Last year, it just so happened that Disney was offering their dining plan for free right when we wanted to travel. Of course we couldn't say "no" (it being free and all), and we therefore had four nights at the Caribbean Beach resort with the dining plan and premium tickets (4-day park hoppers with water park access) for just about $1200.
Just for reference, four nights on the regular dining plan (I think they call it "deluxe" now, though, as they offer a completely quick service dining plan these days) gets you four snacks, four quick service meals, and four full service meals--per person.
Therefore, we utilized our dining plan as follows:
2 quick service breakfasts at the Caribbean Beach Food Court
Other quick service meals at the Liberty Inn Restaurant (shared one meal), Yorkshire County Fish Shop (shared one meal), Pizzafari
Full service breakfast at The Wave at the Contemporary
Full service lunch at Les Chefs de France
Full-service dinners at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater and O'Hana
Now, some thoughts on the food.
The day we went to MGM I was starving when we arrived, and for some reason all I wanted was a pretzel. We stopped at Anaheim Produce on Sunset Boulevard--no pretzels. We walked down toward Tower of Terror, but there were really no other food carts and I only wanted to use a snack from the DP. We finally gave up and walked back to Anaheim Produce--still no pretzels, and they couldn't tell me when they would get more. I gave in and got the veggies and ranch dip. They were rubbery and not very good but whatever, it was something in my stomach without having to use a whole quick service meal from our dining plan.
At dinner that evening, I was pleased to learn that Sci Fi allows you to order one of their milkshakes as a drink with the dining plan...you really can't beat their cookies and cream shakes! I had a pretty decent Reuben sandwich and Steve had a pasta dish that was pretty good. Personally, I prefer the meatloaf and fried chicken at Prime Time (plus the s'mores for dessert!), but Steve chose the Sci Fi because he's a big sci fi geek.
Our next day was spent at Epcot and we started with lunch at Les Chefs de France. Overall, I was pleased but not amazed. I don't understand why at the Sci Fi, I could get a milkshake for my drink (their milkshakes cost, what, $5+ if you're not on the dining plan?), but I couldn't get an espresso or cappuccino at Les Chefs as my dining plan drink! I had to get the regular (read: crappy) Disney coffee. At least the french onion soup and croque monsieur I had were delicious...but my suggestion is to pass on the creme brulee. You would think that, in the French restaurant, in the France pavilion, they would make a proper creme brulee...not so much. Steve spent a year in France as an exchange student, so he (and myself, now) know what a proper creme brulee is. The one served at Les Chefs was just...not good. It was supposed to be a vanilla creme brulee, but had no vanilla taste to it...it just tasted like regular old custard. Also, it was obviously broiled or something of the sort, and didn't have nearly enough sugar on top. When you use enough sugar and a blowtorch, the top of a creme brulee is a thin layer of sugary delicious crust. Les Chefs de France's version was weirdly spotty on top and burnt in places...no crust at all. Even if I didn't know what a real creme brulee was supposed to look and taste like, I wouldn't have enjoyed this.
For our full service breakfast, I had the Eggs Benedict and although the sauce was a bit different from what I'm used to (it wasn't your usual hollandaise), they were still very good. I also tried my boyfriend's breakfast (spinach & feta cheese scrambled eggs) and they were good as well. If you're not big on buffets and plan on spending the day at MK, I definitely suggest hopping the bus to the MK, walking over to Contemporary, and eating here!
We had chosen a big breakfast for our Magic Kingdom day because our dinner at O'Hana that night was scheduled at a very late time (despite calling nearly 3 months in advance, the only dinner reservation we could get for our anniversary--which we really wanted to have at O'Hana--was at 9:45 at night!!!). As always O'Hana was delicious, though, and worth the late meal :o)
On our very last day we ate at my favorite Animal Kingdom restaurant, Pizzafari. I was relieved that they still had one of my favorite Disney meals ever...the Hot Italian Deli sandwich! Turkey, ham, Swiss, provolone, pesto sauce, tomatoes, and Caesar salad on muffaletta bread...yum yum yum! Unfortunately the breadsticks weren't as good as I remembered, though.
I like how having the dining plan allowed us to eat so many full-service meals and still save money, but I'm not sure it's a necessity if you, like us, don't need to eat as much food as they provide. I also have to admit that I think the dining plan's popularity has seriously cut down on the quality of a lot of the food at Disney. The best example of this is the desserts at the quick service food restaurants. As recent as 2008, many quick service restaurants still offered their own desserts, different from those at other quick service restaurants at Disney. Sure, some of them were repeats, but it wasn't the same exact thing at every single place. Every time we used a counter service meal, they forced the dessert on us. Seriously, there was no saying no. This must turn into a huge waste of food, because the desserts are awful and after trying each of them once, I simply couldn't force myself to eat them anymore. But when I tried to tell the cast members that I wouldn't eat it, they seemed shocked and said things like "but you have to order a dessert! your meal comes with it". So I would choose one of the two awful options and end up throwing it in the trash.
(The choice of desserts, by the way, was an obviously pre-made apple dumpling thing that was served hot in some places, cold in others, and a pre-packaged chocolate "cake" that I wouldn't serve to my worst enemy.
If you're going to force me to take something I don't really want, at least make it something I would actually EAT.)
I guess it remains to be seen if we will choose to book with the dining plan for our next Disney trip...