Thursday, April 23, 2009

magical memories - Big Thunder BBQ at Disneyland, then and now

One of the restaurants that used to be at Disneyland was called Big Thunder Barbeque. When I got my first annual pass and started hanging out with a bunch of people at Disneyland, Big Thunder Barbeque was one of our favorite places to go. They had great-tasting barbeque in a nice setting with dirt floors to match the theming of the restaurant. There was also a nice firepit that would have a roaring fire at night. It was nice to have lunch there, but it was really great to have dinner there. Either way, our group was usually big enough to take up a couple of tables, and we'd sit around after we were done eating to just chat and enjoy each other's company. If we had dinner there, we'd watch and listen to the crackling fire and watch the kids who would invariably be gathered around it. Even in the middle of summer, we'd still want to go to the barbeque, but if it was a really hot day, we'd just wait until dinner time to go, when the heat had died down some.

There were a number of times when I'd just sit at one of the tables, maybe having bought just a drink. A stage show called the Festival of Fools was performed in the adjoining arena, so you could hear the show from there. If they were in the middle of a show, they wouldn't let you in anymore, but you could hear the show from the barbeque seating. And I became enough of a regular at the show that I could generally recognize the voices and so knew which actor/actress was playing which role for that particular show. I'd wait in that area until the show was over, and then I'd wander into the arena to wait for the next show.

One of the most memorable times at Big Thunder Barbeque sort of involved the Festival of Fools show. There was a little alcove nearby where the show performers might come out to talk to people. One of the people we were friends with, K, had gotten to know the performers, so she'd wait around in that alcove for them to come out. One night, after we'd seen a show, we wandered over there with her. We said hi to them, and she stayed and talked to them for a while, and we ended up heading to dinner first. K said she'd meet us at the barbeque in a bit, after she was done talking to them, so we said ok. We made our way to the barbeque and got in line. The husband had wanted to order something, but for some reason, it wasn't available that night. I can't remember what the item was, though. We all put our orders in, got our food and found a table to settle ourselves. He had also ordered an apple cobbler for dessert (a dessert item that was quite popular at that location), and they said they'd bring it out to the table. After we'd sat down and had started our meal, someone came out and was very apologetic that they had APPARENTLY (TM) run out of the apple cobbler. The person asked the husband if there was any of the other desserts he wanted, but there wasn't anything else, so the husband just asked for a refund. The person apologized some more for the mixup.

The person was gone for a little while and then came back with the refund of the cobbler - as well as a humongous plate of food. There were several pieces from each of the meat items on the menu - beef ribs, pork ribs, chicken, and I believe even a turkey leg. It was just about closing time for the restaurant, and I guess they had all that leftover food anyway, but they felt bad that two times that night, the husband had been disappointed that something he wanted wasn't available, so they decided to bring out the extra goodies for us. We thanked them very much for bringing all of that out to us. We each helped ourselves to one of the items from the plate, but there was still plenty left. Very soon thereafter, we saw our friend K about to get in line to buy her dinner since she was done talking to the performers, so we yelled out to her that all she needed was to get a drink. She was confused but complied, and it wasn't until she came to the table with her drink that she saw all the food on the table. We explained the situation to her and said there was no point in her buying more food since we already had so much at the table.

We had such a good dinner that night!

Then on a weekend in January of 2001, the husband and I happened to decide to go to the barbeque for lunch. And we were stunned to learn that it was closing day of the barbeque. We'd not heard about that, and not very many people seemed to have known ahead of time either, and this was way before the days when any little bit of news immediately hit the internet and Twitter and Facebook and such. They had made souvenir plastic mugs that they were selling, so we of course bought one. It was cute regardless, but it was also a nice commemoration of the barbeque.

We were sad that the barbeque was closing. They've had barbeque items at various times since then at some of the other Disneyland restaurants, but none of them have matched the flavor of Big Thunder Barbeque's, and none of them even came close to matching the atmosphere.

Well, as of earlier this month, barbeque has returned to the Big Thunder Ranch area. It's a bit different, and it's really kind of funny how much of a geek some of us were to be so happy just to be able to eat in that area again - and then we were having barbeque there again no less!

Here's my review of our Easter lunch visit to the new barbeque at Big Thunder Ranch. We won't be going nearly as often to this barbeque meal as during its previous incarnation, but with our Easter visit, we've already started making more magical memories.

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