Let’s face it, eating on a Walt Disney World vacation is expensive, especially if you are not on the Disney Dining Plan. You want to save money on your trip, but you also want to make the most of your time. Leaving the parks to head out to one of the many restaurants on Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway will save you money but it’s going to cost time where you could be in the parks. Dining is also a large part of the Disney experience, every restaurant is themed and different. You don’t want to give up that part of your vacation. Believe it or not, there are places at Disney where you can enjoy a filling meal and not totally ruin your budget.
With this list I’ve purposely stayed away from the resort hotels. The idea is to give you a guide that you can use to buy a less expensive meal while out exploring Disney. I’ve also tried to give a bit of a variety, we all know that hot dogs and chicken nuggets are usually going to be less expensive than most other options. I also didn’t include the water parks. These aren’t the only places where you might find a meal deal but it will give you an idea of where to start. All prices are subject to change.
10. Liberty Tree Tavern (lunch only)
Magic Kingdom-Liberty Square; Full Service
Full service meals at Walt Disney World are expensive. Fortunately there are some that offer better deals than others. Often a full service restaurant is more affordable at lunchtime, Liberty Tree Tavern is such a place. Lunch is served a la carte while dinner is an all you can eat family style meal. While still not cheap, for lunch you can order a Liberty Boys BLT, an Angus Chuck Cheeseburger or a Vegetarian Proclamation for under $16.00 each. The Pilgrim’s Feast, which consists of turkey and the fixings, isn’t much more. The atmosphere is special, it’s designed after a New England 18th century inn. Reservations are strongly recommended, call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) or visit http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining.
9. Restaurant Marrakesh
Epcot-Morocco Pavilion in World Showcase; Full Service
Another full service option that offers decent value. The best way to save money at Restaurant Marrakesh is to make your meal from the appetizer menu. Order the Beef Brewat Rolls or the Seafood Bastilla and then split a Couscous entrée. You might even have enough left for dessert, the Bastilla for Two is huge and is more than enough for several people. Restaurant Marrakesh is known for its entertainment. The interior is designed to resemble a sultan’s palace and a belly dancer will periodically entertain the diners. Reservations are strongly recommended, call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) or visit http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining.
8. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater
Disney’s Hollywood Studios; Full Service
One of the more unique restaurants in all of Disney, this full service option will be something that you will never forget. Your table is a “car” and the front of the room has a giant drive in movie screen, playing trailers for old science fiction movies. You have to see it to believe it. Lunch and dinner are the same price. If you’re trying to save money you might want to look at the sandwiches on the menu. The Smoked turkey Sandwich, the Vegetable Burger and the Reuben are all under $15.00 a piece and come with a side. The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is known for its Milkshakes and Flavored Sodas, which are excellent but a bit pricey. Reservations are strongly recommended, call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) or visit http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining.
7. ESPN Club
Disney’s BoardWalk Area; Full Service
Disney’s BoardWalk is just a walk or boat ride from both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the World Showcase entrance to Epcot, making ESPN Club easy to get to without losing time at the parks. The restaurant does not take reservations so if you are trying to save time you might want to go for lunch or an early dinner, it gets crowded in the evenings. This is another place where you can make a meal out of the appetizers, the Pub Nachos are delicious and filling and the Club Fries are also quite generous. Many sandwich entrees are $16 or under and come with fries. Fish, turkey, pork and specialty burgers are among the choices.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom-Dinoland U.S.A.; Counter Service
Your whole family will love the atmosphere at this counter service option. The idea is that there are supposed to be some graduate paleontology students living there. You won’t see the students but you’ll see plenty of signs that they have been around. Don’t rush through, take your time and enjoy the details in each room. For under $12.00 each you can get a Chili Cheese Dog, Grilled Chicken Sandwich, Chicken Breast Nuggets or Roasted Chicken Salad.
5. Backlot Express
Disney’s Hollywood Studios; Counter Service
If you are looking to satisfy a galactic appetite, some of the offerings at this Hollywood Studios quick service location are a great deal. The Dark Side Chicken & Waffles (the waffles have a Darth Vader on them) are my favorite option under $12. You can also get a Galactic Chicken Salad just under $10 and a Royal Guard Burger for less than $13. Take your meal outside to enjoy the Jedi Training Academy Show while you eat. For dessert you can get a Star Wars themed cupcake for around $6 or Blue Milk Panna Cotta for under $5.
4. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café
Magic Kingdom-Tomorrowland; Counter Service
At first it may seem like just another counter service restaurant, but Cosmic Ray’s is special. The food is good and filling and there is plenty of seating, although it can get crowded on busy days. Order your food from one of three Bays. The options are basic; chicken, burgers, wraps and sandwiches, most under $12.00. What sets Cosmic Ray’s apart is the toppings bar for the burgers. You can add lettuce, tomato, cheese sauce, sautéed onions and other items, turning a simple burger into a meal fit for a king. The dinner menu has some slightly more expensive items but overall it is good option at the Magic Kingdom.
3. Yak & Yeti Local Foods Café
Disney’s Animal Kingdom-Asia; Counter Service
Yak & Yeti has several main dishes on the menu for under $12.00 each. Featuring Pan-Asian cuisine, you can order Sweet and Sour Chicken or Pork Lo Mein, among other things. You could also make a meal from the side dishes. For less than $11.00 you can get two Pork Egg Rolls and Chicken Fried Rice. The food is fresh but be warned, seating can be a bit of a problem.
2. Yorkshire County Fish Shop
Epcot-United Kingdom Pavilion in World Showcase; Counter Service
The name says it all. For less than $11.00 you get two pieces of fish with chips. Remember that “chips” refers to the British thick cut fried potatoes, not the potato chips that are served elsewhere at Disney. Also served to those 21 and older is Ball Ale Draught, which costs almost as much as the fish and chips do. Seating is limited and is outdoors only.
1. Earl of Sandwich
Disney Springs Marketplace
Arguably the best meal deal in all of Walt Disney World, Earl of Sandwich offers 13 different hot sandwiches for $6.99 each. Salads and wraps are also only $6.99-$7.99 a piece. They are made to order so you can have exactly what you want. The line gets long but it moves quickly. While the sandwiches are a great deal, the sides and drinks are another story. Bottled water or soda costs $2.50 each for a very small bottle. Have one member of your party place the order while the others go to the kiosk nearby outside and buy larger drinks for a more reasonable price. There is both indoor and outdoor seating available.