Disney has seen numerous restaurants put through the ringer at their parks and resorts. Some, like the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill and Disneyland’s Blue Bayou, become long-time beloved locations seemingly untouchable to Disney Imagineers, while others, sadly, get the boot. Here, we honor some of the fallen Disney restaurants of yesteryear and take a look at the stories and legacies they leave behind.
1. Tahitian Terrace – Disneyland
The Tahitian Terrace was established in 1962, just 7 years after Disneyland’s opening date. Sitting on the outer rim of Adventureland, next to the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Tahitian Terrace offered Disneyland guests the opportunity to experience the flavors, sights, and sounds of Polynesia. The most popular drink “Planters Punch Tahitian” featured a tropical blend of fruit drinks and could be accompanied by Polynesian-themed foods such as broiled teriyaki steak, barbequed pineapple ribs, or crisp fried shrimp tempura. After dinner, a lively island rhythm filled the air as dancers appeared from behind a waterfall curtain and put on a show tour of South Pacific Polynesia and daring barefoot fire walk and fire-knife dance performances.
The Tahitian Terrace was a great success and ran at Disneyland for more than 30 years. However, like the fate of many Disney success stories, there was a new kid in town and this one’s name was Aladdin. In 1993, Disney decided to capitalize on the success of the animated movie and re-themed the Tahitian Terrace into the more Arabian-friendly “Aladdin’s Oasis Dinner Show”. In this new rendition, Kazim, the proprietor of the establishment, welcomes you to dinner when suddenly, Aladdin pops in to hide from Jafar. An entertaining show ensues that includes dancing, jokes, special effects, and, of course, all of our favorite characters from Aladdin. The entertainment took place during the course of a full-service dinner that included meals like shish kebobs and tabbouleh.
Though they followed a similar structure to the ever-popular Tahitian Terrace, the change was a flop and the regular running of the new Aladdin’s Oasis Dinner Show came to an end after just two years. For a little while, it operated seasonally. Then, in 1997, the Aladdin set was used as a stage for storytelling. Today, the terrace has fallen down the ranks and is being used as a grab and go venue for parade and Fantasmic packages as well as a convenient bathroom location.
2. The Odyssey – Epcot
Placed on the Epcot map right between Test Track and the Mexico pavilion lies a building that has seemingly had little to no activity in years - and yet, it is home to many of the failed experiments of Disney past. That flat-topped, water lined building is called The Odyssey Pavilion and it was once home to a fairly popular Epcot restaurant. Aptly named The Odyssey, this counter-service restaurant was part of the original plan for Epcot and opened with the park in 1982. It sold your typical fast food of the day: burgers, fries, and hot dogs. Similar to today’s Magic Kingdom restaurant Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café, The Odyssey featured an open, cafeteria-style seating area with a stage for live band performances.
During its earlier years, The Odyssey had originally faired pretty well in terms of popularity. Then, in the 1980s, Disney converted this restaurant into a venue for a dining show titled Mickey’s Rockin’ Celebration, which featured all of the classic “Mickey-and-friends” gang singing and dancing along to favorite Disney songs.
Though the show ran for roughly 10 years, its star faded quickly. With the draw of newer and more interesting dinner shows coupled with the Odyssey Pavilion’s out-of-the-way location, The Odyssey Restaurant wasn’t pulling the numbers it needed to survive. In 1994, the pavilion and restaurant permanently closed to make room for special events and on-site conferences.
3. Soundstage Restaurant – Disney-MGM Studios
Let’s take it back to 1989. It was a good year for Disney. The release of The Little Mermaid was taking the world by storm, Pleasure Island became the hot new place to hang out, and a third park, Disney-MGM Studios, was opening its gates to the masses. Yes, the 80s and 90s were a time of immense change for Disney parks and the Soundstage Restaurant was no stranger to these revisions.
The Soundstage Restaurant opened with MGM Studios in May of 1989. It was located near a back corner of the park, just before the entrance to The Magic of Disney Animation. At the time of its arrival, the restaurant was themed to the Plaza Hotel behind-the-scenes set from the 1988 movie Big Business, starring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin. Though the movie faired well in theaters, it quickly became clear that Big Business did not do enough big business in order to stay relevant at the Disney park and the restaurant was soon shut down temporarily for remodeling.
With the Soundstage Restaurant’s reopening came a new theme centered around the popular animated movie “Beauty and the Beast”. Now, guests were able to sample foods from many small counter-service food courts while surrounded by the charm of the village from Beauty and the Beast. However, this theme was also short-lived and, like the Tahitian Terrace, Aladdin swooped in and the restaurant was rethemed to Agrabah. Eventually, Imagineers decided to scrap the idea all together and replaced the area with a “Bear in the Big Blue House” show. Today, the building is home to Disney Junior: Live on Stage. However, you can still find the golden camels that once graced the Soundstage Restaurant’s entrance still standing at “The Magic Carpets of Aladdin” ride in Adventureland at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom park.
4. Casa de Fritos – Disneyland
In Disneyland 1955, next to Aunt Jemima’s Pancake House, held a little gold mine of childhood goodness. The Frito Kid, as he was called, was an audio-animatronic cowboy who, along with his non-visible mining friend Klondike, dispensed bags of Fritos to guests. All one had to do was put a quarter in the machine and the Frito Kid would call on Klondike to send a bag of Fritos down the chute.
For two years, the machine brought joy to guests and it was such a hit that in 1957, the Frito Kid was moved to a more permanent spot in Frontierland and was given his own restaurant: Casa de Fritos. Inside the restaurant, guests could treat themselves to a small variety of Tex-Mex food; tacos with Frito shells, tamales, enchiladas, and, of course, chili Frito pie. Though not incredibly authentic, Casa de Fritos was a hit. Many of the guests in 1950s California had very little experience with Mexican food and they flocked to the location to see the Frito Kid and get a taste of Mexican cuisine.
Casa de Fritos had a good run and the restaurant lasted until 1982 when the Lawry’s food company took control of the location, calling it Casa Mexicana. In 2001, the restaurant turned over again into a dining establishment now known as Rancho del Zocalo, whose menu boasts more authentic Mexican cuisine. Fritos Kid, however, has yet to make his reappearance.
Do you have fond memories of any of these dining locations? Share your stories below!