The line of guests waiting to order at Columbia Harbour House can, at times, be quite long. Case in point, this is my third attempt to stop in for a sandwich at the long standing staple of quick service maritime dining at the Magic Kingdom.
There is a point, after lunch and just before dinner… say around 4:30pm, that the lines are short and the restaurant is relatively empty… just how I like my quick service restaurants.
Wood bits cover everything in the two-level dining area. Both levels are ship-like with the bottom being a little more closed off feeling, somewhat like a galley or the crew's mess hall on an old wooden sailing vessel. The top level is slightly more open feeling, partially because of the windows and skylight area in the center, that looks down over the food ordering and pickup area.
It is a really well-done theme. There are ship knots, dive bells, harpoons, detailed figureheads (those carved wooden figures attached to the front of old sailing vessels), and nautical paintings everywhere you look. The wooden floors on the stairs and on the entire second floor even creak, if you step on them just right!
In so much as the cast members try to keep the table surfaces and floors clean (thankfully), some of the nick knacks seem like they've forgone any sort of cleaning in years. Some of the model ships that have been placed in glass boxes come to mind. The glass on the one I was sitting next to was so cloudy, you could barely see the ship inside. I get it… it's a high-volume location, but if you're going to have the stuff out there, you've got to keep it clean.
Getting back to my sandwich, the "Anchors Aweigh Sandwich" has been on the menu for a long time. It's basically a good, solid take on a tuna fish sandwich. Eating healthful at the parks can be difficult sometimes, and so it's really nice to find something that's not battered or swimming in sauce. The multigrain bead used here, balances well with the white tuna, while the lettuce and tomato add a crisp and juicy note to the sandwich. The house-made style chips served with the sandwich are good, but you're not likely to ever get them "made to order" (which is when they are at their best), they are fully allowed to cool before being used at this location.
All in all, it's a good, basic, tuna sandwich… that unfortunately, also lacks any real "wow" factor. If there was simply more tuna, lettuce, and tomato in there, you could say "wow, this thing is packed full of stuff, I'm totally getting another one of these when I come back"… or if there were some unique (and healthy) item added to the sandwich itself… like sunflower seeds, or asiago cheese shavings, black olives, or an artesian-style seven grain bread… it might have that "I have to get another one of these, I've not had a tuna sandwich like that anywhere before", quality to it.
That's not bad per say, it's nice to find a basic sandwich... but with a price that rivals or exceeds what you'll likely find at niche fresh bread/cafe shops across America, you're left wanting just a little "wow" (and a little more sandwich, truth be told). The Tuna Salad Sandwich at The Plaza Restaurant
(for example) is a full three dollars more… but is delivered on a freshly baked croissant, which is not something you'll find everywhere.
Fortunately, there are many things on the menu to try at Columbia Harbour House, and now that I know what time the crowds have "abandoned ship", I think I'll give a hot menu item a try next time!