For a long while, Disney was not necessarily a food lover's dream. It was simply a place to park hop, grab a few bites on the go, and quickly find a pillow to get a few hours in before the next day. Today, I find it to be much more a place for food lovers to spend a few extra days just to chow down on some good eats.
Two things: I love food (duh) and I know Disney like the back of my hand. Really though, I can't even count the number of times I've been to the home of Mickey and Minnie - if I had to guess I would say 50+. That's just a guess but I'm pretty sure it's not an overestimation. Not that I'm a crazy Disney fan or anything - I'm really not at all. To explain, I used to work for the cheerleading company, Varsity, that puts on all the ESPN shows broadcasted from Disney's Wide World of Sports. I would go anywhere from 5 to 6 times a year. That's not including the years I cheered. Not to mention, my husband also works for the company so he frequents Disney several times a year (and sometimes stays for 2 to 3 weeks). Just so I'm not home without him for that amount of time, I still jump on that Disney train occasionally - toot toot!
So let's get down to business. Where do I eat when I go? I have some staples that have been there for years that I frequent but most of my favs are new joints. Here's my list... and none of it's in a park.
This is my favorite area in the Disney area. The hotels are fabulous and the restaurants in them are superb. They're a little more fancy so perfect for date night.
Hands down, favorite restaurant in the area. Sometimes I'm only in Orlando for like 48 hours but I always make sure this is in the food rotation. Fantastic Italian food - authentic but with fun modern flairs. Love can't even describe!
Bull and Bear
Fancy-schmancy... I absolutely love this restaurant but it's definitely pricey. The atmosphere is very romantic, candle-lit, the menu is absolutely phenomenal and fun, and the food will knock your socks off. It's a good date-night spot if you're going without kids and really is worth the money.
A seafood lover's dream with an open kitchen to a white tablecloth dining area. Amazing fresh fish dishes, delightful seafood towers, and crafted sushi rolls - this place has it all. If you love fresh seafood, this is your place.
Kind of a park? I don't think it's considered one but it's new, hip, happening, and in the middle of all Disney. If you went to Disney back in the day, you'll remember this as "Treasure Island." It's been completely redone and holds serious good eats. This is great for the kids, without the kids, or even alone (I had a blast here bopping around by myself last month)!
If I had one restaurant that's convenient to a typical Disney schedule, this would be it. I'm not even a huge Asian food fan and this restaurant is life... I'm obsessed. Get the steamed BBQ Pork Buns, the spare ribs, and the Morimoto Buri-Bop. You will go back for those 3 things. I promise.
Just a really fun restaurant with good steaks and sides. There are several STKs all over the country, so if you've been before, maybe you can skip it but if not, go! Be prepared for loud music... it's kind of like a restaurant inside of a club. Really fun with friends!
Chef Art Smith's Homecomin'
Ok, so I've been here twice - once was over the weekend and the other was on a Monday. I'll say this, my weekend experience had me put this restaurant on the list. The weekday experience had me almost not. But here it is. If you like southern food, this is a gem - amazing friend chicken, mac and cheese, and literally perfect grits (if you know how I am about my grits, this is a huge statement from me... I hate grits almost everywhere but at my house). However, the second day I went was a little flat. I say take the chance and hope you have an experience like I did the first time!
Lake Buena Vista
This area is kind of the "town" of Disney. It's where all the fast food and chain restaurants are - - and most importantly, the fantastic outlet mall. Aside from all the food joints you'll typically see at home and all over the country, there are 2 local places worth checking out.
Great "Surf and Turf" style restaurant with fresh seafood. They're known for their stone crab and it's delicious. The back patio and bar is lively, fun, and reason to go all on it's own.
Miller's Ale House
This place is a little nostalgic for me, as it was the first real restaurant I ever went to that wasn't a "Disney" restaurant. It's very casual, bar style food, but I just love it. It's a great place to watch a game and throw back a few beers. I love the zingers and the Cajun chicken pasta - I eat like a kid at this place.
Celebration is an adorable little community in the Disney area. It's like it's own little village with lots of little boutiques and local eating joints. The houses are lined close together, all so immaculate and with such detail. I had to spend the night at the hospital in Celebration once, as I was rushed there in an ambulance for a kidney stone. Unimaginable pain and possibly the worst situation of my life as I was supposed to be working all weekend, and instead I was hooked up to an IV in a hospital bed. But leave it to the cute town of Celebration to have a hospital that felt like the "happiest place on earth," complete with Disney character wallpaper. Probably not a necessary story to tell, but maybe it puts the charming little town of Celebration in perspective.
Celebration Town Tavern
The patio here is just great and the lobster roll is everything. You HAVE to get the lobster roll.
Holler and Dash
I would normally never put a restaurant on my list I haven't visited myself, but this place has been on my list for awhile, as I've heard from numerous people it's absolutely delicious. It's a breakfast/brunch joint, and people rave about this place! Knowing another Orlando trip is always in my future, I'll be going here on my next visit.