Disney World's new Toy Story restaurant costs $45 per person for family-style barbecue. Here's why it’s a must-try, especially for vegetarians.
Inside the new restaurant, everything is scaled to make you feel like you're one of the toys inside the rodeo that Andy has built in his backyard.
"Yard sale!" Woody yells, his voice full of alarm. "Guys, wake up, wake up, it's a yard sale outside!"
If you've seen Toy Story 2, you know what happens next. Woody, trying to rescue a fellow toy from being sold, is stolen by the dastardly Al and is nearly sold to a toy museum in Japan. So you might understand why, when Woody's warning rings out inside Roundup Rodeo BBQ, the new Toy Story-themed restaurant in Disney's Hollywood Studios, there's panic among the other toys.
"There's a yard sale at the front territory," Sarge announces. "Repeat. A yard sale at the front territory." But the Bucket O Soldiers quickly realize it's only a lemonade stand. All the toys inside the Roundup Rodeo can relax — you included.
Inside the new restaurant, everything is scaled to make you feel like you're one of the toys inside the rodeo that Andy has built in his backyard. At at recent visit to Roundup Rodeo BBQ, I was expecting good barbecue in a colorful, imaginative environment. I definitely was not expecting to have the best plant-based meal I've ever had at a theme park. But that's exactly what happened.
The restaurant opened on March 23, and is a family-style restaurant where you pay a flat fee for a four-course meal. For adults, it's $45 plus tax and gratuity, and for kids aged 3-9 it's $25. When you sit, everyone gets a bread course, The Prospector's Homemade Cheddar Biscuits with sweet pepper jelly, followed by a salad course of three salads. There's a tomato-cucumber salad with white balsamic vinaigrette, a watermelon-mint salad and a kale salad with green goddess dressing.
From there, you pick either a meat plate or a plant-based one, and four of eight sides for the table to share. Among the selections: Mean Old Potato Salad, Force Field Fried Pickles and Slinky Doooooooooog's Mac and Cheese, with extra-long spiral pasta to match its toy inspiration.
"Everything at the Roundup Rodeo is smoked in-house," chef Bobby Rivera, chef de cuisine of concept development for Walt Disney World, tells Yahoo Life. "We're really proud of that." The brisket is smoked for 16-18 hours before being served, and you can smell the aromas of the outdoor smokers all the way out to Slinky Dog Dash and Toy Story Midway Mania. (The restaurant is already booked solid; people who aren't able to get a table are going to be sorely disappointed when they get a whiff of that tantalizing scent.)
The meat platter comes with Evil Dr. Smoked Ribs that Rivera calls "fall-off-the-bone tender," Buttercup's Beef Brisket, There's a Sausage in my Boot grilled pork sausage and BBQ Chicken with Style." I tried the brisket and the ribs, and was really surprised to find that it wasn't just good barbecue for a theme park restaurant, it was good barbecue for a full-on Southern barbecue restaurant. The brisket had the pink smoke ring that's the hallmark of well-smoked beef, and the ribs were absolutely as tender as the chef promised they would be.
I'm an omnivore, but I like, and often eat, plant-based meat alternatives … and Rivera really talked up the plant-based offerings. "If you are a plant-based eater," he says, "we have an excellent — and I mean delicious — 'meat' platter."
So, I asked for one to try. Trixie's Plant-Based Trio plate comes with Combat Carloflower with harissa and walnut gremolata, Scrumptious Bratwurst and a Rip Roarin' Rip Chop. I was completely blown away by how delicious it all was. The smoked cauliflower is crusted with an herbed walnut mixture and drizzled with flavorful harissa sauce, and the rib was a true marvel. "We take Impossible meat, we season it with our spices, we glaze it with our barbecue sauce and then we use a sugar cane that we char to make it that rib experience for our guests," Rivera describes. It was a little spicy and easily the best iteration of Impossible ground beef I've ever had, made even better with a dash of the house-made spicy barbecue sauce. (There are also sweet and classic versions.)
But the true star, for me, was the grilled bratwurst, which was smoky and so flavorful that if I hadn't known it was plant-based, I never would have guessed. Of all the foods I tried — I also sampled three sides and three desserts — the brat was the only thing I finished. I really liked everything I had, I just had a lot of food in front of me, and could only take a few bites of each.
The restaurant's baked beans are made with smoked jackfruit rather than bacon. "That is actually one of my absolute favorites," Rivera says. "If I didn't say they were plant-based, nobody would ever know."
I didn't get to try those — and I was disappointed to not get to sample libations from the very promising cocktail list, like the Snake Eye Margarita made with tequila, watermelon juice, lime juice, agave and smoked chili bitters, or the Grown-up's Iced Chocolate and Rum, an adult take on chocolate milk made with chocolate rum, RumChata, chocolate and toasted marshmallow. But honestly, I'm not all that sad about missing them. It's just another reason to go back.
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