When Gideon’s Bakehouse opened at Walt Disney World in 2021, it’s not exactly an exaggeration to say that people lost their damn minds. Crowds gathered by the thousands to wait in line for their famous cookies, which already had an avid fan base in Orlando. The treats are mammoth—each one weighs about half a pound—but they’re also innovative and unexpected. Gideon’s has somehow managed to create a cookie that’s definitely a cookie, but also eats kind of like dough, and tastes a little bit like wizardry. But first, you’ll have to brave the line.
I have failed to get into Gideon’s Bakehouse more times than I have succeeded. The cookie shop is in Disney Springs, the shopping and dining district that’s part of Walt Disney World but not inside the parks, just across the way from Wine Bar George’s Dole Whip cocktails and Jock Lindsey’s, the secret Indiana Jones bar—which is perfect, because you’re probably going to want a road soda for the long wait in line.
When the physical line outside Gideon’s grows too long, snaking around the building and promising at least an hour’s wait, the shop switches to a virtual queue, where you put your name on a list and get a text when it’s time to return.
For the first year of Gideon’s existence, my approach to getting inside was all wrong. I’d show up to Disney Springs for whatever reason I planned to be there, usually dinner at the wine bar or on the floating dock in the middle of Lake Buena Vista, sometimes at the restaurant where animatronic dinosaurs “go extinct” every 15 minutes or so. I’d stop at Gideon’s and speak to one of the employees outside, who would usually tell me one of two things: a) the wait was two hours, or b) the virtual queue was closed for the day. I thought I’d never get to try these cookies for myself.
But then, the perfect opportunity presented itself. I had taken a red-eye flight into Orlando from the West Coast, landing at 7 a.m. Gideon’s doesn’t open until 10 a.m. If I got the rental car quickly enough, I could be at Disney Springs in time to beat the crowds. By the time I arrived at Disney around 9 a.m., though, there was already a line of probably 150 people outside the locked door. That’s how popular the cookies were a year ago, and are still today. And yes, I got in line.
As I sat outside the bakery, wearing clothes I had slept in on an airplane, I had no regrets about my life choices. I was finally, finally getting my first taste of this elusive Disney food, and it would make a nice post-flight brunch.
When I got inside the shop at about 10:15 a.m., I couldn’t believe my eyes: Gideon’s was a goth wonderland, equal parts Dr. Jekyll’s Victorian laboratory and Haunted Mansion, with “magic” light effects in the air and “flames” rising up in front of the cash registers.
And then, there were the cookies. Each enormous mound is about the size of half a grapefruit. On the inside, the cookies are so soft and moist they’re almost like unbaked cookie dough. On the outside, they’re completely coated in chocolate chips/peanut butter chips/white chocolate chips and nuts, depending on the flavor. Most cookies are $6 each.
I ordered six, which is the limit per customer, and the legendary peanut butter cold brew, which is sweet but outrageously good. I sampled cookie flavors like Pistachio Toffee and the classic Chocolate Chip, plus some limited-edition flavors of the month. That’s another one of the joys of Gideon’s: Some cookies are only available during the day, and some are only available at night, and there’s always a new monthly flavor to try.
The second time I went to Gideon’s was a full year later, earlier this month. (There were some failed attempts in between.) I walked into Disney Springs at 10 a.m. when the area opens for the day, and as I made my way to the bakery, I already saw people walking back to their cars with huge Gideon’s Bakehouse shopping bags.
In addition to cookies and rotating cold brew flavors, the bakery also sells huge slices of three-layer cakes in red velvet and a daily rotating chocolate selection. I got to the bakery about 10:15 a.m. and there was—of course—already a line wrapped around two “city blocks” of Disney Springs and a virtual queue in place that was averaging 80 minutes for a callback time.
“Great,” I said. “Sign me up.”
I shopped at other stores until I got my callback, right at the stated time, and got in the physical queue, which had shortened to about half a “block” by that time and was maybe 100 people long. It took me another 20 minutes to get inside from there.
Let’s look at that math for a second: the store can handle about 300 customers per hour, almost all of whom are buying the six-cookie maximum, and the store is open 13 hours a day—that’s more than 23,000 cookies a day. And the bakery is open 365 days a year, which totals just under 8.4 million cookies at that one location alone. (The life hack is to go to the other Gideon’s location, about a half hour from Disney World, where there is almost never a line.)
Even if customers buy only three cookies on average, and not the full amount, that’s still over 4 million cookies a year. Gideon’s butter expenditures alone must be insane.
This time around, I got the classic Chocolate Chip—a true cookie dough lover’s dream, made with several kinds of chocolate chips and layers of vanilla flavor—as well as the Peanut Butter Crunch, my personal favorite, crusted with peanut butter chips, house-candied peanuts, and sea salt. Since it was still the morning, I also ordered the morning-only Coffee Cake cookie, which Gideon’s website describes as “an extra buttery vanilla bean cookie with cinnamon strudel and homemade double baked butter crumbs.” I was really excited about that one.
I ate the peanut butter cookie with an accompanying peanut butter cold brew outside the store like a scavenger, with all the other people who couldn’t wait. It might sound like a lot of peanut butter, but the cookie is very salty/savory and the coffee is very sweet, so they complemented each other nicely. (And I don’t usually even like peanut butter treats all that much.)
When I got to my hotel later and cracked open the box for round two, I found a second Chocolate Chip where my Coffee Cake should have been. A tragedy? Yes. But a delicious one.