I have a confession to make – I don’t like Dole Whip.
I also don’t like Tonga Toast, turkey legs, Norwegian School Bread, cheddar cheese soup, seafood, steak, or a long list of other foods! Though these are some of Disney’s most popular items that many other guests find absolutely amazing, as you may have guessed, I am a highly picky eater!
Walt Disney World is a fantastic destination for foodies, but what about those of us with picky palates and temperamental tastebuds? Not to worry; Walt Disney World is also a wonderful place for those who, like me, are much choosier about what they chew on! With a plethora of diverse dining options to consider, Disney can be a finicky eater’s dream come true, and I’d like to share my top 5 tips for picky eaters visiting the most magical place on Earth!
TIP #1 – Check out menus and/or photos in advance online
This is one of the first things I do when I’ve got a trip in the works! Whether you’re looking for a quick service grab & go bite to eat, a sweet or savory snack, or a multi-course table service meal, Disney’s website is a great resource for checking out current menus at the numerous eateries across the property. Each of the parks and resorts has a variety of different dining locations to choose from, and when you have an idea of what type of cuisine places may serve, it can help you and your party settle on a restaurant that will work with your needs.
Reading through restaurant menus and dish descriptions is a great place to start, but it can sometimes be tough to envision exactly what might show up on your plate. Along with checking out the menus, I like to search for food photos as well. A scroll through a blog, social media feed, or even a quick Google search of the item you have in mind can help you decide in advance if a particular food will tickle your fancy. I suggest having a snack handy while you research, as I always find myself developing an appetite while I drool over the pictures!
TIP #2 – Choose restaurants with diverse menu options
If you’re a picky eater like me who tends to travel with friends and family with more adventurous palates, it can sometimes be challenging to making dining choices that make everyone happy. Thankfully, many Disney World restaurants have larger menus, offering a wide range of culinary creations all in one place that should please each person in your party.
From the theme parks to Disney Springs, and even at the resorts, there are many places that might fit the bill if you’re trying to satiate the different appetites and cravings of several people. In the parks, I might suggest the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre at Hollywood Studios, for example, where you’ll find burgers and fries, but also dishes such as pan-seared shrimp pasta.
If you work up a hunger while visiting Disney Springs, both The Edison and Raglan Road are great restaurants to consider, as they’ve got marvelous menus with extensive options including burgers or grilled cheese sandwiches, in addition to seafood, prime rib, and more.
At the DVC resorts, Olivia’s Café at Old Key West is a hidden gem, with a variety of fare from chicken to West Indian tofu and coconut curry.
When it comes to quick-service dining, many locations feature your typical theme park fare such as burgers, chicken nuggets, pizza, and other items that those of us who are a little fussier often stick to. If you’re traveling with a larger group and some folks want to try something new or different, locations such as Sunshine Seasons at Epcot, the ABC Commissary at Hollywood Studios, or the Grand Floridian Café have menu options that should please both types of eaters. Families can also consider splitting up to purchase their food from different locations, then reunite to sit together while eating!
TIP #3 – Ask if a dish can be modified or if you can choose a children’s menu item
To me, dining in a restaurant isn’t always just about the food you consume while you’re there. Personally, I love the whole experience of dining out, and Disney has so many eateries with distinctive features and unique ambiances that you don’t see every day. Maybe it’s a restaurant you’ve been dying to try, or it’s someone else’s turn to pick a place, but when a restaurant is suggested that doesn’t have anything that suits your tastes, don’t fear!
I always recommend asking a Cast Member if one of the dishes can be modified or if it would be possible to order from the children’s menu. Though these possibilities can’t always be guaranteed, in my experience, Disney is in the business of making magic and will do their best if at all possible!
By modifying entrees or ordering from the children’s menu, I’ve been able to enjoy a number of restaurants I may have avoided otherwise! Coral Reef, Be Our Guest, and 50’s Prime Time Cafe are just a few of the locations where I’ve had great experiences in ordering an item typically for kids or adjusting a dish on the regular menu.
Even Disney’s Signature Dining locations have been very flexible in my experience! When visiting Citricos at the Grand Floridian, Le Cellier at Epcot, and the California Grill at the Contemporary, the Cast Members were eager to ensure I was still able to enjoy a signature dining experience, even if I was eating macaroni and cheese or grilled chicken rather than the more upscale entrees they typically serve.
TIP #4 – Visit during one of Epcot’s fabulous festivals
Throughout the year, Epcot plays host to a variety of festivals, such as the International Food & Wine or Flower & Garden festivals. Each typically includes a number of booths offering a selection of culinary creations and beverages. Oftentimes these specialty menu items are inspired by an assortment of different cultures and countries and may feature a variety of sweet, sour, savory, and spicy flavors.
Even as a picky eater, you may have the urge to broaden your horizons by trying something new! The great thing about the specialty dishes and snacks served during the different festivals at Epcot is that they come in smaller portions (typically with a smaller price tag as well), so it’s a great time to take the plunge and try new food! If you love it, great! You can always purchase a second helping and make a meal of it. If you don’t love it, at least you tried something new!
Along with being a great time to try some new foods yourself, noshing your way around Epcot during one of the festivals can be another way for picky and adventurous eaters to enjoy a dining experience together!
There are always so many dishes to choose from that you’re sure to find something everyone in your party will be excited about!
TIP #5 – BYOF (Bring your own food)
One of the great things about staying in a DVC villa is that you’ll have access to some sort of kitchen space. If you’re staying in a DVC Studio, you’ll have a kitchenette with a mini-fridge, microwave, and toaster right in your room. If you’re staying in a One Bedroom Villa or larger, you’ll have an entire full kitchen at your disposal!
This means you’ll be able to prepare snacks and meals right in your room if you choose to!
For picky eaters, preparing your own meals can be a blessing, as you’ll know exactly what’s in the recipe and how it’s being made.
For me, having a guarantee that there are no sneaky onions, herbs, or other ingredients on my will-not-eat list is wonderful! This can be beneficial financially as well, like dining in your villa and/or bringing your own lunches and snacks to the parks can potentially save you quite a bit of money, compared to the cost of eating every meal in Disney’s restaurants.
If you’re flying and bringing a bunch of groceries in your suitcase isn’t an option, you can always make a pit stop to a local grocery store once you arrive in Florida or stock up on supplies at your resort’s onsite store. There are also services such as Garden Grocer, which will deliver grocery orders right to your resort!
No matter what kind of eater you are or may be traveling with, the magic of Disney still applies to dining, and I hope these tips are helpful to you when planning your next trip! Whether you like sweet or salty, spicy or subdued, filet mignon, or French fries, there is truly something for everyone to enjoy!