There’s a pretty familiar formula most people think of when you bring up food at Walt Disney World. Casual visitors likely picture hamburgers, pretzels, turkey legs, and Mickey Ice Cream Bars. More seasoned guests might think of popular classics like Dole Whip Floats, Be Our Guest’s Grey Stuff, or maybe the School Bread at Epcot’s Kringla (yeah, most of us IMMEDIATELY think dessert). Beyond these familiar favorites, we may picture family style Italian food, decadent breakfast buffets, or even popular steakhouse choices at Disney’s signature restaurants.
While the dining scene at Walt Disney World has definitely experienced a few hits to the consistent quality they used to be famous for, that isn’t to say that there aren’t still some real gems to be found amidst the food scene at The Most Magical Place on Earth. Diners who dare to break tradition and be a little adventurous can find some true culinary treasures—some of which are so good, they’ll completely change your perspective on what “theme park food” can mean. The best part is you won’t have to shell out $200 a person at Victoria and Albert’s just to enjoy them!
Curious? Here are eight of our favorite standout dishes that will rock your paradigm for what Disney dining can offer…
1. Gobi Manchurian and Crispy Sadza – Tiffin’s, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
I have to make a terrible admission—for someone who loves South Asian food and vegetables, especially plant-based dishes, I absolutely hate cauliflower. It just tastes like pure feet to me, and the texture is usually spongy nastiness. At most Disney dining locations, I have to request it completely be left out of dishes because the taste is usually so strong to me.
The Gobi Manchurian at Tiffin’s in Disney’s Animal Kingdom turned my perspective on the humble cauliflower upside down. This unassuming appetizer might be one of the best vegetarian dishes on property. Tiffin’s is themed after the adventures of Disney Imagineers, and the Gobi Manchurian is a highlight on the restaurant’s wonderfully eclectic menu. With a flavor profile that combines pleasant sweetness with zesty notes of spice, the flavor is absolutely to die for with a texture almost similar to hot wings. The wait staff are usually quick to recommend this dish for good reason.
Another must-try item at Tiffin’s is the Crispy Sadza-- an African corn cake entree paired with roasted vegetables and chakalaka spicy tomato relish with an option to add Berkshire pork belly. For adventurous diners, the Crispy Sadza is a treat on every front, from the pleasing texture of the sadza cake to the rich flavors of the vegetables. Across the board, Tiffin’s has definitely won a place as one of the strongest contenders in Disney table service dining.
2. Berbere Style Beef Tenderloin Tips –Africa, Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
It’s hard to ignore Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival when it comes to food that will rock your world. The Food and Wine fest is a literal playground for foodies, with ever-changing samplings of dishes and wines from around the world. Every year, there are a few standouts items that really go above and beyond, and consistently, the Africa pavilion seems to always have one or two of these.
The Berbere-Style Beef Tenderloin Tips are a perfect example of this. Interestingly enough, it is often the less-visually appealing foods at the Food and Wine fest that often taste the best. At first glance, it literally looks like a plate of stew you’d get out of a Progresso can, but don’t be fooled. The flavors in this ultra-tender beef dish are phenomenal and wonderfully spicy. A spread of pap—a grain dish similar to grits or polenta—acts as a perfect counterpoint to the spicy beef.
For the 2019 festival, the Berbere-Style Beef evolved into the oh-so-wordy Kenyan Coffee Barbecue Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Potato and Corn Mealie Pap and Kachumbari Slaw. While the name might have changed, it appears that African beef tenderloin will continue to reign supreme as a winning dish at the Food and Wine Festival for years to come.