First Time Disney Dining

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Coral Reef Restaurant is a must!

My two favorite t-shirts that I saw at Disney were “Let’s Wear Matching Disney Shirts – Said No Guy Ever” and “I’m Going to Be Broke 2022.” We had no idea how expensive Disney would be. The food was no exception! We had a great time and I’m not complaining. We could just slightly feel the magic of the happiest place on Earth running right through our wallets. Children over age 9 are charged as adults for meals! I still can’t figure that one out. My 9 year old does not eat as much as I do. When a child barely eats and you are paying $42 per adult (and children over 9), plus tax and gratuity, for a meal with a family of 5 it adds up to this: Crazy. You are either agreeing with me or thinking I’m cheap right now. Here are a few tips to help you navigate first time Disney dining much better than I did!

Cape May Café

Cape May Café isn’t for kids if they are like ours and will only eat macaroni. Thank goodness they were able to bring us some macaroni without shrimp in it or the kids would have eaten only dessert. Of course, the girls would have gone just for this dessert but again, as adults we were seeing dollar signs and hardly any food eaten by the kids. The child price was $25, plus tax and gratuity. I have to emphasize the price now so you will understand why we appreciated the restaurants we went to later in the week.

Our waitress was lovely at Cape May and brought the girls a few extras of their favorites on the dessert tray. There was also no character dining at this location (or any of the restaurants we visited) which was great because we were avoiding characters like the plague. More on that in a later post! Many people recommended dining plans to us but they were not being offered when we visited, in case you are wondering why we didn’t take advantage of that.

Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano

Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano at Hollywood Studios was a really pleasant surprise. It was tucked back in a corner and was very relaxed. We were given first visit Disney buttons, coloring sheets to keep the girls happy, and best of all – all of our kids were allowed to get kids meals and were charged as kids. The kids meals included choices of an ice cream sundae and a “spaghetti and meatball cupcake” which was really cute. It was more food than the girls could eat and it was delicious. My husband’s food was better than mine so if you go, get the Shrimp Campanelle!

First Time Disney Dining Quick Bites

Other good spots we ate included my husbands’ favorite, Harambe Market at Animal Kingdom, and one of my girl’s favorites, Columbia Harbour House at Magic Kingdom. My husband joked that the Grilled Chicken Bowl at Harambe Market was better than the expensive places we went. It was only $12.99.

Columbia Harbour House had chicken strips for the girls and a lobster roll for my husband. I went with the trio platter that had chicken, fish, and shrimp with hushpuppies and one side for only $14.29. You can get a lemonade slushy or a blackberry milk shake topped with a purple chocolate-glazed doughnut covered with black sprinkles (the milk shake was better than the doughnut). One of our girls asked if we could eat there again for dinner. We didn’t, but that lets you know that they liked it. It was a super crowded day and I think they were glad to have a place to sit down and relax.

Also, don’t miss the chance to get a caramel apple from Main Street Confectionery. It was so good I had to wrestle it from my oldest daughter’s hands just to get a few bites. The food in the food court at the Art of Animation resort was also pretty good. It had enough choices to please everyone (thanks to those who recommended getting pizza for the girls).

Coral Reef Restaurant

I read reviews on one restaurant that we were planning to go to before we left home and I considered cancelling the reservation. The reviews weren’t the best. After deciding to go anyway, it was such a wonderful experience and the restaurant I want to highlight the most. Coral Reef Restaurant at EPCOT was fantastic. Our waitress was so wonderful and friendly. Prim even hugged her before we left! She took the time to listen to Prim’s sweet chattering. She was also the first waitress to bring us a free dessert to celebrate our wedding anniversary. And you know this part was music to our ears – anyone can order from the kids menu so I did too!

Our kids are picky and they ate the grilled chicken like it was nobody’s business. The shrimp and grits (sautéed shrimp, cheddar cheese Grits, local corn succotash, andouille sausage, creole spice emulsion) was amazing. Yes, I ate some of my husband’s with no shame. The kids meals came with two sides. Nemo and Squirt’s Noggin Concoction and the Sea Breeze Gelatin Cup were popular choices at our table. This is just the food, not to mention the environment!

2,000 Sea Creatures

There are 2,000 sea creatures and more than 60 aquatic species in a living coral reef that you can look out for as you eat. I had read online that it was wise to request a table as close as possible for viewing once you arrive, so we did. We were seated as close as we could have been for a table of 5. As you can see from the pictures, it was a unique dining experience that we all enjoyed. We are so glad that we didn’t listen to the negative reviews and took a chance on Coral Reef Restaurant.

There are so many dining options offered by Disney and it was a bit overwhelming. But navigating first time Disney dining is worth it! We only tried a few places but hopefully our recommendations will help you figure out a new place to try. Wherever you end up, I hope you find something you love!

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