Tortuga Tavern Review

Tortuga Tavern is a Magic Kingdom counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World, serving a limited menu of BBQ. In this WDW dining review, we’ll share food photos, a look around, and best menu options at this open air eatery located around the corner from Pecos Bill and only open seasonally. (Updated August 29, 2021.)

After being closed for over a year, Tortuga Tavern recently reopened. Normally, it would open at the start of summer and close around the time it just returned, but Magic Kingdom is still recovering from the closure and staffing up in preparation for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Consequently, Tortuga Tavern returned for the off-season with a few new menu items.

Over the years, we’ve done two different menus with variations of Mexican cuisine here (more like Taco Bell than real Mexican food) along with the BBQ on Texas Toast iteration of the menu before the current scaled back BBQ version of the menu. The revolving-door menu has typically been uninspired, until now

Before we dig into the bulk of this review, let’s cover the basics, which are the same for Tortuga Tavern as every other counter service restaurant in Magic Kingdom.

In normal times, Tortuga Tavern participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a 1-credit counter service restaurant, but does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card. It’s not a good use of a DDP credit.

In terms of ambiance, Tortuga Tavern is Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired, although you probably wouldn’t notice upon casual inspection. At quick glance, it’s like a slightly pirate-y version of Pecos Bill.

Tortuga Tavern is actually one of the newer additions to Adventureland’s Caribbean Plaza, having replaced the former quick service restaurant El Pirata Y El Perico around a decade ago. The pirate flags above the door are the first sign of this, followed by the ‘Code of Conduct’ (although, personally, I think Tortuga Tavern could use some roaming monkeys to spice things up) inside by the ordering kiosks.

These are the obvious things that most guests will see, along with decor scattered about that’s reminiscent of what’s in the Pirates of the Caribbean queue, plus books used to sign up pirate crews and a large mural of Blackbeard.

Then there are the details most people will miss, me included. It turns out that the proprietor of Tortuga Tavern is “A. Smith,” which refers to Arabella Smith, a character from the Young Jack Sparrow books. A. Smith is a teenager whose father runs a tavern in Tortuga called “the Faithful Bride.” A sign for this establishment is visible outside Tortuga Tavern.

As the backstory goes, Arabella Smith returned to Tortuga in 1673 to take over from her father as operator of the renamed Tortuga Tavern. In the restaurant’s open-air courtyard, there’s a stairway to her residence outside of which her hat and coat can be seen.

A surprising amount of effort went into converting El Pirata Y El Perico into Tortuga Tavern, and I recall hearing a lot of other (now-forgotten) details at a D23 event several years ago. This was during the second phase of turning Caribbean Plaza into more of a pirate-y place, an effort that is now slowly being peeled back.

The seating area at Tortuga Tavern is surprisingly large and it connects to Pecos Bill (meaning they could share seating…or you could walk through the inside to use the toppings bar at Pecos Bill, if you so desired).

Between that and the effort to ‘enhance’ the restaurant, it’s a bit surprising Tortuga Tavern isn’t open with more regularity. Our expectation is that it’ll be operate for the duration of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. Magic Kingdom needs more dining options when crowds are heavy.

Above is a look at Tortuga Tavern’s current menu. This location has gone through many menu changes over the years, most being pretty limited. There was a period of time a couple years ago when it only served an item or two at a time, so this is far from the most limited it has been.

Note that Tortuga Tavern is one of the few counter service restaurants in Magic Kingdom that does not do Mobile Order, meaning it’s walk-up only. While we’re fans of Mobile Order, this is honestly a refreshing change of pace. So many Walt Disney World quick service restaurants now feel locked up like Fort Knox, and it can be a hassle to find a place to just sit in the shade or air conditioning without any friction.

Tortuga Tavern is mostly open air (there’s also an indoor seating area), making it a place where you can easily grab a seat in the shade without putting on your face mask. Even if you’re not eating here, it’s a nice place to take an afternoon break–or escape the rain.

The BBQ Pork Sandwich has been on the menu for a while with some tweaks to its preparation. It’s an okay option. Better than some past entrees I’ve had at Tortuga Tavern, but hardly anything special–and definitely not worth the money.

It’s now served with house made chips rather than the Lay’s pictured above, so at least that’s an improvement.

Next, the Peanut Butter, Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread, and Banana Sandwich served with House-made Chips.

Without question, this is the highlight of the menu at Tortuga Tavern. At under $10 (by a penny!), it’s also one of the cheaper counter service entrees in Magic Kingdom.

Here’s a look with the aforementioned house made chips.

We’ve been singing the praises of this Peanut Butter, Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread, and Banana Sandwich for years. It has previously been served at our favorite Hidden Gem Restaurant at Magic Kingdom, but literally for only a few weeks per year (and not for almost two years).

Above is a look at the Aunt Polly’s version.

To our recollection (and in comparing the photos), these are identical. The combination of not-Nutella, peanut butter, and bananas is glorious. We’ve had two of these three things together, but never the trio. It’s definitely an “I never knew I needed these things together, but I do” sandwich. With that said, it’s a sugar rush, and splitting this sandwich is definitely the way to go. It makes a great shared snack–or together with another savory entree.

Other than that, the menu at Tortuga Tavern is boring. The turkey leg you can find elsewhere in Magic Kingdom and the hot dogs are indistinguishable from Casey’s Corner, so we didn’t even bother with those.

With that said, these are definitely serviceable secondary options if you want something filling to go along with that incredible Peanut Butter, Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread, and Banana Sandwich.

Beyond that, it befuddles me that Magic Kingdom doesn’t offer a more robust, permanent menu at both Tortuga Tavern and Tomorrowland Terrace. With Pecos Bill and Cosmic Ray’s perpetually madhouses, there’s clearly the demand for more dining in Magic Kingdom. Heck, the situation is so bad at Cosmic Ray’s that they’ve had to expand their seating areas and close certain entrances to properly route traffic.

When they’re open, we’ve never seen Tortuga Tavern or Tomorrowland Terrace with even a fraction of the crowds as those popular Magic Kingdom spots, but there are a couple of explanations for that. By not being consistently open, there’s a dearth of planning info about these restaurants. Most importantly, the menus at Tortuga Tavern and Tomorrowland Terrace leave a lot to be desired.

Location is also consistently blamed for the lack of popularity of each venue. That’s a possibility, but it’s not as if Big Thunder Mountain naturally would see a lot of foot traffic, yet it seems to draw crowds. While Tortuga Tavern is obviously no Big Thunder, there are certainly ways for it to draw crowds to ease the burden on other restaurants.

My Disney Experience notifications when guests walk past the front entrance would be one easy way. Better menus would be another good way, and the superb sandwich is a good start in that regard. Going forward, it also should help that the menu is larger, with more variety than before. While most of the choices are pretty ordinary, at least there’s some variety now.

Ultimately, that’s really about all there is to say about Tortuga Tavern. Most of the menu is nothing special, but makes good options for picky eaters or anyone who wants an easy walk-up option. Then there’s that Peanut Butter, Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread, and Banana Sandwich, which is absolutely fantastic–a must have either as a shared entree or a snack. Magic Kingdom’s counter service dining options often leave something to be desired, but this is a fantastic pick in a park of pedestrian fast food choices.

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Your Thoughts

Have you dined at Tortuga Tavern? Did you have a good meal there? Have you tried that superb Peanut Butter, Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread, and Banana Sandwich? Do you agree or disagree with our take? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

25 Responses to “Tortuga Tavern Review”
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