This review reflects our experience in November of 2014.
If you’ve looked into eating vegan in Walt Disney World you may have seen the name Chef TJ pop up. If you don’t know who he is you will be very excited to find out. Chef TJ used to work at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian but has recently (as of fall 2014) moved to Trail’s End at the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. Chef TJ is known for creating elaborate multi course vegan meals for guests visiting Disney World. When we found out he had moved we made sure to set up a reservation so we could personally try his food. We picked an excellent day to do so, Melissa’s birthday!
Trail’s End is tucked away at the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds next to the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue and Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. We spent our day at the Magic Kingdom so that we could just take a boat over to Fort Wilderness for dinner. There are several boat docks outside of the Magic Kingdom so make sure you find the Resort Launch that specifies Fort Wilderness. Try to give yourself plenty of time to get to the restaurant as the boats only come every half hour. Our boat stopped at the Wilderness Lodge first which isn’t typical of the route. We gave ourselves over an hour to get there so we could check out the resort. We arrived at the boat dock around 5:00, we got on the boat by 5:15 and docked at Fort Wilderness by 5:45. If you are not at Magic Kingdom and have a reservation at Trail’s End I suggest taking a Fort Wilderness bus from where you are, once you get to Fort Wilderness you will need to take an internal bus to Settlement Depot where Trail’s End is located, or you can take a cab. According to our waitress many people are unaware of the boats and it takes them almost two hours to get there by buses.
Once we checked in I made sure to remind the hostess again of our “allergy” to make sure the server was aware. Once we were seated our waitress asked about our “allergy” and we told her of our vegan diet. She then told us she would grab a chef to show us what we can eat on the buffet. After about 15 minutes Chef TJ came out from the back and we got very excited, we were worried it was one of those days he wasn’t there! He showed us the buffet, all that was vegan was a few salads, baked potato without any toppings and fruit. He assured us that we would not leave hungry and to give him a few minutes to bring out our first dish.
We decided to grab a small plate of salad because we weren’t totally sure how much food he was going to make for the two of us and we wanted to try what was offered. Chef TJ also caters to the diners Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue next door so we weren’t sure how long each plate was going to take.
Our first plate was Spring Rolls with Spicy Mustard and Sweet and Sour Sauce. These little spring rolls were absolutely delicious. The spicy mustard was the perfect amount of hot in your nose and the sweet and sour complimented the rolls really well. They were very crunchy and left me wanting about 10 more of them.We both felt he could have put more spicy mustard on there because we wanted more of the flavor. There was a perfect amount of sweet and sour on the other half. In the middle was a salad with arugula that at first was very sweet then had a strong kick of spicy mid-way through.
Our next plate was Coconut Curry Chowder with Spicy Buns. He gave us both our own plates with a bowl of soup and two buns, we both really loved the soup. It was was very sweet from the coconut but then had a hot spice at the end. The soup was full of edamame, corn, red pepper and onion. We both would have been content with just this soup for dinner, it was that good.
The spicy buns were essentially hamburger buns with vegan cheese slices, caramelized onions and balsamic. I wasn’t very impressed with this item. The cheese had gotten that weird cooled texture that I never like with vegan cheese and I couldn’t really taste the balsamic. Corey seemed to enjoy his buns more than I did. There were a few spicy bites in the buns, he may have thrown some jalapeños in there. One thing we had noticed in these two dishes so far, Chef TJ likes to make it spicy!
After we had finished our soup and buns he came out with a third plate. This was a Stuffed Poblano Pepper with Peach Jam and Balsamic Ketchup. This dish came out with one for each of us like the soup dish before it. The peppers were stuffed with rice and black eyed peas that weren’t very flavorful. This may have been one of the spiciest dishes I have ever had! I ended up just eating the filling of the pepper and cooling down with the jam. Corey mixed his rice in with the balsamic ketchup and said his was still very spicy. There was a garnish of salted rosemary on the plate that also helped us to cool down our mouths. Chef TJ came out after this dish and I told him how spicy it was, he felt really bad for how hot he had made it and said he would tame down the other dishes. (You mean theres more?!)
Our fourth plate was Crispy Tofu with Tempura Vegetables. The tofu was my favorite part of this dish, it seemed to have the sweet and sour and spicy mustard sauces on it that were also part of the spring roll dish. It was nice and crispy all over, I could have eaten a whole plate of just the tofu. The tempura vegetables were really good but could have had a little less breading on it. Corey seemed to really enjoy the tempura. Neither of us ate too many of the vegetables on the plate because at this point we both felt like beach balls.
While we were eating the tempura and tofu Chef TJ came out with a fifth plate, Barbecued Potatoes. At first I thought this sounded really strange but man these were delicious. The potatoes were cooked perfectly and weren’t too hard or too mushy. They seemed to have been grilled and were coated in a sweet BBQ sauce. He made sure they weren’t too spicy for us too.
After we had finally eaten as much as we could from those plates Chef TJ came back out to bring us dessert. We couldn’t help but laugh when we saw these impossible-to-eat towers sitting in front of us. The base was an apple with preserved strawberries to hold up the stick. Throughout our tower of dessert was a mini chocolate cake, strawberries, bananas, coconut ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. Some how both of us managed to have enough room to eat pretty much the entire tower, except for what had fallen off while trying to disassemble it.
This was an absolutely incredible experience. All of the food was delicious and I had never eaten so much food at once. We both really enjoy spicy food and most of these dishes were pretty hot. If you don’t like spicy food I suggest mentioning that to Chef TJ when you first meet with him.
Since this is a buffet Chef TJ didn’t let us feel left out in the stuffing our faces that a buffet provides. Our reservation began at 6:45 and we did not leave Trail’s End until 9:30. We were there so long that the table next to us seated three groups while we were there. If you plan on coming here for Chef TJ make sure you give yourself a few hours to eat. One benefit to us being there so late is that we were able to catch the Electrical Water Pageant from the boat dock.
Chef TJ told us that he does not work Friday’s or Saturday’s. Since he does the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue he said that the bad times to see him are between 4:30-5:00, 6:15-6:50 and 8:30-9:00 as these are during the seating times of the show. The buffet is reasonably priced, about $25 per adult, and I have been told that the non-vegan options are great. We both highly suggest going here and experiencing a meal from Chef TJ. Just make sure you wear some yoga pants!
Would we go back?
YES YES A MILLION TIMES YES! Can you tell we liked it? But really, go!
Melissa & Corey