Located at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, there’s a hidden gold mine of a buffet called Trail’s End. At my most recent visit, I struck up a conversation with the people next to me, who had stayed at Fort Wilderness many times. Even though they were frequent guests to the resort, it was their first time eating there–more often than not, they just cooked meals in their cabins or grilled out and didn’t even know there was a restaurant for their first few trips. When I asked them what they thought of the food, one mentioned “I’m really surprised–this is actually good.” I’m not sure whether that’s a commentary on Disney restaurants in general, or this one in particular, but it was a very typical reaction from people I’ve met at the restaurant over the years.
The location of Trail’s End is a bit of a challenge–to get to the Settlement part of the resort (the location of the horse corrals, hay rides, and other parts of Fort Wilderness life), if you’re driving or taking a bus from any park except Magic Kingdom, you need to park at the Outpost and take the internal bus system back (which can be a 5-10 minute ride or more). From Magic Kingdom, the easiest way is to take a boat to Fort Wilderness. This means that counting on a walk-up may not be a good choice, as you can take quite a bit of time to get there only to find that they’re booked solid.
Both from the outside and from inside, Trail’s End isn’t much to look at. It’s hidden next to the entrance for Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue, and inside the decor looks like it hasn’t been updated since the early days of Fort Wilderness. Of course this is part of the charm–it is a comfortable place to eat, which is why you’ll find a large number of locals who make the trip. Wood beams can be found in the dining area, and folksy decor can be found over the buffet areas.
The menu, although diverse, isn’t designed to knock your socks off with its originality (with a few exceptions). It is a variety of good, home-style comfort food. For dinner, the buffet consists of several stations in a small room off to the side, near where a carry-out counter is located. The carry-out location, Hoop-Dee-Doo and Trail’s End all share the same kitchen, so the food is very similar.
The first station has a soup of the day and chili. Overall, the vegetable soup was good, but what you’d expect from a buffet or grocery store soup station. It’s easy to miss hiding off to the side–probably the best part of it is to use the chili on the baked potatoes from the baked potato bar (more on that in a few).
Next to the soups are the salad stations. Among the selections were a tossed salad with a few types of dressings, a Caesar salad, marinated mushrooms, and an interesting tomato, feta, and watermelon salad. A second salad station included peel and eat shrimp, potato salad, coleslaw, fresh fruit, and a hearts of palm salad.
The salad stations are next to the hot side dishes. Mac ‘n’ cheese is a popular choice here, but there’s also baked beans, a hot pasta dish, mixed root vegetables, seasoned corn, and their really delicious cornbread. Make sure to grab some honey butter from the dessert buffet to go with it!
The next hot station contains an insane amount of fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, rotisserie chicken, and (a new one for me), cornbread topped salmon. Although I personally prefer the fried chicken at Homecomin’, the fried chicken here is quite good and could be a meal by itself. The cornbread topped salmon was a unique preparation–although I love the cornbread here and the salmon was cooked well, I didn’t really like the two together. Just personal preference, I guess.
The carving/meat station is a highlight of the buffet for many people. On it were items like carved brisket, pulled pork, seasoned pork chops, and ribs. The food was flavorful, but not spicy, making it suitable for most people who like ol’ fashioned BBQ. Pizza was also available at this station, and at the far end were baked potatoes.
Next to the carving/meat station were toppings for baked potatoes. Remember earlier when I mentioned the chili? If you want a hearty side dish, grab one of those baked potatoes, stuff it with chili, and then make good use of the rest of the toppings on the potato bar (which are somewhat limited–butter, sour cream, and cheese). Want to make it an omnivore’s delight? Toss some pulled pork on there, too.
There’s a large assortment of desserts, with something for almost every sweet tooth. Among the desserts were red velvet cupcakes, s’mores bars, Key Lime pie bars, banana pudding, and brownies.
Up against the wall near where the soup station is, you can also find hot apple cobbler and bread pudding, plus all sorts of toppings.
If your tastes for desserts are simpler, you can’t go wrong with grabbing a bunch of chocolate chip or sugar cookies. This area is also where you’ll find the dinner rolls, which I heard our server mention to each table.
Overall, the buffet was clean, kept at an appropriate temperature (with hot foods hot and cold foods cold), and refilled promptly. Many of the servers have been there for quite some time, and are attentive when it comes to answering questions and refilling drinks–many of them seem to take the extra time to make you feel like you’re at home. Although this is something that fits with the theme, you can tell that this is more than just an act, but that the servers really enjoy getting to know people. Once you’ve had a meal there, you can certainly understand why people keep coming back, even though getting there is it’s own kind of fun.
Prices for dinner are $30 for adults, and $17 for kids, making it a very reasonable price compared to some buffets on property. Dinner is one table-service credit on the Disney Dining Plan, and DVC, AP, and Tables in Wonderland discounts are available.
Have you moseyed on down to Trail’s End, partner? What’s your favorite comfort food there? Let us know in the comments.