A restaurant in the Magic Kingdom that doesn’t rush you out the doors like Homer Simpson at the Frying Dutchman if you linger past 10? Granted we all know the park used to stay open later, and for more weeks, during the busier seasons (with 2am closings every now and then), but I don’t remember being able to get anything to eat other than a Coke Corner hot dog or popcorn as park closing drew near. Oh, wait, yes, here it is … deep in the fog of my brain I recall a time when park operating hours meant PARK OPERATING HOURS and the only things that closed early were those that relied on sunlight to function in a meaningful way. Tom Sawyer Island, for example, always closed at dusk. But most restaurants were there to serve the guests even if they wanted to eat late. Still, 1am, wow!
The placement of the Plaza Pavilion next to the building that became Main Street’s Plaza Restaurant prompts the obvious question as to why the names had to be so similar. We’ll never know what they were thinking on that one, but let’s just concede that Disney was better at creating transitional zones between lands than coming up with consistently excellent nomenclature. Yet, similar to the marriage of Fantasyland to Tomorrowland (where Alice In Wonderland meets a roaring race track), the Plaza Pavilion offered an abrupt entry into a zone of white concrete where Victorian gingerbread came, as it still does, to a dead stop. It definitely makes one think it was built quickly.
So with the Plaza Pavilion cutting such a modern figure, try to explain how it was listed under Main Street USA in the park’s guide books until 1981. Maybe because it was physically ringing the hub and, like the Plaza Swan Boats, someone thought it should fall under Main Street by virtue of that fact alone. More likely it was just a goof that took them eight years to fix.
I don’t personally remember the entertainment here – not even walking past and seeing anything going on. Former cast member Jimmy Layle took a picture of a band playing there around 1975, including a drummer and two guys on horns. Since first posting this page in 2010 I’ve found a couple other pictures of performers, including Disney characters, in front of the distinctive stage backdrop. One of those images dates to 1979/1980. I have a Summer 1983 Entertainment Schedule listing bands performing all over the park – including the Tomorrowland Terrace – but not at Plaza Pavilion. This probably means that the stage was scaled back in the early 1980s to make a large dining area on that upper level, and from that point forward the stage was used infrequently (if ever) because there really wasn’t anything left except its cool backdrop.
The Plaza Pavilion menu changed several times over the span of its operation under that name. The above opening-year (1973) description is representative of the restaurant’s first ten years. Fried chicken on the bone was also available. By 1986, pizza had joined the menu along with chicken parmesan sandwiches and pasta salad. Hamburger and hot dogs fell off the menu completely within the coming year. Since this is a place where my family never ate – to my recollection – when we were kids, I only remember that the pizza from when Brian worked there was edible but nothing to scream about. If you’ve ever had a store-brand frozen pizza that was so bad it made Domino’s seem fancy, then that was worse than what they served at Plaza Pavilion … but not by much.
Finally, while I consider the Plaza Pavilion extinct it is true that its location has remained a restaurant, albeit one that was down for rehab when I last visited that part of the park in mid-January 2010. It became the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station in 2005, taking over the name (a better one for sure) of the original Tomorrowland Terrace … which itself turned into Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in the 1990s. But this website doesn’t care too much about where the Noodle Station heads in the new century if they’re not bringing back those orange and yellow costumes or Liberty Square burgers.
The odds aren’t looking good.
* Would this open-air climate control pass a Jiminy Cricket ‘environmentality’ test? Why not just put windows up and let people look through them? It works everywhere else.
|Additional Plaza Pavilion Images|
|… more to follow|