Flame Tree Barbecue at Disney's Animal Kingdom Parkby Roan Poulter, contributing writer
Flame Tree Barbecue is a counter-service restaurant across from the Tree of Life toward Asia. They serve mostly Barbecue, though there are a couple of meatless options, good ones at that. No part of the restaurant is indoors, thus on a hot day in the crushing heat and humidity of Florida, I find it difficult to get excited by a platter of piping hot meats.
However, what they lack in conditioned space is almost made up for in the expansive and often intimate table locations. I would suspect that most diners never venture past the three gazebos, but some of the prime seating is behind the restaurant.
It's a barbecue, so of course then we need to talk about meat. The process of smoking meats, real smoking not chemical injection, is a slow and dirty process. Recent times have seen the likes of Arby's, McDonald's and the like trying to offer smoked-meat options. Do they taste good, of course they do, food scientists work day and night to lace them with enough flavonoids and liquified smoke to nearly fool the palate.
So where does that leave the Flame Tree? I certainly wouldn't rate it as one of the better smokehouses, but I would put it significantly above the fast food options. The meat is tender and well-seasoned with smokiness. Not a hit out of the park, but a worthy offering to the Gods of Savory.
What We Had
Baked Macaroni & Cheese (topped with smoked pulled pork, onion rings and coleslaw): This is an amazing dish for a famished diner. The pulled pork was moist and flavorful, the baked macaroni starchy and cheesy, with potent onion rings and a smattering of tasty barbecue sauce. The coleslaw is alright. But for a single dish this is an amazing combination of food types that overall mesh into a satisfying meal.
Watermelon Salad (watermelon, mixed greens, feta, pickled red onion with a white balsamic vinaigrette): When my daughter ordered this, I thought I might have to disinherit her. But I will tell you, on a hot day, this is a cavalcade of flavor. The cold sweet crispness of the watermelon is so countered by the pungent onions and tart balsamic that my mouth almost didn't know what to think. It took me probably five or more bites to really enjoy it. The feta cheese really grounds the salad and leaves you craving more watermelon, which makes you crave the caramelized onions and balsamic, and the cycle continues.
- Dad (43): 4.7 of 5— Never thought I would recommend a fruity salad, but that watermelon salad is crazy good. Of course, I find it best enjoyed on a bellyful of smoked pork, baked mac and onion rings.
- Mom (43): X.X of 5— Not Present.
- Son (18): X.X of 5— Not Present.
- Daughter (20): 4.7 of 5— Very happy with her salad and enjoyed selected bites of the pork.