A day in the Magic Kingdom is always intense (hopefully, it’s happily intense), and since you’re smart, you’ve been there since dawn’s early light. By lunch time, you’ve probably logged a lot of attractions and used your first couple of fast passes. It’s time to take a load off your feet. While Magic Kingdom counter service locations have their own appeal, by noon they are likely to resemble zoos. Counter service lunch is not a respite from the crowds of the Magic Kingdom, it’s an immersion in them. It can be an exercise in frustration as you walk back and forth with a loaded tray, finding no empty tables – with many being held by parties who don’t even have their food yet. Counter service can be exhausting.
Now picture yourself walking into a table service restaurant for lunch. The pleasant young person at the podium finds your advanced dining reservation (ADR) and invites you to have a seat while you wait for your table. With an ADR, you’re not likely to wait long. You’ll be led to your little own little oasis of tranquility. Soon you’ll be sitting back with a cold glass of water (or your favorite beverage) as you peruse the menu.
If you’re already (understandably) worrying about the cost of table service, there are ways to keep it under control. The first way is to schedule a table service lunch rather than a dinner. And don’t forget that Disney servers are extremely nice about requests to split entrees. Sometimes, the kitchen even plates each half for you separately. You can always order an appetizer as your meal, and most items on the menu are available as side dishes – a couple of them make a light meal. If you had a big breakfast and plan a big dinner at your resort’s food court, you can have a light lunch – which is also a lunch that will be easier on the wallet. If your 11 year old doesn’t see anything on the regular menu that appeals, ask the server if he or she can have the chicken strips on the kid’s menu. This request is almost always granted. Not only might your child like their lunch better, it will be more economical.
Cinderella’s Royal Table is, of course, in the middle of it all – on the second floor of the castle with stained glass windows overlooking Fantasyland. It’s the ultimate Magic Kingdom meal for a magical splurge. After you check in at the podium, you’ll go around the corner in the Grand Hall where you’ll be welcomed by Cinderella herself. (You won’t have to listen to your little ones asking WHEN they’re going to meet Cinderella throughout the meal, since they already did!) Sometimes you’ll find the Fairy Godmother welcoming guests. As the princesses make the rounds of the tables, you may meet Snow White, Aurora, and Ariel (characters vary). The dish to write home about here is their signature dessert, “The Clock Strikes Twelve,” a dense flourless chocolate cake with berry compote and Anglaise cream sauce. While a meal at Cinderella’s Royal Table is a dream come true for many guests, this is, of course, the park’s least economical choice. Despite the fact that it’s nearly $80 for adults and $50 for children (and you pay in advance at the time the reservation is made), ADRs for Cinderella’s Royal Table disappear almost as soon as they become available (6 AM Eastern on disneyworld.com, exactly 180 days in advance).
Fantasyland is home to another highly-sought-after table service character meal, Be Our Guest in the Beast’s Castle. The golden, glowing Grand Ballroom and eerie, forbidden West Wing (complete with enchanted rose) both look exactly as they do in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. A third dining room, the Castle Gallery, is appropriately full of books and roses. During breakfast and lunch, Be Our Guest is a quick service location; but dinner is table service, served with elegance as well the opportunity to meet Beast (after all, it is his castle!).
If you’ve spent the morning or the afternoon in Frontierland or Adventureland, you may plan to wind up in Liberty Square and a meal at the Liberty Tree Tavern. Since this is no longer a character dining location, it’s far less expensive than Cindy’s or Beast’s. As with most restaurants, the lunch menu is more affordable than the dinner menu. The six wood-paneled, Colonially themed rooms honor Revolutionary patriots: John Paul Jones, George and Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Betsy Ross, and Paul Revere. The art and artifacts in each room tell you whom it honors. A “town crier” will ring a bell and call out something like, “Hear ye, hear ye! Now seating the Jackson Family from the Commonwealth of Virginia.” The Pilgrim’s Feast (Thanksgiving dinner 365 days a year) and the New England pot roast are guest favorites. Before you leave, find the 13 lanterns (one for each colony) hanging in the live Liberty Tree adjacent to the restaurant.
The Diamond Horseshoe is just a few doors away from Liberty Tree. For years it was a quick service location that was only open seasonally. It has evolved into a table service Old West style all-you-care-to-eat cowboy meal of BBQ pulled turkey, spit-roasted ham or stewed beef. It almost certainly hasn’t finished evolving. Maybe Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye will ride into town, push open the double doors, and take over – though the space is probably too small for a character meal.
Adventureland now has its own table service restaurant, the extravagantly named Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen! Skippers from the Jungle Cruise welcome you to their headquarters. The first room, the large Mess Hall, is decorated with a crate with “possible” snakes, photos of Nile fishing, and other adventure mementos. The Jungle Room was once the family parlor of Dr. Albert Falls, founder of the Jungle Navigation Co. (Schweitzer “Falls” on the rivers of the Jungle Cruise was named for him.) Don’t miss the Tiffany-style parrot lamps! You pass through a secret passage behind a bookshelf to discover the S.E.A. Room where meetings of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers were once held. (Request the butterfly booth!) “Here, let me show you the menu,” your server might begin. “Here’s the front. Here’s the back.” The flavors are pretty exotic for most American palates and the menu will probably be tweaked as the initial shakedown cruise of the restaurant continues. The signature dessert is the African-inspired Kungaloosh! – a chocolate cake with caramelized bananas topped with cashew-caramel ice cream and coffee dust.
The Crystal Palace, British and glass-domed like its Victorian namesake, appropriately hosts English favorites from the Hundred Acre Woods. During breakfast, lunch, and dinner you can meet Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, and Tigger – and all without any waiting in a character greeting line. If possible, try to get in a ride on the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh before dining at the Crystal Palace, as Pooh and friends will be fresh in your child’s mind. The space is bright and cheerful, though tends to be loud with echoing children’s voices and the scraping of chairs. Most guests feel that the wide array of deliciousness (the strawberries come from a dedicated Florida farm) makes any attendant hectic aspects all worthwhile.
Also near the Hub is the small Plaza Restaurant which is known for its tasty Reuben sandwich and menu of ice cream sundaes for dessert. With its mirrored walls and bright chandeliers, it feels like a turn-of-the-century soda shop. Here you may meet some of the Citizens of Main Street from that same era. When you check in at the podium, ask if a table in the Solarium is available!
Tony’s Town Square, located near the park entrance, is themed for the restaurant scene in LADY AND THE TRAMP (which you’ll find playing in the restaurant lobby). Inside, a fountain is topped with Lady and the Tramp statues in brass. The elegant indoor seating area is lined with artwork from the film, while a large, bright sun porch and patio beyond offer a very different ambiance — and a good view of the Festival of Fantasy parade in the afternoon. In the evening, you can look out on the Main Street Electrical Parade while you savor a chocolaty “Ice Cream Bomb” for dessert. And when you leave, have a look on the sidewalk for a romantic heart drawn in the concrete along with the paw prints of Lady and the Tramp!
We hope you enjoy your day in the Magic Kingdom, and find the table service restaurant that will make your day extra special.