No worries; last-minute Disney dining ideas

by: AJ Wolfe\/Disney Food Blog Updated:

A pair of zebras graze on the African savanna outside Sanaa at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

There are some great restaurants in Walt Disney World; and we all know that quite a few of them require reservations...many months in advance. Yet there are times that you want a bite to eat and find yourself without a coveted Disney Advance Dining Reservation (ADR)! While Cinderella's Royal Table is probably a long shot at the last minute, I can suggest some great restaurants that may have walk-in availability. Of course, expect to wait (and wait) to be seated during busier times of the year. When you just want a place to sit and enjoy a meal on a whim, these locations may be the answer to your ADR-less hunger pangs. Let's take a look at a few of my favorite spots to visit at the last minute...

International Eats

Many guests are reluctant to try cuisine that seems unfamiliar, and this results in walk-in availability at a few of the better restaurants around Walt Disney World.

I believe that this is a true hidden gem in Walt Disney World. Sanaa, found in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Kidani Village, has an incredible menu and a great view – and it's usually very easy to get a walk-up table here because of it's more exotic cuisine and distance from the theme parks. Dine on African and Indian flavors – the tandoori chicken with naan bread is my favorite – while you keep an eye on the zebra, giraffe, ostrich, and other animals on the African savanna just outside the restaurant. Here's a Tip: Head to Sanaa for lunch to ensure you get to see the animals on the savanna. Once the sun goes down, they're not easy to spot.

Restaurant Marrakesh
Nestled in Epcot's Morocco pavilion, Restaurant Marrakesh offers African Mediterranean dishes, which are pictured in a Food Album at the restaurant's podium. For dinner, you'll enjoy plenty of couscous, the National dish of Morocco, along with chicken, mussels, lamb, and other authentic cuisine. Stop in for the food, gorgeous setting, authentic music and belly dancers, and a last minute reservation! I can highly recommend the baklava for dessert!

Other suggestions: Biergarten, Yak & Yeti in Disney's Animal Kingdom serves an Asian-inspired menu, and Raglan Road in Downtown Disney serves an Irish-themed menu (try this one for lunch as it may be busy for dinner).

Resort Restaurants

The eateries at the Walt Disney World resort hotels can have availability during times when the majority of guests are out touring the parks. Visit during lunch time and you may find yourself with a quiet respite away from the Disney hubbub!

Grand Floridian Cafe
The Grand Floridian Cafe can be reached by monorail or boat from the Magic Kingdom. If you're visiting the resort just for a meal, we strongly suggest using the valet parking service. Self-parking is inconvenient, although available, at a lot across the street. You'll be perfectly comfortable in your resort attire despite the elegant décor, which creates an atmosphere to slow down and savor your meal. Request a window table to enjoy a view of the courtyard, and sample the Grand Floridian burger if you're a seafood fan – it's topped with lobster!

Other suggestions: Captain's Grille, Olivia's Cafe in Disney's Old Key West Resort, Kona Cafe in Disney's Polynesian Resort, Trail's End at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort, The Wave at Disney's Contemporary Resort, ESPN Club at Disney's Boardwalk Resort.

Overlooked Theme Park and Downtown Disney Spots

Due to location and/or the popularity of nearby dining spots, some restaurants are overlooked while guests speed by to their next destination.

Rainforest Cafe
If you want to sample the Rainforest Cafe, but want to avoid the crowds at the Downtown Disney location, try the Rainforest Cafe at the Animal Kingdom. There are two entrances to this restaurant, and it's accessible from outside the park. This means that you don't need to have plans (or tickets) to go into the Animal Kingdom to dine there. While you won't find quiet at this location – the audio-animatronic animals and simulated thunder storms are quite loud - you will often find walk-up availability for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Dine here for the unique location, entertaining special effects, and Volcano dessert. Your kids will thank you!

Other suggestions: Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano at Disney's Hollywood Studios; Portobello at Downtown Disney. Restaurants with unfamiliar cuisine and out-of-the way locations seem to have the greatest chance for last minute reservations. While you may still have a lengthy wait during the busy seasons, stopping at these restaurants during Disney's off-seasons (any time kids are in school) will give your family a chance at a table in a sit-down restaurant with no Advance Dining Reservation.

Follow these tips and visit some really great restaurants without having to plan too far in advance!

AJ Wolfe is the owner and executive editor of The Disney Food Blog, a website covering all things food and drink in Walt Disney theme parks and resorts. AJ also authors The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World Dining e-Book, a 250-page resource with tips, expert insights, and information about eating in Walt Disney World. The Disney Food Blog is not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company.