Round up: Top theme park restaurants

Posted Sunday, July 7, 2013 8:33 PM | Contributed by Jeff

What makes for good amusement park fare might be subjective, but we've ranked our list based on variety of offerings, value, quality of food, and reflection of the park and/or associated ride's theme.

Read more from USA Today.

Sunday, July 7, 2013 8:35 PM

I keep hearing from people who love Boma, but I'm not sure there's anything on the menu I would eat. Mythos is just "good," but I don't understand why people constantly rate it so highly (I would pick most of the Epcot restaurants first). Sci-Fi at DHS is a cool theme, but the food sucks. It's really mediocre park food.

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Sunday, July 7, 2013 9:14 PM

If Amusement Today says it's the best, well, it's the best. Too bad I don't get the sense the reporter was fortunate enough to try these places for themselves.

And if they were going to step outside the Disney theme parks for the list, where's California Grill at Contemporary? I haven't tried Boma, but for me CG is where it's at. Delicious California fusion quisine. The view of Magic Kingdom is spectacular through the windows and you can walk out on the roof. Oh, and it was like Proposal Land in there- men dropping to one knee all over the place.

Todd English's BlooZoo at the Dolphin was also a fine, memorable meal. The Dancing Fish is rotisseried on a flat, circular, spinning grill. So imaginative.

I liked Brown Derby at Disney Hollywood Studios, that's a good choice, but I would take Prime Time over Sci-Fi any day. Mom MADE me eat my carrots, and Scooter over there at the next table needed a haircut. We were thoroughly entertained and the meatloaf was yummy.

Graeter's, anymore, is just ok. That blackberry chip they mentioned is wildly popular in these parts, but I'll take the double chocolate. Chips so big sometimes you have to bite em in half.

That's all this evening, folks, from the Theme Park Gourmand.

Last edited by RCMAC, Sunday, July 7, 2013 9:23 PM
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Sunday, July 7, 2013 9:34 PM

I will second you on Boma and Sci-Fi.

We had a savanna view room that seemed like it also overlooked the back end of the kitchen area(Sunset Savanna). Granted we are a bit picky, but we rarely thought we smelled anything appetizing from there in the evening. They do have Zebra Domes, but you can grab them from The Mara (quick-service) too.

The only thing we gave a thumbs up from Sci-Fi was the Artichoke and Spinach dip, which my daughter loved. Otherwise, it was ok but I couldn't tell you anything else we had that night.

Last edited by WhyBoblo, Sunday, July 7, 2013 9:36 PM
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Sunday, July 7, 2013 10:00 PM

The article says 'quality of food' is just one of four criteria considered in the rankings.

When you consider value, theme and offerings - suddenly some of those that made the list make a little more sense.

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Sunday, July 7, 2013 11:35 PM

Maybe that's why people get all moist about Mythos. It might be one of the coolest structures ever made into a restaurant anywhere. Like I said, I've had good lunch there many times, but the most underrated restaurant at UO is easily NBA City. (Disclaimer: haven't been there since January, 2011.)

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Sunday, July 7, 2013 11:37 PM

That's true, Gonch, and reading back I realize many of my choices lean to the higher end non-themed experience.

I would agree that when at Dollywood a meal at Aunt Granny's or Miss Lillian's is fittin'. And at Knoebel's, pizza, pierogies, and taters is a good choice.

Last edited by RCMAC, Sunday, July 7, 2013 11:38 PM
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Monday, July 8, 2013 9:05 PM

I don't really see where Greater's qualifies, seeing as it is a chain outside the park as well.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013 4:13 PM

I do have to say - I've seen my fair share of Johnny Rockets in major parks. Cedar Point, SFMM, there might've been one at Kings Dominion (can't remember)...

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 10:40 PM

I read the list, and it seems like a big Disney commercial to me, and they just threw in the other parks to make it less Disney-ish. Granted that they probably do have good food. But, in all seriousness, how many people who visit theme parks are actually going to eat at some of these places. Especially the one, where they claim it is for members only?

It's obvious to most people that Disney is going to have top of the line eateries, and Epcot Center has some of the best in the country. My friend and I ate dinner at the Coral Dining room, at the "Living Seas" back in 1991, we had the jumbo shrimp platter, which was excellent. The setting was also cool, as you were seated next to the wall of a giant aquarium, where you could watch seat turtles and 500 pound grouper fish, stare at you while you eat your meal. We also ate at the German section, and the Italian section, where you ate dinner and could watch people float by on boats, on one of the rides.

We also did the "listen to the land" ride, and ate at the food court there for lunch. All the food we ate at Disney was excellent. Though Busch Gardens in Tampa also had some very nice places to eat. I'm surprised that none of those places were on the list.

Actually one of the best places I have had a really great meal was at the skyroom at Indiana beach. They also had great tacos there, and a another place that was really good, across from the tiger coaster. Though I can't recall if it was Mexican or Italian food. Though that was before the new owners took over. Not sure what it is like now.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 11:01 PM

What, no burritos?

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 11:09 PM

I haven't been to IB in several years, but "back in the day" the Skyroom had some pretty great food.

Mythos is "better than average park fare" at reasonable prices in a tremendous setting.

Dollyfood and Knoebels are both excellent choices for "grazing". Yes, that was an "intentional typo"....

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 11:11 PM

Theme park food is unbelievably expensive. Cheaper and better food can be found around town if you know where to look.

Last edited by bjames, Wednesday, July 10, 2013 11:12 PM
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 11:24 PM

Of course. I prefer, however, not to interrupt a day at the park by leaving to look for something to eat.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013 11:36 PM

Ehhh. Maybe.

Better food? Sure. In most cases.

Cheaper food? Marginally. I'm not sure the 'expensive' argument holds true across the board anymore. It's pretty easy to keep it cheap. Lately prices seem comparable to out-of-park prices to me.

I mean, I was recently surprised to learn that a biggie-sized Baconator meal at Wendy's runs $10 in my neck of the woods. You can easily find comparable prices in the parks.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 12:06 AM

Right.

And if you're at a park let's consider when you leave you're spending whatever fuel or transportation it takes to get off property and into town. The best scenario here is that you're at a beach boardwalk park, there's no real traveling, but in vacation towns food there tends to be raised in price everywhere anyway.

What sounds expensive to me is taking time away from a day at a park I've already spent some price to get into.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 12:27 AM

I'm not much of a seafood guy, but in reference to the comment about the coral dining room at the Living Seas, it's a good thing that aquatic life isn't super-emotional. Otherwise, it'd have to be super awkward watching their compatriots get devoured just on the other way of a glass wall.

"Oh my gosh, Frank! He just took a big bite out of your pan-seared, Cajun-seasoned brother!"

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 12:43 AM

"Um, look at your plate... Is that... NEMO?"

Found him!

Last edited by RCMAC, Thursday, July 11, 2013 12:52 AM
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Thursday, July 11, 2013 2:20 AM

When I was younger, I'd agree with your mentality about leaving the park to eat, Mac. I valued being in the park and riding rides more than eating. If I'm visiting a new park with limited time and a whole lot to do, that's still my mentality.

But when thinking about Cedar Point or Kings Island, where I've conquered everything in the park many times over, I often look forward to leaving the park for a lunch or dinner break. I never feel relaxed eating in parks really. It's mostly fast food or cafeteria-style eating...shove it down, throw your trash away, and get going, while others are sighing for a table.

A few years ago, my friends and I were craving a simple lunch of burgers, fries, and beer. This could have been accomplished within CP, but we decided to try Thirsty Pony for a change. The results: The burgers were at least twice the quality and twice as large, the drinks were significantly cheaper, and most importantly, the environment was very chill. The place was dead for lunch (thus the service was great), and we just ended up relaxing and socializing for 1+ hours over some giant beers.

The experience couldn't be replicated within CP, especially at that price point, and it has now become a tradition that I look forward to when going with those friends. So, depending on what one values, leaving the park to eat can definitely be worth it.

Gonch: You ate at KI's new Red's Hall of Fame Grille this year. How was the food quality / service / pricing in comparison to your typical sports bar and to what you've seen in other amusement parks? Would you eat there again?

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Thursday, July 11, 2013 2:59 AM

In a nutshell, the pricing was exactly what I'd expect at a casual dining chain restaurant and the food was exactly what I'd expect to find in an amusement park.

That is to say the overall value of the meal wasn't on the high end.

It's two parts of the equation and we've discussed it a bunch. In most cases the food in the park you get for the price isn't exactly great and that lowers the overall value. I don't dispute that.

But solely on cost, I don't find that food in the park is very far out of line compared to outside the park.

Which goes back to what I was saying:

Can you find better food? Sure. Can you find cheaper food? Not significantly.

The part I didn't add was:

Can you find a meal that is a better value outside the park (quality vs price)? Absolutely.

With all of that said, I've always been of the mindset that the time and effort to leave the park outweighs any gains (in terms of food quality/price/value) made by leaving.

(For most park things, I've found over the years that I'm more inclined to pay with money than time. This is no excpetion. I could take the time to find better food or a better value meal but the savings in money isn't worth as much as the loss in time to do so. But I digress...)

If you're talking something more (environment, experience, etc) then, to me, that's a different argument. This whole discussion is predicated on bjames comments of food that is "unbelievably expensive" and the idea that "cheaper and better food" can be found elsewhere.

I think the outside world has slowly crept up in price and I think the parks have become more conscious about offering 'deals' inside the park. There's been compression and it doesn't feel as cut-and-dry to just easily say, "Amusement park food is unbelievably expensive."

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