Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe counter-service restaurant
(1994 - present)
History and photos of the Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe counter-service restaurant in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
Located in the north show building and on the edge of Tomorrowland is Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe, a very popular counter-service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.
The original version of this restaurant was called Tomorrowland Terrace. Opening in the early 1970s, the Tomorrowland Terrace was, and still is, the largest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom theme park. Inside the Tomorrowland Terrace, hungry guests would encounter three separate ordering areas, each area with its own distinct type of food (such as chicken, burgers, and salads). There was also plenty of seating inside the building as well as outside in a covered area.
In the earlier days of the Tomorrowland Terrace, the lower interior seating area had a stage that would descend from the ceiling, and on the stage would be live musicians. Although the live entertainment wouldn't last over the years, this concept would be re-imagined when the restaurant was given a complete makeover in 1994 for the New Tomorrowland refurbishment.
In early 1994, Tomorrowland was converted into New Tomorrowland, a retro / fantasy version of Tomorrowland as viewed from the 1940s and 50s. It's a Tomorrowland full of neon lights, funky space aliens, and fantastic technology and concepts from the outer realms of the galaxy. As part of the conversion to the New Tomorrowland, the Tomorrowland Terrace was changed to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe.
Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe carried the same layout and concept of its predecessor. This was still a counter-service restaurant with three designed areas to order your meal. There is still ample seating throughout the restaurant. The main difference between the two versions of the restaurant would be its theming.
The concept here is that the restaurant is owned by an unseen person / space creature named Cosmic Ray. This is his restaurant, a place that he calls the Starlight Cafe. Simple enough. Apparently it's one of the best places to eat in all of the galaxy. To help entertain us during the meal is a singing space alien named Sonny Eclipse. Throughout the day Sonny Eclipse would sing his songs while we enjoy our lunch or dinner.
Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe has not seen much change since it opened back in 1994. The restaurant used to have a "talking" trash can that would make comments whenever people threw away their garbage. I don't know if it's still there these days, but it was in the same room where Sonny Eclipse performed.
A more noticeable change to the restaurant is that you are no longer allowed to order any food item from any of the three areas. You used to be able to order a hamburger or chicken tender basket from the salad area, and vice versa. This made it incredibly easy for a family to order all of their food from one cash register. Management ended that policy in the mid to late 2000s. As far as I know, now you can only order what food items are listed for each section of the restaurant. You can imagine how frustrating this can be to order food when, A) Family or friends want items from different areas, and B) It's busy.
The restaurant made another policy change in the late 2000s, this time to the seating area. Now you're only allowed to sit at a table when you have your food. You may not sit at the tables just to have a place to rest in the air conditioning. Nor are you allowed to sit and hold a table while the rest of your group is ordering the food. This policy change was understandable as too many people were using the restaurant tables as places to sit down and relax (same thing at the Pinocchio Village Haus in Fantasyland), and customers with their food were unable to find an empty table. It's just frustrating when you're traveling with a wheelchair and can only wait for basically the outer tables to be available.
Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe used to be one of my brother and my favorite places to eat in the Magic Kingdom. The restaurant had great theming, there was the option of sitting outside and having a nice view of Cinderella Castle, and, believe it or not, but the place had one of the best hand-tossed chicken Caesar salads in the world. Plus, the restaurant had a good topping bar to throw even more items onto the salad as well.
Be warned that Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe is still one of if not *the* busiest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. This place gets very crowded from around 11:30 am to 2 pm each day. To avoid the rush plan on eating early or late.
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