Because we are somewhat local, often my family and I will find ourselves at Disney World on a whim. It’s fun to be spontaneous, but that usually means we can’t eat at one of the highly popular restaurants for our meals because reservations have to be made well ahead of time. However, we have never been disappointed with the places that we’ve tried at the last minute. Next time you find yourself at Disney without advanced dining reservations, consider one of these delicious options for your meal:
10. Capt. Cook’s – O’hana is usually the go-to at Disney’s Polynesian. But if you want all the aloha spirit and without a reservation, check out Capt. Cook’s. It’s a quick service place with offerings like Thai coconut meatballs, fish tacos, reubens, and pho noodle bowls. Grab your meal and eat outside for an island vibe 24 hours a day.
9. Flame Tree Barbecue – Couldn’t get in at Tiffins or Tusker House? Don’t worry – the Flame Tree Barbecue in the Animal Kingdom won’t let you down. With counter service options like ribs, pulled pork, roasted chicken, and watermelon salad, you can feast well for a fraction of the cost whenever your schedule allows.
8. Garden Grove – The Garden Grove in The Swan Hotel is one of the best kept secrets in Character Dining dinners. The decor gives a nod to Central Park and the Seafood Buffet leaves nothing to be desired. While reservations are recommended, you can usually get in on short notice unless it’s peak season. Garden Grove is open for casual meals (without characters) at breakfast and lunch times as well.
7. T-Rex Cafe – Kids of all ages are enamored with T-Rex Cafe in Disney Springs. Go for the pre-historic ambiance and stay for the large portion sizes and varied menu choices. Be sure to tour around the different rooms while the dinosaurs are in motion to really get the most out of your dining experience. This place is quite popular, but going early is your ticket to low wait times without a reservation. (We’ve walked right in at 5:30 several times.)
6. Liberty Inn – In World Showcase, most people opt for exotic fare and totally forget about the amazing home-cooking at Liberty Inn. In reality, the burgers, salads, and fried shrimp at this out-of-the-way counter service joint are some of the best values in all the pavilions. With a colonial caller and an airy dining room, you can count on Liberty Inn for a great experience on your next spur-of-the-moment Epcot visit.
5. Olivia’s Cafe – This quaint table service venue at Old Key West Resort is high on charm and low on wait times. It’s open for all three meals and available for reservations if you are in the mood to plan ahead, but reservations aren’t always necessary. Scallops, shrimp, lamb and prime rib are all waiting for you at dinner time, so come with an appetite and leave with a smile. Afterwards, spend a little time wandering these resort grounds that feel like a casual hideaway.
4. The Plaza Restaurant – In the Magic Kingdom this little gem often gets overlooked in favor of nearby Main Street favorites like the Crystal Palace and Tony’s. But this casual dining experience will not disappoint, especially on short notice. The Plaza does take reservations, but unless the park is super busy, getting a table should be a piece of cake. Or should I say, New York Cheesecake.
3. Backlot Express – No reservations in Hollywood Studios? Never fear – the Force is with you at Backlot Express. There you’ll find Galactic Chicken Salad, Dark Side Chicken and Waffles and a Padawan Lemonade among other things. Since this is a counter service establishment, there’s never a need for reservations and the prices allow room in any budget for a fun Star Wars dessert.
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2. La Hacienda de San Angel – If you’re in the mood for Mexican food, give this place a shot. With fabulous views of the water, you can see IllumiNations from here if you are in the mood for a later meal. La Hacienda does take reservations, so during busy seasons there may be no tables available, but La Cantina de San Angel is right next door as a counter service backup (the empanadas there are my favorite quick meal in World Showcase).
1. Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen – New to the Disney dining scene, this table service restaurant is breaking new ground by ONLY allowing same-day reservations and encouraging walk-up guests. Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland is the perfect spot for this adventurous menu, with offerings like Rice Noodles with Duck and Trader Sam’s Head-on Shrimp. The servers are just as witty and dry as the Jungle Cruise guides, which rounds out the experience with plenty of entertainment.
These ten are just a few of the many options available without a reservation. What’s your top pick for a great meal at the last minute?
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