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Walt Disney World’s Top 10 Themed Restaurants

There are many things the Imagineers do well, but the one that makes the parks so special is creating a backstory and following a theme. Most restaurants could have a basic décor, serve food and that would be adequate, but that is not good enough for the designers creating Walt Disney World’s many themed eateries. Many have elaborate backstories that affect everything that goes into them. So, let’s take a look at the Top 10 Themed Restaurants around the “world.”

10. T. Rex and Rainforest Café

Although these are by far not my favorite places to eat, one must admit that they have a great, fun theme. From the jungles of the Rainforest, to the ice rooms at T. Rex, everything is executed to reflect that atmosphere. Even the names given to the menu items get in on the act: “Rumble in the Jungle Turkey Wrap” and “Lava Nachos” at the Rainforest Café, and “T. Rexadillas” and “Mega Mes-O-Bones” at T. Rex. Hidden touches like the animal leg stools at the bar round out the fun. Rainforest Café has two locations in Disney Springs and at the entrance to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. T. Rex is located in Disney Springs.

9. San Angel Inn

This restaurant is located inside the pyramid that is the Mexico Pavilion at Epcot. The atmosphere is the key. Although it isn’t only for the restaurant but the entire pavilion, dining in a faux outdoor evening setting amidst a Mexican town marketplace at the foot of a Mayan pyramid (or is it Aztec) while boats float by is a pretty special experience. The servers continue the theme as natives of Mexico working at Epcot as part of the International program—ask them about their hometown and culture. And of course the menu offerings fit the theme with Mexican specialties.

8. Casey’s Corner

Not all themed eateries fall into the Table Service category. Casey’s Corner at the end of Main Street in the Magic Kingdom (on the left on the way to Adventureland) is a fun quick service stop where Disney designers pulled out all of the stops to focus on the theme of baseball. To match Main Street’s turn-of-the-century time period (and its sponsorship by Coke), the interior appears as though you are at an early 20th Century baseball game, and you are going to the concession area for snacks. All of the artwork and props support this theme—particularly the scoreboard and bleacher seating. And what would you expect on the menu at a baseball game? Classic ball game fare of course! With some specialities added on.  The icing on the cake is the piano player performing ragtime favorites right outside. If you can’t find a seat inside, don’t worry—the outside seating provides beautiful views of Cinderella Castle.

7. Coral Reef & Garden Grill

These two Epcot Future World Table Service restaurants are together because they are both themed by the attractions within their pavilions. Coral Reef in The Seas Pavilion relies primarily on the Aquarium for its theme. Other elements follow the ocean theme including light fixtures and the curving, wavy shape of the furnishings. Of course the seafood heavy menu follows the theme, but could be slightly disturbing as you watch your dinner swim by. The Garden Grill is integrated into the Living with the Land attraction in the Land Pavilion. This unique rotating restaurant overlooks several show scenes from the attraction, and follows on the theme of farming and agriculture. The character meal features Mickey, Pluto and Chip & Dale dressed in their farm clothes. On the all-you-can-eat, family style menu you will find items grown in the Living with the Land attraction and other Harvest inspired eats.

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6. Tusker House

This restaurant found in the town of Harambe (the African section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom), feels like you have stepped into a village in the heart of Africa. The main portion of the restaurant where the buffet stations are set up is like an outside marketplace. There is natural lighting from above and the “ceiling” is made of draped African fabrics. Marketplace carts serve as the buffet stations, and don’t forget to look up and notice all of the building exteriors filled with props for the people living there. Note the nod to Animal Kingdom Imagineer Joe Rhode. The surrounding rooms with seating portray various businesses that would be connected with the local tourist trade and safari offerings. The signs posted on the walls, the African artwork, even the chairs you will sit in fit the theme. Meals feature Donald and his friends decked out in their safari attire. The buffet features ethnic cuisine to match the theme.

5. Biergarten

Our next top themed restaurant is the Biergarten in the Germany Pavilion. This all-you-can-eat buffet of German delicacies (picture sausages, schnitzels, sauerkraut—lots of pickles and salads) is themed to Oktoberfest. The atmosphere is stunning, the inside venue is made to appear like you are outside with a setting in a Biergarten during Oktoberfest. There are lots of long tables (where you will be seated with other families), evening lighting ambience, Bavarian building exteriors, and the outdoor stage. The theme is consistent through the German food, the servers from Germany who are wearing German costumes, and the entertainment. The Bavarian style entertainment features a oompah band, the playing of cowbells, and an alpenhorn. And don’t forget the dancing—this place is sure to entertain everyone. Don’t believe me? It is a Biergarten after all—following tradition you can get a liter of beer!

4. Restaurantosaurus

Now it’s time to fit in another Quick Service location. Located in Dinoland, USA in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, this place is FULL of theme. The backstory is that this where the Graduate Students working and studying at the Dino Institute lived, met, worked. There are so many rooms here with so many different uses. The sleeping quarters—look up to see the loft. The Rec Center with basketball court (“The Hip Joint”). The meeting hall that is a little more formal, but still “campy.” The vehicle maintenance bay with grease and oil decorating the walls. And, the fossil room where all of the finds are kept. Everything here is rich in theme and humor—take your time to walk around and notice all of the props that are everywhere. Many are puns or gags, and the detail is just incredible. Even the Coke dispensers are themed (and you can get your own refills). It all starts before you enter the building—look up on the roof, and take note of the structure itself. See that Airstream attached to the building? You can eat in it! The menu is your basic Quick Service but it is a somewhat wide selection for a quick service location.

3. The Sci-Fi Dine in Theater

My guess is that my top 3 are pretty predictable, but that is because they are all so well themed. The Sci-Fi Dine In Theater is located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As you enter and check in you are in what looks to be a sound stage with prop walls constructed. As your car hop guides you around the corner you can see what is inside—a recreated outdoor Drive In Movie Theater from the 1950s. There is a snack bar in the back, a big screen showing “B” movies on a loop, nighttime atmosphere, and the best part: you are seated in a 1950s style car! This place is so much fun!! The servers are dressed in appropriate attire for the time period and theme of the restaurant. Menu items include burgers, sandwiches, pastas and more. Unfortunately, other than it being typical drive in type food most items don’t have creative names to go along with the theme. Milkshakes are great here, so sit back and sip away while watching the 50 foot woman attack.

2. Be Our Guest

This venue has proven to be popular for its food offerings and its theme. Located in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, Be Our Guest serves guests quick service food at breakfast and lunch, and table service at dinner. This fantastically themed eatery inside Beast’s castle really is amazing and almost beyond words. You may eat in the West Wing where a thunderstorm brings on special effects including an effect on the Prince’s portrait, and the dropping of a petal from the enchanted rose. Inside the ballroom the windows looking out on to the night scene (all day long) show the snowstorm occurring outside. At breakfast and lunch, you will place your order in the library, and at dinner the Beast greets his guests there. Dining in this restaurant is like stepping into the movie scenes, the attention to detail to recreate the movie is tremendous. Other features to note: the armor room (listen carefully), gargoyles, stained glass windows and more. The French menu complements the theme, as well as the service methods with the rolling carts at lunch and dinner.

1. 50’s Prime Time Café

My pick for my personal favorite themed restaurant is 50s Prime Time Café in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. From the atmosphere to the props to the menu to the TV programs this place is themed to the extreme. Beginning when you enter you are whisked back to the 1950s and back to Mom’s house. The waiting area is a like a time capsule filled with props and furniture that harkens back to dens in the mid-century. You know you are ready for fun when the hostess calls you as “the kids” to come back to eat. The kitchen tables are the best with the TVs at the end, but if you don’t get one of those don’t worry—you can see the TV programs from throughout the restaurant, and the props are everywhere. The best part is the role of your server—either your cousin, your uncle, your aunt or some other family member, most servers get into the act by asking you to set the table, reminding you to get your elbows off the table, and feeding you your veggies if you don’t clean your plate. The menu here fits the theme too, both in name and the type of food. And don’t forget you can order something from “Dad’s Liquor Cabinet.”

Dining at Walt Disney World is an experience—just as much about the atmosphere as it is about the food. Take the time to notice the details that the Imagineers were so careful to put in to each dining location. What are your favorite themed dining locations?

About Sarah Chapman

I am a long time Disney fan since I was hooked on Walt Disney World with my first trip in 1987. Since that time I’ve tried experiencing everything I can in the parks, with a total of 30 visits and counting (I’m always planning my next trip) to Walt Disney World—not to mention Disney Cruise Line and even (shhh!) Universal Orlando and Sea World. I’ve turned my Disney obsession into a profession helping others plan their magical vacations as a Dream Vacation Maker at LBAC Travel. I am a work at home mom to three wonderful boys, and each one has been properly indoctrinated with all things Disney. Walt Disney World is definitely our “Laughing Place.” Look for me on Facebook at Facebook.com/SarahLBAC for updates, discount announcements, tips, tricks and planning advice for your next vacation. You can also find me on Instagram (sarahdreamvacationmaker) and Pinterest (sarahlbactravel).