We’ll go Land-by-Land at Magic Kingdom to see what’s going on around the Park. Six or seven visits over the last two weeks will comprise these posts and I think one massive 40,000 word/5,000 picture treatise would be even more intimidating than taking pictures with anything other than an iPad. It may also offer an opportunity to focus on some things that are otherwise glossed over in favor of incremental price increases on fountain beverages.
And speaking of inconsequential menu changes, we’ll start there at Cosmic Ray’s.
For years and years, the popular Tomorrowland eatery had operated much like the quick service outlets at the Value and Moderate Resorts, offering separate “Bays” each offering different entrees. At the resorts, it makes some sense as there is limited space behind each area to prepare food. They cook the burgers at the burger place. They put together sandwiches at the sandwich place. They ruin lives at the pizza place. It all comes together, though it can be frustrating when junior wants pepperoni pizza, other junior wants a pulled pork sandwich, other junior wants create-your-own pasta, other junior wants wine braised short ribs, and mom wants to go anywhere but here. At Cosmic Ray’s, the whole kitchen is situated behind the registers and while there might be some rhyme and reason to why they could pass rotisserie chicken to Bay 1 but not Bay 2 circa 2015, it appears that all things are now possible.
These days, Cosmic Ray’s at least can operate with one menu available at all Bays, though it remains to be seen if they sometimes or often go back to offering different entrees in different lines. You may also notice that the once massive menu has been cut to just nine options, two of which are chicken entrees and two of which are different takes on hamburgers.
Ribs are no longer offered at Cosmic Ray’s. You can still find them at Flame Tree Barbecue and Fairfax Fare.
You might remember that Disney used to offer a standalone ribs entree before removing it and serving them only as a combo with the chicken. For a while, ribs were only available after 4pm, ostensibly to reduce the value of the Disney Dining Plan so guests couldn’t order the $17 entree for both lunch and dinner. With the increasing quick service prices, Disney had recently did away with that. But now, ribs aren’t available at all.
The Turkey Sandwich, while about as far away from being anything special as possible, was also something a little different and at least something approaching healthy. You won’t find it on the menu anymore.
The Vegetable Burger is out in favor of Falafel.
You’ll also have to travel to Casey’s Corner as the last bastion of fancifully topped hot dogs at Magic Kingdom. They’re no longer available here.
On the sides and desserts front, we lose both gelato flavors, which is a shame as the cold treat were quite refreshing on hot days.
I don’t think Greek Yogurt will offer the same relief.
I also liked the Chicken Noodle Soup, which is no longer available.
One short-lived item that I really liked, but I’m not sure if anybody else ever tried, was the Cheese Tortellini. I would love to see these elsewhere.
THERE WILL BE NO DISCUSSION OF THE ANGUS PIZZA BURGER.
But let’s not reminisce about the past for too long or I’ll start talking about Horizons and the Skyway.
This is the “new” $15.99 1/2 Chicken and Pulled Pork Combo with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans.
I say “new” because it is just the old chicken with a pretty sad scoop of the same “pulled pork” that’s served in between a bun for $11.99. I would otherwise characterize the combo as “just okay.” It’s a decent value on the Disney Dining Plan as $15.99 is about as expensive as quick service entrees get these days, but the chicken is considerably lower quality than what you’d pick up at Costco and the pork arrives vacuum sealed in huge food service bags. Our beans were overcooked, greasy, and flavorless, and the texture of the potatoes is suspect. The pulled pork is the same quality as you’d expect from a tub of Curly’s.
If you’re after rotisserie chicken at one quick service on your trip then I’d make it Sunshine Seasons, where they do a slightly better job and the side choices are better and more numerous.
The Greek Salad has been a menu mainstay at Cosmic Ray’s for years. This is the version that was served before Disney added chicken.
This is the current version. The ingredients are largely the same minus the cucumber – there’s greens, tomato, red onion, banana peppers, and kalamata olives topped with feta cheese and the seasoned, baked chicken breast.
And I really liked this one – we were served incredibly fresh, crunchy vegetables and the creamy, oily Greek vinaigrette offered some nice garlic, vinegar, pepper, and oregano notes. The chicken on top adds a lot of protein in a relatively healthy package and while a bit dry, it was livened up nicely after being cut up and mixed with the salad. While there isn’t a ton of feta hiding underneath, the gentle tang contrasts nicely with the dressing. It’s a unique dish that is one of the better overall entrees at Magic Kingdom. Recommended.
The $14.99 Barbecued Pork Bacon Cheeseburger with French Fries is a relatively standard Disney quick service offering these days. Or it at least continues the trend of adding a couple of toppings to the burger as an excuse to charge $3 extra.
But it actually works relatively well here as the pork offers a nice barbecue flavor with the sauce aiding the dryness of what is often an overcooked burger. The bacon was crispier and higher quality than I was expecting and there was a decent slice of cheese on it. As far as Disney burgers go, you could do a lot worse, though it’s hard to justify it as standing out on the value front. We are in average territory here.
$11.99 buys you the Falafel Burger, which is served bare in between a lackluster bun. Disney has actually been moving toward a brioche bun on a lot of their other sandwiches and hopefully they will come around to serving their burgers on them as well, though it would date my hundreds of hamburger photos.
Here’s what that bun looks like on the Grilled Buffalo Chicken Sandwich over at Liberty Inn at Epcot. It’s a lot softer with a buttery flavor that doesn’t detract from the important stuff in between.
This is served with a (not pictured) tzatziki sauce that it desperately needs – the patty is extremely dry and bland without it. This could otherwise use more coherent toppings – red onion, hummus, leaf lettuce, and a smarter sauce would go a long way, in addition to it being more interesting served on a soft pita. But it is literally the only vegetarian item on the menu, and it’s a little more interesting than the defrosted black bean patty or vegetable burger that was previously offered. Otherwise, it’s a somewhat decent vegetarian offering once it’s dressed up.
Cosmic Ray’s does offer a toppings bar, though it pales in comparison to what’s now offered at Restaurantosaurus.
Not topping the burgers in the kitchen to each guest’s specifications makes things more efficient for cast members, but the toppings bars have always struck me a little gross. They are at least high enough off the ground that kids sticking their hands in them is unlikely. Dad…you never know.
Don’t sleep on the Sriracha Aoili though. It has a nice, mild spiciness to it and is creamier than you might be expecting. Even if it probably won’t go well on the Barbecued Pork Sandwich, the fries do dip very nicely into it if that’s your sort of thing.
As I mentioned on the Electric Umbrella review, another trend with some quick service entrees is adding another side to increase the price by a dollar or two. But only on some. I’m not real sure why the Grilled Chicken Club arrives with two sides while the other sandwiches only come with one. Omitting a side should reduce the price, though it’s no longer the $2 guarantee that it would have been two years ago.
I will mention that the side of Mac & Cheese is substantial and may actually make a single entree easier to share among two people.
Cosmic Ray’s has added the “S’mores” that used to be served at Herbie’s over at Hollywood Studios. That outlet is obviously closed as is everything else along the Streets of America. Above is the version that we ordered at Ray’s, which is 50 cents less than at Herbie’s.
This is what the inside looks like over at Studios. They taste almost exactly like a S’mores Pop Tart, which may or may not be a good thing, though the exterior is a lot softer and puffier than the denser toaster strudel. They are “just okay” in my estimation – more interesting than the other dessert options if you are on the Dining Plan, but your four bucks can take you further elsewhere.
Overall, not a lot has changed about Cosmic Ray’s even if what it offers is a bit different than it would have been a few years ago. The Greek Salad impresses, but the rest of it is your basic Disney quick service food at ever-increasing prices. The fact that the menu is the same at each Bay may prove helpful, though the reduction in choices is perhaps a bummer. You’ll still find me at Pecos Bill or Columbia Harbour House. At least if it wasn’t for these reviews.
This past Friday I was out and about from 9am-11pm, starting the day at Hollywood Studios with the Dr. Strange show before moving on to Riverside for lunch and then over to Magic Kingdom for the debut of the Once Upon A Time show. Since I hadn’t gotten in my Starbucks order in time and didn’t want to wait in line myself, I trotted over to Auntie Gravity’s in Tomorrowland.
And I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the French Vanilla Iced Coffee Float. For only a dime more than the regular Iced Coffee, you get nearly as much liquid with a decent swirl of soft serve on top. Combined, I thought the flavor was surprisingly close to Butterbeer…somehow…and at a minimum, it’s a very refreshing, slightly caffeinated drink. I think it’s worth seeking out.
A couple of weeks ago, Disney re-added the sorely missed Cream Cheese Pretzel to the Lunching Pad (get it…lunching…) in Tomorrowland.
These are exactly the same as before and arrive at the $4.79 price point.
In my opinion, these pretzels are at least slightly overrated – they would be a lot better if they were served hotter and they have been spinning inside the heater for who knows how long. But they are a somewhat unique treat, even if the portion is considerably smaller than what you’d get at Gaston’s Tavern with one of their cinnamon rolls. The pretzel is otherwise soft and chewy with the sweet cream cheese injected inside. You could do a lot worse and I think you’ll be more satisfied with these than the artificial-tasting s’mores at Ray’s.
We’ll take a look around Tomorrowland next.