5 Magnificent Reasons to Eat at Satu’li Canteen
Let’s be honest. When you visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’re going to spend a significant amount of time at Pandora – The World of Avatar. It’s the most technologically advanced theme park in existence today and will remain that way until Star Wars Land opens in 2019. Since the lines are still kind of long for Pandora’s attractions, you’ll probably be in the themed land long enough to get hungry, too. Fortunately, one of the most novel Quick Service restaurants in the world is in the same area. Here are a few reasons to eat at Satu’li Canteen.
Finding Satu’li Canteen requires a bit of awareness. I say this because it doesn’t have giant signs outside advertising what it is. In order to keep the immersive theme of Pandora alive, Imagineers constructed a restaurant that looks like a giant hut, at least from a distance.
To reach Satu’li Canteen, you’ll take a circuitous path, too. When you enter Animal Kingdom, you’ll follow the main road through the Oasis into the Discover Island area. You’ll want to stay on the left path, walking past Wilderness Explorers and Island Mercantile.
At the end of this path, you’ll take a hard left. Should you see Pizzafari along the way, you took a soft left instead. It’s just a bit confusing. Remember that the MyDisneyExperience park app will relay precise instructions when needed.
When you walk past Tiffins and the Nomad Lounge, you’ll know that you’re heading along the correct path. Your next destination is Pandora! You’ll have no problem realizing when you’ve entered this themed land, as the foliage is a dead giveaway. Satu’li Canteen is in the northwest corner of Pandora, and it’s still a bit difficult to find the first time.
To reach your destination, you need to take the first left that you can and then two other lefts when you reach new paths. Next, just to screw with you, a right turn is necessary followed by a left to get to Satu’li Canteen. It sounds awkward and it kind of is at first. Once you understand the landscape at Pandora, however, you’ll never have a problem again.
The Pandora Parts
A meal at Satu’li Canteen is the ultimate form of immersive escapism, even by Disney’s lofty standards. The glory of the dining experience is how realistic it is. The underlying theme of Pandora is that you’re a tourist visiting a joint community of humans and Pandorans, living in harmony. The Pandorans are Na’Vi, the 8-foot tall blue aliens seen in Avatar, although I should point out that to them, it’s humans who are the aliens on their planet.
As you approach the restaurant, you’ll appreciate the subtlety of the setup. You’re not in some giant theme park restaurant section a la Krusty Burger at Universal Studios. You’re IN Pandora, and the place where you’re eating is more of a gathering spot for friends and neighbors than a fast food restaurant. The only menus outside are decidedly low-tech. One is basically a chalkboard. The place is anything but plain, though.
When you visit Satu’li Canteen, you’ll feel an unmistakable sense of community. It’s a massive space, with a giant outdoor patio dining area and an equally large interior. You’ll have your choice of eating inside or outside, although the popularity of the canteen causes some seating issues. During slow park days, you’ll have no problem finding a table. On days with heavier traffic, you’ll have to take what you can get.
Navigating the surrounding area is a true delight. The trees and flowers on display are visually stimulating, and Pandora comes to life at night, delivering a luscious demonstration of the glory of bioluminescence. The restaurant’s design doesn’t have anything like this, but it’s a twin triumph of Imagineering. It reinforces the theme of Pandora AND the theme of Animal Kingdom with its nature-first setting and décor.
The idea is that Satu’li Canteen was built within the landscape of a natural host environment. Rather than pave paradise and put up a parking lot, Pandorans used the available space to add a hosting area for communal dining. When you eat here, you’ll see all sorts of earthy (assuming such a term applies to other planets) décor and several pictures that hint at the history of Pandora, something that James Cameron will reveal in the next four planned Avatar movies.
The Mobile Ordering
Now, more than 15 months after the opening of Pandora, I’m mentioning this almost as much as a trivia note, but it’s an important one. Satu’li Canteen was the first Disney theme park restaurant ever to participate in the Mobile Ordering program.
This system has revolutionized counter service ordering at Disneyland and Walt Disney World alike. While standing in line for an attraction, you can pull out your phone and schedule your next meal. You won’t have to wait in line at the restaurant, and you’ll get to customize your order to your satisfaction. As the trial restaurant for the program, Satu’li Canteen was built from the ground up as a place expected to use this service, and it shows. You’ll save tons of aggravation by using Mobile Ordering for your meal.
The Unique Meal Structure
The Satu’li Canteen menu isn’t just the most novel at Walt Disney World. It’s among the most original in the world. When you hold the physical menu in your hand, you’ll understand that you create your own flavor profile. It’s a profoundly liberating experience that’s ideal for millennials raised in a have-it-your-way society.
With the Create-Your-Own Satu’li Bowl, you’ll have a three-step process to building your idea flavor bowl. In step one, you’ll select a protein from options like beef and chicken. Step two is base selection. Your options include rice and black beans or red and sweet potato hash. Finally, you will select one of three sauces, two of which are vinaigrettes. Building the best Satu’li bowl has become quite the competition among foodies. With 60 potential variants, you’d have to dine here once a day for two straight months to try all the possibilities.
Whether you eat a bowl or some different, the native Pandoran flavors will dazzle your taste buds. Disney chefs worked long and hard to perfect the menu at Satu’li Canteen. They wanted to sell foods that would somehow seem alien and exotic while tasting like better versions of menu items that you already know.
The best example is the steamed pod. The restaurant sells these bao buns as their answer to counter service staples. The most famous one is the cheeseburger pod. It’s a bao bun with hamburger meat and cheese inside. When you bite into the entire thing, not just the bread, you’ll taste something very much like a high-quality cheeseburger. It’s like nothing you’ve ever had before, and I say that with confidence since it’s like nothing that ANYONE has ever had before.
To a larger point, everything at Satu’li Canteen is like nothing you’ve experienced during a previous park visit. The organic incorporation of a large dining area into an impeccably themed alien planet is mind-boggling. Pandora is the greatest achievement in theming the industry has ever known, and this restaurant is perfectly in keeping in tone with the idea of it. Disney’s done something amazing here.