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Vote of the week: Picking a place to eat

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Published: January 10, 2008 at 11:58 PM

I know that this isn't an issue at many regional amusement parks, where your lunch and dinner options are limited to the same fare you'd find at a typical mall food court. But I'm interested in reading about how TPI readers make a decision at parks like those run by Disney, Universal and Busch, where visitors have the option of a finer dining experience.

What are you looking for at mealtime in a theme park? What is the most tempting factor that lures you to a particular place to eat, whether that be a sit-down restaurant, counter-service joint, or even the Turkey Leg Wagon?

Tell us, in the comments, about your favorite theme park eateries.

Readers' Opinions

From Mark Hollamon on January 11, 2008 at 6:14 AM
Disney had always been a trend setter when it comes to good food at the parks. Animal Kingdom had a little catching up to do with variety of restaurants, but they have revamped Tuskers and with the new Yak and Yeti open there is really a good variety.

I have always been a fan of Mythos and still agree it is one of if not the best theme park restaurant I have experienced.

From Matthew Baker on January 11, 2008 at 6:43 AM
My priority is good, decent-quality non-fast food. Nearly all of the relatively few theme-park fast-food encounters I've had have been far less than spectacular, and I'd rather go without altogether. My preference is a good station-service or sit-down, in a moderate price range. (Most of my theme-park time is at Disneyland; there, Plaza Inn and Redd Rockett's are my mainstays.)

Another important thing is a friendly seating situation. I don't have the benefit of being in a group of others where one could go scout a table while the others are ordering. The possibility of ordering and then not being able to find a table, combined with not having the "clout" a group of several members would have, is usually offputting and a source of discomfort. I haven't had any severe incidents happen yet, but I also have safety protocols I follow, such as avoiding peak times and simple spidey sense. A very real risk I have yet to figure out is not getting thrown out if I have to get up from the table for a bit. I came within two seconds of this happening at DLR recently.

From Crystal A on January 11, 2008 at 7:38 AM
My favorite for Dinner is San Angel Inn- Mexico in Epcot, Breakfast- Whispering Canyon- Wilderness Lodge on Disney Property, Lunch- Sci Fi Cafe Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The highlight of many of our theme pary trips is picking a place to eat. I also love the Shark Reef at Seaworld. I don't like seafood but the atmosphere is really great.

From Joshua Counsil on January 11, 2008 at 9:47 AM
In Orlando, we usually leave the park and go to a nearby hotel to eat dinner. For example, we'll go to Animal Kingdom Lodge if we're at Animal Kingdom or the Boardwalk if we're at Epcot.

The hotel food is much better than the theme park food, and the restaurants are usually less crowded and more comfortable.

From Terri Thomas on January 11, 2008 at 9:59 AM
My comment concerns only WDW dining:
Even with so many dining choices available, if you want to be sure you'll eat at your dream spot at your dream time, you need to make a reservation way in advance. So months before we head down to WDW we decide where we'll eat if we want a sit down meal.

Once our dining choices are made it pretty much controls our WDW itinerary. We're not going to be at Epcot if we've made reservations for Boma at AK that night.

But...first us control freaks consult the WDW "Book of all information" to see what the best day is for that park first. So if let's say Monday is reported to be a slow day for Epcot (we try to avoid any park with extra magic hours - check the online calendar) we may make reservations there and so it continues for the rest of the week.

It has actually helped us to know in advance where we'll be headed on which day, as we now avoid the "walk about in a tight circle with hand on forehead wondering where to go & what to do next" dance. (anyone else been to that one?)

Our kids are young teen sons so all they care about is portion size. We're going this March-April & I've made reservations for Boma, San Angel & Liberty Tree Tavern. We haven't been to the 1st two yet & Liberty is just a family fav with the grandparents.

Tip: Lunch can be far less costly than dinner at some of the finer restaurants. Eat a big breakfast, make a lunch reservation for one of the latest time slots available (generally much less crowded then traditional lunch times) and then grab some light snacks during the fireworks or parade.
Mangia!
Terri

From Robert OGrosky on January 11, 2008 at 10:17 AM
For me it gets down to quick service and hopefully the rest. is near by. Since I only go down to FLA/CA every 2-4 years my time in the park is very important. So my goal is to eat decent food in as timely manner as I can so I can then go back out and ride as many rides as possbile and soak up the atmosphere. If I lived closer to the big theme parks and visited more often than I would perfer quality more than I do now.
So for me I can always eat very good meals at home. but it is much harder at home to get a true theme park experience.
From Robert Niles on January 11, 2008 at 10:34 AM
I want to throw in a good word for the Busch parks, and for Legoland. I've found the food at both to be far above average for the industry. After all, when you think about it, Busch is the only theme park company whose primary business is a food product. (Yeah, it's beer, but still....)
From Anthony J on January 11, 2008 at 11:04 AM
I can't imagine going on a trip to Universal and not eating at Mythos in Islands of Adventure. It's one of my favorite restaurants ANYWHERE.
From Missy Renee on January 11, 2008 at 11:14 AM
If I didn't have young children, my vote would have been high quality food, for sure. But let's face it, ninety percent of the time when I am in a theme park I have my 3 and 5 year olds with me, so they factor into the decision a great deal. I try to look for places that have child friendly and healthy options. Beverages are where we usually have difficulty, because our children don't drink soft drinks. We prefer milk, and then real fruit juice (in that order), but it is not always available. In a pinch, a non-carbonated and caffeine free drink like fruit punch is acceptable, or the old stand-by of bottled water. But we drink bottled water throughout the day, so we like to give them something different during meal times if possible.
From Robert Niles on January 11, 2008 at 11:22 AM
Missy, I carry bottled water and just skip ordering a drink with lunch. If we're at a counter service place, we just drink our bottled water. And if it is a table service restaurant, we request the tap water. No calories, no carbs, the best hydration and no cost!
From Lawrence Smith on January 11, 2008 at 4:03 PM
I voted for the high quality, cooked to order food. I don't mind paying a little more for a tasty meal. And given since it's a theme park, most of the prices are usually high anyway so a few extra dollars shouldn't hurt to enjoy a pleasant dining experience.
From rick stevens on January 11, 2008 at 11:19 PM
I would have to say that my vote would vary with the people I am with. I am partial to the high end meals, but the counter selections are not half bad.
From Larry Zimmerman on January 12, 2008 at 5:13 AM
All of the above. Fortunately, in the higher end theme parks, you can usually find a combination of most of these. Take, for example, the Stanleyville Smokehouse in Busch Gardens Africa. You are instantly attracted by the tantalizing aroma of beef and chicken being cooked over a fire including the "wood of the day," which varies in the mix to subtly change the barbeque flavor in the meats. Your seating area includes a close-up view of the "splash-down" pool through which SheiKra splooshes every minute or so while you enjoy the best smoked barbeque in the park...a true feast for all your senses!
From rafael g on January 13, 2008 at 10:07 AM
it is not about the money to me. where i get mad is when i pay a lot of money for crappy food. i want quality food in a clean indoor place. not fast food and eat outside.
From Chris Walton on January 13, 2008 at 12:30 PM
I like Mythos at IOA, even though I feel it's a little overrated. The Sci-Fi Diner at MGM is a must for the well themed environment. Epcot has too many great restaurants to choose from.
From Erik Yates on January 14, 2008 at 7:06 AM
I think all of these are important, but when it comes to big theme park resturaunts, the best is getting a place that can seat you when you're ready to eat. Even with places like disney where its recomended that you make reservations, you still end up waiting anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes to get seated. I'd gladly sacrifice things like themeing for a place thats ready when I am.
From Mostly Anonymous on January 14, 2008 at 1:35 PM
Our main decision criteria wasn't an option, so I didn't actually vote. We choose primarily based on what we feel like eating. If we're craving burgers, we head to place that sells burgers. If it's a cold, dreary winter day, we'll walk all the way across the park for a bowl of hot clam chowder.

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