Looking for the perfect place for fast and reasonably priced meal and midday escape from Magic Kingdom? This restaurant review details our recent counter service culinary experience, which is a great comfort food feast at Walt Disney World.
We want to start out by being perfectly blunt that this is not a Walt Disney World must-do. If you only have a few days or it’s your first visit, you absolutely should not leave Magic Kingdom for a meal. Just eat somewhere in the park so you can get back to attractions. Even if the food isn’t as good–and it probably won’t be–efficiency is the name of the game.
If you have more time in the parks, are a repeat visitor, or want a slower-paced Walt Disney World vacation with time to decompress–this could be for you. Most notably, if you’re visiting during the holiday season and are planning on visiting the Best Place at Walt Disney World at Christmas! In an ideal world, we’d recommend making Advance Dining Reservations and enjoying a nice sit-down meal, but things don’t always work out that way.
Accordingly, this option is at Roaring Fork, the counter service restaurant near the main lobby at Wilderness Lodge. With the exception of a few standout items, Roaring Fork is just fine–not what we’d normally consider Walt Disney World ‘destination’ dining. But those couple of items are pretty darn good, and most importantly, Roaring Fork does not require Advance Dining Reservations.
It’s also worth noting that Geyser Point Bar & Grill also does not require ADRs, offers beautiful views of Bay Lake, and has even better food (the Bison Cheeseburger is one of the Best Burgers at Walt Disney World, and the salmon isn’t too shabby). However, it can get busy during the holiday season, or you may want an easier and more efficient option for whatever reason. (But just know that would be our first choice in this scenario.) Enter Roaring Fork’s premium homestyle entrees…
First up, we have the Barbecued Brisket and Burnt Ends Served with Potato Hash, Fiery Coleslaw, and Cornbread.
Having just been burned by the brisket at Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ, I was bracing myself for disappointment here. I was shocked to find a tender and mostly-lean brisket bursting with flavor. The portion was also fairly generous–more than I’d received at other Walt Disney World restaurants serving brisket.
Now, if you’re a Texan or [insert other state that claims it has unrivaled BBQ] or fancy yourself a smoked meats connoisseur, this brisket may be underwhelming. Even in Central Florida, it doesn’t compete with a real world location like 4 Rivers Smokehouse, which is our favorite spot for BBQ and is worthy of a detour. As with so much in life, it’s all relative.
For a counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World, I think the Barbecued Brisket at Roaring Fork is exceptional. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s better than the brisket at Wilderness Lodge’s table service all-you-can-eat spot, Whispering Canyon Cafe. Moreover, and this might be a controversial opinion given how much everyone loves the place, but I think it’s better than the brisket at Polite Pig. (I’m a fan of that place on the Disney Dining Plan, but quality control can be an issue. I’ve had brisket that’s way too fatty there.)
The burnt ends were likewise fantastic. A nice char and smokey flavor, along with a similar moist and tender interior. The burnt ends here weren’t as good as my brisket, but I could see this going either way. It is Walt Disney World counter service, so consistency–especially on BBQ preparation and cut quality–is always a wildcard. You could end up having meat comparable to mine, or yours could be fatty/dry/etc.
The potato hash was unremarkable; it’s good filler, but nothing to write home about. Same goes for the cornbread; perfectly serviceable, but nothing you’ll be craving like some of the cornbread in this ‘region’ of Walt Disney World. The one side that was a surprise standout was the Fiery Coleslaw. I missed ‘fiery’ in the description and was actually taken aback by the heat; it’s unexpectedly good. All in all, a highly recommended entree.
Next up, we have the Country-style Baked Meatloaf Served with Buttery Green Peas, Chunky Mashed Potatoes, and Gravy.
I want to start here with, of all things, the gravy. Normally, I’m not touching Walt Disney World gravy–there’s a reason you don’t see the gravy boat getting any use in my recent review of the Diamond Horseshoe. (Speaking of which, I would pick this Roaring Fork meal over Diamond Horseshoe, hands down. Wouldn’t even be a remotely close call when it comes to meats or sides…just that glorious Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake for dessert!)
Anyway, this gravy was served on the mashed potatoes and it actually looked fairly decent, so I decided to give it a try. Holy cow. Again, I try to avoid gravy, so I cannot make any bold proclamations with any degree of authority, but this was probably the best gravy I’ve ever had at Walt Disney World. The quality was excellent, with a rich, earthy, and herby flavor. This gravy took the standard chunky mashed potatoes (I’m a sucker for them!) to the next level. They were legitimately the highlight of a highlight-reel meal.
The main course of the meal was no slouch, either. The Country-style Baked Meatloaf was shockingly good, being incredibly juicy, flavorful, and having just the right amount of fattiness. Not too lean, not too greasy and fatty–the goldilocks zone.
I’ve been burned by meatloaf at Walt Disney World on several recent occasions, and have found that some of the plant-based meatloafs are often just as good as the real thing. Which is patently absurd, and speaks more to the frequent dryness of the real meatloaf than the quality of the cheatloaf. But in any case, this is right up there with 50’s Prime Time Cafe and almost on par with what used to be served at Wolfgang Puck Express (RIP). The buttery green peas were…present. Another highly, highly recommended dish at Roaring Fork.
As is often the case with our comfort cuisine reviews, the “we” behind this review was just me. I say that not as a flex to demonstrate the strength of my stomach, but rather, because I ordered both of these dishes for myself fully assuming half of each would be borderline inedible (and I could finish the leftovers before Early Entry at Magic Kingdom the next morning).
I was absolutely shocked at how good all of this was. Even the “present” peas made for nice texture when mixed into the mashed potatoes. The potato hash was hardly bad, it was just unremarkable. I’ll take unremarkable potato hash–it’s still better than Walt Disney World french fries!) Point being, this way exceeded my expectations. The portions were also larger than I expected, and half of each became lunch the following day. (So much for that stomach of steel!)
I mentioned that this meal was better than Diamond Horseshoe (hands down). I also enjoyed it more than relatively recent meals at Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ, Flame Tree Barbecue, Regal Eagle, and Trail’s End. These two dishes at Roaring Fork are borderline table service cuisine caliber. (Note: this sentiment does NOT apply to the rest of the Roaring Fork menu.)
We’ll end with a few practical planning recommendations and thoughts. First, both of these dishes are on the pricey end of the spectrum as far as Walt Disney World counter service entrees go. The Country-style Baked Meatloaf is $15 and the Barbecued Brisket and Burnt Ends is $19. Don’t let that dissuade you from ordering either, as the portion sizes are commensurate with the prices, and these are certainly a better value than any of the cheaper burgers or sandwiches at Roaring Fork.
Finally, I haven’t seen either of these options available via Mobile Order anytime recently. You might check Mobile Order during your trip anyway, as that could always change, but don’t assume the dishes are unavailable just because they’re not in Mobile Order. You can still order them upon arrival at Roaring Fork. (Unless they’re removed from the menu between now and then!)
If you’re visiting for the holiday season, we’re big fans of a boat ride over to Wilderness Lodge from Magic Kingdom. This is particularly true during the peak weeks, when you’ll encounter heavy crowds, high wait times, and long lines in Magic Kingdom–even for food. That’ll likely happen numerous times in the next few months. (See our Best & Worst Weeks to Visit Walt Disney World in 2023 & 2024, which includes tons of dates–good and bad–between October and December.)
There’s also the unfortunate reality that the dining scene at Magic Kingdom leaves a lot to be desired, especially if you’re not able to score ADRs at one of the more popular spots. Magic Kingdom’s counter service lineup is the weakest of all four parks at Walt Disney World. Even if you don’t head to Wilderness Lodge, it can be smart to take a break at one of the monorail loop resorts, enjoying a superior meal and checking out the Christmas decorations (if applicable to the timing of your visit) while there.
Ultimately, this advice really only applies to Walt Disney World regulars or those with longer trips who want elevated comfort cuisine on a tighter budget or turnaround time. As good as this meal is–and it’s shockingly great–Roaring Fork still is not the best or even third-best restaurant at Wilderness Lodge. If you’re a first timer, we’d recommend Story Book Dining at Artist Point (#1), Whispering Canyon Cafe (#2), or Geyser Point Bar & Grill (#3) over Roaring Fork. We might even recommend Territory Lounge over Roaring Fork, but that’s more circumstantial.
With that said, a strong argument can be made for not sleeping on Roaring Fork if you want a less expensive or less time-consuming meal. Or if you’re simply staying at Wilderness Lodge and have had your fill of the other options, want something to dine on your balcony, or throw leftovers in your fridge. (Those were the exact circumstances that led me to this, as I wanted to enjoy the awesome new Boulder Ridge room while eating!)
Regardless, Roaring Fork is considerably cheaper than most of its counterparts at Wilderness Lodge, and serves hearty portion sizes of comfort food favorites. It’s potentially a great shareable option for a midday break from Magic Kingdom, and an even better pick for those staying in this most excellent resort, especially the Disney Vacation Club rooms that are equipped with fridges and microwaves for convenient storage and reheating.
Have you done these entrees at Roaring Fork? If so, what did you think of the meals? Are you a fan of these foods at Wilderness Lodge? Considering doing this as a comfort food feast during your Christmas season visit to Walt Disney World? Think this is a good idea for a relaxing escape from the midday crowds at Magic Kingdom? Thoughts about anything else covered here? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!