Reviews: Whistle Punk Chaser, Front Porch Cafe at Dollywood
The junior-sized, family-friendly Whistle Punk Chaser at Dollywood is now open. The park’s eighth roller coaster quietly opened to the public on May 21 following Drop Line’s debut earlier in the month.
Whistle Punk Chaser Review
What’s a Whistle Punk you ask? To my surprise, it’s not a punk rock band from the early 90s. According to a sign at the entrance of the coaster, It’s actually a lumberjack who operates the steam whistle that’s mounted to a donkey engine. This signals the yarder operator who controls the movements of the logs in a lumber camp and can warn other workers if needed.
I like how the Whistle Punk and Drop Line themes are so closely related. It’s yet another testament to the attention-to-detail that makes Dollywood such an amazing place.
The theming is phenomenal for such a small roller coaster. The entrance sign features a handle to pull that sounds a whistle from the engine inside the coaster’s layout.
The bright orange coaster is located in the Timber Canyon area of the park and replaces a small playground. Its layout is nearly surrounded by Thunderhead.
Whistle Punk Chaser fills the void left by the departure of Sideshow Spin, a smaller roller coaster (located in the Country Fair area) that was removed from the park during the off season:
Whistle Punk Chaser is a Zamperla “Family Gravity Coaster 80STD” model. The coaster stands just under 15 feet in height and features roughly 262 feet of track.
Its 12-seat train completes a total of three circuits.
The ride was surprisingly jolty for a roller coaster of its size — but it wasn’t too jarring. It’s an excellent starter coaster for a young thrill seeker in training.
Its bright orange and dark green color scheme complements its towering neighbor, Drop Line.
Whistle Punk Chaser is an excellent addition to Dollywood and adds another family-friendly attraction to the “new” side of the park, which is home to many of the park’s larger, more intimidating coasters.
Front Porch Cafe Review
You’ll do a lot of walking at Dollywood (uphill, too). So after a morning of walking from one side of the park to the other, I had worked up quite an appetite.
In recent years, I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by the park’s food offerings, especially for a park with such a high culinary reputation. So I wanted to try something new. And then I remembered the Front Porch Cafe:
The park’s new-for-2017 Front Porch Cafe is a sit-down, table-service restaurant — formerly known as the Backstage Restaurant.
We were told our wait would be 20 minutes (and this was during peak lunch time), but we ended up waiting less than 10.
The restaurant features a homey, farmhouse theme with a diverse menu of appetizers, salads and entrees.
Dollywood’s Front Porch Cafe Menu (June 2017)
The menu was much more impressive than I was anticipating. I had trouble narrowing down what I wanted to order.
If you’re a fan of bacon, this restaurant was made for you. Nearly every item on the menu includes bacon in some form or fashion (like the bacon-infused mayonnaise).
To start, we ordered the spinach artichoke dip, which was relatively standard (tasty in my books). But the fried flour tortilla chips were the standout component. The flaky chips were no match for the thicker dip, so spooning the dip onto a chip was more efficient:
I decided to go with the cheddar burger. The glistening brioche bun sandwiched a well-cooked, not-overdone patty that tasted like it was grilled in Dolly’s backyard along with a large slice of cheddar cheese.
The fries were delicious, as were the house-made butter pickles served on the side. They didn’t even make it to the burger — I ate each of them by hand. They were that good.
Overall, I was very impressed by the food, service and decor of Front Porch Cafe. In fact, it was some of the best food that I’ve had at the park in recent memory.
And best of all? The tablecloths are large sheets of butcher paper. And a small jar of crayons are included at every table. Kids (young and old) rejoice.
I haven’t had the best of luck with FireChaser Express being open in my past few visits to the park. So I took full advantage of it being open as soon as I arrived at its entrance.
I can’t count how many times I’ve visited Dollywood over the years, and not once have I noticed this poster near Tennessee Tornado — an obvious nod to the roller coaster that Tennessee Tornado replaced, Thunder Express (which now operates at Magic Springs).
I was able to get two front-row rides on Wild Eagle (one on each side). Although it may not be my favorite wing coaster, the views from the top of the lift alone are worth the wait.
Yes, Lightning Rod Was Closed
Unfortunately, this visit broke my streak of Lightning Rod being open during my 2017 visits.
A sign out front name-drops Rocky Mountain Construction:
While there wasn’t much activity on site during the day, there were a few workers who spent a while near the top of the launch track:
Despite Lightning Rod’s closure, a Lightning Rod-less day at Dollywood is still better than a day at nearly any other theme park.
But it is tough seeing it closed. I hope the park is able to reopen it soon. It’s such a stellar ride.
Have you ridden Whistle Punk Chaser or eaten at Front Porch Cafe? Share your experiences in the comments section below.