What Makes a Disney Restaurant Good? Restaurant Review Criteria

What Makes a Disney Restaurant Good? Restaurant Review Criteria

What does it take for a Disney Restaurant to make our Best Restaurants at Disney List? Some people think Be Our Guest is great, while others hate it. Others think Tusker House is the best character meal out there, while others won’t step foot in the place. And don’t even get us started on the gamut of reviews across the spectrum for Cinderella’s Royal Table. So what can you do? How can you really pick a good restaurant if all you’re seeing is a bunch of conflicting opinions? 

We thought we’d level-set you on what makes a restaurant great in our opinion. That way, when you’re reading through our restaurant reviews you’ll know where we’re coming from and what makes a restaurant experience good for us.

How We Determine a Good Restaurant at Disney World

We’ve seen this “Best Disney Restaurants” list done a hundred different ways at this point. Disney bloggers love love love chatting about food and lets face it, it’s usually half the reason we choose Disney as a vacation destination. So what constitutes best? Our Restaurant Review Criteria is based on just a few things that we’ll break down here. 

Does Best Mean the Disney Restaurant is Budget-Friendly?

Some people think “Best” means Value. But frankly, if the food doesn’t taste good, we don’t care if it was a value or budget friendly or whatever. We probably would have much rather just paid the extra few bucks to have a memorable food experience instead of one we’ll be trying to forget. Budget does not factor into our Restaurant Review Criteria.

Now don’t get us wrong here. Cost is a factor for practically everyone, us included. If we had vacationed at Disney as a family when we were younger we totally would have been the clan dragging in sandwiches in a cooler.  Heck, we did this at Sea World, the Zoo, the Drive-In… pretty much everywhere. Still, our mom would have made sure we had at least one amazing restaurant meal during the vacation because food is a big part of who we are and trying new things when you travel is important. But for the most part, for us, Cost or Value is not a factor when we choose “Best”.

Does Best Mean the Disney Restaurant Has a Lot of Food Options?

Others may think “Best” means Variety. Well, while we do believe that variety is important, it does not qualify as “best” for us. Why? Well, because every buffet has variety, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the lasagna is gonna taste like grandmas. And just because everyone in your family can find something on the menu they want to eat, doesn’t’ necessarily mean that the food there is good. Variety is important, but it is not a factor that makes us choose a restaurant as “Best.”

Does Best Mean the Disney Restaurant Menu Never Changes?

We’ve seen “Best” means The Menu Never Changes scenario from lots of people who love Disney. Note, for us Restaurant Review Criteria is not based on keeping the menu the same. However, there is a nostalgia in being able to go back to a favorite restaurant and order your favorite thing. Frankly, we don’t know what would happen if Liberty Tree Tavern ever took away that Oooey Gooey Cake, but we’re sure it wouldn’t be pretty.

We recently had a crisis of equal magnitude when we learned that Columbia Harbor House took away our favorite Broccoli Salad with Chicken on our last trip. Truthfully, we were in the depths of despair and spent the rest of the day complaining about it. Broccoli is so hard to find in decent quantities at Disney, why would they take it away? What other healthy thing was even adequate on that menu? Would we be able to eat the pot pie instead on a hot day? Would we even go there anymore? We had lots and lots of issues with that change. While we would love to think that our favorite dish will always be available at our go-to restaurants, the establishments ability to just keep offering the same food, doesn’t qualify it as best. In the case of the Broccoli Salad, the quality, freshness, and flavors qualified it as best.

Flower and Garden Festival

So what makes a Disney Restaurant the “Best”?

For us a Best Restaurant anywhere needs four Restaurant Review Criteria to be met. 

  • We look Forward to Going Back and Recommend it to others. Ever since we started this blog we go to Disney a lot. That said, we have certain restaurants ( quick and table service) that we look forward to, and for many reasons. Maybe the food’s amazing or maybe the atmosphere is awesome, but for whatever reason, we look forward to going back.  And if we trust the place enough, we recommend it to others.
  • The Food Tastes Authentic, Good, Flavorful, Amazing. A little rule I think we subconsciously have is that if we can get the food at home, why bother spending a fortune on it at Disney? We love food. We like figuring out what spices are in it, how it was made and enjoying the newness of a dish that we haven’t had before.
  • Unique Atmosphere. Disney is a master at theme perfection, so restaurants should aim to transport you to a lovely place where you can enjoy your food. Sometimes, this is a cafeteria- yes, but sometimes this is a castle, or a french shoppe, or a mess hall 4.4 lightyears away.
  • Its Consistently Good. By consistent, we don’t mean the food never changes. We mean it’s consistently good. Let’s be real for a second. Disney has a LOT of employees. And quality of food can change from time to time as a result; however the restaurants on our BEST list never seem to fail us, no matter what time of year we are traveling or time of day we are eating. The restaurant continues to offer amazing food even if the menu changes.

grand floridian cafe using a travel agent at disney polka dots and pixie dust

How We Review Disney Restaurants

For the most part all of our reviews are written through the lens provided by the four Restaurant Review Criteria above. Sometimes we’ll mention if the restaurants are good for families, or just grown ups. Other times we’ll narrow it down to certain dishes that are must-try. And almost always, if the Disney restaurant is meeting our “Best Restaurant” criteria we’ll recommend it to everyone we know.

No matter which dining experiences you try, keep in mind your own important criteria for what makes a restaurant great in your opinion. Know that we’ll do our best to offer a great review that won’t let you down. Let us know what’s important to you when it comes to a Best List! You can check out all our restaurant reviews so far.

How do you choose if a restaurant is good? Here are our 4 things that we use to decide which restaurants make our Best REstaurants at Disney list. #disneylists #disneyrestaurantreviews #disneyreviews #bestrestaurantsatdisney


Co-Founder and Director at Polka Dot Pixie Co LLC | Website | + posts

Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.

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