The debut of the parks 2017 Season not only includes two new rides, a new show, a new catering pavilion, but it also includes many new food and beverage offerings and upgrades to its meal and drink plans. Over Opening Weekend, a local amusement industry blogger from News Plus Notes ate his way through the park and compiled his guide to Dining Through Dorney.
..."One of the main points of my quest was to understand just what was offered by the park for guests like myself... but also for daily visitors who want to enjoy a food or beverage plan.
And there's several to choose from. Season pass holders can go for All Season Dining as an add on to their season pass, and there's also an All Season Drink Refill option as well. Daily visitors can get a Single Meal Deal or All Day Dining, and mix in a low-price beverage refill plan as well.
It may seem confusing at first, but really the point to be made is that all of these plans let you head to more than 15 locations in the park, look for the dining logo seen on the flag in the photos above, choose your meal and dig in.
It is easy to think of amusement park food as just your basics like hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken, and while those classic are readily available at the park, there's also so much more. If you're hungry go get a snack, because it's time to look at some food and you're stomach is going to be growling!
In speaking with Chef Jones, it is clear that one of the most popular locations for dining plans in Dorney Park is the Smokehouse Barbecue. The barbecue is prepared daily just outside the location, slow cooked over many hours to get the dishes perfect. Above are a couple photos of that process in action - the pork is basted every couple hours to keep it as juicy and delicious as possible. The park makes nearly all of the location's sauces and spices in-house to keep dishes consistent and of their quality levels.
The freshly prepared food is probably a big draw to Smokehouse Barbecue, and it's offerings are delicious. You can tell how much care is put into the food when you taste it, the options we tried are seen above.
Chef Jones pointed out that they enjoy locations like Smokehouse Barbecue that create items that work in "addition to amusement park classics," but that "we're leaning more toward culinary items as our clientele is changing, and expectations for food service, quality, consistency and variety change. We're moving in a direction with culinary piece by piece to enhance the overall experience when visitors come into the park."
Those efforts have not gone unnoticed, Chef! He was proud to point out that visitors who partake in one of the dining plans, whether all season or for a day, have approximately 95 meal combinations to choose from at more than 19 locations within Dorney Park and Wildwater Kingdom. In the end, that's simply a ton of variety if you think about it!
All these offerings can satisfy regardless of what kind of mood visitors are in. A classic cheeseburger from Burger Barn may fit the bill, a location which has seen many improvements this year to add more customization through an add-your-two-topping bar, new clam shell grills for a perfect cook every time and more. That worked for me, as seen in the photo above, but there was still more to explore.
"With multiple restaurants I'm looking to make sure that the food is not only traditional offerings but also that we add in things that are new to the park. For example, entree salads, a big game burger, brisket sandwich - things you don't always see at our park," says Chef Jones.
Those looking for healthier options have seen an already large variety expanded further. Chef Jones explained that "we really want to take the worry away, when you're here you can enjoy yourself, and there's something for everyone so you can find a lot of diversity in the stands." This includes "healthier lighter choices like entree salads, low calorie sandwiches - we have a veggie tender this year, which is a new item that is a 100 percent vegetable tender as a replacement for a chicken tender made up of all veggie products. We also have gluten free options for chicken tenders." The park has also started to list calorie content on the menus at all locations for guest convenience.
Katie also pointed out that their guests regularly give them great feedback on their experiences, noting that many comments were "that everything comes with fries so we've decided to look at some different things to offer like veggie tenders and side salads for healthy and vegetarian options." Often park visitors don't even realize that these healthier options are available, so Dorney Park continues to try to educate them on all that is available.
I kept on eating as I took in all this information, which included these amazing hand-breaded chicken tenders from Center Stage Fries that are new this year. It's been a couple seasons since the park did these, complete with home made batter that has no artificial flavors. I'll be the first to say that they hit it out of the park with these, easily beating any restaurant chicken tender I can think of.
Four of the park's locations have also added touch screen ordering this year, an attempt to "enhance speed of service and give a better experience for the guest," according to Chef Jones. These will allow visitors to speed up the ordering process, and explore all options offered depending on what meal play they have.
Chef Jones also came up with another way to expand the menu at Dorney Park by renaming Monster Grille to the Chef's Grille for 2017. The location will feature rotating dishes to keep food choices fresh for repeat visitors, perfect for All Season Dining pass holders.
Featuring a mix of classics and "cafe bistro style cooking," the Chef's Grill will also be a hot spot for special event related food such as elephant ears and custom donut holes for Haunt. Chef's Grill has started the season by offering an Italian sausage sandwich, but there are already plans for more limited-time options such as feature entree salads like a freshly prepared sesame ginger salad.
The limited run entrees at Chef's Grille are all designed to be a part of the dining plans, so really the total of 95 options that we reference earlier is even bigger when you factor in these. Hopefully the point that there's a lot to choose from with the park's dining plans is hitting home!
Holders of All Season Dining plans can also pay a small upcharge to visit some of the park's special events, this year to be held in the fancy new Parkside Pavilion. These include an upcoming Mother's Day brunch and later in the season the Clambake, Beer and Brats and the All American Barbecue events.
Make sure to stop by the park and try some of these dishes soon!