The Dramatic Life, Death, And Reprise Of Disney World's Handwich

Walt Disney World may be a place where childhood dreams are brought to life, but is it really the Happiest Place on Earth if you're still eating the same boring, old sandwiches that you're used to in your ordinary, non-magical life? This is the question that former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, a man who still lives in equal parts legend and infamy, asked himself when proposing an item that could have revolutionized the world of gastronomy. This was, of course, the savory ice cream cone-like culinary creation known as the Handwich.

Developed and introduced some time in the late 1980's (sources place the year around 1986 to 1988), the Handwich consisted of a cone-shaped bread filled to the top with fillings that included ham and cheese, pulled barbecue chicken, roast beef and cheddar, and tuna salad. Eisner was inspired by his visit to the 1964 World's Fair, which helped to internationally popularize such street food staples like Belgian waffles and falafels. Initially, Eisner's concoction was dubbed the "Castle Cone" and held an eclectic mix of moo shu shrimp and berries, but marketers changed the name and fillings to be a bit more straightforward.

The Golden Age of Handwich

The Handwich was supposed to be both fun and convenient, a novel idea that also served to make it easier for guests to eat while walking around the park. Advertisements called the Handwich a "Disneylicious" meal that was "the sandwich of the future," rolling it out primarily in Magic Kingdom Park's Tomorrowland section and Epcot's The Land pavilion to match the branding. However, the jungle safari-themed Adventureland also sold the Handwich, while Disney-MGM Studios celebrated its grand opening in 1989 with an exclusive Cobb salad variation. Other versions included spicy taco, seafood salad, and, leaning in a slightly more dessert-oriented direction, ambrosia salad.

Alas, customers never took to the Handwich. That's probably because for all its marketing promises that it was "the first sandwich you could hold in one hand," people realized that you could, in fact, also hold a regular sandwich in one hand. The menu item unceremoniously disappeared some time in the mid-1990's without any commotion or fanfare, quietly evaporating into the ether. But the story of the Handwich did not end there, as modern nostalgia has breathed new life into Eisner's culinary legacy.

The return of the Handwich

In 2012, the Handwich made a subtle return, this time in Anaheim's Disney California Adventure. There, the opening of the Pixar movie-themed Cars Land introduced the Crazy Cone Motel food stand, where guests could enjoy something called a "Conewich." It turns out that the new menu item was actually the Handwich operating under a different name! This time around, the fillings were chili "cone" queso, chicken verde, and a bacon-and-egg scramble. The Crazy Cone Motel still serves Conewiches to this day, now with a bacon mac and cheese option.

Other attempts to bring back the Handwich were not as successful. Back in Florida, Downtown Disney tried replicating the chili cone carne alongside a turkey meatball cone to no avail in 2013. Disney-MGM Studios, now called Disney's Hollywood Studios, tried re-introducing their inaugural meal around the same time, though still without the "Handwich" moniker. This time, the fillings included sausage with marinara and mozzarella, cajun shrimp, and a chicken, bacon, and avocado salad, but none of these took off. Finally, at Epcot's 35th anniversary on 2017, the Handwich returned under its proper name with a new cheeseburger and mac and cheese filling. The Handwich lives on inside the menu at Disney's RetroMagic history convention that celebrates Disney Parks' past with the sandwich of the future.