Finding Food Fast at Walt Disney World
This article appeared in the
It's amazing how fast we humans readjust to being on vacation. It happens within moments of crossing the gangplank of a ship, or, in our case, passing through the Main Gate of Walt Disney World. With chameleon-like adaptability, entire personalities change. The fashion-conscious, for example, swiftly sacrifice all sense of style in favor of comfortable shoes, Hawaiian shirts and Mouse Ears.
Possibly the most amazing change is the human body's ability to readjust its intake, when the mind knows it's on vacation.
For me, breakfast in the real world is a non-meal, a tasty diet shake, spun up in my blender. It fills me up and I'm content. Lunch is something to fill the midday gap, also usually a tasty diet shake. It fills me up and I'm content.
My dinners are, for the most part, sensible, full of healthy things that Mother would be proud to see me eat. Well, not *my* mother (she was old school Polish, and if it wasn't boiled or full of fat, it wasn't worth eating), but most modern mothers.
On the first day I find myself in the realm of The Mouse, however, vacation takes over the mind and spirit. My body instantly requires that the tasty breakfast shake be substituted with yards of bacon, eggs every way, and a Mickey-eared waffle from the kids' buffet. I don't look at it as going off my diet, rather as necessary fuel. Fuel required to support not only the miles of walking I will be doing in the parks, but enough back-up fuel, should I decide on a whim to walk from Orlando to Washington, DC.
Hey, it could happen!
After a hard day of Mouse miles, I make a point of always enjoying a good sit-down dinner. At these dinners, while She Who Must Be Obeyed (aka, my wife) diligently counts WeightWatcher points, my dining goal seems to be ordering food that causes my arteries to scream for mercy. Now, I must emphasize that I don't do this every day of my life, just as I don't hug giant fuzzy-headed characters every day of my life. But ordering things made of gobs of cream, butter or cheese can be a part of the "Magic," too.
In between Mouse breakfast and dinner, however, I do, like most, tend to survive mostly on food that's "fast". Fast, in Zamgwar-speak, does not necessarily mean "counter service". Fast means just that -- it arrives fast, and elicits a response of, "This is *just* what I needed."
One usually hits a wall after several hours in any park. Attraction lines have grown longer, the temperature has risen, and the contentment of a Mickey-eared waffle wanes. Suddenly an internal voice seems to scream, "YOU MUST EAT NOW, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. GO GET FOOD!"
Once the voice speaks, nothing else matters. Not rides (the lines suddenly seem intolerable). Not parades (all the good spots suddenly seem gone). Not even Mickey himself walking straight at you (unless he happens to be hand-delivering lunch) can stop the food voice. "YOU MUST EAT NOW, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. GO GET FOOD!"
With that in mind, I thought I'd mention some of my favorite and not-so-favorite places to stop, when I'm feeling faint and may not have eaten for as many as two hours. Keep in mind that these are the views and tastes of Zamgwar, and Zamgwar only. Also keep in mind the mental stability of a man who "clocks" the speed with which food arrives.
Good Fast Food at Disney-MGM Studios: Oddly enough, my favorite "fast food" is found at The Brown Derby Restaurant. Their delicious Cobb Salad is frequently sitting in front of you faster than a pizza ordered in the shadow of the Tower of Terror.
True, at $13 it costs more than the traditional counter service quarter-pound burger with cheese and fries. It *IS*, however, a very good bowl of delicious, healthy "stuff" (chopped greens, turkey breast, egg, bacon, tomatoes, blue cheese, avocado, chives and Cobb dressing). Time from order to arrival: 7 minutes.
Bad Fast Food at Disney-MGM Studios: The Polish Smoked Sausage with onions on a roll served at the fast food stands. It's not Polish. It's not a sausage. Think huge Slim Jim. I rarely don't finish food I order. It was ingrained in me as a child that there were people starving in a variety of countries, and somehow my eating everything on my plate would make it better. I did not finish my "Polish Sausage." Sorry, Mom.
Good Fast Food at Animal Kingdom: Good fast food abounds around Animal Kingdom. In fact, there are so many good choices, I find it hard to understand why they haven't spread to other parks. Then again, I do really LOVE the whole laid-back ambiance of Animal Kingdom, which may affect how I perceive its food. The sounds, the brilliance of the landscaping and the detail of the Imagineering is without equal. It's just a great place to be "a tad slower."
The Tusker House's Rotisserie Chicken is, in my opinion, among the best fast food anywhere in Disney World. The halved chicken is reasonably priced ($7.95 on my July trip), comes with delicious fresh string beans and mashed potatoes. The Tusker House is usually not crowded (as long as it isn't High Noon) and is a comfortable, well-themed place to escape the heat and eat. Time from order to arrival: 4 minutes.
Animal Kingdom's fast food is made even better by its experimental "Meal Pass". For $10.99 (for adults) you're supplied with three coupons that can be exchanged anywhere in the park. One coupon gets you a lunch entree AND a beverage. Another gets you either a bottled water or bottled soda. The third gets you either an ice cream or a popcorn. This truly is a rare thing in Disney World -- a Bargain! I really hope this program never goes away.
Bad Fast Food in Animal Kingdom: At one isolated stand they sell what I can only describe as a mashed potato parfait. It looks like an ice cream parfait, but it is in fact a cup of mashed potatoes, topped with salsa, cheese and sour cream. In my mind, when I ordered it, it was a good idea. In my stomach, it was a bad idea. Some food is just too fast.
Good Fast Food at Epcot: The World Showcase is a fast food dream. Each country offers an opportunity to taste some little tidbit. Beer and wurst in Germany, Beavertails in Canada, Kaki-Gori in Japan, Churros in Mexico, Creme Brulee in France, and pastries in Norway. The list is endless. So much food, so little time. I'm sure quick access to World Showcase's food is a chief reason the Boardwalk and Beach Club are my favorite hotels.
Bad Fast Food in Epcot: The Land pavilion used to be one of my favorite places to grab a quick bite. In its glory days it featured "Handwiches" and a wide variety of fast good things. Perhaps it's just rose-colored hindsight, but I fondly remember flitting from counter to counter and assembling my lunch rather quickly.
Fast, at least on my last trip, was not an option. Going "off-peak hours", it took 19 minutes from entering the queue, to getting my sandwich. I went to "Soup and Sandwich" because the "Barbecue" line was even slower. Perhaps it was because of staff reductions. Perhaps I spent 14 minutes in a crack in the time/space continuum. Perhaps The Land is now a ploy to help people maintain their diets on vacation. It worked on me. By the time I got my food, the urge had passed and I wasn't hungry. The whole of Future World now seems to be in a fast food crisis, in fact.
Good Fast Food in the Magic Kingdom: Many head to Cosmic Ray's for a fast lunch. I have usually encountered too long a queue to deem it "fast". My MK fast food choice is, alas, currently under renovation -- The Crystal Palace. If you have a priority seating reservation, the time from check-in at podium to eating is almost instantaneous. The same can be said for any of the WDW buffets. The choices are many, the food is very good, and in the case of the Crystal Palace, Pooh and his friends are your hosts. I shall go hungry in Magic Kingdom until it opens again.
Or, I shall black out from a Dole Whip overdose in Adventureland. Yummmm, Dole Whip. Is there any urge it can't cure?
Regardless of where you decide to stop for a bite, take a little time to enjoy it. Remember, fast food only has to arrive fast, to get that screaming "MUST EAT NOW" voice out of your head. It doesn't have to be eaten fast. Slowly savor your iced tea, and the fact your feet aren't walking. Take a brief moment to just enjoy your own personal food "attraction."
Regardless of if you're munching on a curb, at a café, on a fountain edge, or at a table watching "Small World" boats go by, there are always sounds, sights and people to enjoy and make even the most mediocre counter food taste a little better. As I've said before, sitting down and taking a food break can be a vacation within your vacation.
So gather ye French Fries while ye may, and take time to stop and smell the popcorn.
That's My2Cnts. What's yours?
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