The Top 10 Things to Eat at Disney Worldby Steve Russo, staff writer
By now, you know that I love a good list. Heck, it doesn’t even have to be good. If I’m flipping through a magazine in a doctor’s waiting room, I’m immediately drawn to the “Top10 Left-Handed Bowlers from Wisconsin." I’ll even spend 15-minutes with the “Five Reasons Lindsey Lohan Deserves a Sixth Chance." OK, that one was a bit of a stretch—I’d only give that five minutes; but I do love a good list.
Every now and then, as I’m contemplating ideas for a MousePlanet column, I’ll revert to my love of lists. For this column, I’ve decided to combine two of my favorite things: 1) lists, and 2) eating. Trust me when I say that those two items are not necessarily in priority order.
I know a lot of you folks have your favorite Walt Disney World restaurants. I learned about them with your response to the poll I took last year (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). However, what about a favorite food? Is there an item or two (or twenty) that you have to have on each trip? Something you will go out of your for? Something so mouthwatering you begin salivating as soon as you book the resort or make airplane reservations?
When I thought about this, in the context of a Top 10 list, I doubted I could list ten items for a “Favorite Things to Eat at Disney World." Do I have ten food items I would list as “must haves?" I forged ahead anyway, mostly to see how many I could catalog. As you probably guessed, my list soon topped 20 and I was now faced with an editing task.
To appreciate my taste in Disney food, you need to understand Rule #1 from Russo’s Rules of Food at Walt Disney World:
Calories do not exist at Walt Disney World. I don’t care how much you eat, or what you eat, you will walk it off.
Before I get into the list, let me offer up a couple of Honorable Mention candidates. These items are not on the Top 10 but that’s not because they lost a taste test—it’s because they’re no longer available.
- Chocolate Truffles – The only time I had this particular item was at the France kiosk at the 2002 International Food and Wine Festival. Allow me to quote from that Trip Report:
“We finally stopped at France where we sampled the Chocolate truffles. These are $1 and taste like heaven in a ball. OK, we are chocolate lovers and we’re biased but these things get 4 stars, 10 aprons, 5 spatulas, and a couple of Veg-o-matics thrown in.”
That’s very high praise from me (the Veg-o-matics—I give stars, aprons and spatulas all the time.) I’ve found chocolate truffles since, even some at Disney World and even some at subsequent Food and Wine Festivals, but none has come close to equaling those we found that day.
- Beaver Tails – Do you remember Trapper Bob's Beaver Tails? They were available from a kiosk near the Canada pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase. I know there are a few of you that never tried one because the thought of eating a beaver’s tail was somehow repulsive—and think of all those poor tail-less beavers trying unsuccessfully to build dams. You should have sucked it up because they weren’t really a meat product—just a piece of cooked whole-wheat pastry, shaped like a beaver’s tail. It wasn’t real beaver, but boy— they were good. You had a choice of toppings that included chocolate hazelnut and sugar, maple and chocolate, strawberries and whipped cream, apples and cinnamon, or cinnamon and sugar. Alas, they stopped selling these little slices of paradise around January 2005.
OK, the “also rans” are out of the way so let’s get on to the real list—my Top 10 Things to Eat at Disney World, listed here for your reading pleasure but again, listed in alphabetical order by height (that’s a joke, they’re in no particular order):
1. A Sundae from Ghirardelli’s – Here’s Rule #2 from Russo’s Rules of Food at Walt Disney World:
At least once during each trip you may substitute ice cream for a meal—any meal (although I’ve yet to try breakfast.)
You’re liking my rules, aren’t you?
There are a number of very acceptable places to do this; Beaches and Cream, Seashore Sweets, and the Plaza Ice Cream Shoppe come to mind. In my opinion, the best of the best is the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop at Downtown Disney’s marketplace. Any sundae will do, but a personal favorite is the World Famous Hot Fudge Sundae: two scoops of vanilla ice cream overflowing with fresh homemade hot fudge, whipped cream, chopped almonds, and a cherry.
My second choice would be the The Haight AshBerry - Very Berry Sundae: strawberry cheesecake ice cream smothered in sliced strawberries under a layer of vanilla ice cream with blueberry topping, whipped cream, chocolate-covered blueberries and a chocolate dipped waffle roll.
I think I just gained three pounds writing that. I need a lap around World Showcase Lagoon… quick.
2. Potato Gratin from Narcoossee’s – What? Potatoes? Let me first explain that I don’t usually rave about a potato. In fact, there have been only two occasions in my long life where I’ve gotten excited about potatoes (actually there was a third but that involved propelling raw potatoes from a PVC pipe with a fairly substantial explosion—but I digress.) The first was in the late 1970s at a restaurant called the Old San Francisco House in San Antonio, Texas. They served a baked potato that is, to this day, the best I’ve ever had.
The second was when I ordered the filet mignon at Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian. The filet was accompanied by “Potato Gratin." To say they were very good is an understatement. In fact, they were so good I would encourage you to ask if they can be substituted for whatever other starch they serve with your entrée of choice. Tell ‘em I sent you (like that will get you anything.)
3. Barbecue Beef Short Ribs at Jiko – I rarely order any type of barbecued ribs mainly because they’re typically more trouble than they’re worth. Not so here. These ribs are cut-with-a-fork tender and, served with a potato-mushroom pavé and onion-garlic sauce, are the tastiest I’ve experienced. Jiko is located in the main building (Jambo House) at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s a little pricey but I’ve yet to have anything short of great food and service there… and the short ribs won’t disappoint.
4. Zebra Domes - While on the subject of the Animal Kingdom Lodge, we can’t bypass Boma. This is a favorite buffet and there are a number of items available that could make a Top Ten list—bobotie and/or potatoes with afritude (potatoes again, Steve? Really?) If I can only pick one, I’m going with the Zebra Domes. I had heard so many good things about these pastries, I knew it was probably going to be disappointing when I first tried one. It was not. Nor was the next one… or the next…
5 Mickey's Premium Ice Cream Bar - No trip to Disney World would be complete without a Mickey's Premium Ice Cream Bar. It’s only vanilla ice cream on a stick, coated in a frozen chocolate shell, and shaped like a classic Hidden Mickey… but they’re really good. Is there a better way to cool off on a hot Florida day than to find a bench in the Magic Kingdom and unwrap one of these frozen treats? I think not.
6. Blueberry Muffin from the Boardwalk Bakery - I’m a muffin kind of guy; which is to say I enjoy a good muffin for breakfast. I have also found that there is a fine line between breakfast and dessert. I once stopped at Starring Rolls in Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a coffee and a chocolate muffin. That chocolate muffin was much closer to a large slice of chocolate cake than any muffin I’ve ever had— not that I’m complaining, mind you. For my money, however, the class of Disney World quick breakfasts would be a blueberry muffin from the Boardwalk Bakery.
7. A Beer at the Rose and Crown Pub - This item is not really something you eat, but no trip is complete for me without a beer at the Rose and Crown Pub. It’s a great way to knock off the dust of your trip on arrival day, or just a way to get out of the Florida heat. Sit back and relax while you enjoy the ambience of a British pub. If you time your visit appropriately, you could be entertained by the song stylings of Pam Brody or the Hat Lady. I don’t have a single favorite here but will usually choose from a Black and Tan (half Bass Ale and half Guinness), a Bass Ale, or a Boddingtons English Pub Ale. Cheers!
8. Hamburger from the Big River Grille & Brewing Works - In my previously mentioned 2009 poll, I asked you to vote for your favorite on-site hamburger. Much to my surprise, you chose Pecos Bill's—and it drew 43% of your votes. I am certainly not looking to antagonize my readership but… oh, how wrong you were. I could live with the selection of a Beaches and Cream burger, but for my money, when I have a hamburger at Disney World it’s coming from the Big River Grille & Brewing Works.
9. Chocolate Shake at the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater - This will probably generate some groans, but I almost listed the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater as a choice for my best Disney World burger. It almost seems fashionable to bash the food at the Sci-Fi but I think they make a great burger as well as several other menu items… but a Big River burger wins out, in my opinion of course. However, we do visit the Sci-Fi on many of our trips, and, when there, I have to have a chocolate shake. These shakes are so thick there’s a reasonable chance of a double hernia as you’re trying to suck it through a straw—a spoon actually works a bit better. They’re thick, tasty, and based in ice cream; what more could you want?
10. Dole Whip - Everyone has his or her favorite treat from the Aloha Isle in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland. It may be a Citrus Swirl (frozen orange and vanilla soft serve ice cream), a Pineapple Float (pineapple or orange Dole Whip with pineapple juice), a Coke or Root Beet Float, or a Fresh Cut Pineapple Spear. However, if you visit Aloha Isle you owe it to yourself to grab a classic: the Dole Whip. On a hot Florida day, there’s nothing finer.
So there you have it… my Top 10 Things to Eat at Disney World. Are any of these items on your list? Is there a specific food or drink item that you absolutely have to have on each trip; something you can only find at a Disney park or resort? Send in your favorites and let me know if you agree or disagree with mine. Writing this has made me hungry. I need to go find a Zebra Dome now…