Sleepy Hollow Scandal

Fresh off the Restaurant Mystery in Magic Kingdom, there’s now a bona fide Walt Disney World dining debacle just one land over in the same park. This time, it’s a scandal at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments. How one park is home to so many culinary catastrophes is beyond me, but I’ll put on my Great Mouse Detective hat and become the Basil of Bricker Street and try to get to the bottom of this. They thought they could cover it up and distract us by killing Genie, but they thought wrong!

The truly sad and suspicious thing is that this isn’t even the first Sleepy Hollow scandal! Every Halloween season, we’re left wondering whether they’ll have the “good” pumpkin spice waffles or some nonsense with vanilla ice cream. Along with that, we’ve had to contend with odd hours as well as the removal of their breakfast waffle and handmade ice cream sandwiches over the years.

As a result, there’s been a lot of conjecture and speculation that the proprietor of Sleepy Hollow Refreshments (Ichabod Crane, I guess?)  is actually employing the infamous Disney Vault strategy. And the latest changes only add fuel to the fire, as Walt Disney World has removed the fan-favorite Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwich, as well as the Sweet-and-Spicy Chicken Waffle Sandwich. Here’s a detailed look at what’s changed on the Sleepy Hollow Refreshments menu followed by our commentary and what Walt Disney would think about all this.

Magic Kingdom’s Sleepy Hollow has completely overhauled its menu, switching to a simplified all-day menu. Here’s a look at what’s new as of late June 2024…

Sleepy Hollow Quick Bites

Turning to commentary, I’m of two minds about this change. I’m a staunch believer in Walt Disney’s ‘philosophy’ that his parks would never be completed and shouldn’t become museums. To those points, he famously said: “The way I see it, Disneyland will never be finished. It’s something we can keep developing and adding to. I’ve always wanted to work on something alive, something that keeps growing. We’ve got that in Disneyland.”

However, consider that Walt Disney also said this: “We keep moving forward—opening up new doors and doing new things—because we’re curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We’re always exploring and experimenting.” You may think these two quotes, now widely-cited to justify all changes by the company, are in agreement–no “however” is necessary.

However (again), “keep moving forward” implies progress or evolution. Changes can be lateral moves or steps backwards–they are not inherently progress. “Keep moving forward” would be a good quote to accompany, for example, the opening of Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea. That new port-of-call is innovative, experimental, and represents heading forward down an ambitious new path.

But you couldn’t use that “keep moving forward” quote to justify, for example, the addition of CommuniCore Hall at EPCOT. That’s because no innovation occurred there. There was no forward movement unless you count the passage of time, and everyone knows that’s actually a flat circle. CommuniCore was change for its own sake, and at best a lateral move. So in that case, you have to pull out the ole tried and tried line about “Disneyland will never be completed.” (You just have to leave off the “as long as there is imagination left in the world” part, as none of the world’s imagination supply was used on CommuniCore Hall.) But I digress.

While we can debate a lot, one thing is for certain–Walt Disney was referring to waffles when uttering all of these famous words about change. The man was serious about waffles, and his waffle-related legacy is pristine. Walt Disney would be rolling in his grave if he knew about the latest menu changes at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments.

He would never forgive the way Bob Iger–who was not-so-coincidentally spotted in Magic Kingdom over the weekend–is solely responsible for decimating the menu of Walt’s favorite restaurant. (Everyone knows Walt loved chili…and waffles.) Was Bob Iger spotted swapping out the menus at Sleepy Hollow to introduce this downgrade? No, but he wasn’t not spotted doing it, either. Really makes you think.

Suffice to say, Walt Disney would be really upset about these menu changes. “Waffle houses are meant to be museums,” he’d probably say. These might be my opinions, but it’s purely coincidence that my opinions align exactly with those that Walt would hold were he alive today. No, it’s not a matter of me “projecting” my own beliefs and biases, convenient as that may be. Walt would hate exactly the same changes that I hate. I can’t help it if we both have really good opinions and identical beliefs!

Some might counter that some change can be good. That new things is what keeps people coming back, as there are always fresh reasons to revisit Walt Disney World. This is a completely fair point. It’s also true that this blog has long advocated for Walt Disney World to adopt the approach of Disneyland or Tokyo Disneyland when it comes to seasonal menus, as those parks mix up things way more–giving locals and other frequently-visiting demographics new reasons to make return visits.

Even EPCOT now excels at this, with more festival time and a variety of intriguing menu items. Walt Disney World has really fine-tuned its approach to festival menus, and I’d say that at any given event, it’s about 75% returning hits and 25% new items (give or take). That’s a good mix that threads the needle on nostalgia and freshness. There’s also now the Festival Favorites window, which is arguably the best thing about CommuniCore Hall (it’s a low bar).

The problem, though, is that Magic Kingdom is not Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, or even EPCOT. Magic Kingdom is what scientists refer to as a food desert. Despite it being the most popular theme park not just at Walt Disney World, but in the entire world, it’s culinary scene is mediocre–it ranks 4 out of 4 for food.

Magic Kingdom has some diamonds in the rough, to be sure, but they’re few and far between. That’s what makes this menu move so scandalous. If you just added a bunch of waffles at one of the many snack stands around the park–or actually opened one of the half-dozen shuttered dining venues–Walt Disney World diehards would rejoice. It could be this exact same new menu and the response would be totally different–a complete 180. (Perhaps they could also add a statue of Walt eating waffles.)

Instead, Walt Disney World took one of the few spots that was already good and opted to replace two fan-favorite waffle sandwiches with untested alternatives that just look subar. That is the issue, and why there’s concern. Heck, they could’ve replaced Pecos Bill with an outpost called Great American Waffle Co., serving nothing but waffles, and fans would’ve been happier. Sure, we would’ve said it’s kinda weird to replace a large-scale, crowd-displeasing counter service restaurant with a waffle spot, but it would’ve been viewed as a positive change on balance, and that’s before anyone even tasted the waffles.

That really cuts to the core of batter. Change is good…if it’s actually good. Fans want fresh things so their favorite places feel anew every time they visit…while also wanting nostalgic and comforting cuisine to make them feel like they’re coming back home again. It’s only paradoxical if you’re purposefully obstinate, but otherwise, it should be self-evident why this isn’t so contradictory. Walt Disney World is a delicate balance of originality and sentimentality. Sleepy Hollow had no need for a menu change–one of the very few spots in Magic Kingdom for which that can be said.

That’s what’s so wild about this. The Fresh Fruit Waffle Sandwich served with Strawberries, Banana, Blueberries, and Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (Nutella) that was removed from the menu at Sleepy Hollow was beloved. It was not a cult classic or something that only fans knew about, it enjoyed mainstream popularity among average guests.

This waffle sandwich made our list of the Best Magic Kingdom Snacks & Desserts in 2024. It wasn’t just one of the best snacks/sweet treats in Magic Kingdom, it was one of the best in Walt Disney World, period. Which is really saying something, as Magic Kingdom is not known for good food! Most things are presented with the caveat: good by Magic Kingdom standards, which is faint praise.

And although I know it’s not as much of a hit, I’d honestly say that the also now-defunct Sweet-and-Spicy Chicken-Waffle Sandwich with Broccoli Slaw with a Honey-Sriracha Glaze served with House-made Chips was every bit as good. Not only were these waffles delicious, but they were great grab and go options at a spot with super limited seating. If you’re excited about these new waffles, hope you enjoy eating atop trash cans!

And while we’re on the subject, what’s up with Disney removing the Hushpuppies at Columbia Harbour House?! What’s next? Might as well replace the beloved Cheeseburger Spring Roll with some IMPOSSIBLE™️ nonsense while they’re at it to complete the trifecta of dumb decisions.

Ultimately, much of the commentary to this post is pretty stupid, but I suppose that’s the nature of the beast when you cherry pick quotes from a true innovator who died decades ago to justify present-day decisions that are totally divorced from him. If anything, this is somehow slightly less dumb when discussing waffles than it is when, say, trying to justify injecting character IP into EPCOT or Marvel into DCA. Unlike all of those other things that didn’t even exist during his lifetime, it’s safe to assume Walt actually knew what waffles were.

To the actual substance of the Sleepy Hollow scandal and menu changes, I’m admittedly curious about these. Honestly! I’d stop short of saying “cautiously optimistic,” since I really loved the old waffle sandwiches and even the stock photos of these look like a step backwards (especially the Fresh Fruit one, which has “look how they massacred my boy” vibes). But I still think these could be good…or at least okay-ish.

But speaking of pretty stupid things, my big issue with this change is that it doesn’t make sense when viewing the Magic Kingdom culinary scene from a holistic or high level. If you asked me which spots needed menu overhauls, Sleepy Hollow would’ve been (literally) at the very bottom of the list. This move was pointless and unproductive at best.

Sleepy Hollow is a fan-favorite spot for good reason. There’s truth to all of the above quotes about change, but there’s also something to be said for “don’t fix what isn’t broken.” With almost all of the other restaurants at Magic Kingdom actually being broken, it’s a really weird move to mess with Sleepy Hollow. It’d be the equivalent to tinkering with Haunted Mansion despite so many other Magic Kingdom attractions being in varying states of disrepair. It just doesn’t make sense. So yeah, maybe these new waffles will be delicious–I’ll go in with an open mind–but the old ones were fantastic, and I can think of about a dozen different menus in more need of a makeover than this.

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YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think of the Sleepy Hollow scandal? Disappointed by the menu change, cautiously optimistic, or do you not care? Which Magic Kingdom menus would you actually like to see overhauled? What do you think Walt would think of this travesty? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!

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