With the new millennium, theme parks looked to broaden their appeal to a new generation and a big part of that was expanding their food options. Parks all over the world looked to offer new selections beyond just the traditional hot dogs, hamburgers and pizza. Adding chain restaurants that could provide unique food options became a big trend with various restaurants setting up shop in theme parks.
|Last update to this page: June 15, 2012 (Original Publication)
|On the spot that had
been the Junction Inn for twenty five years, a new food option was added
to the park for the 2000 season. The new Wok & Roll restaurant began
construction in early spring and barely consisted of just a foundation
and some studs when the season opener rolled around. Work
progressed for several months and the restaurant was finally finished in
time for a late June 2000 opening.
|Wok & Roll was built as a bigger,
better version of the Junction Inn that included air-conditioned indoor seating unlike
the original stand. The physical building, just like the original, was
situated alongside the Skull Mountain building.
|The Wok & Roll
building was the largest indoor dining spot added since the park's three
original restaurants opened in 1974 - Best of the West, Yum Yum Palace,
and Gingerbread Fancy.
One of the more unique features of Wok & Roll was the restaurant's back patio and garden area. This space located behind the building was originally part of the extended queue for Skull Mountain. A hidden gem, this area featured a beautifully landscaped Asian style garden adjacent to a covered patio. Just beyond, a fence hid the perimeter service road from view while still offering vistas of the woods and lake beyond.
|After just six
seasons, Wok & Roll left the park and the Panda Express chain came in
for the 2007 season. The exterior of the building was repainted with
vivid new colors as part of the makeover.
Despite the fact that it was simply one Chinese restaurant replacing another, the renovations of the interior went months into the 2007 season as the fixtures and equipment were updated and replaced.
Through the Years
2000-2006 Wok & Roll
2007-Present Panda Express
The Panda Express had a plainer decor than Wok & Roll mimicking a
simplified Chinese style. Even the light
fixtures were changed as part of the makeover with less ornate lights
replacing the original intricate lanterns that had been part of the facade.
New tables and chairs replaced the generic fixed bench picnic tables that were part of Wok & Roll. The original redwood stained patio roof and supports were repainted a bright red similar to the hue found on China's flag. In addition, the patio's rustic bamboo fencing was replaced with a more modern iron version with diecut bamboo accents.
Panda Express seems to have increased the amount of business it had since it was Wok & Roll, with lines of guests getting their food and enjoying it inside the air conditioned dining room.
In late 2011, the view from the restaurant's patio area was somewhat disrupted after Hurricane Irene washed out the dam at Prospertown Lake, draining the water and leaving a muddy valley behind it. Panda Express' patio was one of the few places in the park where the drained lake was visible to guests.