We’ll head over to Disney’s Animal Kingdom for a little update on everything that’s going on over there.
This update will focus on menu changes and reviews of a few new items. We’ll then take a walk around and see what’s happening around the Park.
Disney is making a significant push for plant-based items at its quick services and restaurants. They’ve got a whole online guide to the initiative, with a list of many of the available options, here. I am not historically a vegetarian myself, though I feel a little bit like Jules, from Pulp Fiction, when he says, “Well, if you like burgers, give them a try sometime. Me, I can’t usually get them ’cause my girlfriend’s a vegetarian, which pretty much makes me a vegetarian.” In this scenario, Disney is my girlfriend, and I am now basically a vegetarian, as I try to catch up on all of these new items. But Disney is taking the vegetarian thing a little further. The Cheese Pizza, which has been on Pizzafari’s menu for 10+ years, is vegetarian. The “Sicilian-Style Pizza Slice” is probably vegan as it’s designated with the leaf that means it “does not contain animal meat, dairy, eggs, or honey.”
The Plant-Based Slice comes in at $10.49, which is right around the cost of the other pizza-based entrees. You’ll also note that the side salad with the Sicilian is Garden instead of Caesar.
The Uncrustables also fit the Plant-Based designation. We’ll also be trying the “Cannoli Cake,” so keep an eye on that. Apparently, Copa Wine is now a “Chalice” full of wine at a cost of $9, replacing the Woodbridge that used to be served. Nothing elevates the chalice quite like filling it with Moscato. The Chalice should come in at 187ml, which is a fourth of a regular bottle. The store price is $3, so they may be a better value than the Bud Light, where the store price of 16 ounces is closer to a dollar. At $5.50 for a “smartwater,” you almost can’t afford to order anything other than the Bud. At least that’s what I tell myself.
If I weren’t so stoic, I would have laughed out loud when we were handed the $10.49 slice of Sicilian-Style Pizza. It looked pretty terrible. What appeared to be a thin layer of tomato paste had hardened on top of the puffy crust some time ago. The “cheese” looked like it was the equivalent of some cheap Parmesan that you might sprinkle on top of your Steak Alfredo from Tony’s Town Square. Deeeeeelicious.
The other toppings appeared to be paltry with some sausage-esque pieces littered across the plane and primarily pooling towards the narrower front of the slice.
Surprisingly, it actually tasted pretty good, at least compared to Pizzafari’s other offerings. The crust was light, fluffy, and most importantly, tasted freshly tossed. It wasn’t the dense, doughy, previously-frozen crust that you’ll find as the base for all of the other reheated pizzas served here. There was a little bit of spice from the “sausage” crumbles and the little bits of red and green pepper. The Grated “Parmesan” also worked surprisingly well, mixing up the texture of the softer crust and adding a “real” cheesy taste to each bite.
Whether it’s “better” than the other pizzas served at Pizzafari, and the Cheese Pizza in particular, is open to some interpretation. The other pizzas are a completely different, Digiorno-esque style, with a lot of bread underneath a similarly-paltry amount of toppings. The vegan version is lighter and fresher-tasting, but the other pizzas are “more food,” largely on the weight of the bread.
The good news is that if you are vegan or vegetarian, and the group is headed to Pizzafari, then you have a pretty decent option in the Sicilian-Style Slice. I would actually order this again, which is not something that I was prepared to take away from the meal.
The Slice is served with a Garden Salad. My estimation is that the side salads are interchangeable, so if you would prefer the Caesar, they would likely serve it to you, and vice versa if you’re looking at one of the other pizza pies offered. The Salad is pretty basic with a bed of fresh, crispy pieces of Romaine on the bottom, along with a Cherry Tomato or two and some small pieces of Cucumber scattered on top. It’s served with the zesty Italian Vinaigrette already poured on top. Fortunately, ours wasn’t soggy, but it would be nice if the dressing was either served on the side or was poured on top to order. It tasted just fine and was a nice change of pace from the pizza.
Overall, I was impressed by Pizzafari’s plant-based addition. It “felt” like somebody had probably tried a number of different toppings and styles before landing on the Sicilian version. Potentially, the toppings could have been a lot more vibrant. The flavor is mostly mild pepper spice. But it’s certainly serviceable. It’s not going to be the best that you’ve ever had, but hopefully nothing at Pizzafari would be.
Not expecting much from my Sicilian-Style Slice, I added the $5 Cannoli Cake to the order. This has been the dessert offered here for a few years now.
Like just about every standard quick service dessert, it’s probably best skipped in favor of a sea of other options available at the likes of Zuri’s Sweets in Africa. Our Cannolo was much more soft and flaccid than you’d hope for from the Italian pastry, which is best when it’s crunchier. Its fate was sealed long ago when it was stuck in a refrigerator for some number of hours before being served to the one blogger who can’t remember if they’ve previously reviewed it.
The cake portion was pretty good – it’s a basic chocolate cake underneath a thick layer of smooth cream that probably would have benefited from some actual ricotta cheese and actual pieces of chocolate mixed in with it. That would have been the case a couple of years ago, when a thick layer of ganache separated the cream and cannolo on top. If this weren’t called a Cannoli Cake and didn’t arrive with a Cannolo-esque pastry on top, I don’t think I would have connected the two. If you have to add a dessert at Pizzafari, then you could probably dream up some worse finishers. But I don’t think that I’d seek this one out on flavor or value.
Service at Pizzafari is bizarrely slow given the fact that pizzas are “literally” piled on top of each other underneath the heat lamps. It looks like there’s an actual pizza pan to the rear, which is probably used for the Sicilian-Style Slices. The Garden Salad also wasn’t originally on our tray. I had to go back and request it. That’s not a big deal, but it “felt” like not a lot of the plant-based option was being ordered. I wouldn’t necessarily shy away from it if you’re considering the doughier Cheese Pizza.
The other brand-new plant-based offering is available at Flame Tree Barbecue, also in Discovery Island:
If you were a pizzeria serving Sicilian Pizza, I don’t think that I would assume that it was plant-based or vegan, so the green-leaf designation is helpful there.
Likewise, nothing about Hot Link Smokehouse Sandwich implies a vegan offering, but here we are:
Flame Tree is a perennial contender for best overall theme park quick service and I like just about everything on the menu.
Back in August of last year, Friar’s Nook at Magic Kingdom added a Plant-Based Sausage and Tots as pictured on the bottom right there. The “real” Brat is on the left. At the time, I had this to say:
The look of it was a little off-putting at first, but as dismaying as it is, I actually preferred the flavor of the Vegan Sausage. It was well-seasoned and incredibly juicy with a similar snap to the bratwurst all with more protein, less sodium, and fewer calories. There’s also more of it in the bun and I can guarantee you that the retail price of the Beyond Sausage is far higher than the regular Brat, making it a better value.
I went on to call it “shockingly good.”
Flame Tree’s $11 “Hot Link Smokehouse Sausage” uses the same Plant-Based Beyond Meat Bratwurst “topped with Tangy Mustard Barbecue Sauce, Slaw, and Crispy Onions on a House-made New England-style Roll.”
The “Sausage” shines again here, juicy and flavorful with a delicious snap to each bite. The Slaw added a nice crunch, but I would have liked more tang to contrast better with the meatiness of the Beyond Sausage. The cabbage was surprisingly bland and the Barbecue Sauce was almost nonexistent. Both of those things could be easily rectified and, if you don’t like a pungent tang to your slaw, then you’ll prefer this version anyway. The Roll was soft and fresh and did a nice job of holding everything together, but it was so thick that I think it cut into the flavors of the other parts of the sandwich.
Still, at 11 bucks and completely vegan, this is a triumph. Even if you’re the sort of smug person who leaves comments attacking vegans on a Disney World blog, if I handed this thing to you, I can virtually guarantee that you would like it. And that’s the way it should be. It probably doesn’t do quite enough to get me to order it over the Ribs, Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese, or other dishes here, but I would certainly consider it over a lot of entrees at lesser quick services if given that opportunity.
Satu’li Canteen in Pandora is one of Disney’s newest theme park quick services and one of its best.
Here’s the current menu:
Despite proving popular with guests, the menu has seen a number of changes since opening about 2.5 years ago. The Combination Bowl is a recent addition and the Sustainable Fish Filet is long gone, now replaced by Shrimp. All of the bases, with the exception of the Red and Sweet Potato Hash, have been switched out. No more Quinoa & Vegetable Salad, Mixed Whole Grain & Rice, or Romaine & Kale Salad. The current options aren’t major departures, though the Noodles are a different take. For adults, the Cheeseburger and Vegetable Curry Pods are no longer offered, though a single Cheeseburger Pod is available as a Kids’ Meal.
While I’ve had similar success over the years with the Chicken, Beef, and Shrimp, I’ve found that the quality of the Crispy Fried Tofu wavers a bit. Usually, it’s nice and crispy, with a spicy, peppery kick and does a nice job of soaking up your selected Sauce. Sometimes, it’s a little mushier and a lot more bland. Hopefully your experience will fall on the positive side of things as the bowl offers a heaping portion of satisfying food. When it’s good, it’s among the best plant-based items you’ll find at the resort. And in reality, you can run into some bad luck just about anywhere. For smaller appetites, a Kids’ version is also available.
Pongu Pongu, the takeaway bar/snack outlet also sees some changes:
The Pongu Lumpia should still be available, even when it’s not listed on the menu. Occasionally, they’ll be running low on stock, despite dropping the number of spring rolls served from two to one. The Mo’ara Margarita also has a blue look to it, despite still being strawberry-flavored. It’s definitely a little more “alien” now, which I’m not sure is a good thing when it comes to food and beverage.
We’ll continue up into Africa.
A number of the Lion King treats that debuted this summer for the release of the “live action movie” have stuck around at Tamu Tamu Refreshments and elsewhere.
Here’s a look at the menu from over the summer for comparison. Booze prices are largely what have gone up in price. The Simba Sunset is the same price, while the King’s Cooler, which adds Dark or Coconut Rum, is up $1.50. The same goes for the regular Dole Whip Pineapple Cup, which was $8.50 with Rum in June and now comes in at $10. The price of just the powdered non-dairy treat, which officially arrives with our leaf logo, is the same price.
See this review for a look at just about everything available here, along with the rest of the Lion King holdovers.
Here’s the current pricing on popcorn and a variety of drinks and snacks from Mahinidi, the popcorn stand across from Tamu Tamu. On other signs, you may have noticed that Souvenir Popcorn Buckets are $12 and Refills are $2 and think that prices are lower here. Unfortunately, the prices at those outlets include tax, whereas these do not. After tax, the price of the Souvenir Popcorn Bucket is $12.02 and the cost of a Refill is $2.01, so you may be saving a penny or two going with the tax-included kiosks and stands, but it won’t be the 11 or 71 cents that you might initially be expecting.
Prices at Tusker House are up and in line with other standard character buffets like Garden Grill and Crystal Palace:
There was a time when Tusker House offered a less expensive, character-free dinner, but those days are long gone with just one price for meals that begin at 11am onward. Disney does seat guests for breakfast through 10:55am, so you can book a late breakfast and then enjoy some early morning favorites before the buffet is switched over to the more expensive lunch/dinner options. I do the same thing with the senior discount at the Golden Corral, arriving at 3:30pm and staying through close. They can’t make you leave.
Here’s the rundown at Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery:
The Sandwiches are out in favor of three Curry options, which I’m 95% sure are the same as what’s served inside at Tusker House.
Earlier this year, Disney offered a Tasting Sampler during the busy spring break period, which included this Shrimp and Chicken Curry Combo for $6.79. Both Curries are quite good, though I don’t think that I’d necessarily want to order one and eat it standing up outside in Florida in July.
As we head into the fall and winter, the spicy Curries may be better choices, but I’d still walk them across the way to the somewhat hidden seating behind Tamu Tamu Refreshments.
Here’s an update on what pricing looks like on fruit and snacks via Harambe Market. I’m still not envisioning myself ordering an apple over a boatload of carbohydrates, but the $6.79 price of the Mickey Pretzel is certainly getting up there. With prices rising at the same rate as current levels, the price of a Mickey Pretzel will be over eight dollars in about three years.
Harambe Market is where we’ll find our next major Plant-Based entree, though it’s not a new addition as part of the recent initiative.
You’ll find a full review of the menu in this post.
Here’s the $10 “Roasted Vegetable Bowl – Bowl of Roasted Vegetables, Cilantro Rice and Greens Salad Base topped with Salsa.” I said:
“This is a mixture of Roasted Cauliflower, Sweet Potato, Chickpeas, Zucchini, and Onion topped with a creamy, refreshing, unadvertised Yogurt Raita. The vegetables were served piping hot with a nice toasted quality to them and there was plenty of rice underneath to add some heft to each bite. There’s also a nice mixture of vegetables with the sweet potato adding a nice sugary quality and the yogurt sauce cooling everything down appropriately, leaving a refreshing, lingering flavor of cucumber, cilantro, and cumin. It’s one of the more filling vegetarian entrees available for the money and a nice take on what was already a very good vegetarian entree.”
That sounds pretty good too.
Moving into Asia, you’ll find Mr. Kamal’s sort of across from the theater where UP! A Bird Adventure is presented:
The Snacks are largely holdovers from the Tasting Sampler days. Officially, just the Hummus is Plant-Based. I have a review of the Seasoned Fries and Chicken Dumplings as part of this post.
Both the Yak & Yeti sit-down restaurant and quick service are operated by Landry’s Inc., a third party, which may be part of why we don’t see any Plant-Based entrees or sides for adults. The Uncrustables and Frozen Lemonade, probably by chance, do make the leaf designation. The Sweet-and-Sour Tempura Shrimp entree recently made the official menu.
The Rib Tips are back to being the “Daily Special,” as they have been for most of the last three years.
I wouldn’t recommend either the Rib Tips or the Shrimp Tempura. We’ll take a look at both in a new update.
Here’s the menu at Drinkwallah across the way:
Interestingly, the Frozen Beverages don’t receive a leaf. But then, neither does water or chips, so I’m not sure how thorough they are. The Spicy Sweet Chili and Blaze flavors of Doritos actually are Vegan, as are Classic Lay’s Potato Chips.
Speaking of snacks, here’s what you can expect to find at the various ice cream carts. Your Mickey Bar is up to a cool six dollars.
Up at Thirsty River Bar & Snacks, this is what you can expect to find.
When the bar opened a little less than four years ago, the above is what you would have found. We have some pretty serious price increases in that time – 62.5% on the pre-made Dunbar Margarita, for example. Originally, a Bud Light would have set you back “just” six bucks, compared to the $8.25 that you’d pay today – an increase of 37.5%. Disney either believes those who booze it up will continue to do so regardless of the cost, or the pricing is trying to keep drinking to a minimum. Considering all of the other aggressive price increases that we’ve seen over the last few years, I’d have to go with the former – Disney is trying to milk people for all they’re worth.
DinoLand is up next with the regular Restaurantosaurus lunch and dinner menu:
I recently reviewed the regular menu at Restaurantosaurus, only for Disney to switch out just about everything just a few days later. This update has gone on too long, so we’ll have to relegate the Spicy Southwestern Burger and Grilled Chicken Salad to a separate update.
But the Plant-Based Burger is a slightly different take on what we’ve seen most recently, when it was a Black Bean Burger with Avocado Spread and Provolone Cheese, of all things.
Restaurantosaurus recently introduced a Burgers and Build Your Own Sundae dinner that you might be interested in, particularly if you’re on the Dining Plan, as the spendy meal counts as just one quick service credit and includes dessert, along with a significantly better sandwich than you’d receive if you were ordering off the regular menu. You can pull up my full review here. The Plant-Based Burger now comes with the leaf designation.
The Restaurantosaurus Lounge still exists in a world where Nomad Lounge also exists.
Here’s the menu:
I review the Lounge experience in this review. I suppose that if you’re in DinoLand, and can’t leave DinoLand, then it might make sense to stop here for a drink. But the atmosphere is Basically Restaurantosaurus, since it’s inside Restaurantosaurus, which is not where I would typically elect to spend any amount of time sipping $14 + tax + gratuity cocktails. On the plus side, the drinks should actually be made fresh here, unlike Thirsty River or Dawa Bar.
To the right of Restaurantosaurus is Dino-Bite Snacks:
This is probably one of the most underrated outlets on property, serving popular ice cream treats to lines that are typically nonexistent.
The Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Sandwich and Scrooge McDuck’s Billionaire Bacon Caramel Sundae are both worth going out of your way to try, and above average values as snack credits on the Disney Dining Plan.
Just outside of DinoLand in Discovery Island, you’ll find Trilo-Bites with an updated menu:
Gone is the Smokey Bones Chocolate Shake, which was served with Bourbon and Candied Bacon. In is a non-alcoholic Oreo Cookie Shake. The Kona Hanalei Draft is also new.
The Oreo Shake was more like Oreo Soup as it was dispensed from the same soft serve machines as a vanilla or chocolate ice cream. The provided paper straw doesn’t help the situation much, making it virtually impossible to suck up any of the shake. You’ll find yourself spooning up the cookies and cream glop with a spoon, which probably means you’d be better off with ice cream anyway. On the plus side, the serving is substantial and it’s finished nicely with the whipped cream, cookie dust, and cherry.
We’ve seen the Hanalei Island IPA before, most recently at the Polynesian Village Resort Club Level:
The beer is juicier than your typical IPA with guava, passion fruit, and orange juices covering up any perceived bitterness of the hops. That may be why the menu doesn’t even indicate that it’s an IPA. This is the first time that I think we’ve seen this on draft at the resort.
You’ll find the Isle of Java to the right of Flame Tree Barbecue:
It’s a bit of a cross between Kusafiri in Africa, Drinkwallah in Asia, and a random snack stand. Lines are typically nonexistent here too, and there’s usually a special pastry item offered. Currently, it’s miniature cinnamon rolls.
Next to the entrance to It’s Tough To Be A Bug, you’ll find this snack stand:
This reinforces the pricing that we’ve seen elsewhere and quotes the cost of the drink with the Canteen. Two pre-mixed drinks are also available, along with the $10 Safari Amber.
Overall, Animal Kingdom continues to offer a nice variety of above average quick service options, now bolstered by more plant-based alternatives. We’ll check out some options at the other Parks after taking a walk around.