Best Table Service Restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Choosing the best Quick Service restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom wasn’t easy. Many of the tastiest foods at the park come from counter service. In fact, the fourth gate at Walt Disney World only has four Table Service restaurants onsite, and one of those is barely a year old. Disney park planners decided something a bit unusual for this park.
They chose to prioritize food on the go inside Animal Kingdom, knowing that guests who wanted a better meal could head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, where three amazing Table Service restaurants are open to guests. I’m not including Boma, Sanaa, and Jiko – The Cooking Place on today’s list, but each of them would be in the conversation for second place.
The best restaurant on the Animal Kingdom campus wouldn’t change, though. Keep that in mind when you read that it’s the best of a list of only four restaurants. In reality, it’s one of the best overall dining experiences at Walt Disney World.
4) Rainforest Café
At Animal Kingdom, most of the restaurants are themed to the park concept. They highlight the exotic cuisines of international cultures and the message of unity that Disney has imbued in the park. And then there’s the noteworthy exception.
Rainforest Café is a chain restaurant that has 22 locations in the United States and five abroad. It was founded by Steven Schussler, the entrepreneur and best-Formsselling author who also built The BOATHOUSE. What’s interesting about this establishment is that it’s had exactly as many closures, 27, as currently open restaurants. Odds are good that you’re familiar with the chain even if you haven’t visited Walt Disney World in a while.
Why did Disney make an exception for Rainforest Café? Well, they clearly have a strong working relationship with Schussler and Landry’s, Inc, the latter of which owns four restaurants at Walt Disney World. Two of them are Rainforest Café franchises, with the other one located at Disney Springs.
Oddly, Rainforest Café fits the motif of Disney’s themed restaurants quite well since these eateries had a strong theme already. You’ll feel like you’re dining in a tropical rainforest, complete with vegetation and wildlife on display. Rainforest Café has Audio-Animatronics (AAs) that pay tribute to Disney anyway, and so their presence at Animal Kingdom feels right at home.
There’s just one problem. The food is bland. While this establishment offers a deep menu of products, most of them are generic, as is the case with many casual dining chains. Rainforest Café is really just a compromise choice when everything else is booked rather than a viable meal decision at Animal Kingdom.
You only want to eat here if all of your other plans fall through…and since the introduction of Satu’li Canteen, I wouldn’t even recommend it then. You can eat faster at a cheaper Quick Service restaurant with better theming.
3) Tusker House
This is one of those selections that I know will cause the villagers to grab their torches and pitchforks and head to my barn to burn it down.
Let me state for the record that every dining experience at Walt Disney World is random. You may have the best meal of your life. Or you could arrive 10 seconds later, get a different server, have your food get prepared by a different chef, and wind up with the worst meal imaginable.
Thankfully, Disney tends toward the former in most instances. If you visit the parks enough times, however, you will wind up with one bad experience at some point, just as is true if you eat out every meal in your home city.
For my family, Tusker House was the one that went poorly. We waited for almost an hour despite having an Advanced Dining Reservation, we had a strange incident with a server who wasn’t OUR server, and the central draw of the meal didn’t go well for us. As such, when I hear people praise Tusker House lavishly — and virtually everyone does – I shake my head and wonder what happened with their meal that we didn’t get at ours.
The theming of Tusker House is tight and creative. You’re a visitor at Safari Orientation Centre, and you’re preparing for your next journey into the great unknown. While you wait, you’re treated to a buffet. Disney calls these meals All You Care to Eat (AYCE), and the star of this affair is actually the bread and fruit.
Tusker House has a large selection of exotic breads to sample, as well as healthy fruits to fill your belly. It’s also famous for its Jungle Juice, which is orange juice combined with guava juice and some passion fruit thrown in for good measure. As far as buffets go, it’s one of the most creative on the Walt Disney World campus.
The true appeal of Tusker House is its character meet and greet. You’ll interact with Mickey Mouse, Daisy and Donald Duck, and Goofy while you’re here. Better yet, all of them are in adorable safari outfits. Even though we hated the meal and service at Tusker House, we loved the way that the pictures turned out. Several of them are still framed on the wall.
Most people would argue that Tusker House is one of the best overall Table Service meals at Walt Disney World. I’m not one of them, but I still give this restaurant the nod over Rainforest Café since it has food that’s more fitting for Animal Kingdom. Plus, all character meals are by definition better than regular ones. You’re at Disney to meet the characters after all.
2) Tiffin’s Restaurant
In 2016, Disney introduced fine dining to Animal Kingdom in the form of Tiffin’s. This eatery is the only Signature Dining option at the park, and its inclusion filled a void onsite. Previously, guests had to travel to Jambo House at Animal Kingdom Lodge for an unforgettable meal. Since the introduction of Tiffin’s, people can enjoy a similar experience without leaving the park.
Disney gives guests a chance to add the Rivers of Light package that includes special seating for the event plus an unforgettable meal. The Grand Gallery at Tiffin’s even features décor inspired by the show. It has a Lantern Wall with some spectacular illuminated pieces.
The overall theme of the restaurant is a bit muddied, as the three individual sections each has its own theme. In the Grand Gallery, animals and folk art are everywhere, with some Bali sculptures that will blow your mind.
The Safari Gallery isn’t what you’d expect. It’s more of a display of antiquities and art from Southern Africa. Make sure to see the electrified wall art here, which is sublime. Finally, the Trek Gallery highlights Asian cultures, particularly some interesting pieces from Tibet. There’s also a Bronze Yeti tribute to Expedition Everest that you should show your friends. Overall, the ambience at Tiffin’s is elegant yet inclusive.
The name of Tiffin’s is an odd choice for this restaurant, as the word references a “portable midday meal” in its purest sense. Tiffin’s isn’t that at all. Instead, it’s an introduction to global cuisine that will feel like five World Showcase pavilions worth of flavors at once. It’s also stocked with some of the finest spirits at Animal Kingdom. You can order many potent potables such as the Anapurna Zing, Zingiber Fizzie, or Lamu Libation with your meal.
As for the food, well, you’re not going to like it here if you’re finicky. It’s lots of international cuisine with nothing accurately described as conventional. If Pomegranate-lacquered chicken sounds like too much, you’re either going to eat the sustainable fish here or be out of luck. The rest of the menu sounds like dishes that would win a Quickfire Challenge on Top Chef.
Seared Hokkaido Scallops and Roasted Vegetable Curry are two of the most beloved dishes, which tells the story about the offerings here. Personally, I respect and admire the food at Tiffin’s more than I love it, which is why I mainly use it for the Rivers of Light ticket package. If I wanted to pick a place at Animal Kingdom for the food, this wouldn’t be my first choice. That honor goes to…
1) Yak & Yeti Café
What’s my family’s idea of heaven on Earth? That’s when we are on the Deluxe Disney Dining Plan, the one that includes appetizers and desserts, and we’re eating at Yak & Yeti Café. We’ve done this a few times now, and the end result is that we’ve ordered so much food that the TIP for a party of five was north of $60. When we eat here, we order everything that we can. It’s the most gluttonously we eat all year, and I include Thanksgiving in that.
The meal starts with the appetizers. Me and mine have tried all currently available options, and our favorites are the Pork Pot Stickers, the Firecracker Shrimp, the Ahi Tuna Nachos, the Dim Sum Basket, and (especially) the Dragon Rolls. My wife would run into a flaming building to get at those Dragon Rolls. I think I’m joking about that, but…
The main course at Yak & Yeti Café is basically everything that tastes great in the universe, all on sale for $25. The Chicken Tikka Masala, Crispy Honey Chicken, Sriracha Seafood Mac & Cheese are all divine, although I’m a carnivore, so I usually get either the Korean BBQ Chicken or the Soy Herb Glazed Rib Eye. As for dessert, I ride or die on die with the Sorbet, but the Chocolate Pudding Cake is also the perfect amount of decadent for my needs.
Look, I could keep going, but you can tell from the way I’m writing this that drool is running down my chin right now. If you’re going to Animal Kingdom, your options are simple. You can eat the most conventional food, which is Rainforest Café, you can enjoy a character meal at Tusker House, or you can enjoy amazing drinks and food at Tiffin’s prior to a showing of Rivers of Light.
Alternately, you can do the smart thing and eat at Yak & Yeti Café. In terms of actual food quality, it might be the best thing at Walt Disney World…and I say that as someone who has eaten at more than 100 restaurants onsite.
Want to try one of these amazing restaurants during your next visit to Animal Kindom? Get a free quote below from our friends at MickeyTravels!