As Walt Disney World’s most popular theme park with the largest audiences worldwide, there’s not much in the Magic Kingdom that can be called a “hidden gem” or “secret location.” This is doubly true in Fantasyland, which is certainly the busiest part of the park.
To that end, an “underrated” or “sleeping” restaurant might be more suitable, but still not entirely accurate, as tens of thousands of guests pass through here daily and hundreds – if not thousands – dine here for convenience. Still, the Magic Kingdom has a line of infamously poor quick-service restaurants… so we have to savor the small victories where we can.
For this review, we’re talking about the Friar’s Nook quick service window in Fantasyland, which is located behind Cinderella’s Castle, right next to Winnie the Pooh’s Many Adventures – formerly inhabited by a J. Thaddeus Toad Esq. This not-so-secret spot is only part of the equation, as the food here is paired with a real hidden gem to make for a memorable meal. Allow us to take you on a wild ride across the Magic Kingdom, past and present…
Since Friar’s Nook is simply a window without an elevator and therefore doesn’t have much going on in terms of thematic design or atmosphere, we’ll start with the story. Despite its plain appearance, the setting here is truly fascinating, with many unique restaurants occupying this space since the Magic Kingdom opened in 1971.
On opening day, the restaurant was known as Lancer’s Inn and served pizza. It was replaced by Gurgi’s Munchies and Crunchies, with a menu of chicken, cheese and hot dogs.
This was one of the few prominent references to the black cauldron in the parks; is named after Gurgi, who is a type of troll-type wooden gopher creature. Gurgi was animated by Glen Keane and John Lasseter, and he loved apples. Gurgi’s Munchies and Crunchies didn’t sell apples (it could have served apple juice).
For the 99% of you who haven’t seen the black cauldron, do not feel bad. This animated film has been described by its own production manager as when Walt Disney Animation Studios hit “rock bottom” before the Disney Renaissance.
Interestingly, this was not The most important reference for the black cauldron. Tokyo Disneyland “earns” this dubious distinction for the walk-through attraction, Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour. If all this talk of the black cauldron is tempting you to watch this movie… no. check out Sleeping Beauty Awake (now on Disney+) or the Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour video from Defunctland. Both are much more interesting than the movie itself.
Although the animated film flopped, the location (miraculously?) maintained its connection to the black cauldron until February 13, 1993. (If you’re feeling that this history section is simply an excuse to mention the black cauldron and those documentaries… you’re right.)
After poor Gurgi chewed his last munchies, the showcase became Lumiere’s Kitchen, named after the popular character of Beauty and the Beast. Much more logical, but also less interesting. It operated seasonally throughout the 1990s before reopening as the Village Fry Shoppe on May 1, 2006 as part of Disney’s corporate alliance with McDonald’s – one of two McDonald’s locations in the Magic Kingdom.
This global partnership has unfolded in a fascinating way, but I’ve already devoted my “share of off-topic ramblings” to the black cauldronso we will have to save this topic for another day and another unrelated post.
Anyway, Friar’s Nook replaced the Village Fry Shoppe on March 26, 2009. Since visiting Walt Disney World as adults, Friar’s Nook has gone through a lot of inventive menus and items. Some great, some… not so great. There’s really no point in recapping it all, but the common thread that pretty much all of them shared is the emphasis on macaroni, cheese, bacon, and potatoes.
Friar’s Nook’s current menu continues to play those hits, but with a new emphasis on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World…
The main menu item at Friar’s Nook for the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World is The Wild Toad Brat Burger served with lettuce, tomato, pickle, American cheese, topped with olive skewer eyes served with tater bites.
From my perspective, this wins the award for the best culinary mix of the most magical celebration in the world. It has a certain understated stupidity, and I mean it as best I can. Who dreamed of this Mr. Toad deserves a raise – and Disney should make weirder, goofy, and fun stuff like this.
As for the taste of Wild Toad Brat Burger, it is very good. There’s a pronounced brat flavor to the burger, and it’s juicier and more flavorful than a regular burger at Cosmic Ray’s or other quick-service restaurants.
With that being said, the burger isn’t juicy or flavorful enough to “load” this like a regular counter service burger. There’s a reason Walt Disney World often offers burgers with portions full of innovative toppings – it’s to mask the dry, underwhelming taste of the regular burger. This doesn’t have that problem, but could use a little more seasoning or pork to make this work.
With that said, if you want a regular no-frills burger, this is your best option at the Magic Kingdom. He beats what is being served at the Starlight Cafe Cosmic Ray.
Continuing with the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary menu, Friar’s Nook serves up the Mr. Toad Dome for dessert. This decadent dish consists of peanut cake, chocolate peanut butter mousse and salted caramel center.
Disney makes a lot of mousse desserts like this now, to the point where we get tired of them. Despite the supersaturation, we absolutely love this one. The variety of textures and flavors really hits the spot, making it far from the one-note dessert that is often the case with these mousses.
My only complaint is that Mr. Toad Dome Cake is $8. No matter how good, it’s impossible for me to ignore that price and enthusiastically recommend an $8 mousse from a quick service restaurant. If you’re not worried about cost, go for it, but know that there are better ways to spend $8 on food at Magic Kingdom.
Finally, we have the Creamy Bacon Macaroni & Cheese Tots.
These aren’t a recent addition to Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary – they’ve been a mainstay of the Friar’s Nook menu for the past few years. I’ve ordered them before as a budget meal at Magic Kingdom as they are quite filling.
This is a bowl of mac & cheese topped with tater tots, plus a pile of bacon and mounds of sour cream garnished with chives all over it. It’s a heavy, creamy, delicious mess of ingredients. It’s also absolutely a “what you see is what you get” type of agreement.
If this amount of rich indulgences doesn’t sound appealing to you, it won’t. However, if you’re after a serving of carbs, cheese, and bacon, you’re in luck – this will satisfy. There are no surprises here, for better or for worse. (It’s the kind of entree that gets very different reviews from Sarah and me, even when tasting the exact same dish.)
The third act of this wild ride over the black cauldron and the kitchen of Mr. Toad covers where to eat these dishes. For that, we head to Pinocchio Village Haus.
Enter through the nearest arch to Recanto do Frade and turn right at the open-air fountain. There, you should see a ladder that (hopefully) is not stuck…
Go upstairs and relax on an open-air porch that is usually devoid of other guests. The two times I ate here in the summer of 2022 I was the only one here.
Longtime readers may be familiar with this porch as we have recommended eating here many times in the past. However, we removed it from our itineraries and other posts during the phased reopening as it was often closed all day. We noticed that it is now normally open for lunch and closes later in the day. (Unfortunately, we still haven’t had success watching the Disney Enchantment fireworks from up here, but you might have better luck.)
If you prefer to dine indoors, take the same stairs to the outside balcony, open the door and enter the Pinocchio Village Haus. I prefer to eat my meal overlooking Cinderella’s Castle, so I don’t, but I always stick my head around to check out the crowd situation, and they’re usually non-existent.
We’re mentioning these seemingly unrelated seating areas in a Friar’s Nook review because the seating situation leaves a lot to be desired. Tables at the side of the restaurant are limited and usually all occupied; even if you manage to secure a spot, the rooms are cramped and that doesn’t make for a super nice dining experience. On the other hand, if you take the short walk to the Pinocchio Village Haus, you can have a quiet meal with a great view.
Finally, we hope you enjoyed the wild ride reviewing Mr. Toad, a secluded seating area above the Pinocchio Village Haus and the strange story about the black cauldron appearing at Disney theme parks. While it’s an eclectic mix of topics, it should have provided some useful tips and tricks for eating at Magic Kingdom.
In addition to totally useless information about the black cauldron that you can use to impress your friends…assuming your friends are among the 1,839 people on Earth that are part the black cauldron Fan community.
Planning a trip to Walt Disney World? Learn more about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotel Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World restaurant reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our post Tips to Save Money on Walt Disney World Tickets. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at smart items to pack. To know what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World tour guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Are you one of 1,839 fans of The Black Cauldron? Happy to finally see you get the respect you deserve on this blog? Have you tried Mr. Frog in Recanto do Frade? Sitting in the secluded living area of the Pinocchio Village Haus overlooking Cinderella Castle and Fantasyland? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback – even when you disagree with us – is interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so share your thoughts below in the comments!