Magic Kingdom visitors generally go to Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe for one of two reasons: intergalactic showbiz all-star Sonny Eclipse, or the rotating menu of bizarre burgers. Given that it’s the busiest restaurant in all of Walt Disney World, there are probably more than just those two reasons, but those are the best ones.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at a dynamic duo of specialty burgers now available at Cosmic Ray’s: the Pork Belly Burger and Muenster Smash Burger (there’s also the Super Stretchy Burger Inspired by Mrs. Incredible, but that’ll likely be gone by the start of September). We’ll review each, share photos, and thoughts about which are worth ordering.
Before we dig into these new culinary concoctions, we should offer some “backstory” for those who have never had the pleasure of ordering a specialty burger at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. In the past, these have been veritable monsters of Dr. Frankenstein, weird amalgamations of ingredients that had no business melded together. They were truly “Halloween-themed, if only because they were the scariest foods you could order at Walt Disney World.
The worst of these I’ve tried was the Angus Pizza Burger, which has now been gone for over 5 years. It’s hard to believe it has been gone so long, as it feels like just yesterday I had this as it’s a fresh nightmare in my mind. I guess old wounds heal slowly.
I’ve mostly blocked out the traumatic experience, but here’s what I wrote about the Angus Pizza Burger at the time:
The Angus Pizza Burger was surprisingly mediocre. Actually, shocking mediocre. It wasn’t as good as a normal bacon-burger, but it wasn’t as gut-wrenchingly disgusting as I anticipated. Definitely something I wouldn’t order again, but it was at least marginally palatable.
The Angus Pizza Burger saga does not end there. The entire time we were in line, my stomach was churning, growling, and being punched by my other organs, as it cried to me, “why did you subject me to that pizza burger?!” Kids, let that be a lesson to you: unless you have a stomach of steel or really enjoy misery, don’t order the pizza burger. It’s a trap.
With Cheech and Chong at the menu-design helm, it seemed likely that the next addition would be Funion Ice Cream and Slim Jim Burrito. Despite, or maybe because of, me being very critical of this new pizza burger, I just felt compelled to try it.
This might sound like hyperbole or transparently sardonic humor, but I was sick the rest of the day after eating the Angus Pizza Burger. I’ve avoided all of the specialty burgers at Cosmic Ray’s since, as the fear of getting sick again (however unlikely) far outweighed the novelty of trying absurd burgers. The rational part of me knows something like my experience was probably a fluke–an anecdotal experience that should be disregarded–but that’s easier said than done.
Against that backdrop and what have to be the lowest of low expectations, we begin this review of the new bizarre burgers at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe. The good news here is that this story has a happy ending. This much should be obvious since you’re reading this review: consumption of three specialty burgers did not kill us.
Surprisingly, there was much more upside to these Cosmic Ray’s burgers than “not dying.” Let’s take a look at each of them…
We’ll start with the Pork Belly Burger, a “Secret Menu” Item available via Mobile Ordering (you can also get it at the cash register, it’s just not listed on the in-restaurant menu boards). Here’s the official description of the burger: 8 oz Pork Belly and Angus Beef blend topped with Smoked Gouda, Sriracha Aioli and Pork Rinds on a Brioche Bun speared with Fried Pickle Chips and served with French Fries or Green Beans.
Simply put, this is one of the best counter service burgers I’ve ever had at Walt Disney World. It’s in the same league as D-Luxe Burger, which is high praise considering that has become the gold standard of WDW burgers. The blend of pork belly and beef in the patty is juicy and has a deep, savory taste that I’d say qualifies as umami. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
The gouda and aioli are the perfect accompaniments, and enhance the flavor without getting in the way of the delicious taste of the meat. The pork rinds provide interesting texture, and a bit more substance to the burger. They aren’t a huge addition, but they’re not terribly out of place (which was my concern going in), either. Since you’re not going to want to add anything from the toppings bar, it’s probably for the best that they’re there.
Even Sarah, who is normally no fan of the standard Walt Disney World burger, raved about it. I practically had to beg her to take a bite of this “disgusting-looking” burger, but she was instantly a fan. Her endorsement was so ringing that she wanted to order it again a couple days later, despite that $18 price tag.
If you do opt to order the Pork Belly Burger, I’d encourage you to click the “I’m Here, Prepare My Order” button in Mobile Ordering well before you arrive to Cosmic Ray’s. Each one is made to order, and it’ll take at least 10 minutes for your burger to be ready.
The operative question is whether the Pork Belly Burger is worth the money. Setting aside my rave review, it’s an $18 burger at a chaotic fast food restaurant served in a brown paper tray. Irrespective of quality, I think the “value” component of this is a very hard sell. I have a tough time paying this much for a burger anywhere, but will (reluctantly) do so if the overall experience helps justifies some of that cost.
At Cosmic Ray’s, I’m not sure that’s the case. We ordered it once and I’m glad I tried it, but there are many Walt Disney World table service burgers that are cheaper than this, with an overall experience that’s more enjoyable. (In fairness, this is superior to most table service burgers at Walt Disney World.)
That is, unless you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, in which case you come away super-satisfied not just by the exceptional burger, but also in getting great value out of your credit. As someone paying out of pocket, I wouldn’t order this again, even though I loved it.
If you do want to try the Pork Belly Burger, I’d recommend getting it as soon as possible. “Delicious burger” and “Cosmic Ray’s” aren’t words that normally go together. As soon as some manager at Walt Disney World catches this blunder, I’m sure it’ll be corrected in short order, and replaced with a burger topped with sardines, tartar sauce, and SPAM.
Next, the Muenster Smash Burger served exclusively during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This is a burger on a black bun with Muenster cheese, tater tots, and Sriracha aïoli. You might’ve seen this mentioned in our Halloween Food Guide to Magic Kingdom.
After the rousing success of the Pork Belly Burger, I had a bit of bravado when it came to this one. Getting sick during MNSSHP would mean being out ~$80, so the smart move would’ve been ordering this towards the end of the party. Instead, I decided to double-down on my newfound enthusiasm for Cosmic Ray’s burgers by ordering this the moment the menu board switched over, right at 6 p.m.
The Muenster Smash Burger was good, but nowhere near on the level of the Pork Belly Burger. The tater tots worked shockingly well here, providing texture and a bit of potato-y (and greasy) goodness to the otherwise boring burger patty. The aioli provided a bit of kick, further masking the ordinary meat. All in all, it worked surprisingly well.
With that said, I wouldn’t recommend racing to Cosmic Ray’s as soon as you’re in Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party specifically for this burger. The highlight here is the novelty of a burger with a black bun, inexplicably topped with tater tots.
The Muenster Smash Burger is like the Rose Gold Cupcake, except instead of being aimed at preppy College Program kids wanting to pose in front of colored walls, it’s for weird bloggers like me who want “cool” photos of a burger in front of Sonny Eclipse. It’s highly unlikely any of your friends will think you’re cool for posing for a photo with this monstrosity, but you’ll have my respect.
Overall, with one exceptional burger and one “better than expected” burger, is it possible that we’re witnessing a golden era in bizarre burgers at Cosmic Ray’s? Call me sentimental, but I sorta miss the days when ordering something weird from Cosmic Ray’s was much more of a gamble. On the other hand, getting sick in Magic Kingdom is nobody’s idea of fun, so maybe a future with delicious specialty burgers at Cosmic Ray’s is the great big beautiful tomorrow the Sherman Brothers envisioned.
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Have you tried any of the recent specialty burgers at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe? What did you think of them? Have any “fond” memories of retired Walt Disney World burgers? 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!