Magic Kingdom is the crown jewel of Walt Disney World and theme park with the highest attendance anywhere. Given that, there isn’t much that’s a true “hidden gem” or “secret spot,” hence the coining of “concealed crystal” dining as an alternative. It’s clunky and confusing, but we’re working with what we’ve got. (The runner up was “opaque object;” perhaps that should’ve won out.)
Honestly, it’s hard to say that a dining option is even “concealed” when it’s located in the middle of Tomorrowland. A restaurant that’s literally at the end of the main thoroughfare leading from Main Street and Cinderella Castle that must be passed by in order to reach Space Mountain or TRON Lightcycle Run.
However, these distinctions are more in the figurative sense than the literal one. Magic Kingdom has an infamously weak counter service restaurant lineup, with a handful of high-volume counter service restaurants and a lot of overlooked ones that manage to somehow hide in plain sight. Today, we’re looking at one of those–and one that just got a new menu.
For this review, we’re talking about the Lunching Pad quick-service window in Tomorrowland, which is located in Rockettower Plaza under Astro Orbiter and the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. This not-so-secret spot probably sees more foot traffic than just about any other restaurant in the entire park, and yet, it is not particularly popular as compared to nearby Cosmic Ray’s or Magic Kingdom’s other heavy hitters.
That has been the case for years. Back when Mobile Order first launched, Walt Disney World had the clever idea of sending push notifications when guests were near locations that had “underutilized” capacity. (Meaning they were unpopular.) Without fail, every time we queued up for the TTA PeopleMover–or even walked past en route to Space Mountain–I’d get a pop-up encouraging me to order a stuffed pretzel or whatever nonsense was being sold at the time at the Lunching Pad. It was actually quite amusing the first dozen or so times…before it became annoying the next ~100 times.
Speaking of which, the Lunching Pad has offered many menus over the years. The location just retired its menu from the World’s Most Magical Celebration, which lasted 18-months and was probably one of the longest-lasting menus as a result. Before that, they introduced sandwiches that didn’t last long, chicken concoctions, and other things I’m probably forgetting.
Since we’ve been visiting Walt Disney World, the three most consistent culinary creations at the Lunching Pad have been gourmet hot dogs, stuffed pretzels, and breakfast test items. All three are now on the menu once again, albeit very different than we’ve ever seen them before. Let’s take a look…
Let’s start with breakfast, which the Lunching Pad just introduced for the debut of TRON Lightcycle Run. The timing here was not coincidental; Tomorrowland is going to be an even more popular rope drop destination with the opening of TRON Lightcycle Run.
We’ve already seen more guests loitering around here, and that’s likely to continue as long as Walt Disney World continues its strict policy with virtual queue returns. (See our Virtual Queue Strategy Guide for TRON Lightcycle Run for details, tips & tricks for success, and more.)
It’s a savvy move, and similar to what Walt Disney World did with the debut of Connections Cafe & Eatery and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. That location is similarly in a prime location, but has become considerably more popular than its predecessor and a de facto “waiting room” for Cosmic Rewind. But I digress.
On a recent morning after Early Entry and rope drop, I doubled back to Tomorrowland and ordered both breakfast items from the Lunching Pad.
Currently, the only way to order breakfast at the Lunching Pad (or even be aware of its existence) is to walk-up.
The clapboard sign pictured a couple photos above is literally the only indication that breakfast is being served. These items are not listed on the official DisneyWorld.com menu nor do they appear via Mobile Order, but that could change.
The first item available for breakfast at the Lunching Pad is the Breakfast Bowl: potato barrels topped with a cheese omelet, chili con carne queso, and sour cream. This breakfast bowl is a heavy, creamy, delicious mess of ingredients.
It’s also absolutely a “what you see is what you get” type of deals. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, it won’t be. If it does, it will be. (How insightful.) There are no surprises here, for better or worse. To add some useful commentary, the tater tots are perfectly-prepared and hold up well under the weight of the omelet (the usual powdered egg variety served up at Walt Disney World), cheese, beef chili (essentially a light gravy), sour cream, and other toppings. It’s decadent and delicious, the true breakfast of champions.
This is the kind of entree that garners very different reviews from Sarah versus me, even when tasting the exact same dish. Except in this case, I ate it all by myself, as Sarah said she’d “sit this one out” and let me “enjoy it all.” Her loss. Actually, I’d recommend sharing this. I really enjoyed this for what it was, but it weighed on my stomach the rest of the morning. Mad respect to anyone who eats this and then immediately rides TRON Lightcycle Run.
Next up is the Sticky Bubble Bread: sweet bread rolled in cinnamon, caramel, and warm spices.
This is like the sweet, sweet love child of bread pudding and a cinnamon roll, in the form of an upside-down muffin.
Mine was slathered in just the right amount of caramel sauce to bring the bread underneath to life. My only quibble is that it could’ve been a bit more gooey inside; it wasn’t dry by any means, but a slightly undercooked quality would’ve made this perfect.
However, I’m guessing perfection is going to be tough to obtain here and what I got was about as good as it gets. This was an incredibly busy morning in Magic Kingdom (10/10 crowd day) with a lot of people at the Lunching Pad for breakfast. Like Magic Kingdom’s iconic cinnamon rolls, these are premade in batches and waiting under a heat lamp. Like those, I’m guessing freshness of the Sticky Bubble Bread is highly inconsistent, and dependent upon arrival time and how busy Magic Kingdom is on the day you visit.
In addition to the new breakfast menu, gourmet hot dogs have also returned to the Lunching Pad.
Dating back to 2010 or 2011, I’ve tried more “new” hot dogs than I can count over the years at the Lunching Pad. For a long time, there were three staples: the BLT Hot Dog, Coney Island Hot Dog, and Philly Cheesesteak Hot Dog. In the last decade, things have changed more frequently and been less consistent. Against all odds, I’ve reviewed exactly 0 of them. Until now.
Let’s start with the Queso Fundido Hot Dog: All-Beef Hot Dog topped with Queso Fundido, Street Corn Relish, and Spiced Tortilla Strips.
This is mostly good. The Queso Fundido is definitely the highlight of the toppings, and essentially made this like a more sophisticated twist on a chili cheese hot dog. I also liked the street corn relish, which presumably made this a healthy and well-rounded meal. (Right, Sarah?) The tortilla strips added a bit of texture, but there were too many (most fell off, anyway). All in all, a good-but-not-great hot dog.
Next up, we have the Cuban Hot Dog: All-Beef Hot Dog topped with Diced Ham, Pickles, Swiss Fondue, and Dijonnaise.
This is one of the best hot dogs I’ve had at Magic Kingdom. Maybe the best. It very much caught me by surprise, with the fresh fondue and dijonnaise melding together perfectly and the ham and pickles really striking-but-seamless mix of flavors. It’s not an authentic Cuban (obviously–it’s a hot dog), but it approximates the flavor shockingly well.
Basically, imagine an ideal Cuban sandwich minus the bread and with extra cheese…and in hot dog form. This is that. The Cuban Hot Dog is absolutely spectacular, but also absolutely messy. Napkins were no match for the damage this dog did to my hands and face; an immediate trip to wash up afterwards was in order.
The biggest problems with both of these hot dogs are the way they’re served. A lot of care and thought is put into the toppings and presentation, but they’re so messy that the plain store-brand buns cannot hold up. Previously, the Lunching Pad hot dogs had specialty buns that were more resilient. It would be nice to see those brought back.
The other issue is a bag of Lay’s chips as a side. This is just lame, and undermines the effort put into the inventive hot dogs. It also makes these dishes significantly less filling than other counter service options in Magic Kingdom.
The Lunching Pad also serves Mickey Pretzels.
These are the most rubbery pretzel you’ll ever encounter, but Walt Disney World fans love them because they’re shaped like a deformed version of Mickey Mouse. I do not get the appeal, but to each their own.
Finally, the Lunching Pad apparently is also serving its Cream Cheese Warm Stuffed Pretzel again. This was not on the physical menu when I ate here nor was it available via Mobile Order, but (supposedly) is as of publication.
No matter, as I have a photo of this from a previous meal. Unlike the overrated Mickey pretzel, this is fantastic. It’s warm, gooey, and the perfect symphony of sweet and salty. It’s right up there with my all-time favorite, the Warm Caramel Stuffed Pretzel. Unfortunately, it is not shaped like a rodent. But it actually tastes fantastic.
Ultimately, the Lunching Pad has a solid menu right now, especially when it comes to breakfast. Good breakfasts are rare at Walt Disney World, especially at counter service restaurants. When fresh, the Sticky Bubble Bread isn’t just a great breakfast–it’s one of the elite snacks at Magic Kingdom, and better than the iconic cinnamon roll.
The hot dogs are a mixed bag. I really liked the toppings on the Queso Fundido Dog, and loved those on the Cuban Dog. However, between the buns and the sides, I’d rather just go to Casey’s Corner. That’s unfortunate because the toppings on both of these hot dogs are better than anything available at Casey’s right now. They just aren’t as good as complete meals.
What I’d really love to see is the Lunching Pad get “the Award Wieners treatment.” That DCA location was once like the Lunching Pad, but they switched to toasted buns and filmstrip fries several years ago and have never looked back. Award Wieners is now quietly one of the best counter service spots in all of Disneyland. The Lunching Pad could become a similar success story with a bit more effort and attention to detail.
Have you done breakfast or lunch/dinner at the Lunching Pad since these new menus debuted for the launch of TRON Lightcycle Run? Have a favorite dish served here? Thoughts on the food, how it compares to other counter service at Magic Kingdom, or anything else addressed in this review? Do you agree or disagree with our review? 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!