Restaurant Review: Best Fort Wilderness Meal!

Fort Wilderness Campground is one of our favorite places at Walt Disney World, and we’re particularly fond of Pioneer Hall, which is home to Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, Trail’s End Restaurant, and more. With the beloved buffet returning as a family-style feast, we thought it’d be worth taking a new look at the best restaurant at the resort and campsites. (Updated July 18, 2021.)

The new family-style dinner at Trail’s End starts with hushpuppies, skillet cornbread, and a chopped garden salad for the table. The family-style Smokehouse Skillet comes with pecan-smoked brisket, rotisserie chicken, andouille sausage, fingerlings potatoes, green beans, and buttered corn on the cob. Dessert is the Covered Wagon Sundae, with ice cream, toppings, brownies, cookies, and chocolate-covered bacon. This costs $30 per adult or $18 per child, plus tax and gratuity.

This dinner menu for Trail’s End feels like it was created by someone who had never eaten there before and has no idea what made it popular among diehard Fort Wilderness fans. We usually give things the benefit of the doubt and try them before passing judgment. However, we’ve had variations of these same dishes at every other Walt Disney World restaurant that has reopened with modified family-style service over the last several months, so we already know there’s a far superior and cheaper option in the very same building at Fort Wilderness!

Our favorite place to eat right now at Fort Wilderness is not a traditional choice, but it’s better than most alternatives and does not require Advance Dining Reservations–but does offer one glorious, great value feast. Not only is it a great option for those camping at Fort Wilderness, but also for those visiting Magic Kingdom.

There’s also the unfortunate reality that the dining scene at Magic Kingdom right now leaves a lot to be desired, especially if you’re not able to score ADRs at one of the more popular spots. Magic Kingdom’s counter service lineup is the weakest of all four parks at Walt Disney World. This is a great midday reprieve from the crowds during the busiest time of day. It starts with taking the boat to Fort Wilderness for a leisurely escape from the hustle and bustle of Magic Kingdom, and a full-on feast…

For our fantastic feast, we headed to P & J’s Southern Takeout, which is also known as Trail’s End To-Go or Takeout. In the My Disney Experience app’s Mobile Order, it’s known as P & J’s Southern Takeout. While Trail’s End is not serving iconic dishes from its buffet for some odd reason, those have moved over to the takeout spot.

Despite high attendance levels at Magic Kingdom and what looked like solid guest numbers around the campsites and cabins, there was literally no one inside here when we picked up our food. You’ll almost certainly see a bigger “crowd” than that, but still worth noting.

While inside the restaurant is no longer an option since Trail’s End has reopened, there’s plenty of seating all around the Settlement area of Fort Wilderness, including the patio and picnic tables closer to the beach.

We dined at one of the picnic tables on the patio with this great view. The only thing that could’ve made this better is eating on the rocking chairs, but that’d be a recipe for disaster given our clumsiness. There’s a reason virtually every shirt I own has food stains on it.

We ordered the Full-Slab Barbecued Ribs and 8-Piece Fried Chicken Family Meal.

From the menu: “Served with Cornbread and your choice of four Sides: Coleslaw, Cowboy Beans, Macaroni and Cheese, or Mashed Potatoes with Gravy (Serves 4 to 6).”

We did this fantastic feast for Thanksgiving. Now, you might claim that this is not really Thanksgiving dinner, since there’s no turkey, stuffing, cranberry, and so forth. I’d argue that abundant portions of pretty much any comfort food qualifies as a holiday-time feast.

Plus, versions of these same dishes are also on the menu at the American Adventure’s “Regal Eagle’s Distinctly Patriotic Smokehouse: A Salute to All Foods, But Mostly Barbecued Meats.” Are you really going to claim you know US history better than Sam Eagle?!? You come at the kingyou best not miss.

Moving along, Walt Disney World’s menu indicates that this family feast serves 4-6 people, but they also say the Mezzo Metro pizza at Via Napoli and Kitchen Sink at Beaches & Cream both serve 3-5 people, and the two of us have eaten those in one sitting. Don’t let “the man” tell you how many people it takes to conquer a meal.

In this case, the “we” here is really “me” as Sarah is trying to eat healthier right now. Fortunately, I’m trying to do the opposite.

As much as I’d love to stare down this glorious feast, say challenge accepted, and attempt to devour it in one sitting, I know my limits. Maybe if I were a few years younger and still in my competitive eating prime, but alas.

Also, the ribs, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, and cornbread from Trail’s End are all fantastic. Seriously, these are the best items on the buffet. Accordingly, I wanted to savor and prolong this meal as much as possible, not feel sick the rest of the day.

I don’t know how much of a review of this food is necessary, but to be clear: these are Walt Disney World culinary classics. If you’re a longtime Walt Disney World fan who has never dined at Fort Wilderness, modify your plans now and do this. You can thank us later.

Our full Trail’s End Buffet Reviews offers effusive praise for these dishes, but I’ll reiterate here: they’re all fantastic. I won’t say these are the best of their class at Walt Disney World because there are arguably a couple options at Disney Springs that surpass each.

However, they’re all top 3. Easily. From the ribs right on down to the cornbread.

Everything here is at least on par with what’s served at Whispering Canyon Cafe over at Wilderness Lodge, to put things into perspective. (And this will cost all but the biggest eaters far less than those skillets.)

This high praise does not apply to the coleslaw or cowboy beans. This might be a controversial stance, but coleslaw and beans are a waste of my time and stomach space.

Not to go off on too much of a tangent, but I immediately discard the opinion of anyone who tells me beans are a “must order” anywhere. Beans are beans. At their absolute best, they can be pretty decent. Still nowhere nearly as good as even mediocre mac & cheese or mashed potatoes. I’m sorry if this offends your culinary sensibilities, but beans are, quite frankly, the side item equivalent of turkey burgers.

If you have a smaller party or lighter appetites, note that there are a variety of family meals available at Trail’s End To-Go. Most notably, there’s one that’s exactly half of everything here. That’s $25 versus $45 for this. However, the full feast is the objectively better value, so I felt compelled to order it.

Probably could’ve made that point without pigging out on ribs and chicken for two full days, but such is a hazard of the job.

The total cost for all of this food was $47.92 after tax. That’s a lot of money, but this is also a lot of quality food. Again, this is the same stuff that used to be served at Trail’s End, which now costs ~$30 per adult. Granted, that’s an all-you-can-eat meal, but there are obvious limits on how much the average person can or will eat.

I ended up eating four full meals from this Trail’s End family feast. To put that into perspective, four meals at the Trail’s End family style meal would cost roughly $150 after tax and tip (less AP discount). Granted, I would’ve eaten more at each of those meals, but the food wouldn’t have been as good. 

The total cost comes out to about $12 per meal for this, or one-third of the cost of the Trail’s End family-style meal (above is what one ~$12 plate looks like). And again, this is the more “authentic” Trail’s End experience. And the more delicious one, since ribs & fried chicken are far superior to rotisserie chicken & andouille sausage. (Seriously, the new family-style menu at Trail’s End is heresy.)

Given the price and overall quality of the food, we’d consider the family feasts at P & J’s Southern Takeout a bargain by Walt Disney World standards. This is realistically on par with the “real world” prices we pay for comparable meals at 4 Rivers Smokehouse when doing takeout there. That’s saying a lot.

If you want to burn off some calories after that holiday feast, we’d strongly recommend a stroll over to the new Tri-Circle-D Ranch, home to the “Happiest Horses on Earth” plus a variety of historic displays. It’s cool and well checking out. (If you’re doing dinner, head there first–the ranch is only open 10 am to 3 pm.)

From there, wander down to some of the loops to check out the ambitious decorations, including the one site that looks like it raided a Home Depot’s inflatables aisle. (Mad respect.)

Of course, no visit to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground and Pioneer Hall would be complete without a stop at this majestic mural that graces the gallery of Fort Wilderness, but belongs in a museum.

Always have to stop in to pay my respects to this fine art on any visit to Fort Wilderness. (If you know, you know.)

Ultimately, it should be easy to see why P & J’s Southern Takeout is the best restaurant at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground right now. With Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue still dark and Trail’s End doing a pricier family-style meal with an all-new menu, this is the only option that features “Fort Fiend” fan favorites.

With that said, a strong argument can be made for not sleeping on P & J’s Southern Takeout even when Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Trail’s End Restaurant go “back to normal” (hopefully that actually happens). This to-go family feast is considerably cheaper than its counterparts, and serves more manageable portion sizes of those delicious dishes. It’s a great shareable option for a midday break from Magic Kingdom, and an even better pick for those staying in the excellent Fort Wilderness Cabins, which are equipped with fridges and microwaves for convenient storage and reheating.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you done the family feasts at P & J’s Southern Takeout? If so, what did you think of the meals? Are you a fan of these foods at Trail’s End? Considering doing this as a holiday-time feast during your holiday visit to Walt Disney World? Think this is a good idea for a relaxing escape from the midday crowds at Magic Kingdom? Thoughts about anything else covered here? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

41 Responses to “Restaurant Review: Best Fort Wilderness Meal!”
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