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Review Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2016
The Friar's Nook in the Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland is one of those places that I have never really considered as a dining option. I like themed dining very much, but Friar's seems like it's more on the edge of something, rather than being in the middle of something. That "something" I'm speaking of is Fantasyland of course.
When sitting at any of the all-outdoor partially covers tables, you can see the Carrousel, some princely spires that mark the entrance to the new Fantasyland, and maybe just a bit of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train mountain. Mostly though, you see tons of people. People walking left. People walking right. It's a great place to watch people… that's for sure… but it feels a bit more like a transition area, than a destination.
This is however, a walk-up quick-service counter and not a full-on restaurant. At the end of the day, I'm just really grateful that they've decided to keep a fair amount of tables and chairs in the area. No, there's not seating for 200, but for a walkup window… there's quite a bit of seating. You may not be able to see all the seating at first because the tables sort of wrap around the building, (just a little bit… to the right of the ordering window), into what used to be a small gift shop and camera battery nook for the old Snow White attraction. Oh… Friar's "Nook"… now it's all starting to make sense.
Onto the food… just based on the cost of other items that we've recently tried at the Magic Kingdom, I wasn't expecting much from the $8.99 (July 2016) Pot Roast Macaroni & Cheese. I have to say though… I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Keeping the fact that this is a walk-up counter in mind… the presentation was spot on and the portion size was really quite decent (i.e. I wasn't looking for more to eat after this one).
The Mac and Cheese seemed to be a slight upgrade from the buffet-quality mac and cheese that I've run into at various locations in the Disney parks recently. It was more than just creamy, there was actually a bit of "cheese" flavor in the orange gooey cheese sauce. Could it have been more pronounced with "real" cheesiness… yes, but when you start making "adult" mac and cheese, you tend to loose children because of the smell (I'm just saying). The Pot Roast was lean and moist… there was only one tiny bit of fat in one forkful, but that's okay… it made the case for this being real Pot Roast.
I suspect there's a giant pot roast, beef stew and braised pork making machine (i.e. sous-chef) somewhere around Fantasyland (most probably in Be Our Guest) that's just making the stuff all day long. They've found a really nice flavor profile for the stew and pot roast products that probably involves a bit of slow-cooking along with a clever mix of spices, that just doesn't taste "fake" like some lesser (i.e. canned, high-volume) stews and pot roasts do. We've found that same flavor profile with much of the "meat" around Be Our Guest (like Gaston's Tavern and here at Friar's Nook).
Topping it off was a dashing of green chives, which added a welcome bit of color (and maybe a little bit of flavor, but there weren't really enough of them there to get any real sense of fresh garden greens). The flavor feature here is the creamy cheese against the lightly spiced, savory meat.
The mix stayed nice and hot (especially the mac and cheese) and the entree being served in a styrofoam plate/dish (as opposed to the giant white cup that they started out with months ago) really made you feel like you were eating an entree and not just scoffing down fast-food. All in all, I give the dish two thumbs-up. As a counter service offering, this is a great dish.
The Friar's Nook has historically changed menus quickly though (and sometimes with abrupt culinary shifts), so there's no telling how longer the Pot Roast Macaroni & Cheese will be on the menu. If you're in the mood for some comfort-food mac and cheese (and maybe trying to skip a sit-down meal completely), there's enough food and flavor here to do just that. If you're not into Pot Roast, there's a Barbecue Chicken version of the dish that's also available. I haven't tried that one yet… but it looks good enough to warrant another trip to the Friar's Nook!