Gaston’s Tavern is the smaller of the two New Fantasyland restaurants in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, but if antlers were a currency, it would be the richest! While technically a counter service restaurant (and one that is on the 2013 Disney Dining Plan), the menu at Gaston’s is so limited that it’s better described as a “snack shack.” You can (and we did) eat a full meal here, but that pretty much requires ordering a pork shank.
Gaston’s Tavern is a much smaller venue than Be Our Guest Restaurant, but what it lacks in size it makes up in intimate charm. While both Be Our Guest Restaurant and Gaston’s Tavern have some excellent theming, we feel that Gaston’s Tavern is the truly “transportive” restaurant. You feel as if you’re really in a quaint tavern, scarfing down some delicious meat and enjoying the antlers in all of Gaston’s decorating.
Its theming gives it that village tavern feel, and the details throughout the tavern are fun and cheeky. Everything from the lighting to the incomplete game of darts between Gaston and LeFou to Gaston’s prize heads on the walls just works. The result is a perfectly executed theme, and a venue where it’s fun to linger and enjoy the ambiance. For me, it’s like the anti-hipster Starbucks. I know that if I were a local, I’d definitely be hanging out in Gaston’s Tavern instead of a local Starbucks! In Disney terms, it’s a bit like Trader Sam’s in terms of intimacy, although not in the same style and not quite as elaborate.
We really enjoyed the atmosphere in Gaston’s Tavern–I probably enjoyed Gaston’s a bit more than I enjoyed Be Our Guest Restaurant. This is not to say it’s better than Be Our Guest Restaurant. Gaston’s has the distinct advantage of being a tavern in both the film and in New Fantasyland, whereas Beast’s Castle and its rooms were not a restaurant in the movie, and they are a rather large restaurant in New Fantasyland. Even though both are restaurants, they’re each incredibly different types of restaurants, so each should be judged on its own terms, in its own class. In that regard, both are great experiences.
The small menu at Gaston’s Tavern packs a lot of punch, but is already proving a bit divisive. People who aren’t awesome (;)) have expressed complaints about LeFou’s Brew being too sweet and the Pork Shank being too fatty. Yes, LeFou’s Brew is sweet, and yes, the Pork Shank is a bit fatty. LeFou’s Brew is also delicious and addictive despite being a bit sweet, and the Pork Shank is fall-off-the-bone tender and is a decently sized portion.
I loved both of these items. I could have easily had two cups of LeFou’s Brew (and if the stuff weren’t so expensive, I would have!), but if it’s too sweet for you, you might consider splitting it with someone else. From my perspective, the Pork Shank also wasn’t too fatty…it had about exactly as much fat as I wouldn’t have expected from a shank of pork. The shank was juicy, tender, and not overly salty. As a carnivore and pork enthusiast, I consider it to be an excellent, albeit pricey option.
Another item that people seem to go nuts over at Disney is present on the menu: the cinnamon roll. I’ve never understood the appeal of this thing, and I doubt I ever will. Part of this might be because we’ve never had it in the morning when, I presume, they are fresh. Upon ordering the roll when we were at Gaston’s Tavern, Sarah was handed a cold cinnamon roll with hardened frosting. She requested a different roll, to which the Cast Member replied, “they’re all the same.” Sarah asked for a new one anyway, and the Cast Member turned out to be right. The menu states that the item is a warm cinnamon roll, so right or wrong, the Cast Member should have done something to actually correct the situation. Had I not been wandering around taking photos, I would have asked for our money back. Sarah shrugged it off and we ended up throwing the thing away after having two (awful) bites. (As stated in the past, I don’t factor poor service into the ultimate conclusions of these reviews.)
Cinnamon roll notwithstanding, my only real complaint about Gaston’s is the perplexing menu. This is Gaston’s Tavern. The place should be a tribute to carnivores. Instead, my people only get one pork shank! I’m not sure whether this is because of the size of the restaurant or what, but I’d love to see Disney give the whole “healthy eating” fad a rest for just one restaurant and go nuts with meats and completely unhealthy options. If you health nuts want hummus, apple slices, vegetable cups, and fruit cups (all of which are on the menu at Gaston’s), you can go to one of the other dozen plus restaurants in the Magic Kingdom that have these same items. Let the rest of us have our options like Figaro Fries, Beaver Tails, and other long-lost unhealthy options. I know this is a pipe dream, but I think Gaston would approve…
Overall, Gaston’s Tavern is not to be missed, and is the best “snack shack” in all of Walt Disney World by a large margin. In fact, it’s better than many full counter service restaurants, too. When comparing the New Fantasyland offerings, I think Be Our Guest Restaurant is the better overall experience, but for what it is, Gaston’s Tavern comes close to perfection. If you only have time to experience one of these two restaurants, you should try Be Our Guest Restaurant, but you really ought to experience both. Gaston’s Tavern is a great place to eat, drink, and be merry! (Or manly!)