We are mixing it up a bit this week and offering our first top 5 list. Naturally, lists like this are subjective since everyone has different tastes. For our purposes, we posed the question to each member of the clan and then discussed some of the key criteria such as food quality and variety, atmosphere, and space. We are very averse to being elbow to elbow with others so that last one carried a lot of weight for us. With that said, let’s get to it.
#5 Landscape of Flavors
Art of Animation Resort
We have stayed at Art of Animation several times. The food court is excellent with a lot of variety. There is plenty of seating, though we would often bring the food back to the room. The real plates and flatware are nice, but it also contributes to a very loud seating area. This is another location with ‘bays’ that you order at with checkout lines after all the food is ordered. There is a ‘World of Flavors’ shop with tandoori chicken and roasted beef (along with amazing roasted cauliflower!), a Burger station/Grill (with the fantastic Surf and Surf burger among other burgers), a Soup/Salad/Sandwiches station (create your own salad!), a Pizza/Pasta station (create your own pasta!), and a Specialty Beverage/Gelato station, with several flavors of gelato to choose from, as well as smoothies and other desserts.
#4 Contempo Cafe
Quick service dining experiences need not be limited to the parks. We have taken several trips to Disney where we spend very little time in the parks. Contempo Cafe at the Contemporary Resort is one of our regular stops.
The variety of food at this restaurant is excellent. They have sandwiches, pot roast, flat breads, and several other options. The food is made fresh and delivered to you at your table after you pay.
Being in the Contemporary, the atmosphere is typical modern decor. Not our favorite as theming goes, but it is appropriate. There has never been a shortage of seating during any of our visits.
If variety is what you are after, then the Contempo Cafe is a good choice. And did I mention they have amazing cupcakes?
#3 Katsura Grill
Japan Pavilion at Epcot
This restaurant seems to be ranked low on some of the more traditional food blogs, but it is one of our favorites. The Teriyaki Chicken is excellent and the service is always good. One year, they had a couple of origami WALL-E figures on the register. J loves to do origami and mentioned that to the cashier. She proceeded to give him the figure. That was unexpected and very nice.
The atmosphere at Katsura is what really sells it for us. The indoor seating is extremely cramped, but it looks nice. We prefer to eat outside in the garden area. There is a lot more space and looking at the garden is very relaxing. We especially recommend this in the evenings as the sun is going down.
Katsura is a restaurant we try to hit on each trip to Epcot.
#2 Flame Tree Barbecue
While we struggled to agree on the rankings up to this point, we were unanimous in our choices for the top two. Flame Tree is a restaurant that we will plan our day around. We might only be going to Animal Kingdom for rope drop and Everest, but we will always plan to stay for lunch at Flame Tree.
The quality of food is excellent – it is mostly barbecue (hence the name). They have St. Louis ribs and pulled pork and a very good roasted chicken. (Sadly, they have taken the turkey leg and the awesome huge fruit plate off the menu since we were there last. Boo.) The service is fast, made faster now with the pre-order option through the mobile app. There are several covered seating areas that provide nice views of the lake and Everest. There are usually lots of birds to keep you company while you eat.
Flame Tree is one of those restaurants that ranks high in most of our criteria. Great food, nice atmosphere, and plenty of space to move around.
Before we get to our top choice, we wanted to include some honorable mentions. These were restaurants that were in the conversation for the top 5, but for one reason or another just did not make the cut.
Pinocchio Village Haus (Magic Kingdom)
Very good atmosphere with good food. The menu is mostly flatbreads and a couple Italian style entrees. The upstairs seating and the seating that overlooks “It’s a Small World” are both nice. What bumped it from the top 5 for us is that it can get very crowded.
Sunshine Seasons (The Land Pavilion at Epcot)
Epcot is filled with great dining options. This is usually a regular stop for us- it has lots of variety and a great atmosphere. There is usually plenty of seating. It’s a great place to rest for a bit. It did not quite make the top 5 for us because we are rotating in other options at Epcot. This restaurant has various ‘bays’ that you order food at, and you pay for it all at the end. There is an Asian noodles bay, a grill, a sandwich bay, a soup and salads bay, and a desserts counter. The Mongolian beef is very good, and the desserts are all excellent!
Captain Cook’s (Polynesian Resort)
We have only eaten here a couple times so we did not feel that was enough of a sample to include it in our top 5. (I bet it’ll be in our top five after a couple more trips, though!) The food is good and the ordering process is organized. There is a good amount of seating. The Polynesian theming is very well done. The menu items are Polynesian inspired – with burgers, fried rice, Asian noodles, sandwiches, salads and flatbreads there is something for everyone here.
Be Our Guest Lunch (Magic Kingdom)
This would have been in the Top 5 except that you need reservations to get in, even for the QS lunch. This makes it very hard to include in our list of Quick Service restaurants. The food is very good though, and the theming is amazing. They serve French-inspired dishes – at lunch it is mostly salads and sandwiches, along with quiche and an excellent braised pork.
Yorkshire Fish Shoppe (UK Pavilion in Epcot)
This restaurant sells fish and chips and only fish and chips. It is the same fish and chips that you would get at the Rose and Crown pub, but for a fraction of the cost. The lack of variety was what kept it out of the top 5.
#1 Columbia Harbour House
We could eat all of our Magic Kingdom meals here and we would be very happy. There is a good variety (mostly seafood) to choose from including salmon and an excellent clam chowder. (The lobster roll! Yum!) The seating area is spacious. We love when there are nooks that seem to get you away from the bustle of the day. The second floor at Columbia Harbour House is huge, but very quiet.
A nice experience we had was when J spilled his chocolate milk all over himself while we were eating. He started crying. The cast member nearby helped us clean it up and went and got him another chocolate milk.
Columbia Harbour House has it all. Great food. Excellent variety. Lots of seating. Wonderful theming. Quiet corners.
What do you think? Do you agree with our choices? Share your comments below.