Our fast food culinary adventure around Animal Kingdom concludes with a look at what is still, arguably, the best quick service at the Park.
Satu’li Canteen in Pandora probably gives the barbecue a good run for its money, though as we learned in this update, we’ve already seen a number of changes to the menu. If you preferred the fish, one of the three bases that are no longer offered, or either of the steamed bao buns, then your favorites may no longer be offered. Such is life in the fast lane.
Of course, Flame Tree has seen a number of changes over the years too. Check out the color scheme on this menu from 2011, back when a Half Slab of St. Louis Ribs with Baked Beans and Coleslaw would have set you back just $10.69. That’s basically the equivalent of 5-cent gum in Disney dollars.
Here’s the current menu with what may be a more serious color scheme and photography that seems to be improved on a number of fronts.
I would first call your attention to my favorite item on the menu in the $12 “Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork Topped with Onion Rings and Coleslaw.”
It tastes better than it has any right to and everyone that I’ve recommended the dish to personally has either enjoyed it or been too nervous to tell me they didn’t like it, probably because most Disney bloggers are very intimidating individuals. The proportions are just right – there’s enough of the sweet barbecue sauce to add plenty of tang without getting in the way of the creamy, comforting quality of the cheesy pasta. The Coleslaw is on the dry side, which is a good thing in this context, and provides a little bit of a crunch to as many bites as you’d like. There’s also the two onion rings on top, adding a crispy, piquant quality to the overall flavor profile. There’s a surprising attention to detail as well – someone carefully drizzled barbecue sauce over the top of the onion rings after delicately placing them on top of what ends up being an incredibly filling meal. These days, I’m not one that typically has any trouble polishing off even the biggest of Disney spreads, but Erin and I shared one of these along with an order of onion rings and couldn’t finish the thing. So I think it’s a pretty shareable entree as well. You could always pair it with one of the more traditional barbecue items.
Speaking of Onion Rings, the $4.49 side is one of the best dining values property-wide.
There’s more than a dozen rings here, each with a nice strip of onion encased in a super-crispy batter that adds a satisfying crunch to each and every bite. I like to dip mine in Flame Tree’s Spicy Barbecue Sauce.
Here’s a terrible shot of the most expensive quick service entree at Animal Kingdom in the $19 “Ribs, Chicken and Pulled Pork Sampler – Smoked Ribs, Chicken, and Pulled Pork served with Signature Baked Beans and Coleslaw.” It’s certainly worthwhile if you’re on the Dining Plan, but I think I’d stick with the single-item entree choices if you’re paying out of pocket. The Sampler is certainly plenty of food, but you come away with a small side of the Pork, a quarter of a Chicken, and about a third of the Ribs that you’d receive with the regular order, if that.
Here’s the $13.29 “Half Chicken – Marinated Slow-smoked Chicken served with Signature Baked Beans and Coleslaw.” There isn’t anywhere near as much competition on the chicken front with Cosmic Ray’s and Fairfax Fare no longer serving it, but even in almost complete darkness, I think the plump quality of the juicy chicken is evident. The spice rub is delicious and you don’t have to eat the coleslaw.
At $18.29, the St. Louis Ribs Dinner is another great value on the Dining Plan, but I think it’s worthwhile out of pocket too given the quality and quantity of the meat. Twelve meaty ribs is a substantial amount of food. Cornbread comes and goes at Flame Tree – it’s currently not offered, probably because they’re using the ovens on the Macaroni and Cheese instead.
Flame Tree can typically keep up with demand, but will occasionally fall behind. Mobile order is an option and if you’re willing to wait in line and happen to carry a Tables in Wonderland card, you can save 20%. Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus also accept the discount, which is rare for quick services.
Here’s the back of the menu.
Flame Tree has also moved to the Seasonal Cupcake realm. Its current offering is this Salted Caramel Apple Crisp, which is different than what we’ve seen elsewhere.
Previously, it was this Banana Maple Cake and before that, Key Lime Pie. According to my review:
The texture is a little strange, particularly with the goopy layer of fruity gel on top mixing in with very dense, very gritty layers of banana and cake with the lingering flavors of maple and mush lasting much longer than any of us would probably like. The meringue on top was good though.
So it doesn’t sound like we’re missing much.
Flame Tree also benefits from its expansive seating section overlooking Discovery River Lagoon. If you’d prefer to sit further away from people, there’s plenty of additional covered and uncovered seating away from the water.
Raised areas also offer improved vantage points to take pictures of other people’s cupcakes. Or you can just cut the cupcake out of the menu picture and paste it into another picture, creating the “reflection” on the water yourself where appropriate.
To the right of Flame Tree is Isle of Java, which almost never sports a wait longer than a minute or two.
It’s a good opportunity to grab a quick drink or pastry.
The Smiling Crocodile is the name of this kiosk located around the corner from Flame Tree, almost across from the entrance to It’s Tough To Be A Bug.
The Crocodile has offered a number of items over the years, including these two salads, neither of which really worked.
Then it was Cheese Grits with Barbecued Pulled Pork and a Chicken Leg with Potato Salad. Both worked better.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the kiosk operating with its regular menu, which is now the above. The original debuted about two years ago and somewhat surprisingly, the prices of the two remaining BLTs haven’t changed. It could have something to do with the fact that it may not have served either of those items since the most recent price increases back in October.
According to my review of the $5.29(?) “Turkey BLT Sandwich – Open-faced Turkey Sandwich made with Thick-cut Smoked, House-roasted Bacon on Ciabatta Bread:”
First up, the good: The ciabatta bread underneath is lightly grilled before being served and is soft, chewy, and flavorful and serves as a nice base for the various toppings. The bacon, which is present on each selection, also offers a salty, chewy, meaty bite to it that is far better than anything the various quick services are offering for breakfast. Maybe they will be able to incorporate the bacon into some dishes that work a little better…
Unfortunately though, the slippery lettuce that’s probably not the right style for this sort of thing slides right off the top and the loose pieces of largely flavorless turkey are going along for the ride. It’s also somewhat difficult to chew the bread, tear off a piece of bacon with your teef, catch some of the lettuce and turkey in your mouth as it tumbles towards the ground, and with no spread to speak of, the whole ensemble is on the dry side. On the plus side, it’s a lot of food for a snack credit and at least somewhat healthy. It wouldn’t be my choice to return to though.
The $5.29 “Pimento-Cheese BLT Sandwich – Open-faced Sandwich made with Hand-crafted Pimento Cheese, Thick-cut Smoked, House-roasted Bacon on Ciabatta Bread Topped with Chives” was my favorite of the original trio with the mildly spicy, creamy cheese contrasting nicely with the saltiness of the bacon on top of the chewy bread. I’m not sure the tomatoes are of much use here, but they’re going to fall off as soon as you try to eat it anyway.
I thought they would all work better with the ingredients served in a short roll. Even cutting the sandwiches up with a plastic fork and knife is a little awkward as the bread is thick and the toppings are all liable to spill off amidst the commotion.
Eight Spoon Cafe, on the other hand, is typically open each day and offers three Baked Macaroni & Cheese options that are also prepared at Flame Tree Barbecue. The Pulled Pork and Shrimp options are good uses of snack credits on the Dining Plan and work as filling, comforting snacks otherwise. The portion is usually about a fourth of what you’d get from the Pulled Pork Mac & Cheese over at Flame Tree Proper, making that a better value out of pocket if you’re willing to share or looking for something much larger.
And finally, we close things out with “The Feeding Ground,” a name that makes me mildly uncomfortable, particularly when the menu is served up inside of this creature’s mouth. But it’s another opportunity to pick up some popcorn or a beverage.
Overall, Animal Kingdom has a lot of solid options and hopefully our detailed discussion has helped you hone in on some choices that make the most sense for your group.
We may take a break from fast food or we might just delve right into Magic Kingdom, where I’m guessing the results won’t be quite so positive.