café; then to Gelati for some Italian ice cream; and at Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie for some French pastries. Top it all off by stopping at the UK Beer Cart for a drink.
If you love classic cars, you’ll love The BOATHOUSE. Why? Because you have the opportunity to ride in an Amphicar — a 1950s-style vehicle with big fins that glides on water as easily as it does on land. The ride will take you on a 20-minute tour of Disney Springs (the former Downtown Disney). Or if you love vintage boats, you can choose an Italian water taxi or board the Lady Rose, a nineteenth-century steamboat, instead.
But let’s talk about the food. The BOATHOUSE is a steakhouse and seafood restaurant open for lunch and dinner which features a raw bar with oysters on the half-shell, wild-caught Baja shrimp, Anastasia gold caviar, and more. You can also order casual fare such as salads and sandwiches or more upscale dishes like heritage Angus filet mignon or Maine lobster mac and cheese.
White and red wines to complement each meal are available, as are a wide variety of martinis.
Yelp / Kelly E
Another fine dining restaurant with waterfront views, Artist Point was designed as an homage to the lodges in America’s National Parks, with “Pacific Northwest Fare” featuring not only steak and seafood, but game as well. The menu changes with the seasons.
Appetizers include Dungeness crab cakes and steamed mussels. There’s a cheese board featuring Laura Chenel’s goat’s milk Tome and Cowgirl Creamery's cow's milk Red Hawk, both from California, as well as a two-year-old Flagship Reserve from Beecher's in Seattle. Entrées include aged buffalo strip loin, Pacific seafood cioppino (fish stew), and wild-caught prawn phở. For vegetarians, a vegan lo mein is on offer.
The food is complemented by the ambiance of the restaurant, with timber columns throughout and murals on the ceiling, evoking a rustic feel, and memories of our frontier past.
Ask for a table by the windows to view Bay Lake and Silver Creek Falls. There’s also an outdoor terrace which provides an overlook of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.
As the name implies, as you venture into Cinderella Castle you are greeted by Cinderella. A spiral staircase leads you to a banquet hall where you will be able to visit with Disney princesses from your favorite childhood movies as you dine.
The banquet hall evokes all the grandeur of a grand palace with large archways, draped flags, and stained-glass windows. “Young guests are encouraged to dress up for the occasion,” according to their website, but there’s no reason why the young at heart can’t act the part as well!
Guests may quell their royal appetites with caramel-apple-stuffed French toast for breakfast or a braised short rib for lunch. Dinner entrées include seasonal gnocchi with roasted vegetables, pan-seared all-natural chicken, and slow-roasted pork tenderloin.
The Catal restaurant in the Downtown Disney District features Mediterranean cuisine. Here you can enjoy a meal in “a relaxed yet elegant eatery where gourmet cuisine meets homespun hospitality.”
Chef-restaurateur Joachim Splichal crafts his magic for guests, who have a choice of dining on one of three floors. Options include the casual downstairs which features the Uva Bar and Café, or the elegant dining room upstairs. There’s also an alfresco terrace, which is ideal for viewing the fireworks from Disneyland Park on the nights when the fireworks shows are held.
You’ll be tempted to start first with dessert, as they have house-made gelatos and sorbets. The natillas de pan cajet is a butterscotch bread pudding with caramelized bananas and cinnamon ice cream. Or, try the chocolate fondue for two. Then move on to the starters such as Spanish tortilla frites or crispy calamari. Entrées include suckling pig, Skuna Bay salmon, Catalan seafood stew, and slow-roasted prime rib. Of course the restaurant offers paella and pastas as well. From the grill, there’s baby back ribs, filet mignon, and prime rib eye steak.
Yelp / Jam Y
The Napa Rose, inside Disney’s flagship resort hotel the Grand Californian, is an elegant restaurant plating Californian cuisine and has an extensive wine list.
Guests have the option of being seated by windows to soak in the views of Disney California Adventure Park, or at the Chef’s Counter in the exhibition kitchen. There’s also the Napa Rose Lounge for those who want to relax in casual comfort.
The Napa Rose boasts cuisine by chef Andrew Sutton, who has been a crowd-pleaser here for more than 10 years. He and his staff work their magic at the Chef’s Counter.
What’s on the menu? Although it changes seasonally, sample fare includes such starters as pan-roasted diver scallops, sautéed veal sweetbreads, and tender Mediterranean octopus carpaccio. Napa Rose is proud of its “Smiling Tiger” salad, which includes tempura-fried lobster, spicy beef, Asian greens, and coconut lime vinaigrette. The restaurant also serves portobello mushroom bisque “cappuccino” soup.
For the main course, try pan-roasted breast of Maple Leaf Farms duck, or the forbidden-spiced lamb rack and merguez sausage. There is also a sautéed sustainable fish of the day, complemented by applewood-smoked bacon, Castroville artichokes, and Sungold tomato sauce.
As for desserts, you’re spoiled for choices, with such mouth-watering fare as Scharffen Berger chocolate decadent bar with coconut chantilly, and peanut butter croquantine with Manjari chocolate ganache over caramelized bananas.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is the largest Disney dinner show “on the continent.” Europeans are fascinated by America’s Old West, so they enjoy this spectacle hosted by Buffalo Bill. It features a cast of characters that include Chief Sitting Bull, Annie Oakley, and the Rough Riders. For the kids, Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Chip and Dale also appear on stage to add to the fun.
Yelp / Lauren T
The iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle, which you saw in that classic movie and which is also shown in the opening credits of today’s Disney films, was modeled after Neuschwanstein, the fairy tale castle built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
The banquet hall here is where you will feast on European fare such as pork shanks braised in beer or spätzle topped with grated Emmental cheese. For a taste of Paris, try the flambéed crepes with orange sorbet and butterscotch sauce.
Yelp / Doreen M
Most of the restaurants, cafés, and snack bars at Tokyo Disneyland offer American fare, with the occasional Italian restaurant thrown in.
If you want to try Japanese cuisine, check out Restaurant Hokusai. It’s typically busy here, as lots of visitors to the park find this a nice culinary respite. The staff is friendly, speaks English, and the food is authentic Japanese. The dining area is light and airy. Unlike traditional Japanese restaurants with tatami-mat seating, there are chairs here.
The River View Café is a “family dining” restaurant, but one which offers wonderful tropical views of the River of Adventure.