/ Friday, June 21st, 2013

by Richie McNanna

   “Fortuosity, lucky chances Fortuitious little happy happen-stances I don’t worry ’cause everywhere I see That every bit of life is lit by Fortuosity 

    Fortuosity, that’s me own word Fortuosity, me never feel alone  word `Round the corner, under a tree Good fortune’s waitin’, just wait and see!”

- John Lawless in Disney’s The Happiest Millionaire

If you’re a fan of classic Disney, then chances are you’re a fan of Walt Disney’s 1967 production of The Happiest Millionaire starring Fred MacMurray. Tommy Steele, and a young John Davidson and Lesley Ann Warren;  and if you’ve seen and enjoyed this film, then chances are you know what exactly what “fortuosity” is;  and if you’re aware and what fortuosity is,  then chances are you’ve experienced it at some point in your life…at a minimum, you must’ve felt it while walking down the jaunty thoroughfare that is Main Street, U.S.A.

Well,  tucked away in the beautifully provincial environs of Morris County, New Jersey, (yes, for those of you who are unaware, New Jersey does contain both plants and fresh air) is a more than moderately known steakhouse that evokes a keen sense of “fortuosity” immediately upon arrival: Rod’s Steakhouse in Morristown, NJ.   I go there whenever I need a jolt of good ol’ Disney nostalgia, or if I’m pining for Main Street, Le Cellier, or The Happiest Millionaire, specifically…for it is the combination of these three canvases that best articulates the atmosphere this restaurant evokes.  It’s a real “Disney food portal” for me, and “fortuitious” in the sense that I feel as lucky as John Lawless finding instantaneous employment in the New World whenever I go! (You kind of have to know the movie to get the reference.)

For a brief bit of context,  Rod’s Steakhouse, while in Morristown, NJ, is a part of the larger Madison Hotel and has been in business since 1936.   Much more than the occasional Disney food portal for this Disney nut,  it caters to lodgers at the hotel,  local business people,  and special event attendees.  According to the restaurant’s website, the original proprietor – Rod Keller – was “An avid admirer of Victorian-era decorative arts, Rod’s personal collection of antiques adorns the restaurant today.” It is this quality and the fine steakhouse cuisine which lends themselves to being a really transformative Disney experience for me.

To start, there are three main sections to the restaurant that all portray turn-of-the-century architecture and design in different, very Disney ways:

  1. the front “bar and grill area” rich in dark woods and Tiffany stained glass – very reminiscent of several scenes in Millionaire and the overall feel of Main Street, U.S.A.

Here are some shots from Rod’s

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And here is the Happiest Millionaire and Main Street USA… see what I mean??

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2. The rear “Atrium” area really invokes images of the Florida room in Millionaire in which Mr. Biddle kept his alligators and the inimitable Edwardian elegance of the Crystal Palace of Disney World:

Here is a picture of Rod’s

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Here are the comparisons from Happiest Millionaire and the Crystal Palace:

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3.The incomparable Antique Pullman Train Car reclaimed, refurbished,  and reinvented into a private dining experience of renown by the restaurant’s founder – a train enthusiast like Uncle Walt, to be sure.  Whenever I eat in this area of the train,  it obviously conjures instant feelings of  riding the Lilly Belle or the Roger E. Broggie.

Rod’s:

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And here are the Disney comparisons (with thanks to FindingMickey.com for the images of Disneyland’s Lily Belle) :

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Extraordinary isn’t it?  I find the atmosphere of these three sections of the restaurant to be beautiful,  almost exact “recreations” of these  Disney references.  And menu-wise, the similarities are equally “ear-y”.

(Ok, really lame hidden Mickey).  But I compare Rod’s’ menu to Le Cellier’s, most strikingly;  while both restaurants feature standard steakhouse fare of the finest quality (rib-eyes, New York Strips, and side dishes like creamed spinach and assorted vegetables) it is the niche-y lobster macaroni and cheese that is the most pleasurable culinary connection that I make between the two restaurants; I order it every time I am at either restaurant!

So that’s my comparison – it’s my Disney food portal of the week.  I so enjoy the experience of eating at an establishment that not only takes me back to my Disney happy place,  but instills a simple, home-spun spirit of turn-of-the-century optimism that can be summed up in one catchy word: dandy. (You thought I was going to say fortuosity, didn’t you? Well, yeah…that word, too.)

At home, do any of you patronize restaurants that remind you of the turn-of-the-century Disney theming I reference here?  If so, I’d love to hear about it — where it is and what makes it special!

Thanks, again! Happy Disney eating, and I’ll see you next time!

Rich McNanna is a seventh grade language arts teacher and avid Disney, baseball, and food fan from Westfield,  New Jersey.  He is a regular columnist sharing his passion for Disney food experiences and an avid listener and reader of the WDW Radio world. He and his wife dream of one day purchasing a Disney Vacation Club membership so that they can take their baby boy to the greatest place on Earth at least once a year…just for the churros.

8 Responses to "Mickey to Go: The Happiest Millionaire"

  1. I’m originally from Madison, NJ so Rod’s was a frequent hang out of mine but never put Disney and Rod’s together until now. Can’t wait to go back and visit so that I can see this through my mickey vision!

  2. What a great article. Starts me to thinking about places where I live. Thanks.

  3. Steamboat Eddie says:

    This place looks amazing. I’ll have to check how far away it is from me. The included comparison photos are a nice touch. Great write up and have an awesome day!

  4. Glen: maybe I’ll see you there :)
    George: thanks…any places like this?

  5. Thanks, Eddie :)

  6. John and Karl says:

    Hey Rich,
    Really nice job with your post. We never heard of Rod’s and really don’t live that far away. It certainly reminds us of the Crystal Palace! We’ll have to put it on our NJ “bucket list” before we move to Florida full-time in about 3 years.
    P.S. Would you believe the smell of Wendy’s barbecue sauce this past weekend took us right back to Trail’s End restaurant at Ft Wilderness – one of our favorite WDW restaurants. As usual, most good things in life remind us of “the happiest place on earth” in one way or another. Some people think we’re out of our minds! Either you get Disney or you don’t!

  7. John and Karl,
    Hey! I e-mailed you back last week after a hiatus…hope you got it.
    Can;t believe you mentioned the bbq sauce / Ft. W connection; whenever I smell bbq sauce I think of Pecos Bill’s!!!

  8. Oh, and I DEFINITELY think we’re out of our minds :)

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