Dining at a Disney theme park offers you a wealth of tasty options, but some Disney restaurants offer more than just fine dining. With elaborate Disney theming, these restaurants take you away from the theme park and off on a world tour... or a magical adventure... or back in time... or just offer some really good eats in a great setting.
Though there are many must-visits for great food, here we're talking about great themes — and though most any Disney eatery could qualify, we've narrowed it down to our eight favorites that everyone ought to check out at least once.
1. Anywhere in the World Showcase, Epcot, Walt Disney World
Our first choice is a cop out, we know. But the fact is that the entire World Showcase is fantastically themed, with each restaurant fitting perfectly into its around-the-world setting. The eateries here aims to offer you unique — and highly themed — experiences that will send you around the world both visually and culinarily.
While you can't go wrong with the theming, some types of food may be more appealing than others. If you're craving schnitzel and sauerkraut, hit up Biergarten in Germany, themed to look like an outdoor Biergarten on an Oktoberfest evening. For Mexican, visit the San Angel Inn which, similarly, seats you in a faux outdoor Mexican marketplace — which makes both a great choice for hot summer days. Monsieur Paul offers fine French dining in a Parisian setting, Spice Road Table offers Mediterranean appetizers in a Moroccan-style cafe, and... really, need we go on?
2. Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar, Disneyland Hotel, Disneyland Resort
The Jungle Cruise is one ride that begs to have a matching themed dining experience (can you imagine the puns on the menu?), but until Disney decides to do that we'll have to make with Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel (which is a long walk from the Jungle Cruise experience). Long-time Jungle Cruise fans will recognize Trader Sam as the head salesman of the jungle (let that sink in), and his bar has a definite Adventureland flair.
There are tiki towers with eyes that open and close (like the Tiki Room has), postcards from around the world framed on the walls, a view of a sometimes-erupting volcano from the window, and plenty of mementos from the adventures of Sam and others. The menu is similarly themed (and does have plenty of puns) with a number of exotic drinks and plenty of nibbles to go with them.
For Disney World fans disappointed that they don't get their own tiki restaurant, never fear — Trader Sam's is headed to Disney World's Polynesian Village Resort as Trader Sam's Grog Grotto in 2015.
3. Garden Grill, Epcot, Walt Disney World
There's not a bad seat in the house at the Garden Grill, because the restaurant slowly spins to provide you with unique views of Living with the Land as you dine. Tropical rainforests? Check. A quaint farmhouse? Check. Thunderstorms rolling in over the plain? Check. Your view is never dull!
Food here is all-you-can-eat, served family style with farm-fresh fare. Fitting the Land Pavillion's theme of sustainability, there are a number of organic options on the menu and the fish is sustainable. While you eat, Farmer Mickey as well as Pluto, Chip, and Dale come by to visit — the small number of characters (and the round shape of the restaurant) makes for a quieter character meal thank some, and the views make this a worthwhile stop even if you aren't looking to say hi to Mickey.
4. Carthay Circle Restaurant, Disney California Adventure, Disneyland Resort
Take a break from the bustle of the theme park by zipping back in time to 20s Hollywood in the Carthay Circle Restaurant. Though all of Buena Vista Street is themed on the 20s, the Carthay Circle Restaurant takes things to another level with an exquisite interior with dark wood paneling, large photos of Walt Disney, and ceilings painted with art inspired by Snow White.
Of course, if that's not enough, the Carthay also has a great menu of food and vintage cocktails — and if you can't get a reservation, the lounge has great ambience and good nibbles, too!