Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World has a lot to shout “Yee haw” about, with the upcoming March 23, 2023 opening of Roundup Rodeo BBQ in the Toy Story Land section of the park.
We were invited to a tasting event ahead of the opening, and the chance to speak with Chef de cuisine for concept development Bobby Otero and Disney Imagineer Justin Sells.
It isn’t Chef Bobby’s first rodeo; he’s been instrumental at several other dining locations around Walt Disney World, including Victoria & Albert’s, Narcoosee’s, Le Cellier, and Cinderella’s Royal Table. In this instance, it was all about the fun of a family-style barbeque, with picnic food on the menu, ramped up with hearty flavors.
Each set-menu meal begins with bread service, featuring a basket of soft, buttery Prospector’s Homemade Cheddar Biscuits with a side of Sweet Red Pepper Jelly. The jelly’s sweet tang, with the merest hint of heat, compliments the savory biscuit beautifully, and we felt the two were better together than just enjoying the biscuit on its own.
Three salads came next. The Rootin’ Tootin’ Tomato salad offered the classic summertime garden freshness of tomatoes, pickled onion, cucumber, and dill; Rex’s Romaine and Kale Salad, packed full of healthy greens, had the crunch of apples, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds drizzled with Green Goddess dressing; and Wheezy’s Watermelon Salad – juicy cubes of ripe watermelon with torn mint – are meant to appeal to youngsters, though adults will thoroughly enjoy the summery nostalgia, too.
Guests then receive a platter of meats that include Evil Dr. Smoked Ribs, Buttercup’s Beef Brisket, BBQ Chicken, and There’s a Sausage in my Boot fire-grilled pork sausage. We sampled two of them, and, for us, the smoked brisket was a stand-out winner. It’s easy to get brisket wrong and end up with a dry, leathery meat, but Roundup got it very, very right, with several tender, moist slices that could make even modest appetites like ours shout for more.
The smoked ribs were a succulent delight, too. Meaty, with a deep, rich flavor, the benefit of 12 hours in an onsite smoker really shows in these tender morsels. Guests can also choose from brined, smoked chicken, and hearty spirals of “snake in my boot” sausages.
Four side dish selections meant to be shared by the table round out the main course. Of the eight on offer, we sampled Mean Old Potato Salad, a deliciously creamy combination of redskin potatoes in a mayonnaise sauce, and the sweet, crisp crunch of the Vegi Slaw. Picnic purists will be happy to know baked beans and “street corn” corn on the cob are two other choices. Fried pickle spears and mac & cheese are on offer as well. The baked beans are made with jackfruit, making them all plant-based.
Diners then choose from five individual desserts in a jar, including Goat’s Apple Pie, Billy’s Chocolate Silk Pie, Gruff’s Peach-Strawberry Pie, and Bo’s Lemon and Blueberry Cheesecake, which was the one we sampled. The blend of light, luscious cheesecake layered with sweet blueberry compote, tart lemon topping, and a graham cracker crust was the perfect sweet-and-tangy finale.
Cupcake á la Forky (a mini frosted chocolate cupcake with a sugar cookie shaped and decorated to look like Forky) also made its way to our tray, and while it’s intended for youngsters, adults won’t be turned down if they choose it as their dessert.
In the interest of being thorough, and because we often choose vegetarian or plant-based entrees when dining out, we also sampled the alternative to the meat platter. Trixie’s Plant-Based Trio is a trifecta of smoked, soft-cooked cauliflower with harissa drizzle and crunchy walnut gremolata; Impossible “meat” Scrumptious Bratwurst which, if you close your eyes and imagine the flavor of meat-based sausage, is an excellent replacement, though the texture is lighter and more paté-like; and our hands-down favorite, the Impossible “meat” Rip Roarin’ Rib Chop. No one is going to mistake it for its beef-based distant cousin, but this plant-based version has absolute loads of flavor, a meatloaf-like texture, and a stylized “bone” that looks close enough to the real thing to be interesting, but not so close it will put non-meat eaters off.
If that all sounds rather effusive, Roundup Rodeo BBQ deserves the high accolades. In the same way Skipper Canteen at Magic Kingdom took their flavors to a higher level than one might expect in a theme park, so does this newest dining location. The food is rip-roarin’, and that’s before you get to the pure kid-fun of the atmosphere it’s served in.
Disney Imagineer Jason described the ambiance, saying, “We have lots of little things to explore and see. There are characters that are watching the rodeo happen, all of our guests are experiencing this, and being able to enjoy barbecue as part of the immersive environment that is here. There’s lots of little details, and we always encourage our guests to go and explore.”
Like the Land around it, the interior of Roundup Rodeo BBQ is all about Andy’s imagination, and the world he built out of games and toys. Diners will recognize all their favorite Toy Story characters, and, of course, there are some fun surprises to watch for, on the ceiling, around each dining room section, on the walls, and even on the floor. An oversized ruler reminds guests they’re toy-sized while interacting within Andy’s creation.
Set-price lunch and dinner are both $45 per adult, $25 ages three-nine. Diners can enjoy as much as they like, and can make new selections (or stick with their favorites) for “round two” once their “round one” choices have been eaten. Soft drinks, water, milk, and iced tea are included. Beer, wine, specialty drinks and cocktails, and hard cider are extra. Reservations are highly recommended.
Here’s our video tour with a second food review by our Media Manager Tharin White: