Surprising Plant Based Multi-Course Menu with Chef TJ, the Most Vegan Friendly Chef in Walt Disney World Resort
If you’re a plant based eater visiting Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, this post is for you. If you’re an omnivore who thinks they would never be satisfied with a plant based menu, this is especially for you too!
Ask around in the vegan community and you’ll find a meal with Chef TJ is on their foodie bucket list. Read on and you’ll see why it was on my bucket list too!
I disclose I do not follow a plant based diet, I’m not vegan or vegetarian, but I do love to try all foods and I especially love vegetables. I was curious if a plant based diet meant less indulgences, especially when on vacation so as soon as I heard about Chef TJ’s multi-course feast I added it to my foodie bucket list (my “someday list”). You know my mission is to Make Someday Happen and that’s exactly what I did.
I discovered that for vegans and vegetarians visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, it involves some stealthy sleuthing to find the best plant based eats. I enlisted my friend Amanda Tinney of VeganDisneyFood.com as my guide. She is an avid foodie who is always on the hunt for the best vegan options around. Amanda told me I would be surprised at Trail’s End Restaurant located in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground and she was right.
All American BBQ Menu at Trail’s End
The first surprise is that the menu at Trail’s End is an “All You Care To Eat” All American BBQ buffet. Overflowing with smoked BBQ pork ribs, fried chicken, carved meats, mac n’ cheese, pizza and so much more, this is a feast! At a glance, I’m thinking there must be a mistake. How could a vegan menu be served here?
Looking at this buffet I was not convinced we would have the same level of indulgence with a vegan menu. The fried chicken looked perfectly crispy! Tempting.
The Mac N’ Cheese looked creamy, cheesy and perfect comfort food! Tempting again.
The buffet had scarce pickings for vegans. A few green salads, corn, broccoli and a baked potato bar. This does not scream”indulgent” to me but I will have to wait and see.
Giant baked potatoes! Fun but not indulgent.
Amanda told me I could still turn back and simply go for the meat-centric feast in front of me but I was curious (and I’m glad I was.)
Here Comes Chef TJ!
Chef TJ Sudiswa arrives at our table, confirms our dietary requests and allergies and whisks us off to the buffet to point out what is vegan on the menu. He is like a god to anyone with a special diet who visits the Walt Disney World Resort. The man is a legend and also incredibly nice and funny. He’s been wowing guests with special diets for years at various WDW resorts and is now at Fort Wilderness Resort taking care of guests at Trail’s End and the Hoop Dee Doo Review Dinner Show. After I experienced his multi-course feast I can see the adoration is well deserved. Course after course, Chef TJ impressed me.
He appears with every course and each time I asked what was in the dish he would tell me with a wink and a smile “It’s a secret.” Of course he disclosed ingredients to ensure that any special diet needs were met but he didn’t share much in terms of preparation or spices used. The food writer in me was left a bit wanting for information. I had to remind myself I wasn’t there for work but I was there simply as a guest to indulge and enjoy. And boy did we ever! I left stuffed, happy and with a newfound appreciation for a plant based menu and the creativity of Chef TJ!
Here’s Chef TJ with Amanda. She even created a special tee shirt to honor him. (You can buy it on her website)
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9 Courses of Plant Based Indulgence
1st Course: The Buffet
From the buffet, I nibbled on cranberry salad with couscous, cucumber salad,greens with balsamic dressing and marinated mushrooms. I was warned to not fill up here because there would be much more to come. Take this warning seriously. I couldn’t believe how many dishes came next.
2nd Course: The Samosas
A full plate of Potato and Pea Samosas drizzled with curry ketchup and balsamic reduction arrived. The crisp exterior filled with creamy filling and nice chunks of peas and potatoes was absolutely delicious. I could drizzle that curry ketchup on anything. I stopped myself from eating them all but I gladly would have.
3rd Course: The Smoked Showstopper!
Next was the first showstopper of the night: Smoked Tomato and Watermelon with balsamic and mustard vinaigrette. The beautiful presentation comes covered in a glass dome filled with smoke which imparted an amazing flavor into the tomatoes and watermelon. Oohs and aahs followed as the dome is lifted and the smoke drifts out revealing the colorful treat inside. This is the kind of presentation you expect in a fine dining restaurant. I was impressed.
4th Course: Eat Your Veggies Topped With Potato Chips!
A salad of beets, green beans, carrots and arugula offered a tasty combination of flavors and textures. You need some greens in your life. I think anyone would eat more salad when it’s topped with potato chips!
5th Course: Fried Corn!
Want to take corn on the cob to the next level? Deep fry it, sprinkle with Old Bay Seasoning and drizzle with a sweet sour raspberry sauce and voila! Loved the flavors. Plus it had a bit of popcorn taste that was addictive.
6th Course: NACHOS!
The next course is one that Amanda and most vegan foodies like her who dine with Chef TJ are always raving about. Chef TJ’s NACHOS!
A giant plate of tortilla chips loaded with his house made vegan cheese sauce topped with fried onions, jalapeños, and tomato salsa. This course convinced me that Vegan did not mean depriving yourself of indulgence. I could eat these nachos on the regular. The cheese sauce is made with coconut milk which gave it a unique flavor but did not taste fake. That is my number one complaint of some of the imitation foods used in plant based diets. These nachos were definitely indulgent!
7th Course: Vegetable Soup
The next course was a Tomato Vegetable Soup. It was filled with veggies including edamame and potatoes which I loved. After the heavenly nachos, I wasn’t sure if this soup was meant to bring me back down to reality or provide some much needed balance. I could have skipped this course but the soup was a bit of a cleanser before the main course. I took a few big spoonfuls and was satisfied.
8th Course: The Entree!
Can you believe the entree is the eight course? I was stuffed like a giant Tofurky when the beautiful plate of fried tofu, grilled portobello mushrooms, onions, squash, and zucchini served over wild rice pilaf arrived. I am not a tofu fan but this fried version was so well seasoned I happily had a few wedges. The grilled veggies, on the other hand, were absolutely perfect. Nice char, great flavor, and perfect texture – not too mushy or too al dente. This was an entree worthy of this feast.
9th Course: Sweet Showstopper!
For the final course I was not sure I could eat another bite. Amanda was not kidding when she told me to pace myself. The brownies on the buffet looked yummy, but not vegan, so I happily skipped them in favor of Chef TJ’s final showstopper of the night.
Chef TJ’s Vegan Dessert was a giant tower of skewered strawberries, bananas, vegan chocolate ice cream, vegan ice cream sandwiches all topped with a mound of cotton candy and doused with chocolate sauce. It was a head turner! The fruit cobbler, brownies and ice cream sundaes on the buffet had nothing on this. An absolutely delicious end to a surprisingly indulgent dinner.
I found the best part of Trail’s End Restaurant is that everyone in the family will find something to eat and enjoy, whether you’re an omnivore, vegetarian or vegan. And even if you’re not following a plant based diet, this menu by Chef TJ is worthy of the indulgence. It is definitely not low cal or “diet” food as many would think, it is comfort food and fun!
Pre and Post Dinner: Walk, Talk & Cocktails
We parked at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and enjoyed a glass of wine at Territory Lounge. It was the perfect place to get ready for my voyage of plant based food discovery. The design and decor inside the Lodge is a must see!
We walked the trail from Wilderness Lodge to Trail’s End Restaurant for an early dinner. It felt like we were trekking through the woods on an expedition. How appropriate!
We walked around the Tri-Circle-D Farm, saw the beautiful Disney horses and the exhibit which was very interesting. In all my years living in Orlando, I had never been here. Definitely plan extra time to see this.
After that incredible 9 course vegan feast, we could have taken the bus back to the lodge but we needed the walk. By this time it was dark and I will admit a bit on the scary side so we walked briskly down the trail. I then saw the sign warning of alligators and snakes so I will think twice of walking in the dark next time.
Our reward was discovering Geyser Point Bar & Grill. We enjoyed a nightcap by the lake and watched the Electric Water Pageant Parade. A perfect way to end a surprisingly delicious evening!
Tips To Know Before You Go!
If you want to enjoy this epic plant based feast with Chef TJ, here’s a few things you should know:
- Trail’s End Restaurant is located in Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. It is not inside the Wilderness Lodge although you can park and walk from there as we did.
- How to get there? You can take the boat from Magic Kingdom to the restaurant area, take a Disney bus to Fort Wilderness and then the internal bus to the restaurant or park at the campground and take the bus. Allow yourself plenty of time to get there.
- A reservation is a must. Trail’s End Restaurant is quite busy for dinner.
- Be sure to indicate in your reservation that you have a special dietary request for the vegan menu and reconfirm your dietary request with the host upon arrival.
- Check for Chef TJ’s schedule. It may vary and of course you want to visit when he’s there.
- After you’re seated, Chef TJ will visit your table and take you on a tour of the buffet to point out the items that are vegan and confirm any other allergies. He oversees each course of your meal and comes out to your table. This is all part of the experience so be patient. He oversees special needs menus in two restaurants. This meal is not one to have if you’re in a hurry. Allow at least 2 hours.
- The cost of the vegan multi-course menu will be the same as the cost for the buffet. (It was $30 per person plus tax and gratuity but check the website for current pricing.) Trust me, you will be full and it is well worth it. You may even take some of your vegan feast food to-go which is not allowed from the buffet. That’s a great deal!
- The menu will vary although you may see some of the same items. Chef TJ is a creative guy so he may change things up from time to time but guaranteed they are always delicious.
Whether you’re following a plant based diet or not, I hope this post gave you a glimpse of the indulgences you can expect for a Disney Vegan Feast with Chef TJ at Walt Disney World Resort.
I especially encourage those who are not on a plant based diet to be curious and go try this menu! It was an absolutely indulgent and surprising experience and one that I would happily go back for again.
Special thank you to Chef TJ and to Amanda of @VeganDisneyFood for being a great guide on this lovely evening of food discovery. Follow her for all the best plant based dishes and treats around Disney parks.
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Disclosure: This was not a sponsored dinner and I was under no obligation to write this post. All opinions are always my own. As you know, I only share experiences I love to inspire you to go #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip at a time.