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
Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe
Rich: On the drive to Epcot in our rental car, we saw a dead raccoon ripped open on the road. An animal that isn’t intact and smiling in your face is a jarring contrast to the ones that you find at Disney. Was it an omen?
Caity: Its stomach had exploded like a piñata, revealing a cache of colorful surprises. In this way, I would say that Epcot is like a raccoon: until you rip it apart and root around in there, you’ll have no idea what sort of marvelous things it contains.
Rich: Epcot is, if not the happiest place on earth, then the nerdiest place on earth that is based on the general principle of happiness.
Caity: I think “nerdiness” implies a degree of factual accuracy that is not so much ignored in Epcot as absent except in those moments when it can be repurposed into an interesting bit of trivia about the design of the park itself. For instance, as this Walt Disney World fan site points out, sharp-eyed visitors might notice a differently-colored section of pavement between the France and Morocco areas of Epcot’s World Showcase. While there is no educational sign posted to explain the strip’s significance, it apparently is intended to represent the Strait of Gibraltar! (Not technically located between France and Morocco, but Epcot works with the tools God gave them.)
In 2015, a trip to Epcot’s Norway is more like a trip to the fake kingdom in Frozen, which shares many characteristics with Norway, and is governed and staffed by that country’s young adult population. “NORSK KULTUR,” read a sign on a small gallery, “Inspiration for Disney’s FROZEN.”
Rich: Epcot is nerds for dummies.
Caity: The first meal of our trip was “breakfast” at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe.
Rich: Breakfast was the hardest meal to plan for this trip, as restaurants in Epcot’s World Showcase Pavilion don’t open until 11 and none of them offer breakfast, per se (with the exception of a Disney Princess-frequented “banquet hall,” also located in Norway, for which we were unable to secure a reservation). We passed people lining up for margaritas at 11:45 a.m. (in Mexico) on our way to Norway.
Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe SEEMED to offer a wide array of breakfast foods, just as it SEEMED to be actually located in Norway. In line, Caity fretted over ordering both the school bread and the berry cream puff. “Is it too much?” you asked.
Before I could answer, a female patron in line behind us piped up: “You’re at Disney. It’s not too much.”
Caity: The Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe was a cozy structure that, to its credit, really did remind me of a little shop I had seen in the film Frozen (which I assume is what Norway is like). From the outside, at least. The inside was full of row after row of pristine pastries on sterile plastic shelves. No “Summer Blowout,” here haha—anyone remember Frozen?
Studying the offerings, the names and descriptions of which were a blizzard of words like “puff,” and “cream,” and “crème,” I felt a tightly braided cord of hope and despair winding around my heart: the anxiety of a child who knows that her mom will not ever allow her to buy all the pastries she wants.
My mom was not there. Rich was my mom and, as a back-talking 10th grader might say to a nervous Teach for America instructor on her third day: YA NOT MY MOM! I got a berry cream puff AND a “school bread,” which Disney describes as a “Sweet Cardamom Bun filled with Vanilla Crème Custard and topped with Glazed and Toasted Coconuts.” I don’t know what they teach children in Norway, but I cannot imagine it is anything close to this.
Rich: I got the salmon and egg sandwich and the “viking mousse”. When the Bel Ami Studios-esque Lars from Stord, Norway, rang us up he referred to it as the “wyking mousse...with the horns.” And put his little fingers up to his little ears.
Caity: Every single time someone ordered this item, Lars would say “Wyking mousse...wit de horns?” and make a horn motion wit de hands. I wonder how many times he has done that in his young life. Twice in the 5 or so minutes we were there; assuming he works an 8 hour day, that would be 96 times a day
Rich: I guess he has to find ways to amuse himself in that job—or just one way that is endlessly amusing.
I also got the wyking coffee, which earns its wild reputation by including Kamora Coffee Liqueur and Bailey’s Irish Cream. We dined al fresco, as they do in the wilds of Norway. Breakfast was...not good.
Caity: It was too muggy in Norway to make dining pleasant. The cream filling of my school bread was flavorless, but the cream of my berry cream puff was, as you pointed out, even more flavorless.
Rich: Less Than Zero remake starring your cream puff.
Caity: The pastries reminded me of the sort sold in Chinatown, the Epcot Norway of New York: Looks-wise: very complicated and impressive; taste-wise: like they peaked as display objects in a bakery window. The berries of my puff tasted O.K., though I would have preferred not to go through the chore of excavating them from the puff’s interior.
My favorite thing we bought in Norway was a bottle of VOSS water, which I simply love.
Rich: My salmon and egg sandwich was open-faced and, honestly, I don’t want to see that. Have some respect, and close your face, please. The bread wasn’t toasted. I didn’t even want to know what was going to happen if my mouth actually made it to the eggs (it didn’t). My mousse was whatever. Whatever...wit de horns. The wyking coffee was good.
It was during breakfast that I realized that the Disney experience is not just one of people watching, but of watching people watch people. For example, a woman sitting three feet away from us in a salmon shirt that matched my sandwich watched us openly as we discussed what we didn’t like about our food. I think at a place like Disney World, you get so used to being entertained that everything is fair game for staring. It reminds me of when I took acid in Atlantic City when I was 21. I gawked openly and with an open mouth at all the AC freaks on the floor of Caesar’s Palace.
Caity: Maybe she thought we were real Norwegians, eating our everyday normal type of food and VOSS water.
Rich: Maybe she thought we were animatronics. Maybe she’s never seen people who were so passionate about crap. Who knows.
When I popped back into Kringla to take a photo, I heard Lars telling a young girl who was uncertain about her school bread purchase, “You will like it, I promise.” I bet Lars lies about as much as he does the horns thing.
Ultimately, I think Krigla is a great place to have a mediocre breakfast. And Norway smells like weed.
Caity: On our way out of Norway, a little girl in a princess dress and plastic sandals ran across the pavement in front of us, and then threw herself *SPLAT* on the ground. I don’t mean she fell. I mean she was running and, all of a sudden, decided to lie down. She remained prostrate on the sunbaked pavement for a few seconds until her father walked over, scooped her up, and wordlessly threw her over his shoulder.
That combination of exhilarated and exhausted is how I felt the entire time we we walked around Epcot stuffing our open faces.
Is Everything OK?
Questions About the Dining Experience
Would you go back?
Rich: Not even if hell were FROZEN over.
Caity: If I ever go back to Norway, it will be to seize it for political purposes, or to buy a VOSS water, which I simply love.
Is it a good first date spot?
Rich: Maybe if you want to treat your 5-year-old niece to a breakfast she won’t remember and be cute about it and “call it a date” and mention, “Frozen takes place in the country that this is simulating...” Ah, forget it. No.
Caity: It’s a good place for a first date if you’re the kind of person who would take someone here on a first date, because the date will take 20 minutes max, and then that person never have to see you again, you idiot.
Is it a good place to have an affair?
Rich: If you like pasty Euro twinks, I’m sure Lars gets regular breaks…
Caity: And if your twink likes pastries, Lars has lots of cakes. (No, it’s a really bad place to have an affair. There are like 4 tables, and they’re all outdoors.)
Is it a good place to bring the cryogenically frozen corpse of Walt Disney?*
Rich: Yes, Norway is a good place to bring and preserve a frozen anything.
Caity: No, he would melt instantly in the outdoor dining area, and then wake up and be starving. This is the worst place to take someone who is starving.
*Since every place in Disney World is a good place to bring a doll, we have selected a more appropriate and challenging final Is Everything OK question.