We’ll rewind about ten days and take what will turn out to be a very brief trip out to Fort Wilderness due to a range of tornado warnings and general “ur gonna die if u don’t watch wesh weather on channel 2 – WESH Weather” warnings. Sometimes I wonder what the weather report would look like if sunny weather was enough to preempt Whacked-Out Sports.
Getting to Trail’s End or Hoop Dee Doo is a hassle from anywhere other than the Magic Kingdom boat dock, Contemporary Resort boat dock, or Wilderness Lodge bus. The buses from the theme parks only stop here at the Reception Outpost. Those driving will also park here. Pioneer Hall, Hoop Dee Doo, and Trail’s End are all located on the other side of the campground.
Boarding a bus here at the Outpost Depot is required for the transfer to the Settlement Depot near Pioneer Hall. Why they don’t just call it the Pioneer Depot I will never know.
Hoop Dee Doo sits right next to Trail’s End.
The buffets at Trail’s End are the least expensive on property and among the best values. Dinner food is basically the same as Hoop Dee Doo and the excellent breakfast is reviewed near the end of this post.
But we’re here for the a la carte lunch.
At least one $3.50 basket of cornbread with enough local orange blossom honey butter for a dozen loaves is a no brainer. DO NOT SKIP THIS.
The $9.50 Blue Crab and Roasted Corn Hush Puppies with Spicy Remoulade arrive with five hush puppies and two different kinds of sauce.
They were lightly fried and tasted subtly of seafood, though they are certainly not brimming with crab meat. With the cornbread and the size of the entrees, the puppies turned out to be largely superfluous. Still, this is elevated fare that you might not expect from a woodsy, outdoorsy restaurant like The End.
We are visiting with a couple of friends. Kendra ordered the best of the entrees we’ll sample – Chicken and Waffles – Buttermilk Fried Chicken Fillets and Sweet Potato Waffles with warm Buttered Rosemary-Maple Syrup – $14.49.
You might expect these to be your standard Disney chicken tenders laid on top of waffles from the breakfast buffet, but that’s about as far from what we’re talking about as possible. The chicken was freshly fried in a light buttermilk batter with subtly sweet waffles underneath. The warm, house-made syrup is spooned on top. Note the nice presentation too – again, something you might not expect from a sub-$15 entree at Fort Wilderness. All in all, this is perhaps the best entree I’ve run into for the money.
Varsenik (Var-sen-ik) ordered the Pan-fried Catfish with Southern Collard Greens, House Fries, and Rémoulade- $15.99. There is a third significantly sized catfish filet hidden underneath. Science created the catfish to be deep fried and the dish is executed perfectly here with a light, crispy batter over the catfish that remained moist (sorry) underneath. Far too much food for one person to consume.
I ordered the Knife & Fork Shrimp Po’ Boy on Buttermilk Biscuits with Tasso Ham, Country Slaw, and Béarnaise Aïoli served with House Fries – $13.99. I was wary that this was going to be a mouth full of biscuit, but it ended up being just a slice underneath four large shrimp cake patties. The fries are a nice mixture of your typical crunchy potato alongside sweet potato fries, offering two different flavors. Both remained crispy and flavorful.
While each patty was stuffed with large shrimp, the dish would have been helped by a heavier pour of the remoulade. The shrimp portion otherwise tasted mostly of fried batter. It was still far more than I could eat.
Trail’s End lunch exceeded our expectations, serving better food in larger quantities than recent meals at the other restaurants easily accessible via Magic Kingdom, including The Wave (Contemporary), Kona Cafe (Polynesian), Grand Floridian Cafe (guess), and Whispering Canyon Cafe (Wilderness Lodge).
The website usually recommends eating where you are, even if there are potentially “better” options elsewhere – particularly on a first or second visit. Will a meal at Trail’s End or The Wave destroy Cosmic Ray’s, Pecos Bill’s, Tony’s, and most of the other options inside Magic Kingdom? Sure, but it’s going to take a significant amount of time to get over there. With that said, a late lunch can be a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. The resort restaurants that offer lunch are usually desolate during service. The last time we were at The Wave we were the only two people in the entire restaurant. The last time I was at Kona for lunch there were four other tables occupied. Despite enjoying the meal at Trail’s End, I’m not sure it would be my choice for a single lunch away from the Park if I hadn’t ever been to the monorail resorts. While there is a lot to do at Fort Wilderness if you’d like to ride horses or catch a wagon ride, what you see upon arriving at Pioneer Hall is not all that interesting compared to the lush surroundings of the Polynesian or the ritzy opulence of the Grand Floridian. Traversing Ft. Wilderness is also more difficult with lots of roads and limited pedestrian walkways.
But Trail’s End was one of the more pleasant meals I’ve experienced on property, with casually professional service, inexpensive prices, and considerably above average food. Don’t overlook it if you’re looking for something a little different.