Getting dining reservations at Disney can be a highly stressful activity. The most coveted reservations like Cinderella’s Royal Table at Magic Kingdom and dinner at Canada’s Le Cellier steakhouse are snapped up 180 days in advance as soon as the phone lines open up. Die-hard Disney fans will proudly tell you that they began dialing at 5AM to plan their vacation.
That’s just not my style. I love food, but that is just too much stress for me, especially when planning a vacation.
On the last day of the Disney Food Media weekend, I found myself with three free hours, a park pass, and some dining coupons. With no children to worry about, I decided to explore the street food of Epcot’s World Showcase. With three hours of completely free time, I set out to discover what food could be gleaned with no prior planning whatsoever. I wanted to know if it is possible to dine well at Epcot without any reservation.
The answer is a resounding yes. Whether you are a picky eater or an adventurous foodie, you’ll find something to eat, and even more to drink while strolling at Epcot. No stress and no reservations are needed to have a wonderful dining experience.
In three hours, I nibbled and sipped my way around the world, or rather around the 11 countries that make up the Epcot world showcase. The staging really is incredibly well done. As I walked around the lake, I really felt as though I was transported from country to country, each with a distinctive mood conveyed by exotic buildings and discreetly piped music from high above.
Fave food: sugar crepes
Fave drink: Kir Royal
I first walked to France, and was tempted to stay there and explore the buttery offerings of the patisserie, to see if they were as good as the crepes and the dinner I’d had two nights prior. But that would have been too familiar. But there is plenty of street food in France to have multiple meals without a reservation. The boulangerie offers savory as well as sweet treats, and the drinks cart has an amazing selection of wine to choose from: Beaujolais Nouveau, Vouvray, Rose, Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux, and Pouilly Fuisse. And if you don’t care for wine, they also offer Kronembourg beer, a Grand Marnier Orange slushie, a Grey Goose Citron slushie, and even champagne or my favorite cocktail, a Kir Royal.
Fave Drink: Watermelon slushie
I tore myself away from the food of my people and wandered over to Morocco. There I began with the drinks, lured in by the wide selection of exotic frozen drinks. I first tasted the mint tea which I’d never had. I chose to have it hot instead of iced, and I found it oddly refreshing. It would be the perfect way to finish a meal and to cleanse your palate. I then sampled Marrakesh Sunset slushie, a non-alcoholic watermelon drink. It was my favorite drink of the day with the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness, not at all cloying like some frozen drinks can be. If I had been sampling a little later in the day, I would have been hard pressed to choose between all of the alcoholic oasis slushies: the Morocorita (vodka, lemon, lime juice, and triple sec), the Habibi Daiquiri (rum, strawberry, orange blossom water), or the Sultan’s Colada (rum, pineapple, coconut juice, and almond liqueur).
The quick service restaurant offered a nice array of skewered chicken or lamb to be served as shawarma platters or wraps. Guests can choose to have chicken alone, lamb alone, or a combination of both. Eating lunch in Morocco near the bubbling tiled fountain before wandering around in its back alleyways would be a refreshing way to take a break. You can then choose to have dessert in Morocco with some melt in your mouth baklava, or just proceed to another part of the world to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Fave Food: Poki sticks with chocolate dipping sauce and cute cookies
Fave Drink: plum wine
The street food of the Japan pavilion is completely eclipsed by the shopping. It’s impossible not to get sucked in by the thousands of curious items assembled by the Disney merchandising team. Time stood still as I regressed to my childhood, cradling and petting lovingly these adorable Monchichi monkeys. I then pretended to be hip enough to wear some of t-shirts and sneakers in the contemporary section. But the area that really seduced me was the shop filled with a rainbow of exquisite silk kimonos. I had to shake myself out of my daydream as a geisha girl to remind myself of my mission.
Japan’s quick service restaurant, the Yakitori House, offers the type of Japanese food found in most malls in America: chicken teriyaki, sukiyaki beef, tempura shrimp udon, chicken ginger salad. My kids would have been very happy to eat the children’s menu of teriyaki chicken and rice. I expected to find some sushi rolls, and was surprised that only two were offered: the ubiquitous california roll and a spicy tuna roll. I’ve never been to Japan so can’t comment on whether this represents street food there, but would personally love to be offered more sushi choices. How fun would it be to have a walk-up sushi counter!
The real food fun was below the Yakitori House, in the snack shop. It offered a wide selection of adorable Japanese cookies and snacks. My kids are always delighted when I pick up an assortment of tiny cookies with endearing characters at our local Asian market. I always have to get a six-pack of Poki sticks with dipping sauce, and was excited to see that kids visiting Epcot could try our family’s favorite Japanese snack in strawberry and chocolate.
Fave Food: Gelato
Fave Drink: Bellini
I know that you can’t make a meal out of gelato, but wouldn’t it be nice to try? The Italian gelato kiosk is one not to miss on a hot Disney afternoon. Gelato is offered in fior di latte (sweet cream), chocolate, cookies and cream, and strawberry. And if you’re not in the mood for the creamy Italian treat, you can try a Granita, a crushed ice sorbet creation in strawberry, banana, peach, or Italian margarita flavors.
You can also opt for a cannoli or a portion of tiramisu if you’re more in the mood for dessert to go with your espresso or capuccino.
Italy is another pavilion that will pull out all the stops to tempt you with drink. You’ll have a tough time choosing between some many fizzy wine creations: bellinis, prosecco, fumaio, asti spumante, and rosa regale. Of course, you can also opt for a simple Italian Moretti beer.
Fave Food: Bratwurst
Fave Drink: Spaten Oktoberfest
Germany feels like the hub of the World Showcase with its boisterous Biergarten restaurant filled with oompa bands and large stiens of beer. But even if you don’t have a coveted reservation, you can still have a great meal there. The quick service restaurant has Bratwurst and Frankfurters served with buns and sauerkraut. Seasonally they also serve special sausages such as curry wurst. Tables are set up in a pleasant courtyard with a fountain and cuckoo clocks pop out every fifteen minutes with a pleasant chime.
I had a tough time choosing between the black forest roulade, the apple strudel with vanilla sauce, or the German cheesecake for dessert. I opted for the cheesecake which was light and slightly tangy, interestingly different from our heavy New York style cheesecake.
Of course it wouldn’t be Germany without the beer, and there’s plenty to choose from here to wash down your bratwurst.
I have to admit that I sped through China on my way to Norway. I did take the time to grab some hot barbecued pork buns from the kiosk. Kids would really like these warm rolls filled with a little barbecued pork puree. They’re a sweet protein that will probably be a novelty for many kids visiting Epcot.
Favore Food: Skoolbread
The Kringla bakery in Norway is worth building your entire food itinerary around for one simple reason: the Skoolbread. This pastry is topped with a swirl of vanilla custard and liberally sprinkled with coconut, and is simply heavenly. I can’t even describe how hot and full I was by the time I reached Norway, but I just couldn’t stop eating bite after coconutty bite of Skoolbread. I have to learn how to make it!
The line at the Norwegian bakery was long because in addition to this decadent dessert, it also offered a nice selection of toasted sandwiches like the Norwegian club and the Ham and Apple sandwich. An open face smoked salmon toast also looked delicious. I chose a potato and goat cheese tort whcih was served warm. It had a pleasant tang from the goat cheese and was served warm. Kids who are not adventurous enough for these sandwiches can opt for uncrustable peanut butter and jelly.
I have to admit defeat because I ran out of time (and stomach room) before completing my mission. I’ll have to return to Epcot to sample the Fish & Chips of England, the nachos of Mexico, and the offerings of Canada. But after a week or two of a strict purge, I should be ready to eat around the world again.