Have you ever played a game of musical chairs with 40,000 people? Sounds tough, right?
Well, don't laugh – if you're planning a trip to Walt Disney World, you'll get to take part in that delightful party game several times throughout your stay. I'm referring, of course, to finding a place for dinner.
Whether due to lack of planning or an embrace of the spontaneous, it's entirely possible you'll have at least one night of your trip wherein you lack one of those coveted advanced reservations. As everyone else is heading off to their various culinary adventures, you might still be scrambling trying to find somewhere without a 45 minute wait. And, speaking from personal experience, arguing over where to eat after a long day at the theme parks can often lead to the type of fighting any Disney-going family is intimately familiar with.
So, what do you do when you realize you've forgotten to make a reservation? First of all, stay calm. The second thing you should do is fire up that trusty MyDisneyExperience app (or find your hotel concierge or the like) and check out the offerings. You'll probably find something worth trying there.
But if it's already 5 o'clock and you're starting to hear your tummy rumble, looking for a reservation won't help. Instead, point yourself in the direction of one of these five spots – the waits are small, the food is great, and they'll help end that family food fight before it even starts.
1. Kona Island, Polynesian Village Resort
In the mornings at Walt Disney World, Kona Island appears to all to be nothing more than a simple coffee and pastry stand. The coffee is phenomenal and, if you ask nicely, you can actually score some Tonga Toast from its neighboring Kona Cafe (without a reservation, naturally). But, while all of that is wonderful, Kona Island's true value comes from its evening transformation into one of Disney's better sushi bars.
And, again, there's no reservation required.
Casual but classy, the bar's menu has a nice selection of sushi rolls to appeal to all, even offering some cooked rolls for those who don't love the raw stuff. The volcano roll, described as a “spicy tuna seafood Lau'ai with tempura crunch,” is one of the bar's signature rolls. Beyond the sushi, diners can also enjoy a nice selection of sake and wine while enjoyins some people-watching -- the bar sits right next to the Polynesian Village's monorail stop.
Its location in the Polynesian Village Resort makes Kona Island a good spot to keep in mind during the Magic Kingdom dinner rush, as it's only a short monorail ride away.
2. Beaches and Cream, Yacht Club Resort
This '50s style soda shop is not, by any stretch of the imagination, haute cuisine. Nevertheless, when looking for a place for dinner, it is something of an oasis. While reservations are recommended, they aren't required, and it's not unheard of to find a seat with only a nominal wait comparable to what you'd find outside WDW.
The food is solid old-style American comfort food: hot dogs and hamburgers are the name of the game. Both, however, are much better than what you'd find at a traditional theme park spot. The real treat of Beaches and Cream, though, is dessert. A dazzling array of ice cream concoctions ensures no two people at the table will order the same thing, and all of the items are delicious. The famed “Kitchen Sink” sundae comes piled with everything and is served, of course, in a decorative kitchen sink.
It's a simple restaurant, certainly, but at the end of a long day at the theme parks, there's something comforting about food that's so familiar without being a food court. And its lower-brow cuisine means its not a destination unto itself, giving last-minute diners a bit of a respite.