The Legends of the Meal Voucher
By: Christina Griffin
I had the wonderful opportunity to be spoiled with a trip to Disney World during my first year of high school orchestra. I was going to quit orchestra in middle school, but then the idea of going on the trip the music program took every four years persuaded me to stay, so here I am. Inspirational, isn’t it?
The last time I went to Disney World before this, I was six. The only memory I had relating to the culinary aspect of the park was seeing Tigger at dinner (10/10 experience). But now I was setting off on my own, with the prospect of choosing and buying my own food.
Plot twist: it was a gift card. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but this was handy in that I used it to buy a magnet later on. The majority of my meals came from quick-service restaurants because, at Disney World, nothing comes cheap. So in chronological order, here are the lunches I bought with a meal voucher. I’ve added pictures, although if you notice bites taken out, it’s because I almost forgot about this lovely article while eating.
A dishonorable mention is the lunch I had during a layover at Atlanta Airport. It was this vaguely Asian restaurant in a food court. I wanted something different, and my friend and I didn’t want to wait in line for Chick-fil-A. We left our two other friends in line and went to find something. At one point we wanted a different type of rice, then realized that the server had already poured rice into our container and had to throw it out. Then there was no labeling system, so the cashier had to look inside each box to figure out which was ours—a very interesting five minutes of my life. The food was fine: sesame chicken and fried rice. As my friend said, "I suppose it’s a little weird, because it doesn’t even have a taste". So if you ever find yourself at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, don’t go to Leann Chin. As I learned, the fries at Chick-fil-A are way better.
Now onto the first lunch I had at Hollywood Studios. I got into pin swapping quite a bit on this trip, and a friend offered to buy me lunch at Backlot Express while I shopped around with two other people.
The burger was perfectly fine; I wasn’t in the mood for lettuce and tomatoes, so I took them off. Perhaps a bit dry, if I’m trying to be a proper food critic, but I was hungry enough. I may not have gotten back to the restaurant until 20 minutes after the food was done. When we got back, the group of four waiting were a bit antsy and wanted to go on a ride. I didn’t notice where we were walking and just ate the burger slowly. It wasn’t until we got to the entrance of Star Tours that I realized I had a problem on my hands. I saw a "cast member" looking in my direction and knew something had to be done with this burger. The remaining burger went quickly into my mouth, but I’m not sure why I did what I did next. I figured the plastic bag that held the pins from earlier would be suitable for the fries in the paper boat. The "Leann Chin" friend took the pins out, and I slipped the fries into the bag. By then, everyone else had noticed what I was doing, but they couldn’t stop me. Did I mention there was a paper cup of ketchup in there?
Don’t you worry; there’s certainly an epilogue. I was in an unnecessarily long line to meet Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Pro tip: anything that toddlers can do tends to take a bit of time. I had put on my splendid lanyard with all my new pins. I had my Kermit, the matching Fozzie, and the grape soda cap from UP. Except those weren't all of my new pins. I was missing my favorite one. Mickey and Minnie were holding hands, and they spun around, pointing to each park. Fearing the worst, I stuck my hand into the bag with the french fry salad and felt the pin. It emerged absolutely covered. I carefully removed my poncho from its plastic bag, which I ended up using 20 minutes later when it started downpouring, and stuck the contaminated specimen in there. I ate some french fries, attracting strange looks from my friends, and decided it wasn’t worth it. I cut across the line, showed my bag of trash to the guard of the famous mice, and got rid of it.
I bought the next lunch after I had just gotten off a slightly underwhelming ride on Soarin in EPCOT and decided to get some food with one of my friends while the other two waited in a food court. Sure, I was in the park with lots of international foods, and one of my friends bought a pretty good-looking taco, but I decided to try a mysterious-looking item, a pepperoni pizza roll. Pepperoni and cheese wrapped in dough are pretty hard to mess up. Whether it was the best thing I could’ve bought is debatable, but it was filling and inexpensive. What more could you possibly ask for?
I’ll admit, I didn’t really buy a proper lunch at the Magic Kingdom. I ate from a communal souvenir popcorn bucket, and I had bought Fritos the day before with the pizza roll—it’s called traveling. Also, I used the "voucher" to buy a magnet for my grandma, so I can’t be criticized, right? However, I had read the mom vlogs on the bus ride there. If nothing else, I had to eat one thing at Disney World. The Magic Kingdom was the place to buy the dessert to end all desserts: dole whip. It's a great advertisement for Dole pineapples now that I think of it. That Dole whip was utter perfection, easily the best thing I had at Disney, or so I thought.
The mac and cheese was perfect, the pork was filling, and the sauce was good if you grade it on a curve. Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork at Flame Tree Barbecue (if you’re genuinely looking for meal recommendations) was the best thing I ate at Disney World. I knew I had to go big since Animal Kingdom was my last park of the trip.I may also have gotten this meal for free because a friend offered to pay after losing her phone and making us look for it.
Overall, maybe don’t get lunch 5 minutes before going on a roller coaster, and definitely take an offer for free lunch. If I were to go to Disney World separately from a school trip, I would probably eat at some sit-down restaurants. But, generally, the quick-service restaurants worked out just fine, and I’m glad I even got the chance to eat a dry burger at Disney World.