Dining at the Disney parks is touch and go. Food quality ranges from meh to really good, but in terms of price, you really do get what you pay for. But let’s be honest, we’re not paying for the food so much as we’re paying for the experience.
I love that Disney has a wide variety of food options from hot dogs to free-range plancha-seared chicken, with restaurants themed to colonial bed and breakfasts, Polynesian luaus, French cafés, American kitchenettes from the 1950’s, wine cellars, open markets, Mexican cantinas, English pubs, and standard open cafeterias. These are fine, and I’m glad not every eatery needs backstory, but at the same time…why not really go forth and make some of the restaurants and food we see in our favorite movies and TV shows? Why not serve them up at the theme parks?
This list might not have even come to fruition had I not seen someone on Twitter asking Disney for a Bob’s Burgers restaurant, and it’s like…Can you chill out? Like, yeah, Disney bought 20th Century Fox, and now own the rights, but I’m still waiting on…
10. Jumbeaux’s Cafe
Zootopia raised a lot of questions about how a world consisting of mammals operated from a culinary perspective, particularly in the predator-prey dichotomy. One key scene in the movie showed our heroes, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde, first meet in an ice cream parlor. Sadly, it’s not a terribly cheerful encounter as Nick and partner-in-crime Finnick are in the middle of a con and Judy is watching a naked display of prejudice from proprietor Jerry Jumbeaux Jr, a gruff elephant who has no interest in serving foxes.
Ice cream is certainly an abundant treat at Disney, from Dole Whips to the ice cream bars. But most ice cream parlors in the parks lack a seating area as shown in the film, and recreating the vintage aesthetic, not unlike the ones seen on Main Street U.S.A. is inherently part of the charm. True, we may never see the gargantuan jumbo pops or the comically large boulders of ice cream showered in peanuts. But I see nothing wrong with this being a nice theme-in-name-only ice cream parlor while guests milled about Grand Floridian. Maybe if Conservation Station at Animal Kingdom gets that Zootopia remodel, it might fit there, too.
9. The Lucky Cat Cafe
I am one of those millenials that does not have a particular attachment to coffee, much less to Starbucks. I was not upset when the franchise was crammed into the parks, mostly because they at least adapted each one specifically to their respective themed lands. That was pretty cool. A product people want and like (more than likely a step up from Jeffrey’s) and it fit itself appropriately. But what if they set up a coffee shop and emphasized the Disney theming?
The Lucky Cat Cafe from Big Hero 6 was significant primarily as Hiro’s home upstairs and Aunt Cass’ business. It got greater exposure in the subsequent TV series, showcasing its offerings, from tea and coffee to sandwiches, macarons, pies, salads, and smoothies. This sounds like a great little corner to grab a bite. Despite the American food, why not tuck it in the Japan pavilion at Epcot?
Also, this place would benefit GREATLY if Baymax greeted guests. As a robot himself, an animatronic baymax could look great interacting with guests believably. And why not have him offer health tips, too? I wouldn’t mind chomping on a sandwich while the white droid in the corner reminds me to wear sunscreen with the appropriate SPF and drink plenty of water. Just seems like the nice thing to do.
I find it hilarious how hard kid’s show writers tried so damn hard to make mature things palatable for kids as if we were stupid. Swearing got reduced to “heck”, “darn”, or some terrible made-up word. Guns were replaced with lasers. And of course you can’t have alcohol, so bars in cartoons serve…uh…ice cream! Yeah, that’s it! So yeah, I’m 35 years old, I’m a little drunk, and I want a freaking Krakatoa Special!
Um…my point is that Louie’s in TaleSpin was a great set piece not unlike Trader Sam’s, a tiki bar where the proprietor, one orangutan by the name of Louie, was all-too-happy to serve up several different kinds of frozen desserts, smoothies, and meals to his aviator clientele (Even freeloaders like Baloo). Honestly, if I were looking for a themed environment to sell the popular Dole Whip, it’d be here.
I took this picture several years ago, at the Polynesian Resort. Small? Sure. But not a bad corner to turn into Louie’s in a pinch. Besides, the lagoon’s right there. Tie the Seaduck up to the dock to sell it.
Mudka’s Meat Hut Kronk’s Diner
Of all the eateries in the Disney canon, few had as much screen time as Mudka’s Meat hut, home of the mug of meat. In this bizarre scene, Pacha, Kuzco, Kronk, and Yzma all stop by to grab something to eat, and it becomes a fracas in and of itself. I may not be terribly interested in the OG restaurant itself, but it does win points for being a nice place to sit.
Of course, per the canon backstory of 2005’s Kronk’s New Groove, Kronk Pepikrankentiz is the chef and head delivery boy of the restaurant. Naturally, the rebranding is going to be more interesting and aesthetically less gross than the original name to the average park guest. Now does this mean they’ll stop serving the pill bug special with bamboo straws, the onion logs, the pork combos, the fish-shaped steaks, or the undoubtedly famous mug of meat? Logistically, yeah, that tracks. Still, Kronk could whip up some interesting culinary cuisines, not even bound by the film’s setting, considering it was so highly anachronistic. Especially spinach puffs. Gotta have those.
I’ll always suggest this be placed in South America, the land I deemed to replace Dinoland U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, replacing Restaurantosaurus. But I’m sure there might be some corner of Adventureland worth expanding.
Bonus points if every few minutes, Patrick Warburton can be heard over the speakers calling out pickups, rattling off diner speak, or general ramblings of an incoherent nature. Bonus bonus points if you get the giant sombrero and foil llama on your birthday.
6. Louis’ Seafood Kitchen
When I think of seafood at Disney, the only place that comes to mind is the Coral Reef at Epcot, sadistically in the same building at the aquarium that is The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Still, there’s not a lot of places that specifically serve seafood, and why not base it off one of the few chefs in the Disney canon?
There’s lot of restaurants that aren’t particularly themed strongly on the properties. Louis’ is malleable enough to fit just about anywhere with an old-world setting, judging by the kitchen’s decor we see in The Little Mermaid. However, it’s pretty clear Louis’ specialty is seafood, and that alone is strong enough to warrant a decent table service restaurant. Though given most people would rather not think about their food as having once been alive at one point, I doubt “Les Poissons” would be playing on the dining room’s ambiance.
Like all of you, I fell in love with Encanto. Such an explosion of color and music wrapped around a delightful story about family, and at last, knowing we can all finally talk about Bruno.
You might recall Julieta, Mirabel’s mother and a second-generation Madrigal, blessed with the ability to have her cooking heal the sick and injured. As we saw in the movie, her arepa con queso can heal anything from minor cuts to broken wrists. Now, it’s cool enough to have either a corner eatery or refreshment cart in Adventureland, Animal Kingdom, or even as a Colombian booth during Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival named after her. But consider what a refreshment is, but something to revitalize you when you’re fatigued…in fact, one could say a refreshment “heals” you from exhaustion.
Of course, her famous arepa con queso would be the headliner, possibly followed by carimañolas, almojábanas, empanadas, and chicharrons as enticing exposures to Colombian cuisine. Familiar dishes to American or international tourists? Maybe not. But I never knew what an arepa was until the movie and now I wanna try one. That’s gotta count for something.
4. House of Mouse
I know, for all my griping about House of Mouse, I sure do seem to invoke it a lot with positivity. And that fact only better serves my greater point: the show’s premise was good. It was clever. It was awesome. Problem was the fact it had all these great parts to it and instead squandered its existence on framing sub-par Mickey Mouse shorts. And while I hold out hope a rebooted series with bigger budget could be in the cards, I’d have just as much luck waiting for Song of the South to come out on Disney+.
But let’s be real: this restaurant has everything necessary to be brought to life. It has cool architecture. It has theming. It has a menu. It even could fit PERFECTLY in Disneyland’s Toontown. Of course, it’d be missing arguably its biggest appeal: the kaleidoscope of Disney characters. Honestly, why not make one of the support columns and turn it into Willie the Giant’s bottom half? You could even make limited-range animatronics of larger guests like Elliott the dragon at a table. But really, I think some simple murals of characters filling even more tables would be fine. But you gotta get more than just Alice, Simba, Elsa, Peter Pan, and Buzz Lightyear…the Instagrammers and Tiktokers will lose their minds when you toss in Darkwing Duck, Professor Owl, Clopin, Horned King, Dodger, Goliath, Robin Hood, and other esoteric characters thrown in to round out the crowds.
Plus, it already comes with a stage and screen, so you can easily scroll through various Disney shorts: from the vintage to the Paul Rudish ones, and the stage even offers opportunities for all sorts of live acts to perform.
But now the question is…does The Emperor’s New Gravy get served here or at Kronk’s Diner? Both? Both. Both is good.
3. La Ratatouille
You know this was going to pop up.
The France pavilion at Epcot already has Chefs de France and Bistro de Paris, but now that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure has opened, there’s no better time to open the eatery we saw at the finale, complete with an open ceiling, where we can see Remy’s nest casually dining.
Of course ratatouille would be served, but the restaurant would also serve other local, less fancy cuisines. After all, if you recall, Colette referred to it as a “peasant dish”, and both the eateries in the France pavilion serve some pretty sophisticated stuff. No harm in serving some homier meals, especially those who’ve ever wondered exactly what ratatouille tasted like.
Honestly, it’s a crime that Disney’s most beloved chef character doesn’t have their own restaurant yet. And as cool as it might be to have Gusteau’s, I think La Ratatouille is something we’d all like.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, there already IS a Tony’s: Tony’s Town Square Restaurant at the entrance of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. And to that I say “So what?” I mean, it’s Tony’s in name only.
So let’s say if I were given a license to remodel. And a decent budget. Well, first, I’d open up the outdoor seating to include that little stretch between the restaurant and the Chapeau. The alleyway is by far the most enduring scene of the movie, and there are plenty of adults who’d LOVE to recreate the famous spaghetti scene. So why not remodel the patio to look like the iconic set?
Another issue I have is it doesn’t feel like a first-generation Italian bistro. Not that i want the restaurant to look dirty, but there’s a shame in that it looks as polished as it does. I’m not even saying it should look cheap. But part of the appeal I see in Tony’s is when it comes to local ethnic restaurants, there’s a certain appeal that the strength of the establishment being a comfortable place to get a home-cooked meal. Sure, spruce it up with some lovely Italian-inspired art, maybe a grapevine dangling by the wine selection, but save the grand, pristine opulence for Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table.
And honestly, I’ve always felt a true pizzeria establishment was missing from the WDW experience. Yes, you can’t really cart a pizza box of leftovers when you ride Space Mountain, but I think there’s something to be said about a family-oriented-style meal at a family-oriented themed resort. Not pizza by the slice, but an honest-to-gods, true “Here’s a large half pepperoni, half cheese pizza, now share nicely” type of dining experience that hasn’t been really explored.
And honestly, doesn’t this all sound better than what the Magic Kingdom already has?
1. Tiana’s Palace
Laissez les bonne tempes roulez, mes amis!
Like Remy, Tiana is shown to be a great chef, but she specializes in cajun cuisine, which isn’t really explored too much in the parks, even during Mardi Gras.
This one makes the most sense out of all of these because 1.) With New Orleans Square stretching its reach to include Splash Mountain starring our Princess and the Frog friends, it only makes sense to include this right next door.
2.) The Hungry Bear Restaurant is a left over from when Critter Country used to be Bear Country with the Country Bear Jamboree and almost nothing else. Now, with really only Pooh and friends becoming the only residents, it only really makes sense to make what’s left of Critter Country “Pooh Corner”.
3). I don’t know what Disneyland does for Mardi Gras or any sort of celebrate Mardi Gras, but this would be a great location to really lean into the celebratory elements, especially if the restaurant comes with a stage and they let Louis perform.
4.) If it can’t be built in Disneyland, Port Orleans – French Quarter in Florida would definitely have space to build the establishment. Like Victoria and Albert’s, or California Grill, there’s something to be said about a nice table service restaurant, even next to a hotel where statues of alligators playing instruments line the walkways (then again, alligators with musical instruments are not unheard of in Princess and the Frog)
And of course, those beignets covered in honey and powdered sugar look amazing. I pretty much need one.
I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for some cool dining establishments. I hope we can see these places can be realized one day, and I can get some great meals in some really cool backdrops. Did I miss any you really want? Let me know!
No! Not Bob’s Burgers! We talked about this!