The (New) Magic of Magic Kingdom Dining

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For many, many years, counter service dining in the Magic Kingdom was sort of a lost cause.  The joke that made the rounds was that if your options were dining in the Magic Kingdom or starving, then starvation didn’t look so bad.  There were some exceptions, like perhaps a hot dog from Casey’s Corner, but for the most part, dining in the Magic Kingdom was a bad idea.  I recall one trip where my family took the monorail to the Contemporary for lunch just to avoid the prospect of dining in the park.

Slowly but surely, though, things have started to change in Walt Disney World’s original park.  I noticed some changes on prior trips last year, but when I was down for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend these past few days, I really noticed how things have changed over the past year.  It’s definitely a change for the better on several fronts.

The Nutella waffle sandwich from Sleepy Hollow Refreshments

Take one example – Sleepy Hollow Refreshments – which overhauled its menu to offer more dining options.  The big new item is the waffle sandwich, available in a few different options.  To those who say that Disney only offer burgers, chicken strips and fries, they need to visit this Liberty Square eatery.  On Saturday, I managed to try the Nutella with fresh fruit waffle.  It could not have been more delicious.  Cooked right in front of me, the waffle was then slathered with Nutella, the famed chocolate hazelnut spread, and piled high with strawberries, bananas and blueberries.  It was an amazing afternoon snack.  There are other options as well, like a sweet and spicy chicken waffle sandwich and a ham, prosciutto and Swiss cheese waffle sandwich.

That’s an unusual offering that offers more fresh food to guests.  Similarly, the change in hot dogs around the park has also taken a new twist on an old favorite.  At Casey’s Corner, the normal hot dog offerings have been spiced up with new toppings.  The normal dogs now can come with pulled pork and slaw, or Chicago style with pickles, tomatoes, relish and banana peppers.  Meanwhile, over at the Lunching Pad in Tomorrowland, you can get a Taco dog or a Philly cheese steak dog.

BBQ Slaw Dog from Casey's Corner, courtesy of Disney Food Blog

There are other small changes that have taken effect as well.  Hamburgers are hamburgers, right?  Not in the Magic Kingdom anymore.  Over at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe you can get an Angus cheeseburger with onion rings and barbecue sauce, while at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland you can choose an Angus guacamole burger. The changes continue throughout the snack locations as well.  You can grab a baked potato from the Liberty Square Market, a cookie ice cream sundae from Storybook Treats in Fantasyland and many others.

While multiple offerings are to be applauded, the real test here is how does it all taste?  As I mentioned, I had the Nutella waffle sandwich last weekend, and it rates very highly.  Back in October, I tried the pulled pork and slaw hot dog from Casey’s, and it was also very, very good.  I’ve had the Pecos Bill’s onion ring and barbecue sauce cheeseburger so many times that I may name my next pet after it.  So far, I’ve yet to try any of these new offerings that failed the taste test.

An important part of that is freshness.  When you are looking for good counter service food, it helps if the food is made for you, rather than sitting around.  Over the weekend, I exited Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin to see a cart of freshly baked hot dog buns being wheeled over to the Lunching Pad at around 12:30 p.m.  I already related how my Nutella waffle was made in front of my eyes, and the fruit had to have been cut fresh, considering how firm the bananas were.  It’s this kind of detail that makes these new offerings so exciting.

How about you?  What new treats have you tried in the Magic Kingdom?

 

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Posted on January 9, 2012

30 Responses to “The (New) Magic of Magic Kingdom Dining”

  • That waffle looks AWESOME. Do they deliver? :~D
    Also, I love the BBQ Slaw dog at Casey’s.

  • Those new options sounds fantastic! Looking forward to eating more counter options at MK in June now.

  • The spicy chicken waffle at Sleepy Hallow is incredible. My only complaint is that they stop serving it (and the ham & cheese one) at 5pm. I don’t understand why. They are by far large enough for dinner, not just lunch. I know *I* would certainly buy them after 5pm, I’m willing to bet others would as well.

  • Sleep Hollow Refreshments has always been a favorite stop, mainly because I could get a funnel cake as a snack when on the dining plan. Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe has become our family’s no 1 stop for a counter meal because of variety. We love the turkey wraps (although I didn’t see them on my last visit) – as a burger-holic, it’s nice to get something light and refreshing.

    Heading down in three weeks and can’t wait to try the waffle sandwich!

  • Great article! Caseys has always been my favorite choice in the MK. While I like the new specialty dogs, they have ruined the dog overall for me with that awful new bun. It’s too large for the dog, and incredibly dry. Ive started eating mine with a knife and fork to avoid the roll altogether. It was the perfect balance of bread and hot dog before, and now it’s pretty disappointing.

    • The regular dog simply doesn’t work with the new bun, I’ll agree with that. The specialty dogs work because they are full of toppings, but the regular hot dogs don’t have enough to fill it out. I haven’t had a dry one yet, but I can see how that could happen.

  • I have tried both the Nutella and the ham/prosciuotto/Swiss waffles. The Nutella waffle is awesome – the fruit is kept separate before they make it so if you don’t like bananas (like me), they just add more blueberries and strawberries. However, I was somewhat disappointed with the meat waffle. I expected it to be hot, with melty cheese. No, it was more like a cold cut sandwich. Not bad, but not “oh my goodness I have to have that again.” But I have now purchased Nutella and plan to make some waffles soon!

    • I’ve heard from many that the spicy and sweet chicken is the best of the three. I didn’t get to try the meat sandwich, but it would be my third choice of all of those mentioned. Glad to see I was right.

  • I commend Disney for putting some more effort into the Magic Kingdom dining (new items at Columbia Harbour House are also good), but I think this article is about 9 months premature and a tad overly-optimistic. A few new menu items don’t erase a whole heaping of “suck.” Once the Fantasyland Expansion restaurants open, things might be a different story.

    • I disagree, my friend. Think back again to HOW bad things were. 2 years ago, there was nary an edible item in the Magic Kingdom for the most part. Now, at the majority of Magic Kingdom counter service restaurants, you can find something that is not only edible, but is legitimately something to look forward to. That’s a huge sea change in a relatively short period of time.

      I agree, though, that the Fantasyland Expansion will bring on some more tasty options, based on what we’ve seen so far.

    • But it only takes a few new terrific menu items to clear up the problem of “a whole heaping of ‘suck’”. If I’m in the park for lunch and dinner and I know of 4 or 5 good meal options, I’m good!

      This summer I tried the “beef salad” at Cosmic Ray’s. With very little description to go on, I decided to give it a chance. It was excellent! A nice variety of greens, slices of roasted beef (not lunch meat, but slices from a roast), yellow grape tomatoes, artichokes, hard-boiled eggs, vinaigrette, and a nice artisan roll to go with it. And the salad was made fresh. I had it again in December — just as good as it had been in summer.

  • Looks delicious. Can’t wait to try the Nutella waffle next month!

  • I really enjoyed your post. The counter service food at the Magic Kingdom is comically dreadful! However, the Dole Whip makes up for it all!

  • I’m used to English food. I thought the food in Disney was great before, sounds like its only improving. Also, I appreciate that compared to regular pricing Disney food is expensive, but compared to British food it’s a bargain.

    40 weeks tomorrow we are back and I cannot wait.

  • The Nutella waffle was nice, but I cannot recommend either of the meat waffle sandwiches. I just didn’t like the combination of cold cuts and a waffle (I also expected a hot and gooey sandwich) and my husband’s sweet and sour chicken was nothing special. A fried chicken patty dipped in sauce.
    I am always happy to see new choices, though.

  • Our family of 6 just returned from a 4night/5day trip to WDW, where we vistied all 4 of the main parks. We were on the dining plan (1 snack, 1 counter service & 1 table service). At the end of the vacation we decided that we really liked the counter service better than the table service. The food was great, we didn’t have an automatic 18% tip on our $200+ table service meal and we didn’t have a 1 and 1/2 hr meal that wasted precious time away from the parks. I should say that we did the same dining plan in 2005 and didn’t have the same opinions. Counter service and snacks were much better this time!

  • I’ve been back from a 14 day trip for just over 3 weeks and I have to say, we only ate at MK once. I know Cosmic Rays has some good choices but for a European most everything is just too much. I’ve been to MK 5 times over the course of 20 years and I generally like everything they have to offer except that it’s so enormous and usually fatter than I’d like. I wish Disney would start offering some healthier choices and I don’t mean the fruit cups or the turkey sandwiches with 20 layers of turkey…

  • by Kerry Thomas on January 9, 2012, at 5:13 pm EDT

    At Pecos Bill’s in Frontierland you can get Chicken Salad without the chicken!
    I took these pictures of the menu board in May 2008, but as of last September it was still on the menu. http://kerrythomas.com/WDW%20WO%20Chicken.htm

  • by Kerry Thomas on January 9, 2012, at 5:19 pm EDT

    It’s also fun to just grab a bag of popcorn and a coke from the snack cart near the MK entrance, and go up to the train station platform and watch the evening parade & fireworks. Better than a movie theater.

  • I tried the guac burger at Cosmic Ray’s in August and it was very good – great guac!

  • I would agree that most of the parks have not the best food choices. Thinking about getting park hoppers for our next trip just to have most of our dinners at Epcot,

  • Have you tried the lobster roll at Columbia Harbour House? We had it in August. My husband didn’t love it, but honestly, I did! Lots of crispy celery and onion and creamy mayo. Not bad!

  • We tried the breakfast creation, a prosciutto egg omelet waffle sandwich and were not impressed with the prosciutto. We would have prefered ham or bacon:)

  • I had the BBQ slaw dog last summer. Honestly, I’m not a fan of hot dogs, I do appreciate the occasional pulled pork, and I don’t eat coleslaw. But the combination of the three actually sounded decent, so I tried it. Deeeeeelicious!!! I want it again!

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