Monday, October 13, 2008

On Disney Dining

Get off the Interstate at any large exit, and you'll see three kinds of restaurants:
  1. Fast food (McDonalds, Burger King, etc.)
  2. Medium-priced family restaurant chains (Applebees, Chilis, Red Lobster, etc.)
  3. Ethnic cuisine (Chinese restaurants, Italian restaurants, etc.)
This is what the American consumer is used to. In our hometowns, we may frequent a Mom 'n Pop restaurant we know to be good, but when we're on the road our tastes generally fall into one of the above categories. Visit American consumer Mecca Disney World, however, and you get something very different. Disney restaurants usually offer either fast food or haute cuisine. Burgers or escargot. Sure, there are exceptions, like Animal Kingdom's Flame Tree Barbecue or the Frontierland Turkey Leg stand. Broadly speaking, however, the table service restaurants offer little of the comforting familiarity of the steaks, chicken, and seafood dishes that appear on the menus at Chili's, Applebee's, or Texas Roadhouse. Ordering spaghetti at EPCOT's Italian restaurant? It's got clams in it. Clams. Shouldn't clams in your spaghetti be something you have to specially request, like anchovies on your pizza? It shouldn't just come that way. And this being Disney, the prices are horribly inflated. A tiny plate of baby back ribs at Animal Kingdom's Yak and Yeti restaurant will run you $22.99. Basically, you pay Chili's prices for Burger King-quality food, and if you want Chili's quality food, then you pay whatever you would pay at Chili's if you wanted them to coat everything in gold.

And don't get me started on EPCOT's Coral Reef restaurant. One might expect an expensive seafood restaurant in the same building as the world's second-largest saltwater aquarium to offer at least the same variety of seafood as Red Lobster, right? Wrong. The Coral Reef's menu has only ten entrees on it, five of which are s
eafood dishes. Sad, sad, sad. But don't take my word for it. You can check out the menu right here. You can also read a review of the restaurant (apparently, the reviewer chose to go on a day when every employee in the place was having a bad day. Including the chef). Maybe things will change there now that the Seas pavilion is more kid-centric, but it woudn't surprise me if the only additions made to the menu were fish sticks and mac-'n-cheese.

You might protest that I'm being an unsophisticated yokel for complaining about this, and you're probably right. But, judging from the menus at America's most popular restaurants, most people are like me. Sure, we know that Disney kind of has us over a barrel, since we can't exactly leave the property at lunchtime. I just wish they weren't so obvious about taking advantage of it.

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