I've been going to Disney World for over 25 years, and the food is great if you know where to go.
I always eat 50's Prime Time Café and Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo at Hollywood Studios.
I skip the character dining at Cinderella's Royal Table and opt for Skipper Canteen.
When it comes to dining at Disney World, the options can be overwhelming.
As someone who's gone to the theme parks hundreds of times, I've found the best places to snag reservations — and others I skip no matter how hungry I am.
PICK: My must-visit table-service restaurant is Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen
Magic Kingdom is probably my least favorite Disney World theme park to dine at because it's really geared toward families with more basic palates.
The one place I've found that's consistently good and worth booking a reservation at is Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen in Adventureland.
The food is a departure from turkey legs and cheeseburgers, with dishes like Berber spiced short ribs and sweet-chili glazed fried chicken. My favorite is the Perkins Thai noodles, a flavorful pad-Thai-like dish with crisp vegetables and a spicy sauce.
Pro tip: Ask to sit in the Society of Adventurers and Explorers room to learn more about the "secret society" Disney created that connects all of the company's theme parks and cruise lines around the world.
PICK: When time is short, I eat at Casey's Corner
At the end of Main Street USA, you'll find Casey's Corner, a baseball-themed quick-service spot that dishes out hot dogs and iconic corn-dog nuggets — my go-to order.
I typically eat my food at one of the nearby tables or on the patches of grass in front of the castle (referred to as the "Hub grass") to take in the views.
SKIP: Cinderella's Royal Table is a one-and-done spot
Character dining, especially in the parks, takes up valuable time.
The food isn't bad at Cinderella's Royal Table, but it's pricey and the time it takes to be seated, eat, and see Cinderella could be spent going on my favorite rides.
If you've never dined inside the castle, it is a nice experience to do once. But that was enough for me.
SKIP: I never go to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café
I try my best to never even step foot in Cosmic Ray's.
The quick-service restaurant is always packed with families wrangling kids, and it's hard to find a table at almost any time of day.
Plus the food is basic theme-park fare, like cheeseburgers and chicken strips.
PICK: My gotta-have-it meal is from 50's Prime Time Café
Every time I go to Hollywood Studios, I'm likely eating at the adorably kitschy 50's Prime Time Café.
The comfort-food restaurant serves everything from chicken-noodle soup and fried chicken to pot roast and meatloaf.
The waitstaff here will likely call you "cousin," and let you know that "Mom is in the back cooking so you better mind your manners."
Two things I always order are the beer-battered onion rings with a creamy horseradish dipping sauce and the fried-chicken plate with mashed potatoes and a veggie. Both hit the spot after walking around the park for a few hours.
If you finish all of your food, your waiter or waitress will likely make you a sticker-carrying member of the "Clean Plate Club."
Pro tip: You can go into the Tune-In Lounge, located right next door, to order the famous peanut-butter-and-jelly milkshake without a reservation.
PICK: In Galaxy's Edge, I always eat at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo
I always make a point to visit Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo inside Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Hollywood Studios.
The food is tasty, with dishes like tuna poke, smoked pork ribs, and plant-based meatballs with herb hummus.
Pro tip: Anytime after 3:00 p.m. you can order the popular Ronto Wrap — otherwise only sold at nearby Ronto Roasters — at Docking Bay 7.
SKIP: Even when it's the only available reservation, I won't go to Mama Melrose's
Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano is known for its basic Italian food, including spaghetti and meatballs, chicken Parmesan, and Caesar salads.
These are all things I can make pretty easily at home, so I always skip the table-service restaurant.
SKIP: I try to avoid the crowds at Woody's Lunch Box whenever possible
Woody's Lunch Box is the only quick-service restaurant in the very popular Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios.
It has kid-friendly options like grilled cheese and loaded potato barrels.
But there's always a lack of seating and the wait times are long for mobile orders. On a typical day at Hollywood Studios, you need to order at least an hour in advance if you want to eat at a standard lunch or dinner time.
PICK: La Hacienda de San Angel is the best table-service restaurant at the park
There are ample restaurants at Epcot, but my absolute favorite is La Hacienda de San Angel in the Mexico pavilion.
It's only open for dinner, but it's often overshadowed by its sister restaurant, San Angel Inn, making it fairly easy to get a reservation.
The food is inspired by various regions of Mexico and is full of flavor. I always get the queso fundido, which is a melted-cheese dish with chorizo, peppers, and onions.
La Hacienda de San Angel is located on the banks of World Showcase Lagoon which means tables by the windows have incredible views of World Showcase, and if your timing is right, Epcot's nighttime fireworks show.
PICK: When I'm in a rush, Yorkshire County Fish Shop hits the spot
When I have a full day of attractions and shows, I get fish and chips at the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the UK pavilion.
Every basket comes out fresh, hot, and extra crispy. I try to snag a table near the edge of World Showcase Lagoon to take in the bright Florida sun and relax for a few minutes.
SKIP: San Angel Inn Restaurante isn't worth the hype
Inside the giant pyramid in the Mexico pavilion is San Angel Inn Restaurante.
The food is OK, but the real reason people fight for a reservation here is because of the atmosphere — and potentially being able to eat next to the Gran Fiesta Tour attraction.
I'd rather have a better meal in an equally lovely atmosphere at La Hacienda de San Angel, where I don't have to fight for a prime spot.
SKIP: I don't usually go to Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion
One quick-service spot I always skip is Katsura Grill in Epcot's Japan pavilion.
The menu is basic, with simple sushi rolls, noodle bowls, and teriyaki dishes.
But I will say I love the location of the restaurant, up on the hill in the pavilion. It's often overlooked because it's off the main pathway, making it a less crowded spot.
PICK: Tiffins is the perfect spot for those with an adventurous palette
One of my favorite restaurants in all of Disney World is Tiffins at Animal Kingdom, which has various themed dining rooms and a menu fit to impress even the most sophisticated of palettes.
I always start with the charred octopus, which is one of my all-time favorite dishes at the parks. It's perfectly cooked without being rubbery or fishy.
I also like to ask my server if there's anything new on the menu because the chefs love to add seasonal dishes throughout the year.
PICK: When I want a quick lunch, I stop at Harambe Market
In the Africa section of Animal Kingdom is Harambe Market, an open-air quick-service restaurant serving some of the best ribs and grilled chicken on property.
I always stop here if I want a quick lunch at the park.
I typically order the grilled-chicken bowl, which also comes with a generous portion of cilantro rice and mixed greens. If I'm at the park with a friend, the chicken-and-rib bowl is a good lunch to split between two people.
SKIP: There are better options than Restaurantosaurus in DinoLand USA
The theme of Restaurantosaurus is super cute, but the menu is full of typical burgers and chicken nuggets.
I find this to be a little boring, especially at Animal Kingdom, where there are so many fun food options.
SKIP: Yak and Yeti is OK, but I tend to avoid it
Yak and Yeti, a restaurant in the Asia section of the park, specializes in pan-Asian-inspired cuisine like pork egg rolls, lettuce cups, and lo mein noodles.
It's all fine, but I can get most of those things at home from a good Chinese take-out restaurant.
Disney World Resorts
PICK: Steakhouse 71 has the best cheeseburger at Disney World
The incredible stack burger keeps me coming back to Steakhouse 71 at Disney's Contemporary Resort.
It's piled high with two thin patties, melty American cheese, zesty lemon aioli, thinly sliced red onion, and house-made pickles, all on a toasted brioche bun.
It's by far the best burger at Disney World.
Pro tip: If you can't land a reservation, the bar/lounge has first come, first served seating for lunch and dinner.
SKIP: Olivia's Café at Disney's Old Key West Resort isn't a standout
Olivia's Café at Disney's Old Key West Resort is a cute restaurant.
Although the food is decent and will likely please picky eaters, with items like fried chicken and prime rib, I think there are better menus at restaurants with more immersive themes.
But those looking for outdoor dining at Disney World may like Olivia's because it has a large patio.
PICK: Wine Bar George might be the best restaurant at Disney World
Wine Bar George is a trendy but casual spot at Disney Springs known for its extensive wine list and shareable plates.
It's usually one of my first stops when I get to Orlando, especially if I'm not going to a theme park on the first day of my trip.
The food is consistently good, and the servers are all very knowledgeable about the wine list. In fact, they can usually get you the perfect wine within two tastes after asking a few questions about what you're looking for.
I love the crispy macaroni-and-cheese bites, the house-made meatballs with triple cheese polenta and tomato sauce, and the burrata with grilled bread and tomatoes.
PICK: When I want to take a trip to Flavortown, I stop in at Chicken Guy
Chicken Guy at Disney Springs always has a line, but it's for a good reason. The quick-service restaurant from celebrity chef Guy Fieri serves fresh, hot chicken.
I love customizing my meal with a selection of the 22 different sauces on the menu.
I typically order the classic sandwich, which is crispy chicken, cheddar cheese, special sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle on a soft bun. It's perfectly assembled each time and keeps me full until I inevitably find my next snack.
SKIP: I try to steer clear of Planet Hollywood at the shopping, entertainment, and dining center
Planet Hollywood is one restaurant I always try to avoid.
The chain can be found all over the world and is known for its movie memorabilia.
Although I like looking at some of the display cases, that's not enough to draw me into the loud restaurant whose eclectic menu could rival The Cheesecake Factory in size.
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