Best Quick Counter Service Locations

While Animal Kingdom’s quick service options are fewer in number than the other major theme parks, they are all above average in the grand scheme of things.

Most Unique Menu

  1. Yak & Yeti (Anandupar Local Foods Café)
  2. Flame Tree Barbecue
  3. Tamu Tamu Refreshments
  4. Restaurantosaurus
  5. Pizzafari

Owned and operating by Landry’s rather than Disney, Yak & Yeti offers a diverse menu of Asian favorites along with a cold salad or sandwich if you prefer.  Over at Flame Tree, you can order St. Louis Style Ribs along with a fruit plate, smoked chicken salad, or smoked turkey breast sandwich with cranberry mayonnaise.  While Tamu Tamu Refreshments only has four entrees on the menu, each can’t be found anywhere else, with the exception of the Fruit Salad that is also available at Mr. Kamal’s near Flights of Wonder.  Restaurantosaurus now offers a unique Grilled Chicken Sandwich and Chicken BLT Salad, which are slightly different than others.  Rounding out the choices is Pizzafari, which mostly serves the usual Disney pizza.  But it also offers the unique and very good Chicken & Vegetable Pasta Salad and the Hot Italian Sandwich is only available here and Catalina Eddie’s at Hollywood Studios.

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Best Epcot Disney World Quick Counter Service

by josh on December 13, 2012

Epcot is where you’ll find the most diversity in your dining options.  While you’ll still be able to sniff out a hamburger, it won’t be as easy as at the Magic Kingdom where it seems like they’re haunting you at every turn.   Since the Fountain View Café and Boulangerie Patisserie serve mostly snacks, treats, and desserts, I won’t be considering them in the following recommendations.  Both are strongly recommended for a midday snack, especially the Boulangerie Patisserie where you can purchase a wide variety of delicious, freshly baked French treats. When Boulangerie opens with a larger seating section, I’ll revisit it and add it to the list.  Fountain View will also be closing in January for a six month refurbishment that will see it converted into a Starbucks location.

Most Unique Menu

  1. Tangierine Café
  2. Katsura Grill
  3. Sunshine Seasons
  4. Boulangerie Patisserie
  5. Sommerfest
  6. La Cantina de San Angel
  7. Lotus Blossom Café
  8. Kringla Bakeri og Kafe
  9. Liberty Inn
  10. Electric Umbrella
  11. Yorkshire County Fish Shop

This is kind of a silly list because almost all of the food at each quick service in the World Showcase is unique.  I’ve basically ordered the list as to the number of unique items on the menu.  Thus, a quick service like Tangierine Cafe with a robust menu would have a “more unique” menu than La Cantina, even though both locations offer a completely unique menu.  With the exceptions of Electric Umbrella and Yorkshire County Fish Shop, no matter where you go, you’ll come across food that isn’t available elsewhere. And even Liberty Inn and Electric Umbrella have switched things up so they offer unique takes on the standards.

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Hollywood Studios is not known for its quick service food, but there are reliably good options at several locations.  Let’s take a look:

Most Unique Menu

  1. Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner
  2. Studio Catering Company
  3. Sunset Ranch Market (Catalina Eddie’s, Fairfax Fare, Rosie’s All American Cafe and Toluca Turkey Legs).
  4. Starring Rolls Cafe
  5. ABC Commissary
  6. Backlot Express
  7. Toy Story Pizza Planet

Ranking menu uniqueness is kind of difficult because many of the items are unique interpretations of Disney’s usual sandwich and burger fare. Min & Bill’s offers two “sandwiches” that are entirely unique, in addition to three unique bread cones.  Studio Catering comes in first, offering several pressed sandwiches that aren’t found elsewhere along with a Greek Salad and Chicken Caesar Wrap.  Sunset Ranch Market as one entity offers a ton of options, but most of them can be found elsewhere. Still, you’ll find unique salads, burgers, and hot dogs here. Starring Rolls offers a couple of interesting sandwiches on top of all their cupcake goodness.  When Disney updated ABC Commissary’s menu in August 2012, they added a Quinoa Salad with Chicken or Salmon that’s unique, in addition to the Asian Salad and a couple burger options that aren’t available elsewhere.  Backlot Express is mostly Disney staples, though the addition of buffalo sauce to the nuggets and bacon and onion straws to the burger class things up a bit.  The sandwiches and salads are also a little different than what’s served up elsewhere.  Finally, Toy Story Pizza Planet offers Disney pizza that is the same as Catalina Eddie’s on the other side of the Park in addition to Pizzafari.

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Best Magic Kingdom Quick Service

by josh on December 12, 2012

Magic Kingdom has several of the most popular quick service locations at Walt Disney World, which makes sense because it’s the most visited of the four major theme parks.  With Be Our Guest Restaurant, it also has two of the best choices – that and Columbia Harbour House.  Let’s take a look at what’s available:

Most Unique Menu

  1. Be Our Guest Restaurant
  2. Columbia Harbour House
  3. Tortuga Tavern
  4. Sleepy Hollow Refreshments
  5. Pinocchio Village Haus
  6. Diamond Horseshoe
  7. Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe
  8. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
  9. Casey’s Corner
  10. The Lunching Pad

Be Our Guest Restaurant’s entire menu is full of items you won’t find elsewhere.  Columbia Harbour House also offers several entrees that you won’t find elsewhere, including tuna and hummus sandwiches.  While it may sound surprising, tacos aren’t that abundant in Disney World, making Tortuga Tavern’s burritos unique.  Sleepy Hollow Refreshments offers waffle sandwiches unavailable at any other quick service.  Since it replaced Disney pizza with flatbreads, Pinocchio Village Haus also offers unique dishes.

The bottom half is less unique.  While it isn’t often open, Diamond Horseshoe offers different interpretations of sandwiches and salads as most other places.  While most of Pecos Bill’s items can be found elsewhere, it does offer a steak/pork platter and chicken wrap that aren’t found anywhere else.  Most of Cosmic Ray’s menu is standard Disney food, though their barbecued items are less common.  Both Casey’s Corner and The Lunching Pad offer similar Hot Dogs that are available at Fairfax Fare and elsewhere.

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Best Downtown Disney Counter Service Disney World

There are only three real counter service locations at Downtown Disney that serve lunch and dinner – Cooke’s of Dublin, Earl of Sandwich, and Wolfgang Puck Express.  Bongo’s Cuban Café does have a sandwich takeout window that may be of interest if you enjoy Cuban food, but there is limited seating and it is not on any of the Disney Dining Plans, so it won’t be considered in the following rankings.  Ghirardelli Soda Fountain is also located at Downtown Disney, but they serve ice cream and sundaes (not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you) rather than “food,” so it will be left off also.  I would highly recommend Ghirardelli if you’re looking for a treat.

Be sure to read over the full reviews for more information on any of the counter service locations listed.  You can either click here for the full list in alphabetical order or click the individual highlighted links throughout this post.

Most Unique Menu

1. Wolfgang Puck Express

2. Cooke’s of Dublin

3. Earl of Sandwich

All three of the Downtown Disney counter services offer a diverse menu full of interesting options.  Wolfgang Puck Express is number one because of the sheer number of items on the menu.  You’ll find bacon wrapped meatloaf, curried chicken salad, butternut squash soup, and crème brulee at Wolfgang among many other pasta, pizza, and salad dishes.  Cooke’s of Dublin features delicious “Dublin Style” pot pies, mini Irish sausages, and Georges Bank Atlantic Scallops, all of which are unique.  As far as variety is concerned, you can’t really go wrong with either of the top two choices and Earl of Sandwich provides some interesting takes on the sandwich as well.

Best “Value” AKA Most Expensive Meal on the Dining Plan

1. Wolfgang Puck Express (Average Entrée Cost $12.86, Most Expensive Entrée $17.00)

2. Cooke’s of Dublin ($10.50, $11.95)

3. Earl of Sandwich ($5.95, $5.95)

Wolfgang Puck Express is the favorite of many Disney World visitors on the Disney Dining Plan because it offers some of the most expensive items of any counter service anywhere.  If you chose the oven roasted salmon for $17, crème brulee dessert for $5, and a $3 beverage then you would have a counter service meal in the $25 range, by far the most expensive at Disney World.  There are more than 15 entrées that cost $12 or more, making Wolfgang Puck Express the clear choice for anyone trying to “maximize” their Dining Plan.  Cooke’s of Dublin is fairly expensive as well, with several entrées in the $11 range, but still significantly cheaper than Wolfgang Express.  Earl of Sandwich is the obvious laggard.  Although it’s a terrific deal out of pocket, it might be considered a “waste” of a Dining Plan credit considering the most expensive meal you could put together would be about $10, much less than either of the other two options.

Best Value Out of Pocket

1. Earl of Sandwich

2. Wolfgang Puck Express

3. Cooke’s of Dublin

Earl of Sandwich is by far the best deal out of pocket at Downtown Disney and probably all of Disney World.  Considering it would be a good value outside of Disney World, you know it’s a fantastic deal inside.  You can get a large, freshly made sandwich with quality ingredients for $6 which is about half of the average cost of an entrée at either Wolfgang or Cooke’s.  You can also add a side of potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw, salad, or a bag of chips for less than $2.  Wolfgang Puck comes in second because of the large size of the entrées and the high quality of the ingredients.  A waiter will also bring you your food and take care of anything else you need during your meal, which is unique to the Wolfgang Puck Express.  Cooke’s of Dublin is a close third because most of the entrées won’t be so large that they are easily sharable. While the prices are relatively high compared to other counter service locations, the cost of the ingredients are generally higher as well.  Scallops and shrimp, for example, aren’t cheap.

Best Seating

1. Wolfgang Puck Express

2. Cooke’s of Dublin

3. Earl of Sandwich

Wolfgang Puck Express is the only counter service where a waiter will bring the food to your table while you have a chance to sit and relax.  There shouldn’t be any trouble finding a table and chairs either.  Cooke’s of Dublin has limited seating inside and a small attached seating area outside, but it’s usually enough to cater to the small number of clientele Cooke’s serves throughout the day.  If Cooke’s was any more popular, the seating area would be inadequate, but there’s usually plenty of seating.  Earl of Sandwich, on the other hand, is extraordinarily popular and has grossly inadequate seating.  It’s almost always a challenge to find seating in the loud, cramped, poorly lit interior and outdoor seating usually equates to sitting on the curb or the edge of a planter box.

Best Food

1. Earl of Sandwich

2. Wolfgang Puck Express

3. Cooke’s of Dublin

This is close and depends more on what you’re in the mood for or what you like rather than a significant increase or decrease in food quality.  Even disregarding price, the Earl of Sandwich serves some of the best sandwiches in the United States.  Although I’m not a world connoisseur of sandwiches, I have never had a sandwich as good as those found at the Earl.  I have had salmon, pasta, pizza, and salads better than what the Wolfgang Puck serves.  Not that Wolfgang is bad, but it’s unlikely you’ll leave saying “Wow, that was the best spaghetti I’ve ever tasted.”  Cooke’s of Dublin is a close third.  The main reason why it rates below Wolfgang is because just about everything they serve is deep fried, which may not appeal to some people.  The Dublin Style Pies, fried fish, chips, and sausages are all excellent, but anyone looking to cut calories has come to the wrong place.

Overall Best Counter Service at Downtown Disney

1. Earl of Sandwich

2. Wolfgang Puck Express

3. Cooke’s of Dublin

You can’t really go wrong with the counter services at Downtown Disney.  On the Disney Dining Plan, you’ll probably want to use your credits at Wolfgang Puck Express or Cooke’s, but out of pocket the Earl of Sandwich just can’t be beat.  Although it does get crowded, the lack of seating is the only real deterrent.  Wolfgang Puck Express comes in second due to the fact that a waiter will bring your food to your table, the diverseness of the menu, and the high quality of the ingredients.  You won’t find a pizza of this quality at any of the theme park counter services, that’s for sure.  Cooke’s of Dublin comes in third because of the potential limited appeal of its menu, the relatively high prices, and the small seating area.  I would still highly recommend Cooke’s if you’ve already tried both Wolfgang and Earl of Sandwich or if the menu sounds appealing.  It is an excellent counter service and would rank among the best at any of Disney’s other resorts or theme parks.  All in all, there are no losers here and you should be satisfied no matter what your situation is or which counter service you decide to try.

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