12 Disney Food Secrets You Didn’t Know Until Now
Knowing this insider information can make your Disney trip a lot easier—and more delicious.
What Disney pros know that you don’t
No matter what you choose to do at Disney World or Disneyland, one thing’s for sure: You’ll work up an appetite doing it. But grabbing a quick bite to eat or having a memorable meal at the parks isn’t always as easy as it sounds. After all, reservations at the best restaurants can be hard to come by, and lines can be long. That’s why you need some insider tips. Disney pros know how to beat the system, secure those seemingly impossible reservations, find hidden gems, and make sure you eat more than those (admittedly delicious) Mickey-shaped treats. Before you visit, here’s what else you need to know if you’re traveling to Disney during the pandemic.
Some Disney restaurants have secret menu items
We’re not talking under-the-radar items—we’re talking full-on secret things that only insiders know are there in the first place. Like what? At Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom, you can order Pao de Queijo, or Brazilian Cheese Bread, from the secret menu. And at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, there’s a secret cinnamon-bun burger with candied bacon…and a whole secret process to get it. Make your way to the Roxy counter at the food court and ask for the secret menu; a cast member will bring you out a briefcase, and inside, you’ll find a viewfinder with the secret menu printed on the slides.
Over at Disneyland, the best secret menu items are usually drinks. While the park is currently closed due to coronavirus restrictions, here’s what should be on your radar when it reopens: An old favorite from Lamplight Lounge is the Instagram-worthy Mickey’s Fun Wheel, a layered cocktail with pineapple juice, passion-fruit vodka, blue curacao, and soda water. At Flo’s V8 Cafe in Cars Land, you can order a Neapolitan milkshake off the secret menu. Or, if you’re in the mood for something savory (and solid), try the macaroni and cheese in a sourdough bread bowl from Pacific Wharf Cafe. Here are more hidden gems for grown-ups at Disney parks.
Those secret menu items can sometimes be mobile-ordered
If you have the Disney World or Disneyland app, you can sometimes view secret menu items for restaurants that offer mobile ordering. Great places to try this are D-Luxe Burger at Disney Springs and Hungry Bear Restaurant at Disneyland. FYI, if a restaurant does offer a mobile-order secret menu, there will be a separate tab from the regular menu. Since reopening, Disney World has put even more emphasis on mobile ordering, which is safer, easier, and allows for social distancing while at the parks. See what else you need to know about heading to Disney during the pandemic.
The parks have hidden dining spaces
Disney is known for creating fully immersive experiences, and restaurants are definitely a part of that equation. Some even have hidden dining spaces that few people ever get to experience…unless you have a little bit of Disney magic, some luck, and this inside information, of course.
At Disneyland, there are two restaurants with hidden dining rooms. The first is “The Office” at Lamplight Lounge. The restaurant’s theme is an old animation warehouse, and as with any warehouse, there has to be an office. You’ll find it downstairs, through a hallway and a hidden door. You’ll find the second secret Disneyland spot at Carthay Circle. To find the Terrace Lounge, which has its own private balcony, head to the back of the restaurant and go up a hidden staircase.
Over at Disney World, Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen has a private dining room behind a set of bookshelves. This space is dedicated to Disney’s fictional Society of Explorers and Adventurers, and this story has been woven through multiple attractions, experiences, and restaurants throughout the Disney parks around the world.
To be able to dine in most of these spaces, you can request a table in the space once you arrive at the restaurant. The Office at Lamplight Lounge, however, is made for larger groups and special guests, and there’s no real way to request this space. If you really want to shoot for the stars, try for a table at the hardest restaurant to get reservations for at Disney World.
Disney World’s best under-the-radar restaurants
When you’re planning a trip to Disney, you’ll likely hear about a handful of restaurants that you have to go to—and have an impossible time getting reservations for. Our advice? Give them a shot, sure, but also make sure to consider the parks’ hidden gems, particularly at Epcot. The following two restaurants don’t get the fanfare they deserve, but you’ll be singing their praises after your visit.
The first is La Hacienda de San Angel in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion. This water-view restaurant has pretty views of World Showcase and a fantastic menu filled with authentic Mexican cuisine. One important note: Don’t mistake La Hacienda de San Angel with the San Angel Inn Restaurante, which is inside the Mayan Ruin in the Mexico pavilion.
Epcot’s other hidden gem is Takumi-Tei, where you’ll get an upscale meal of Japanese favorites. For an extra treat, nab the Chef’s Table in the private Water Room. Takumi-Tei’s chef will prepare and present a nine-course meal tailored to your individual taste, making for an exquisite experience. Next, meet the chefs behind some of Disney World’s most iconic dishes.
Disneyland’s hidden gem
Disneyland is much smaller than Disney World, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in food options. While restaurants like Blue Bayou and Lamplight Lounge in the parks may get more attention, the one hidden-gem restaurant you must visit is the GCH Craftsman Grill, located at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel near the pool. You might be thinking that a pool bar can’t have great food—and if that’s the case, this restaurant will prove you wrong. Trust us: Don’t even think of passing this one up. The outdoor dining space boasts beautiful views of the hotel, as well as a stellar menu. Make sure to order the lobster quesadilla, which is loaded with fresh lobster. After trying the dish, you might want to add it to your list of Disney recipes you can recreate at home.
The best time to get quick-service dining
If you’re the type of person who wants to spend as much time as possible hitting the rides, then you’re probably going to want to do quick-service dining. Both Disney World and Disneyland have great options, but the lines can get long, especially at main dining times. That’s why you should consider dining at “off times.” This means having lunch around 11 a.m. or after 1 p.m., and dinner at 4 p.m. or after 7 p.m. You can save even more time by utilizing mobile order. Since you’re ordering and paying ahead of time, all you have to do when you arrive is pick up your food and take it to a table to eat. What should you eat? Try these 10 new foods at least once when visiting Disney World.
The foolproof way to secure hard-to-get reservations
Some Disney World and Disneyland restaurants are so popular, scoring a reservation at them seems nearly impossible. Those include Be Our Guest, Beaches and Cream, and California Grill at Disney World, and Carthay Circle, Lamplight Lounge, and Blue Bayou at Disneyland. But it’s not impossible—you just need to know a few tricks. First, be on your computer right when dining reservations become available for each park. For both Disney World and Disneyland, that’s 60 days prior to your arrival at 6 a.m. Eastern time online; if you’d rather call, dial in at 7 a.m. Eastern time. Missed the window? Check for new openings periodically, especially as your trip gets close. You may get lucky and scoop up someone’s canceled reservation.
During the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it can be more difficult to get a dining reservation. While guest visits are down, restaurants have reduced indoor seating, so fewer reservations are available. Keep trying to make reservations right up to your trip, as long as it’s not at one of these worst-reviewed restaurants at Disney.
Some reservations will get you into the park early
If you’ve ever dreamed of walking down a completely empty Main Street U.S.A., then you’re in luck. Some dining reservations will allow you to get into the parks before they officially open for the day. This is great for a few reasons. First, you can enjoy a meal without feeling like you have to rush to eat to get to a FastPass reservation. Second, most of the time, you’ll be done with breakfast before the park opens, allowing you to line up for major attractions before throngs of guests enter the parks.
At Disney World, these are the restaurants that offer pre-opening reservations: Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Garden Grill, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, Hollywood and Vine, and Tusker House. At Disneyland, the Plaza Inn is the place to go early. Breakfast reservations usually start about one hour before the official park opening. Here are more insider secrets from a Disney World super-fan.
The best way to meet your favorite Disney characters
Character dining is at the top of many people’s must-do lists when visiting a Disney park. Unfortunately, everyone has the same idea, which makes reservations tricky—unless you head to an under-the-radar spot. At Disney World, try Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort. This rooftop restaurant features Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy in unique outfits, and you’ll get a menu inspired by the food of the French Riviera.
Because of coronavirus-related changes, the only places currently offering character dining at Disney World are Topolino’s Terrace, Garden Grill at Epcot, and Ravello at the Four Seasons. One thing to keep in mind: The characters will no longer come directly to your table. Since Disneyland is not open right now, it is unknown what character-dining experiences will be available. For a totally different experience, consider dining at Disney World’s most exclusive restaurant.
Disney bars usually let you order off a restaurant menu
Many Disney restaurants have an attached bar or lounge where reservations are not required and seating is first-come, first-served. One major Disney hack is to go with bar service over traditional table service because most bars will let you order off the full restaurant menu in addition to the smaller bar menu. Some bar locations at Disney World and Disneyland even let you take a look into the kitchen of a restaurant in non-COVID times, like Jiko: The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Speaking of sneak peeks into the inner workings of the parks, find out how Disney World restaurants figured out how to throw out the least amount of food possible.
Most restaurants accept member discounts
Restaurants across Disney World and Disneyland offer a variety of savings. Standard discounts include annual pass holder, Disney Vacation Club, D23 member, and Tables in Wonderland. Each of these have a different amount that is taken off your final bill, but the savings add up quickly. The only places that likely don’t accept discounts are outdoor carts that sell items like popcorn, ice cream, churros, and bottled drinks. For more smart ideas, check out these 14 ways to save serious money on your next Disney vacation.
Some meals have a set price—and a secret advantage
Some table-service meals at Disney World have a set price for the entire experience, and they have a perk you may not realize. When a restaurant has a set price for the meal, you can typically order as many non-alcoholic drinks and entrees as you want. This is the case for Breakfast à la Art with Mickey & Friends at Disney’s Riviera Resort and the Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast at Disney’s BoardWalk.
If you choose to dine at either of these places and order more than one entree, you will need to tell your server what you want as your “main entree” and what you want as your “secondary entree.” Your main entree will come to your table as it is meant to be served with sides and garnishes, while the secondary entree will have just the main part of the dish and no sides. Your server will likely not tell you any of this at the restaurant, but now you know what to do! Here are more secrets Disney employees won’t tell you.
Some sites listed here may not be open or may have limited hours or other restrictions due to COVID-19. Please check with them before you go.