Review: Mickey’s Backyard BBQ
Tons of food. Tons of fun.
Driving into Fort Wilderness, one is immediately enveloped by the splendor of the great outdoors. Acres of wooded forests and quaint log cabin accommodations bring the American frontier theme vividly to life. As soon as I exited the car, I was tempted to hop onto the back of a quarter horse and ride into town, or at least to the back of the campground, and make my way to Mickey’s Backyard BBQ.
Winding your way past quaint trading posts, the setting for this down-home country dining delight is a covered open-air pavilion which makes it feel like a friendly outdoor picnic sans the ants and blazing sun. Hosts Tumbleweed Will and Cyclone Sally beckon you to kick back, fill a plate and enjoy the down-home entertainment. And enjoy I did!
From the moment, I entered I was swept into the frontier feel and discovered I’m a little more country than I thought. I was ready and set to hoot, holler and stomp my feet to the infectious twang of the house band.
After a dining host points you to a table (long, picnic-like tables at which you dine with your country “neighbors”), you head for the buffet lines. Here you will find, if not delight, in the smoky sights and smells of all the comforting staples of a hearty well-prepared barbecue: burgers, hot dogs, chicken, ribs, macaroni and cheese, cole slaw, salad, corn bread, corn on the cob, baked beans, watermelon and more. All the fixins’ you could expect. A mouth-watering array to say the least. Cast members worked diligently and efficiently in keeping those trays filled with hot, fresh offerings and urged guests to fill their plates as food was plentiful. Indeed it was. Upon returning to my table, I struggled to snap a few photos before digging in.
With each bite, I smiled and commented on how delectable it was. A few special mentions: the mac and cheese was the best I have ever had. Creamy and velvety, it had such a delightful flavor with just a hint of smokiness. It was amazing. The ribs were meaty and tender, the meat practically falling right off the bone. The salad was crisp, cool and dressed with a wonderful Italian-based vinaigrette. The corn was sweet and tender. I witnessed many guests practically licking their plates clean and making several trips back up to the line to re-fill. Perhaps the only slightly weak spot of the many options are the burgers. A little overcooked for my taste but they are not being prepared to order, and I prefer mine a little less well done.
For beverages, there is all-you-can-drink beer and jugs of sweet tea, lemonade and fruit punch.
I cannot review the food without mentioning the frivolities and entertainment taking place all around you as you dine – a joyous, cacophony of sight and sound. Something for everyone. The world-famous Disney characters are all decked out in their western duds ready to line dance and interact with guests and show off their two-steppin’ skills . Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Chip & Dale make merriment to the happy restrains of contemporary country music and some golden oldies. Children get lots of time with the characters as they make three appearances during the evening and are ready to frolic with them on the dance floor.
A highlight of the night was a traditional trick roper complete with bull whip and lariat. Trick roping is an art in the wild west world. His repertoire of tricks (some made famous by Will Rogers) kept the crowd mesmerized and highly entertained.
At this point, the buffet was reduced from four lines to two as the chowing down was easing up. At this point, guests were headed to the coolers stocked with premium Mickey ice cream bars and fruit pops. Again, you are free to eat till your heart’s content.
The show’s finale is a heart-warming rendition of “This Land is Your Land”. I may be a little overly sentimental but hearing the familiar words and seeing the joy which is Disney made me tear up a bit and gave me a warm and patriotic feeling. In fact, I left on a real high because of the whole “neighborly” downhome experience. And this feeling lingers as you wind your way back to the parking area, passing the quiet, now moonlit beauty of the gentle wilderness.
Food: Can’t go wrong with this mouth-watering, all-you-can-eat barbecue. Food we are all familiar with and nothing fancy but gee, it’s good!
Atmosphere; The down-home, country feel is contagious. You’ll want to hoot, holler, sing and two-step. How can you not smile watching Goofy in cowboy boots kicking up his country heels? Yee-haw!
Service: Everything is self-serve so there isn’t much interaction between server and guest. But the staff did a great job of keeping the buffet stocked, clearing away empty plates and ensuring things ran smoothly.
Tips: Take your time and revel in the atmosphere Disney is trying to create. Kick back and enjoy the ride .The entertainment lasts for the entire duration of the dining event (approx an hour and a half), and the characters linger around for about 20 more minutes after dinner and the show for personal photo ops. Bring a huge appetite and your dancing shoes. Wait a few minutes to get your food and enjoy the fiddle-laden music to avoid the initial stampede to the food line.