Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café is a counter service restaurant in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. This review features food photos from the new menu, and our analysis of the value and quality of Pecos Bills. Note that this review has been almost entirely re-written following the Fall 2015 overhaul of Pecos Bills, which almost entirely changed the restaurant’s menu, while leaving the theme the same.
I previously wrote that Pecos Bills was Frontierland equivalent of Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café with its previous menu, in that it (was) a high-volume “fast food” restaurant aimed at serving a ton of Magic Kingdom guests per hour, with a relatively standard menu. Well, the second half of that assessment remains accurate, but the first half is now totally incorrect. It’s now more like Tortuga Tavern–but before Tortuga Tavern’s recent overhaul.
Since Tortuga Tavern is basically only open from 11 p.m. until 2 a.m. on days when the Magic Kingdom closes at 10 p.m., most of you probably are unfamiliar with its (old) menu, so further explanation is probably in order. Think of the new-look menu at Pecos Bills as akin to Chipotle, but with do it yourself toppings.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of Pecos Bill, and the restaurant’s atmosphere…
In the past, we didn’t do Pecos Bill much because it was basically the Frontierland equivalent of Cosmic Ray’s, but with–in my opinion–slightly less desirable menu choices and no singing alien. One thing Pecos Bill and Cosmic Ray’s still do equally as “well” as one another is get ridiculously crowded at lunch and dinner time.
Another thing Pecos Bill still does do well, at least as far as Counter Service restaurants go, is theme. Located next to Country Bear Jamboree (at least it has location going for it!), Pecos Bill nails the atmosphere despite being such a large restaurant. Although most of the seating areas are large, at least they are split apart to make it feel less like a mess hall.
The inside of the restaurant looks pretty cool, and the textures and detail throughout the restaurant make it feel like you’re dining at a western inn. The problem here is that there is little opportunity to enjoy the tranquility of the Old West, because this restaurant is rarely ever tranquil. In order to really enjoy Pecos Bill’s ambiance, you need to go late at night for a relaxing meal.
More importantly than all of this, for me at least, Pecos Bill doesn’t have an awesome Audio-Animatronics singing alien, which really is a deal breaker. Now, you might be thinking, “an Audio Animatronic singing alien wouldn’t really fit the Frontierland theme.” To that, I say, obviously you haven’t seen the critically-acclaimed and Academy Award-winning piece of cinematic brilliance, Cowboys v. Aliens. Disney should be remiss for passing up this synergistic opportunity.
In the past, beyond the lack of a singing alien, Pecos Bill didn’t cut it for me with regard to the menu. That is no longer the case, as I would now place Pecos Bills near the top of my Magic Kingdom Counter Service Restaurant Rankings (that post has also been revised to reflect these menu changes).
Frankly, my bias for Country Bear Jamboree means this awesome jug they sell would alone be grounds for a perfect score. However, since I took a solemn oath to deliver unbiased restaurant reviews, I won’t allow it to sway me.
I do wish they sold a ceramic version of this jug, as I’m pretty sure the moonshine I make in my bathtub would eat through this plastic one in like 17 seconds (not that I tried it or anything). Once again, Walt Disney World shows its blatant disregard for homebrew moonshine enthusiasts. Typical.
As for the food, as with the previous menu, it’s served in partially-prepared form with guests being responsible for making these into full meals by way of the toppings bar.
For whatever reason (probably too much homemade moonshine), I forgot to take photos of the toppings bar itself. This is unfortunate, as the toppings bar is absolutely what makes Pecos Bill. This toppings bar is a dramatic improvement on what was previously there.
Here you can see my Chicken Fajita Platter piled high with toppings. Some of the choices are evident from the photo, but here’s a full list of what’s available: shredded Monterey Jack cheese, banana peppers, onions, sour cream, roasted corn, tomatoes, Chipotle Ranch dressing, salsa verde, salsa, limes, Pico de Gallo, and Guacamole.
Yes, you read that last one correctly: guacamole. Unlimited guacamole. More surprising than that, it’s actually halfway decent–about the same quality of guac that you can get (for an added charge) at Chipotle. It’s not the best guacamole in the world, but as far as “free” (no up-charge) guacamole goes, I have no complaints.
I was flabbergasted when I saw that on the toppings bar, and my immediate reaction to Sarah on the day Pecos Bills reopened with the new menu was, “this won’t last a month.” Well, to my knowledge, it’s still there today. With the way guests pile on the toppings and really exploit the toppings bar, I can’t imagine this will stick around forever. So, if you are planning a 2016 or 2017 visit to Walt Disney World, don’t count on this being around.
Quality across the board on the toppings is much higher than it was previously, with fresh, decent-quality veggies and salsas replacing the likes of plastic cheese. Now, I love the occasional guilty indulgence of plastic cheese just as much as the next person, but I think there’s little denying that quality ingredients make this incarnation of the toppings bar a marked improvement over what Pecos Bills used to offer. The question, as of now, is if the toppings stay at this level in the long term.
Unfortunately, the meat served isn’t at quite such a high level. We dined at Pecos Bills twice on our recent trip (unprecedented for us, but we couldn’t get enough of those toppings) and on both visits, the chicken was dry, flavorless, and tasted like “clearance” meat. I’m guessing this stuff was one step above the grade of meat they put in dog food.
The good news is that enough toppings make any meat palatable. I wouldn’t have noticed the poor quality of the meat had I not specifically tried it by itself for the purposes of this review. When eaten as a dish mixed with the toppings, it wasn’t an issue.
Of the dishes we tried, the Steak Fajita Platter was the big winner for us. First, because the steak was considerably better than the chicken meat. Second, because–despite the high price for a counter service meal–this offered good value for money.
This includes 4 flour tortillas, plus rice & beans. When you add in toppings, it’s very easy to split this between two people, even bigger eaters. I don’t think the same can be said for any of the other dishes on the menu (which are all basically just variations of the same thing), which makes the fajitas the best per person value.
Overall, it has been interesting to see a mixed reaction to the new menu at Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Café, because our reaction was unequivocally positive. We were not especially fans of the old menu, and anyone disappointed by the change can still find (a better version of) the old menu at Cosmic Ray’s, and with better variety between the two biggest Magic Kingdom restaurants, that should be a win-win. In terms of quality, this is a dramatic step forward, and makes Pecos Bills one of the better options in the Magic Kingdom. Ultimately, this praise rests almost entirely on the dramatically improved toppings bar, which could change or be dumbed-down at any moment, as the basic entrees themselves are still sorta “meh.” (In other words, make sure you keep an eye on news about changes to the toppings bar.) In terms of crowds, it is still a headache that I’d recommend avoiding during the middle of the day, but great for odd hours or late evenings when it’s not as busy.
Have you eaten at Pecos Bill since they started the new menu? Did you enjoy the experience? What did you order? What did you think of the new toppings bar? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments!