Vote of the Week: Which theme park serves the best quick-service food?

August 15, 2014, 11:57 AM · We started the week by listing our readers picks for the top 10 quick-service restaurants at the Walt Disney World Resort. And yesterday, we slid into a comparison of prices for quick-service meals at Disney World and Disneyland. So let's keep the conversation going with a Vote of the Week about your quick-service theme park food.

Chicken and waffle sandwich
The spicy fried chicken and waffle sandwich from Sleepy Hollow at the Magic Kingdom

Which theme parks serve the best food? It's not really fair to compare full-service, sit-down restaurants with quick-service, take-away windows, so let's restrict today's vote and discussion to the more common counter-service eateries. Which parks do the best job overall with that?

Obviously, to make comparisons between different theme parks, it helps to have visited them. Though, let's be honest: the lack of actual, first-hand experience hasn't prevented that many online arguments! So feel free to vote your favorites here, even if you haven't been to all the locations on the ballot. Or, if you're upset with the food service at your (otherwise) favorite park, feel free to vote for another park or resort to send a message. We're ultimately trying to get a conversation going here, and maybe send a message to parks about what we want to see from them when it's time to eat.

The Fisherman's and Cottage pies, with a side salad, at Universal's Leaky Cauldron

In a further effort to try to make this fair, we'll break today's vote into two parts: one for the big, multi-park resorts, and another for the single porks whose counter-service restaurants have scored the highest in our Theme Park Insider reader ratings. When considering the candidates, let's consider which parks do the best job overall for food service, rather than just voting for the park with the single-best restaurant. It's great to have an outstanding place to eat, but if you're staying for the whole day, or visiting multiple times over the year, it's better to have a wider range of high-quality options.

Boardwalk pizza
The mushroom and spinach pizza at Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta in Disney California Adventure

This week we named Sleepy Hollow Refreshments as the top quick-service location at Walt Disney World. We'll have similar Top 10 lists for Disneyland and Universal Orlando in the weeks to come, but for right now, we'll note that the top quick-service restaurants in our ratings for those resorts are Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta at the Disneyland Resort and The Leaky Cauldron at Universal Orlando Resort.

Earlier this year, we honored Dollywood's Miss Lillian's Chicken House with our first Theme Park Insider Award for best quick-service theme park restaurant. And Dollywood's restaurants score consistently well, so we've included it in our second vote, for best quick-service food at individual parks. The competitors here include Dollywood's sister park, Silver Dollar City, as well as two SeaWorld parks, Busch Gardens Williamsburg and SeaWorld Orlando, and indie Holiday World. Top restaurants at those parks include Buckshot Annie's Skillet Cookery at Silver Dollar City, Trappers Smokehouse at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Voyager's Smokehouse at SeaWorld, and Plymouth Rock Cafe at Holiday World.

Please tell us about your favorite, can't-miss theme park counter-service restaurants, as well as what you'd like to see parks do to make more restaurants that live up to that level.

Replies (15)

August 15, 2014 at 12:26 PM · That second vote is tricky. Both Herschend parks, Dollywood and Silver Dollar City, have exceptional quick-service food. I'll give Dollywood the edge simply because of the cinnamon bread with apple butter. Busch Gardens Williamsburg is also pretty solid too.
August 15, 2014 at 12:50 PM · I had to be a homer and vote for BGW, but the quick serve food there is top notch and with a myriad of choices. It's actually more difficult to find a cheeseburger and french fries in the park than something you've probably never tried before. Dollywood is pretty darn good too (those giant skillet stations are pretty mouth watering), but the choices are rather narrow.

Disneyland blows everyone away, and quiet possibly one of the few parks in the country where I know where AP holders will go just to have a quick dinner. A park that can draw locals in just for a bite to eat must be doing something right.

August 15, 2014 at 1:00 PM · BGW, in both categories. Their quick service food is the equal of most other parks sit down restaurants. Their food choices are not the typical quick serve menus, actually very varied choices that you would usually see in sit down restaurants. And the food is excellent.
August 15, 2014 at 1:03 PM · After I had Panera Bread, nothing else comes close.
August 15, 2014 at 1:15 PM · Maybe Disney will open a Pandora Bread at Animal Kingdom in a few years.
August 15, 2014 at 3:24 PM · Favorite combo at Universal Orlando - Hotdog with a frozen Butterbeer. A close second would be the churros, which I've never been able to find in a Disney World park when I have wanted one.

Most disappointing food item at Disney World parks - corn dogs. I walked up to an outdoor food station in Hollywood Studios to order one. My expectation was a corn dog like the ones served at state fairs - foot long size. Well, I happen to glance inside the station and saw they were serving state fair corn dogs alright, the State Fair brand. I was paying a 1900% mark up for a store bought corn dog. Never again.

I am always impressed with the food served at Busch Gardens - Sea World parks. It is definitely a step above the other Florida parks. Sure, you pay a bit more, but man the quality and taste is so much better.

Silver Dollar City is good as well. I will vouch for their hotdog and chips combo. Well worth the price and a nice quick snack between rides. Their table service is very nice as well, but I think a lot of that stems from the older clientele that they receive.

I'm looking forward to comparing the Bangers and Mash at the Leaky Cauldron vs. Finnigan's this October at Universal Studios Florida. Once and for all we'll know which is better.

August 15, 2014 at 3:42 PM · I can only comment on the first poll as I have never been to the others. Even then it's hard to judge because we usually hold out for the main meals rather than doing the quick service. Especially since I can get a churro at Costco for a dollar anytime instead of paying 6-7 bucks at Disney for one half the size. I would say Disneyland in first, then universal then WDW.
August 15, 2014 at 3:55 PM · BTW just looked at and she is missing a bunch of the newer restaurants. How she beat Robert on USA today voting is beyond me.
August 15, 2014 at 5:21 PM · Busch Gardens food is surprisingly good and varied. Its even better during their Food and Wine Festival. Its definitely better than your Kings Dominion or Six Flags selection. I want try Dollywood, that sounds scrumpcious.
August 15, 2014 at 7:17 PM · Busch Gardens Williamsburg for the "single pork" and Universal for major theme parks. Nothing beats a butter beer on a hot summer's day!
August 16, 2014 at 4:23 AM · Kind of surprised that Knoebels isn't an option, but from the options given I'd have to pick Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Their counter service food is excellent, and their dining areas don't have that typical "cafeteria" feel found at a lot of parks.
August 16, 2014 at 5:26 AM · Disneyland - it was actually an difficult task to narrow down my choices of what I wanted to eat at Disneyland Resort - they do an amazing job with food, they really do.

Silver Dollar City / Dollywood - as Tim said, they are nearly identically excellent, but I give the edge to SDC for Eva and Delilah's Bakery - they may not have the cinnamon bread and the big apple pie, but everything else is AMAZING!

Disney World - the options are getting better all the time, but they are not quite there yet.

BGW - been a while since my last visit (2008) but I remember the food being pretty darn good - especially in the big German dining hall - if it is still at the park.

Universal Orlando - I am sure the quick service options are better now that Potter is in town, but back when I last visited, I mostly opted for full service where I think USO excels - Mythos, NBA City, etc.

Holiday World / SeaWorld - been a while, but I don't remember the food being anything remarkable - seemed fairly standard at the time - will have to visit again, soon.

BTW, I just got back from multi day visits to both Kings Island and Cedar Point, and found the food at KI to be at least interesting (some local flavors like LaRosa's and Skyline Chili were decent), but the food at the Point (other than Pink's Hot Dogs and Elephant Ears) was a big disappointment.

August 16, 2014 at 7:21 AM · James: Yes, I agree with your view on Cedar Point Park food. I could never find much I cared for there. Hershey Park was another downer. Worst food in a theme park I've ever experienced. In contrast, our local park, Kennywood, has very good food, interesting choices, and a very reasonable price.
August 16, 2014 at 7:39 AM · We tried the "all day" food pass at SeaWorld and I discovered the quick service food has improved a great deal there over the past few years. Good burgers, good BBQ. I was impressed and a bit surprised.
August 16, 2014 at 10:14 AM · After just visiting Dollywood last weekend , food was great and they have three really good coasters and Sea World Orlando a couple of months ago overall I think they are about equal. (Food wise) Both had great service with food that was better quality than the usual park fair. But just my opinion . Mike Albrycht

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