EDITORIAL: Liberty Tree Tavern and the Sum of Magic Kingdom Dining
During a recent trip to Orlando I finally made it to Disney’s Liberty Tree Tavern for a lunch. While this meal in-and-of-itself isn’t necessarily noteworthy, doing so completed my Magic Kingdom dining “cycle” — a meal at every restaurant in Magic Kingdom. We’ve been trying to make it to the Liberty Tree for years but it has always been trumped by another option — most recently Be Our Guest. Now that we’re approaching that magical 180 days out marker for holiday vacations, it seemed like a good time to explore Magic Kingdom dining.
Let’s begin this review with theming. It should come as no surprise to anyone that guests enter the Liberty Tree story by stepping into Colonial-meets-Revolutionary America. Hosts, hostesses, and servers are dressed in very believable period costumes. Exposed wood, old masonry, brick, a hearth, and staples from the late 18th Century and early 19th Century create an atmosphere that hearkens back to our nation’s Revolutionary Era. To a large degree it works. Admittedly, for some reason Liberty Square has always been hard for me to get excited about. It may be the transitions or perhaps the size. By contrast, I do not have a similar problem with New Orleans Square in Anaheim. Regardless, different rooms themed around quintessential Americans like Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, Benjamin Franklin, and Georgia Washington with artifacts and props unique to each contribute effectively. The Liberty Tree Tavern is a logical “next step” in the Liberty Square immersive experience. In fact, it may actually “complete” Liberty Square.
There are two things worth noting regarding the atmosphere and theme. One, everything slowed down considerably once inside. We all know how crazy a day at the Magic Kingdom can be. For whatever reason, all that slipped away when we stepped into the Liberty Tree Tavern. Life just seemed to move slower, more simply. And it was nice. Second, the interior seemed tired. The energy that I’m accustomed to feeling in one of Disney’s signature restaurants just wasn’t present. My guess is that the renovations scheduled for this summer have been scheduled to address this aspect as much as anything.
Regarding the food, I would say that the Liberty Tree Tavern is “good”. And if you’re looking for a bit of a change of pace and fare that you either normally wouldn’t expect in the park or non-Thanksgiving, it rates even better than good. A friend and I ordered an appetizer, two entrees, and a desert. (I’m not bold enough yet to try using my blog credentials to ask for additional samples.) First, the Crab and Lobster Dip for Two is outstanding as an appetizer. As seafood goes it was fresh and tasty. The dish itself was a perfect appetizer. I went with the standard New England Pot Roast and my friend opted for the Pilgrim’s Feast. We were both pleased. Other than the Angus Chuck Cheeseburger, the pot roast is Liberty Tree’s most popular dish and it’s easy to see why. The vegetables were cooked to perfection and the braised beef in Cabernet wine and mushroom sauce was tender and perfectly seasoned.
I sampled the Pilgrim’s Feast of traditional roast turkey with herb bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, and vegetables but didn’t find it particularly tasty or unique, but then again it’s not necessarily trying to be. I mean, it’s turkey. But it’s still traditional New England fare prepared in a way consistent with the time period. Regardless I felt like I scored extra points in some way for eating at least semi-healthy in a theme park. In that same spirit, we chose not to go with the more popular Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake for desert, but the Fruit Crisp. Even though I’m sure the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake is as good as its name would let on, and comes highly recommended, I would absolutely recommend the Fruit Crisp as well. Looking back on it, the better decision would have been ditching the whole “eating more healthy” approach and just ordering them both. Next time we will.
It should be said here that the lunch menu is a la carte while the dinner menu is much more limited. You can check out the lunch menu in various places and I would say, relatively speaking, it is very affordable with multiple options. The dinner menu ranges from $33 to $38 per person, and the Patriot’s Platter is the only entree option. It includes roast turkey breast, carved beef, sliced pork with traditional accompaniments, and mixed greens with house-made dressing.
It’s difficult to place the Liberty Tree Tavern within the hierarchy of Magic Kingdom table service options. Plaza Restaurant, Crystal Palace, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest, Tony’s Town Square, and to a lesser extent Tomorrowland Terrace and Diamond Horseshoe all have an upside. For me they stack up like this: Be Our Guest and Cinderella’s Royal Table are the most impressive and iconic, while Crystal Palace offers the best character dining. The Plaza Restaurant is far and away the best value and its soda shop vibe fits perfectly with Main Street. Tony’s Town Square, however, serves up a wonderful nostalgia. It may be said that, while Liberty Tree Tavern doesn’t blow you away in any one category, it scores well enough to be among the best overall in terms of theming, food, and value. And to reiterate an earlier point, the Tavern completes Liberty Square in a way other venues do not. Even though I have completed the Magic Kingdom table service cycle, I’m still wrestling with this one question: If I had to choose one Magic Kingdom table service to rule them all, which one would it be?