Restaurant Review: Friar’s Nook at Magic Kingdom
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.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
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!
Great post. I love the history and links to some fun informational videos.
the best item we’ve had at the Friar’s Nook (which sadly, they don’t have anymore), was the mac n cheese with pot roast on top. It was outstanding!!
The most interesting thing about Lancer Inn is that it was never intended to be a food location. It was pressed into service as such sometime in 1972 as part of an effort to add eating capacity to Magic Kingdom as the park couldn’t cope with the crowds arriving to eat. Other restaurants added as part of the same wave of low cost food Windows include the Fife and Drum behind the antiques store, the Plaza Restaurant carved out of the ice cream parlor seating area, and a window cut into the Tomorrowland construction wall. Later in 1973 Disney added Aunt Polly’s and El Pirata to existing plans for the same reason. I think it’s very interesting that pretty much every location added as part of this initial food service growing pain has gone on to be a “super secret “ or “seasonal “ location, almost as if the park itself doesn’t want them there.
For what it’s worth, a 1971 Magic Kingdom map appears to have “The Royal Candy Company” in between Snow and Toad.
I remember my little sister being on cloud nine in the early 80s because she could get hot dogs at virtually all of those little counter service places.
Thanks for the tip, might opt for the air conditioning inside part when we go back in August. =)
I will have to rewatch Black Cauldron now, because I don’t remember all the details of it. You caused this. =P
Tom, we used this balcony for lunch in fall of 2019 because I had read about it on this blog. While up there, a huge rainstorm moved in. We watched everyone below us scrambling for cover, yet still remained the only ones up there. I was so disappointed when it was roped off on our two trips last year – glad to know it is open again! It’s become my favorite Disney “secret.”
Remember for a while before the opening up Be Our Guest when there were “bouncers” at the large MK counter service restaurants keeping people from reserving tables, let alone bringing in outside food? I’m not nostalgic for THAT.
I do remember there being a phase lasting at least five years when I sampled about 5 different kinds of mac & cheese at that location. Very … variable in quality.
The animation of what came out of the Black Cauldron was beautiful; how they handled stopping the Black Cauldron was terrible/dumb. (I remember a lot of the muddled middle of the picture got papered over in the comic book adaption I had when I was kid, but they couldn’t fix that.)
The Black Cauldron is a terrible movie, but the source material is great! Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles.
The Black Cauldron is our favorite Disney movie of all time in our home. It deserves a true comeback. The only attempt for Disney to try a creepy dark tale. Kudos.
My sister and I had Black Cauldron on VHS and watched it now and then. It was definitely different from most Disney films we’d seen at the time.
Let’s keep this little piece of heaven quiet. Rather than using the outside wooden steps, consider using the inside steps. I have been sitting up there since the 1990s. The inside steps draw much less attention.
I loved the Black Cauldron series and even wrote to Lloyd Alexander in 4th grade and got a letter back from him! I saw the movie in the theaters.. and yes, it was bad. 🙁
We’ve only eaten at Pinnochio once over the years (for quick service, the siren call of the spicy Chicken Waffle from Sleepy Hollow gets me, or my daughter insists on Casey’s), but that balcony was nice.
We were at The Friar’s Nook this morning! We discovered their breakfast offerings—Sausage and Gravy Tots and Cinnamon-sugar Doughnuts—while standing in the social distanced queue for Seven Dwarfs last year. Had them three more times during that trip and twice already this trip. Just a kip the breakfast sandwich that we had today—it was dry, bland and boring).
I also actually mentioned to our extended family today about the upstairs seating over at Pinocchio’s but I couldn’t remember the details.
What a timely post!! We will try that out tomorrow for sure.
It is so much fun to read your blog and plan for a whole year about what we will do, where we will go and what we will eat once we get back here to WDW. Thanks Tom for all you do and for the thousands of people that you positively impact every day.
Totally unrelated PS> We scored virtual queue Guardians once and paid for it too so we got to ride back to back on our only scheduled EPCOT day. Yesterday we bought another ride and park hopped for it. Never would have known to do all that without your help. Best coaster experience ever. SO Different!! Much faster than I expected.
My last mobile order there took 25 minutes to fulfill. There’s only so much the olive eyes can make up for that…..
The Black Cauldron is definitely not a good movie, but I think worth watching for any serious Disney animation fan. There are some spectacularly animated sequences, the Horned King is incredible, and it’s an interesting look at a (failed) attempt to produce something darker and aimed at an older audience.
My wife and I love the breakfast sandwich here. Thanks for the tip about Pinocchio Haus!
Loved The Black Cauldron as written by Lloyd Alexander who.actually knew how to pronounce my name directly with a hard G. Turned out we had friend in common,the author L.Sprague revamp and his wife!
The movie was,awful. They turned Eilonway, a redhead,,into a generic girl.with brown hair. As a natural.redhead,I was furious.
Thanks for the warning. I avoid any form of tater tots like the plague so will.happily favour this
Oops “DeCamp” not “revamp”.
Never would have thought to go UP! We will try that next time and keep it somewhat of a secret ! ;). Always love your personal insider tips and will hopefully try the PB mousse toad cake at Friar as it looks good… although I agree it is pricey! Can’t beat a semi-private view of the castle in the shade! Thanks again. You’re our go-to blog being only two hours away!
This was a really enjoyable read, thanks for sharing some of your creativity Tom!
An entire post on “That global partnership unraveled in fascinating fashion,” with lots of rambling would be fabulous!
huh, i had no idea that balcony even existed.
black cauldron should quietly be delivered back to the depths from wence it came. it is truly creepy.
Most people don’t–that’s why it’s almost always empty.
On more than one occasion, people have seen us walk up or down those stairs and went to check it out as a result. (That, or the timing was VERY coincidental.) So just be smooth when you head up there, or a crowd might follow you!
If you walk up the stairs backwards no one will follow you. Reverse the process when leaving.