The Best Thing I Ever Ate at Disney's Animal Kingdomby Roan Poulter, contributing writer
Disney's Animal Kingdom Park is for many visitors a half-day park. Because of that thinking, and the multiyear policy of closing before dark, some of the wonderful dining options might get missed by the general public. An early note: I haven't ever eaten at Tusker House (don't do buffets), Tiffins (just too expensive) and, after too many bad experiences over the years, I don't eat at the Rainforest Café. However, I still find tasty bits around nearly every corner of the park. Honestly, it's one of my favorite places to eat. I will break our favorites into the following categories:
- Best Dessert
- Best Atmosphere
- Best Drink
- Best Counter service appetizer
- Best Counter service entrée
- Best Fine Dining appetizer
- Best Fine Dining entrée
I love sweets, but honestly if this park were lacking in one area, it's dessert. Now to be fair, it could be just that I'm always too stuffed to fit in any dessert. Having said that I did enjoy the Chocolate Mousse at Satu'li Canteen in Pandora—The World of Avatar (before it became the more colorful Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse).
This is going to be a recurring trend on this list, because we truly love just about everything about Yak and Yeti Restaurant in Asia. There must be enough decorations for 10 restaurants packed within its walls. But our favorite part is to watch people cross the bridge while we sit at a second-story window table. Watching overheated tourists melt down in public is our guilty pleasure, no wonder we skip dessert.
Satu'li Canteen is extremely well done and ties in so well with Pandora. My only drawback is the cavernous structure makes it very loud.
It's hot at Animal Kingdom, I try not to drink at the park. But those well-hydrated and searching for a good drink should head over to Satu'li Canteen, where a decent selection of beers and wines may be had. Going much further than the regular Bud and Bud Light options, several microbrews (some local) may be had.
Best Counter Service: Appetizer
Now we're talking. Here is where the Animal Kingdom really shines. The plethora of kiosks offering sumptuous bites may lead you never to even find a table. Best of the best is the Baked Macaroni and Cheese served with Pulled Pork from Eight Spoon Café in Discovery Island. Crispy burnt edges of cheese, succulent pulled pork. I know that's a lot for an appetizer, share it. But get one.
- The Teriyaki Beef Slider with Pickled Cucumber from Caravan Road in Asia.
- Mr. Kamal's Seasoned Fries – so much more than what comes in the name. Typical fries ladled with tzatziki sauce and Sriracha ketchup create a whirlwind of taste (located in Asia across from Caravan Road).
- I also have to call out the roasted corn here next to the queue for Kilimanjaro Safaris, pricey but delicious.
- And Heaven forbid if I didn't mention the watermelon salad at Flame Tree BBQ near the Discovery Island bridge. Nothing tastes better on a hot day.
Best Counter Service: Entree
I was too torn to decide between two, so I'm going with two choices. The Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork from Flame Tree BBQ (yes I can have baked mac as an appetizer and then as an entrée); and Satu'li Canteen's Slow-Roasted Sliced Grilled Beef Bowl, which is marinated in a blend of garlic, herbs, red pepper spice, and red wine vinegar topped with crunchy vegetable slaw and boba balls, served with your choice of base and sauce—plus you get to choose your carbohydrate of choice.
Best Fine Dining: Appetizer
The Dim Sum basket at Yak & Yeti is a cacophony of deliciousness. Pork pot stickers, shrimp siu mai, cha su bao and pork siu mai steamed on a banana leaf served with soy lime dipping sauce. More than enough to share, though not a bad option as a light lunch.
Best Fine Dining: Entree
Yak & Yeti is my favorite restaurant at Animal Kingdom, possibly at the whole of Disney World. First and foremost I like that I can get a table pretty much any day without a reservation. I don't recommend it during busy days, but I have walked in and been seated within 15 minutes. But there is one dish that brings me back time and time again. The Chicken Tikka Masala: Boneless chicken breast marinated in yogurt and freshly ground herbs cooked in a traditional masala sauce, jasmine rice, garlic naan bread. So impossibly delicious. The masala sauce cannot be wasted. My only complaint is that I need more naan to ensure that not even a milliliter of sauce is left clinging to the bowl. I blame this dish for making it impossible for me to get the Kobe Beef burger, which I watch go to other much ballyhooed tables as I wait for my once-again-ordered masala.
The Lo Mein at Yak & Yeti is also excellent and serves as a nice clean counterbalance to the very robust masala. Tender and delicate, it's cooked with the respect it deserves and makes for a fun family dining experience.