As the most popular theme park at Walt Disney World with the highest attendance in the entire world, there isn’t much at Magic Kingdom that can properly be called a “hidden gem” or “secret spot.” That’s doubly true in Fantasyland, which is surely the busiest section of the park.
To that end, “underrated” or “sleeper” restaurant might be more apt, but still not entirely accurate given that tens of thousands of guests walk past here on a daily basis and hundreds–if not thousands–dine here out of convenience. Still, Magic Kingdom has an infamously weak counter service restaurant lineup…so we have to savor the small victories where we can.
For this review, we’re talking about the Friar’s Nook quick-service window in Fantasyland, which is located behind Cinderella Castle right next door to the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh–previously inhabited by one J. Thaddeus Toad Esq. This not-so-secret spot is only part of the equation, as the food here is combined with an actual hidden gem to make for a memorable meal. Allow us to take you on a wild ride through the Magic Kingdom, past and present…
Since the Friar’s Nook is simply a walk-up window and thus doesn’t have a lot going on in terms of themed design or atmosphere, we’ll instead begin with history. Despite its straightforward appearance, the background here actually is fascinating, with a lot of unique restaurants occupying this space since Magic Kingdom opened in 1971.
Back on opening day, the restaurant was known as Lancer’s Inn, and served pizza. It was replaced by Gurgi’s Munchies and Crunchies, with a menu of chicken, cheeses, and hot dogs.
This was one of the few prominent references to The Black Cauldron in the parks; it’s named after Gurgi, who is a gopher wood troll sorta critter. Gurgi was animated by Glen Keane and John Lasseter, and loved apples. Gurgi’s Munchies and Crunchies did not sell apples (it might’ve served apple juice).
For the 99% of you who haven’t seen The Black Cauldron, don’t feel bad. That animated movie was described by its own production manager as when Walt Disney Animation Studios hit “rock bottom” before the Disney Renaissance.
Interestingly, that was not the most prominent reference to The Black Cauldron. Tokyo Disneyland “wins” that dubious distinction for the walk-through attraction, Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour. If all of this talk of The Black Cauldron is tempting you to watch that film…don’t. Check out Waking Sleeping Beauty(now on Disney+) or Defunctland’s Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour video instead. Both are much more interesting than the movie itself.
Despite that animated movie flopping hard, the location (miraculously?) retained its connection to The Black Cauldron until February 13, 1993. (If you’re sensing this history section is simply an excuse to mention The Black Cauldron and those documentaries…you are correct.)
After poor Gurgi crunched his last munchie, the walk-up window became Lumiere’s Kitchen, named after the popular character from The Beauty and the Beast. Much more logical, but also less interesting. In operated seasonally throughout the 1990s before reopening as the Village Fry Shoppe on May 1, 2006 as part of Disney’s corporate alliance with McDonald’s–one of two McDonald’s locations in Magic Kingdom.
That global partnership unraveled in fascinating fashion, but I’ve already devoted my “off-topic rambling quota” to The Black Cauldron, so we’ll have to save that topic for another day and another unrelated post.
In any case, the Friar’s Nook replaced the Village Fry Shoppe on March 26, 2009. Since we’ve been visiting Walt Disney World as adults, the Friar’s Nook has gone through many menus and inventive items. Some great, some…not so great. There’s really no sense in recapping everything, but the commonality pretty much all of these have shared is an emphasis on macaroni, cheese, bacon, and potatoes.
The current menu at the Friar’s Nook continues to play these hits, but with a new emphasis on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary…
The main menu item at the Friar’s Nook for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary is the The Wild Toad Brat Burger served with Lettuce, Tomato, Pickle, American Cheese, topped with Olive Skewer Eyes served with Tater Bites.
From my perspective, this wins the award for best culinary concoction of the World’s Most Magical Celebration. It has a certain understated stupidity to it, and I mean that in the best way possible. Whoever dreamed up this Mr. Toad burger deserves a raise–and Disney should do more weird, goofy, and fun stuff like this.
As for how the Wild Toad Brat Burger tastes, it’s pretty good. There’s a pronounced brat flavor to the burger, and it’s juicier and more flavorful than an average patty at Cosmic Ray’s or other counter service restaurants.
With that said, the patty is not juicy or flavorful enough to “carry” this as an ordinary counter service burger. There’s a reason that Walt Disney World often offers burgers with heaping helpings of novelty toppings–it’s to mask the dry and underwhelming flavor of the normal burger. This doesn’t quite have that issue, but could use just a bit more seasoning or porkiness for this to work.
With that said, if you want a no-frills normal burger, this is your best option in Magic Kingdom. It beats what’s currently being served at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe.
Continuing with the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary menu, the Friar’s Nook serves up the Mr. Toad Dome Cake for dessert. This decadent dish consists of Peanut Cake, Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mousse, and Salty Caramel Center.
Disney does a lot of mousse desserts like this now, to the point that we’ve grown tired of them. Despite the oversaturation, we absolutely love this one. The variety of textures and flavors really hits the spot, making this far from the one-note dessert that is commonly the case with these mousses.
My only complaint is that the Mr. Toad Dome Cake costs $8. No matter how good, it’s impossible for me to overlook that price tag, and enthusiastically recommend an $8 mousse from a counter service restaurant. If you’re not concerned with the cost, go for it, but know that there are better ways to spend $8 on food in Magic Kingdom.
Finally, we have the Creamy Bacon Macaroni & Cheese Tots.
These are not a recent addition for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary–they’ve been a mainstay of the Friar’s Nook menu for the last several years. I’ve ordered them before as a cost-effective meal in Magic Kingdom, as they are quite filling.
This is a bowl of mac & cheese topped with tater tots, plus a pile of bacon and dollops of sour cream garnished with green onions on all of that. It’s a heavy, creamy, delicious mess of ingredients. It’s also absolutely a “what you see is what you get” type of deals.
If this slew of rich indulgences doesn’t sound appealing to you, it won’t be. However, if you’re after a heaping helping of carbs, cheese, and bacon, you’re in luck–this will satisfy. There are no surprises here, for better or worse. (It’s the kind of entree that garners very different reviews from Sarah versus me, even when tasting the exact same dish.)
The third act of this wild ride about The Black Cauldron and Mr. Toad cuisine covers where to eat these dishes. For that, we head over to Pinocchio Village Haus.
Enter through the archway that’s closest to the Friar’s Nook and take a right at the fountain outdoors. There, you should see a stairway that (hopefully) is not roped off…
Head up the stairs and relax in an outdoor balcony that is typically devoid of other guests. Both times I’ve eaten here in Summer 2022, I was the only one up here. However, to achieve this result, you should walk up discreetly, as one person going up the steps sometimes results in several people following.
Longtime readers might be familiar with this balcony, as we’ve recommended eating here many times in the past. However, we removed it from our itineraries and other posts during the phased reopening since it was frequently closed all day. We’ve noticed that it’s now typically open for lunch and closes later in the day. (Unfortunately, we’ve yet to have any success watching the Disney Enchantment fireworks from up here, but you might be luckier.)
If you’d rather dine indoors, take that same stairway to the outdoor balcony, then open the door and head inside Pinocchio Village Haus. I prefer to eat my meal with a view of Cinderella Castle, so I don’t do this, but I always poke my head in to check out the crowd situation, and they’re usually nonexistent.
We’re mentioning these seemingly unrelated seating areas in a review of the Friar’s Nook because the seating situation there leaves a lot to be desired. The tables right by the restaurant are limited and usually all occupied; even if you manage to secure a spot, the quarters are cramped and it doesn’t make for a super pleasant dining experience. By contrast, if you make the short walk over to Pinocchio Village Haus, you can have a peaceful meal with a great view.
Ultimately, we hope you enjoyed with wild ride reviewing Mr. Toad food, a secluded seating area above Pinocchio Village Haus, and weird history about The Black Cauldron appearing in Disney theme parks. Although it’s an eclectic mix of topics, it should’ve provided some useful tips & tricks for eating in Magic Kingdom.
Plus totally useless info about The Black Cauldron that you can use to impress your friends…assuming your friends are among the 1,839 people on earth who are part of The Black Cauldron Fan Community.
Are you one of the 1,839 fans of The Black Cauldron? Glad to finally see it get the overdue respect it deserves on this blog? Have you tried the Mr. Toad food at the Friar’s Nook? Sat in the secluded seating area at Pinocchio Village Haus overlooking Cinderella Castle and Fantasyland? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? 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!