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What are the worst restaurants at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando?

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Published: September 4, 2013 at 4:18 PM

Amanda's review of Tony's Town Square Restaurant at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom kicked off a spirited discussion about the worst theme park restaurants in Orlando, here on the Theme Park Insider website as well as on our Facebook page.

Hollywood & Vine
Is this the worst theme park restaurant in Orlando?

Many fans asked for a summary of the results. Let's go one better: How about including the results from our on-going reader ratings of the restaurants at the Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando theme parks, too?

Our Facebook fans panned the food at Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano in Disney's Hollywood Studios and the Rainforest Cafe at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney. Also in Downtown Disney, T-Rex earned several bad reviews from fans, as did the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal Orlando's CityWalk.

Several Facebook fans had unkind words for Epcot's Les Chefs de France, but that restaurant scores relatively well in our Theme Park Insider reader ratings, so we'll leave it up to you to debate in the comments if that restaurant deserves a place on any Disney visitor's "must avoid" list.

With that, let's go to the results of the Theme Park Insider reader ratings. Here are the five worst-rated table-service restaurants at the Orlando area theme parks, starting with the worst. (10 votes minimum. Also, TPI reader ratings include only restaurants located inside a park's gates — no hotel or CityWalk/Downtown Disney restaurants.)

Worst table-service restaurants

  1. Hollywood and Vine, Disney's Hollywood Studios
  2. Tony's Town Square Restaurant, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
  3. Nine Dragons Restaurant, Epcot
  4. Coral Reef Restaurant, Epcot
  5. Tutto Italia, Epcot

And for those of you who don't bother with Priority Seating reservations anyway, here are the five worst counter-service restaurants at Disney and Universal, according to Theme Park Insider readers.

Worst counter-service restaurants

  1. ABC Commissary, Disney's Hollywood Studios
  2. Liberty Inn, Epcot
  3. Circus McGurkus Cafe Stoopendous, Universal's Islands of Adventure
  4. Pizza Planet Arcade, Disney's Hollywood Studios
  5. Backlot Express, Disney's Hollywood Studios

For what it's worth, no restaurants at SeaWorld Orlando made the cut for either list. You can follow the links above to add your rating and review for these restaurants, if you'd like to pile on with yet another negative review or challenge the conventional wisdom with a positive one.

And if this is too much negative talk for you, tomorrow we'll focus on your picks for the best theme park restaurants in Orlando. We've already started that discussion on our Facebook page, if you'd like to jump in there.

Readers' Opinions

From Jacob Sundstrom on September 4, 2013 at 4:26 PM
I had a very middling experience at Chefs de France -- though I realized I hadn't rated it yet, going to do so now. The service was mediocre and my wife and I felt rushed to get out of there so they could get on to the next tipping customer. This was in contrast to a very positive experience at Teppan Edo and the Brown Derby on the same trip.
From Anthony Murphy on September 4, 2013 at 4:57 PM
I was very surprised on the results, but I guess its in the eye of the beholder. I shared the question on the DVC (unauthorized) group on Facebook and I thought they were going to burn me at the stake! For what its worth, here is what I think about the "top"

Table Service

1. I have actually never eaten here. It looks ok, but it has been a character breakfast for awhile. As much of Disney fans my family is, we are not big on breakfasts or characters...hmmm


2. I will agree with Tony's. It has been pretty hit or miss for my family. I actually think its better than it used to be (imagine that!)

3. I fully disagree with this choice! Can somebody explain why Nine Dragons is bad? I feel that it has a poor reputation due to it being Chinese food. Everybody has eaten local Chinese food and it probably was bad. At least in Chicago, we have two Chinese establishments: hole in the wall places and fancier table dining. Nine Dragons is in the fancy vein. I hate to say it, but its as good as Chicago's Chinatown. Plus, you can get lots of food.

4. Coral Reef? Really? I have never been there, but I have never really heard anybody pan it either.

5. What is wrong with Tutto Italia? Its the best Italian Resturant in Disney World (of course, that's not saying much). We usually skip it because we go to Via Napoli instead, but the food there has been pretty solid.

I am baffeled how Tutto made it, but not Mama Melrose. I think there is a East Coast conspiracy here :). You all know I love my Disney, but Mama Melrose has to be the most consistently worse service and Italian food I have ever had in my life. My family dislikes it so much, we joke that one of these days, we will try it again. We have given it three chances, no gratze!

I am not going to go into the counter service because its pretty much weak pizza and hamburgers.


Of course, Mythos was also on that list (this Disney fan disagrees-some of the best food at any Theme Park!)

From James Trexen on September 4, 2013 at 4:57 PM
I can't really think of many bad food experiences at parks (I pretty much eat anything as long as the price is reasonable), but I do remember having pretty lousy service at Confisco Grill at IOA. My food was left under a heat lamp for at least 5 minutes and came back pretty dried out. As far as counter service is concerned, I can only remember having a bad meal at the Burger Digs in Jurassic Park.
From Rob Pastor on September 4, 2013 at 5:26 PM
This very much agrees with what I've experienced at DHS. Tough to find a place to eat there unless you want to greatly overpay at Brown Derby.
From Daniel Etcheberry on September 4, 2013 at 5:45 PM
The mahi mahi that I ate at Coral Reef was very delicious. I don't understand why it's on the list.

Unrelated to Disney or Universal but on the same topic; Market Restaurant at Legoland Florida has the worst customer service I have ever experienced at any theme park restaurant.

From Gabriel Schroll on September 4, 2013 at 6:31 PM
My two cents:

Coral Reef has amazing food. Unfortunately the portions are really small and the prices are fairly obscene for what you get. But the food itself is great, and I've eaten there 3-4 times.

As for Mama Melrose, I admit I'm not a huge fan, though I still tend to eat there when I can get a reservation and am going to be at DHS. A few years ago they had the best Eggplant Parm around (in my opinion), but they 86'd that maybe two years ago or so and nothing else comes close to being as good a dish. And being a vegetarian dish, it was only about $10 if I recall, though I am not a vegetarian.

They also used to have an appetizer of bread and different varieties of dip, including a whole cooked clove of garlic that was really soft and spreadable. Amazing! But like the Eggplant Parm, it went the way of the dinosaurs and nothing else comes close to comparing.

If they could get those two dishes back, I'd recommend it to anyone! Without those two dishes, it's just a nice atmosphere and a place to get some basic Italian.

From Cory R on September 4, 2013 at 8:04 PM
I agree with the counter-service list. ABC Commissary and Backlot Express are very boring. So happy Backlot Express will be (presumably) turned into the Mos Eisley Cantina. And Pizza Planet could be so much more theme-wise. I really want a Pizza Planet that looks just like in the movie, entrance and all, even if the food stayed the same. Maybe they'll move it and redo it when they expand Pixar Place.

As for the table service restaurants, I disagree. I really like Nine Dragons, the buffet at Hollywood and Dine is quite good, and Coral Reef is one of my absolute favorite restaurants. Dining at a theme park should be just as much about the food as the theming and atmosphere. And you can't beat getting to look out the windows to the main tank of the Seas while eating at the Coral Reef. I was disappointed in Les Chefs de France. Of all the amazing French cuisine, there isn't a whole lot on the menu that sticks out. Guess you have to shell out the big bucks at Be Our Guest or the really big bucks at Monseuir Paul's to get the really good French food.

From 68.38.83.228 on September 4, 2013 at 8:49 PM
I have never had a bad experience at any WDW restaurant and I have been to WDW 21 times. I have never had a problem with Hollywood and Vine or Coral Reef Restaurant. Every time that we go to Disney's Hollywood Studios, I try to eat at least one meal at Hollywood and Vine. I like the atmosphere and I enjoy the food. At Coral Reef Restaurant, you can't beat the view and I think that the food is very good.
From Thomas Caselli on September 4, 2013 at 8:58 PM
I always enjoy Hollywood and Vine and the Coral Reef Restaurant. Every time that we go to Disney's Hollywood Studios, I try to eat at Hollywood and Vine at least once. I like the atmosphere and enjoy the food. At the Coral Reef Restaurant, you can't beat the view and I like the food a lot. I have been to WDW 21 times and I can say that I have never had a bad experience at any WDW restaurant. They are all not perfect, but there aren't any that I would say are bad.
From 65.34.67.242 on September 4, 2013 at 9:09 PM
On quick service, Liberty Tree has to be the worst I have had. However, I do tend to avoid the burger places other than Pecos Bill. Overall, the quick service list bottom 5 matches mine. At least I can stand the Commissary because they do have some alternatives.

For full service, Epcot has great options. However, the quality has really fallen off since the widespread push of the Dining Plan. It's even more noticeable in the hotels. Almost everything is now focused on high volume rather than high quality. It's priced, though, as high quality. There are still several good options.

As a local, we would hit a hotel about once a month for a quick service lunch and hang out for a while for the atmosphere. Often a visit to a park in the evening followed, especially in the off season. With the new drink limits at the hotels, there is no longer a reason to go hang out for 2-3 hours. Since we're already not there, dinner elsewhere. I know our little bit is nothing to them, but I see it as another reason they're giving me to get out of the whole Disney habit.

From Robert Niles on September 4, 2013 at 9:14 PM
I think what drops a restaurant to the bottom of rankings such as these isn't being consistently bad -- it's being inconsistent.

That's why we hear so many conflicting reports about these restaurants. They're good for one party, and bad for the next. The great restaurants are the ones that are great for everyone.

Truly horrible restaurants, the ones that are terrible for everyone, simply wouldn't make it a month in environments as competitive at Disney World and Universal Orlando. But inconsistent restaurants serve enough customers well that they manage to persist.

Still, I think it's useful to look at ratings such as these, to know what your odds are with any given restaurant. Some of us would prefer not to take chances.

From Joshua Counsil on September 4, 2013 at 10:39 PM
I had a great experience at Les Chefs - escargots in a theme park? - but French food, and haute cuisine in general, is served best in a small room by attentive staff. Duplicating thousands of orders of delicate dishes and bringing them to the patrons in reasonable times would be agony for any restaurant manager. So, yes, the consistency is going to be way off.
From 75.141.200.37 on September 5, 2013 at 12:28 AM
This conversation is great! We are headed back east to WDW in early December and it seems that the views are pretty consistent for the most part. We don't seem to feel the need to get all of the Dining Reservations like many of you. We have not had much trouble getting in somewhere. I will be honest...we haven't been to a table service in about 3 years. We ate at Hollywood and Vine for the first time. It was overpriced and didn't have enough selections for me but the food was alright. Not horrible. Just...ok. It was funny however, because our 21 year old son was with us and the characters tried to get him to dance. He doesn't dance.

We try to get off of property and visit some of the restaurants outside but I am also NOT a fan of chain restaurants like Olive Garden, Steak and Shake, etc. I am not a snob, I just like to experience regional food if I can. I usually ask a local for suggestions.

Never eaten at Coral (hubby doesn't do fish) or Nine Dragons. I wish Pizza Planet served pasta like Red Rockit's at Disneyland. Mama's was okay about 5 years ago.

One more thing...my husband seems to think that the disagreement about the Italian places has a lot to do with whether the food is "New York" or "Chicago" in style. As an Italian man with an Italian mother, he liked the food in the Italian Pavilion at Epcot because it was closer to what he has eaten at home and in Italy. Now, we both realize that this is dependent on the chef of the day, the f&b manager of the month and whatever they are calling the restaurant at the time.

From 164.77.211.138 on September 5, 2013 at 1:00 AM
Hi, Im Carlos and im from Chile, i go to Orlando for 15 days, every year an i do ALL THE PARKS!!!
I agree with Tony'Town: Bad Food and Bad Service).
Chefs de France: Good Food and bad service)
Coral Reef: If you go there is about the place, not about the food
Hollywood and Vine: Never been a bad experience for me, specially because we love Hollywood Studios an the service is FAST.

For my family our favorite restaurantes are:
Sci Fi: By far the best service, and we love the place too.
Akershus: The Norwegian feast is awesome!!!!
Tusker House: Great Breakfast and great Lunch buffet

WELL
Sorry if my english is not good
Grettings

From 70.105.247.64 on September 5, 2013 at 4:07 AM
I agree mostly with the list. I had a terrible experience with my food at Coral Reef, one of the worst restaurants I have ver been to. Yuck.
From 24.236.198.128 on September 5, 2013 at 4:09 AM
We had a great experience at Les Chefs last fall, Sept 26. Our 5:15 reservation was perfect timing to escape the torrential downpour that lasted nearly an hour. Even with the masses huddled under the awning outside, we never were pushed to vacate our table. It was the most relaxed experience we had the entire trip, no rush, which was even better considering it seems like we are constantly rushing in the parks. It was a welcome break from the pace. Our server Joely was excellent, suggestive, and easily one of the most friendly servers we had the entire trip. The food excellent and was one of the only meals both my husband and I finished along with dessert. After roughly an hour and forty minutes, we were on our way. The time spent here seemed like no longer than we spend on a regular night out at home where we are in and out of a restaurant for dinner in less than an hour. I can't wait for our next trip.
From N B on September 5, 2013 at 5:04 AM
Anthony.... Wing Yip at 26th & Wallace. Hole in the wall, surly, wooden and unpleasant woman behind the counter, but some of the best Chinese I have ever had.
From Mark Hollamon on September 5, 2013 at 5:40 AM
I agree with Hollywood and Vine, but it hasn't always been that bad. It changed dramatically for the worse when it became character dining.

I think the rest of the 5 selected are off the mark. We live in Orlando and frequent the theme park eateries often and are just not seeing the same thing...

Tonys: NEVER had a bad meal there and the service has always been top notch!

Nine Dragons: We have not dined there much, but the last time we did was Christmas evening and it was very good and the service was great.

Coral Reef: WHAT? Not getting this at all

Tutto Italia: Agree and disagree... When it was Alfredo's it was the best on property. Then it changed and was really, really bad. We recently tried it again (we were told the restaurant changed management yet again)and the food was pretty good and the service was good as well. The downside is the menu price.

From 208.125.225.18 on September 5, 2013 at 5:56 AM
I have to say, I LOVE Nine Dragons. We make it a point to eat there once a trip. Universal doesnt really compare to Disney in terms of food. It doesnt bother me, but that may be because I dont expect such great meals and theaming from them. Now with universal expanding so much, who knows what is in the future!
From Brian Bauer on September 5, 2013 at 6:46 AM
I've never eaten at ABC Commissary but I hear it's really changed for the better since the menu change. I'd love to hear if people think that is true. However, I think everyone is afraid to go back (and will continue to give bad reviews as a result)
From TROY DAVIDSON on September 5, 2013 at 7:33 AM
Circus McGurkus Cafe at Universal----Terrible! The team that designed that cluster (*&^%) should be ashamed of their self. We went there when it was not busy and took 15 plus minutes to get through the line. It was this most disorganized set-up to get your food and pay. I will never set food in there again!
From Christopher Sturniolo on September 5, 2013 at 8:22 AM
I really don't think Pizza Planet is as bad as everyone says it is. I think that $10 for both a pizza/sandwich and a side salad isn't that bad as everyone thinks it is. The food itself is actually pretty good for theme park standards. My biggest gripe would have to be the decor which is looking very dated (considering it was built around the release of the first movie) and I think the whole warehouse vibe isn't what one thinks of when they think of the Pizza Planet in the movie.
From 107.209.249.122 on September 6, 2013 at 7:33 PM
When my wife and I were on our honeymoon in March 2013, we thought that the best overall restaurant experience was at Le Chefs de France in EPCOT. We have recommended it to everyone that says that they are going to WDW. The food was incredible and the atmosphere was terrific. Just don't tell the guy with the cart that you are the "health inspector." He is apt to not show you what is covered on his cart! :-) 5 STARS
From Tim Blake on September 9, 2013 at 7:52 AM
The worst place we had lunch at was in Disney Studios at the Brown Derby. We had reservations for a 12:30 seating, but... we were seated at 1:15. It was half empty. It took the waitress 15 minutes to bring us our menus. It then took her another 20 minutes to take our order. 20 minutes later our Cobb salads came out. It was easy to see it was pre-packed and had been micro-waved since it was frozen. It tasted like warm mush, something you would feed to a pig. Another 45 minutes later our meals came out and they tasted bland, totally without taste. We then had to wait another half hour for our server to appear. We asked for the check and she stated that we hadn't had desert yet (since we were on the dining plan). We both told her we were done. We went back and got our check, which meant she wanted a tip for her service. I flat wrote down zero. She marched off to the manger who promptly came to our table and stated that a tip is expected. I told him that with this type of service and the quality of the food that the only tip I would give is to advise people not to come here.
From 204.52.244.191 on September 9, 2013 at 11:48 AM
Earlier this summer, my family went to WDW and had dinner at the Beast's castle/Be our guest deal. I seem to remember the food being good and the wait long, but the dining experience was the worst. It was so loud being an open room and people running around, it was not a relaxing enjoyable time. A huge bummer since it was the new thing. I cannot believe the imagineers didn't dampen the sound in that place. I would tell everyone to avoid it...

We had a rental car and I kept asking Cast Members were to eat off property that was not a chain restaurant and they all laughed. I just wanted to get a cheap good pizza...haha.

From 50.13.63.227 on September 10, 2013 at 11:32 AM
it wouldnt be a trip to Hollywood Studios if I didnt have the subpar pizza at Pizza Planet.

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