Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament is basically the greatest place on earth. It’s dinner theater (how much of this luxury even exists anymore?), with medieval-style games, including jousts, swordfights, horse dancing, and more. I’d been shouting at the castle every time I’d driven by it on the highway. It was finally time to visit as an adult. I’d been when I was a kid, but finally being ancient enough to be there drunk, everything changed.
Tickets start at $61.95 for adults, and $36.95 for children 12 and under. Start saving your money now.
When I informed my friends and family that I was going, many of them exclaimed, “You have to eat with your hands! You have to eat with your hands!”
Medieval Times has nine locations in the US, so basically, none of you have any excuse for not going. Despite Medieval Times’ reputation for being a haven for children’s birthday parties, the 7:30 PM weekend showing was overwhelmingly a crowd of adults with a smattering of children here and there. The lack of children is ideal, considering a decent portion of the adult demographic was drunk and acting obscene. I was impressed at the audience commitment to recreating what we imagine history to have been during that era.
Before the show, a Master of Ceremonies came out to regale us with tales and tell us which doors to take into the arena. I like to think of it as the Arena of Justice. He was preceded by two talented trumpet players. Also, he wielded a microphone, which I’m fairly certain is not medieval technology. The illusion was quickly unraveling. I did catch a brief glimpse of the King of Schaumburg, who was truly a majestic sight. I did not get a chance to kneel before him and ask him for knighthood, so I cried tears of adult sadness.
The ambiance, as you can see, is remarkable. There are thrones, suits of armor, and Ye Olde Shoppes where you can purchase baubles, replica swords, useless balls made of colored glass, light-up roses to get your date’s love juices circulating for consummation post-show, and all sorts of ineffective wooden shielding and swords. I would not use that weaponry in battle.
Before you start the show, I highly recommend a trip to the bar for a drink. Get a double, so you can get messed up efficiently. My beverage, called the Royal Knight, was achingly sweet with a medicinal quality to it, and it turned my stomach. However, that was my fault for eating nothing but peanuts that day, like the representative of the lower-class I am. I have no idea what is in it, because I’m a terrific journalist, but I definitely saw clear rum being poured in it.
They give you a shitload of alcohol. If you want a fancy glass, the first tier starts at $17, and the second tier is $26 per glass (including the beverage itself). The wench serving our beverages was courteous and no-nonsense. I opted for the regular cup, which is made of plastic, and you are encouraged to take it home. I did, so I can gaze longingly upon it…forever.
This is a horse. At the beginning of the show, it runs around in circles. I have decided watching a horse run around in circles while quickly getting intoxicated is a good activity. Highly recommended.
The Bill of Fare, otherwise known as the menu, is written on the napkin for your quick reference. I once went to a restaurant in Chicago called Moto, where you can actually eat the menu. However, I do not recommend you eat this menu. It’s made of wood pulp (also known as paper), and gets caught in your teeth. Our servant, Alex, encouraged us to call him a Man-Wench. I asked him if he was serious. He said yes. He also looked very tired.
At Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament, they do not give you utensils for eating food. You are supposed to use your hands. It’s a truly immersive experience.
The bread service is the first sustenance to arrive at your table. According to the menu this should be the second item, and things were already out of order. Preposterous. This item is called Castle Bread. It is a classic mass-manufactured garlic bread, lightly soaked in hydrogenated buttery oils, essence of garlic, and flecks of dried parsley. I imagine this was eaten often back in medieval times, except with pebbles in it. Ours came without pebbles.
The Tomato Bisque came shortly after the bread. Bisque, traditionally made from crustaceans such as lobster, is either a soup fortified with cream or a soup thickened with rice (which can be puréed into the final preparation or strained out). This is clearly bullshit. There’s no cream, nor rice. It’s just like alphabet soup with the delicious alphabet removed, and except instead of being fortified with cream, is fortified with extra water.
The Roasted Chicken came out next. It’s a huge, formidable portion of carcass, and is remarkably hot and juicy considering it likely sat in an industrial oven for a long time. It’s heavily seasoned with paprika, salt, and undetectable spices. There’s hardly any flavor other than chicken. However, since it’s such a large portion, I happily ate my meat while watching the falconer throw a bird in the air. The able-bodied bird flew with such poise and grace considering I was eating its cousin for dinner.
The vegetable portion of the meal, the Herb Basted Potato, accompanies the chicken. It is suspiciously the same color as the chicken in terms of its seasoning, and is clearly not basted with anything. It has an uneven sprinkling of seasoning on it, and is mealy and dry. I both noticed the lack of green vegetables in our meal, which made us feel as if the entire culinary experience was woefully unbalanced.
The lone BBQ Spare Rib is the most curious item on the menu, because it’s just one rib. It comes glazed in a sugary-sweet barbecue sauce. Because it’s a sparerib, the meat on it is pleasantly substantial. It has a decent chew to it, meaning it hasn’t been steamed to death, which is an appreciated detail.
One lone rib.
Finally, the dessert. This is the Pastry of the Castle. In modern times, we call it an Apple Turnover. It is a puff pastry with an apple filling that appeared to be thickened with a fair amount of cornstarch. However, it is an adequate way to end a highly carnivorous meal.
While the cuisine may not have been ideal by modern standards, I imagine we all ate like royalty considering all the peasants probably ate was rotten bread, gruel, and softened bones.
Whatever. It’s Medieval Times. You get to watch people fall off horses and theatrically beat the shit out of each other. It fucking rules.
Also, our knight died.