For in-the-know grownups, one of the happiest times to be at the happiest place on earth is during the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, running from September 25th to November 16th. Dozens more opportunities to eat and drink your way around the globe (as if you needed them) are a highlight of the annual festival, but why wait? Any time is a good time to visit the park's World Showcase, otherwise known as the World's Fair That Just Won't End. From proper pints at the pub in the United Kingdom to mezcal flights in Mexico that'll have you flying, whenever you show up is when the party starts. To do it all, you'd need days – for those with limited time, here are 18 of the most essential food and drink stops.
1. A Pint of Cider at the Rose & Crown (United Kingdom)
The best kick-off to a day of gastronomic exploration is an easy-does-it pint of Strongbow ($8.75) at this convincing replica of your typical English pub, but with at least 80% less chance for shenanigans at closing time.
2. Wine and Snacks at Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar (Italy)
Vibrant Italy is where some of the best stuff is happening these days – this cave-like and informal wine bar is the place for adults to feel like adults, if only for a short while. Cheese and salumi samplers ($15 for three) and loads of wines by the glass (from $7) are a huge hit for a big reason: It's normal. It's like a place you would like to go back home. The Italian bartenders are snappy with an aperitif, too.
3. All of the Pastry at Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie (France)
This boisterous bakery is another recent addition that's good enough to walk off the property and stand on its own any place you put it, with the exception (probably) of France. It's really good. The happy, food hall-esque atmosphere makes waiting in line almost enjoyable. Pain au chocolat are a reasonable $3.35, the iced cappuccinos are the thing on a hot day ($4.64).
4. Have a Pitcher of White Sparkling Sangria at Spice Road Table
Morocco has always been one sexy pavilion – this gorgeous lakeside restaurant hasn't hurt a bit. It looks expensive and it is expensive and the food isn't really worth it. The refreshing sangria ($10.99 glass, $35.99 pitcher) sure is – just head to the bar at the center.
5. Eat Authentically Japanese (Fast, Cheap, Good) at Katsura Grill (Japan)
It's simple, it's easy, it's authentic, and many visitors never even give it a glance. Hidden away on the left away from the crowds browsing the wares at Mitsukoshi, this counter service spot is a far better deal than anything else in pricey Japan. You could get food like this at pretty much any Japanese convenience store, which isn't necessarily a knock. Udon (from $8.99), chicken katsu curry ($12.99) and sushi (from $7.99) are all on offer – if you're feeling a little overserved, rest up with a bit of miso soup ($2.99) while you regain your composure.
6. Drink All of the Good Stuff at Le Vins De France (France)
If you've got the money, they'll keep doing 4 oz. pours of Veuve Cliquot for $16.90 a whirl, but a more economical bet would be the wine flights. For less than $10, you can choose from a light (white & rose) or a red sampler of three apiece – try both! This is a great little wine shop where there's entirely too much gawking and not nearly enough drinking going on. Fix that.
7. Have a Pizza at via Napoli (Italy)
Not only is this some of the best pizza (from $17) in Orlando (cooked in giant wood-fired ovens you can see from where you're sitting), Via Napoli, the latest dining addition to the wonderful Italy pavilion, is also one of the most appealing rooms in the Showcase. It's boisterous, cavernous, sexy and fun. For a quick pizza or a proper sit-down meal, one of the most quality options in the park.
8. American Dream Slushie at the Fife & Drum (The American Experience)
Vanilla soft serve keeps the peace between helpings of tart and sweet strawberry and blue raspberry slushie for the perfect dessert ($4.50) for a hot afternoon. How is this not available everywhere?
9. Assemble Your Own Meal at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe (Norway)
Kids will scream for the Frozen-y scene inside the buffet, but besides a very cool room (you really should poke your head in), the real fun for adults at Norway is this modest bakery turfing out seriously immodest pastry, day after day, year after year. The school bread ($3.19) – a soft, cardamom-scented bun filled with vanilla custard and topped with coconut – is the thing for most, but others swear by the cream filled horns ($3.79). For a cheap, authentic treat, try the lefse ($2.19) – moist potato flatbread spread with cinnamon-tinged butter and rolled up tight. There are sandwiches, too – good ones.
10. Mezcal at La Cava Del Tequila (Mexico)
The relic-like San Angel Inn? Pass. This fun tequila bar with snacks, hidden away in the corner off to the right? Yes, please. It's just as dark, just as cool and just as Mexico-y as the formal dining room, but without those mounds of mournful rice and tepid refried beans.
11. Eat Something Climate Appropriate at Tangierine Café (Morocco)
This quick and easy counter spot in Morocco is known for it's shawarma platters (lamb, lamb and chicken, or just chicken – go for both). They come with hummous, tabouleh, couscous salad and pita. It's awesome and the most expensive one is the combo, at $14.99. Don't miss the dessert and coffee bar in the back – they do some fun coffee drinks.
12. Get the Best Beer in the Park from a Random Popcorn Stand (Canada)
You can get them in better beer shops everywhere now, but the heady brews from Quebec's Unibroue are still a big deal for Epcot, particularly since you can walk up to this cart on your way into the Showcase and choose from not one but three different styles. On a hot Orlando day, the Ephemere ($8.50) – a sweet and tart apple white ale brewed with all of the precision you'd expect from the makers of Le Fin du Monde – more than hits the spot. At just 5.50 ABV, you can actually down a couple of these without ending your day prematurely.
13. Feel like You're in Paris at Chefs De France (France)
The famed bistro in France. It's just, so…life-like. This is a truly civilized choice for a nice long sit in air-conditioned comfort. The prix fixe three-course menu at $39.99 is one of the best value proper meals in the Showcase.
14. Make Room for a Croque Glace at L'Artisan (France)
The Croque Glace ($6.33) is a freshly-baked brioche filled with ice cream (go for the Fleur de Sel, salted caramel's French ancestor) and stuck into a panini press. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing, that's what.
15. Do a Quick Detox at the Joy of Tea (China)
From smoky Dragon Well ($3.19) to sweet green tea slushies (from $4.25), this often-bypassed kiosk is a great way to "do" China without eating – the food there is notoriously unimportant. Of course, if you're feeling peckish, they do have pork buns ($4.50). And they do cocktails as well. Fun ones involving tea and such. But – and no judgments, just asking – haven't you had enough to drink for the moment?
16. Lose the Last of Your Teeth at Karamell Kuche (Germany)
If you ever watched that Werther's commercial around Christmas and wished a shop like that existed in real life, well, it does. Almost. You'd have to be sub-human to not be tempted by their vanilla cupcakes heaped with buttercream frosting and drizzled with Werther's caramel ($3.95).
17. Very Good Craft Beer at Block & Hans (The American Adventure)
Ready for one more round? This unassuming kiosk is home to some of the best beers in the entire resort. Grab a Bell's Oberon ($7.75), a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA ($8.75) or one of Florida's finer beers – on a recent visit, cult-favorite Cigar City Brewing from Tampa was represented).
18. Late Night Fish and Chips at Yorkshire County (United Kingdom)
You came, you saw, you drank, you ate, you drank some more – see yourself out in the traditional style, with takeaway fish and chips ($9.99) at this window next to the Rose & Crown. Quite good fish and chips, we'll add. Get home safe!