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.
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.
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?