Art of Attractions - February 2017

Tiffins’ and Toothsome’s Tasty Treats

Among the passions in my life, food ranks closely behind theme parks. When I find great food at parks? Well, that’s pure bliss.

I’ve hit the park/dining daily double many times and have fond memories of tasty treats that are as vivid as some of the epic roller coasters I’ve ridden, including Dollywood’s intoxicating cinnamon bread, Lake Compounce’s scrumptious Potato Patch fries, and tangy barbecue at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I’m not sure why, but I swear the hot dogs at Nathan’s original Coney Island eatery taste far better than at the chain’s other locations.

Some of my memories are wistful, because the food is no longer available. Summer will never quite be the same again without the plump, crispy, beer-battered onion rings at Salisbury Beach in Massachusetts. And I’ve been in mourning since the demise of Rocky Point’s Shore Dinner Hall (the “World’s Largest” according to the sign that hung above its entrance for decades) in Rhode Island and its to-die-for red clam chowder and clam cakes.

But I am heartened by new taste sensations I discover along the midways. During a recent visit to SeaWorld Orlando, for example, I stumbled upon its pineapple soft-serve sundae prepared with fresh-cut fruit and served in an actual pineapple. Yum.

Great dining experiences run the gamut across the industry. I had one of the most delicious and sophisticated meals I’ve ever experienced inside a theme park—or anywhere else for that matter—at the new Tiffins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando. Now that the park is open in the evening, the elegant restaurant offers guests a place to have a relaxed, upscale dinner.

Tiffins’ dining rooms serve as galleries that showcase artwork and research of the animal park’s designers. Its diverse menu reflects the countries and cultures Disney’s Imagineers explored. Dishes such as marinated grilled octopus and Wagyu strip loin and braised short rib are heavenly.

Another recent revelation is the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at Universal Orlando’s CityWalk. The whimsical, steampunk candy factory cranks out unforgettable milkshakes such as the Red Velvet. It features not one, but two cupcakes: one is blended into the shake, and the other sits atop the glorious concoction. The massive menu includes savory dishes that are equally creative and delectable, such as pork belly sliders topped with chocolate-dipped bacon.

Thrilling, headlining attractions may draw guests to your pork belly sliders and give them butterflies in their stomachs. But filling their bellies with delicious food and providing them with unique, inspired dining experiences once they are in your parks are just as critical for delivering a memorable day. That’s been my experience, anyway.

I’ll see you at the parks. I’ll be the one with the pineapple sundae. 

A lifelong park fanatic, Arthur Levine has been writing newspaper and magazine travel features about the industry he loves since 1992. He’s been the Theme Parks Expert at About.com since 2002, and is a
regular contributor for USA Today.