menu Menu

Our Comprehensive Review of Busch Gardens Williamsburg's 2022 Food & Wine Festival

Reviews, Ratings, and Photos of Every Dish at the Park's Annual Culinary-Focused Special Event

Reviews, Ratings, and Photos of Every Dish at the Park's Annual Culinary-Focused Special Event

Today’s article is a bit of a milestone: today we are publishing the first comprehensive Food & Wine Festival review, since Busch Gardens Williamsburg returned to normal, post-COVID lockdown operations. 2021 was still a limited event, and of course, 2020 was canceled completely and replaced with the Taste of Busch Gardens mini-event in the Fall. This year seems like beginning of a return to the BeforeTimes, with just a few constraints. So, without further ado, here is the comprehensive guide to our scores and recommendations from this year’s culinary extravaganza.

Zachary and I were joined by our ParkFans co-admin Gavin, ParkFans member Belsaas, and my friend and perennial participant Renee. As usual the five person team tasted and scored every dish at the event. We also tried all of the “Specialty” non-alcoholic beverages; you can find our thoughts on those below, as well.

We scored the food on a 10-point scale:

  • 0: Unsafe to Eat
  • 5: Indifferent
  • 10: Pure Ecstasy

I plan to provide our thoughts on Busch Gardens Williams’s Food & Wine Festival as a whole in a follow-up article on our impressions of the event. Below, however, you will find the average score and price of each item, as well descriptions (based on those provided by the park) and our thoughts on each. Hopefully, this will be a helpful tool, as you navigate this 42-dish, multi-national, culinary festival.

Jump to a specific booth?


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2022 Festa Italia 7.33/10

The newest addition was also Gavin’s Recommended Booth, because the strength the two savory dishes, combined with a nice dessert and great drink, made it one of the most well-rounded locations at the event. This booth from Down Under was a welcome addition from a country in a very under-represented region of the world. The Ginger Beer, its Specialty beverage, was incredibly strong, not very sweet, and highly recommended for anyone who likes ginger.

Lamb Chop

Roasted Lamb Lollipop & Cilantro Mint Sauce

New for 2022
Highly Rated
Best in Booth
Booth Price Rating
Australia $10.50 8/10

This herby meat lollipop won Best in Booth. The lamb was tender and the spice provided a slow burn that grew, as we ate. This dish is a great choice, if you have a free pass member voucher, given the quality and price.

Lamington Cake

Sponge Cake, Raspberry Jam, Chocolate, and Coconut

New for 2022
Booth Price Rating
Australia $4.50 6.2/10

We preferred the flavors to the texture of this dessert. The cake was dry and crumbly, but we enjoyed the dark chocolate and coconut shell. The raspberry filling provided a nice pop of sweet, as well.

Snag on the Barbie

Banger & Vegemite Caramelized Onions

New for 2022
Booth Price Rating
Australia $6.25 7.8/10

This savory entrée was one of two very good sausages at this year’s the event. The banger boasted a hint of sweetness mixed with subtle spices, and paired well with the ginger beer. The caramelized onions completed the dish nicely.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2018 New France 7.6/10

This South American booth continued to improve, surprising the tasters yet again and winning it the honor of Best Booth. The “Brazilian Lemonade” (really frozen limeade) was a cool slush, but seemed to lack the advertised condensed milk. We did think it had the best flavored straw of the day, however.


Grilled Pineapple with Coconut Caramel Sauce

Booth Price Rating
Brazil $4.50 7.2/10

The grilled pineapple was a surprise. While we could taste the smoke, unlike previous years it didn’t read as “dirty grill.” We also enjoyed the coconut, but not all of us detected the advertised caramel sauce.


Grilled Beef & Chimichurri Sauce

Booth Price Rating
Brazil $7.25 7.2/10

The sauce was as herby and lovely as before. Unfortunately, however, the admittedly flavorful beef was chewy this year.


Grilled Sausage, Portabella Mushrooms & Peppers

Highly Rated
Best in Booth
Booth Price Rating
Brazil $6.25 8.4/10

This Best in Booth winner was the tastiest version of this sausage that we have ever been served. It was warm and offered lots of spicy flavor. The textures were great, as well. Our only complaint was that the peppers seemed to have been sitting too long and had become a bit mushy.

French Quarter

Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2015 Aquitaine 7.15/10

Because of its superior desserts, which were the two highest rated sweets at the event, this was My (Nicole) Recommended Booth (yes, I admit to having a sweet tooth). This booth shares some dishes with the Mardi Gras event from earlier this year, but oddly, they do not all seem to be prepared the same way.

Bananas Foster Cheesecake

With Rum Caramel Sauce & Sliced Bananas

Highly Rated
Best in Booth
Best Sweet
Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $6.25 9.4/10

The cheesecake was both Best in Booth and Best in Show (Sweet). We loved the creamy and tangy base, the fresh bananas, the crunchy praline, and the sweet rum caramel sauce. All of the flavors stood out and worked together. We only wished the cheesecake, itself, had been thicker.


Puff Pastry, Powdered Sugar, and Caramel

Highly Rated
Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $6.00 8.6/10

The beignets were flaky and warm, and didn’t taste like funnel cake. The sauce was lightly sweet and did not overwhelm the fried dough. Overall, this was a fantastic dessert.


Creole Seasoning, Shrimp, Sausage, and Rice

Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $7.50 3.4/10

This New Orleans staple has improved since the last Food & Wine Festival, but still scored lower than most other savory dishes. There were hints of spice and flavor and it had more color than in the past. It didn’t seem saucy enough, however, and our serving had very little meat. Bizarrely, we loved the Jambalaya served to us at February’s Mardi Gras event, and we wished this version was more like that one.


Sliced Mortadella, Salami, Ham, Provolone, Olive Spread, and Cajun Slaw

Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $7.00 7.2/10

We also enjoyed this classic sandwich more than in the past. The flavors were balanced, there was plenty of meat, and the bread was nicely toasted and warm. Our one criticism was that slaw didn’t taste particularly “Cajun.”


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2013 Killarney 7.31/10

The former Mediterranean (and originally Greek) booth was once again a huge favorite with the tasting team, and is Renee’s Recommended Booth. It has tons of really great dishes, making it, in fact, a one-stop shop for a meal.  The Cafe au Lait, our favorite “Refresher” from 2021, had much stronger coffee flavors this year, but retained the hints of cinnamon.

Choriatiki Salata

Feta, Cucumbers, Red Onion, Tomatoes, and Olives

New for 2022
Booth Price Rating
Greece $5.75 6/10

This colorful salad was refreshing and boasted crunchy vegetables, plenty of feta cheese, and a great vinaigrette. Our only minor complaint was that the dish was a little too watery.


Rice, Grape Leaves, and Tzatziki sauce

Booth Price Rating
Greece $4.50 6.2/10

These stuffed grape leaves were once again disappointing. The filling was bland and mushy, and the tzatziki sauce overwhelming.

Gigantes Plaki

Butter Beans & Tomato Sauce

New for 2022
Highly Rated
Nicole's Pick
Booth Price Rating
Greece $5.25 9/10

My (Nicole) Pick surprised me more than anyone else. Despite looking like a boring and possibly bland side dish in the description, the gigantes plaki was actually light, warm, and herby. The beans were well cooked and the tomato provided the right amount of acid to the dish.

Lamb Burger Slider

Pita, Feta, Cucumber, Tomato, and Olives

Highly Rated
Best in Booth
Best Savory
Booth Price Rating
Greece $6.75 9.4/10

This pita sandwich once again won Best in Booth and Best in Show (Savory). The “burger” was thick, the pita was warm, the vegetables were cool, and the sauce was creamy. All of the flavors came through and worked together perfectly. The orzo was well cooked and offered bright, contrasting flavors.


Fried Dough with Honey & Cinnamon

Booth Price Rating
Greece $5.00 7.2/10

These Greek doughnuts were nicely prepared and not too greasy. The sauce was sweet and cinnamony without being overwhelming.


Spinach, Feta, and Spicy Lemon Sauce

Highly Rated
Booth Price Rating
Greece $5.00 8.8/10

The Spanakopita was buttery and flakey with a flavorful filling and a lovely, creamy sauce.


Crispy Feta, Gouda, Sharp Cheddar, and Tzatziki Sauce

New for 2022
Booth Price Rating
Greece $6.50 4.6/10

We were all disappointed by these croquettes: they were overcooked and the sauce tasted more like sour cream than tzatziki. One disagreement among the tasting team was over the intensity of the cheese flavors. While some members thought it was fine, others couldn’t taste it over the burned breading.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2016 Jack Hanna Trail 4.8/10

In our observation, the inevitably long lines at this location are generally created by people queueing for the drinks. Does it make sense, therefore, to wait for the food, as well? That depends. This booth is home to some very controversial dishes. On the other hand, it also boasts Renee’s Pick, the Spam Musubi, and a popular Specialty drink, the Hibiscus Lemonade, a refreshing beverage that was less sweet than in the past, but still had the enjoyable hibiscus flavors.

Hawaiian Mac & Cheese

Ham, Pineapple, and Macadamia Nut Crust

Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $5.50 5.4/10

This dish didn’t work for us. While the sauce was creamy, it was also incredibly salty, probably because the ham overwhelmed the other ingredients. We could taste the pineapple chunks, but the macadamia nut crust was essentially flavorless. Overall, even the tasters who like Hawaiian pizza, which seems to be a similar concept, thought that the flavors didn’t work well together in this mac & cheese.

Pineapple Coconut Mousse

Topped with Sweet Pineapple & Toasted Coconut

Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $4.50 5/10

This watery dessert did not have the consistency of a mousse. While we could taste both the pineapple and coconut, the latter was not toasted. The group was particularly disappointed with this dessert, which was a favorite in the past, and the low scores reflect that fall from grace.

Spam Musubi

Seared Spam, Sushi Rice, and Sweet Soy Glaze

Renee's Pick
Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $5.25 6/10

This controversial dish was Renee’s Pick. Some tasters thought it had a nice texture and clever presentation, offering a cohesive package. Others found it very salty with insufficient glaze and burned rice. Renee found it to be a very successful and delicious use of spam, and noticeably improved from previous years.

Tuna Poke

Sushi Tuna, Wonton Flower, Wasabi Aioli, and Wakame Seaweed Salad

Best in Booth
Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $6.50 6.8/10

This entrée was awarded Best in Booth for its fresh tuna and seaweed salad. In fact, everyone agreed the latter was the tastiest we had ever been served at BGW. The wasabi was a bit overpowering and the crunchy wonton shell was considered the weakest part of the dish, however.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2013 San Marco 5.55/10

The offerings at this European kiosk span the spectrum from great to inedible. As one of only two remaining locations that opened with the event in 2013, the Italian booth has over the intervening years both pleased (panna cotta and pizzelle cookies) and disgusted (moldy cheese plate and salad in a cup) the tasting team. In 2022, it did both.


With Chocolate & Cannoli Cream

Booth Price Rating
Italy $6.00 4.6/10

This classic Italian dessert tasted the same as it always has at Marco Polo’s Marketplace, and we would still prefer a tangier filling. We were surprised, however, at the inconsistency. We bought two and one barely had any chocolate drizzle and the other had very few chocolate chips.


Fresh Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Balsamic Glaze, and Basil Pesto

Booth Price Rating
Italy $5.00 6.8/10

This antipasto was fresh and light. The herbs and balsamic shone and the tomato really stood out. We would have liked a stronger cheese, however, as it seemed to get lost among the other flavors.

Creamy Mushroom Risotto

With Truffle Oil & Basil Pesto

Highly Rated
Best in Booth
Booth Price Rating
Italy $5.25 8.2/10

In a stunning reversal, this creamy side dish won accolades from the team, even snagging Best in Booth. It was well prepared and balanced. All of the flavors came through from the earthy mushroom to the salty prosciutto. It even looked more appealing this year with large pieces of meat and tons of fresh cheese.

Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo

House-Made Pasta, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Spinach, and Kalamata Olives

New for 2022
Booth Price Rating
Italy $5.00 2.6/10

Under no circumstances order this plate of mushy, beige goo, which had the dubious honor of the lowest score of the day. It tasted nothing like alfredo. In fact, it was unaccountably sweet. There were hints of olive and parmesan, but nothing else would indicate that it was meant to be a savory pasta dish with sundried tomatoes or spinach.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2019 Rhinefeld 7.2/10

A darling of the team, this Caribbean kiosk once again did not disappoint. In fact, it is Zachary’s Recommended Booth, because it is a location without a single bad item; and in fact, offers several stand-out savory dishes. This year the Ginger Limeade was more lime and less ginger, which might be a better pairing with the spicy food.

Gamba Fritters

Shrimp Dumplings & Pickapeppa Sauce

Zachary's Pick
Booth Price Rating
Jamaica $6.00 7.8/10

The amazing pickapeppa sauce remained slightly spicy and completely wonderful, making this perennial favorite Zachary’s Pick. The score was a little lower than usual, because the fritters we were served were a bit doughy and may have been undercooked.

Jamaican Patty

Pastry Crust, Spicy Beef, and Coconut Jerk Dip

New for 2022
Booth Price Rating
Jamaica $7.25 7/10

This new addition to the booth (and spiritual successor the tragically departed Spanish Empanadas) was generally well-received by the tasters. Although the meat filling read more Mexican than Jamaican to us, the dish offered great contrasts between the warm and spicy pastry and the cool and sweet coconut sauce.

Jerk Chicken Slider

With Mango Salsa & Cilantro Lime Slaw

Highly Rated
Best in Booth
Booth Price Rating
Jamaica $5.75 8.4/10

This spicy sandwich won Best in Booth with its jerk flavors, crunchy slaw, and sweet mango salsa. We would have scored it a bit higher, if the fruit had been juicier and stood up to the spice a little better.

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Pineapple, Rum, and Brown Sugar Glaze

Booth Price Rating
Jamaica $4.50 5.6/10

We were a little disappointed in this dessert. It wasn’t as dense as in the past, tasted mostly like store-bought pound cake, and seemed to lack the rum and brown sugar flavors we enjoyed in previous years.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2018 San Marco 6.2/10

One of two East Asian locations, this was Belsaas’ Recommended Booth, because it offers several daring, and largely successful, dishes. While we have enjoyed the Bubble Tea in the past, we were a bit disappointed this year. The peachy boba was very mild and the tea was watered down.


Impossible Foods Plant-Based Meat, Asian Slaw, and Steamed Bun

New for 2022
Belsaas's Pick
Best in Booth
Booth Price Rating
Japan $6.25 7.8/10

This plant-based dish was Belsaas’ Pick, because it offers a meat alternative that rivals any meat-based item at the festival. The patty was spicy and paired well with the crunchy slaw. Our only criticism was that the bao bun was a bit gooey and perhaps had been in the steamer for too long.

Matcha Ice Cream

Green Tea Ice Cream, Sweet Soy Glaze, with a Sesame Cookie

Gavin's Pick
Booth Price Rating
Japan $4.50 4.4/10

Perhaps the most controversial dessert at the event, the salty and sweet dish was Gavin’s Pick. The ice cream was thick and creamy and tasted strongly of matcha, but the soy overpowered the dish and the sesame cookie lacked the sweetness we had expected.


Steamed Chicken Dumpling & Citrus Ponzu Sauce

Booth Price Rating
Japan $5.75 6.6/10

This inoffensive dumpling was paired with a tangy sauce, but skimped on the meat filling.

Spicy Tuna Sushi Cup

With Sushi Rice, Nori Flakes, and Spicy Mayo

New for 2022
Booth Price Rating
Japan $5.25 6/10

The spicy sauce in this oddly presented sushi dish overwhelmed the rice, but the tuna, itself, was well prepared.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2019 Jack Hanna Trail 6.07/10

While the Mexico booth, itself, has not moved since 2019, the new eating area in the Wild Reserve is charming and inviting. The addition of the Margaritas booth on the other side of the tables completed the section, giving it the most cohesive feel at the event. The Specialty drink, however, is not a similar home run. The Horchata was thin and bland, lacking the interesting textures and flavors from previous years.

Carne Asada Taco

Marinated Citrus & Soy Beef, Queso Fresca, Cilantro, and Guacamole on a Corn Tortilla

Booth Price Rating
Mexico $5.25 3/10

This flavors in this taco were at best inoffensive and certainly bland. The tortilla seemed stale and the meat was cold and chewy. We could taste almost none of the spices or herbs. As a result, it was the second lowest scoring item at the event.

Chili Chocolate & Horchata Mousse

Spicy Chocolate & Cinnamon

New for 2022
Booth Price Rating
Mexico $4.75 7.4/10

This thick mousse is an obvious replacement for the popular Guinness Mousse from the defunct Ireland booth. The mousse delivered the promised heat and there were hints of cinnamon in the horchata-flavored cream topping. We would have liked a bit more sweetness, however, to balance the spice.

Crispy Shrimp Taco

Sweet Chili Sauce, Pico de Gallo, and Cilantro Lime Slaw on a Flour Tortilla

Best in Booth
Booth Price Rating
Mexico $5.50 7.8/10

This perennial favorite was once again awarded Best in Booth. It was not, unfortunately, a slam dunk, as it was not as good as in the past. It still boasted a great combination of creamy and crunchy textures, and the tortilla was soft and warm. But there was perhaps too much slaw and it needed more flavor.

South Korea

Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2018 Festa Italia 5.4/10

The only thing that stood out about the other East Asia booth was that nothing really stood out. There are two Specialty beverages available — Vanilla and Chocolate Banana Milk — and they both tasted like nothing other than bananas. They were blended while we waited and contained fresh fruit, but we would have liked to be able to taste the other flavors, as well.

Beef Bulgogi

Grilled Korean-Style Beef & Rice

Booth Price Rating
South Korea $6.75 4.6/10

The flavors on this entrée were very mild and the meat was chewy and dry. The rice was cold and incredibly bland (even for rice).

Chicken Bulgogi

Grilled Korean-Style Chicken & Rice

Best in Booth
Booth Price Rating
South Korea $6.50 6.4/10

The chicken version of the bulgogi won Best in Booth, because of its tender texture and slightly stronger flavors. The rice was the same flavorless and cold starch that was served with the other bulgogi.

Korean BBQ Pork Ribs

Spicy Chili BBQ Ribs & Gochujang Slaw

Booth Price Rating
South Korea $6.75 5.2/10

The well-cooked meat had some spice and we could taste the onion and cabbage in the slaw. That said, like everything else at this booth, it was still bland and completely failed to live up to the description promising “spicy chili BBQ.”


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2016 Heatherdowns 5.67/10

As in the past, guests are welcomed to the event with a hometown booth, offering local favorites. In addition to seafood restaurant dishes, the Virginia booth offers a tart and refreshing Strawberry Lemonade. We thought the flavors were stronger than in the past, but were disappointed that it had no actual strawberries.

Bacon & Cheddar Hushpuppies

Cornmeal Fritters with Honey Butter

Best in Booth
Booth Price Rating
Virginia $6.50 6.8/10

We have watched this dish slowly improve over the years, and in 2022 it finally emerged as Best in Booth. The hushpuppies were neither over- or under- cooked, and the flavors all came through to form a pleasing sweet and salty mix.

Oyster on the Half Shell

Served with Mignonette, Cocktail Sauce, and Lemon

New for 2022
Booth Price Rating
Virginia $5.50 4.2/10

This raw bar classic was a new addition to the Food & Wine Festival. While we did enjoy the bright and vinegary sauce and thought the preparation was acceptable, we were surprised to be served prepackaged cocktail sauce at a food event. Moreover, we found the price to be very steep for just a single oyster.

She-Crab Soup

Crab Bisque, Old Bay Crostini, and Chesapeake Blue Crab Salad

Booth Price Rating
Virginia $6.00 6/10

We once again enjoyed the subtle sherry and crab flavors in this creamy soup. While there was a nice portion of meat, we thought there was too much oil on top.

Previous Next

Leave a Reply