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Comprehensive Review of Busch Gardens Williamsburg's 2024 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

The booths are built, the menus are posted, and the tasting cards are on sale. Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s annual foodie event has begun, and that means it is time for the BGWFans team to taste and rate every dish to help our readers plan their own culinary adventures. Once again Zachary, Gavin, Renee, and I spent a weekend traveling the world with BGW as our guide. Below you will find our impressions, recommendations, and scores.

Before I get into a detailed analysis of the individual items, I wanted to share some general observations we had about this year’s event. Overall, it really felt as if the park’s culinary team had taken the time to refresh the event.

There are new booths, new dishes, and updates to returning offerings. They really seemed to be taking a lot of delicious risks, and had thankfully removed some of the more mundane options. For example, they introduced the adventurous Africa booth, while purging the entire event of the decidedly uninspired mac and cheese variants.

In addition to increasing the creativity in their menus, BGW also served up dishes with more complex and varied textures and flavors. Desserts layered creamy sweetness and buttery flakiness, while savory options boasted crunchy, velvety, spicy, tangy, and many other types of components. Moreover, we found most of the ingredients to be fresh and the execution to be good.

Of course, the event is not perfect, and we wouldn’t be BGWFans if we weren’t willing to share our concerns, as well. For us the most consistent problem across Food & Wine was the bread. Since the park has its own bakery, this was particularly strange to us. Regardless, at most booths the bread was dry, ruining what could have been great dishes. Hopefully, that problem resolves itself over the next few weeks.

Anyway. Impressions are interesting, but the real purpose here is to share our experiences at the individual booths. As usual, we tasted every dish and non-alcoholic beverage and recorded our scores out of 10. Below, in the itemized review section, you will find our thoughts on each booth, “refresher,” savory item, and dessert. We used our traditional rubric:

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

The usual caveats apply. These comments and scores represent the dishes we were served on the first Saturday and Sunday of this year’s event. History has demonstrated that the quality and composition of most items can and will vary from day to day and even from hour to hour. In fact, we have already observed wild variances in some of the dishes this year. Since we are not going to taste everything a second time, we are only including our impressions from the review itself.

Additionally, we are not professional food critics or even experts in every style of cooking represented at Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s Food & Wine Festival. We are, however, people who eat and cook dishes from a wide variety of cultures; who come from varied personal and culinary backgrounds; and who have tasted everything at every event since 2014. So, while no one is hiring us to do this professionally, we do have some basis for our judgments.

With all of that out of the way, here are our thoughts about every item at the event:

Jump to a specific booth?


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2024 Killarney 7.9/10

One of the new additions for 2024, this pan-African booth impressed the entire team, earning it the Best Booth honor. Moreover, two of the team’s personal picks can be found here. Most of us really enjoyed the non-alcoholic Nigerian Chapman. The refreshing cucumber cut through the sweetness of the Fanta and Sprite and the bitters added a complexity to the flavors.


Beef Curry & Baked Egg Custard

New for 2024
Highly Rated
Nicole's Pick
Booth Price Rating
Africa $6.50 8.25/10

My Pick was a savory meat and custard dish. The beef had a hint of warm, spicy sweetness and the eggs were tender, combining to create a lovely and flavorful offering that was unlike anything we have tasted at the event previously.


Blend of Rice, Pasta, Lentils, Chickpeas, Crispy Onions, & Zesty Tomato Sauce

New for 2024
Zachary's Pick
Booth Price Rating
Africa $6.50 6.75/10

This plant-based side dish was Zachary’s Pick. He admired its spicy flavors, complex textures, and uniqueness at the event.

Peri Peri Chicken

Grilled Chicken Skewer with Chili Garlic Sauce & Coconut Rice

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Africa $8.50 7.5/10

These chicken skewers had some nice heat and the coconut was evident in the accompanying rice. While the rice was well cooked, we did think the meat was a little overdone.


Spiced Milk Custard with a Sweet Pastry Crust

New for 2024
Highly Rated
Best Sweet
Booth Price Rating
Africa $7.00 9.5/10

The highest-scoring option both at the booth and among the event’s sweets, this custard-based dessert was not too sweet, instead relying on almond and cinnamon. The team was struck by the variety of textures, from the creamy custard, to the tender and flakey pastry, to the lightly caramelized and gritty sugar on top.

BarKastle Spirits

Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2024 Oktoberfest 6.5/10

We only tasted the food items at this primarily alcoholic booth. More than anything the menu highlighted the strange lack of a cheese plate at the event. It was missed.

Pimento Beer Cheese Dip

Cheddar Cheese, Bacon, Beer, Roasted Pepper, & Crackers

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
BarKastle $7.25 5/10

The beer-cheese dip was… fine. If you want to grab a snack with your BarKastle beverage, you don’t mind paying a premium for fairly basic fare, and you don’t want to hike to a more traditional food kiosk, it is probably your best bet. The beer flavor was much stronger than the pimento, and the bacon was a bit chewy.

Bourbon Chocolate Tart

Rich Chocolate Ganache, Pecan, Graham Cracker Crust, & Whipped Cream

New for 2024
Highly Rated
Booth Price Rating
BarKastle $7.00 8/10

This bourbon-forward chocolate tart seems very appropriate at an alcohol-focused booth. While it was rich and dense, the whipped cream effectively lightened a mostly heavy dish.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2024 San Marco 5.85/10

We were very excited to try this spiritual successor to the much-loved Mediterranean booth. Unfortunately, a lot of items did not live up to our (admittedly high) expectations. Ayran, the non-alcoholic specialty beverage, is probably not for everyone. It was very cucumber-forward (possibly overwhelmingly cucumber) and the bitter yogurt base was very strong. The mint was completely lost.

Çoban Salatası

Tomato, Feta, Cucumber, Olive, & Mint Salad

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Türkiye $7.25 6.75/10

We enjoyed the large chunks of feta and cool and crunchy vegetables. This salad paired well with the kebab, as well.

Döner Kebab

Beef & Lamb Shawarma, Pita, Tomato, Feta, Olive, & Cucumber

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Türkiye $8.25 5.75/10

The döner kebab-filled shawarma was fine. Because the meat was dry, we wanted some kind of sauce with it and a lot more feta.


Turkish Sesame Bread Ring

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Türkiye $7.00 3.25/10

At an event where the bread is brutally bad everywhere, a dish that is nothing but bread is kinda doomed. So, our giving this dry sesame bread ring the second lowest score at the event seems inevitable.

Mozaik Pasta Tarifi

Tea Biscuit, Pistachio, & Chocolate Cake

New for 2024
Highly Rated
Booth Price Rating
Türkiye $7.00 9/10

Our favorite dish at this booth was good enough to impress a chocolate hater. It was rich and fudgy, and creamy rather than super-dense. The textures and flavors were varied and complimentary, with the pistachio working very well with the chocolate.

Herbal Infusion

Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2019 San Marco 7.58/10

Conceptually, this is one of my favorite booths at the event. Desserts infused with fresh herbs are interesting and a delight to the palate. The Lavender Lemonade, which we think would pair nicely with the lemon tart, was less lemony than other non-alcoholic specialty beverages at the event, but the floral lavender definitely shined through.

Lemon Thyme Tart

Lemon Tart with Fresh Thyme

New for 2024
Highly Rated
Gavin's Pick
Booth Price Rating
Herbal Infusion $6.50 8.75/10

Our favorite dish at this booth was also Gavin’s Pick. With a bright, fresh lemon flavor, nice hints of thyme, and well-baked flaky crust, this tart was an amazingly refreshing treat that he could not get enough of.

Strawberry Basil Mousse

Strawberry Mousse with Basil Whipped Cream

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Herbal Infusion $6.50 6/10

Everything we said we liked about this previously top-scoring dessert changed this year. The mousse was the flavor of Strawberry Nesquik and the whipped cream tasted fake. The basil was still completely MIA. To be fair the texture was excellent.


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

What is there to say? We loved this booth. We always love this booth. This booth deserves the long lines it gets. We loved the Ginger Limeade. We always love the Ginger Limeade. Never insipid, it offers bold and refreshing ginger and lime flavors and pairs well with all of the booth’s entrees.

Gamba Fritters

Shrimp Dumplings with Pickapeppa Dip

Booth Price Rating
Jamaica $6.75 7.75/10

Even though these better hush puppies seemed slightly undercooked, they still had a lot of well-prepared shrimp and “the best sauce in the game.” We would forgive almost anything for that Pickapeppa Dip.

Jamaican Patty

Pastry Crust & Spicy Beef with Coconut Jerk Dip

Highly Rated
Best Savory
Booth Price Rating
Jamaica $7.25 9.25/10

The highest-scoring dish at the booth, this meat pastry was spicy and delicious. The sweet sauce complimented the beef perfectly, and the crust was flakey (although one of our tasters found it to be too heavy).

Jerk Chicken Slider

Jerk Chicken & Mango Salsa Slider with Cilantro Lime Slaw

Booth Price Rating
Jamaica $6.50 5/10

This sandwich is usually very popular with our tasting team. This year, unfortunately, it was ruined by stale bread and bland slaw. We still enjoyed the jerked meat and mango salsa, but there simply was not enough of either.

Toto Rum Cake

Coconut Cake with Sweet Rum Sauce

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Jamaica $7.00 5.25/10

It was definitely a rum cake. We had no problem tasting the rum. The rum overwhelmed the coconut, in fact. Also, the cake was dry. Maybe it should have been soaked in the rum.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2019 Jack Hanna Trail 7.13/10

Despite being a perennial crowd-pleasing booth and being located in a large area off of the main paths, the Mexico kiosk always seems to have some of the worst operations at the event. Why the two queues were completely unseperated remains a mystery to us, but the chaos and wait times always make me want to skip this location. Regardless, we enjoyed the cinnamony and mild Horchata, especially with the strong flavors of the tacos.

BBQ Pork Taco

BBQ Pork Carnitas, Queso Fresco, & Pickled Onions

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Mexico $7.25 7.75/10

We were very impressed with the new pork taco, which was the highest scoring dish at the booth. The lime paired perfectly with the warm spices in the well-cooked meat. All of the components worked well together, although the pickled onions were not a standout.

Crispy Shrimp Taco

Sweet Chili Sauce, Pico De Gallo, & Cilantro Lime Slaw

Booth Price Rating
Mexico $7.25 6/10

Given what a passionate and devoted following this taco has always enjoyed, we were shocked at the quality of shrimp, which we found rubbery, overcooked, and too heavily breaded. The incredible, tangy sauce and the crispy vegetables were not enough to save the dish from being the lowest scorer at the booth.

Shredded Beef Taco

Marinated Citrus & Soy Shredded Beef, Queso Fresca, Cilantro, & Mango Salsa

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Mexico $7.25 7.5/10

The new beef taco was unbalanced and oversalted. We wanted more mango salsa and cheese.

Taco Trio

BBQ Pork Taco, Shredded Beef Taco & Crispy Shrimp Taco

Booth Price Rating
Mexico $18.75 7.5/10

The team loved that the park added the option of getting one of each type of taco at a discounted price ($7.25 individually, or $18.75 for all three). The distinct flavors made it an interesting collection, and the excellent flour tortillas and large lime wedges added continuity. We would love to see more combinations like this at the event.

Sopapilla Cheesecake Bar

Cinnamon Sugar Pastry Dough & Sweet Cream Cheese

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Mexico $7.00 7/10

If you prefer a tangy cheesecake this one is for you. The filling and toppings were great, especially the crunchy cinnamon-sugar. The pastry was this dessert’s real weakness: it seemed undercooked.

Sangria Garden

Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2019 San Marco 8.25/10

We were happy to see that this drinks booth continued to have a dessert option again this year. Hopefully, others are ordering more than the wine, as well.

Sangria Cupcake

Berry & Merlot Cupcake with Wine Reduction Buttercream

Highly Rated
Booth Price Rating
Sangria Garden $6.00 8.25/10

We thought this cute cupcake (it looks like a rose in the wine garden!) was very well executed this year. The buttercream was smooth and the cake had a great consistency, as well. There were a lot of berries and we could really taste the merlot.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2018 New France 7.4/10

This South American booth served us (mostly) good food this year (it has a bit of a checkered past). The Brazilian Lemonade is always popular, because who doesn’t love frozen limeade. We did wish there was more creaminess from the condensed milk that is supposed to be part of this refreshing drink.


Grilled Beef with Chimichurri Sauce

Highly Rated
Best Savory
Booth Price Rating
Brazil $8.00 9.25/10

The highest-scoring item at the booth, this grilled beef dish offered tender, nicely-charred meat, paired with one of the best chimichurri sauces we have ever been served at BGW’s F&W.


Grilled Sausage with Peppers & Portabella Mushrooms

Highly Rated
Booth Price Rating
Brazil $6.50 9/10

Coming back from a weak 2023, this flavorful sausage once again impressed the tasters. It was juicy and well-cooked with a “snap” on the skin. The grilled vegetables were nicely seasoned, as well.


Grilled Pineapple with Coconut Caramel Sauce

Booth Price Rating
Brazil $6.00 6.25/10

The best thing about this dessert was that for once it didn’t taste like a dirty grill. That said, if I hadn’t watched them making it myself, we wouldn’t have known it had ever touched any kind of heat source. Additionally, we didn’t seem to have been served any caramel sauce. There was a lot of coconut and the fresh pineapple was huge. So there is that.

Arroz Doce Cremoso

Coconut & Cinnamon Rice Pudding

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Brazil $7.00 3.75/10

I was very excited to try this new rice pudding: spice, coconut, everything sounded fantastic. I was NOT very excited once I had eaten it, however. It had an unpleasant gluey consistency and needed more flavor. It did have the distinction of earning the lowest score of any dessert at the event.

South Korea

Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2018 Festa Italia 4.69/10

Okay, real talk? They really should not call this booth a “Returning Favorite!” The last time it was at the event (2022) it received our lowest average score. This year it was edged out of that honor by Island Freeze’s remarkably poor debut. Giving credit where it is due, it has graduated from the summary that “nothing really stood out” to selling food deemed “aggressively bland” across the board. No one hated the Dalgona Korean Coffee; it was a nice latte that didn’t really seem to pair with anything else on offer.

Beef Bulgogi

Grilled Korean-Style Beef & Homemade Kimchi

Booth Price Rating
South Korea $7.50 4.25/10

The salt-forward beef was cold, chewy, and dry, although it did have a hint of smoke. Oddly, the kimchi was incredibly mild, lacking any of the flavors one would expect from the traditional fermented cabbage dish.

Chicken Bulgogi

Grilled Korean-Style Chicken & Homemade Kimchi

Booth Price Rating
South Korea $7.50 3.75/10

The chicken was rubbery and flavorless, although it wasn’t as dry as its beef counterpart. Similarly, the kimchi included with the chicken was slightly better than the kimchi that was served with the beef.

Korean BBQ Pork Ribs

Spicy Chili BBQ Ribs & Gochujang Slaw

Booth Price Rating
South Korea $7.50 4.5/10

The highest scoring dish at the South Korea booth, the chewy ribs lacked any flavor or spice and were paired with a fairly one-note slaw. The crisp vegetables were actually better than the meat.

Island Freeze

Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2017 Oktoberfest 4.63/10

If you want to grab a snack with your Island Freeze beverage and you don’t want to hike to a more traditional food kiosk… make the effort and at least get yourself to BarKastle.


Pork Rinds & Chipotle Dip

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Island Freeze $7.50 5/10

We couldn’t tell you what this overpriced, low-quality snack item was doing at a food and wine event. We can tell you that the dip was spicy and had a good consistency, even if the pork rinds were not the best.

Corn & Black Bean Salsa

Fresh Salsa & Plantain Chips

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Island Freeze $7.25 4.25/10

This dip was hearty enough to serve as an effective accompaniment to a frozen cocktail, and we could taste all of the main ingredients. The bland and crushed plantain chips, however, were almost completely unusable and might as well have been cheap potato chips.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2016 Jack Hanna Trail 5.6/10

The park updated the line-up at this long-time booth with mixed results, but we appreciated the effort to introduce more interesting and iconic Hawaiian dishes. We still enjoyed the tart and floral Hibiscus Lemonade, and we found it less sweet than in past years.

Kālua Pork Slider

Pulled Pork, Pineapple, Sweet Roll, & Pineapple Coconut Slaw

Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $6.50 6.5/10

Like many of the sandwiches at the event, this slider was dragged down by terrible bread. The pulled pork had great flavor and paired perfectly with the pineapple and slaw, which was crunchy and tasty. Unfortunately, both were mostly lost in the huge, stale, and soggy bun.

Loco Moco

Hamburger Patty, Fried Egg, Sushi Rice, & Brown Gravy

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $8.25 2.5/10

We wanted to love this classic dish, we really did. It has all of the earmarks of the perfect, greasy comfort food. Unfortunately, we were served a flavorless and powdery slab of egg with unseasoned beef and what tasted like canned gravy. One reviewer commented, “I would eat it if I were desperate.”

Spam Slider

Spam, Sriracha Mayonnaise, Roasted Pineapple, & Macaroni Salad

Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $6.50 4/10

This “shockingly bland” slider tasted almost exclusively like bread. We could detect neither Sriracha in the mayo nor salt in the spam. Likewise the macaroni salad, while well cooked, lacked the usual tang we associate with the dish.

Pineapple Coconut Mousse

Sweet Pineapple Mousse with Toasted Coconut

Highly Rated
Booth Price Rating
Hawaii $6.00 8/10

The saving grace of this booth was the dessert. Although certainly not perfect, we enjoyed the flavors and textures of the island-inspired sweet. It was light and cool with crunchy coconut atop the creamy mousse.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2016 Heatherdowns 7/10

A perennial crowd-pleaser, this booth served us three strong dishes, paired with a tart non-alcoholic refresher. The Strawberry Lemonade tasted more of lemon and less of strawberry, but it did have a lot of fruit chunks and worked well with the food on offer.

Bacon & Cheddar Hushpuppies

Cornmeal Fritters with Honey Butter

Booth Price Rating
Virginia $6.50 7.75/10

This year the hushpuppies were crisp and light, and boasted distinct cheese and bacon flavors with a hint of smoke. The honey butter provided the perfect contrast to both the flavor and texture.

Crab Cake Slider

Chesapeake Style Crab Cake, Micro Greens, & Remoulade Sauce

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Virginia $10.00 5.75/10

Once again the bun was too big and unpleasantly soggy. Given how much we enjoyed the thick crab cake and the remoulade sauce, this was particularly frustrating.

Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp with Oatmeal Crumble & Bacon Jam

Booth Price Rating
Virginia $7.00 7.25/10

The team mostly enjoyed the crisp’s crunchy apples, crumbly oatmeal, and sweet glaze. The bacon jam, however, seemed less like a spreadable, multi-ingredient topping and more like chunks of bacon jammed on top.

French Quarter

Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2015 Aquitaine 7.65/10

The very popular NOLA booth really upped its game this year. The new addition to the menu, a shrimp salad po’boy, was popular with the entire tasting team, and the old favorites were back and well-executed.


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

Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $7.50 6.75/10

This classic sandwich seemed out of balance. We barely tasted any olive with the tapenade somehow being overwhelmed by the ham. Moreover, there was no consistency in the spiciness of the slaw.

Shrimp Étouffée

Creole-Spiced Shrimp Stew Over Cajun Rice

Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $8.50 7.5/10

Although better than in the past, this thick stew had an unpleasant fishy aftertaste and some of us were served hard rice. The sauce was quite spicy, however.

Shrimp Salad Po’ Boy

Creole-Spiced Shrimp Salad, Lettuce, & Tomato

New for 2024
Highly Rated
Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $8.25 8.25/10

This take on a traditional New Orleans sandwich boasted both the best shrimp and the best bread at the event, and was the highest-scoring savory item at the booth. The cool, fresh vegetables paired beautifully with the spicy sauce and the plentiful seafood.

Bananas Foster Cheesecake

Cheesecake Topped with Rum Caramel Sauce, Sliced Bananas, & Candied Pecans

Highly Rated
Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $7.00 8.25/10

Our favorite dessert at the booth, this rich and sweet cheesecake featured a variety of textures and flavors. We could taste the rum and fresh banana toppings and the crunchy pecans complimented the creaminess of the cake.


Puff Pastry Topped with Powdered Sugar & Caramel

Booth Price Rating
French Quarter $8.00 7.5/10

According to a resident of NOLA, the beignets this year looked in photos more like the real thing and less like fried dough. We enjoyed both the beignets and the light caramel sauce on top.


Debut Year Location Avg. Dish Score
2013 San Marco 6.88/10

The park updates the menu at this booth every year, and it never seems to find the right set of dishes. We appreciate their dropping last year’s disastrous Sundried Tomato Alfredo from the lineup, but its replacement successfully took over the role of lowest scoring item.


Fresh Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Balsamic Glaze, & Basil Pesto

Highly Rated
Booth Price Rating
Italy $6.00 9/10

This fresh and flavorful dish was my recommended pick last year and the highest scoring savory option at the booth this year. The creamy and firm cheese and juicy tomatoes were topped with excellent pesto and balsamic. All of the flavors paired perfectly in the well-executed dish.

Giant Meatball

Meatball Topped with Marinara & Shaved Asiago Cheese

Booth Price Rating
Italy $8.25 5.25/10

The meatballs have been updated and now have a sphere of cheese in the center. The addition was fun, even if it didn’t really add anything to the flavor or texture. The ground, itself, was grainy and dry and seemed as if it had been frozen. There was a lot of asiago on top, but the overwhelming flavor was of the too-sweet marinara.


Fresh Pasta, Basil Pesto, Olives, & Sundried Tomatoes

New for 2024
Booth Price Rating
Italy $7.50 4/10

If you like capers, feel free to get this (greasy) dish; if not just say “no.” All we could taste (other than the ton of capers) were olives and cheese, which is a problem for pasta reported to be topped with pesto (we couldn’t even see anything green or appearing to be made with basil).

Lemon Ricotta Cake

Lemon, Ricotta, & Toasted Almonds

Highly Rated
Renee's Pick
Booth Price Rating
Italy $6.00 9.25/10

This dessert was the high scorer at the booth, the highest rated dessert at the event, and Renee’s Pick. The refined cake was moist and lemony and balanced nicely with almonds. It’s perfectly baked crust had caramelized edges which provided a crisp counterpoint to the sponge.

Overall, we thought Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s culinary team really stepped up their game this year. There were new booths and many well-considered changes to old ones. Two more drinks booths joined Sangria Garden in offering snack options, which is something we had hoped to see. The international staff were friendly and efficient and really impressed us with their service.

We hope everyone has the chance to check out the 2024 Food & Wine Festival. If you do, we’d love to hear your thoughts, as well. Feel free to share your favorites over in the Busch Gardens Williamsburg 2024 Food & Wine Festival thread on ParkFans or reach out to BGWFans via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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