Looking for the perfect place for marvelous meal near Magic Kingdom? This post details our recent restaurant experience, which we think is one glorious, great value feast at Walt Disney World. It’s not a traditional choice, but it’s better than most alternatives, and does not require Advance Dining Reservations.
Anyway, one of the things we recommend doing right now if you’re visiting Magic Kingdom is either heading back to your resort for a midday break or doing a long table service meal. Basically, a reprieve from the crowds during the busiest time of day.
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. Anyway, we sort of took both a break from the crowds, relaxed at a resort, and had a delicious meal. It started 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.
With the Trail’s End buffet and Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue both closed for obvious reasons, iconic dishes from those menus have been moved over to the takeout spot in between the two venues.
The buffet seating area for Trail’s End has also been modified with tables removed, making this one option for eating your takeout. The atmosphere in here is actually more relaxed and better than before.
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.
Part of this is undoubtedly because it was a beautiful day outside at Fort Wilderness. Temperatures in the mid-70s, a nice breeze, and plenty of sunshine.
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 king, you 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. However, 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. Between this and buying a Thanksgiving turkey that is way too big for the two of us, I’ll see you all next Wednesday when I emerge from my food coma! 😉
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 served at Trail’s End, which costs ~$39 per adult. Granted, that’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, but there are obvious limits on how much the average person can or will eat.
I’ve already eaten two full meals from this Trail’s End family feast, and still have slightly more than half of it left. To put that into perspective as compared to other meals currently served at Fort Wilderness, this will be around 4-5 meals that are each the size of the Holiday Turkey Dinner, at a lower price-point.
The total cost comes out to about $10 per meal for this, as compared to $15 for the Holiday Turkey Dinner. And more delicious, since ribs & fried chicken > turkey. (As with the huge pizzas at Via Napoli, you need to look at the per-person cost and not the total price.)
Given the price and overall quality of the food, we’d consider the family feasts at Trail’s End 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.)
Finally, since this is basically our Thanksgiving post, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how thankful I am to Sarah. You don’t often see “how the sausage is made” for the blog, but suffice to say, Sarah does a lot of behind the scenes and unsung legwork. (Like waiting around over an hour to get Santa Claus photos at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a post I still haven’t written…)
Beyond her many substantive contributions, Sarah also tolerates most of my nonsense and humors my sometimes ill-advised ideas. For example, I didn’t “need” to order a $47 family feast all for myself. Nevertheless, she played along with the notion that it was necessary for the sake of research and thorough reporting. So hopefully you enjoyed the more (ahem) comprehensive coverage here!
I’m also thankful for 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.)
On that note, we’re thankful to you all for reading and supporting this sometimes bizarre blog, even through the rambling rants and sometimes odd tangents. We sincerely do appreciate all of you. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your families. Wishing everyone out there a happy, healthy, and safe holiday!
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!
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? Do you plan on visiting Walt Disney World this Christmas, or are you sitting this year out? 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!