Caity Weaver and Rich Juzwiak, Gawker’s chief restaurant critics, recently ate, drank, and gasped their way through every international pavilion and theme park attraction at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. This is their review.
The Best Restaurant in the World
Buffet with communal tables
Caity: For lunch, we traveled to Germany, land of the blazing tropical sun.
Rich: We were greeted at Biergarten Restaurant by one of the most strikingly handsome men I’ve ever seen in person. Actually, does coming face-to face with a marble sculpture count as “in person?” Nico was as cold as his eyes were blue, as you’d expect from a living god. I expect to see him next on billboards. Bella from Regensburg “took care” of us, which meant pointing us to the buffet. She reminded me of Ariana Grande without the kewpie swagger, with notes of Celine Dion. I loved her. She was my love. I fall in love whenever I meet...an Epcot employee.
Caity: One briefly confusing thing that happens at every Epcot restaurant is that your server greets you in English, says “Welcome to [country]” in their native language, and then switches back to English to say “That means welcome to [country].” I would always forget about this middle portion, and so would stare at our waiters, confused, trying to decipher what English words they were saying.
Rich: It’s one of those things that you never get used to, like natural catastrophes and war.
Caity: At our communal table (out of sight of the buffet), Bella gave us an extremely quick verbal explanation of where things were. Unfortunately, it was in heavily accented English and, by this point, there was a three-piece German band (two guitars, one accordion) playing on the restaurant stage, so I barely listened. Yeah, yeah, Bella. Dessert in the middle, got it. As a result of my cockiness, there was too much space on my plate dedicated to salad, and not enough room for macaroni and cheese!
Rich: At first, I was very disappointed not just by the buffet-style of eating (if I wanted to serve myself, I would have stayed home and never walked through the park gates) but also by the smell in Biergarten, which was something between feet and milk that had been sitting out for too long, like a very simple child’s experiment in growing mold.
To my shock, the buffet was a gift! A gift we paid for, but a gift nonetheless! I figured Germany would be a sausage-fest in many senses, but it was actually the most vegetarian-friendly place in the (artificial) world. I filled up my plate and everything was good.
Caity: My favorite thing, as always, were the pretzel rolls. One of the meatballs I put on my plate was ice cold to the touch, and I didn’t know if that was intentional. Is “cold sphere of meat” a German thing?
Rich: You made me touch your meatball.
In another circumstance, I might have been too precious to do so. But how could I say no to you?
Caity: Oh, you don’t like to touch a meatball! I noticed you hesitated. I thought you were worried I was going to eat it. “I’m not going to eat it!” I said.
Rich: I was worried about contracting meat cooties. I was worried that the particles would travel up my hand and into my mouth, revoking my status as a pescatarian.
Caity: Because the constant, oppressive ease of Disney had dulled my senses, I made the buffet rookie mistake of not scoping out the buffet before I started loading up my plate.
Rich: You missed out on the mac and cheese, by the way—it was so creamy it was more like macaroni and cheesecake. The cod with mustard sauce was chowdery and probably of some relation to the cod that I had just eaten a few hours earlier in England. The potato leek soup was a little too salty, and a cast member who wasn’t Bella gave me an insane spoon to eat it with (a teaspoon) that definitely diminished my enjoyment of it.
Rich: I also had spätzle for the first time. I thought it was going to be like scrapple on account of the name similarity, and in a way it is—it’s kind of the odds ‘n ends of pasta that once functioned as whole. It’s like macaroni and cheese, hold the cheese and throw the macaroni in a frying pan. It was comforting in the way that the Moroccan couscous was comforting (you had me at “I’m extremely bland”). My appetite had rebounded at this point and started overcompensating. We had eaten not three hours before and I was completely committed to this buffet. I was no longer eating out of habit, but for the joy of tasting.
Caity: While there wasn’t anything at the buffet I loved, including the desserts (which ranged from “this tastes like uncooked pie filling” berry compote to “this is fine, this is good” apple strudel), the German Biergarten is DEFINITELY the best bang for your buck. The buffet has tons of options, especially of kid-friendly dishes like noodles. You can get as much food as you want (which, to be fair, is the same portion you are served at any sit-down Disney restaurant). There is live entertainment on the main stage. You are bathed in perpetual midnight, next to an artificial mill.
Rich: If I had a family, I would take them to Epcot Germany, have them eat until they couldn’t anymore, and walk that food off for the rest of the day.
I thought the Bavarian cheesecake was excellent: rich in a whole new way; less dense but creamier than New York-style cheesecake. “It’s just like my mother’s!” Bella gushed. This felt overly on the nose, but I was so in love with her and the sister that she calls cheesecake that I felt no need to call bullshit.
And the beer! The beer was delicious. Schofferhofer Pink Grapefruit Hefeweizen. I also gushed about this to Bella, who became my confidant during this journey since you were mostly apathetic.
Caity: “It tastes a little like lemonade, no?” asked Bella Emphasis on the NO, Bella!
Rich: “My mother is a lemon,” Bella whispered in my ear, and I replied, “Yes.”
It was the most refreshing beer I’ve ever had in my life. I loved everything about Germany. Even the band! And I hate bands!
Caity: I liked the band. I mean, I didn’t like the noise they made, but I appreciate anyone getting out there and giving it their all, especially to people who are barely paying attention.
Rich: I thought this was like a best-case scenario of being forced to listen to something I wouldn’t under any normal circumstances. These guys were very intent on blurring the line between musicians and entertainers with their wild bell songs and crazy long horns and audience call and response (Them: “Teeny tiny teeny tiny”; Diners: “Oi! Oi! Oi!”).
Rich: We all hear what we want. That is the beauty of music.
Caity: Teeny tiny teeny tiny, just like Bella’s mother used to say as she tucked her into bed at night, after a long day at the buffet.
Is Everything OK?
Questions About the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Rich: Yes, I would go back every time I got hungry and then eat until I forgot what that felt like, over and over again for the rest of my life.
Caity: Yes. Even though it wasn’t my favorite restaurant, I would go back because it’s the best value at Disney. I can’t say no to value.
Is it a good first date spot?
Rich: No, it smells like feet. Alternately, if you and/or your date are foot fetishists, YES.
Caity: This is the only restaurant we visited that rivaled Mexico in terms of kitsch. For that reason, it would be a fun first date spot, though its dark interior tends more toward gloom than romance.
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Rich: While I am reminded of Plato’s Retreat literally every time I set eyes on a buffet (per a documentary I watched, a buffet was set up in the middle of that orgy space—imagine what THAT spread was like), I think the inevitable intermingling that occurs while you are procuring your food makes it so everyone is all up in your business. Not your best option by a long shot.
Caity: The other parties at our communal table were so focused on not invading one another’s privacy that I’m confident two people having an affair could pass through the restaurant totally unnoticed.
Is it a good place to bring the cryogenically frozen corpse of Walt Disney?
Rich: Yeah. Throw him up on stage and let the wildly proficient band make an instrument out of his cold, hard body.
Caity: Yes. Bella would take one look at him and say “It’s just like my mother’s!”