by Beth Keating
June 1, 2022
If you’ve been to theme parks lately, you’ve probably seen the t-shirts proclaiming, “I’m just here for the snacks!” There is an entire subset of park-goers (ahem) that can spend a whole day in the parks without ever going on a ride, but will fill their time (and their bellies) with amazing culinary finds. And in recent years, theme parks have stepped up their game, offering far more than the ubiquitous puffy pizzas or hockey puck burgers.
This year, six Florida theme parks have earned themselves slots on USA Today’s list of “Ten Best Theme Park Restaurants” for 2022, and two of them (#2 and #9) were at Disney World. A panel of experts selected the 20 best nominees, then readers voted over four weeks to select the top 10.
Here’s this year’s top dining choices for Best Theme Park Restaurants for 2022, according to USA Today’s readers:
#10. Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant at Knott's Berry Farm
# 9: Be Our Guest Restaurant at Walt Disney World
# 8: Leaky Cauldron at Universal Orlando Resort
# 7: Das Festhaus at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
# 6: Zambia Smokehouse at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
# 5: Mythos Restaurant at Universal Orlando Resort
# 4: Aunt Granny's Restaurant at Dollywood
# 3: Trappers Smokehouse at Busch Gardens Williamsburg
# 2: Yak & Yeti Restaurant at Walt Disney World
# 1: Confisco Grille at Universal Orlando Resort
Near the top of this year’s best was Animal Kingdom’s Yak & Yeti Restaurant at Disney World in Florida, sliding in at #2. USA Today said, “Yak & Yeti, a Nepalese-style restaurant inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom, serves a menu of pan-Asian dishes – ahi tuna nachos, pork potstickers and tempura chicken – at the base of Expedition Everest. Adult diners can sip on Asian beers, chilled sakes and creative cocktails from the full-service bar. An adjacent quick-service restaurant offers lunch and dinner on the go.”
Yak & Yeti is operated by the Landry’s restaurant group in the Asia section of the park, and in addition to having phenomenal food and great cast member service, the restaurant itself is uniquely themed, with tons of authentic décor brought back by Imagineer Joe Rhode and his team while they were overseas scouting their planning sessions for Animal Kingdom. Of special note among the artifacts is the impressive staircase to the second floor. It was brought to Animal Kingdom in several pieces from a mansion in India that was being dismantled, and now serves as an imposing centerpiece to the building.
There’s also a pretty extensive backstory to go along with the intricate crafts and pieces of artwork scattered about. It’s said that the building is owned by a merchant named Arjun, who, having fallen on hard times, has converted his home into a place for travelers who are setting out on expeditions to Mount Everest. Hence, the cozy layout inside the restaurant, with various nooks and crannies, dividing the space up into separate “rooms,” as you would see in someone’s home.
At the center of his hotel is a restaurant, and around the outside of the hotel, local families have built up a thriving village marketplace as well as food stands (or warangs). The restaurant is decorated with the unique pieces that Arjun brought back from his many travels as a merchant.
Number 9 on the 2022 list is Be Our Guest at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida. USA Today says, “Named for the famous ‘Be Our Guest’ scene in ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ this dining experience at Magic Kingdom Park features three different themed rooms, including a magnificent ballroom, the Beast’s West Wing study and the Castle Gallery designed as a replica of Belle’s private library.”
Want to know more about eating in the Beast’s castle at Be Our Guest? See DisneyBizJournal’s review of the restaurant here. Post-COVID reopening, the restaurant is no longer serving breakfast. Right now, Be Our Guest is offering only a fixed-price menu for lunch and dinner, but our server did tell us several months ago that they are anticipating bringing breakfast service back in the future. The current 3-course dining experience is $62 for adults (ages 10 and up) and $37 for children (ages 3 to 9).
We have guests coming into town next month, and they happened to book Yak & Yeti reservations weeks ago before the USA Today list came out. We’ll let you know our experience after our visit!
Beth Keating is a theme parks, restaurant and entertainment reporter for DisneyBizJournal.
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