Best Downtown Disney Quick Counter Service Restaurants

by josh on May 27, 2010

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.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Laurel Rogers March 27, 2013 at 4:05 pm

If you’re looking for another “list” to gather, I have a suggestion :)

How about a list of quick service locations that serve “knife and fork” food? Places like Sunshine Seasons that has dinner type food and not just sandwiches would be on the list. I would love to know where I can get a decent QS dinner food at WDW so I don’t end up eating hot dogs and hamburgers for a week.

Reply

Chris May 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Another suggestion: a ‘best of’ list for Downtown Disney table service restaurants and a ranking of table service restaurants at WDW resorts.

Reply

Janet MacFarlane July 15, 2013 at 9:19 pm

Bongos Cuban Cafe Window is listed on Disney’s Quick-Service. However Allears has some entrees listed but I have read that you can only get sandwiches if on the DDP. Can anyone verify this?

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: