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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tip Tuesday: Getting the most "value" for table service dining

Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

I, like many other Disney fans, listen to several Disney fan podcasts each week. I happened to listen to show 771 of WDW Today, where the gang was reviewing the "value" of the different table service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom. Each restaurant was evaluated as "excellent," "pass," or "fail" in terms of overall value.

This led me to consider how to get the most "value" out of those and other table service restaurants.

So I'll use the topic from WDW Today as a jumping off point and examine some of the restaurants at the Magic Kingdom.

The first (and most prominent) restaurant is Cinderella's Royal Table. This is, by far, the most expensive restaurant in the Magic Kingdom at more than $50 per adult for dinner. There's a reason CRT is so expensive: exclusivity and the included photo. While I agree with many who feel this restaurant is overpriced (price should be about $10/person lower), especially when you consider that the quality of the food is just ok, there's much more to dining at CRT than just the food.

Cinderella's Royal Table is an experience, one that I suggest Disney fans (especially those with young daughters) should do at least once. It's a right of passage for Disney park enthusiasts.

So how do you increase the "value" of a CRT reservation? I can think of two ways.
1. The first is to book a breakfast ADR for about 30 minutes to one hour before park opening. This gets you into the park well in advance and allows you to enjoy Main Street and get some great shots of Cinderella Castle without hoards of people in your shot. You'll experience some of the best photo conditions of the day.

2. On the flip side, try to book an ADR for about 30 minutes before Wishes starts and request a window table. You won't be able to see the fireworks all that clearly due to the stained glass, but it's still a neat way to experience Wishes through the stained glass that's lighting up with different colors - it puts a different perspective on the show.

Next up is Crystal Palace. This is a much better overall value than Cinderella's Royal Table, but it's still pretty expensive - more than $30 a per adult for dinner. The same suggestion for an early ADR will help add value to dining at Crystal Palace. As the WDW Today folks stated, a late breakfast, which becomes lunch, will help add some value to the dining experience.

Both CRT and Crystal Palace feature meet-and-greets with characters. This is a great way to get photos and autographs without having to wait in lines. This also is a great opportunity to have the characters autograph special items, such as custom maps or photos. If you can find ways to make those character interactions more meaningful, that will help increase the overall value.

Next, we come to the Liberty Tree Tavern. Everyone on the WDW Today team seemed to give this a "fail" in terms of value and I couldn't disagree more. Yes, it's expensive (about $30/per adult for dinner), but that dinner is all you can eat. Think of it as a never-ending Thanksgiving feast. That's a pretty decent value. Now if the characters were back, that would be an even better value.... but I digress. This is one restaurant I actually recommend, especially if you can get a window seat during the nighttime parade (Main St. Electrical Parade currently is running).

I will have to take a pass on the Plaza restaurant as I haven't been there yet, which brings me finally to Tony's Town Square Plaza. Alright, I admit the Italian cuisine here isn't something to write home about, but it's not that bad. I'm not Italian, so maybe I'm not qualified to make this evaluation, but I enjoyed Tony's. What makes Tony's a better value than you may realize is that it's usually an easy ADR or walk-up to get, the portion sizes are pretty big and it's fairly quiet, which can be a benefit if you're looking to take it easy for a little while before heading back into the hustle and bustle of the park. There is a decent selection on the menu and the prices aren't that horrible. The most expensive item for dinner is the NY strip steak at $27. That's a little higher than I'd like to see, but it's not a deal-breaker.

I guess the whole point is that "value" is a subjective term. Value is what you make of it. What's important to you may not be important to someone else. So when considering the value of a particular restaurant, remember to evaluate that value based on your criteria, not someone else's.

I'll examine other park restaurants in a future post sometime. Until then, happy eating!


Anonymous said...

Afraid that the Liberty Tree experience for me was less than I would have hoped for. The turkey we had was very over salted, and the service not up to expectations as far as their seating another table next to us after we had already been seated and serving them before even offering us drinks... They did try to make amends however it was rather inconsequential as we were on the dining plan so the free drinks really did not do anything for us.

Jeanna said...

How nice of you to share all of these things... as a traveler value for services is something we are expecting in all the establishment that we visit. That way it is expected that our stay is at its ultimate level.

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