Shoestring Dining at Walt Disney World, Part I
Have fun while staying on a food budget
Friday, July 4, 2002
by Mike Scopa, staff writer
Plaza Restaurant serves great sandwiches, soups, and fountain
In this session, we tackle a subject that is always close to the top
of the list for first-time visitors to the Walt Disney World Resort: the
cost of feeding their family. This session is devoted to those spots in
and around Walt Disney World that give you the best deal for your food
budget. Let's explore the theme parks to locate these low budget-eating
Fair Food Fare
What is fair fare for one guest may not be the same for another, so let's
establish what our acceptable food budget will be. Let's focus on Walt
Disney World eateries that offer decent food for between $10 and $20 per
person. The $10 end of the range will mostly be for the breakfasts, and
as you move towards lunch, we nudge towards the $15 range. Finally for
dinner, we edge close to the $20 range. Look for my "thumbs-up" labels
for those places, which are among the best values in the Walt Disney World
The Magic Kingdom
Main Street USA – One of my favorite places is the Plaza
Restaurant. This is a great place for both lunch and dinner and not
only are the meals light but so is the cost. Try the Reuben sandwich.
Adventureland – the place to go is El Pirata Y el Perico,
across from Pirates of the Caribbean. This snack stand offers all kinds
of Mexican treats at good prices. In recent years this stand has removed
extended operating hours, so make sure you visit during lunch hours. I
cannot guarantee it will be open for dinner.
El Pirata Y el Perico offers a simple "Mexican" menu, Taco Bell
Fantasyland – the place to go is Pinocchio Village Haus,
to the right of “it's a small world.” This eatery is usually
crowded and you may have to time it just right in order to get a table.
It is a great place to take your family for lunch without having to mortgage
Frontierland – I hand out my first thumbs up to the Diamond
Horseshoe Saloon Revue. It seems there's always some entertainment
going on, and where else in the World can you get good entertainment while
enjoying a very nice (and inexpensive meal)? I try to visit it twice on
each trip because I love both the daytime and nighttime shows.
Liberty Square – offers the Columbia Harbour House
as an economical place to eat. The fare in here is similar to what you
will find at the Pinocchio Village Haus. Columbia Harbour house is right
around the corner from the Hall of Presidents and just down the way from
the Haunted Mansion.
Tomorrowland – offers two places that meet our needs: Cosmic
Ray's Starlight Cafe near the Indy Speedway, and the Plaza Pavilion
just on the edge of Tomorrowland and Main Street USA. Both establishments
offer a large variety of treats to eat at a great price.
Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe features audio-animatronic entertainer Sunny
Future World – an often-overlooked place to eat is the Electric
Umbrella located at Innoventions Plaza. It is a huge place and should
be right on your list for either lunch or dinner. I recommend the pita
I also have to make a case for Pure and Simple in the Wonders
of Life pavilion. There's not much as far as a variety, but the price
and quality are good.
There is yet another Future World place that cannot be overlooked: the
Sunshine Food Fair at the Land Pavilion. The name may sound new, but
it's often referred to as the Land Pavilion food court. I don't recall
just how many stands are there but I do know that there are many options
to choose from, and it's great for the family with a number of diverse
The Sunshine Food Fair has a wide selection of options.
World Showcase – you may want to give a few places an opportunity
to satisfy your hunger without pulling too much on your wallet.
The Cantina de San Angel across from the Mexico Pavilion is a
nice outside stand to enjoy some pretty good Mexican fare at a good price.
You cannot go wrong with the Plato Combinacion.
One of my favorite places is the Liberty Inn right next to the
American Adventure Pavilion. I like to enjoy lunch there after taking
in my favorite WDW attraction. Now if I can only get the Voices of Liberty
to serenade me while I eat I'd stay there all day.
If you are into some economical ethnic fast food then be sure to try
the Lotus Blossom Cafe in China, Refreshment Port in Canada,
Sommerfest in Germany, the little known Tangierine Cafe
in Morocco, and the very cool Yakitori House in Japan. These establishments
may lean more towards the high end of our range but after your first bite,
you won't complain.
Yakitori House is the fast food venue in the Japan pavilion.
Hollywood & Vine – One of the tips I mention quite a
bit is to take in a late breakfast here. If you have a late morning seating
them you can enjoy a brunch. Get into the park early, do your favorite
attractions, then have a little brunch at Hollywood & Vine. While
you're enjoying your breakfast the lunch foods are brought out. Note that
this too hits the high end or our range, but it's brunch folks: all you
Sunset Boulevard – offers the Sunset Ranch Market
with several outdoor stands for lunch, dinner or a snack. Here's a plug
for Catalina Eddie's for a veggie pizza.
Sunshine Market Ranch mimics the Farmer's Market in Hollywood.
A tip for parents who want to relax but let their kids go crazy with
video games, it's called Toy Story Pizza Planet. Food and video
games – sounds like a combo any kid would love.
I can't leave MGM without mentioning Starring Rolls Bakery. This
is a great place for a breakfast snack such as muffins or croissants.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Maybe it's not my tummy growing but the animals in Disney's Animal Kingdom
making that noise. This theme park has quite a few places to stretch your
WDW dining dollar.
If you love barbeque food then the Flame Tree Barbeque is the
place for you. This is located close to the bridge that goes to Dinoland
USA. It's a great outdoors eating-place.
If you just want a burger and relax and gaze at the Tree of Life then
go to Mr. Kamal's Burger Grill. Do lunch here. There isn't much
variety but if you are looking for burgers and chips it's just right.
Pizzafari, located near the bridge that goes to Camp Mickey-Minnie,
is a very underrated eatery. The prices are great and there's a lot of
neat stuff to choose from including, be still my heart, a roasted vegetable
Pizzafari gets a nod from Mike as a very under-rated restaurant.
Tusker House in Harambe should also be on your list for this theme
park. Simple, fast, and economical lunches are easy to come by at this
Animal Kingdom establishment.
What we have looked at in this session are those theme park eateries
that offer variety, sometimes some entertainment, but most of all a great
value for our food budget dollar.
Regardless of where you eat, always check to see if Priority Seating
is in order, or else plan to eat at a non-traditional time such as a 2:30
lunch to guarantee you a table at a special restaurant.
We venture into Downtown Disney, and also check out the resorts for those
special places to make your palate and wallet smile.
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Mike here.