Top Eats: Quick Service Dining in the Magic Kingdom.

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I’m going to just come right out and say it:  I’m a bit hard to please when it comes to food.  I like to cook and I like using good ingredients, so when I’m served bad food, I get a bit grumpy, particularly when I’m paying a lot for it.   So when Chip asked me to write this, I paused for a minute.  I want to give my honest opinion but I don’t want to sound like a food snob because, let’s be honest, the food police are pretty annoying.  So I decided to shelve my inner snarkiness–you don’t want to see me around a plate of Figaro Fries–and focus on the good when it comes to Magic Kingdom quick service, because there’s a lot of good out there.

First thing’s first:  There’s more to theme park food than burgers, fries and hot dogs and you know if anyone is going to do that right, it’s going to be Disney.  Yes, you’ll find plenty of fast food, so much so that in a fog of hunger, you might miss some real highlights, but it’s out there.  And second, you can eat quick service meals in the Magic Kingdom regardless of your dietary needs, be that vegetarian, gluten-free, or even kosher.  Besides Epcot, the Magic Kingdom has perhaps the best selection for those with dietary restrictions.  Here are five of my favorites that I think give you a good value in taste, quality and price.

5.  Cosmic Rays Starlight Cafe.  This place is huge and often busy with something for everyone. Decent roasted chicken, wraps, salads and yes, burgers.  Many people swear by the burgers at Pecos Bill, but my favorite Magic Kingdom burger can be found here.  You can even request a kosher meal or a gluten free roll. Be sure to try the Chicken and Ribs combo as its one of Magic Kingdoms best deals!

4.  Turkey Legs in Adventureland.  You’ll smell it first, so you won’t need directions.  It’s like a Siren’s Song to meat eaters.  Okay, it’s all protein and a lot of fat, but for $7.59 you get enough for two people (or one teenage boy).  You can even use your quick service dining plan credits here; you’ll also get dessert (usually a cookie) and a drink.   This isn’t a diet meal, but it’s cheap and if you’re not into a lot of carbs and you want something fast and different, this is a good choice.  Besides tasting really good,  you’ll get a chance to get in touch with your inner Barbarian and embarrass your spouse while you walk around the park gnawing on a big piece of meat.  On busy days when lunchtime lines are out the door, these carts rarely have more than a ten minute wait for service and also sell surprisingly good single serving pizzas. Check out this fun picture of a Gigantic Smoked Turkey Leg.

3. Columbia Harbor House in Liberty Square, just across from the Haunted Mansion.  One of those overlooked locations, there’s usually seating upstairs even on the busiest days.  This is a great choice for vegetarians, who can sample the vegetarian chilli or the Lighthouse Sandwich.  The fried fish is crispy and not overly fishy, although the less said about the tarter sauce the better.

2.  Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station.  Stir fries, noodle bowls, salads and kid-friendly nuggets and hot dogs, this is a great  choice for something that’s both healthy and different, with plenty of good vegetarian choices as well.    I give Disney credit:  How many theme parks dare to serve tofu?!   And manage to do it well enough that even meat eaters like it?  Well, Disney has managed to do just that here.  The joke among Disney fans is that it’s rarely open and when it is, it’s usually during the busiest times of the year, although I’ve also seen it open during the middle part of December when the parks weren’t all that busy.  Definitely worth checking out.   You know, if it happens to be open.

1.  Main Street Bakery.  Other than the long lines, this is my favorite lunch stop in the Magic Kingdom.     The sandwich selection isn’t huge, but the quality is excellent with nice vegetarian options and gluten free rolls available.  It’s also a good buy on if you’re on the meal plan. I generally am not crazy about the desserts that come with quick service meals, but since they’re included, I feel strangely compelled to take one even if I know I’m probably not going to eat it.  At the Main Street Bakery, I actually eat it and more importantly, enjoy it.


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