July 22, 2024

Review: Magic Kingdom’s Most Mediocre Meal

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There's one Walt Disney World restaurant at which we've dined repeatedly over the years, and yet, somehow still have not reviewed…until now. Historically, it's been the worst dining option at Magic Kingdom, making the 'most mediocre meal'

There’s one Walt Disney World restaurant at which we’ve dined repeatedly over the years, and yet, somehow still have not reviewed…until now. Historically, it’s been the worst dining option at Magic Kingdom, making the ‘most mediocre meal’ moniker hyperbole. (I can’t pass up a good alliteration–even if adding a superlative to mediocre makes little semantic sense.)

This infamous eatery is the Diamond Horseshoe in Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom. Pre-closure, this restaurant operated seasonally and went through a variety of menus and meal services, from quick-service lunch to family-style feasts to an a la carte dinner. Very little thought or, frankly, effort was put into any of that. Those menus made Tony’s Town Square look like the pinnacle of the culinary arts, by comparison.

People doing the peak weeks at Walt Disney World (and bloggers like us) were “treated” to a revolving door of concepts at the Diamond Horseshoe, with each new meal managing, against all odds, to be just as bad as the one before it. This is actually a red flag when it comes to Walt Disney World dining–the Italy and Mexico booths don’t do new menus for every single EPCOT festival because they’re trying to push the culinary envelope!

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s start this restaurant review of the Diamond Horseshoe with basics. This dining spot currently offers a 10% discount for Annual Passholders or Disney Vacation Club members. (That can increase to 20% during slower seasons–or if Walt Disney World brings back Tables in Wonderland.)

For those planning in advance, the Diamond Horseshoe is a participating restaurant for the 2024 Disney Dining Plan. If at all possible, we recommend paying out of pocket when eating here, despite the blingy name, Diamond Horseshoe is a terrible value on the Disney Dining Plan.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that’ll change between now and next year, even if the Diamond Horseshoe does get another menu overhaul. One consistent with this spot is that the menu has always been among the cheapest out of pocket restaurants in Magic Kingdom. About the only way it could change is if live entertainment returns to the Diamond Horseshoe…and I’d be shocked if that happens in my lifetime.

Planning-wise, the Diamond Horseshoe is exceedingly easy to book. In fact, this might be one of the least-competitive in-park Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs) in all of Walt Disney World. It’s never booked up more than 30 days ahead of time; even during busier times, there’s usually availability a few days out. (You won’t need it here, but see our Guide to Advance Dining Reservations at Walt Disney World for tips & tricks to score elusive ADRs, info about the 60+10 rule, and more.)

Basically, the Diamond Horseshoe is the default ‘lack of better options’ option at Magic Kingdom. If you do any amount of advance planning, you’ll likely have your pick of seating times. Even if you don’t, it should be possible for same-day ADRs or to score a spot via Walk-Up Waitlist.

Walk-Up Waitlist is precisely how I booked my meal here. Unsurprisingly, the Diamond Horseshoe had the shortest wait time of all restaurants in Magic Kingdom on this particular night. Even as other restaurants were booked solid or had long waits, Diamond Horseshoe had an estimated wait of 5 minutes. That was actually an earlier return time than many Mobile Order time frames at counter service restaurants!

Even though I’ve been burned by the Diamond Horseshoe many times in the past, I opted to give it another shot. In part because I wanted to finally get a review published before the menu could change again (mission accomplished). In part because I was traveling solo, and I knew Sarah would not care in the least if I revisited this spot without her.

Also, there’s no way it could be any worse than past trainwreck meals at Diamond Horseshoe have been–maybe it’d be another Walt Disney World restaurant redemption story!!! (Narrator: it was not.)

Now that I’ve given away that this isn’t a redemption story, I should also share a few other key details. First, if you get a bit of the déjà vu looking at the menu, that’s for good reason. The family-style feast here is exactly the same as the “All-You-Care-to-Enjoy Bill of Fare” over at Liberty Tree Tavern. The names of the various dishes are different, but it’s otherwise identical. Not only that, but the food all comes from the exact same shared kitchen between the venues.

For a while after reopening, the Diamond Horseshoe was used as overflow seating for Liberty Tree Tavern. The former has since returned as a distinct restaurant with distinct reservations and a distinct menu, but those are ultimately all distinctions without any meaningful differences. For all practical purposes, the Diamond Horseshoe is still Liberty Tree Tavern overflow–just with a veneer of separation.

There are probably some fans who will claim the cuisine is better at Liberty Tree Tavern for some reason or another (we still hear similar claims with the Monte Cristo served in New Orleans Square at Disneyland), but there’s no basis to that. Perceptions are colored by the environment, history, past experiences, or whatever. Which is totally fair. Walt Disney World is all about nostalgia, and certain cuisine “hits different” in different places.

With that said, this brings us to another practical piece of advice for those doing Walk-Ups: look at the wait times for both Liberty Tree Tavern and the Diamond Horseshoe. Again, my wait to be seated here was 5 minutes. At the exact same time, the estimated wait for Liberty Tree Tavern was 55 minutes and there was a massive crowd outside waiting to be seated. (I’m kind of surprised Walt Disney World wouldn’t redirect guests to the Diamond Horseshoe in that situation.)

Looking around the seating area at the Diamond Horseshoe is like déjà vu all over again! (This admittedly more artful mangling than Magic Kingdom’s most mediocre meal is not mine.)

The Diamond Horseshoe might look familiar if you’ve visited Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, or Disneyland Paris. Those parks are home to the Golden Horseshoe, the Diamond Horseshoe, and the Lucky Nugget Saloon, respectively.

Of those, the last two are the best and distinct from one another. (Above is a photo of the now-retired stage show at Tokyo Disneyland–see more in our Review of the Mickey & Co. Diamond Horseshoe Dinner Show. A new concept debuts there in September 2023.)

By contrast, the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland incarnations are easy to confuse in style, substance and–unfortunately for me–names. (Still not as bad as the Little Mermaid dark rides on each coast, but I digress.)

The seating area in the Diamond Horseshoe is fairly small–probably the smallest of any restaurant in Magic Kingdom. It’s also essentially a wide open room, with very little to break up the space.

This used to be a revue/jamboree much in the style of Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness. I vaguely remember seeing it when I was a kid, but nothing has been performed on stage here since 2003.

Now, the only “entertainment” at the Diamond Horseshoe is the “World Famous Self-Playing Piano.” The music is nice, but it’s a shadow of what once was.

The time for mourning the loss of the revue or jamboree entertainment at the Diamond Horseshoe has long past, and that’s not what I’m attempting to do here. However, I do think it’s fair to point out that this venue was built for that purpose, and has essentially been a flex space for years.

The Diamond Horseshoe was shuttered for several years up until around 2009, when it started being used as a character dance party and refreshment spot during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. As noted above, it has since been open seasonally for a rotating assortment of concepts.

Maybe I have the burden of knowledge, but the Diamond Horseshoe very much feels like a flex space to me, even today. The old school design and attention to detail is nice, but you have to put blinders on for it. There’s also a lot of unused a/v equipment, the bars aren’t used for any practical purposes, and the upstairs seating is unavailable.

Again, maybe this is a “me problem.” But even serving the same menu, I notice a night-and-day difference between the atmosphere at the Diamond Horseshoe and Liberty Tree Tavern. The latter is far better–more warm, inviting, and cozy.

I wouldn’t argue with anyone who claims the food–which, again, is exactly the same–tastes better at Liberty Tree Tavern as a result. Wrapping up mediocre cuisine in a prettier package with nicer ambiance has a way of doing that at Walt Disney World!

Turning to cuisine, I want to offer the important (to me) caveat that I am not a food snob. I love comfort food. One of my ongoing personal ‘projects’ is compiling a List of the Best Burgers at Walt Disney World. I recently reviewed a new menu of hot dogs at Magic Kingdom. I eat and enjoy all types of cuisine, from fast food to fine dining.

Just putting that out there now because the following may suggest otherwise…

The All-You-Care-to-Enjoy Frontier Feast at the Diamond Horseshoe starts with house rolls.

These were not very good, tasting like someone took store brand bread from Walmart and slathered a layer of butter on the exterior and put them under a heat lamp for 45 minutes. Silver lining: bread is pointless filler and should never be the star of an all-you-can-eat meal.

After the dinner rolls came the Diamond Horseshoe Salad: Mixed Greens, Apples, Cranberries, and Cheese tossed with our House-made Dressing.

This is a simple and straightforward pre-mixed salad. A charitable assessment would be that it’s light and refreshing, with a variety of greens, enough toppings to make it interesting, and an easy way to check the box of a few veggies before eating a heavy feast. Less charitably, there are now countless counter service salads that are better and more ambitious than this.

Still, I highly doubt anyone is looking at the menu for the Diamond Horseshoe and booking on the basis of breads or salads. Both of these starters are sufficient as role fillers.

Let’s turn to the star of the show, which is the Saloon Feast.

This consists of Roasted Turkey, Pot Roast, and Oven-roasted Pork with Mashed Potatoes, Seasonal Vegetables, Herbed Stuffing, and House-made Macaroni & Cheese.

I started with the sides, going straight for the mashed potatoes.

These are the standard issue Walt Disney World mashed potatoes, available at a variety of restaurants. That’s not criticism–they’ve perfected these mashed potatoes into a masterpiece, with just the right amount of butter, seasoning, salt, creaminess and texture. They’re not the best mashed potatoes you’ll ever have, but they’re a quintessential Walt Disney World dish. I love them.

Next to the mashed potatoes, you’ll spot green beans. These tasted like green beans. That’s all I have to say about that.

The other highlight of the sides would normally be the macaroni and cheese. Not the case with this meal. This was like if you took a box of off-brand mac & cheese, dumped the pasta, powdered cheese, and water into a container, and microwaved it for 45 minutes instead of 4 to 5 minutes. Dry isn’t normally a word I’d use to describe mac & cheese, but it fits here.

The herbed stuffing was a tad better, but it was definitely over-seasoned/salted. Beyond that, stuffing isn’t really my thing so I can’t speak to its overall quality–offering further thoughts would be like a vegetarian reviewing a rack of ribs.

Moving on to the main event: MEAT.

The Roasted Turkey and Pork have very similar flavor profiles, despite being fundamentally different. These meats were dry, salty, and just generally low-quality and seemed over-processed. Both struck me as the type of meat that has a double-digit percentage of “solution” plus a cocktail of chemicals to “enhance” the flavor, tenderness, and juiciness (mission: failed).

Thankfully, the pot roast delivered.

This is the highlight of the meats; it’s juicy, tender and melts in your mouth. The pot roast has a rich and robust flavor, which is further enhanced with just a little bit of gravy. This meat was far and away my favorite part of the meal; I ordered a refill of this and nothing else from the platter.

Now, I’m not going to claim this pot roast is anything special or of a higher quality than the turkey and pork. It probably isn’t. This also tasted low-quality, and I’m betting an inspection of the label would reveal a bunch of lab-made ingredients the names of which I couldn’t pronounce.

But at least this pot roast tastes good. I can accept that it takes some good ole fashioned science to create some of the addictively delicious foods that I love. Ignorance is bliss–I have zero desire to learn what’s in a McRib or the corn dog nuggets at Casey’s Corner. What I’m not down with is scientifically engineered “food” that also, somehow, tastes bad.

Finally, we arrive at the grand finale of the meal: dessert! At the Diamond Horseshoe and Liberty Tree Tavern, the signature dish is the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake.

If I’m being honest with you (and hopefully Sarah has stopped reading by this point), “needing” to finally review the Diamond Horseshoe was merely a pretext. I was here for bottomless Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake that I didn’t have to share with anyone. They could’ve served cardboard for the opening acts of the meal (and maybe did!) for all I cared.

Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake is one of the best desserts in all of Walt Disney World. It doesn’t rank as the definitive #1 for me, but it’s incredibly close. Always in the top 10, which is incredibly high praise for a dessert at an all-you-can-eat meal.

The base has the density and flavor of a thick toffee-chocolate chunk cookie, with a crunchy exterior giving way to a gooey center. It’s topped with plain vanilla ice cream, caramel, chocolate sauce, and toffee chips. Much like the rest of the meal, the ingredients here are all a bit ordinary on their own. Unlike those, this somehow comes together in perfect harmony, with the end result being one of the most addictively good, rich and delicious desserts you’ll have anywhere at Walt Disney World.

It’s hard to describe what makes the Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake so good, but it reminds me of the No Way Jose at Beaches & Cream (another seemingly “ordinary” dessert that excels) meets the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake Sundae at Ample Hills. Now that the latter venue on BoardWalk has closed, this is the best “Ooey Gooey” dessert at Walt Disney World.

Ultimately, the conclusion of this review and my meal at the Diamond Horseshoe are both defined the same way: by the final impression. If you stopped reading at the turkey and pork, there’s probably no way you’d want to eat here. And frankly, this family style feast as a whole is not very good. Calling it “mediocre” would probably be a charitable assessment when considering the totality of the dishes.

Then I think back to that Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake. It is truly so good that I find myself engaging in mental gymnastics to justify recommending a meal at the Diamond Horseshoe. Sure, two of the sides and two of the entrees were borderline inedible, but maybe I got unlucky. Maybe your tastes differ. Also, the mashed potatoes and pot roast were pretty good…and aren’t those the obvious things any reasonable person would want to eat, anyway? Does the rest really even matter?!?

Ultimately, that’s pretty much where I’m at with the Diamond Horseshoe. When evaluating the meal objectively–as a whole with all components considered and equally weighted–this would be my least-favorite restaurant in Magic Kingdom. (As a whole, it’s also not nearly as good as Toy Story Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant–mentioned because I dined at and am reviewing these back-to-back, and they’re somewhat similar.)

However, I’m disinclined to draw the obvious “on paper” conclusion about the Diamond Horseshoe. Subjectively, I am more than happy to disregard the dishes that didn’t speak to me and rate this only on the basis of the mashed potatoes, pot roast, and Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake. All you can eat beef and potatoes plus drink and dessert in Magic Kingdom for only $39 is a meal I can heartily endorse!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you dined at the Diamond Horseshoe in Magic Kingdom over the years? What was the good, bad or ugly of your meal at this restaurant? Do you think it’s all “worth it” for that glorious Ooey Gooey Toffee Cake? Do you agree or disagree with our thoughts? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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