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Walt Disney World Dining: off the beaten path

Some Walt Disney World restaurants have become well-known throughout the world. Victoria and Albert’s, located inside the Grand Floridian resort hotel, is Disney’s only five star restaurant. L’Originale Alfredo di Roma, at Epcot’s Italy pavilion, is a true sister location of the famed Alfredo’s in Rome. Celebrity chefs have moved into Downtown Disney, opening branches of Wolfgang Pucks and Bongo’s among others.

These well-known restaurants, while truly deserving of their reputation, are far from the only choices you have for dining at Walt Disney World. Some truly amazing “finds” abound for those who are willing to look a bit more closely. Half the fun is in making your own culinary discoveries, and it is nearly impossible to find a bad meal at Walt Disney World. Nonetheless, with so many options it can be difficult to know where to begin. Presented here, then, is this author’s guide to several off the beaten path Disney dining options.

1. Earl of Sandwich — Hands down, this restaurant earns top marks as Disney’s best kept dining secret. Located at Downtown Disney Marketplace, the Earl of Sandwich offers an extensive menu of upscale deli sandwiches at bargain basement prices. Soups and salads are also available, as well as a range of interesting beverage choices.

2. Fountainview Café — Located in Epcot’s Future World near Innoventions, this is the number one stop for gourmet coffees and pastries. Enjoy breakfast or a midday respite near the cooling waters of the Fountain of Nations.

3. Tangierine Café — Housed in Epcot’s Morocco pavilion, this counter service alternative could go head to head with Marrakesh, the table service choice, for both food quality and presentation. A Shawarma Platter is easily large enough for two to share, at an amazingly low price. Sit in the courtyard and enjoy the live music while you dine.

4. Lotus Blossom Café — Located in Epcot’s China pavilion, this fast food alternative actually trumps the Nine Dragons table service alternative. The food is beautifully presented and perfectly prepared, and portions are quite large. In fact, a child’s meal contains plenty of food for a small meal or large or snack, although you may wish to upgrade to a larger drink.

5. Pinocchio Village Haus — For some reason, this Fantasyland classic is often overlooked. Generally open only for lunch, the restaurant contains beautiful murals of the Pinocchio story. Choose from several excellent and reasonably healthy Italian dishes, then grab a seat by the window overlooking It’s a Small World. Children especially will enjoy waving to guests in the boats below.

6. Starring Rolls — Located just outside the Brown Derby at the Disney-MGM Studios, this small café is often assumed to be a part of the Brown Derby itself. In fact, Starring Rolls is a separate entity, offering a variety of freshly baked pastries and coffees, as well as a small selection of large gourmet sandwiches and pitas. Vegetarians will love the well made Grilled Veggie Pita.

7. Toy Story Pizza Planet — Kids especially will love this pizza place at Disney-MGM Studios. The restaurant is heavily themed to the Toy Story films and the pizza is excellent.

8. Ghirardelli — Located at Downtown Disney Marketplace near the Lego store is the perfect stop to indulge your sweet tooth. Choose from oversized ice cream desserts, chocolate candy, and baked confections. Or for something completely different, order a cup of the liquid drinking chocolate. Not a traditional hot chocolate, which is made with milk, drinking chocolate is literally heated chocolate. Amazingly decadent, this treat is popular in France but not often found in the United States.

9. Baked Potato Cart — Liberty Square at the Magic Kingdom. The Loaded Baked Potato is literally dripping in toppings and easily large enough for two to split. Get there early in the day, as the potatoes tend to sell out fast.

10. Casey’s Corner — Main Street USA, Magic Kingdom. Casey’s is a great pit stop for All American hot dogs, fries, and oversized brownies. Seating is outdoors under red and white striped umbrellas. Casey’s is especially fun during a rainstorm, when you must make a quick dash from the counter to the protection of the tiny umbrella, then huddle close to your dining companion.

Walt Disney World is packed to the brim with dining options of every description. Take the above guide as a starting point, but remember to explore as well. Feel free to ask Cast Members (employees) throughout the park for their suggestions. Whatever type of cuisine you desire, it can be found somewhere within Walt Disney World, at a range of prices.