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, 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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.