Sunday, November 26, 2006

Little Red Wagon - Disneyland



Inside the Happiest Place on Earth, there exists the "Smallest Place on Earth to Work": the Little Red Wagon at the end of Main Street, U.S.A..

There, in a parked truck, inside a compartment the size of a janitor's broom closet, two Disney Cast Members toil in what I imagine is the worst job at Disneyland. But the problem isn't just the cramped quarters; it's the sputtering deep fryer crammed in there with 'em.

In August, when the mercury can easily climb past ninety in Anaheim, the closest thing to hell I can think of would be an eight-hour shift hunched over a smelly vat of boiling grease inside a sweltering sweat box made of metal. Whatever type of cooling or exhaust system they are provided can't be enough.

All this in the name of cooking hundreds of hand-dipped wieners for tourists in floppy Goofy hats.



In the first two summers after high school, I passed by the Little Red Wagon every morning to walk to a relatively cushier job as a cashier in the Adventureland gift shops. And before I would spend my workday in an air-conditioned store, I used to say a little prayer for my comrades who were stuck with corn dog duty.

Even today, as an Annual Passport holder, I still feel the prickly pangs of pity when I line up to order a corn dog, knowing that those sorry souls suffered to make my lunch.

But despite it, the products of their labor is recognized by many as the best thing to eat in the park. In fact, it is my opinion that these corn dogs are probably the only decent meal to be had within the confines of the Magic Kingdom. But at $5.80 for a corn dog and a small bag of Lay's chips (and an additional $2.90 for a fountain drink), one pays a premium for the pleasure, just like all other things sold inside the resort.



The corn dogs, however, are colossal, as long as my forearm and just as thick. Deep fried to a dark mahogany brown, it's as greasy as they come. A napkin I wrapped around its base for gripping turned clear on contact. Enough oil leeched out of its pores to lube up a bodybuilder, but the corn dog was scrumptious and filling enough to also feed one.

A good and generous slathering of plain yellow mustard cuts through the richness of the juicy beef frank found at its core; but it's the fried and porous cornbread crust that I savor most. Thanks to the pull of gravity, almost all of the corn dogs produced are inherently lopsided, but it seems that the more asymmetrical the shell, the better the experience. Best of all is when the batter tears halfway through cooking, creating gnarled knobs of goodness reminiscent of crackly hush puppies.

So, the next time you order a corn dog from the Little Red Wagon, do those working there a favor if they're looking down-and-out: tell them thanks.

Little Red Wagon
Disneyland Resort
(714) 781-4000
1313 S Harbor Blvd
Anaheim, CA 92802

23 Comments:

At 1:32 AM, Blogger Chubbypanda said...

Mmmm... Hot dog greased Elmo- Wait, what? =)

- Chubbypanda

 
At 6:10 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

Evilly tasty! hehe
That would be the job from hell, though. I would worry that a disgruntled worker might do something to my corndog. Okay, I'm kidding...I think.

 
At 12:02 PM, Blogger eatdrinknbmerry said...

Forearm-long hot dog? That sounds like a baseball bat to me. See you saturday Elmo (finally). haha. does your friend know that Quan Hy is central-vietnamese... meaning no pho.

 
At 4:05 PM, Blogger ChristianZ said...

Now I don't feel so weird about having covered a churro cart.

 
At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Cuong said...

Yum! Good post and great picture of the corn dog, elmo! Someday when I get my own blog, I'll post the pictures from my dinner at Club 33 :)

kingkong5

 
At 7:09 PM, Anonymous Passionate Eater said...

So now I know where you worked during high school! Those corn dog stand vendors don't have it as bad as the some Disney workers though! I heard from a friend of mine who used to work at Disneyland that the mascot-wearing workers sometimes had to wear common underwear! (Until some people got various skin diseases near their ahems.)

 
At 9:26 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

CP,

I have no words! :-p

Juliet,

One of them gave me the evil eye as I was going to take a picture of them through a glass window at the back of the wagon. She was probably thinking, "Isn't enough that I'm in here. People shouldn't be taking pictures!" I got the hint and put my camera away.

EDBM,

No pho! What the pho!? Hehehe!Just kidding. See ya Saturday!

Christian,

I, for one, liked that Churro cart review of yours!

Cuong,

I just saw your CLUB 33 photos. Ohhh, I'm so envious right now. Green with envy!

PE,

Ew! Okay, now that job is worse than the Corn Dog Truck. Perhaps even worse than the custodial jobs, where they have to clean up CODE-V's. (V=Vomit).

 
At 6:38 PM, Blogger Deb said...

My late husband worked at Disney for 30 years... I have never found the food at the park (even at club 33) to good, let alone worth what they charge. O.K...this is a girl has Disney overload. ;)

 
At 9:36 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Deb,

Agree. We didn't like the food at the Blue Bayou, but loved the surroundings.

And don't get me started on Yamabuki, a Japanese restaurant at the Paradise Pier Hotel.

But, once upon a time, the Harbor Galley (the shack in front of the Haunted Mansion and on the river shore), served up fried catfish nuggets that I loved. It's part of history now.

Also when I worked there, I also enjoyed the Monte Cristo sandwiches, deep fried sandwiches stuffed with cheese and ham. They were good, but the best part was that I got them at a discount in the employee cafeteria, located beneath the bowels of the Pirates of the Caribbean.

I think they serve those grease bombs somewhere else in the park these days too.

 
At 12:06 PM, Blogger Eddie Lin said...

elmo,

really well written. the way you described working at the park was enough to take me down memory lane with my days working at the plaza pavilion (now a part of ancient disneyland history).

and the way you describe the little red wagon's corn dog. perfect. this post is at a jonathon gold level with the insider's scoop, the concrete descriptions and hilarious analogies.

my two cents on the best food at disneyland is also a place that, unfortunately, no longer exists at the happiest place on earth - the tahitian terrace. google it, folks! i normally don't like polynesian food but this stuff was delicious and, in the confines of overpriced, underperforming disney eats, the happiest meal in the park. i used to work in the kitchen that shared prep space with the tahitian terrace and got to sample most of the food. i was also a guest twice at the restaurant. it was a dinner show restaurant. it was basically like being at a luau. i was picked by one of the hula girls to go on stage and then backstage to put on my own hula outfit. she then gave me a 30 second hula lesson. suddenly i found myself behind a waterfall (the back side of water. ooh! ahh!). the waterfall then opened up like a liquid curtain. there i was facing the full house of diners. i hula'd the best i could, coconut bra and all. i miss it so.

p.s. try the spicy corn dog over at cal adventure. in my opinion, a better corn dog.

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Eddie,

Wow, J. Gold?! Thanks for the compliment! And thanks for sharing that wonderful story!

Unfortunately, by the time I worked there, they were already in the midst of turning The Tahitian Terrace into Aladdin's Oasis, which seemed like a good idea at the time.

Now, the space seems to be wasted on the Aladdin and Jasmine's Storytelling Show, which is redundant because of DCA's Aladdin show.

I'm sorry to have never experienced Tahitian Terrace when it was still around. But during that time, since it took a small fortune from my parent's salary just to take us to Disneyland, dining at the Tahitian Terrace was a "one of these days" kind of place. Too bad it went away before that day came around.

 
At 12:50 PM, Blogger googiemel said...

As a cast member at the park, I have to agree that the ol' corn dogs from the Little Red Wagon are soome of the best food fare in the Kingdom!

But I will have to throw in my bias! As a waitress at the new Cafe Orleans restaurant, I do HAVE to vouch for them!! We have great crepes-- specifically the Seafood Crepe, filled with halibut, mahi mahi, & ahi tuna. And the crab salad sandwich is fantastic too (authentic crab!). Oh yeah, and we sorta stole the Monte Cristo from the Bayou, across the street. :]

But yeah, I lucked out in my cushy park job too. With tips, I'm making more than most hourly cast members and even some salaried cast members (and did I mention I'm only part-time?)

 
At 2:59 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Oh gah, that looks like the mother of all corndogs - I LOVE corndogs!! I usually have the clam chowder bread bowl when I go to Disneyland, but I think there will be a change of dining plans the next time I visit! :)

 
At 12:14 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Googiemel,

Aha! So that's where I can find the Monte Cristo Sandwich. Now that you mention Cafe Orleans' Seafood Crepe, I think you might have me as a customer soon. I love crepes as much as I love seafood. Both together?! Well, now we're talkin'! I'll be sure to tip well too!

Kathy,

Check out these photos that another food blogger took. Look at how obscene that is! I'm beginning to think that if there's anything that Disneyland does well at when it comes to food, it's stuff that's deep fried. Whodathunk?

 
At 5:32 PM, Blogger messyjessy said...

I heart corn dogs!

 
At 11:44 PM, Anonymous BabbyDaddy said...

Elmo,
As a "Passport" holder who carts my kid around there about once a month, I never noticed this place until discovering your blog. So, naturally I was curious the next trip to the Tragic Kingdom and had to try. I especially enjoyed the way the grease coats the inside of your mouth to protect against all the other crap you're going to eat throughout the day. I must say it's definitely a step up from most food joints at DL or DCA. Not that I go for the food, but it's always sooooo disappointing. I think something is lacking across the board in the food services division of Disney. What's worse is the complete disregard and utter lack of any sense of urgency when one is waiting in line for over 45 minutes for something barely edible... ARG! Elmo, can you write Disney a letter for me? Would they even care? >:(

 
At 8:56 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

messyjessy,

I heart them too!

Babbydaddy,

I feel your pain. I usually eat before I go into the park (Zankou Chicken is mere blocks away!), but when I have to eat inside, I head straight for the corndog truck and bypass all the burger stands. That one in Tomorrowland seems like a tourist feeding trough!

 
At 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too love the corndogs at DL. Be sure to try the Fried Chicken at The French Market (next to Cafe Orleans). Too bad they don't come with mashed potatoes and brown gravy like they did when I was a kid.
Isn't Zankou's the best? I've never even been there! My friend picks it up for me when I visit her. Good friend huh? Love your posts!

-Northparker

 
At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Frank said...

late comment i know but i wanted to say that i LOVE the corndogs as well. I typically will grab a glass of wine and then drink and walk my way to that corndog castle or whatever its called.

as for food at dland, i also very much enjoy the ribs and chicken at the riverbelle terrace. They also had a fabulous chocolate fudge cake there a few months back that was recently replaced by a chocolate mouse cake(which i dont like as much).

 
At 10:01 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

Northparker,

It seems that if it's deep fried in Disneyland, you can't go wrong eating it. Case in point: Monte Cristo, corndogs, and now, as you have recommended, the fried chicken.

Frank,

Mmm...wine and corndogs!

 
At 2:16 AM, Anonymous lonegungirl said...

I haven't eaten at the Blue Bayou since they did their big makeover (and big price increase) but I've been to the Cafe Orleans twice now, and I have to say that the monte cristos there seem a lot smaller somehow than the ones I used to get at BB. Maybe it's because they cut them into quarters now...

I actually sorta like the Chinese chicken salad at Rocket Redd's Pizza Port in Tomorrowland. It's supposed to be the "salad of the day" or something, but everytime I go, it's Chinese chicken salad day.

 
At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

as someone who actually works in the Little Red Wagon....yeah it gets hot in the summer but it's a lot of fun. There is an AC unit and an additional fan we bring in for the hot hot days, and water is of course provided. Most of the time cast member are rotated around so their whole shift is not in the wagon. The biggest drawback is going home smelling like food, but oh well. =) (And if that was me making the face at the photo taker....my bad.. I just don't like having my pic taken!!!)

 
At 7:50 PM, Blogger Lin Shukla said...

Whenever we at our house have a corndog anywhere else, we ALWAYS say, "but it's not as good as Disneyland"!!!

OH YEAH, baby. Those luscious babies are thheeeeee best!

Thanks for the write up and photos! We're going there for T'giving. Maybe we should bring a special giftee for the corndog makers!

 

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