First off, a HUGE thank you to Tom & Sarah over at The Disney Tourist Blog for allowing me to repost this superbly written post! It is absolutely supercalifragilisticexpialidocious! I hope you will hop on over to their blog and look around, as it is filled with lovely articles!
So you want to maximize your table service credit value on the 2013 Disney Dining Plan by eating at the most expensive restaurants? We don’t blame you! The Disney Dining Plan is expensive, as is Disney dining in general. Taking a trip while on the Disney Dining Plan can be a great way to efficiently hit the more expensive restaurants at Walt Disney World when on a budget.
This list calculated the most expensive meals by taking the highest entree, dessert, and beverage and adding them together (tax and tip are not included). We did this as opposed to taking the median or mean since, if you’re truly concerned with saving as much money as possible, you’re going to be ordering more expensive menu items. Additionally, when we tested doing medians, restaurants that are clearly expensive dropped off of the list. Tutto Italia, for example, has a large menu with cheaper salads and sandwiches. However, the standard Italian entrees–the items most people order when they’re on the Disney Dining Plan–are mostly expensive. We feel considering only the more expensive menu items is most helpful to Guests looking to maximize their Disney Dining Plan value, but your mileage may vary. As two-credit “Signature” Dining is not as good of a value due to its cost of 2 credits, you will not find any two-credit restaurants on this list. If you are on the Deluxe Dining Plan or simply have credits that will go to waste, you should definitely consider Signature Dining as opposed to these 1-credit restaurants.
This list is completely objective. If a restaurant ranked better thanks to its pricier options, it’s on the list, regardless of whether we think its food stinks. When actually planning where YOU want to dine on your trip, it’s very important to consider quality of food, not just prices, when determining where you want to eat. We thus recommend weighing these “value maximization” lists we have along with our subjective Disney Restaurant Reviews when making your Advance Dining Reservations.
The biggest change brought by the 2013 update to this list is that Le Cellier (lunch) falls off the list due to it becoming a two-credit restaurant for lunch. Many people anticipated the new Be Our Guest Restaurant joining the list, but due to its reasonably-priced $3.99 desserts, it does not join the list. Due to some recent changes, San Angel Inn is also not on the list (its $36 “Traditional Mexican Special” includes dessert and a soft drink). Instead, Wolfgang Puck Cafe and Grand Floridian Cafe join the list for 2013. Several restaurants shuffled spots this year, due to some fairly substantial price increases at a couple…and some price decreases(!) at a couple!
1. Tutto Italia – The menu here seems to change partly (I think) due to the Free Disney Dining Plan. It seems like when that is being offered, a few of the $30+ items are not on the menu. If the Tagliata di Manzo, Lamb, or the Swordfish are on the menu, this is the #1 restaurant thanks to those and pricey and decadent Italian desserts. If those items are not on the menu, it might fall to #2, depending upon what is on the menu. All desserts are expensive, but you should, “leave the Cannoli, take the Copetta Sotto Bosco” if you want to completely maximize value. The Cannoli is a good option for value, too, though. Despite it being #1, we’re not fans of Tutto Italia. Total Value: $51.00.
2. Kouzzina by Cat Cora – Due solely to increases in prices, not new menu items, Kouzzina jumped from #7 to #2 for 2013. Here, the Wood-grilled New York Strip Steak priced at $34.99 puts Kouzzina high on the list. Kouzzina’s extensive menu offers many value-maximizing options, and highly-priced desserts give it an edge over other entries to the list. Total Value: $50.77.
3. Whispering Canyon Cafe – Surprised to see Whispering Canyon Cafe this high up the list? Us too. However, thanks to the Grilled New York Strip and the Sheriff’s Shakes (which, last we had heard, are still considered a drink on the Dining Plan), Whispering Canyon Cafe passes other restaurants with similar prices. A favorite of ours (which you can read about in our Whispering Canyon Cafe review), the Canyon Skillet, also offers excellent value as an entree. Total Value: $47.67.
4. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – Akershus is a good value if you’re looking solely at price (if you’re there at the “right” time, it’s the #1 restaurant!), but remember that it’s a princess buffet that also includes a photo package. If you’re paying out of pocket, you’re paying a premium for the princesses, but you’re paying an even bigger premium for the photo package. We’ve never eaten here, but we’ve heard the food is only decent. Point being, you might nix this option if you don’t have kids or you aren’t keen on eating with princesses. Ranked #4 by median price; actual prices vary by season. Total Value: $42.59-$55.37.
5. The Wave – The Wave is a new favorite of ours, so we’re happy to see it make the list. The Grilled Beef Tenderloin offers the best value here. Surprisingly, the Wave is also a very economical restaurant if you’re paying out of pocket at lunch, with several delicious choices for under $20! Total Value: $46.67.
6. Grand Floridian Cafe – This one is a bit deceiving. There are lone expensive items in each category that put Grand Floridian Cafe on this list for 2013. By ordering the second-best items instead of the best ones, the “total value” of Grand Floridian Cafe drops to $33.67 (still, not bad). Basically, if you’re not going to order the Bone-In New York Strip Steak, take this off your top values list. Total Value: $46.27.
7. Chefs De France – Chefs De France has several expensive entrees, but the most expensive, and most mouth-watering, is the Filet de boeuf grille, sauce au poivre vert Gratin Dauphinois et haricots verts. The slightly cheaper Duck is also a great entree choice for maximizing value (and it tastes great). The last time we ate there on the Dining Plan, I was able to substitute the French cheese plate (typically an appetizer) for my dessert. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, you may want to inquire about this, but don’t be surprised if you’re told that you can’t. Total Value: $46.19.
8. Coral Reef Restaurant – The New York Strip Steak propels yet another restaurant onto this list. If you’d rather have seafood at this seafood restaurant (and it’s some of the best seafood on property in our opinion), fear not, as several fish entrees are priced in the mid-$20 range, and also provide excellent value. Total Value: $45.67.
9. Wolfgang Puck Cafe – Wolfgang Puck Cafe has an expansive menu, and although desserts (the menu items that seem to be outcome determinative in these rankings) aren’t all that expensive, several entrees and non-alcoholic DDP drinks help push Wolfgang Puck Cafe into the #6 spot. We have yet to eat here, but it looks like we might want to eat here or at Wolfgang Puck Express the next time we’re in Downtown Disney and on the Disney Dining Plan! Total Value: $43.85.
T10. Kona Cafe – The New York strip steak is $3 cheaper here at $28.99, but in my opinion, this is the best N.Y. strip steak on property, and desserts here are also excellent. Combined these tantalizing options with the wonderful ambiance of the Polynesian Resort, and you have a wonderful option, both in terms of value-for-money and in general, with Kona Cafe. Total Value: $40.97.
T10. Sanaa – This restaurant is a new favorite of ours, and another one I’m really pleased to see make the list. Once again, the New York Strip is the most expensive item on the menu. (It’s $1 more expensive than Kona Cafe’s, but Kona Cafe’s dessert is $1 more expensive, making them tied for 10th on the list.) With so many unique and flavorful items on the menu, we’ve never tried the N.Y. Strip steak here, but given the quality of Sanaa’s other items, we have no doubt that it’s delicious. If you’re not on the Disney Dining Plan, consider stopping in for lunch, where you can find very low crowds, great service, and some delicious (and cheap!) menu items. Total Value: $40.97.
So there you have it–the top Table Service restaurants on the 2013 Disney Dining Plan if you’re looking to maximize your value. Although this list provides the absolute best values on property, our research into all dining menus has indicated that if you like New York Strip Steaks, you’re going to do well on the Disney Dining Plan! They rarely cost less than $26.99 at any restaurant, and cost $29.99 or more at a lot of restaurants. After that, the price of desserts is the biggest factor here (ranging from high prices of $6.49 all the way to $14) and whether or not the restaurant serves smoothies, shakes, or some other sort of specialty non-alcoholic drink that is included on the Dining Plan.
Remember to always consider whether a particular restaurant or dish appeals to you before making your ADRs. While value maximization can be fun, it should not be the ‘end-all, be-all’ of your Disney vacation planning. Eating things you like is far more important!
Hopefully this list helps you get more bang for your buck on the Disney Dining Plan. Check out our Value-Maximizing tips for Counter Service restaurants and Most Cost-Effective Disney Snacks to get even more value out of the Disney Dining Plan! If you have any tips to maximize your value at other Table Service restaurants, please share them in the comments!
Thanks again guys!