Trail’s End Dinner buffet is, bar none, one of the best dining values in all of Walt Disney World. Located in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, this is the kind of joint where Chuck Norris and Sarah Connor arm wrestle as the “World’s Most Interesting Man” lies on the floor passed out from moonshine (his drink of choice now that he realized Dos Equis sucks) while Cool Hand Luke and Conan the Barbarian snap selfies with that glorious restroom mural. Trail’s End doesn’t need a ‘secret’ S.E.A. room because The League of Extraordinary Badasses who patronize Trail’s End are egalitarians who dine among the people.
Like so much of Fort Wilderness, Trail’s End is an under-appreciated gem, overlooked by so many due to its remoteness that almost makes it feel like you’re hundreds of miles away from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. In reality, Fort Wilderness is actually in the Magic Kingdom Resort Area, and pretty easy to access from Magic Kingdom via boat (by far the best way to get there so you don’t have to hassle with the internal bus transportation at the Fort.) Those who have discovered this hidden gem tend to hype it up like crazy (as we did a couple years ago with our Trail’s End Breakfast Review—for a “best of both worlds” experience, try the new brunch at Trail’s End). Fortunately, unlike Le Cellier, Trail’s End actually lives up to the hype as a great place for a carnivorous feast (nice try, Canada).
Not only does Trail’s End live up to its hype, but it provides an excellent excuse to make the trek out to Fort Wilderness, where you can enjoy an experience that’s truly unlike anything at Walt Disney World. Few things beat an evening stroll around this area (especially at Christmas), and all of this is a surprisingly simple boat ride away from Magic Kingdom…
If you have time before your ADR, make sure to walk over to the nearby gallery in the horse barn. There are a couple of neat little displays that detail the history of horses at Walt Disney World (and Walt’s own fondness for them). A cool thing the vast majority of guests never see.
In our prior review of Trail’s End, I covered the ambiance of the restaurant, so I won’t rehash that here, suffice to say that it’s a fun, sometimes head-scratching mix of decor that gives it a charming and authentic vibe. I don’t want to spoil all of the puzzling elements of the decor here, but there’s a reason certain pieces of decor have their own cult-following among Disney fans. (Seriously, there’s no shame in snapping a selfie with that bizarre cowboy mural in the restroom.) I feel like Trail’s End is what it would be like to visit a bed & breakfast operated by Christopher Walken in Mobile, AL.
In that sense, Trail’s End’s theming is going to be an acquired taste. I know this will come as a surprise to everyone with good taste, but not everyone likes Christopher Walken. Likewise, not everyone will like the style of Trail’s End. It contrasts with many other Disney restaurants in the sense that the theme is a bit rough around the edges, and has a “homey” feeling. For me, this is pitch perfect with the rest of Fort Wilderness.
As far as the food goes, Trail’s End is basically a paradise for carnivores. In our Yachtsman Steakhouse Review, I dubbed that restaurant “Disney’s Awesome Salute to Carnivores Restaurant (of Excellence).” With steaks the size of your head, that’s most definitely true on the upper end of the dining spectrum. Trail’s End is the Joe Sixpack counterpart to Yacthsman, a place where those on a tighter budget can go for a feast so euphoric and grand that they might need to be pushed out in a wheelbarrow.
The plate above features the Trail’s End dinner “greatest hits,” from my perspective. The standouts here were, without question, the fried chicken and smoked pork ribs. I think I ate approximately 23 pounds of these over the course of the meal. There’s also a salmon dish that I found pretty good by buffet standards (with its own country-inspired preparation). Then there’s the mac & cheese, which includes goldfish crackers to give it an added crunch and flavor. This is surprisingly effective, and I was tempted to over-indulge on mac & cheese before realizing I must stay focused on the meats.
You’ll also find a hand-carved beef station and peel and eat shrimp, but I found neither to be all that impressive. Both fine, but not memorable. I’m not sure whether this buffet ever had prime rib, but I’ve found the carved beef stations at buffets across Walt Disney World generally to be underwhelming since they stopped serving prime rib.
Normally, I wouldn’t waste my time on this, but several friends indicated that the chili at Trail’s End is fantastic. I will concede that it was pretty good, but I wouldn’t rave about it. That probably comes down to personal preference, as I think the ‘taste ceiling’ on chili is fairly low. Even the best chili doesn’t trump average ribs (and the ribs here are better than average). It’s worth testing out a small bowl to form your own conclusions, though.
Loyal readers, I swear to you that this is not my plate. Not a single meat on the plate? I think you know me better than that. Sarah reports that the salads at Trail’s End were pretty good (I tried the tomato mozzarella salad because cheese, and it was good), but I don’t know why you’d want to waste your time on salads and baked potatoes when unlimited fried chicken and pork ribs are there for the taking.
On the whole, Sarah liked the Trail’s End dinner buffet, but wasn’t as enamored with it as I am. It’s definitely a restaurant that appeals more to those who want hearty, gluttonous country-style eating than those concerned with healthy choices (of which the options are far fewer).
My first trip to the dessert line, I started with soft serve, as I’m a total sucker for that. This was a fatal mistake, given that soft serve tastes the same everywhere at Walt Disney World, and other unique options awaited on the dessert line.
Consequently, I wasn’t able to try as many of the other dessert selections as I would’ve liked. (Twenty-three pounds of fried chicken and ribs, plus a soup bowl of ice cream’ll do that to ya!) You may notice that the official Disney menu only lists fruit cobbler in terms of desserts. This is inaccurate, as there are numerous pies, cakes, and other choices.
The standout from my perspective was the “Trail’s S’mores” cake, which was warm and decadent. Everything was good, but this was amazing. It made me wish I hadn’t filled up on ice cream. “Regret” and “ice cream” are typically mutually-exclusive; these new feelings were confusing to me.
Now, you may look at this review and think, “that’s it?” which is exactly the response I’d expect from just scrolling through the photos. It does look a bit underwhelming, and certainly not as glamorous as so many other restaurants at Walt Disney World. That’s probably a large part of why Trail’s End flies under the radar of many guests. The reality is that there are some truly standout, homestyle options on this buffet that more than justify that ~$25 price tag (the cheapest dinner buffet in all of Walt Disney World!). Although I love the ambiance, I understand that it won’t be for everyone, but even that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. You’re looking at an all-you-can-eat meal here that works out to be only a few dollars more than a drink-entree-dessert meal at most counter service restaurants. (That might say more about price-gouging at the CS restaurants than anything, but it also speaks to the value of Trail’s End.) All of this is to say that you really should give Trail’s End a chance if you have not already. I suspect a good many people will fall in love with the location and the charm of the restaurant, and even if the environment doesn’t win you over, the food and price certainly will.
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Do you agree that Trail’s End is a hidden gem of Disney dining? If so, which buffet choices are your favorites? Not a fan of Trail’s End? Share your thoughts or questions in the comments below!