TOP TEN Counter Service Restaurants at WDW

1.  Landscape of FlavorsThe Art of Animation Resort’s answer to the food court reigns supreme as our first choice for the best counter service venue on site.  This locale totally revolutionized the way Disney does food court-style dining at its resorts.  Adjacent to the gift shop with floor to ceiling windows offering views of the Finding Nemo themed pool, Landscape of Flavors literally has something for everyone.  Featuring a gelato bar, Indian food station, make-your-own pasta section, pizza, a burger and sandwich section as well as a create-your-own salad station, this eatery offers variety and quality.  Drinks are paid for with food and then guests use self-serve drink dispensers once seated.  Diners also enjoy real silverware and plates here, making the experience feel less quick service and more like a sit down meal.  The Tandori chicken or shrimp with acorn squash and a side of spinach and paneer cheese is always a hit with us as is the Surf and Surf Burger which features a crab cake “burger” topped with popcorn shrimp and remoulade sauce.  Gelato makes the list as our favorite dessert option here.  Guests who buy gelato have their receipts stamped and may return for gelato within two hours of purchase.  This avoids having to eat soupy gelato.  Cast members are friendly and work hard to keep the bright, cheery dining room clean.  Musical selections from the films featured in the art work throughout the room play as diners enjoy their meals.  Landscape of Flavors serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and also serves as a quick shop spot as well with countless reach-in refrigerators stocked with prepared salads, sandwiches, hummus, fruits salads, and myriad desserts.  If you would like to visit Landscape of Flavors, hop on a bus to the Art of Animation Resort from Downtown Disney or the nearest theme park.  Your journey will be well-worth the effort.


2.  Riverside Mill Food Court:  This food court-style venue at the Port Orleans Riverside resort wins for the charm of its setting and the variety of its offerings.  Nestled alongside the resort’s check in and shopping complex and adjacent to Boatwright’s table service restaurant, Riverside Mill offers pleasant views of the waterways meandering through the resort as well as a giant waterwheel on its north side.  Guests dine in an old mill, complete with wood works and wheels that add to the homey feeling.  Mismatched chairs and giant wood framed windows welcome and sooth guests.  Despite the soothing effect of the warm wood, this venue can get frenetic at peak meal times.  Eat at slightly off times for the shortest waits and best quality food.  Riverside Mill is home to one of our favorite sweet temptations, the Magic Bar.  A sort of brownie ratcheted up to the ninth degree, these confections feature nuts, coconut flakes,  chocolate chips, and other morsels all baked into a brownie like treat that easily serves two.  Top them with vanilla ice cream for an extra extravagant indulgence.  The Mill features our favorite create-your-own pasta bar on site, a salad station, a grill featuring burgers, fries, chicken fingers and the like, and a carving station.  The dinner menu is augmented by a hot selection like roast beef, mashed potatoes, and green beans, or pot roast and veggies.  This hot selection usually changes nightly and is always quite good.  Soups of the day are crowd-pleasers as well.  The create-your-own-pasta can easily be shared and portions here are generally quite generous.


3.  Wolfgang Puck Express:  While there are two Wolfgang Puck locations at Downtown Disney, soon to be Disney Springs, the WP Express in the Marketplace is, hands down, our favorite.  The red brick and arts and crafts architecture coupled with big windows and the smell of roasting chickens emanating from the kitchen make this a must visit!  Do not be fooled, WP Express can get quite busy, especially now that guests on the Disney Dining Plan have realized that WP Express is undoubtedly the best quick service dining value on property.  Guests order at a counter and are given a number to place on their tables.  Servers deliver food in a timely, friendly fashion.  Guests can chose to be seated in either the open kitchen area or one of the main dining rooms framed by expansive windows.  Diners chow down on delicious food in comfort while watching the hustle and bustle of the Marketplace outside.  Try the flavored, fresh-brewed iced teas with your meal.  Not to be missed are the signature Chinois Chicken Salad, Roasted Vegetable Wood Fired Pizza, Butternut Squash Soup, Half Roasted Chicken, and the Oven Roasted Salmon.  The Crème Brule here is also stellar.  Consider splitting a pizza and a salad.  The Spaghetti Bolognese is a hearty choice that never fails to please.  If you know you won’t have room for dessert and it’s included on your meal plan, take home a wrapped brownie or a fruit salad for a quick snack or breakfast.

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4.  Earl of Sandwich:  Perhaps the least expensive dining option on site, Earl of Sandwich, offers great food at even better prices.  Right next door to the kitchen goods store in the Marketplace, Earl serves inventive, filling sandwiches in a casual setting.  Seating affords views of the Marketplace stores, shoppers, and cheery landscaping.  While our favorites are The Original 1762 (fresh roasted beef, cheddar and creamy horseradish sauce) and The Chipotle Chicken Avocado (Grilled chicken, bacon, sharp cheddar, avocado, lettuce and chipotle sauce), guests rave about The Holiday Sandwich, a winning combination of roasted turkey, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce.  Once only offered seasonally, our understanding is that this creation is now a permanent fixture on the menu.  Hearty sandwiches, salads, and savory soups fill hungry bellies without breaking the bank!  DVC members and Passholders may enjoy discounts here.

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5.  Sunshine SeasonsThe Sunshine Seasons food court in The Land pavilion at Epcot is certainly the best quick service option in the parks.  With a now healthy and often macrobiotic selection, this counter service option is a clear front-runner.  Located on the first floor of The Land pavilion, this venue offers an expansive seating area that rests between Soarin’ and the Living with the Land attraction.  Guests sit under a huge atrium that features natural light from skylights.  Yellow and orange swaths of fabric represent the sun and four hot air balloons, each representing a different season, float overhead.  Essentially a very nice food court, Sunshine Seasons is divided into different service areas that each feature different types of food.  “The Grill” features rotisserie chicken, grilled fish, and a slow-roasted pork chop while the “Asian Noodles” section Mongolian Beef, Sweet and Sour Chicken, and Spicy Cashew Chicken.  “Asian Noodles” is home to one of our favorite items, the Garlic Udon Noodles, which are available as a snack credit.  We often share an order or two as a midafternoon healthy snack if we have late dinner reservations.  “Soups and Salads,” “The Bakery,” and “Sandwiches” round out the offerings here.  Honestly, we have never had a bad meal here.  The Mongolian Beef, Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad, Oak Grilled Vegetable Sandwich, and Rotisserie Chicken stand as our favorites.  An abundant selection of desserts satisfies any sweet tooth.


6.  Flame Tree Barbecue:  Located in the Discovery Island section of Animal Kingdom, Flame Tree offers fair portion sizes, great food, and wonderful seating areas, some with views of Expedition Everest and the Discovery River.  The restaurant, awash with sunset orange, teal, and blue paint, invites guests to sample excellent barbecue and refreshing drinks.  In keeping with the predator seeks prey subtle theming, the marquis sign features a crocodile (or alligator) making a snack of a fish.  Not to worry, this theme is so understated, most small children do not even notice.  A series of shaded pavilions set on a winding trail between the service counter and the river provide an abundance of seating in the shade.  Many of these sit directly on the water or adjacent to reflecting pools and fountains that attract small birds.  This, together with the lush landscaping, make the seating areas at Flame Tree feel like a temporary escape from the heat and even the crowds.  Portions here are so ample that two pre-teens or two adults who are not big eaters could easily share.  Stick with the barbecue offerings here.  The half slab of ribs, half chicken, and the rib and chicken combo are all excellent and are accompanied by baked beans and coleslaw.  Beer and wine are also featured.  Sample a Safari Amber brew.  Although we are ardent fans of Flame Tree, the desserts here need work.  Choices are limited to either Key Lime or Chocolate Mousse, neither of which is a homerun.  Crowds here can be over-whelming so, as we often suggest, try to dine at non-peak hours.  Remember that most counter service restaurants at the Animal Kingdom offer a discount for Tables in Wonderland members.

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7.  Katsura Grill:  The setting at the Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion at Epcot enchants guests and beckons them to linger.  Nestled behind the pagoda among the stepped terraces of a Japanese garden complete with koi pond, the outdoor seating at Katsura Grill transports guests to another time and place.  Large red umbrellas and strings of white and blue lanterns punctuate the serene setting of the garden.  Although only steps from the main thoroughfare of World Showcase, the Grill feels worlds away.  Indoor seating is also available for those who prefer it.  Along with the ever popular Udon, guests may choose a series of Teriyaki combos that include chicken, beef, or salmon.  Teriyaki dishes are also offered as combinations.  Several sushi and tsukumen salad combos are also excellent.  Kirin beer, plum wine, and sake round an excellent meal here.  Please try the green tea ice cream.  We love green tea, but the flavor of the ice cream may be too strong for some.  In that case, opt for the strawberry ice cream.  Somewhat annoyingly, cast members here insist that guests on a meal plan take their ice cream with their meal, resulting in melted ice cream.  Even a manager failed to see the silliness of this plan.  If not on a meal plan, wait to purchase your ice cream until the end of your meal.

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8.  Contempo Café:  This location holds a special place in our hearts, probably because it was once the Concourse Steakhouse, one of our favorite WDW eateries.  Now the quick service venue for the Contemporary and Bay Lake Tower resorts, Contempo Café offers good, solid food in an exciting and storied setting.  Housed on the fourth floor concourse of the Contemporary, Contempo offers soaring views of the mainframe atrium and the kinetics of monorail trains passing through the lobby.  Guests also have a great view of Mary Blair’s mosaic installation on the outside of the elevator structures.  If visiting, be sure to look for the five-legged goat, although it is not visible from the Contempo Café dining area.  One of the first venues to offer self-service touch screen ordering kiosks, the Café’s best dishes include the Steakhouse Salad and Spice Crusted Mahi sandwich.  In fact, the Mahi sandwich is rated the best quick service fish sandwich on property be a member of our team.  Opt for the Multigrain Turkey BLT or the Honey Lime Chicken sandwich instead of the lack luster burgers here.  We have never had a burger here that did not feel like it had been sitting under a heat lamp for too long, even if it had not.  Guests procure their own drinks and desserts here.  The soft serve ice cream is a hit with our group.  As an escape from the sometimes oppressive heat and crowds at the Magic Kingdom, hop on the monorail and head over to the Contempo Café.  Food here is made fresh and is often better than some in park venues and guests enjoy the added benefit of a less crowded dining experience.  Then explore the shops in the lobby before heading back to the MK, refreshed and full!

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9.  Anandapur Local Food Café:  (Yak and Yeti Counter service) Although this location seems to have an identity crisis in terms of its name in park literature, it certainly has no trouble turning out decent food at fair prices.  Located between the Yak and Yeti table service restaurant and the walkway to Kali River Rapids, this quick service location is a hit with guests of all ages.  Anandapur serves better Asian-inspired food than does the Nine Dragons restaurant in Epcot.  Both the egg rolls and the Chicken Fried Rice make excellent afternoon snacks.  The Honey Chicken and Beef Lo Mein are the best bets as we find the sandwiches a bit dry and lacking in flavor.  Most of the entrees here are large enough to be shared.  Table seating areas are well themed and are interspersed between the shops and landscaping adjacent to the eatery.  Consider sharing a larger table with other guests, as bigger tables abound here.  Beware that shady tables are in demand so either be patient or be willing to brave the sun.  Grab a frozen lemonade with your meal to help cool you down.

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10.  Be Our Guest:  Although a tried and true favorite of ours, this venue did not make the top of our list because it is quite frankly too challenging to get seated here.  Disney underestimated the popularity of this restaurant, although in fairness to them, its location limits its size due to the utilidors underneath.  We understand that the Be Our Guest kitchen cannot be expanded to accommodate quicker service and more guests.  That being said, this is an excellent option for a quick service meal.  Guests will undoubtedly have to wait, but once inside, the experience is as soothing as it is imaginative.  Cast members do their best to move guests through quickly and make the outdoor waiting area bearable by providing large umbrellas to shade the sun and small cups of water to refresh.  Guests cross a moated bridge before entering the Beast’s castle.  A set of armored guards stand watch over guests as they enter and menus are cleverly displayed in cases.  Heraldry flags and wood work make guests feel like they have truly stepped inside a castle.  Guests are directed to one of many order kiosks where they select their meals.  A transponder shaped like a red rose allows servers to deliver food on domed trollies efficiently.  Drinks are self-serve, but all other selections are delivered to the table.  Both the Potato and Leek and the French Onion Soup are delicious and both can be purchased with a snack credit.  The Tuna Nicoise Salad, Braised Pork, and Carved Prime Roast Beef Sandwich are among of favorites here.  Vegetarians should opt for the quiche over the quinoa salad which we find to be a bit under-seasoned and uninspired.  Desserts here are either cupcakes or puff pastries filled with cream.  While we would love to see a killer chocolate mousse and a Tarte Tartin on the menu here, desserts satisfy and a few are notable stand-outs.  Try the Triple Chocolate or the Lemon Meringue cupcakes.  Be Our Guest is worth the wait as the setting and food are mesmerizing.  Guests seat themselves in the ballroom or West Wing at lunch.  The ballroom’s scale and attention to detail are a welcome respite from the hot Florida sun.  Large, curved windows  frame a snowy scene complete with falling snow and a perpetual twilight sky.  The West Wing, somewhat more foreboding and dark, is equally well- themed with framed portraits slashed by the Beast, tattered curtains, and the famed rose sheltered by a glass terrarium-like dome.  Gargoyles and pillars frame both rooms and enormous chandeliers grace the ballroom.  All of this adds up to a very special experience, especially for a quick service restaurant.

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