Roaring Fork in Disney’s Wilderness Lodge at Walt Disney World is a quick service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu items. Like most things associated with Wilderness Lodge, Roaring Fork is awesome. (Objectively speaking, of course.) Roaring Fork participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a counter service credit. It does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. In terms of the Disney Dining Plan, Roaring Fork is neither a good nor bad value (see our ranking of the best value quick service restaurants here).
Roaring Fork is a rather unassuming restaurant. Tucked away down a corridor in Wilderness Lodge, it doesn’t look at that impressive. There’s a bit of cool outdoors man theming in the seating area, along with plenty of masculine woods, but it mostly looks like a small dining area at a resort. An afterthought of a restaurant, if you will. In actuality, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Roaring Fork is a true gem, and a restaurant that would be worth a special trip.
It’s almost mind boggling that Roaring Fork is as good as it is. I never hear anyone talk about it, and whenever we go, it doesn’t seem that popular. Unlike other delicious Magic Kingdom counter service restaurants like Contempo Cafe and Captain Cook’s, no one seems to make a special trip to Wilderness Lodge to visit Roaring Fork.
This is unfortunate, because Roaring Fork not only has a superb menu, but it also is a great place to grab food, then head outside to eat while enjoying the ambiance of Wilderness Lodge. I don’t think I need to gush over the ambiance of Wilderness Lodge itself, but hearing the geyser erupt or simply enjoying the atmosphere around the streams is relaxing way to spend an afternoon.
Plus, of course, there’s the Christmas season, when Wilderness Lodge really shines. During Christmas season, plan to stop at Wilderness Lodge on our “Free Self Guided Yuletide Tour” right around lunch time so that you can enjoy this glorious restaurant AND the Christmas decorations! We aren’t so brazen that we’ll eat an entire meal in the lobby in front of the beautiful Christmas tree, but taking a cupcake up to one of the second story fireplaces and sinking into one of those comfy chairs. That is about the epitome of vacationing.
Of course, all of this means nothing if the menu is nothing special. You can enjoy the ambiance of a resort on its own without eating at a restaurant, so the resort’s ambiance can’t, alone, score a restaurant big points. Luckily, the cuisine is nothing short of amazing in terms of Walt Disney World counter service dining. Everything is made to order, and you watch Cast Members prepare most of the food right in front of you. Since Roaring Fork is a more intimate location, this preparation style works here, and its relative popularity also allows for menus that include items that take a little more of a human touch to prepare.
The Wilderness Salad, for example, is something that involves some special attention from Cast Members, and looks absolutely wonderful as a result. It’s probably not the type of thing you’d see at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe because of the time involved in preparing one. We have never ordered this salad ourselves, but we watched this enormous salad being prepared for a friend of ours (who loves it), and it seemed like a really well-done salad…if that’s your thing! 😉
I’m not huge on salads, but I consider myself a connoisseur of sandwiches. Roaring Fork stole the crown of “Best Sandwich at Walt Disney World” from Sunshine Seasons when the latter got rid of its Turkey Focaccia. The sandwich that now holds this crown is the Roast Beef and Blue Cheese Sandwich with House Made Chips. As you might be able to tell from my two drool-inducing photos of it above, I like this sandwich. If I could choose only one word to describe this sandwich, I would have to make up a new word, because the current dictionary wouldn’t suffice. It’s simply mouthwateringlyawesomemagicsaucebeefgreatbreadlyness. (I’m not sure if smashing together a bunch of existing words counts as making a new one, but it should.) Usually I’ll try to order something different each time we go to Walt Disney World restaurants to get some variety, but I’ve had such success with the Roast Beef at Roaring Fork that I doubt I’ll ever order anything else. Last time we were there I almost ordered two of them instead of a dessert, but Sarah gave me the “really?” look.
Other menu items at Roaring Fork are similarly impressive (I’m told by Sarah), and all are more akin to something you’d find at a smaller deli or restaurant rather than at Disney. The only “standard” item is the burger, and even that looks pretty good. What’s also impressive is that the menu has a lot on it. Most Walt Disney World restaurants either have a few awesome items or a lot of food court-quality items. Roaring Fork offers the best of both worlds!
As is the case with many counter service restaurants, desserts change here frequently, but it seems there are always at least two dynamite cupcakes at Roaring Fork. During our Christmas 2011 trip, we ordered these two little gems, one of which was on our Top 5 Walt Disney World Cupcakes list (the other was an honorable mention).
Overall, Roaring Fork may be a bit out of the way for some guests, and it’s certainly not worth a two hour roundtrip commute to visit, but if you’re able to quickly hop a boat from the Magic Kingdom to Wilderness Lodge, or make eating here a part of your already-planned trip to Wilderness Lodge, you will be rewarded with much deliciousness. The made to order menu here shines, as does the ambiance of the resort, which compensates for the relatively plain seating area. It’s one of the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World, and one that you absolutely should visit when you have a chance!
Do you agree with us that Roaring Fork is one of Walt Disney World’s hidden gems, or do you think it’s only so-so (or worse)? Planning on going now? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Read our other Walt Disney World restaurant reviews and Disney Dining Plan resources.
Overall Score: 8.5/10