In conjunction with the ongoing Jungle X-Pedition retheme, Kings Dominion and the new-ish head chef, Denis Callinan, have introduced new menus to the area restaurants. Zachary and I were both very excited and decided we should review all of the updated options.
Unlike our tasting event reviews, we thought it made the most sense to publish a series of articles, dedicated to individual restaurants. Since we were going to check out all of the Jungle X eateries, we decided to include the other rebranded locations, as well. Currently, we plan to tackle Jungle Market Eatery, Excavator’s Taters, Juke Box Diner, Outpost Cafe, and Grain and Grill.
So, today I am going to focus on the location we visited on 13 April, Jungle Market Eatery, an indoor quick service restaurant that replaced Hungry Hippo. This location is a great place to wait out pop-up storms, while grabbing some food, so it seemed like a logical starting place. In the past, we tended to avoid this eatery, because we didn’t really like the food. We are happy to report, however, that we can now recommend almost everything we sampled.
Like its predecessor, Jungle Market Eatery offers burgers, grab-and-go items, and a toppings bar. Unlike Hungry Hippo, the made-to-order cheeseburgers were thick and lean and just tasted better than what we have had at KD in the past. Here are our thoughts on the four menu options. It is worth noting that I cannot say for certain, what, if any, substitutions can be accommodated.
The basic cheeseburger is a huge improvement over what we’ve been served at Kings Dominion in the past. It wasn’t greasy, and the meat tasted fresh. It was, however, a little dry without sauces or toppings. The cheese was nicely melted and worked well with the meat. The bun was ok, but not a show-stopper.
While this isn’t the most adventurous cheeseburger at Jungle Market Eatery, we were impressed with the quality and quantity of bacon (two full strips). It was fairly “floppy” and surprisingly flavorful.
Surprisingly, we did not find this burger very spicy. It was topped with what tasted like generic nacho cheese sauce, and we would have preferred larger chunks of pepper and onion. Despite being the most interesting option on the menu, it ended up being our least favorite.
We really liked this burger classic, which was well-prepared with nicely cooked and earthy mushrooms. The only criticism we had was that the swiss cheese was perhaps too mild. I, personally, would have preferred something that tasted less like white American.
The fries can be purchased a la carte, but are also included as the standard side with all of the burgers. If you’re only interested in the fries, we recommend going to Excavator’s Taters instead, because we found these to be fairly generic and lacking much flavor. We thought some kind of seasoning (even on the toppings bar) would have been a big improvement.
The fairly large buffet offers the typical range of condiments and vegetables. The former are pretty much the standard KD sauces in a giant pumps. The produce, however, was fresh and of surprisingly high quality. There were things—especially salt, pepper, and other seasonings—that we would have liked to see, but we enjoyed the options that were available.
As an aside, we’ve never understood why it’s impossible to get salt and pepper at this location. Especially at a restaurant which serves fries with everything, Kings Dominion needs to provide individual packets of salt and pepper.
In addition to its cheeseburgers, Jungle Market Eatery offers several grab-and-go options. While we didn’t try everything, we can offer our thoughts on one of the salads and a dessert.
This healthier option was cool, fresh, and delicious. We loved the dressing, the tangy goat cheese, and the ripe strawberries. We also appreciated that it was made with field greens rather than a more generic lettuce. It was a welcome alternative to normal, fried park food.
This dessert was fine, but mostly just tasted like whipped topping. It was fluffy and sweet, but lacked any real chocolate taste. The crumbled cookies on top were the highlight for us.
We were very excited that KD has a specialty beer, themed to their newest coaster, Tumbili. Naturally we had to try it. Happily, we were not disappointed with this Center of the Universe Brewing Company canned lager.
We immediately noticed its fresh, fruity scent, and were rewarded with a citrusy flavor, as well. We think this beer will be a refreshing and tasty beverage, during a hot, summer park trip.
As much as we liked the food (and beer!), we also feel that we need to comment on the service. We have visited Jungle Market Eatery twice this season, and both times proved to be fairly frustrating experiences. The processes of ordering and expediting were slow and confused. Each time we had to ask for our order repeatedly. In addition, on both trips people who ordered similar food after us were served first. It appeared that cheeseburgers were being handed out at random, as they were coming out of the kitchen. Hopefully, the staff will improve as the season goes on, and all we were seeing were on-the-job training issues.
Overall, we highly recommend Jungle Market Eatery. This rebranded and updated restaurant offers a fresh and flavorful menu, as well as a great place to relax indoors.
Keep an eye out for our next review, which will focus on the new french fry snack location, Excavator’s Taters. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, or join the conversation at the ParkFans forum.