Dining at Disney is not always as simple as making a reservation and showing up in the right place at the right time.
One of my less-than-stellar moments at Disney World occurred at the San Angel Inn restaurant in Epcot. I had wanted to eat at San Angel since I was in middle school and rode the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros in the Mexican Pavilion. It’s perpetual twilight at this Mexican restaurant, which was modeled after a 17th-century hacienda at the base of Mayan ruins. Only Disney could make ruins look so amazing. The lighting looked fantastic, the food smelled yummy, and as a life-long Southerner, I am a big fan of an outdoor restaurant setting where there are no mosquitos or stifling summer heat. My husband suggested we make reservations here to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. I was beyond thrilled. Our family talked about eating here for nearly four months before the vacation. This was a big deal in our family, because with feeding five “adults,” we regularly do a lot of less expensive counter service vacation meals. This table service meal was a big deal.
The day of our ADR finally arrived, and we were seated in a great spot on the outer edge with a complete view of the restaurant and the Mayan ruins. We enjoyed some free chips and water (we ordered 5 waters to save money) and started looking through the menu.
I have not mentioned how picky four of the five members of our family are. My husband can eat anything, but the rest of us…So we’re looking through the menu. None of my kids can seem to locate what they eat at home. There are no hamburger meals and no chicken finger meals like they usually order, and now we’re panicking. The only thing on the menu I thought I could eat was a fried plantain appetizer. Let me break that down: I am a picky eater, and the only food I thought I would like to eat for my 20th anniversary dinner was an appetizer.
My husband is doing the mental math, and he estimated it was going to cost well over $180 for dinner for five, and none of us seemed thrilled with the menu choices. We decided to leave and go somewhere else. We thanked our waiter for the chips and water, and I apologized for being picky. “I’m sorry. We are just Taco Bell kinda people.” And we slunk out in self-induced shame, and there went my long-awaited anniversary meal in a restaurant I had really wanted to try for nearly 20 years.
Where did we mess up? Besides being picky that is, and I’m not sure there is a solution for picky.
We didn’t look at the menu before we arrived. Before you make your Advanced Disney Dining Reservations, you should read the restaurant menus, and they are easily found online.
It’s a good idea to make a plan for any Disney vacation. Pick out where you want to stay. Decide what parks you want to visit, check out opening/closing times, and decide what rides you plan to ride and in what order.
Choose the restaurants where you want to enjoy a meal. And before you make your ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation) up to 180 days before you arrive in Orlando, look at the on-line menus to see if you family will enjoy the food.
One of my best sources for information is the Disney World website Disneyworld.com. Go to the Things to Do tab on the main page, and the first thing that pops up is Dining.
It looks like this: Click on All Dining.
There are 270 restaurants to choose from listed in alphabetical order. That’s another great reason to do some planning beforehand, because the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. The listings look like this:
You can search alphabetically. You can search by Dining Experience (do you want a character meal, a buffet, etc.) price range, the type of cuisine, guest ratings, and dining plans. You can also simply search by restaurant name. Once you choose your restaurant, look over to this little blue section in the somewhat upper right of the screen. This will tell you the restaurant’s type of food served, the average cost of your meal, and if dining plans are accepted.
Click the View Menu icon, and the restaurant menu will appear with the help of Disney magic.
One thing that tends to be overlooked by the menu icon is the blue writing labeled “Reviews.” This link takes you to Trip Advisor for numerous reviews of exactly where you want to eat. Seeing what many other people think is way better than reading one review of one person’s restaurant experience.
I have read many, many reviews on various Disney websites where the meal or service was sub-par and the author gave the location a bad review. Cast Members, whether they cooked your food or served it, are only human. We all have bad days. Sometimes restaurants will have a longer wait than others. But if hundreds of people give it a bad review, it may be time to look up a different spot.
Knowing your family will eat what is listed on the menu can save you time from changing restaurants and having to apologize to your server for poor planning and being picky. I should know.
It can save you a big headache and set up a lovely, yummy dining experience your family will remember in a good way.
Here are several articles that might provide further help with your dining plans.
Should you use the Disney Dining plan if it’s not free? Can a Cheapskate Princess Afford the Disney Dining Plan?
For the 411 on making restaurant reservations: For a Fabulous Disney Meal, Make These Reservations ASAP!
Everybody loves free food: Free Disney Dining…Is It Really Always Free?
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Amanda Major is the creator of cheapskateprincess.com. She remembers her first visit to Magic Kingdom like it was yesterday, because she had a ham sandwich tucked in her shorts pocket. The whole family snuck in their lunch; you can’t make that kinda stuff up. 40 years worth of trips to Orlando later, she is still trying to save money on vacations.
Amanda is a Disney Vacation Club Member and Annual Pass holder. Her amazing husband, band director Carl Major, plus three teen children and two dogs keep her busy. Amanda teaches Leadership to high school seniors in the almost-coastal town of Foley, Alabama. Read about her cheapskating local vacations with this link. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, walking somewhere, or paddling a kayak. Life is indeed a blast.
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