First, I’ll start with a breakdown of the ambiance and setup of Trail’s End, which is the same for both breakfast and dinner. As you arrive you will notice the check-in area is actually outside, inside a covered, sweeping patio that surrounds Pioneer Hall. There are old fashioned rocking chairs to sit in, and a drink window leading into Crockett’s Tavern in case you are thirsty waiting to be seated for dinner (it isn’t open for breakfast). There are small, old fashioned checker boards, hula hoops, and horse shoes to keep the kids occupied if there is a wait, which is rare.
Once you enter Trail’s End, you will notice the rustic old west/life on the prairie décor. Chandeliers made from deer antlers and wood, Buffalo heads mounted to the wall, and pictures of an era long passed really do a nice job of setting the stage. If you are expecting antics like at neighboring Hoop-Dee-Doo or the Wilderness Lodge’s Whispering Canyon, you won’t find that here. The Cast Members, though dressed the part, don’t ring the dinner bell or whoop it up as they do elsewhere. They will, however, lead the charge on a birthday Yee-Haw if asked. There are also no characters at this buffet, which factors into the lower cost. The seating is split level, which makes it seem at first glance that Trail’s End can’t accommodate large numbers of guests at one time, but it actually has a rather large capacity.
The buffet area itself is the same setup for breakfast and dinner, as is the case with most all buffets on property. The stations are set up in a square (perhaps horseshoe would be more fitting, but you get it) with one island station in the center. The area can be a bit cramped if there is a large crowd and the line can extend into the seating area of the restaurant. This typically doesn’t happen for breakfast, though Sunday mornings can be a bit busier than usual. As you enter the buffet area, on your right you will find a little station for cereal. There will be a few different kinds of the typical Kellogg and Post favorites. Next, you will head to the area that has your fresh fruit, granola, yogurt, etc. Then, of course, you get into your usual bill of fare breakfast items. Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, biscuits and sausage gravy, everything you would expect, and get, on other Disney breakfast buffets. Trail’s End does have a few dishes, however, that are unique. First, alongside the standard eggs benedict, is their pulled pork version. This is my personal favorite on the buffet. A poached egg topped with lightly sauced pulled pork, topped with hollandaise, and resting on a decent sized English muffin. The pulled pork is the same as what is found on the dinner buffet and really makes this dish excellent.
Next up is the smoked meat hash. Another one of my favorites, this dish consists of diced potatoes, onions, peppers, and smoked beef brisket all griddled together. Finally, as you meander down the line, passing both regular and chocolate chip Mickey waffles, you will get to French toast bread pudding. Disney has really turned bread pudding into an art form, and this is one of the better versions, in my opinion. After completing a trip around the horseshoe, your last stop is the buffet station in the middle. It is full of pastries, bagels, English muffins, and the like.
That, my friends, is the Trail’s End breakfast buffet in a nut shell. The service for the buffet—be it your server or those tending to the buffet—is generally good. Items that run out are replenished relatively quickly, however, on occasion certain items that do not run out will not be replaced as quickly. For example, my beloved pulled pork eggs benedict may start out with a tray of twelve or so on the buffet line, and maybe ten of those twelve disappear right away. I’ve noticed the tray as a whole typically isn’t replenished or changed until the other two are gone as well, which means, at times, you may get an item that has been sitting out for a while. Now, I’m sure this is probably the case at most buffets, and it generally doesn’t negatively affect the flavor of the item, but it’s just something to be aware of if you prefer everything to be fresh. The bigger trays, such as bacon, do get replenished much quicker, however.
So, how does Trail’s End stack up for breakfast? First, as with dinner, buffets at Walt Disney World can be broken into two basic categories: Character dining and non-Character dining. As previously discussed, Trail’s End is not a character meal, so if you are looking specifically for characters at breakfast then there really is no apt comparison between Trail’s End and some place like Crystal Palace. However, for those of you not specifically looking for character dining, and who are looking just for a great overall option, then the following is a comparison based on food and value alone.
I decided to compare Trail’s End to the 5 most popular table service options for breakfast. Now, how I gauged popularity was twofold. My first step was to look six months in advance at breakfast reservations and who had the least available. This told me that these restaurants had a good following where guests would be willing to plan and book a reservation the earliest they could—180 days—just to ensure they would be able to eat there. I took the top 3, and those restaurants were: Chef Mickey’s, The Crystal Palace, and ‘Ohana. Not surprisingly, Trail’s End had ample reservations for any time of the morning.
My next step was to look at the best rated table service breakfasts on All Ears.Net. I took the top 2 that I hadn’t listed above, which were: Boma (9.3 out of 10) and Olivia’s Cafe (9.2). By comparison, Trail’s End was rated 8.1. These ratings came from guest reviews, not All Ears.Net’s personal views.
Out of the 5 restaurants for my comparison, 3 are character meals. Boma and Olivia’s were not, so I thought I’d start there. First, let’s look at Boma. Boma is, like Trail’s End, a buffet, despite not having characters present. I will touch briefly on any unique items on the menus of the restaurants I discuss, taking into account that nearly every breakfast buffet and table service restaurant in Walt Disney World is going to have the standards of eggs, bacon, etc.
Boma, located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, is, as you would have guessed, African themed. The menu is very unique and eclectic, with over 45 different items. It offers a carving station for breakfast, which is not typical of most places, with ham, turkey, or corned beef. It also offers the French Toast bread pudding served at Trails End. It has an omlet station, and bobotie (corned beef, cream, eggs, potatoes, and onions). Reservations for Boma’s breakfast are fairly easy to obtain, and though it has the stigma of being “African or Indian” food most of the dishes translate fairly well to most American fare. It has developed quite a cult following over the years, however, as evidenced by the high All Ears guest rating, so a reservation is probably still necessary just to be on the safe side.
Olivia’s Café is located at the Old Key West Resort, which most people don’t think of as a dining destination. This, of course, makes its availability a fairly safe bet. Olivia’s is themed like a Key West diner or Duval Street sidewalk restaurant and has a decent menu selection. Continuing with the Key West theme, you will find a Conch Republic Omlet, which consists of shrimp, avocado, and pepper jack cheese. There is also a Crab Cake Eggs Benedict dish with key lime hollandaise. Another unique dish is the Banana Bread French Toast topped with Bahamian banana rum butter sauce and coconut cream.
Now, let’s move on to the character meals. Chef Mickey’s (The Contemporary Resort) is arguably the most well-known character meal on property and one of the most sort after. The menu, though not eye-popping, does have omlets like Boma, and a unique dish called Goofy’s vegetable lasagna. That, however, pretty much sums up the unique items at Chef Mickey’s.
The Crystal Palace, located in Magic Kingdom, also has a made to order omlet station. Other than that, however, it is your traditional breakfast fare.
‘Ohana, located in the Polynesian Village Resort, is a unique experience in itself. Instead of a buffet line, the food is brought out family style right to your table. This can be a good thing, or a bad thing depending on the service you receive. The fried potatoes, though found in most other buffets, are unique, much like Trail’s End. They are island style potatoes, with onions and scallions. There is also a delicious juice served that is a blend of pineapple, orange, and guava, and the fresh pineapple “welcome” bread that is brought to your table after you are seated is also quite good.
As far as the uniqueness of the menus go, and all else being equal, I’d probably have to rank Trail’s End behind Boma, but ahead of the rest. Obviously, this depends on your tastes, but for my money I’d like a little more of a selection than just toast, eggs, bacon, and Mickey waffles.
And that brings us to money. Value, to be exact. It should go without saying that the 3 character meals are going to be more expensive, and it is up to you to decide if that added cost is worth it to you and your family. The way I view character meals is as an investment in time. I’m eating a meal I’d normally eat anyway, but I’m probably spending an extra thirty minutes or longer to do so. On the other hand, in that extra thirty minutes my family is meeting three or more characters that I would normally have to wait in three or more individual lines for. How valuable is saving that time while inside the park to you? Everyone will have a different answer, I suppose. All that said, let’s look at some actual costs, shall we?
The Trail’s End breakfast buffet will run you around $18.00 per adult, $11.00 per child. The cost can increase a bit during certain times of the year, but, all in all, you can expect to pay around $58.00 for a family of 4 (assuming the children are under 10) before tax and tip. Trail’s End offers a slew of discounts, including 10% off for Annual Passholders, Disney Rewards Visa holders, and Vacation Club members. They also offer 20% off for Tables in Wonderland holders, and are 1 table service credit on the dining plan.
Let’s compare Trail’s End to Olivia’s, which is the only non-buffet I have discussed. Olivia’s does have the unique, Key West style items, which answers Trail’s End’s Southern style bbq items, so again, it’s going to be about your taste. But, let’s compare the similar menu items. The Olivia’s Breakfast (menu item), which is eggs, breakfast potatoes, toast or biscuit, and either bacon, sausage, or ham will run you $10.49. For another $6.51 you can get all of those items and more at Trail’s End, and, of course, they will be all-you-care-to enjoy. At Olivia’s, once your bacon is gone, sadly, it is gone unless you cough up some more money. Say you have an affinity for both crab cakes eggs benedict and pulled pork eggs benedict—at Olivia’s you’d pay $13.99 for the crab cakes version, while for another $4.01 you’d get your pulled pork eggs benedict and, of course, a lot more. Now, where Olivia’s could become truly the better value would be on the children’s menu. All items on the children’s menu cost $6.49 at Olivia’s, which would be a savings of $4.51 from Trail’s End. And though you’d find all the items from the Olivia’s Children’s Breakfast on the buffet at Trail’s End, this would be the better value if your child is not a big eater and would only eat 1 plate or less anyway. All in all, the cost for a family of 4 at Olivia’s, using the items discussed, would be around $43.44 (including 2 beverages that are not included in the adult meals) before tax and tip. Olivia’s is also 1 dining credit on the meal plan, and offers all the same discounts as Trail’s End. All-in-all, you are looking at a $14.56 difference in cost between Trail’s End and Olivia’s, which makes Olivia’s a fairly good value. Do not discount Trail’s End’s value, however, considering how much extra you get for a little over $3 per person more.
Now, let’s compare Boma. Boma is going to run about $23.00 per adult, $12.00 per child. This brings the total for a family of 4 to be roughly $70.00. They offer all the same discounts as Trail’s End, except the Annual Passholder discount, and are also 1 table service credit on the dining plan. While I would argue that Boma has a larger unique selection than Trail’s End, the added cost of an extra $12.00 levels the playing field a bit, and if you happen to be an Annual Passholder without a Tables in Wonderland card, or a Visa Rewards card, then losing the 10% discount levels the field even more.
Chef Mickey’s comes in at a staggering $36 (approximate as it changes during different times of the year) per adult and $19.00 per child. For a family of four that’s…gulp…$110.00. The only discount offered is Tables in Wonderland, however, it is still only 1 table service credit. As I stated before, you are paying for time here. You are meeting the big guns. The fab five. If meeting these classic characters and avoiding their lines in the theme parks is worth the $52 difference between it and Trail’s End, and you are willing to put up with a subpar buffet (in my opinion) then this would be the better value for you. Value, of course, is subjective. Lastly, I would add that if you are really interested in Chef Mickey’s, this would be an excellent use of a table service credit on the dining plan, but as it compares to Trail’s End as an apples to apples food value, clearly Trail’s End is superior.
The Crystal Palace is also a tough pill to swallow, coming in at $26.00 per adult, $15.00 per child, for a grand total of $82.00. They offer the same discounts as Chef Mickey’s and are also 1 table service credit. The same analysis as Chef Mickey’s applies here, with one possible added benefit. If you can secure a reservation prior to park opening, you have the opportunity of walking down Main Street virtually alone, which will make for some great photo opportunities and increase its value.
‘Ohana is only slightly more palatable, costing about $24.00 per adult, $14.00 per child, with the total cost being right around $76.00. Again, the only discount offered is for Tables in Wonderland, and it is only 1 table service credit. As was the case with Boma, the menu here is inspired in a completely different direction from Trail’s End, however, Trail’s End again seems like the better overall value when cost is factored in.
In conclusion, if I were rating these meals based on uniqueness of the menu and overall cost, I’d rate them something like this: Trail’s End, Olivia’s, Boma, ‘Ohana, The Crystal Palace, Chef Mickey’s. Trail’s End and Olivia’s could easily be interchanged based on how hungry you are and what type of eaters your children are, however. Say I’m biased if you will—and I’m sure a part of me is—but I tried to be as objective as possible when I looked at the pluses and minuses of each meal because I truly wanted to know before I plunked down another $58+. After doing the research, I feel better about it, and though Trail’s End isn’t without its warts, I still strongly believe it is the best dollar for dollar value of any buffet on Disney property, and one of the best values of any sit down breakfast.