Top 3 Theme Park Foods

Editorials and Rants Top 3 Thursdays

Everyone knows that theme park food is expensive, terrible tasting and terrible for you. For the most part, those assumptions are all too true. Yet after much diligent research-read, being a pig-I have uncovered three food items that actually are worth the money, even if most of them are still pretty terrible for you.

Now then, before anybody gets all huffy, these are subjective reviews, based on what I personally like to eat, so if you’re a vegan or just have a vastly different palate than I do, it doesn’t mean we can’t still be buddies. That said, I did do a few early eliminators. All of the food on my list is counter-service based; ideally being the kind of thing you could carry with you, or of course sit at those little tables that no matter the park, are always filthy.

Although dessert options were considered, I wanted the list to be composed primarily of entrees. Any dessert exceptional enough to be included of course will be. So here we go, let’s slog together through the mires of awful pizza, deep fried cakes, and other foods even worse than that found at your local Arby’s. Did I mention most theme park food is awful?

Nathan’s Hot Dogs at Six Flags Great Adventure, numerous other parks
A Nathan’s dog is not like a normal hot dog, and if you’ve had one, you already knew that. Nathan’s dogs are like the kind you’d get from a butcher’s shop to cook for yourself at home. They’re not all junk meats; Nathan’s actually uses good stuff in their dogs.

Nathan’s dogs have a natural casing, so you get that nice little snap when you bite into one. The stands always have tons of condiments, I’m a mustard man myself, and service is almost always fast, because, after all, it’s just a hot dog. Nathan’s dogs are without a doubt the best hot dog I’ve ever had that wasn’t purchased at a specialty shop, and the only dog I would consider food at a theme park.

Nathan’s dogs have the added plus of being the featured food item in the annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest on Coney Island, and aired live on ESPN. If you’ve never seen it, and have interest in men throwing up hot dogs on themselves, protip: they call it a reversal, its must see TV.

Fried Chicken on a Waffle with Gravy at Knoebels Amusement Park
You’re wrong, it does sound good. No seriously, this is one of those classic combinations that could only have been thought up by someone who was in college and probably inebriated. It sounds weird, but really think about it. Crispy fried chicken, fresh homemade waffles, and awesome gravy, that’s not just for frat boys at 3 A.M. anymore!

Seriously though, it’s super good, and so is most of the food at Knoebels. They’ve got everything, from multiple types of cheesecake slices to choose from, to fried alligator bites (they taste like chicken), to numerous other options.

Pretty Much Everything at Epcot, Disney World
This really wasn’t even a question. Epcot has pretty much everything, and it’s all pretty good. Like to munch on sushi and tacos at the same time? Not a problem at Epcot. Want to eat fish and chips and then suck down some Moroccan kabobs? Again, not a problem at Epcot.

Thanks to the World Showcase, a gathering of buildings, rides and shows that encircle a giant reflecting pool, Epcot was a shoe-in for first. These building are run by people actually from their representative nations, so if you want crepes (and you’ll probably want crepes at some point, let’s be honest), an actual French Chef will be preparing them for you.

The last time I was at Epcot, it was dusk, I was drinking a properly tempered Guinness draft and trying to figure out where I was going to eat dinner. It was a genuine problem, and I consoled myself by walking with my brother-in-law around the park, enjoying the sights and sounds as we ate small plates of food from the various nations. Finally stuffed to our gills, we left, and for once in my life, I was happy there wasn’t a coaster in sight.

An Addendum: I know I said at the start that I wasn’t going to allow the inclusion of table service restaurants, one of the former Epcot restaurants really does deserve a mention. I’m speaking of course, of the legendary Alfredo’s. Alfredo’s, home to quite delicious Italian cuisine, was shut down after repeated requests from EMTs working at the park.

It seems that Alfredo’s butter and cream rich entrees, coupled with the Florida heat, were causing guests to drop left and right from heart attacks and strokes after exiting the restaurant. Think about how rarely a coaster is shut down due to human injury, and then try and wrap your head around Medical personnel, screaming like Chief Brody in Jaws to close the beaches, and accept the reality that a restaurant was allowed to kill people. Somehow I don’t think repeated throw offs on Kingda Ka are going to fly any time soon.

Honorable Mentions: Sandwiches from Chick Fil-A (King’s Island), Turkey legs (Hershey Park/Disney), and Slushees (Cedar Point).

What’s Your Take?
What are some of your favorite things to eat at theme parks? Which theme parks have the best overall food? Leave a comment below. Image 2 courtesy of Coaster Image.

18 Comments

  1. At Six Flags Great Adventure i had a very good cheesesteak this year. Kings Dominion pulled pork was ok but horrible for a pulled pork sandwich. Busch Gardens Europe BBG is overated IMO but I like Das Festhaus food.

  2. Bam like slushies. And Popcorn! but where are the funnel cakes?

  3. Great post!

    Best food write ups are always tricky beasts. The scope is so large that, as you did, it must be narrowed down in order to have any amount of success. I’d be interested to hear what your top three table service restaurants are!

  4. As I said in the intro, only a truly excellent dessert would be considered, and while I’ve had some great funnel cakes, I’ve had just as many that were greasy and disgusting. Although, now that you mention it, Epcot has some great funnel cakes by the American pavilion.

    • YES! WE are the funnle cake champions!

  5. I go to EPCOT nearly once a year. (Sometimes more!) But if you sum it up, the Moroccan restraunt food in my opinion taste rather strange and has little variety. But I can't speak much of the cultural aspect of EPCOT as a professional, as I spend most of my time in Future World riding Mission Space and Test Track.

    • Mission space and test track were my favorites thger too.

      • omg, epcot is the best. my parents used to work their 🙂 best childhood ever 🙂

        • not epcot, MK. i was thinking of disney in general.

  6. The succotash at Silver Dollar City is great. About one of the only reasons I go there.

    • realy, i thought it looked prettey cool.

  7. I am going down to Florida this year and one stop includes Epcot. Since my budget is a little tight, I shall have to endure Epcot’s crepes raher than spending $5,000 on a one-way plane ticket to France and you don’t know what the people are saying!

  8. I`d say the Papa jon's at six flags are prettey good, and you get plentey of coupons for it in the season pass book.

  9. Oh, man. I'd Best of the West BBQ at Great Adventure is better than Nathan's… but of course, I can't expect you to hit everything in the park. (I go at least once a week during the summer)

  10. I like Johney's at SF Discovery Kingdom, but the best dish in the theme park industry are the hot dogs at the Dipper Diner in the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in my opinion. Mmmm… just thinking about them makes me hungry!

  11. Why is it that the food you get in chain restaurants taste way better than the food at that same restaurant in an amusement park? Well, if you're unfortunate enough to wind up in Six Flags America (I got a free ticket and actually did have a blast..), the cheesesticks at Papa John's actually taste better than the ones you get at an actual Papa John's. Don't know how that's possible, but it is. And they're pretty cheap, too. Unfortunately, they don't have marinara for dipping. :/

  12. OMG, epcot has THE BEST HONEY MUSTARD EVEEEEEER!!!!! GET FRIES, CHICKEN TENDERS AND HONEY MUSTART WHEN YOU GO OMG BEST EVER!!!! 🙂

    • oops, mustard.

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