Saturday, November 23, 2013

Dining in Epcot

So you've booked your hotel.  You've picked your dining plan.  Now it's 180 days (or less) before your vacation and you're thinking, "There are so many options!"  I've been there.  How do you decide between restaurants around Disney property and in each of the parks?

I'm here to help.

Epcot has the most options out of all the parks for table-service dining, with 16 options to choose from!  Epcot also offers some of the more exciting options, with a table-service restaurant (or 2!) in most countries around World Showcase.  This can make it especially difficult to determine where you want to make a reservation.

We'll start in Future World, with The Coral Reef in the Living Seas Pavilion
Ideal for: The Spender, The Romantic
Price Range: $18-$30, or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: LunchDinner
  • A little pricier in comparison to some of the other restaurants, likely due to the well-known atmosphere.  Also, the tables next to the water make it a romantic destination for couples.
  • Pros:
    • Awesome view of the aquarium while dining here, with overall great atmosphere
    • Food is pricey, so it's a good use of table-service credits
  • Cons: Food is only "okay" compared to other venues
  • Other Notes: Try some of the ocean themed cocktails here!

Also in Future World, the Garden Grill in the Land Pavilion
Ideal for: The Planner
Price Range: about $40, or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: Garden Grill
  • Because of the fact that this restaurant is character dining, it can be a little more difficult to get a reservation.
  • Pros:
    • Served family style, with limitless refills of the food items
    • Most of the food items here are sustainable options
  • Cons:
    • Character dining (with Mickey, Pluto, and Chip & Dale), so it likely has a lot more children
    • The fact that the restaurant rotates is a big draw for kids as well
  • Other Notes:  The restaurant rotates slowly while eating, giving diners various views of the Living with the Land ride below the restaurant.  The best views are from a booth, so request one if you go.

Now, working our way around World Showcase, we'll start in Canada at Le Cellier Steakhouse
Ideal for: The Planner, The Spender
Price Range: $26-$56 (per entree), or 2 table-service credits
Link to Menu: Le Cellier
  • Being one of the signature dining options in Epcot, this restaurant can be very hard to get into.  However, if you can spend the money to do so, it's lives up to the expectation and has great food and service.
  • Pros:
    • The food here is great, despite the high prices
    • Service is fantastic
  • Cons:
    • Lunch and dinner are both expensive
    • Difficult reservation to get, likely need to book it 180 days in advance
  • Other Notes: The restaurant is supposed to inspire the feel of dining in a wine cellar, so it's great for an adult atmosphere, as well as a glass of wine!

Next is the United Kingdom, and Rose and Crown Pub and Dining
Ideal for: The Saver
Price Range: $15-$30, or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: LunchDinner
  • Rose and Crown Pub is a moderately priced option that has good food and a great atmosphere, and can be fun for all types of visitors!
  • Pros:
    • Food is considerably good
    • Lots of quality alcohol options (beer, scotch, cider, and cognac especially)
    • Theming is very authentic
  • Cons:
    • Pricey and small desserts
    • Limited indoor seating
  • Other Notes:
    • The pub and dining room are separate.  So if your goal is to "drink around the world," head here for a unique beer, but also consider making a dining reservation for some good food.
    • The outdoor patio offers a great place to view Illuminations at the end of the night, but if you don't want to endure the "fighting" for a patio, choose to go for lunch instead.

Pass through the International Gateway to France, and Les Chefs de France
Ideal for: The Impulsive, The Romantic
Price Range: $24 for lunch, $40 for dinner, or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: LunchDinner
  • Despite being pretty easy to get into, this restaurant has really good food and a great Parisian feel, making it perfect for couples to experience "The City of Love" Epcot-style!
  • Pros:
    • Very authentic French theming
    • Large windows with outside views that are great for people watching, but shelter from the cold/heat
  • Cons: The tables are in close proximity to each other
  • Other Notes: An animatronic version of Remy (from Ratatouille) sometimes visits, more likely during lunch and dinner, and helps deliver your food.

Also in France is Monsieur Paul
Ideal for: The Planner, The Saver
Price Range: $40 (per entree), or 2 table-service credits
Link to Menu: Monsieur Paul
  • Just like Le Cellier, Monsieur Paul can be difficult to get a reservation for, but as a signature dining option, has high quality food (with a cost).
  • Pros:
    • Quiet restaurant
    • High end options (filet mignon, escargot, duck breast, soufflé, and creme brûlée)
  • Cons:
    • Expensive, and possibly not considered "worth the cost."
    • Despite renovations recently, it might still be a little outdated inside
  • Other Notes: If you get a window seat during a late dinner, you can view Illuminations from the restaurant, which offers a great vantage point from the second floor.

After France, you enter Morocco, with Restaurant Marrakesh
Ideal for: The Impulsive, The Saver, Those who want to have Fun
Price Range: $15-$30, or 1 table-service credit 
Link to Menu: LunchDinner
  • In addition to being pretty easy to get into without a reservation as well as fairly cheap compared to the other table-service restaurants, Restaurant Marrakesh is a fun place to try new and adventurous foods and enjoy belly dancing while you dine.
  • Pros:
    • Moroccan music and belly dancers perform, and has a lavish atmosphere
    • Interesting foods!
    • Typically easy to get a reservation here
  • Cons:
    • Though the food is interesting, some less adventurous individuals may not like menu items (though just ask for a modification, and they will be happy to oblige)
    • Some consider it to be too "Americanized," not as immersive
  • Other Notes: If not on the dining plan, eat here for lunch instead of dinner.  The menu options are mostly the same at lunch and tend to be cheaper.

Japan is next, featuring Teppan Edo
Ideal for: Those who want to have Fun
Price Range: $25-$30 (per entree), or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: Teppan Edo
  • Teppan Edo creates a fun atmosphere to enjoy your food (and sake) by making dinner into a show!
  • Pros:
    • Hibachi-style, with good food and generous dinner portions
    • Simple cooking style is great for those watching calories
    • Entertaining chefs (would you expect anything less with Disney??)
  • Cons:
    • Like most hibachi restaurants, you could be seated with other diners (which some may not like)
    • Dessert portions tend to be small
  • Other Notes: Try some sake (Japanese rice wine) with your meal here!

Also in Japan, try Tokyo Dining
Ideal for: The Saver
Price Range: $15-$30, or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: Tokyo Dining
  • This place is great for the saver because you can get really interesting, ethnic sushi choices while still not spending the money that you might at other table-service restaurants in Epcot.
  • Pros:
    • Usually easy to get a reservation
    • Elegant atmosphere
  • Cons: Sushi is really the specialty here, so not the best pick for the less adventurous
  • Other Notes: There are two dining rooms, and one allows you to watch chefs prepare dishes.

After Japan, pass up the American Adventure to find two dining spots in Italy, Via Napoli...
Ideal for: The Saver
Price Range: Pizza for 3-5 people is around $40, or 1 table-service credit (per person)
Link to Menu: Via Napoli
  • If eating in a group, this can be a cheap option by splitting a pizza (the signature dish here) but still having the table-service experience.
  • Pros:
    • Considered to be some of the best pizza in Disney World
    • Lots of dessert, espresso, and cocktail options
  • Cons: Not the best acoustics, as this restaurant tends to be pretty loud
  • Other Notes: If you come here using a table-service credit and the table orders a pizza, each person gets deducted a table-service credit.  However, if you want a pizza in Italy, this might be your best option, as there is no Italian quick-service option.

...and also in Italy, Tutto Italia Ristorante
Ideal for: The Romantic
Price Range: around $25, or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: LunchDinner
  • The old world Italy feel inside the restaurant creates a great atmosphere for couples to dine in.
  • Pros:
    • More formal than Via Napoli
    • Extensive list of desserts, espressos, and cocktails
  • Cons:
    • Some of the tables for 2 are very close together
    • Not great acoustics, can be fairly loud
    • Food can be inconsistent
  • Other Notes: This restaurant is better for a little more formal dining experience, but for pizza, try Via Napoli instead.

Try Biergarten in Germany
Ideal for: Those who want to have Fun
Price Range: $25 at lunch, $35-$40 at dinner, or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: Biergarten
  • This restaurant is great for those who want to be social, as you might be seated with other diners.  There is also German-style entertainment on the stage up front that makes it more than just a meal here.  Chanting phrases from Oktoberfest really brings the German party atmosphere to life.
  • Pros:
    • Buffet style meal, so it can be fun to sample a large range of German foods
    • German entertainment (where they encourage diners participation) takes place on the stage every hour
    • German beer (pretend you're at Oktoberfest!)
  • Cons: "Family-style" seating means you may be placed intimately at a table with other vacationers
  • Other Notes: The inside of the restaurant creates an atmosphere of being outside at night in Germany

And in China, try Nine Dragons Restaurant
Ideal for: The Impulsive
Price Range: $15-$25, or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: LunchDinner
  • It is typically very easy to get into this restaurant!
  • Pros:
    • Recently renovated, nice interior atmosphere
    • Typically easy to get a reservation
  • Cons: Food reviews tend to be mediocre (typical Chinese food)
  • Other Notes: If you go, make sure to order appetizers, as those tend to be the star of the meal (unfortunately not included on the dining plan).

Norway is home to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
Ideal for: The Planner, The Spender, The Romantic
Price Range: $40-$50, or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: BreakfastLunchDinner
  • Being a princess meal, it is a very desirable, and expensive, option.  However, the restaurant is set up like a castle (with one circular room that feels like a turret) and is very lavish on the inside.  Also, great for the couple that wants to feel like royalty and dine along with the princesses (and with 1 table-service credit, is less expensive than Cinderella's Royal Table in Magic Kingdom).
  • Pros:
    • Lunch and dinner tend to have small (but tasty) portions, but are supplemented with a cold buffet
    • Only Breakfast option for table-service in Epcot
  • Cons:
    • Expensive if paying out of pocket
    • Character dining, so many children likely present
  • Other Notes: A printed photo package is included in the meal with the princess greeting in the entrance (typically Belle).

And last on the tour of World Showcase is Mexico, where you will find San Angel Inn Restaurante...
Ideal for: The Impulsive, The Romantic
Price Range: $20-$25, or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: LunchDinner
  • It is typically pretty easy to get into this restaurant, and the constant twilight created with the lighting here creates a romantic atmosphere for couples.
  • Pros:
    • Located inside the pyramid in Mexico, great ambience of perpetual twilight
    • Strong margaritas and very good appetizers
  • Cons:
    • Though food ratings in the past were inconsistent, they seem to be improving
    • Small dessert portions, not of the highest quality
  • Other Notes:  Try and request a seat by the water, it lets you watch as the boats from the La Gran Fiesta attraction go by.

...And also in Mexico, the last restaurant on the list, La Hacienda de San Angel
Ideal for: Those who want to have Fun
Price Range: around $25, or 1 table-service credit
Link to Menu: La Hacienda
  • Good Mexican food with tasty margaritas can create a great party feeling for friends!
  • Pros:
    • Elegant atmosphere
    • Good margaritas, appetizers, and desserts
  • Cons
    • Some of the entrees are less than flavorful
    • Service can be inconsistent
  • Other Notes:  With outdoor seating as well as views from the windows inside, (like many other restaurants in World Showcase) it can be a great place to view Illuminations.

From my experience of Epcot's restaurants, I would likely suggest Rose and Crown Pub, Les Chefs de France, Teppan Edo, and La Hacienda de San Angel as top choices.  However, it's important to think about exactly what you want out of your trip, because the options are extremely varied and suited to every taste!

Agree? Disagree? Have something to add or questions to ask?
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Next post: Dining in Hollywood Studios

Until next time...

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