Review: Roaring Fork at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge 2017 Reimagination

We visit Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge on the afternoon of Thursday June 29, 2017. A look around the new Boulder Ridge Cove pool will follow.

The website has offered a couple of Wilderness Lodge construction updates over the last year and we’ll tale a closer look at progress in the followup post.

It was not so long ago that I compared the lobby here to being shipped inside of a UPS box.

But with July 17th set as the opening date for the Lodge’s Copper Creek expansion, virtually all of the resort’s amenities have reopened or are otherwise out from behind walls.

See mom! No cardboard!

We’ll return on the 17th to take a peek inside of a new Studio and 1-Bedroom Villa. For now, food.

Roaring Fork is the resort’s longstanding quick service outlet. It closed earlier this year for a refurbishment.

From the outside, improvements are immediately noticeable.

First, the outdoor patio seating has been expanded and an awning has been constructed overhead with fans and heaters attached. It looks like an outdoor condiment station is being prepped towards the front right of the photo. I promise to have the first photos once construction is complete.

If protection from the elements isn’t really your thing, tables out here are also available. If Disney installs some umbrellas, you have my permission to pull them out and throw them at your neighbors like a dart, so long as you scream, “SECRET MENU TAWWWWWWWWTS” during the throwing motion.

You’ll earn a free stay somewhere, though it might not be on property.

Prior to closing, Roaring Fork was probably known for a number of things, the first of which was being small. And it still is that.

Here’s what the space used to look like.

The layout has been modified quite a bit, in addition to the new flooring. For one, you’ll order hot food and bring any goodies you’ve amassed from around the various cases, barrels, and displays to the area on the right. Then you proceed to a separate, vague area off to the left to pay. If you’re not ordering hot food, you can proceed straight to the register to pay. But not the registers with the menu overhead. Those registers don’t accept payments. The other registers.

This seemed like the sort of process that an efficiency consultant, who had never actually stepped outside before, was paid a little too much money to dream up. It’s of course worth noting that this was part of a “soft open” and Disney is probably testing a few different things out to see what works. But tourists are confused enough about what they want to order when there is one line. Double the number of lines and octogintuple the confusion. Even your esteemed author was caught swirling around and around while throwing blogger bucks in random directions and mumbling something about secret menu items and nugg love.

I’d expect to see a similar stanchion situation to the one previously used in the near future.

An expanded number of grab and go items are available against the wall.

Pastries and such. We’ll try the Campfire Cupcake and Maple and Bacon Doughnut shortly. Other specialties include Bear Claws that are similar to Danish and Magic Cookie Bars, among other cupcakes, croissants, and muffins.

While the variety of pre-packaged goods wouldn’t hold a candle to the number of offerings we saw recently at The Market at Ale & Compass, over at the Yacht Club, there is an emphasis on allergy-friendly items, in addition to some potentially healthier offerings in the variety of jerky.

And wine.

Maybe I’m easily impressed or just wanted an excuse to buy more sweets, but I liked the look of the $5.99 container of S’more Doughnuts with the “Fresh Today” Roaring Fork stickers on top.

You could always get the Maple & Dill Salmon Bites in back instead. What do you want for dinner, kids? DILL SALMON!!

The grab-and-go sandwiches and wraps looked surprisingly good. On the salad front, three were available – Caesar with Chicken ($9.99,) Thai ($10.49), and Wilderness ($10.79 with with Chicken, Walnuts, Apples, Cheddar, Croutons and Apple Vinaigrette). There was also a Fruit and Cheese Plate ($6.99), Vegetable Antipasto ($4.79), and a Tossed Salad ($4.49), in addition to the same California or Tuna sushi rolls that you’ll find at Katsura Grill at Epcot and most other quick services.

Unfortunately, we don’t see a variety of beers from the Pacific Northwest. You can always come over.

Like the Roaring Fork of old, entree choices are slim, but what’s offered is typically inspired. Unfortunately, we don’t see the Grilled Northwest Chicken Sandwich (with Canadian Bacon, Wilderness Sauce and Cheddar) or Roast Beef and Blue Sandwich (with Lettuce, Grilled Onion and Buttermilk Chive Dressing on Focaccia Bread) on the menu. There’s also a distinct lack of “safe” options, at least stated on the menu. I’ve long advocated for a variety, but that doesn’t have to come at the cost of a standard cheese or pepperoni flatbread. You might as well put a regular bacon cheeseburger on the menu now instead of waiting for the required seven thousand complaints to come in before making a move. Disney tries this every time. It never works.

But remember, you’ve got Geyser Point as another quick service option down on the water. I have a full look here, including reviews of more than 25 items.

There’s three options for kids. And again, you’d think macaroni & cheese, a hot dog, and a burger could be in the cards with minimal effort. Specialty coffees are also noted here with additional desserts on the menu board above.

I ordered the $9.99 “Gourmet Grilled Cheese – White Cheddar, Arugula, Tomato, and Onion Jam on Multigrain.”

Please don’t get me started on how this is NOT A GRILLED CHEESE.

Yeah, I took a sandwich picture in a flower bed. Anyway, there seemed to be more than one type of cheese going on here with what looks like a layer of “regular” cheddar on top and a third unidentified cheese down below. At a minimum, I can say that it was quite cheesy indeed. But the onion jam was overwhelming in its incredibly sweet astringency. Now, I liked the flavor of it, but it seemed like it could be toned down a little so some of the other flavors could shine a little brighter. But there was a nice amount of butter on the crunchy bread that held up surprisingly well given the weight of all of the ingredients. The arugula added some crunch and while I don’t ordinarily like tomatoes in my melts, they were so fresh and so crisp that they actually felt like they belonged for once. A feeling I’ve never felt.

Overall, I thought it was a winner on flavor, quality, and value. You could do a lot worse for ten bucks.

We also tried the $10.99 “10-Hour Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich with Chipotle-Apple Barbecue and creamy Slaw on Sweet Brioche.”

While there was a stupid amount of the slaw on top of the sandwich, that can be overlooked as an additional “free side.” Underneath was incredibly tender pork with a surprisingly flavorful, tangy barbecue sauce with a real apple-cider kick that lingers alongside the smokiness of the meat. The bun offered a little bit of an almost-tropical sweetness and was perfectly toasted to a nice crispiness that added some crunch against the juicy meat. I can’t remember enjoying a quick service barbecue pork sandwich more and eleven dollars isn’t a bad price to pay for that.

Sandwiches are served alongside a handful of “potato barrels,” which may have been a little greasy on day one, but still maintained a nice little crunch.

The portion size here and at Geyser Point seems a little on the chintzy side, but twelve tater tots or four waffle fries may be a reasonable number in TRUMP’S AMERICA.

The $5.49 Campfire Cupcake is about as precious as they come with the frosting fire surrounded by crunchy rock candy and cookie crumbs that look like dirt. There’s even two chocolate sticks poking out, one with a marshmallow sticking out of the top of it that actually looks like it’s roasting happily on the fire.

And in something that almost never happens, it actually tasted really good with a soft, yet sturdy cake base along with the creamy whipped marshmallow. The icing on top provided just the right amount of sweet sugar flavor and the rock candy had a nice chocolate-y crunch. It’s worth getting for the photo op alone, but it should be a satisfying conclusion to a meal.

My expectations were rock bottom on the Maple Bacon Doughnut, but I couldn’t have been more wrong if I said the middle of June was going to be CRAZY CROWDED. What is probably a Krispy Kreme doughnut was sweetened up with a natural-tasting, caramelized maple flavor along with some subtle, crunchy bacon pieces. I would have happily taken a dozen home. Probably not at the price Disney would charge for that. But still.

Probably due to a lack of space, Roaring Fork didn’t get the Coke Freestyle treatment that we’ve seen at recent quick service refurbishments like Sassagoula at French Quarter and The Market at Ale & Compass. It’s your standard RapidFill.

The seating section looked the same as well.

Here’s what you’ve got going on breakfast-wise. We’ll take a look at some options there and add a lunchtime flatbread next time.

Overall, if something on Roaring Fork’s limited menu sounds good, then it’s probably going to be executed well. And doing a few things right may be a better trade-off than doing a bunch of things poorly. At a minimum, I think most people visiting will be able to put together a meal that’s as flavorful as it is satisfying at prices that are below average.

I mean, the pulled pork sandwich that looks like this at Cosmic Ray’s at Magic Kingdom is a dollar more.

And if Roaring Fork doesn’t fit your fancy, it should help pull people away from Geyser Point. The waterside lounge and quick service had been slammed every time I’ve visited over the last few months, but was virtually dead on this particular afternoon. So you might try that too.

Comments

  1. Liz says

    Nice! Looks great and thanks for the update and photos. WL is more awesome than ever.
    Nutella-stuffed French Toast!!

  2. John says

    As always, thanks for the review. We will be there in November. I like the new outdoor seating and always thought the food at Roaring Forks was pretty good.

  3. Peter says

    I really like the direction they went with the new menu. The pulled pork and cheese grits sounds quite interesting for breakfast. Though every time I end up at the Lodge I always end up eating at the Territory Lounge.

  4. Jon says

    It might sound a silly complaint, but I wish they would add more sugar free drink options. Some of the resorts have Sprite Zero. So now they’ve added a larger RapidFill machine compared to the old Roaring Fork but why can’t one spout be regular Sprite and the other Zero? Or offer the Light Pomegranate Lemonade or another more exciting option.

  5. Kim says

    I was already excited about our upcoming stay at Wilderness Lodge, but the ability to get a maple bacon doughnut has sent me over the edge. So excited to try some things at Roaring Fork and Geyser Point!

  6. AJ says

    What?! No adult Mickey Waffle platters?! It’s a sad, sad day. Also, I wonder if you can still get an alternative to the tater tots? The house made chips or the marinated vegetable salad that they used to offer would be much better.

  7. Amber says

    Thanks for the review! I think the new Wilderness Lodge is looking great! As an aside, if you ever go anywhere there is a Duck Donuts, they have a great bacon donut!

  8. Judith says

    We stayed there for the first time two weeks ago – we fell in love with WL and wish we had DVC points there. Only ate at Artist Point but can’t wait to go back and explore some more. We did go to Geyser point which was really fun. The only bad thing was the pool wasn’t open yet.

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