Friday, November 16, 2012

The Liberty Tree Tavern

I know what you're thinking.

You're thinking, "Jack, at the end of your review of Bongo's, you said the next entry was going to be from the Food and Wine Festival!  Now you're talking about the Liberty Tree Tavern!  What's going on?"

Well, let me tell you.  I had a small accident.  While working at the Pool Bar and Grill at the Grand Floridian Resort, I slipped and literally fell on my tailbone.  As a result, I had two slipped disks and a couple of pinched nerves and I absolutely could not stand up long enough to take walking around Epcot long enough to do the Food and Wine Festival justice.  Or without bursting into tears from the pain.

But here's the funny, ironic, and tear-jerking part:  I also couldn't remain seated long enough to take being pushed around Epcot long enough to do the Food and Wine Festival justice.  Or without bursting into tears from the pain.  Literally, I was only comfortable when laying down.  And by the time I was mobile enough to make the trip, the Food and Wine Festival was over.

I am highly disappointed I missed it.  I mean, seriously disappointed.

But anyway, you're not here to listen to me whine about missing the best food fun event Disney has to offer.  You're here to listen to me talk about the Liberty Tree Tavern.

The Liberty Tree Tavern
The Liberty Tree Tavern is located in Liberty Square, inside the Magic Kingdom Park (which means you're going to need park admission in addition to the cost of the restaurant).  Since I was headed to the Magic Kingdom anyway, I decided to make it a Father-Son Fun Day for Jared and myself.  We got to the park just as it was opening, which is honestly the best time to get there.  After scouting Main Street for trading pins (yes, I trade pins) and Sorcerer's of the Magic Kingdom cards (yes, Jared is a SoMK fan), we decided to do the park clockwise and headed for Adventureland.

Jared, my partner for the day.
Jared and his sense of fun were driving the day, which meant we hit Aladdin's Magic Carpets, the Jungle Cruise, the Enchanted Tiki Room, and of course Pirates of the Caribbean.  With Adventureland taken care of, we moved on to Frontierland and enjoyed the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, the Country Bear Jamboree, and Davey Crockett's Shooting Gallery.  We then caught a raft to Tom Sawyer's Island, were I let Jared run himself around to his heart's content.

Seems Jared has a thing for hiding in dark tunnels and leaping out at people when they aren't expecting it.

Jared in front of the Liberty Bell replica, in Liberty Square.

We were on our way to the Haunted Mansion when Jared declared that he was hungry.  A quick check of my clock told me we still had half an hour until our reservation, but I figured what the heck... the park wasn't that busy and maybe they'd let us sit down early.  So we hied ourselves hence to the Liberty Tree Tavern.

The entrance to the Liberty Tree Tavern.

For those of you who've never been to the Magic Kingdom, the Liberty Tree Tavern is in Liberty Square, across from the Liberty Bell replica on one side and the Diamond Horseshoe on the other.  If you have trouble finding it, head toward the River Boat landing and look around a little, or ask a cast member.  Its pretty easy to find.

The Liberty Tree is a charming place done up in late Colonial American kitsch.  Its homey and welcoming, and the food is amazing.  The cuisine is classic American fare, with a bit of a concentration on that New England feel.

The entrance to the Liberty Tree.

A view to the right, from the entrance.  Its not even Thanksgiving, and they already have their Christmas tree up.

A view to the left, from the entrance.
So we walked in to find it only moderately crowded, and by that I mean there was maybe 20 people sitting around the entrance, waiting for a seat.  There was a nice young lady at the check-in desk, and we asked her about getting in early.  Turns out this would not be a problem.

Laura, from Bartonsville, Illinois, at the check-in.  She was amazingly nice.
Laura checked us in, told us it would be a bit because there were several parties ahead of us, and invited us to sit in the rocking chairs that were placed around the foyer.  Sounded good to me, so I sat down and started rocking.  Jared began cataloging his new trading cards, while I just rocked and watched the crowds outside move back and forth.

No sooner had I become comfortable, however, than our names were called by Dean, one of the managers at the Liberty Tree.  Dean greeted us, took us to our table, and assured us that Mo, our waiter, would be along shortly.

Dean, the Manager.  A very nice, understanding man who becomes more important later in the story.

Mo, our waiter.
We didn't have to wait long before Mo did show up.  He took our drink orders and left Jared and me with the menus.  I usually don't bother mentioning the kid's menus at these restaurants, but I wanted to mention the one at Liberty Tree.  In addition to the usual coloring opportunities and word searches and find the match puzzles, the menu featured (in addition to the food, of course) trivia about the founding of our country.  I thought it was very cool.

So Mo came back and we made our orders.  Jared wanted the kid's macaroni and cheese dinner, choosing carrot and celery sticks as his appetizer, and an ice cream sundae for desert.  I started with a bowl of New England clam chowder, and decided on the Pilgrim's Feast.

New England Clam Chowder
The clam chowder was just about perfect.  I should probably let you know I'm a clam chowder snob.  I want it creamy, with big, tasty chunks of potato and huge slabs of sliced clams.  I don't even acknowledge the existence of that tomato-based sludge the people in a particular borough of New York deceptively call "chowder".  Hey, you!  Down in Manhattan!  Yes, you!  Chowders have milk or cream and are thickened with potatoes!  That slop you call chowder is a SOUP, not a CHOWDER!  There are differences!

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes, the chowder.  It was smooth and creamy and not too thick.  The potatoes were cooked just to par so they held their shape under the weight of the chowder, but weren't so stiff they counted as "crunchy".  And the slivers of clam were the size of a Kennedy half-dollar, I swear on my life.  It was clam chowder heaven.

The Pilgrim's Feast. 
The Pilgrim's Feast is a traditional "Thansgiving" dinner, and this being November, that's why I ordered it.  I've had it before, and loved it, and I ordered it this time anticipating culinary satisfaction.  And for the most part, I got it.  The slices of turkey breast meat were so tender they fell apart if I looked at them sharply.  The green beans were cooked to a turn, perfectly seasoned, and had a fresh taste that I find only rarely.  The herb bread dressing (not visible in the picture above) was tasty and not too dry and fit the rest of the meal like a glove.  The only bad mark on the meal was the gravy.

The gravy, which you can probably tell from the picture above, was pasty and thick and sludge-like.  It was also tepid.  Now, for cold, over-thick gravy, it actually had a pretty decent flavor, which tells me that had it been properly warm, not to mention possessing the proper nape for gravy, it would have been perfect.

Quick diversion:  nape (pronounced "napp-pay") in this context means the thickness of a sauce.  To test the nape of a sauce, you dip a spoon into it quickly (so the spoon picks up just a light coating of sauce).  Then you turn the spoon sideways.  If the gravy only drips off the spoon slowly, its got the right nape.  If it doesn't drip at all, you've got sludge.

The nape of this gravy was spoon-grippingly thick.

Jared's meal, on the other hand, was apparently perfect.

Kid's Macaroni and Cheese with Celery and Carrots Sticks
Jared is a lover of mac and cheese like no one else I can describe.  And he's also one of the most picky eaters I've ever met.  And I'm a chef, so I've met a lot of picky eaters.  Jared took a hesitant bite of his macaroni, smiled, and then proceded to devour the meal with an alacrity that was surprising.  Mo was kind enough to bring him a little dish of ranch dressing for his veggies, which completed his joy.  And then came his ice cream.

Let's just say he loved that too.

So, the round-up.  Mo, our waiter, was quick on his feet with drink refreshment and dirty-dish-clearance, though there were a couple of times when he took a bit longer to get to us than I expected.  The restaurant wasn't too crowded or too noisy.  Everyone was friendly, and the food was almost perfect.

About that almost.  When Dean the Manager walked through the restaurant I stopped him and told him about the gravy.  I'd already finished the rest of the meal (how hard is it to scrape bad gravy off terrific turkey, after all), so I didn't feel that accepting his offer to comp my meal would be fair.  Nor did I accept the offer of a dessert.  But I did appreciate that he came back a few minutes later to tell me the kitchen people were busily making a new batch and apologized for it again.

Anyway, the entire meal was pleasant and the rest of the day (we went from the Liberty Tree Tavern to the Haunted Mansion, and then further into Fantasyland, including the new Storybook Circus section of New Fantasyland, and Tomorrow Land.)  We had a grand day, and called it quits when both of us were sweaty, tired, and full of fun.

As a dad, I suggest spending time with your kids doing what they want to do as much as possible.  Its a great feeling when your son hugs you and says, "Thanks for having fun with me."

Jared said, "You're not in any of the pictures!", grabbed the camera, and took this picture.

Jared, my best buddy and frequent restaurant partner.
Anyway, back to the meal.  The final cost was $32 for both of us.  However, that was with a 30% Holiday Special Discount coupon.  Despite the bad gravy, we both felt like we got our money's worth, and we will be back to eat there again.

So in the end, I'd give it four stars out of five, and I'd recommend the Liberty Tree to everyone.

Next time:  Olivia's Cafe at the Old Key West resort.


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