Everything You Need to Know About Tusker House
Do you love the food of Boma Flavors of Africa and the character meet-and-greet options at restaurants like The Crystal Palace? Despite any seeming commonality between these two preferences, such an eatery exists! The restaurant is Tusker House, located in the Harambe Village section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Here’s everything you need to know about eating here.
Tusker House is an All-You-Care-To-Enjoy (AYCE) restaurant, which is Disney’s way of saying it’s a classic buffet. Several satellite areas are serving stations, and the food on the menu is exotic cuisine. African recipes are the basis for many of the dishes. For foodies, that’s great news. If you’re the parent or loved one of someone finicky, you needn’t worry about them, though. One of the serving stations also serves more conventional fare such as corn dog nuggets, deli meats, and mashed potatoes.
As for the exotic recipes, they’re universally exquisite. Tusker House routinely receives acknowledgement as one of the best theme park restaurants in the world. At the time of publication, Tusker House is one of the 20 best reviewed Walt Disney World restaurants according to TripAdvisor. In terms of critical acclaim, the only Disney AYCE eateries that are on a par with it are ‘Ohana and Boma.
You’ll notice that I referenced Boma before, and I did that intentionally. They share many of the same food concepts and flavors, even if the dishes are slightly different. In fact, the main difference between the two establishments doesn’t have anything to do with design. It’s the set-up of the serving stations.
Boma is basically an orderly line that would feel right at home in a cafeteria. Tusker House has several different island stations, and so it’s easier to get food here. You don’t have to wait for other people ahead of you or worry about impolitely cutting line. You simply walk to the serving station you prefer.
The menu at Tusker House has several highlights. I’m going to skip to the end of the page here and say that you’ll want to try the banana bread pudding. It’s one of the tastiest desserts at Walt Disney World. To save room for dessert, you must go light on entrees, which isn’t the easiest thing to do.
The cardinal rule at restaurants is, “Never fill up on bread!” At Tusker House, you can throw this rule out the window. The breads are among the strongest selling points of the restaurant. These African twists on conventional bread are so tasty that you could eat them as your main course. That would be regrettable, though. Entrees such as Basmati Rice and Curry Chicken, Tabouli and Hummus Dips, and Peri Peri Whole Salmon are spectacular. Even the chicken and pork dishes on the menu here taste better due to the herbs and spices on the menu.
Whatever stereotype in your head that you have about serving station buffets, discard it. Tusker House is totally unlike anything that you’ve ever had before.
Tusker House is open for three meals each day. Breakfast isn’t as thematic in that the foods are morning staples such as bacon, sausage and Mickey Waffles. A couple of more authentic dishes such as Beef Bobotie and Fruit Chutney are available, though. The restaurant also serves the highly coveted Jungle Juice as a beverage.
The one tip about Tusker House breakfast is that you can use the time-honored strategy of booking an early reservation here. After you’re done eating, you already have park access and can head over to your favorite ride, where you’re certain to be one of the first people in line. You’ll have to enter through the front gate of Animal Kingdom. The cast members on duty there will have a list of guests with reservations at Tusker House, so you shouldn’t have any difficulties.
You should also understand that you’re looking at a 10-minute walk from the front gate to the restaurant. Make sure to allow for this extra time. The last thing that you want is to have to sprint to Tusker House first thing in the morning. You’ll feel that mistake all day.
The location of Tusker House is a bit awkward. The restaurant is indoors, but you have to walk through an outside area to get there. The Harambe Village portion of Animal Kingdom is sometimes confusing and chaotic. To avoid getting lost, use the My Disney Experience app to map your way.
Oddly, you don’t want to request directions to Tusker House, though. It’s easier to get directions for Dawa Bar, which resides in the adjoining area. This bar is the exterior portion that shares the same wall with Tusker House. You’ll walk past the seating area of Dawa Bar to reach the Tusker House check-in. Don’t worry. If you have any issues, simply ask a cast member. They’ll direct you where you need to go.
You also may feel a bit confused when you see the building. Disney has themed this area to look lived in, and so the Tusker House is a bit dilapidated looking. Don’t let this worry you, either. Once you enter the building, you’ll feel amazement at the interior. It’s one of the niftiest restaurants on the Disney campus.
The other thing to note about check-in is that Tusker House is often crowded. Even when you have an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR), you may have to wait an extended period. As such, I wouldn’t suggest booking a FastPass soon after your scheduled ADR. Plan to wait half an hour and then feel pleasantly surprised if you get in sooner.
The Sweet Spot
Pro tip: If you don’t mind a later lunch, the slow time at Tusker House is in 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. You can book an ADR during this period and gain a unique advantage. With so few people in the restaurant, you and your family will have more time to spend with the characters. When Tusker House is crowded, the place is a mob scene. Getting to interact with each character is difficult at times.
Later in the afternoon, you could find yourself as one of the ~10 tables at the restaurant. With nothing else to do, the characters will hang out with you instead. You can get some unforgettable photographs/memories this way.
The theme of Tusker House is that it’s the Safari Orientation Centre. When you enter the restaurant, you’ll even notice a whiteboard that lists who your safari guide will be. Similarly, a chalk board offers quick translations in Swahili. You can please your server by saying “asante” when they refill your glass. It means “thank you.” The Swahili words on the chalkboard change, so try to learn a couple of new ones each time you visit.
The interior of Tusker House has four different seating sections. The center region features a majestic skylight that brightens the area. Authentic African decorations populate also most of the walls, and the odd theme is visible in weird places. For example, some of the serving stations have a Jeep wheel on the side. You’re on a safari, after all!
The best touch occurs up above you. Even though the restaurant is indoors, it mimics an outdoor market. The “roof” is a series of African fabrics attached to the walls. It’s like an upside down clothesline floating at the top of the building, a sort of fabric kiting. And this novel design has a level of utility, too. It lets cool air into the building while blocking most of the sunlight from beating down on diners.
The highlight of Tusker House is of course the character greetings. Some of Disney’s most beloved characters roam from table to table, happily interacting with guests. And each one wears an adorable safari outfit. Donald Duck and Daisy Duck are ostensibly the hosts, but Mickey Mouse and Goofy are also available for pictures. I don’t have a strong opinion on the subject, but I’m assured that the Tusker House outfits are among the cutest of any character meal.
While I’ve noticed some variance to the process, you usually take a picture with Donald Duck before you enter the building. Disney used to offer an in-meal upsell of this photo op, but my understanding is that they’ve discontinued it or at least made it a rare occurrence. Since annual passes now include PhotoPass privileges and many other guests buy Memory Maker, the upsell doesn’t make sense for many guests anyway.
Given the above, you’re likely interested in eating at Tusker House. It has so many positives that you probably should. I haven’t mentioned the best one, though. At a cost $42 per adult and $20 per child, this restaurant offers one of (if not) the cheapest character meals at Walt Disney World. In fact, it’s cheaper than Boma, and that eatery doesn’t offer a character meal.
At Tusker House, you get a delicious meal and a lot of great pictures for an affordable price. The restaurant is also only one Table Credit under the Disney Dining Plan. Simply stated, it’s a tremendous value. While I personally prefer several other places at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Tusker House is undoubtedly the people’s choice as a wonderful AYCE character meal.