This quick service story begins like many others on Walt Disney World Resort property: It was a hot and humid day. After a morning frenzy of park photography, rushing frantically from land to land, my Disney Dining Show cohort Steve Porter and I decided to stop for a bite at Casey’s Corner before the scheduled afternoon hurricane began.
I, like many, have a love/hate relationship with Magic Kingdom’s quaint, visually pleasing baseball-themed hot dog provider. Our pre-storm lunch did nothing to change my opinions, either; Casey’s, above all other attributes, has proven itself to be predictable in both the good, and the bad. That doesn’t mean their menu options are predictable, mind you — Casey’s does throw some curveballs with its hot dog variety, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
*What follows is my breakdown of a typical lunch at Casey’s Corner. If you prefer your reviews in video form, skip to the end of this article for a quick service edition of the Disney Dining Show, the first half of which covers our time at Casey’s. For more restaurant reviews and discussion topics related to Disney Resort eating, check out the show on disunplugged.com.
Casey’s design is quite wonderful, but it is also very difficult to appreciate. As one of Main Street U.S.A.‘s most recognizable structures, the building and surrounding area screams Americana. The exterior has the quaint, Midwestern small-town paneling in bright whites and soft yellows which on a clear day contrasts with the blue Florida sky and immediately brings to one’s mind the subject of this eatery’s theming — baseball. Baseball, and of course its associated meal, the hot dog.
Casey’s invokes an idealized America so succinctly that few other restaurants on Walt Disney World property are such an appropriate culinary embodiment of the land they call home. To dine at Casey’s is to taste Main Street U.S.A. At least, that’s how it should be.
Sadly, the biggest strike against Casey’s is the crowds.
In any other corner of the country Casey’s would be well designed. Entrances can be found on all sides, with not only two leading out to the exterior but also one leading directly into Main Street’s indoor shopping plaza, the Emporium. The layout is compartmentalized, so that the ordering area and the dining area don’t directly overlap and cause on overabundance of tray traffic. Tables can be found indoors for those without the tolerance or physical ability to endure extreme heat while they eat; however, the majority of seating is outdoors, where visitors can sit down with family, friends, and the occasional duck, under eye-catching red and white umbrellas to enjoy an American culinary classic.
Most folks don’t get a chance to appreciate these aspects of the eatery, though. Thanks to a prime location, this hot dog purveyor suffers nearly constant overcrowding. Amidst the chaotic, personal-space violating process of clustered ordering lines, congested entrances and pathways, and at-capacity seating most people just wind up sweaty and frustrated. Which is a shame, because when Casey’s calls forth classic Americana it should be calling forth a sense of ease and relaxation. Mobs of people rushing and bumping and complaining is big city stuff — not an attitude fit for the simple, honest folk of Main Street U.S.A.
Once you’ve gone through the hustle and bustle of ordering, picking up your tray, elbowing through to the condiment counter, pushing your way outside, and waiting for a table — once all that is done — you can finally relax and enjoy what Casey’s has to offer. Not only the food, but a brilliant design and a picturesque view. This setting also offers the occasional surprise, but we’ll save that till the end.
Enjoyment of Casey’s Corner is contingent upon two things: your love of hot dogs, and your assessment of risk vs. reward.
A standard Casey’s dog is great, and most of the folks I know who find the eatery to be a bit overpriced are increasing their bill with unnecessary extras. My recommendation is to always get the foot long, skip the fries and, if you can manage it, skip the drink. At under $13, the largest variety of dog they sell is enough to fill most people up. For the purposes of this review I added specialty cheese fries and a coffee, bringing my meal to nearly $20. Those extras never seem worth it and always make me feel like I’ve needlessly overspent. I find that when I just focus on the dog, I come out happy.
Casey’s might be best known for mixing it up a bit with their monthly Hot Diggity Dogs, and this is where the risk/reward comes in. You may occasionally see a limited-time offering that has you eyeing the ingredients and thinking, “Well, that could be awesome, or it could be terrible.”
Casey’s standard dogs are great, so if you want a sure thing you should probably go with a regular. If you feel like rolling the dice, just know — the results could be incredible, ridiculous, or anywhere in between. I’d say my pick definitely swung more towards the ridiculous side of the spectrum.
Behold — the culinary corruption of the American dream.
Where Main Street U.S.A. offers Magic Kingdom guests an idealized, almost Arcadian United States, Casey’s Cheesy Hot Diggity Dog slaps you in the face with modern America’s darkest trends.
“Wanna sell food? Throw more junk food on top of it! Americans love it when you take fast food and hatefully bombard it with snacks they could buy at a gas station! I’ve got half a Snickers bar and some EZ Cheeze in the back, let’s throw it in some ramen and call it the ‘Snicker Noodle.’ They won’t care, they can’t actually taste anything anymore.”
Don’t blame Taco Bell or the Doritos Locos, either. This is what we’ve always been working towards. We claim to long for a simpler time, when folks smiled at their neighbors, ate homemade meals, and cooled pies on window sills (which, judging from TV, were all eventually stolen by lovable escaped convicts). What we really want, though, are hot dogs covered with Cheetos*.
This is just recognition on my part, not judgment. My problem with this monster was not how ridiculous or over-the-top it was. On the risk/reward front, it could have been hilariously good. The problem with these “how crazy can we get?” recipes is that they come up with an absurd idea yet phone in the follow-through. The cheese sauce underneath the Cheetos caused the bun to disintegrate. You may know the bun as the thing that’s entire purpose is to serve as an elongated edible plate. Without a structurally sound bun, I was just eating fistfuls of bread, hot dog, cheese, and Cheetos*.
“Children, look at the man-child approaching 40 — eating garbage food out of his bare hands in the middle of a crowd of strangers! Remember when Nana told you to study hard so you don’t turn out to be a shameless, no-good waste? This, children, this is what Nana is afraid of. Never be this!”
I went back for napkins twice, and to this day I’m still finding cheese product under my fingernails.
In summation, I wasn’t overly pleased with this meal. It did fill my stomach, though. It is important to note that I have learned nothing from this situation. This dog’s day is past, but there will be a new adventure the next time I visit. Food gambling is the only kind of gambling I enjoy, and I will always roll the dice on Casey’s.
Steve got the non-seasonal option of a Chili-Cheese Hot Dog. Sadly, the soft and wet ingredients once again cause premature bun destruction and Steve suffered a fate similar to mine. For the size, flavor, and difficulty involved, he thought his meal was extremely overpriced.
The price difference between a regular hot dog and a foot long is around $1.50. It may be difficult to compare size based on these photos, but when you are already shelling out $11 for a hot dog the extra charge is certainly worth it. While I purchased my fries for the sake of reviewing them (and gluttony), Steve added fries as an accompanying side to his dog. I think it makes far more sense to skip the fries and just get a bigger dog. I have a surprisingly large appetite and trust me, the foot long is a filling lunch by itself.
Neither Steve nor myself were happy with our purchase of the seasonal fries. While the cheese sauce for dipping was about as good as you’d expect, the sub-par snack food topping didn’t do much to improve the underwhelming fries. Casey’s may offer better toppings for their seasonal fries from time to time, but those will still coat the same base of below-average fries.
Many don’t share my sentiments on this, Steve included, but I love Casey’s Corner — just not all the time.
I typically only go when the crowds are low, which isn’t often but will occasionally happen during certain events, shows, or brief periods in the afternoon. If you’re an adventurous eater it can be a lot of fun to take your chances on a unique monthly hot dog, but you’ll never be disappointed with the regular. Make sure to get the foot long though, the fries are a waste of money. I’ve heard good things about the Corn Dog Nuggets, but haven’t tried them myself.
There is a certain bliss I feel sitting outside under an umbrella, relaxing, and chowing down on a hot dog. Main Street is your introduction to the Magic Kingdom; as you walk through those entrance gates you exit the complex America of modern day and enter an ideal, dreamlike version of the country. A simpler place where people put their best foot forward, and each foot you put forward takes you further from the complications and compromise of the today that’s now behind you. As you stroll around the America-that-never-really-was, allow yourself to enjoy some of the quaint charm it has to offer, like barbershop quartets, horse-drawn trolleys, and hot dogs. If you’re really lucky, while you are absentmindedly working your jaws around a tasty dog and thinking about how good you’ve got it, you’ll turn your head and see this:
*While I use the term “Cheeto” for audience recognition, Disney actually describes these as “seasoned cheese puffs.” They are similar to the popular name brand, yet far more stale.