Big Thunder Country Picnic - lunch - July 17, 2004
The spot of the former Big Thunder Barbeque has been reopened as a food location but with a decidedly different menu. A friend had told me about the upcoming re-opening of the location, and the menu was interesting enough that we decided to try it.
We met up with other friends and headed for the picnic area. We had very much enjoyed the Big Thunder Barbeque, so it was nice to be able to be in and eat in that area again, even if the circumstances were different. As you walk into the entrance, you're greeted by a very friendly cast member (CM). There are signs up with the available menu choices, and there are stacks of numbered metal buckets. You pick up one of the buckets (Yes, we did look through to find a good number. We discovered later that one of our other friends had already found "42", but we were content with our "13".), pick up your drink of choice from the available selection of bottled drinks (you can use the bucket to carry your drinks if you choose) and then walk up to one of the CMs at the two available cashiers to place your order. You then carry your bucket and drinks to your table. Your bucket serves as an order number so that when your food is brought out, they'll know how to find you. Condiments are available from a nearby wagon. There are tables set out with picnic tablecloths and umbrellas that provide much-needed shade. A CM then uses a picnic basket to deliver your food, placing your food on your table and taking away the bucket. We noticed that the container used to hold the chicken was the same as those previously used at the now-closed Farmer's Market in Disney's California Adventure.
My husband and I had decided to order the fried chicken basket and the chilled vegetable platter and split both between us. That turned out to be the absolute best arrangement. The chicken (which is the same chicken served at Plaza Inn) was chilled, moist and tasty. I know some people don't find cold fried chicken appealing at all, but I'm one of those who thinks it can be great - if the chicken is indeed cold and the fried chicken is good to begin with, and this chicken certainly fit that description. The accompanying potato salad was quite good as well. I am not partial to corn muffins, so I gave mine to someone else, but others at the table who did have theirs seemed to enjoy them. The vegetable platter consisted of slices of portabello mushrooms, red and green bell peppers, scallions, cherry tomatoes, carrot slices and zucchini which had been grilled and then chilled. All of the vegetables were delicious. The vegetables were served with a side of sweet lemon-basil rice and a corn muffin. I thought the rice was ok, but it took a minute to get used to eating cold, semi-hard rice. The combination of having chicken and vegetables turned out to be a perfect match, especially since the cold entrees were a refreshing respite from the warm summer afternoon. If I were dining alone and had to choose only one entree, I think I'd be hard pressed to make a decision. The vegetables are so good, though, that it would be hard to pass them up.
During the course of our meal, Meeko (the raccoon from "Pocahontas") came out to greet the diners. He wandered around from table to table, and he certainly was very spirited. He came by our table and made a gesture asking for the bottled drink of one of the people at our table. When she gave it to him, he proceeded to run off to a nearby bush to pretend to bury it for later. Meeko did very many "raccoon-like" things that day. We watched him as he interacted with other guests as well, in particular a little girl in a stroller who was just captivated with him. He approached her very carefully and slowly, making sure that she wasn't frightened of him as he got closer, and it was so nice to see the little girl's wonderful reactions, not to mention the smiles on her mom and dad as well. Meeko came back to play with us several times, and yet again, we had an absolutely wonderful, funny and memorable character interaction with only adults at the table. A lot of people think that character interaction is only for children, but our friends and I very much enjoy interacting with the characters as well, and they seem to enjoy it too.
The only oddity we noticed was that even though only bottled drinks were served in this location, there were only receptacles labeled as trash cans and none specifically labeled for recycling. My husband mentioned it to one of the CMs, who said that they had requested the recycling bins but hadn't received them yet. When we left, we ended up carrying our empty bottles for a while before we could find recycling bins. Another CM later told us that the reason there are very few recycling bins at all is that CMs actually go through the regular trash bins and pull out the recyclables. I think that's great (though probably not so much for the CMs who have that job), but in a location where only bottled drinks are sold, it would seem to make sense to have at least one separate recycling bin there.
Overall, we very much enjoyed our lunch at the Big Thunder Country Picnic, and I would definitely recommend it. It does have a limited menu, but the items are delicious and perfect for a warm summer's day. Big Thunder Country Picnic is open daily from 11am to 3pm through the end of summer.
For the current lunch menu offerings, please click here.
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