An Expert's Guide to the Best Hidden Gem Foods at Walt Disney World
Lou Mongello is one of the world's leading experts in all things Walt Disney World. With his wildly popular WDW Radio Podcast, he brings listeners "a little bit of Disney magic" to their morning commutes and everyday lives each week. Here, the food-obsessed Mongello—who has eaten his way across all the Disney parks, resorts and properties (in the name of research, of course)—gives PEOPLE his picks for the best menu items you probably won't read about in the standard guide books. Scroll through to see all the can't-miss eats for your next Disney vacation.
AHI TUNA NACHOS
Where to Get It: Yak & Yeti Restaurant at Animal Kingdom ($16.99)
Lou's Review: "These are a true hidden treasure. I am a huge sushi fan, and never met a nacho I didn’t like, and although the pairing of these two items never occurred to me before, they dance together like an artful ballet. The sushi-grade tuna is seared perfectly and placed on a bed of Asian slaw, and topped with crispy fried wontons, wasabi aioli, and a sweet soy glaze that I wanted to bottle up and take home. It’s gargantuan and can easily be shared by the whole table (or in my case, just me)."
CHOCOLATE-HAZELNUT WAFFLE SANDWICH
Where to Get It: Sleepy Hollow Refreshments in the Magic Kingdom ($7.99)
Lou's Review: "A generous portion of strawberries, blueberries and sliced bananas gets wrapped in a made-to-order, perfectly spongy waffle, which absorbs the sweet flavors of the chocolate-hazelnut spread. The flavors and complementary textures all sing together in a dish that is best savored bite-by-bite with a knife and fork."
S'MORES BAKED ALASKA
Where to Get It: The Boathouse at Disney Springs ($40, serves 4+)
Lou's Review: "One of my favorite restaurants in the world (not just Disney World—though it’s the best restaurant across all of the properties in my humble opinion) is The Boathouse. I could have easily added many more items to my list from their menu alone, but this dessert is a sight to behold… and taste! The delectable combination of graham cracker crust, rocky road ice cream, toasted marshmallows and milk chocolate is so big (how big is it?) that this 14-in.-tall dessert is recommended to serve 4 (very hungry) people...or more."
LOBSTER THERMIDOR BURGER
Where to Get It: Grand Floridian Cafe at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa ($24)
Lou's Review: "I’d be remiss if I didn’t have at least one burger on the list. With literally dozens of different versions of available (both at counter- and table-service restaurants), it was hard to pick just one. But after extensive research, I oh-so-highly recommend this one. This juicy, 7-oz. beef patty is topped with chunks of lobster and parmesan-thermidor sauce, adding a decadent creaminess and a hint of garlic. It is topped by a thin, crunchy parmesan cracker for the perfect contrast of texture and extra punch of flavor. Add some of their seasoned fries on the side and you have one of the best burgers...anywhere. (And yes, it’s perfectly okay to dip your fries into the thermidor sauce. I tried. It works.)"
Where to Get It: Nomad Lounge at Disney’s Animal Kingdom ($17)
Lou's Review: "You enter this incredibly well-themed venue and immediately forget that you are in an amusement park. The only thing better than the story-driven atmosphere, spectacular views, comfortable seating, quiet location, and wide variety of handcrafted cocktails, is the small plates menu. I had a difficult time choosing just one item for this list…so I went back again and again to try them all. Though it's like trying to choose a favorite child, I believe the chef's charcuterie board is a treasure trove of hidden flavors. More than simply a pedestrian selection of cured and smoked meats, it includes wagyu bologna, Ethiopian coffee-pork terrine, duck pastrami, a wonderfully smoked, aged and spiced speck—accompanied by a remarkable Spanish torta flatbread."
PEANUT BUTTER & JELLY MILKSHAKE
Where to Get It: 50’s Prime Time Cafe at Disney's Hollywood Studios ($7)
Lou's Review: "Turn back time and head to this restaurant where you can order a variety of inventive shakes. Of course, your server will tell you (politely) that you can’t have your dessert if you don’t finish your vegetables and clean your plate, but when you do, the PB&J milkshake can’t be missed! One sip and you will be transported back to your childhood, as it combines every kid (and kid-at-heart’s) favorites: creamy peanut butter, sweet jelly, and ice cream, into a delicious trip down memory lane. Don’t want to sit down for a full meal? You can also order it from the adjacent Tune-In Lounge."
MORIMOTO SPARE RIBS
Where to Get It: Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs ($14 as an appetizer, $27 as an entrée)
Lou's Review: "If you think you wouldn’t order these because they’re just like what you‘d get from your local Chinese take-out place…think again! Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto teamed up with the Patina Restaurant Group to bring one of his hot spots to Disney World, and in the process has created an absolute must-try menu item. These tender, meaty pork ribs are quick-fried to perfection with a slight crisp on the outside, then sprinkled with cilantro and covered with a hoisin sweet chili glaze that you’ll want to bathe in. The meat literally falls off the bone, and you’ll find yourself licking your fingers clean."
'BRUNCH IN A GLASS' BLOODY MARYS
Where to Get It: Phin’s Bar at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort ($27-30)
Lou's Review: "This elegant-looking bar is where you need to go on Sundays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. You can order from a selection of 4 "Proud Marys", crafted by the chefs of their signature restaurants (some of the best of the best in Walt Disney World, by the way.) The Zoo Mary is Todd English’s take on a traditional Bloody Mary, with old bay seasoning, crab louie, tender lobster tail, and a ginormous cocktail shrimp. The Maria Italiana is their Il Mulino Trattoria-inspired version, with giardiniera, Italian seasoning, and has 4 giant antipasti skewers. Like sushi? The subtly spicy Dragon Mary is inspired by the sushi chefs at Kimonos, and contains yuzu juice, sriracha, and a dragon roll skewer. And finally, my favorite of the four is their Don Shula’s-inspired Hail Mary (pictured) includes tender cubes of with filet mignon, lobster claw, BBQ shrimp, and steak sauce. (Note: These are also all available as non-alcoholic options.)"
INDIAN-STYLE BREAD SERVICE
Where to Get It: Sanaa Lounge at Animal Kingdom Lodge ($13-$15)
Lou's Review: "For me, nothing complements a day in the parks better than a late-night trip to this spot for some carbs. For me, the bread service alone is worth the trip. The art of African cooking with Indian flavors is embodied in this grand display of a variety of breads (traditional naan, garlic-ginger naan, spiced naan, onion kucha, and paneer paratha) and accompaniments (roasted red pepper hummus, mango chutney, tomato-date jam, tamarind chutney, coriander chuntey, garlic pickle, red chile sambal, and spicy jalapeño-lime pickle.) You can order your choice of 3 accompaniments for $13, but I highly recommend spending an additional $2 to get all 9 accompaniments. The flavors range in degrees of space and heat, but there is something about the shared experience of literally breaking bread and sampling the flavors that makes this a can’t-miss item. (Note: This is also a wonderful vegetarian option.)"
CINNAMON BUN AND CANDIED BACON CHEESEBURGER
Where to Get It: Disney's All-Star Movies Resort World Premiere food court ($14.99)
Lou's Review: "Walt Disney World has its share of secret menu items — things you won’t find on the regular menu, but need to know and ask about. This decadent burger is one of the most interesting, creative, delicious, and fun. And it’s as awesome as its name sounds! It’s unique, delicious, savory, sweet and a little bit messy (in a good way). To get one, head over to the Roxy counter and ask about the secret menu items."
Where to Get It: Gaston's Tavern in Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom ($5.79)
Lou's Review: "Named after Gaston’s sidekick in Beauty and the Beast, it's a no-sugar-added frozen apple juice with a hint of toasted marshmallow, topped with all-natural passion fruit-mango foam. This unexpected flavor combo is delicious, and will cool you off on a hot Florida day."
TABLESIDE LOBSTER GUACAMOLE
Where to Get It: Paddlefish at Disney Springs ($36, serves 4)
Lou's Review: "Noticing a lobster trend here? In this dish, big chunks of fresh Maine lobster provide a sweet textual contrast to classic creamy guacamole, which gets amped up even more with zesty tajin seasoning."
Where to Get It: Disney's Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach Water Parks ($8.99 per dozen, $4.69 per half dozen)
Lou's Review: "Snag these little bites of fried dough heaven while you dry off (before getting wet again). Each bucket comes with three dipping sauce options: raspberry, chocolate and white chocolate."
DEEP-FRIED STUFFED FRENCH TOAST
Where to Get It: Disney's Polynesian Resort’s Kona Cafe ($16) as well as at the counter-service location downstairs, Captain Cook’s ($8.49)
Lou's Review: "Truly the best French Toast you’ll ever eat. Imagine a 2-inch thick piece of banana-stuffed, deep-fried, custard-soaked bread…now sprinkle it with sugar and put some strawberry compote and macadamia nut butter on the side. Unreal!"