Disney World's new Toy Story restaurant, Roundup Rodeo BBQ, serves up nostalgia and more
Toy Story fans have a new place to add to their bucket list.
Roundup Rodeo BBQ opens Thursday at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World. Walking in for a press preview last week was like stepping into a toy story, but not exactly the Toy Story we know from film. That's on purpose.
"This universe within Toy Story is much larger and broader," said Walt Disney Imagineering project manager Jared Sell, who worked with Pixar to expand the story in this new western-inspired restaurant. "Hopefully there's the nostalgia aspect for some and for others, something brand new – new versions of characters that they have grown up with and know and love, and always something to see and explore."
Here's what to expect at Roundup Rodeo BBQ and whether it's worth your time and money.
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What is Roundup Rodeo BBQ?
Roundup Rodeo BBQ is the world's first Toy Story-themed table-service restaurant, and the three parts of its name really speak to what it's about.
•Roundup: The restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida expands the world of "Woody's Roundup," which Woody discovers as his origin story in "Toy Story 2."
"What that also allowed us to do was to incorporate characters like Stinky Pete and Jessie in different forms that you might not have seen previously," Sell said.
Woody, Jessie and Stinky Pete feature prominently throughout Roundup Rodeo BBQ's decor, but fans will also see plenty of other familiar faces from the films.
•Rodeo: Sell said Andy was inspired to create a rodeo in his backyard after going to camp, so of course all his favorite toys like Buzz Lightyear, Bo Peep and Trixie the Triceratops, are included. Alas Andy ran out of toys for the spectator stands, so he had to draw some more.
"Jessie's Critters are here, and if you look at the paper dolls, some of them might look a little familiar," Sell said. "Look for little details because you will see some really incredible things."
•BBQ: "Rodeo and barbecue really go hand in hand, and because we're still in Toy Story Land, which is Andy's backyard, it could be a backyard cookout going on," said Brian Piasecki, culinary director for concept development at Walt Disney World. "And what do you serve at a backyard cookout? Barbecue. So really those two elements together meant barbecue all the way for us."
Is Roundup Rodeo character dining?
No. The Toy Story characters are all depicted in the restaurant's decor and in overhead audio, but not in person.
How much does it cost?
As of opening day, lunch and dinner both cost $45 per adult and $25 per child ages 3 to 9, before tax and tip. Children age 10 and up are considered adults for park tickets and meal pricing across the resort.
The restaurant does not serve breakfast, but Toy Story fans can grab a quick-service breakfast at nearby Woody's Lunch Box.
What's on the menu?
Roundup Rodeo BBQ serves lightly elevated comfort food, family style. "This is a bougie BBQ," Piasecki said with a laugh.
Meals start with warm, buttered house-made cheddar biscuits served with sweet pepper jelly. Next come three types of salad, including Piasecki's favorite made of marinated tomatoes, cucumbers and house-pickled red onion. Guests can choose four out of eight sides to complement what he calls "the star of the show": a platter of house-smoked meats or plant-based entrees.
"All of these meats are done in-house," he said. "We do a hand-sliced beef brisket, 48-hour brined smoked chicken, smoked glazed pork ribs, and this coiled sausage that we finish on our own burning-wood grill, (which) we call There's a Sausage in my Boot."
Each guest chooses their own dessert. Fountain beverages, fresh brewed iced tea or milk are also included in the flat price. Craft cocktails are extra.
What dishes can vegetarians eat?
Trixie's Plant-based Trio can be served family style or as an individual entree, if everyone else at the table prefers meat. It includes smoked cauliflower with a harissa drizzle and walnut gremolata, plant-based bratwurst and a rib chop, which Piasecki described as "Impossible meat skewered on a sugar cane, highly seasoned with barbecue spice, roasted and finished with a sweet barbecue sauce glaze."
Two of the salads, three of the sides – including beans baked with house-smoked jackfruit – and one of the dessert options are plant-based, too. Other items are vegetarian-friendly as well.
How is the food?
I personally didn't care for the fresh-brewed peach iced tea or Cupcake à la Forky, which tasted a little plain to me and is really aimed at kids, but everything else was delicious.
Days later, I am still thinking about the brisket. The Mean Old Potato Salad was so good, Piasecki said it made a guest who sampled it cry because it reminded her of the recipe her grandma made. I believe it because it tastes like home. The other standout was Bo’s Lemon and Blueberry Cheesecake, which Piasecki said was inspired by his mom's signature dessert. I hate cheesecake, but I couldn't stop eating this.
When can you start making reservations for Roundup Rodeo BBQ?
Disney dining reservations open 60 days in advance. The most popular spots book up quickly, but openings occasionally pop up as fellow guests make cancellations.
Cancellations can be made up to two hours before the dining window without penalty, so it's worth checking for last-minute openings the day before and of your visit if you didn't score any in advance. You may also be able to walk up that same day and see if there is a standby waitlist available.
Is it worth visiting?
If you're a Toy Story fan, Roundup Rodeo BBQ is definitely worth visiting for both the theming and the food.
If you are neutral toward Toy Story but love barbecue and can afford the splurge, it's still worth it for the food.
If you don't like Toy Story, go elsewhere.
Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom and Whispering Canyon Cafe in Disney's Wilderness Lodge offer all-you-care-to-enjoy comfort food options – without Disney characters – for less than Roundup Rodeo BBQ.
For quick-service barbecue, there's Regal Eagle Smokehouse in EPCOT, Flame Tree Barbecue in Disney's Animal Kingdom or The Polite Pig in Disney Springs.
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Eve Chen is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Georgia. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Disney World opens new Toy Story-themed restaurant, Roundup Rodeo BBQ