The Food At Disney World

April 6, 2009 | By | COMMENTS

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There’s high culture and there’s low culture and then there’s Disney World. I grew up going there and going there and going there; seriously, we went there a lot (we lived in Florida, so it was close). When I dream, I dream about theme parks (psychologists: what does that mean?) and the theme parks I dream about most often are Disney theme parks. So when Craig’s movie got into the Florida Film Festival in Orlando and he was hooked up with a hotel room and a car and all I would have to do is pay for a plane ticket there and back, it was hard to resist a trip to Disney World. It’d been almost ten years since I’d been there last and I was immensely curious to see if I’d still think if it was fun or if I’d outgrown it. More importantly, I wanted to write about the food–a strange idea, but a compelling one, perhaps. What’s there to say about the food at Disney World? Actually, there’s plenty.

Think about it: Disney World caters to millions of Americans every year and those millions of Americans, at some point during their days of waiting on lines for Space Mountain and Splash Mountain and Thunder Mountain, get hungry. What kind of food will they find when the hunger sets in? Is the food they find today at Disney the same food they’d find 20 years go? And what does this food say about us as a country, as a people? Are we heading in a better direction?

Before I bore you with more academic discussion, let me address the most important question: yes it was still fun! We did the Magic Kingdom on Friday and EPCOT on Saturday and we really packed it in: we did, basically, every ride there, though I chickened out on Splash Mountain. I know, I know, that’s dispiriting to find out that your food blog hero doesn’t like big drops, but I simply don’t. (Psychologists: could this be because I have control issues? And is this why I like cooking, so I can stay in control?) Here’s Craig after surviving the free fall:

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Splash Mountain is his favorite ride and he really, really wanted me to go on with him but I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I surveyed our lunch options for our first meal at Disney. After some careful consideration, I decided that there were no good food options at Disney so we should eat at the closest spot–The Pecos Bill Cafe in Frontierland:

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Judging by the food at Pecos Bill Cafe, Americans like meat. They want meat. They need meat. So the menu reads like this: pulled pork sandwich, bacon double cheeseburger, 1/4 lb cheeseburger, chicken wrap, chicken salad, taco salad, and a vegetarian burger. Really: it favors the meat eaters and so Craig and I, meat eaters both, got the meatiest options. Me: the pulled pork sandwich; Craig: the burger.

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Believe it or not–and I can hardly believe it as I type it–the pulled pork sandwich was actually pretty good. I tried not to think about the tortured pigs on the factory line that marched their way on to the bun and instead focused on the tangy, almost ketchupy sauce. Was it sophisticated? Hell no. Would it measure up in a BBQ contest? Definitely not. But at Disney World? It was fine fare.

Craig’s burger on the hand was pretty cafeteria-esque. It came squished on the bun with nothing on it; you had to go to a toppings bar to top it yourself. Still, he was reasonably satisfied.

And isn’t that the point? You don’t really go to the Magic Kingdom for an Epicurian experience. And I acknowledge it’s not really that revelatory to point out that Americans love their meat, their pork, their burgers and french fries. But does it inspire any hope to point out that there, outside the Jungle Cruise, I spotted this stand selling fresh fruit?

[Note: this is a TwitPic taken with my camera.]

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This wouldn’t be there if there weren’t a demand for it, no? Perhaps enough customers complained that it was hard to get fresh fruit at the Magic Kingdom that they opened this little stand outside The Jungle Cruise? Should we score one for America here? Or is this a paltry, pathetic piece of evidence next to a mountain of meat and ketchup and grease? I’ll leave that up to you.

As for dinner, I couldn’t really justify spending $30 or $40 a person for dinner in the castle or at the Crystal Palace Banquet Hall, so we chose the next best option: Corn Dogs!

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It was that or Smoked Turkey Legs and, actually, the Smoked Turkey Legs looked pretty good; but Corn Dogs were closer and we were hungry. They were cheap and, though I was dubious biting in, once I started chewing I smiled that smile only bad, theme park food can put on your face. Yes, I knew this would make me die one year earlier than I might have otherwise, but it was a hot dog dipped in corn batter and deep fried. How could I be angry about that?

No, the Magic Kingdom isn’t trying to reform you or improve you or even nourish you. It just wants to make you happy and cater to the bratty child within you that wants everything fried and with a soda. You can’t fault it; this is the American way, and Disney is smart enough to understand our vices. Unfortunately, what’s a temporary vice for Craig and I on this day at the Magic Kingdom is, in fact, a regular diet for many Americans. If it weren’t, you wouldn’t find this food here: you’d find the food most Americans want. But this is the food most Americans want because it’s the food they eat, day in, day out. And that’s rather scary.

I let The Magic Kingdom off the hook, but I have harsher words for Epcot. Here I am in Epcot and I have to say: it’s my favorite theme park of all theme parks. It’s a theme park for nerds. Don’t I look nerdy and happy?

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We had quite a time riding Spaceship Earth and Test Track and the new Mission:Space (I chickened out there too and chose the wimpier version, but that I regretted; next time, I’m going full throttle) but the most appropriate ride for us here food blog readers is The Land.

It’s a ride that, well, talks about the land. You ride through a greenhouse on a boat that moves very, very slowly. Quipped Craig: “Oooh look, lettuce.”

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For some reason, I always liked The Land ride as a kid, even though it is, admittedly, rather boring. More importantly: I really believed what it had to say. I believed that Epcot took its food seriously, that scientists really were working behind the scenes to grow hydroponic lettuce and change the way we eat. And I have no evidence that they don’t, but after eating some of the food at Epcot, I’m way more cynical. And it’s such a shame because Epcot has the potential, way more than the Magic Kingdom does, to edify its visitors with really good food. Why not? How would that hurt it? I mean, in the Land pavilion, is this the best they can do for lunch? It’s the Caesar salad they had up at the salad bar:

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Slightly better than what you’d find at an airport, the lettuce was decent enough, but the dressing tasted processed and straight-from-the-bottle and the chicken? It was like the pre-cooked chicken you buy in a little plastic bag at mainstream grocery stores. It really sucked. And it especially sucked because it was served in a building dedicated to agriculture, farming and the bounty of our good earth. That’s pretty sucky.

Even more sucky, though, was the food I had at dinner. Seriously: this was the worst, worst food I’d had in a long time. It was the food they have outside the Mexico pavilion, a plate of food for $9 that included a quesadilla, a chicken taco, and a beef and bean burrito. It was God-awful:

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I know many of you might say we chose poorly: that Epcot has its decent food, especially at the Italian and French pavilions. And I’d agree with you–I’ve eaten at both (Paul Bocuse, in fact, consulted on the French restaurant menu)–but, let’s be honest, you wouldn’t pay admission to Epcot just to eat at either one again. And that’s disappointing because why shouldn’t the countries at Epcot have great food?

Craig’s answer is: “Because people don’t come to Epcot for the food. It’s not worth the money for Disney to pay for better chefs and restaurants because people just don’t care.”

But here’s the thing: you can make them care. I’m not even saying that in an idealistic, gee-whiz let’s all eat granola kind of way; I’m saying it from a business perspective. Look at Las Vegas, for example: notice how Vegas promotes its star chefs as a primary reason to visit Sin City? Every time I open a Gourmet or Bon Appétit, there’s an ad for Vegas with pictures of Joël Robuchon and Guy Savoy and Bobby Flay and Mario Batali and so on and so on. Imagine if Epcot turned its countries over to star chefs to reinvent the restaurants: Rick Bayless does Mexico, Mario Batali does Italy, Bobby Flay does America. And what if they gave The Land pavilion to Dan Barber and Alice Waters? Couldn’t Disney then advertise Epcot like Vegas? Wouldn’t that be good for business as well as good for the customers who will finally get better-than-decent food to eat? Wouldn’t that allow Epcot to actually make itself relevant, instead of fading into obscurity as that weird theme park with a 1980s view of the future? And wouldn’t America be better for it?

Let’s not forget, that much of the gastronomy we take for granted in America today– four-star French restaurants, for example– had their debut at the 1964 World’s Fair. Epcot is certainly a riff on that idea, only instead of the optimism that led Henri Soulé to open Le Pavillon here in America, we have the cynicism of a $40/person Meet The Characters breakfast (I’m making up the #s, but you get the idea.)

Epcot, more than most American institutions, has the capacity to really change the way Americans think about food. It’s a tourist destination that bills itself as a scientific experiment, its acronym unfolds to be: Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow. If it truly wants to be that, it’s time it stopped feeding us the foods of yesteryear and started feeding us the foods of now. The Magic Kingdom can get away with corn dogs and pulled pork sandwiches, but Epcot? You can do better. Your nerdy fan believes in you and wants you to be the best you can be. Ok, Epcot? Get some good food now.

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Categories: Florida

  • anon

    Don’t do the full throttle Mission: Space. My friend and I did it and I almost had a claustrophobic panic attack and then we were both nauseas for an hour afterward.

    Also, we ate at the sit-down restaurant in Mexico and really enjoyed the food. I had some kind of salmon with artichokes, very good.

    That’s disappointing about the food court next to the Land. It looked like they had a lot of tasty, healthy options. (We didn’t eat there because we were holding out for Mexico.)

  • http://hungrybruno.blogspot.com Adrienne

    Oh no! That’s so sad! I still have dreams about the five-spice fish I had at the China pavillion restaurant three years ago. In fact, I bought a jar of five-spice powder thinking I’d try to recreate it, but so far I’ve only used it on tofu and cabbage. Thanks for reminding me of that fish, in a very roundabout way :)

  • tim

    I was at Epcot two years ago and hit the French Pavilion – it was simply awful. The student waiter was shocked that I have ever been to France and the food wasn’t not very good at all. Really the only positive food experience I had at Epcot was drinking a beer watching the fireworks.

    @anon

    If you are prone to claustrophobic panic attacks why did you even do the ride? Heck its on the warning side outside! Its an excellent ‘ride’ and I fully recommend it.

  • Kathryn

    Aw, Adam, I’m sorry you had such terrible food. I haven’t been there since I was a kid (and all I wanted then was the fried food, ha) but I can imagine what a disappointment that must have been. Write to Disney! What’s the worst that could happen, they don’t answer? At least you got your idea in. =)

  • http://www.kidscuisine.net Sarah

    I used to live in Florida too, and had an annual pass to Disney World. I think you missed out on some excellent food. Yeah, the counter service options at the Magic Kingdom especially leave a lot to be desired, but there are plenty of gems on Disney property. The Liberty Tree Tavern serves a great lunch (dinner is sponsored by Stouffers and looks horrible).

    As for Epcot, wow — you really missed out. As the previous poster mentioned, the San Angel Inn in Mexico is pretty good, as are the sit-down restaurants in Canada, Japan, and the Living Seas pavilion. Plus, there are some awesome counter service options, like the smoked salmon sandwich at the Norway pavilion, French crepes or pastries, or anything from Morocco. I’m sorry you chose some of the lesser options, but don’t badmouth the whole place!

    What you really should have done was gone to the restaurants in some of the nearby Disney hotels, where you would find truly excellent food. The California Grill and Artists Point are two of my favorite restaurants anywhere (much better than most of my local D.C. options).

  • Katharine

    Great critique. I was just in Disney in January and I totally agree with you on Epcot – it could be so much more.

  • anon

    @tim

    I had never had any claustraphobia issues before, and like all kinds of roller coasters, so when I saw the warnings I thought I would be fine. For some reason the combination of the tight space, the motion, and the tv screen, and not being able to get out just got to me in a way I didn’t expect.

    But you’re right, plenty of people really like it; the people next to us had already been twice that morning.

  • http://twitter.com/krizias Krizia

    Excellent proposal Adam! Vegas-ify the Epcot Center. I’ve never been to Disney World or the Epcot Center, but I would be 150% more inclined to go if they had the same concept as Vegas’ star chefs. In fact, I’ve never gone to Vegas to gamble or to go shopping. I go there for the restaurants and the shows!

  • http://www.dyarfamily.com/babyfoodblog Kelly

    Hey Adam! One thing I wanted to mention that I’ve learned about Disney is they are great at catering to food allergies & other special needs. While I know this is a blog about food & quality food at that – it is nice to know there is a place that will help you know in advance what your kid can/can not eat…. just thought I’d share!

    http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/wdw/common/guestServicesDetail?id=GuestServicesSpecialDietaryDetailPage#allergies

  • Sandicita

    I wonder whether you would have had a better food experience if you had gone to the sit-down restaurants, rather than a food court and a taco stand. Granted, I haven’t been to DW in a long time but I have wonderful memories of the Norwegian Village’s restaurant (my family called it the Smorgasbord, though that might not be the name). That restaurant was a must for us every time we went to Epcot!

  • Anonymous

    Oh, come on. People from all walks of life eat a lot more junk food on vacation than they do in their day-to-day lives. That’s why beach towns have fudge stores and salt water taffy stands everywhere and other places do not. There’s really no reason to start feeling superior about the food choices at Disney Land.

  • O.C.

    “Unfortunately, what’s a temporary vice for Craig and I on this day at the Magic Kingdom is, in fact, a regular diet for many Americans. If it weren’t, you wouldn’t find this food here: you’d find the food most Americans want. But this is the food most Americans want because it’s the food they eat, day in, day out. And that’s rather scary.”

    Let me say that I enjoy your blog and your writing. But isn’t this statement awfully judgemental?

    Why would you assume that the other visitors to the park are any different from you, eating some tasty food while on vacation because they DON’T eat it every day? I mean, where does the average person get a corn dog on an average day? Or a big ol’ pulled pork sandwich?

    When people are on vacation they want a treat, just like you did, and Disney caters to that want. Assuming that this is other visitors’ everyday experience is a pretty big jump in logic.

  • Katie

    Actually, people DO come to Epcot just for the food. It’s called the Food and Wine festival, it happens every October, and there’s enough Manchego cheese and ceviche and other hard to find dishes from around the world to satisfy even you.

    Unless of course your intent is to be unsatisfied with everything, even Disney World. Which is how it seems to me.

    If you took the time to actually look for the good (dare I say even gourmet) food, you would have found it and plenty of it. Next time, do a little research and don’t sit there complaining about the shitty food you encountered, when there’s a four star restaurant less than a block away.

  • http://smittenkitchen.com deb

    David Lebovitz once told me (I mean, I hope it was him or he’ll probably kill me for leaving this comment) that the Disney parks make all of their own everything in-house, from scratch — breads, cookies, cakes, etc. I mean, it makes sense, given the quantities that they sell but I was fascinated by this. Did their hamburger buns taste better than the average burger stand? Did the cookies taste more homemade? Nevertheless, I haven’t had a chance to investigate this as I haven’t been there since I was seven! Can you tell when you’re there?

  • Ricky

    I went to Epcot in the fall with my family, and we rode “The Land” and later had dinner in the revolving restaurant there. All of the food we ate was harvested from what was being grown in the land exhibit…it was actually really cool! Also, costumed characters come up to you and take photos with you at regular intervals. Maybe if you had known this, you would have had a better experience.

  • http://peanutbutterjenny.blogspot.com jenn

    i beg to differ on your epcot food rant!

    the past 2 times i went to disney world, i ate in different “countries” in epcot and had fantastic experiences.

    4 years ago, it was japan. i still have my chopsticks.

    7 years ago, my family and i ate at the canadian restaurant. i remember getting scallops with caviar. i hated it at the time, because i was 14, but my parents insist that it was fabulous. i do remember also going to “france” and getting some hardcore fabulous chocolate mousse.

    i’ve never been to the REAL france, and i was in canada when i was 3, but hey — epcot did a good job! don’t hate!

  • another Disney foodie

    I wish your EPCOT food experience could have been better! You truly are missing a lot of good food but most of those are at sit down places – like Rose and Crown in the UK, Restaurant Marrakesh in Morocco, or Chefs de France in France. I also agree with Sarah that posted about Artist Point…I love how their menu changes with whats in season!

  • Jessica

    Awww Adam…you really did choose poorly though. I’ve been writing about Disney food for years in various blogs (considering I can spit and hit Magic Kingdom from my house). I don’t know what I’m more disappointed about…that you chose poorly and had to eat the mexico counter service, or that you were in the parks the same day as I was and I couldn’t even faux stalk you!

    Next time—don’t expect anything from Magic Kingdom. Even the food in the castle is no good anymore. It used to be before the made it a princess dinner and you get brought in and out like cattle and thrown pre-cooked meals. Instead, hop on the monorail and go to the Grand Floridan and try Citrico’s, Narcoosee’s, or, if you really want to spend a lot, Victoria and Alberts. You could always go the opposite direction and head to Contemporary and eat at the California Grille.

    Epcot Counter Service—always choose Morocco! Then finish the whole thing off with a pastry or cheese plate from France’s Boulangerie—everything under $6! I suggest the Napoleon. Good luck next timee! Hope you had a “magical” weekend!

  • http://www.ithinkyoushould.blogspot.com Mandee

    I’m in the middle of planning my nephew’s first visit to Disney–and my first visit in 15 years. Nothing makes me happier than planning a trip, but I have become a little overwhelmed with the whole Disney thing–the forums for Disney planning are plentiful and I sometimes feel as if I’ve fallen into a black hole when I read them.

    It is recommended that you make a reservation for any of the sit down restaurants, and they start taking reservations 90 days in advance (recently decreased from 180 days). I’ve read some reports that since Disney instituted its dining plan (you pre-pay and get a set number of table service, counter service and snack credits for your stay), the quality of the food has diminished. I have also read reports from people who are attributing a more recent decrease in quality to the economy. All I know is that I can’t wait to get down there and see it all for myself.

    And I love your idea for a world showcase overhaul!

  • Jessica

    Oh..and P.S. — you should come for the Food & Wine Festival in the fall for some decent food in Epcot.

    Plus, Cat Cora is opening a restaurant at Disney World just outside the back entrance of Epoct near France on the Boardwalk — so maybe, they’re leaning towards your celeb chef idea. I’m just sayin…

  • Laura Jean 2

    You have it wrong. You need to go back and do it again. Based on the pictures, I believe you must have sought to find the worst food options at Epcot. Go back!

  • http://www.amateurgourmet.com Adam

    Hey Commenters,

    Two things:

    1. We were on a budget, so please add “on a budget” to my overall analysis of the food at Disney; meaning: it’s hard to find decent food on a budget. And that’s what I’d like to see at Epcot: budget-friendly food that actually tastes good.

    2. As for anyone I offended by suggesting the American diet is mirrored by the food offered at the Magic Kingdom, consider this statistic from Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”: one out of three kids in America eats fast food every day. Every day. So it’s not a stretch to say that if 1 out of 3 kids ate tofu every day in America, you’d find tofu at the Magic Kingdom. Not that I’d want to eat tofu at the Magic Kingdom, but you get the idea.

    Thanks for your spirited responses!

    Adam

  • Sam The Butcher

    Add me to the chorus of “you’re doin’ it wrong”.

    I have strict food requirements for my health, and the Crystal Palace was one of my favorite restaurants to eat at there – they made some food special for me, and they had lots that I could eat on my diet. They were extremely accomodating, and seemed to take interest in making me happy with the food they could cook for me.

    Re:Epcot – The restaurant in Mexico was good. The Japanese restaurant was good. The Rose & Crown in England seems to serve decent pub fare. My whole family loved the food at the Coral Reef in the front of Epcot. Again, some of the best food I had while there.

    And I concur, that’s just the food in the parks. If you go outside, your options increase exponentially. We loved eating at the lower-end restaurant at Animal Kingdom. We’re planning a Disney cruise in September (full disclosure – we’re Disney freaks, but specifically for the reason of quality like this) and are planning on eating at Cape May in the Beach Club resort, the Crystal Palace and at Fulton’s Crab House at Downtown Disney. Last time there, I ate at Raglan Road and loved the atmosphere.

    Next time you go to Disney (which may not be for a while), do what you always do when you go to a new place – ask people where you should eat! We’re obviously an opinionated bunch, but we’re also right. :)

  • http://www.savour-fare.com Kate

    I grew up near Disneyland the way you grew up near Disneyworld, and for me the food (particularly the churros, the frozen lemonade and yes, the corn dogs, though I prefer the corn dogs from Hot Dog on a Stick at the Santa Monica Pier) has a heavy nostalgia value but I wouldn’t say it’s really good. One of my girlfriends — a foodie with three young children, is planning a visit to Disneyworld and keeps sending me all these menu descriptions of meals she’s planning. I’ve never been to Disneyworld (if you live in LA the compulsion to visit Florida isn’t quite there) but is there fine dining? Is it any good? Come on Adam. Inquiring minds want to know! You can write it off as a business expense!

  • http://www.kidscuisine.net Sarah

    Yes, I can see how budget might factor into the equation, though in general, I haven’t found Disney prices to be far out of line with NYC prices. People coming from other parts of the country might experience more sticker shock.

    There is still plenty of budget-friendly food to be found at Epcot. The Mexico stand is the most easy to find, but every country has counter service food and all are better than the nachos outside Mexico. Maybe some more research would have helped. You can see menus, including prices, for all Disney restaurants here: http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm

  • http://www.foodyintraining.blogspot.com Foody In Training

    I went to Epcot two years ago and loved the agriculture ride too! My family teased me because it really was one of my top five rides. Did you happen to ride the parasailing ride? That was also pretty cool. We ate at the German restaurant at Epcot and I thought it was really good. Not the pavillions but the actual sit down restaurants.

    My sis worked for Disney so she got us a VIP tour and we also didn’t really eat in the park since there were Orlando restaurants she wanted us to try. But my Epcot food experience was pretty good!

  • http://www.angrybrit.com Angry Brit

    I’m not a huge Disney theme park lover (which the exception of the Haunted Mansion, but only when they trick it out for The Nightmare Before Christmas), but I’ve been twice in the last 6 months due to a rare visit from my folks. The last time we had been to a Disney theme park had been years earlier, so we were surprised to see the snack vendors in the park selling water and fresh fruit. The food that we ate (while ridiculously expensive) was varied and fairly healthy. The last time I went it was all french fries and pizza. Of course, those things are still available, but now there are other options.

  • Jessica

    @Angry Brit — you should make it to Animal Kingdom some day. It’s the only park I’ve found that has a fruit and cheese plate with walnuts for about $5 at a cart! I get it for lunch everytime I go.

  • JenniferJuniper

    Hi Adam -

    We were in Disney Christmas week and had a fantastic meal at The Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios park)

    I would like to second the comment about how wonderful they are about handling food allergies.

    When you spend a week trying to keep up with a 9 year old who wants to spend 12+ hours a day at the parks, I found that you can’t fuel yourself with junk food. I indulged on the first day, and then committed myself to finding healthy (or at least something resembling what we normally eat) options. There’s good food at Disney (and Universal, and Sea World) you just need to chose carefully.

  • sarah

    It’s easy to do a little research, and see what affordable options there are – all the menus are online at http://allears.net/menu/menus.htm. Aside from the Magic Kingdom, at which the options are, well, limited, there’s lots of good affordable stuff out there – I second the recommendations for counter service in Morocco & the bakeries in Norway and France, and you can always make a lunch reservation in one of the sit down restaurants & order appetizers – it’s not as cheap as counter service, but the cheddar cheese soup & pretzel breadsticks in the Canada restaurant are awfully good, and really filling. You’d do some research before visiting a new city, why not Disney World?

  • Carol

    Why so serious everyone? Don’t mess with the Disney folks I guess! It’s just an opinion and there are some very valid points that Adam brought up…IMHO.

  • Kathy

    Hey, you can find bad food just about everywhere.

    I cooked at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival in October and was amazed by the quality. They do EVERYTHING from scratch in an enormous kitchen – I saw a cook steaming what looked like a zillion lobsters for the lobster salad. Even mire poix. It stunned me that there was a line of cooks making lovely brunoise of carrots, onions and celery when they easily could have bought it in a bag ready to go. And they were all so nice – Disney nice.

    For the festival, they line the lagoon with kiosks from all kinds of countries/regions – Burgundy, South Africa, Poland, Australia, Greece. There were a ton of them. My chef friends and I went back for the mini brioche cups with escargot 3 times at the Burgundy stand. It was that good. Everything we had was delicious and we’re a pretty critical crowd.

    I’d never been to Epcot or DW prior to this, but I’d go back for the Festival. Having cooked at a lot of events, I was impressed with this one.

  • Kathy

    Hey, you can find bad food just about everywhere.

    I cooked at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival in October and was amazed by the quality. They do EVERYTHING from scratch in an enormous kitchen – I saw a cook steaming what looked like a zillion lobsters for the lobster salad. Even mire poix. It stunned me that there was a line of cooks making lovely brunoise of carrots, onions and celery when they easily could have bought it in a bag ready to go. And they were all so nice – Disney nice.

    For the festival, they line the lagoon with kiosks from all kinds of countries/regions – Burgundy, South Africa, Poland, Australia, Greece. There were a ton of them. My chef friends and I went back for the mini brioche cups with escargot 3 times at the Burgundy stand. It was that good. Everything we had was delicious and we’re a pretty critical crowd.

    I’d never been to Epcot or DW prior to this, but I’d go back for the Festival. Having cooked at a lot of events, I was impressed with this one.

  • meginAB

    We go to Disney quite a lot and are sad you missed some real gems even on a budget – noodle soup in Japan, fish and chips at Rose & Crown, goat cheese flatbread in France. Also good eats in Canada, Morocco. Really like food at Animal Kingdom – some tempura green beans and dim sum at Yak and Yeti, Boma – a buffet at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

    When you choose higher end though – Artist Point (at Wilderness Lodge) or Jika (at Animal Kingdom Lodge) never fail! I dream about those 2 places!

  • Mel

    “1. We were on a budget, so please add “on a budget” to my overall analysis of the food at Disney; meaning: it’s hard to find decent food on a budget. And that’s what I’d like to see at Epcot: budget-friendly food that actually tastes good.”

    At the Magic Kingdom:

    Plaza Restaurant (just across the street from where you had a corn dog):

    Vegetarian Sandwich – fresh mozzarella, hummus, basil pesto, cucumber, roasted red pepper, tomato, and lettuce on a freshly baked foccaccia bread served with broccoli slaw or sweet potato chips $11.49

    At EPCOT:

    Chefs de France (France):

    Les Tarts des Chefs (original flatbreads)

    a la Flamme Alsacienne – Alsace specialty – creme fraiche, onion and bacon $8.25

    Yakitori House (Japan):

    Shogun Combination – teriyaki chicken thigh, sukiyaki beef, and steamed rice $8.49 + Melon, Tangerine, and Strawberry Kaki-gori (shaved ice) for desert = $10

    Tangeierine Cafe (Morocco):

    Shawarma Sandwiches- served with hummus, Tabouleh, and a Tangierine CousCous Salad with a Fresh Moroccan bread – Lamb $11.95

    Sommerfest (Germany):

    Frankfurter served with sauerkraut and roll $6.39

    Except Chefs de France, all of these are walk up.

    Love your blog (and always will), but try harder next time.

  • Susan O.

    I found the food at the Magic Kingdom to be really not as bad as I expected. There were healthful and tasty options. Certainly not haute cuisine for my price range, but more than acceptable.

    If I’d seen that pulled pork sandwich, you’d have seen me cramming my mouth!

  • http://scalloped-edge.blogspot.com Joanna

    I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU SKIPPED THE SMOKED TURKEY LEGS.

    That is all.

    (Seriously, I haven’t been to Disney in 10 years, but I still remember what those smoked turkey legs taste like, because they are delicious!)

  • camille

    i completely agree!!! especially about epcot. i went for the first time last september and i was really disappointed. i guess my expectations were too high of disney world in general, let alone the international food. you’re right, it would make smart business sense to have chefs as attractions people come to see, but instead they’d rather gouge you with $5 (small) bottles of water. they have you over a barrel with those things since it’s five thousand degrees and you need hydration. i think, especially at epcot where it’s not all about the rides, that people would go there for the food and expecting it (naturally) to be there. i did and boy what a let down! in response to craig’s theory for why they don’t, i think they see disney world being for kids. their marketers are missing a critical element in the parents who visit.

  • camille

    oh crap. i commented before i read any of these p.o’d disneyfile’s comments. i better run for cover!

  • http://changeisafoot.blogspot.com lauren

    so I don’t know if you read all of these, but if you do, don’t worry, this isn’t a criticism. In fact, I used to work at Disney and have a fun fact that not all people know. As you walk down Main Street at the magic kingdom (Oh God I hope I don’t get locked up and beaten for releasing this info) there is an ice cream place on the right side that has homemade waffle bowls. So as you walk down the street, all you can smell is baking waffle cones and it’s the most AMAZING smell. It’s also a complete manipulation of the senses. They take this air and some how make it smell like that and literally pump it out onto the street to get people to come into the store, like through a pipe, just for this air. Anyway, I thought it was interesting.

  • Nicole

    I was last there a little less than four years ago, I knew going into it you had to pick a choose wisely. You need to avoid all the, as Disney calls it in their dining plan (which was awesome $30 a day per person and we ate so much most of the time and saved so much by doing this, and sometimes you can get a deal and do it for free), the counter meals. The counter meals are the fast food places like the land and things like that but the restaurants (sit down) we never had a problem with. Next time do the Polynesian Luau it was great!

  • Anonymous

    I agree that the food at Disney World was awful. We like Universal Studios much better for food. They have a lot more choices and an Emerils restaurant on site. You should check it out next time you go to Orlando.

  • Lauren

    I’ve gotta agree with everyone who has said Morocco’s Marrakesh… I enjoy my meal every time I go, and I hesitate to go to any of the other countries because I love it so much. Doesn’t work entirely for a budget but… MEH!

    And also, whoever said the Food and Wine festival is right… but again without the budget part. With as many stations as there are and with multiple wonderful sounding things at each station (and the beers!), it’s super easy to rack up a large expense on TOP of the admission to the park. But that’s where you’ll find a lot of the interesting chefs and demos, free beer tastings, foodie exhibits, etc.

    I’ve found that if you’re going to do one of the counter/quick meals, theme park pizza is always consistent. It’s so similar to the stuff I remember getting at the cafeteria in elementary school… it’s no gourmet or NYC pizza, but there’s something very comforting about it.

  • http://DianasaurDishes.com Diana

    I haven’t been to Disney World since I was a kid. The food I really remember is the clam chowder in a bread bowl. I’d never had a bread bowl before and I still remember that as the most amazing clam chowder in the world. I can probably never eat it there again because it wouldn’t compare to my memories. I generally agree with you about the better food, but I think the problem is that you spend way too much money to get into the park, once your in there everything is expensive and if you’re trying to feed a whole family, you want whatever’s cheapest.

  • http://www.gastronomersguide.com Joseph, The Gastronomer

    I remember the smoked turkey legs, though I never tried one. Last time I was at Walt Disney World was a number of years ago, but I’ve been so many times I can’t count. I do remember having standard Chinese food at the China exhibit at Epcot. I too love The Land. Even as a little kid I was fascinated by the hydroponically grown food. Adam, I really like your idea of having a chef represent each Epcot exhibit. Epcot’s always been like the unwanted stepsister of the Disney parks, but for me it is my favorite park because it’s so unique. It’s sort of retro and futuristic at the same time. I think Disney should invest more in the park and make it a destination as you suggest. From your mouth to Walt Disney’s ears.

  • http://www.disneyfoodblog.com AJ

    I love and adore this review, because it’s simultaneously true and false. For me, the reason why Disney World dining is so brilliant is that they are SO good at producing HORRIBLE food at the same time as they are SO good at producing INCREDIBLE food.

    The food and wine festival in October IS a great way to get a little exposure to some inexpensive, tapas-sized portions of great food, and that’s where your celebrity chefs will arrive en masse. Also, as your previous commenter said, the new Cat Cora restaurant, like Wolfgang Puck’s current shop in Downtown Disney, will surely add a level of sophistication for Disney.

  • http://www.lovefeasttable.com LoveFeast

    We visited Disney & Epcot the week before you and also had a lot of bad food. The one place though we had very very good food, the meal we hung on to for the week, was in Norway, at Epcot in the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. They start you off with the Taste of Norway appetizer buffet and we had some of the best smoked salmon ever. We had Traditional Kjottkake, which is a beef & pork patty, with mashed potatoes, & lingonberry sauce, which was very good. Also, the Bacon Wrapped Cod, & the Classic Lamb Stew. You do have to pay for the fact that it is a character dinner though. One big downer was an absolutely rubbery tasteless freshly made off the cart chocolate crepe! If you can ruin chocolate and something fresh & hot, that’s bad!

  • Anonymous

    You realy should have tried Victoria and Albert’s. I was truly surprised by how good the meal was – my expectations for a meal at Disney, even an expensive one, were not very high.

  • http://bilateralhaze.wordpress.com Lara

    My husband, kids and I spent a whopping 10 days at Disney World in January of this year, and yeah, the food was mediocre at best- unless you do as I did and research before you go. I hit up message boards where there are people who actually DO go for the food; they take pictures, post menus and ultimately helped me avoid a major foodie meltdown.

    BTW- Morocco is the place for a great quick bite in Epcot. Delish. And I’ve got the pictures to prove it.

  • Andie

    We’ve eaten at the Chef’s Table at Victoria and Alberts (Grand Floridian) twice now. The food is phenomenal as is the service. It’s not budget by any means, but The food and wine pairing is so worth it. Plus, I love being in the kitchen and talking with the chef.

    It’s been rated AAA 5 diamond for 8 years and kids under 10 aren’t served. It’s the perfect place for a break while at WDW.

  • chris

    Well, I have been to Disney every week this year, and over 100 times in my life, and I have to say, this is just not a fair critique at all. I’ve eaten at pretty much every location there is to eat at Disney and find that for the volume of food they are trying to put out, the quality is always very good. Also, in the rare occasion (maybe twice in the past 10 years) that the food is not up to par, the cast members fix the issue immediately and without question.

  • crazyassmofo

    In the realm of aromas and which smells trigger the greatest sense of psychological well-being…it is the smell of baked goods in the oven with a hint of vanilla that is the most powerful of all the smells.