There are few better places on Earth than Disney World. Disney experiences of carousing with Mickey and Minnie, flying through fantasylands inhabited by pirates and princesses, and trotting the globe in a single day are hard to trump. But when it comes to eating, true food lovers have long been disappointed. Fast-food standbys like chicken fingers and burgers litter the parks and a mountain of sweets from candy apples to churros to mouse-ear-shaped ice cream bars beg snacking. But take heed, Disney’s culinary scene is changing. Celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck and Cat Cora have put down roots in places like Downtown Disney and the BoardWalk, while restaurants in Epcot’s pavilions are stepping up their game. These spots, both on- and off-property, have award-winning chefs in their kitchens and are gaining true recognition. In celebration of a burgeoning dining scene in Disney's world, here is our top 10 list. Ready, set, reserve…
Epcot Center’s signature restaurant is France's Bistro de Paris, which sits in the shadow of the French pavilion’s Eiffel Tower and proves to be the most sought-after park reservation. Thick French accents float on the din at this bi-level eatery dotted with red leather banquettes and champagne chilling in massive silver buckets. White-gloved waiters serve couples and groups a rotating menu of classic dishes like escargot, duck breast, and lamb tenderloin. And if you’re feeling more like steak frites, head downstairs to more casual brasserie, Les Chefs de France.
Though Bistro de Paris is the most popular, it’s Canada’s Le Cellier that delivers the best overall experience. Booked daily, serving lunch and dinner, and modeled after the wine cellars of regal Canadian château-style hotels, this dimly lit steak and chophouse nestled within Canada’s beautiful grounds is everyone’s favorite spot. "I only make reservations here," said the Georgia visitor seated at the table next to me. Eavesdropping diners from Arkansas and Kentucky agreed. The Canadian Cheddar cheese soup is the don’t-miss appetizer, followed by steak, chicken sausage, or Pacific cod. Wash it down with a Moosehead beer, and make sure to save room for the maple crème brûlée. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/MPR529)
Hands down, Mexico’s San Angel Inn wins the award for most atmospheric eatery. Nestled inside the Mexico pavilion, and set against a gorgeous backdrop of "Mayan ruins," an eternal night sky, and a bustling, colorful marketplace complete with hanging lanterns and adobe buildings, diners are transported to the courtyard of a 17th-century Mexican hacienda. Based on the Mexico City restaurant of the same name, San Angel Inn serves menu items from the original like an authentic tortilla soup, rib-eye tacos, and a kick-ass chicken mole poblano. Need to wait out a table? You can head to La Cava del Tequila for some fine tequila and mezcal varieties. Yes, you’re still at Disney.
Within one of Japan’s elaborate blue-roofed pagodas is Teppan Edo, a restaurant that replicates the Teppan-yaki style of Japanese cooking. The sound of sizzling grills permeates the air as skillful chefs with tall white hats flip and twirl knives and ingredients like fresh shellfish, meats, and vegetables, which are then served alongside udon noodles and steamed rice. Sushi is also available, but the reason to come to Teppan Edo is the show. (Photo courtesy of Marie Elena Martinez)