ORLANDO — Florida is home to some of the most magical places on Earth: Disney World, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter… and a McDonald’s that serves everything from omelets to custom-made pizza.
Welcome to the “World’s Largest Entertainment McDonald’s and PlayPlace.”
I had heard rumours about a McDonald’s down in Florida that’s like none other. So on my latest trip to the state, I knew I had to visit.
I convinced my mum Kathy, an avid chef and Food Network junkie, and my cousin Rachel, lover of all food, to take a detour from our family vacation to Harry Potter Land so we could visit the grandest of all McDonald’s.
Here’s what it was like:
An indoor pergola towers over the tables by the entrance, which were all full around 4:30 p.m. on a Tuesday.
The location's biggest draw is its menu of customisable pastas, sandwiches, and pizzas. Here were some on display.
There are a ton of ingredients you can choose to add to your pasta, including veggies, chicken, and bacon. Sauces options include marinara, Alfredo, and pesto.
The pizza ordering reminded me a bit of Pizza Hut's build-your-own pizza system online. You have your choice of sauces, cheeses (mozzarella or a cheddar blend), meat (chicken, bacon, sausage, or Canadian bacon), and other toppings.
Our order was complete: a cheeseburger meal, pasta, pizza, a Belgian waffle, and three drinks for just under $A47.
There was only one person in front of me in line at the cashier, so it didn't take too much longer, and I was able to use Samsung Pay.
Some of the custom dessert orders weren't available at the electronic checkout machine, so you have to talk to a human to satisfy your sweet tooth. The dessert bar looked impressive, though there was no one working at it at the time.
The process of getting our food was pretty confusing. One worker told me I was supposed to wait for my food at the counter while another worker told me they would bring it to us at our table.
The control (regular McDonald's items you can get anywhere) arrived first, 11 minutes after we placed our order.
My cousin, unswayed by the plethora of custom items available, insisted on getting a double cheeseburger and fries. They tasted just like they do at the tens of thousands of McDonald's around the world.
And 16 minutes after we placed our order, employees delivered our custom items to our table. Note the real porcelain plates -- we're dining in high style now!
First up: the famous pizza. We opted for a small cheese with light sauce, mushrooms, and green peppers. The mushrooms tasted canned, which, as my mother noted, 'shouldn't be allowed to exist.'
The crust was satisfyingly crunchy, and they did indeed go light on the sauce. I appreciated the high cheese-to-crust ratio, and while it wasn't 'good' by snobby New York pizza standards, I did eat four slices. Take that as a complicit endorsement.
The pasta was plated nicely, and I enjoyed it at first (I was very hungry). But a few bites in, I began to dissect what was really going on. The tortellini tasted like the frozen kind you buy at the grocery store, and mum observed the pesto tasted and looked like it was made with dried basil. The bread on the side (which appeared to be plain pizza crust) was a nice touch.
For our dessert/breakfast item: a glorious Belgian waffle with strawberries and 'regular' whipped cream. The exterior petals were satisfyingly crunchy, while the inside was soft and gooey. It was mum's favourite by far.
Something we found odd was how quickly the food got cold. They prepared it mere feet away (it was custom after all), and delivered it to our table with plastic covers to keep it warm, but there were cold pockets in every dish after the very first bite.
Very full, we went to explore the 'entertainment' portion upstairs. There was a massive playhouse, complete with what my mum called a 'human gerbil wheel.'
There were a few little kids playing, and I longed to be a child small enough to fit in those tiny tunnels again.
Yelp reviewers raved about the bathroom, and I couldn't figure out why. They looked like normal (though spacious) restrooms.
Yelp reviewers were particularly enamoured with the automatic seat covers. 'Why?' mum asked. 'They have those in the Bentonville, Arkansas airport.'
The Hamburgler, my favourite chain character, is featured with Ronald McDonald in a fun pop art mural.
Mac Tonight Moon Man, a character who first appeared in McDonald's commercials in the '80s, watches over even more seating upstairs.
Though this McDonald's was 19,000 square feet, it's technically not the biggest one in the world. That title goes to the location at the Olympic Village in London.
I didn't see any cars use the drive thru when I was there, but it also looked pretty big, with two lanes.
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