by Kevin Klose - 1/21/08
We had recently been asked if it was possible to go to the Magic Kingdom without an advanced dining reservation for one of the restaurants and still enjoy a meal that didn’t consist of burgers, fries or chicken fingers. Is it possible to enjoy your day unencumbered by several hours of preplanning and unrestricted by a pre-set dining time.
We decided we were up to the challenge and headed for the park. We had no idea of where or when we were going to eat. All we knew was that we were on the outlook for something other than the typical fast food and it still had to be tasty and a decent value. We can’t say “inexpensive” because we are dealing with theme park food after all.
There were two of us and I should explain that we did something a bit different than we would normally do. In an effort to cover more than one location, we only ordered one meal at each location and we split them.
Our first stop was Pinocchio Village Haus. This location is located next to “it’s a small world.”
The Village Haus does not look like a very inviting place. Upon first approaching, it doesn’t even look like its open. Even after you enter, it is still a bit dark. I wasn’t sure it was open until we were well inside and saw other people.
The interior space continues the theming from outside. It has a beautiful fairytale feel. There are some wonderful murals and wood cut outs showing Pinocchio and his friends. This is old school Disney World and deserves to be treated with some respect. It is also huge inside. It’s an awesome place to escape the heat.
This place was empty during our visit and I am of the belief that if Disney put a bit of time and some of that famous Imagineering pixie dust was sprinkled around, this place would do a thriving business. It sits in a superb location overlooking the Disney Carousel and there are inside windows overlooking the “small world” loading area.
Our first menu selection was Grilled Turkey and Bacon Panini for $7.29. It’s a large sandwich consisting of turkey, bacon, provolone cheese, roasted red pepper, tomato and basil on multi grain bread. This came with apple slices or chips. We chose the baked chips. We also ordered Figaro Fries (I know, we said no fries) and a 32 oz. soft drink. The fries were $3.19 and the drink was $2.39. Our total in The Village Haus was $13.71 with tax.
We chose our seats over looking “small world”. (I would have bet anyone money that all of the boats in that ride were blue. I would have lost. There are yellow and red boats as well.)
Our sandwich was a very pleasant surprise and what we considered to be a decent value (again....keeping in mind that we are using that term in relationship to Disney food). They used large slices of bread cut on the diagonal. The multigrain bread was toasted crisp and the stuff inside seemed fresh and tasted very good. The sandwich needed no additional condiments.
Now….let’s talk about the Figaro Fries. They start with fries (ask for hot, fresh fries or this wont work), add some shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, shredded cheese, bacon and to top it off….a drizzle of ranch dressing. These were mighty fine. I have no idea why these have not reached the status and fame of those awful, sickeningly sweet Dole Whips. You really have to try these.
If you are a light eaters or just looking for a snack, these items could be split, making for a rather inexpensive meal. Even if you double the total, you are at $26.00 for two and we think that’s a value when you add in the fact that this would take no planning at all.
Our next stop was Cosmic Rays. This place sits between Tomorrowland and Fantasy Land and overlooks the central hub of the Magic Kingdom.
Cosmic Rays is the place to go if you have several people in your party wanting different things. There are three sides (or bays) to the main counter. They are listed as Bay 1 Chicken, Bay 2 Burgers and Bay 3 Sandwiches, Soups and Salads. This offers a wide variety but the drawback, as far as we could tell, was that if you want something from a different Bay, you must wait in both lines. This works fine if there are multiple adults in your party, but if you are a single adult traveling with children with different tastes, you might have difficulty.
Ray’s is a huge place with a “glass and steel” modern look. It’s reminiscent of the old Saturday morning cartoon, The Jetsons. There is also a separate room with an animatronic figure to entertain the kids.
At Cosmic Ray’s our choice was the BBQ pork Sandwich served with homemade chips or pasta salad for $7.59. You have the option of adding soup to any entrée for $1.79, bringing the total for this entrée to $9.38. We also ordered a 32 oz soft drink for $2.39 bringing the total to $12.54 with tax.
Cosmic Ray’s also has a large “fixins bar” to doctor up your food as you like. They offer the typical burger toppings but also offer sautéed mushrooms and sautéed onions. There is no cost to add these things to your entrée.
Our BBQ pork was shredded and piled high on a Kaiser roll. The sauce had a sweet and tangy taste. I like pickles with my BBQ and the tart dill slices on the “fixins bar” added a nice touch. While this was a pretty good sized sandwich, it didn’t lend itself to splitting nearly as well as our last stop. The chips were also good. Had they been hot…they would have been awesome.
The soup was supposedly chicken noodle and we were hard pressed to find anything but celery. It was the main, if not only ingredient showing in our bowl. The broth had a decidedly celery taste. Now, if you like celery soup…this might be your thing. If you like chicken soup and believe in truth in advertising…we suggest you shy away from this one. After a taste or two…it sat untouched. Knowing this, we could have skipped it and brought the total down by approximately two bucks to about $10.50.
Using our last comparison that if you double this, you are looking at roughly $21.00 for two.
While we considered Ray’s a decent value, we both agreed that Pinocchio’s Village Haus had the better sandwich, side dish and an all around better experience.
We found that we could have a tasty and filling meal in the Magic Kingdom for approximately $25.00 (or under) for two adults and it didn’t necessarily mean burger and fries or chicken strips. We also found that we could do it without any pre-planning at all. This works really well for those that don’t want to be time bound by a lunch or dinner reservation.