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What new street food would you like to see at your favorite theme park?

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Published: September 30, 2009 at 7:42 PM

Walking around Disneyland's Halloween Time yesterday, I failed to find any carts selling seasonal food. Maybe I was there too early in the day (I left around noon), but I've heard that the special "Halloween" items at Disneyland are pretty much limited to desserts at a few of the slide-tray restaurants.

I wish that more theme park would embrace seasonal and street food. When I was in high school in Indiana, late summers brought fresh grilled corn at the state fair and fresh strawberry shortcake at the annual Strawberry Festival downtown. Disney's Epcot has proven that food festivals can draw visitors to theme parks. More parks should hook up with local farmers and vendors to bring seasonal treats into the park, then promote the heck out of the fact.

When I think of fall snacks, I think again of driving down to Brown County in Indiana to watch the leaves turn... and getting some freshly fried biscuits with apple butter. I haven't found anyone outside central and southern Indiana who makes them the same way, but I crave them every fall.

A paper plate of these biscuits, with a dollop of apple butter on the side, would make a perfect theme park snack at Halloween time. (It's fried dough, people! Theme park food is all about the fried dough.)

While I'm on the topic, here are two more items I'd love to see on a food cart at a theme park near me. Like the churros now ubiquitous at parks around the country, both are Mexican-American street-food staples: easy to prepare in bulk and highly addictive.

Elotes

Elotes
Otherwise known as "Mexican Corn," an elote is corn-on-the-cob, grilled with butter, mayonnaise, chili powder and cotija cheese. The fresh taste of the corn balances the sharp chili and the rich mayo and cheese perfectly. And it's served on a stick, making it a perfect fit in theme parks.

Danger dogs
Known by many other names, I'm talking about bacon-wrapped hot dogs here. In L.A., you'll usually find them grilled with jalapenos, though I am told that a New Jersey version finds them served over a fried egg. Disney served a version of these on a cart in Adventureland years ago, but I haven't seen them recently. To be most successful, the dogs should be made available with whatever's the most appropriate regional option.

What other regional street-food specialties would you like to see at your favorite theme park?

Readers' Opinions

From 66.78.69.3 on September 30, 2009 at 7:57 PM
For Halloween-time, hot apple cider is a must. I also think a variety of pumpkin-based foods should be available such as pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, and roasted/seasoned pumpkin seeds. I also think that a pushcart filled with a variety of different candy corn would attract quite a few people. Apple-based foods are also good like apple pie, cider, and candy apples.
From Manny Barron on September 30, 2009 at 8:27 PM
Yeah Elotes are awesome. It's pretty common to find this fine Mexican delicacy where I live, theres a guy outside of the neighborhood supermarket preparing these in a shopping cart. C'mon Di$ney and Univer$al lets add elotes to the menu.
From James Rao on September 30, 2009 at 8:38 PM
I would just be happy if theme parks offered higher quality in their existing food items. I would so love to bite into a corn dog and say "Wow, this is the best corn dog ever!" Sadly, that seldom happens around here.

One thing I would like to see in the American Disney parks is a selection of fresh popcorn in flavors similar to the varieties found in the Tokyo parks (cappuccino, strawberry, coconut, sea-salt, curry, soy-sauce, etc). I like popcorn quite a bit and the various flavors would be fun.

Also, a good BLT is sometimes tough to find...

From Anthony Murphy on September 30, 2009 at 9:05 PM
They sell elotes off the cob at US Cellular Field (Sox Park)

Good idea!

From Andy Guinigundo on October 1, 2009 at 6:38 AM
Well, if you're thinking fall, I think harvest. While out in Cali, there isn't much of a change in season, it's huge in the midwest farm country.

Apples: carmel apples, WARM apple cider. Apple pie.

Pumpkin: pie of course, but anything including ice cream, coffee, and even beer.

I'm from Cincinnati, I think Oktoberfest - struedel, brats, metts, kraut, cream puffs. (& more beer)

From Rod Whitenack on October 1, 2009 at 9:37 AM
The Six Flaggs Kentucky Kingdom where I live used to have big black ovens at various locations in the park roasting corn and turkey legs during Hallowscream. I worked as a journalist for a news weekly and often covered the haunted attraction industry every Fall. I can tell you that the wonderful smell in these areas added infinitely to the experience. I would also reccomend hot chili; red chili, white chili, etc. For me, the brisk air of the Fall season is the perfect time for chili.
From Chris Danger on October 1, 2009 at 10:10 AM
Since im from Texas, i'll take a crack at this: Elote usually can be served on the cob or in a cup, which makes it a perfect food for themeparks. Ive always found the version in the cup carries better than hauling around a corn cob and its less messy as well. Plus, theres some interesting flavor options w/ a food like this, as ive seen it served traditional (Chili power, butter, mayonesa, queso) and with other added savory(Sour Cream, Salsa) and sweet (Cinnamon/sugar, Chocolate) flavors.

I agree on the regional/seasonal foods approach when it comes to themepark food, id prefer a warm apple cider and a baked snack in the fall/winter when I visit a park than the standard soda and hot dog offerings. Im guessing most of the issue w/ offering a higher-quality of product is due to supposed costs, especially with the mid-range chains(Six Flags, im looking at you!). Dollywood seems to get this right 10 times out of 10 w/ decent food options for everyone.

From 216.82.243.83 on October 1, 2009 at 1:25 PM
They do sell an elote-type snack at DCA! There are several ODV's with corn on the cob with chili powder and butter. It doesn't include the cotija, but other than that, it's pretty close.
From 161.44.193.232 on October 1, 2009 at 2:48 PM
Poutine! Because none of the other foods you suggested sounded greasy enough or unhealthy enough. (OK if you suggest pork cracklings, you win)
From rick stevens on October 1, 2009 at 7:05 PM
How about a really good Taco cart. With carnitas, carne asada, fish and shrimp tacos. The simpler the better.
From 68.183.80.241 on October 2, 2009 at 10:59 AM
Mongolian BBQ! or a healthy type of chinese food without all the skin on the chicken and globs of sauce. Lots of veggies to choose from!

We'll be able to fit into the smaller seats of those fast rides and walk the park a whole lot longer without tiring out as early, not to mention we won't have to worry about having a heart attack on those thrill rides!

Our kids will need us around to be an example to them of healthy eating habits. California can lead the way since we have a high population that likes asian food even if you're not asian!

Lets start eating healthier America!

From Will Chilcote on October 2, 2009 at 12:30 PM
My 2 favorites, Churros and Turkey Legs, are already in most parks.
From Joshua Counsil on October 2, 2009 at 1:34 PM
Thank you to the anonymous poster who suggested poutine. I cannot believe that poutine isn't served at the Canadian pavilion in Epcot - it's Canada's #1 drunk food.

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