Walt Disney World has long had a partnership with McDonald’s, although in recent years that’s evident only through a gigantic restaurant within walking distance of the All-Star Resorts. In this WDW dining review, we’ll share a photo tour from inside this de facto Disney “food court” and offer some deep thoughts on Big Macs, modern design, and burger wars.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll start by admitting that this is a “contractual obligation” post. (Same idea as when actors from a blockbuster Disney movie appear in the Christmas day parade, or Bill Paxton’s enthusiastic turn in the Twister…Ride It Out pre-show.) I’ve been anxiously awaiting the completion of the All-Star McDonald’s for months, half-joking to Sarah that we were going to rope drop it on opening day to order and eat the entire menu for the sake of research.
Not sharing my McDonald’s mania, her response was that we could do that if it was important for me to write a post about it. I said that it was a moral imperative–my solemn duty as a Disney blogger. Since this is a McDonald’s and you all already know what the fast food behemoth serves, that was an obvious lie. I knew that, she knew that, and now you know that.
Anyway, that’s how we ended up with this post: my voracious appetite for Big Macs. (If you were to see the healthy foods we’ve been eating while stuck at home, I think you’d understand.)
The good news is that, unlike Bill Paxton, I’m very happy to be here. The new-look All-Star McDonald’s is actually a fascinating restaurant, so that helps. Moreover, I have a lot of random thoughts about the fast food industry, and I’ve been looking for the appropriate opportunity to unleash those upon the world.
The bad news is that this is not an “everything on the menu” review of the All-Star McDonald’s.
While mentally and physically preparing my body for this endeavor, I checked out the menu on the McDonald’s app to see what I’d be up against. As it turned out, I totally forgot this location charges the Walt Disney World ‘on-site overtax.’ I love you all and I love eating burgers even more, but I very much do not love overpaying for fast food. Sorry.
Trying to find the silver lining in everything these days, my disappointment turned to joy with the belief that the high prices couple with the All Star Resorts being closed would mean the McDonald’s would be devoid of guests, allowing us to hang around outside for hours and truly soak up the ambiance.
Sadly, this was mistaken. We went in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday several days after it opened (missing whatever mad rush of bloggers and vloggers descended upon the location) and it was still busy. Thankfully, the ‘crowd’ subsided towards the end of our meal.
The most helpful tip that this review can offer is to download the McDonald’s app before visiting.
There are some great daily deals in the app, and these can potentially result in paying half price for whatever you order thanks to ‘buy one, get one free’ and other deals. Additionally, you can order in-app and have the food delivered to your table in the lovely outdoor seating area. (We dined outside and even with the temperature above 90 degrees, it was quite comfortable.)
This McDonald’s has featured varying styles over the years. Old school Walt Disney World fans will undoubtedly remember the oversized characters popping out the top. Then came its generic phase.
Now comes the All-Star McDonald’s eco-friendly phase. Seriously, it’s like a Pinterest board of sustainable design images from Dwellcome to life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that–this incarnation of the McDonald’s is more “livable” and offers better ambiance than its immediate predecessor.
From the angular design to the lightly-charred wood screen to the solar panels and sleek seating, the All-Star McDonald’s has gone all out with the eco-friendly aesthetic.
Fortunately, it’s not all just superficial–this McDonald’s is entirely solar powered. Not only are there solar panels lining the restaurant rooftop (nearly 6,000 total!), but there are also innovative features like the windows.
The most eye-catching among these is the living wall adjacent to the patio seating, which provides a cooling effect for the building while absorbing carbon dioxide. The plants around the restaurant are local species that collect rainwater and prevent erosion.
Those exercise bikes also help power the restaurant, and while you may think it’s absurd or poor planning to put bikes in the direct sunlight (and maybe it is!) they were almost always in use during our visit on a hot and sunny afternoon.
The interior has also been redesigned (this McDonald’s was basically rebuilt from the ground up, so calling this a “redesign” is an understatement) with a lot of high-tech features.
Guests are now encouraged to order via the touchscreen kiosks or mobile app and have the food delivered to their tables. Regular registers are also available, but are far outnumbered by the self-service options.
There’s a ton of standing room space, and there are some neat features in some of the booths–including EPCOT-esque lighting, and touch-screen panels.
Indoor seating is surprisingly limited, but I’m going to give McDonald’s the benefit of the doubt here and assume it’s sufficient. (I’m guessing a lot of guests walk over from the All-Stars and walk back to the hotels with their meals–that’s what we used to do.)
As with the rest of the restaurant, the interior is an unequivocal upgrade over the previous generic McDonald’s style here.
However, it still strikes me as overly cold and contrived. My feelings about restaurant interiors more or less mirror my thoughts on hotel rooms (and a number of other things).
These spaces have largely been stripped of their personality and charm over the last decade-plus.
It’s hard to say why this is happening. To me, it all feels very calculated and over-engineered, full of ideas that are good on paper or in the abstract, but don’t translate as well to real world settings inhabited by living humans.
It wouldn’t surprise me if studies were done showing that people preferred brighter, airier, and open layouts with crisp and clean designs. Perhaps said styles have been found to hit key metrics, like increasing per-guest spending (in the case of something like the new-look World of Disney stores) or encouraging repeat business.
There’s definitely something to be said for minimalism, but in many cases it feels that designs swing too far in that direction. Elements that would be good in moderation, but don’t properly coalesce.
Look at this McDonald’s, and then Google “retro McDonald’s.” Compare this to the vibrant murals, fun character seating, play areas, and just general zaniness featuring Ronald McDonald, Grimace, Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac, and the full all-star cast of characters. I’ll take the 1980s and 1990s look over this any day.
Maybe this is just my nostalgia talking (I love watching old school McDonald’s commercials on YouTube), but I don’t think so. There’s a reason people love things like Stranger Things 3, and its Starcourt Mall setting. That existed at a time when these spaces had a sense of place, water fountains, lush planters, and other features with personality. Now, it seems like so many establishments are all variations of the same homogenous look. (To the extent that there is personality in newer designs, it’s mostly barn interiors that have been repurposed by rustic hipsters. No thanks.)
Enough “get off my lawn” ranting, for the moment at least. Now let’s turn to the food portion of the review and take a look at the legendary Big Mac. Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun. One of the most iconic American foods of all time, and it still holds up.
The Big Mac is certainly not the best burger of all-time; it probably wouldn’t crack my personal top 50. However, it has enduring appeal, memorable and consistent flavor, and is a cultural institution for good reason.
Which brings us to the next rant: burger wars. These online battles have pitted friend against friend, neighbor against neighbor. I, for one, am tired of these debates.
I’m the expert on a lot of things. You know that. I know that. But uh, not a lot of things. A few things. But burgers are most definitely one of those things.
And in my expert opinion, they’re all good burgers.
Five Guys serves a good burger.
It’s the quality kind you’d grill for yourself at home, loaded with toppings and its own signature flavor. (Plus way more fries than you can possibly imagine.)
Shake Shack serves a good burger.
Now we’re veering more into fast food territory, but still with an emphasis on quality. From the preparation of the perfectly-seared burger to the buttery potato bun to the vegetables, Shake Shack also has its own clear flavor.
In-N-Out serves a good burger.
This is quintessential fast food, better viewed as an upmarket McDonald’s (both in terms of quality and pricing–it’s half the cost of the above two options!). This is another addictively good burger, especially a Double Double served Animal Style. From the patties to the spread to vegetables, everything at In-N-Out is also unique.
There’s some great news, though: I don’t have to choose! I can enjoy McDonald’s, Five Guys, Shake Shack, In-N-Out, the Habit, Steak ‘n Shake, Culver’s, Sonic, Carl’s Jr, Wendy’s, Burger King, Whataburger, Smashburger, and so on without taking a sacred oath of burger monogamy!
This may come as a surprise, but burger chains are not politics, religion, sports franchises, and so on. We needn’t make everything tribal and polarized. Besides, we burger aficionados need to unite against our common enemy: turkey burgers. (In the immortal words of Ron Swanson: turkey can never beat cow.)
What does this all have to do with Walt Disney World? I have no idea. I’m just a dude who is passionate about burgers and got a bit carried away with it.
Either I’m trying to bring peace and unity to the burger disciple community, or I’m foolishly courting more controversy. I truly don’t think this needs to be controversial, though. And if it is, at least a debate among burger fiends should be friendlier than what has flowed from other recent topics.
Anyway…back to the All-Star McDonald’s. It’s a good modern McDonald’s. Still not as good as the old school style, but no amount of complaining is going to change that. Outdoor seating is cool and inviting; there’s so much room for activities. Inside is a bit sterile, but nice enough and with some EPCOT-esque touches. Pricing leaves something to be desired, but it’s still cheaper than eating at one of the All-Star Resorts food courts. If you do opt to dine here, be sure to download the McDonald’s app for the best deals.
Location is 1596 W. Buena Vista Drive, literally right outside the gates of Disney’s All-Star Resorts. Walking distance from All Star Sports is about 10-15 minutes, with All Star Music about 5-10 minutes farther, and All Star Movies 5-10 minutes on top of that. (Give or take depending upon your building.) The All-Star McDonald’s is also fairly convenient to both Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so if you’re leaving those parks (by car) at the end of a long day, it’s an easy and cost-effective stop.
What do you think of the new-look All-Star McDonald’s? Have any deep thoughts of your own on the burger wars, modern design of restaurants, or anything else? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments or reviews here? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!