I’m Visiting Animal Kingdom. Where Should I Eat?
You’ll work up an appetite while visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom. After all, it’s Disney’s largest theme park in the world.
When you’re ready to refuel, you’ll discover many options at the park. Alas, some are better than others.
So, where should you eat at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? I have thoughts…
Quick Service vs. Table Service
When I wrote about Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I explained the difference between Quick Service and Table Service.
Basically, you can think of Quick Service as Disney’s equivalent of fast food, albeit a bit better in terms of quality.
Meanwhile, Table Service restaurants represent the best of Disney. You’ll love every Table Service dining experience, although it’ll take longer and cost more.
At Animal Kingdom, you’ll encounter plenty of grab-and-go options. The variety of restaurants enables you to choose how much you want to eat.
Snack shacks work best when you only need a quick bite, while restaurants with dining areas will satisfy your hunger at lunch and dinner time.
Best Quick Service at Animal Kingdom
I suspect that most Disney analysts would settle on one of three locations as the best Quick Service option at Animal Kingdom.
Flame Tree Barbecue has earned a reputation as the best BBQ joint at any Florida theme park.
Recently, a couple of other Disney offerings have proven competitive in this discussion. Still, you can’t go wrong with Flame Tree Barbecue.
This meal is hearty and fulfilling. Also, the plant-based dish here will satisfy the non-BBQ fan in your life.
Meanwhile, Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes serves remarkably upscale entrees for a Quick Service restaurant.
Landry’s, Inc. owns and operates this place with Disney’s blessing. Obviously, a Disney contract is a big deal to a restaurateur. So, Yak & Yeti doesn’t mess around.
As you’ll read in a bit, this isn’t the only time I’ll mention this business.
Still, the popular vote for best Quick Service at Animal Kingdom would undoubtedly go to Satu’li Canteen, the mess hall at Pandora – The World of Avatar.
Disney has crafted a menu here that feels both alien and familiar. The protein bowls will dazzle your tastebuds thanks to their complex flavor profiles.
Also, do NOT sleep on the dessert here! The Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse is otherworldly.
Worst Quick Service at Animal Kingdom
Again, I don’t think these suggestions would cause much debate. Disney operates two places that serve the dishes you’d think.
There’s Pizzafari, which sells you a slice of pizza that’s just this side of Sbarro in terms of flavor.
If you’ve ever microwaved a frozen pizza, it probably tasted like this. Of course, Disney will charge you more.
Meanwhile, Restaurantosaurus has a fun name but pedestrian food. This is the place to go when you want mediocre cheeseburgers or chicken nuggets.
I happen to have a soft place in my heart for Restaurantosaurus, as it’s where I met a dear friend for the first time.
Once we get past the sentimentality, it’s a restaurant that would feel more at home at Universal Studios or Cedar Point. Disney Quick Service usually does better.
Best Table Service at Animal Kingdom
For my family, one restaurant towers above the rest. I previously mentioned Yak & Yeti as a Quick Service eatery.
That’s true of the lounge side where you can order cheaper meals. However, Yak & Yeti is primarily a Table Service restaurant…and it’s one of the best on the Disney campus.
I’m far from alone in this opinion. TripAdvisor ranks Yak & Yeti as one of the top 75 restaurants in Central Florida.
Whenever we dine here, whether it’s just my wife and me or a table for five, we eat every bite. If we weren’t at Disney, we’d lick the plates, too.
I’ve had not one but two meals here that I’d describe as life-changing in quality. It’s that good.
Worst Table Service at Animal Kingdom
Here is where I make some lifelong enemies.
Every individual’s Disney dining experiences are unique to them. So, I’m about to list a place that has proven nightmarish to me. Others love it, though.
I will not under any circumstances ever eat at Tusker House again because the place is cursed for us.
My wife and I have tried this place three times since the Mickey Mouse character meal is all sorts of adorable.
Each time, we’ve suffered differently. Once, a weird salesperson wouldn’t leave us alone about buying a photo we already owned on PhotoPass.
Another time, my wife grew ill, got sick in the bathroom, and then lost her cellphone in the process. It’s been that kind of experience for us.
I emphasize that a lot of people like Tusker House, but I’d sooner eat at Pizzafari.
Meanwhile, I don’t always practice what I preach about Rainforest Café. It’s always disappointing, and that’s before we factor in the ridiculous prices.
Still, the siren song of eating at the front of the park keeps luring me here even though I know better. Please be smarter than me.
For Special Events
Animal Kingdom also hosts what Disney calls a Signature Dining experience. Tiffins will dazzle you with its interior, as each section features unique theming.
However, you’ll get sticker shock when you notice the prices on the menu. Some entrees cost as much as $65…at lunch.
Notably, TripAdvisor voters believe that Tiffins may be worth the price. It ranks in the top 150 out of more than 2,100 restaurants.
So, I usually recommend it to people who are A) seeking a special occasion fine dining experience and B) aren’t doing anything else at the park.
I would NEVER dine at Tiffins if I were hot and sweaty. That lessens the experience.
As such, this option works better as a destination location rather than a place to eat during a standard park visit.
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Photo: Walt Disney World/David Roark, photographer