I'm going to forgo my usual Tuesday 'My Mad World' series for my Disney series because, frankly, it's all I think about right now and I've got to channel out the OCD somehow! I'm going to change this restaurant review up a bit from a table service restaurant to a counter service one, but, before I do that, I need to add a bit of extra information about the dining plan. A reader of mine named Linda (who has a great stitching blog which you can read HERE), who is always gracious about leaving me really nice comments, mentioned the high cost of the dining plan to me during my last restaurant review. There are many ways to do Disney on a budget and the fall is one of the best times to visit due to the fact that they often offer free dining during that time period. It's usually limited to specific resorts, and the value resorts only offer the counter service plan (which is one snack and two counter service meals per day versus the basic plans one snack, one counter service, and one table service). But having a week's worth of free food in Disney World is worth its weight in gold and can save a family thousands of dollars!
I have done the counter service plan in the past on a solo trip (in 2008 to be exact), and it worked out quite nicely, and it's not just restricted to the value resorts (it's just the highest level of free dining the values offer...remember my old adage, you get what you pay for in Disney so if you want more food, stay at a higher level). By using just the counter service plan, you don't have to book reservations for counter service places and you're not wasting a good hour or so of your park time in a sit down restaurant. You're also not having to do sit-down meals alone and being "asked" (I prefer the term harassed, but to each his own) to join another family of complete strangers because they feel sorry for you sitting alone (you'd think, as grumpy as I am and the large quantity of "leave me alone" vibes I give off would scare people away, but it hasn't worked yet...I discuss my experiences in detail with this problem HERE). But I still think the basic plan is the best. We've used free dining for quite a number of years now. Sometimes the passholder room discounts work out to be a better deal, sometimes not. Always keep a weathered eye out on the Disney site. Discounts are usually offered about three to five months in advance (but the closer to time, the better the discounts...not really conducive to someone who likes to plan a year in advance, aka ME!).
Now, back to our regularly scheduled review, Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe. Most of my all-time favorite Disney cartoons (well, besides anything with my little Duck in it) is Pecos Bill (as a matter of fact, it's probably tied for #1 with Icabod). I watch it all the time (it's on my iPod) and know every word by heart (and have since childhood). Pecos Bill's in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, is themed after that toughest critter west of the Alamo:
It can be entered through either Frontierland or Adventureland and has the mix of feels of both areas, the ordering station being Frontierland-ish:
(you'd think, because not only am I socially inept, but I'm also a techie, that I would prefer the computerized ordering system...but it took me forever to get the courage to use it!).
And the seating area being decidedly Adventureland-ish:
What could be so special about a counter service restaurant that qualifies it as #2 and the first counter service restaurant I review? Two words...TACO SALAD! Granted, it's just an ice cream scoop-sized dob of meat inside an empty shell, but Peco Bill's has this extraordinary thing called A FIXIN'S BAR (which I need to remember to take a picture of next time)! That's right folks...whatever tickles your fancy to put on your taco salad (or hamburger or whatever other item you choose from the menu), you can do! My poison of choice is a layer of cheese on the meat, then a layer of tomatoes, then several scoops of salsa, followed by more cheese, more tomatoes, and more salsa, and, if I'm feeling really hungry, another layer of cheese and tomatoes! Sometimes, I get crazy and add a layer of melted cheese sauce (I'm such a wild one!). Don't believe me, ask the pictures (and these are just a sampling...not all of them, I have eaten this particular dish at Pecos Bill's for as long as I can remember, typically more than once a trip and none of these are from the same seating-in case you were wondering):
And, of course, the finished product (I never eat the shell - I call it the grease trap)
Like I said, that isn't every single taco salad I've ever eaten (although it pretty much covers the last few years). We didn't always take pictures of food, and, when we first started, I would often forget (or was too embarrassed to do so). I ran across a pretty big obstacle last trip though. I had only been on my diet a couple of months before we left for Disney, so, when I got there, my eyes were decidedly still in the "fat" frame of mind. I built my salad like I always do, and had a lot of trouble finishing it. It almost made me want to cry. Hopefully, this time I will be able to make it a bit smaller because I definitely won't go a trip without one!
With the dining plan, the salad, a drink (non-alcoholic), and a dessert is what you get. As of my last check, the salad is $8.79, a large soda is $3.19, and a dessert is typically about $3.99 (and the fixins bar is free). That comes to $15.97 before tax. Congratulations, you've just used a third of the basic dining plan cost! If you add a bit less for breakfast, and triple that for dinner (or quadruple or quintuple), the dining plan is definitely worth it financially (especially in "free dining" season!). I should also add, you ARE on vacation and you have to eat your three squares "out", so to speak. If you were home and ate out three times a day, including a sit-down restaurant at night, $60 a day per person probably wouldn't cover it either, so, although it might sound like a lot of money, it's really not once you consider everything involved and the fact that you are in a tourist resort. I hope that makes people feel better about the cost of the dining plan. I didn't mean it to sound so scary!
One of my favorite "Disney Geeks" is a guy called Lou Mongello. He does a weekly podcast, has books, audio CD tours of the Magic Kingdom, and, best of all, he sometimes does a short video diary in the parks and so I'll close out with this little gem from 2012 by Lou...a review of Pecos Bill's although I disagree with his particular favorite) which shows the fabulous fixin's bar as well as some of the amazing decorations scattered around the place that I have, frankly, never noticed before (but will next trip!). If you've got a bit of Disney geek inside you, definitely check out Lou's site or his podcast on iTunes (or YouTube or directly from his site), WDWRadio.
Oh, and YouTube is a quite valuable resource for anyone planning a Disney trip and I would highly recommend doing so. You can virtually ride rides to make sure they are OK for little ones (although I don't recommend it because it will ruin your experience when you get there), you can do virtual walk-throughs of resorts, restaurants, parks, whatever you need. I may eventually do a review of the best places to get Disney information (although I think I have done before). So long until next time!