Best and Worst Buffets of Walt Disney World

Written by Chris Wood. Posted in Features, Park Wise, Walt Disney World

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Published on August 29, 2012 at 10:47 pm with 10 Comments

1900 Park Fare.

In the real world (i.e., places where five-foot tall mice don’t roam around with handlers), I’m not a big fan of buffets. The food is often bland and of questionable quality and the surroundings are usually drab, but at Disney World, I lift my “buffet embargo” and happily partake.  It’s a good thing too, as buffets are everywhere in ‘The World’ and fortunately, you can get great food at most of them. While most Disney buffets have characters, you don’t need to be a kid to enjoy them.  Here’s a rundown on some of the best of what Walt Disney World has to offer.

Boma:

Boma's signature dessert, the Zebra Dome.

Boma, located in Animal Kingdom  Lodge, is the grandaddy of all Disney buffets, with a vast selection of meats, pastas, salads and desserts.  Because it’s located on the far edge of Disney World property, it’s got to be good, since a lot of guests simply never make it out that way.  Don’t let that lull you into not making reservations, which are a must:  Word of mouth among Disney fans has made this out-of-the-way restaurant a must do and the kitchen likes to live up to that reputation.

Once you get out there, you’ll be rewarded in many ways. Some of the food is inspired by African cuisine, such as a delicious Moroccan seafood salad and meats rubbed with African spices, but there’s something for everyone on this buffet, even the pickiest eaters. Don’t forget to save room for the Zebra Domes, a small spongecake topped with chocolate ganache spiked with Amarula Liquor and covered with white and dark chocolate. They’re a classic Disney World treat that you’ll only find at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Get  Park Wise: Don’t just go to Boma for dinner–explore the resort. Animal Kingdom Lodge is easily the most beautifully themed resort, so check out the lobby and in colder weather, grab a seat at the outdoor fire pit.  You can also see animals in the public viewing areas of the savanna and at night, ask to borrow a pair of night vision goggles to see the sights.

Chef Mickey’s.

Chef Mickey's? Oh really?

Ask a travel agent which restaurant her clients are most most interested in booking and she’ll probably say Chef Mickey’s, the iconic character meal featuring the “Fab Five” located in the Contemporary Resort. Sadly, this restaurant suffers due to its popularity, as the kitchen never seems able to keep up with the demand from guests. It’s also loud and crowded. My advice is to skip this location until they get their act together and try one of the better buffets with the same characters.

Tusker House:

Tusker House is my hands-down favorite buffet for breakfast. You’ll find most of the same characters as you would at Chef Mickey’s, but your interaction with them will move at a slower pace. The food, which is managed by the same kitchen as Boma, is some of the best you’ll find in any theme park. You can eat lunch and dinner here, but to me the vast breakfast offerings, including biscuits and gravy, eggs, potato dishes, and various meats, are the best. You can read more about Tusker House here.

Biergarten:

If you’ve ever wanted to sample unlimited amounts of schnitzel and bratwurst, Biergarten, located in Epcot’s German pavilion, is the place for you.  Kids will enjoy dancing with the oompah band, but they might not be as thrilled with the braised red cabbage or the potato dumplings, so if you have picky little ones, this might not be your best bet. Grownups, however, will enjoy the German beer and everyone will appreciate the German cakes, pastries and entertainment.

Cape May Buffet:

Let’s keep this gem, located in Disney’s Beach Club Resort, between ourselves. Breakfast is your standard character buffet, but dinner at Cape May practically screams “Strap on the feed bag. This is going to take a while” with a veritable trove of seafood such as mussels, fresh fish, clams, and giant snow-crab legs. There’s also plenty of meat options for non-seafood lovers, plus nuggets and mac and cheese on the kids’ bar.  For some reason, this location is often overlooked by park guests, which means not only a better selection for you, but a happier kitchen.  Mums the word though, okay?

Get Park Wise: Save this buffet for a day when you’ll be in Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios so you can get there easily. Beach Club is about a ten-minute walk from the World Showcase entrance (near the UK pavilion) but it’s slightly longer from Hollywood Studios.  If your feet are tired, take the boat. Give yourself up to thirty minutes to reach Beach Club if you take this option.

Crystal Palace:

If you’re looking for a reliable meal in the Magic Kingdom,  the Crystal Palace, where you can hobnob with Winnie the Pooh and friends, is the place to go. We eat here almost every trip even though the food is pretty standard: Think pancakes and eggs for breakfast, roast beef, sandwiches, salads and pastas for lunch and dinner.  Fortunately, it’s also always fresh and plentiful and even adults will enjoy meeting Winnie the Pooh and having their picture taken.

Get Park Wise: If you want to get your picture taken on a near-empty Main Street with the castle in the background, book an early reservation at this location. Breakfast starts as early as 8:05 but you’ll be let in up to 30 minutes prior and allowed to make your way down Main Street. Just make sure this isn’t an Extra Magic Hour morning when the park opens at 8:00 a.m.

1900 Park Fare:

Dinner at 1900 Park Fare, located in the Grand Floridian, is a jewel among princess-themed character dining: Good food, including prime rib, and fun character interaction make this one of the best deals on property and at only one table-service credit (or nearly half the cost of Cinderella’s Royal Table), it’s a great way to mingle with Cinderella and still have a little bit of money left over for other important things, like food the next day!  One fun facet of this character meal is that the evil stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella, show up with their mother, Lady Tremaine. The girls are super campy and steal the show, but it’s all in good fun:  Don’t be surprised if your sons get asked if they’re “available.”

Buffet Strategies:

I often hear that the Disney dining plan is too much food. I disagree. It’s too much of the wrong kind of food. If you’re eating at buffets more nights of your trip than not, you’re probably going to start feeling sluggish and bloated no matter how hard to try to avoid the more fatty, carb-laden treats set out in front of you.  Your best bet is to eat at only a couple of buffets each trip and try healthier, smaller portions the other nights.  Similarly, shelve the idea of getting “your money’s worth” when you go to a buffet–you won’t do yourself any favors by stuffing yourself, you’ll just feel too full. Finally, all buffets are slightly cheaper at breakfast, so if you’re on a budget or you’re not on the dining plan, you might want to try that option.

While I have my favorites, all buffets at Disney World are generally a step up from many of the buffets you’ll find in the “real” world, so why not give them a chance next time. Do you have any advice for those new to Disney buffet dining? What are your favorites?

 


Park Wise is written
by Chris Wood.

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About Chris Wood

Chris Wood is frequent Disney traveler and travel agent. She considers Walt Disney World to be her home park.

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10 Comments

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  1. While it’s not a buffet in terms of get up & take your plate over to the line and serve yourself, ‘Ohana at the Polynesian absolutely should be in the running for best WDW buffet. There is no a la carte menu. All food is unlimited, but brought to your table on skewers instead of being on a buffet line. This really helps quality since the meat on the skewers is usually fresh & hot right off the grill, and not something that’s been sitting in a pot floating on hot water for the past hour or so on the buffet line.

    • I second this. Ohana was my favourte meal on my last trip, buffet or otherwise.

      Boma is a fantastic buffet as well.

      I wasn’t a big fan of Cape May for some reason, maybe I wasn’t in the mood for seafood. It’s worth it if you want to indulge in crab legs, but if you want a wider variety of foods, go elsewhere.

  2. Boma isn’t just the best buffet but it’s my favorite restaurant in the resort… it’s that good! (And I’m not a buffet type person), but the food is done in small batches so it’s not sitting, and it allows you to be adventurous and “try” something new (although to be honest, it’s rare to find anything that’s not good out there). You are basically getting Jiko’s quality food (without the fancy plating, or cost). (They use the same kitchen).

  3. I definitely have to agree with Boma. That is one place that we never skip when we go to WDW for vacation.

    There are a couple of places that were not mentioned. The first, and probably the best value, would be Trails End at Camp Wilderness. We have gone there for both breakfast and dinner and prefer the breakfast as the selection is better, and the price is a value. Dinner is good, but, in my opinion, the selection is smaller.

    The other place that I would have to recommend, and this would only be for breakfast as a buffet would be The Wave restaurant at the Contemporary Hotel. This is a good, and cheaper, alternative to Chef Mickey’s if you are staying there.

  4. Biergarten has a good menu with chicken and pork. You make it seem like all it has is sausage.

    No mention of Akersus in Epcot. Why the omission?

    Only one, Chef Mickey, is the worst. Only one, Boma, is best. Everything else is “blah”?

  5. I think Chris didn’t mention O’Hana because it already has plenty of publicity. The fact that I can’t book a dinner for two there 6 months out any time earlier than 9:40pm is so frustrating. If I ate that meal at that hour, I’d be up at 3am vomiting with heartburn!

  6. BOMA!!!! We ended up eating there twice last time and glad we did–there were different offerings on the different nights and all were amazing. Now I’m getting sad because that was likely our last trip to WDW… :(

  7. I LOVE biergarten. I like the spaetzel the best and they usually have 2 different kinds at the time. I’m a HUGE fan of breakfast buffets because I like it when I get syrup on my potatoes and the Wave was pretty good for this, as was Cape May.

    Does anyone know what the buffet at the Land is like? I haven’t been there since it turned buffet years ago.

    Also, why do so many kids puke at buffets? Grody!

  8. I’m not a huge fan of the buffets at WDW; the food is often mediocre and our family isn’t much enamored with character dining. Cape May Cafe in particular was a bad meal — the food was very bland and uninteresting, and the atmosphere was about as exciting as a chain restaurant. Absolutely nothing special about it, except for the high price.

    That said, we’ve very much enjoyed meals at The Biergarten and Tusker House.

    Our favorite “all-you-can-eat” meal is at the Garden Grill in The Land at Epcot. It is not a buffet; it’s a family-style dining experience (similar to dinner at The Liberty Tree Tavern) where they bring out large plates of food for the table to share, and they bring out more once you’ve finished the last one. The selection is small — salad, beef, turkey, fish, vegetables and mashed potatoes — but it’s all very good.

    We need to try Boma on of these days; we’ve eaten at Jiko several times, and we stay at Kidani Village about once a year, so we don’t really have an excuse for not trying it.

  9. My family and I at at the Garden Grill in The Land at Epcot. I really liked the way they let you know that certain items are from their “Garden”. We had a bowl of strawberries with a little “extra”- a tiny inchworm crawling on one of them. LOL We didn’t even get charged for the “extra” meat!