We set out for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park to check out the Tasting Sampler, which is currently available between April 12th and 22nd. Typically, the website wouldn’t hone in on a detailed review of something with such a limited run, but we saw a similar promotion over Christmas 2k18 and it “feels” likely that a similar set of tastings will be available during busier times of the year. I’ll also be offering some insight into what these kiosks typically offer, SO THERE’S THAT, too.
The Tasting Sampler is, ostensibly, a way for Disney to push people away from the most popular quick services, during the busiest times of day, during the most crowded times of year, and instead point them towards some of the more under-performing kiosks that aren’t typically open. In order to facilitate that, they’re offering a small bonus. Specifically, if you commit to putting $50 towards the 40 outdoor food and beverage locations that participate in the Tasting Sampler, Disney will float you an extra $10 digital value card that’s valid at a variety of major indoor quick services for use after 5pm.
The fine print is a bit cumbersome to get through:
Your $10 bonus card is only good through April 22nd at Restaurantosaurus, Pizzafari, Flame Tree Barbecue, and Satu’li Canteen, so you’ll either need to leave some tummy space for something a little more substantial later in the day or plan on returning to use it before the 22nd of this month. The $50 you initially put towards the Tasting Sampler doesn’t expire, probably for legal reasons, so you should be able to use it at the kiosks after April 22nd should you be unable to spend it all in one or more swoops through the Park.
The following items are unique to the Tasting Sampler:
Terra Treats (Discovery Island)
- Tomato and Cheese Pizza
- Meatball Slider on Focaccia Roll
- Sausage and Peppers Pizza
Kusafiri Bakery (Africa)
- Chicken Curry
- Shrimp Curry
- Chicken & Shrimp Curry
Caravan Road (Asia)
- Tuna Tataki Bowl
- Pork Bao
Mr. Kamal’s (Asia)
- Fried Chicken Dumplings
- Kamal’s Fries with Dipping Sauces
Trilobites (DinoLand U.S.A.)
- Scrooge McDuck’s Billionaire Bacon Caramel Sundae
Dino-Bite Snacks (DinoLand U.S.A.)
- Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Sandwich
Smiling Crocodile (Discovery Island)
- House-smoked Pastrami Slider
- Pulled Pork Street Tacos
- Chips and Queso
But there’s a lot more locations where your Tasting Sampler digital currency is good:
- Mahindi (popcorn, glazed nuts, beer)
- Tamu Tamu Refreshments (Pineapple Dole Whip Cup, ice cream treats, beer)
- Dawa Bar (specialty beverages, cocktails, beer)
- Harambe Fruit Market (fruit, pretzels, grilled corn)
- Warung Outpost (pretzels, chips, margaritas)
- Drinkwallah (nuts, chips, frozen beverages)
- Chakranadi (pretzels, nuts, beer, fountain beverages)
- Anandapur Ice Cream Treats (soft-serve ice cream treats, fountain beverages)
- Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks (popcorn, ice cream treats, pretzels, cocktails, beer)
- Snack Cart near UP! A Great Bird Adventure (ice cream treats)
- Dino Diner (chili cheese dog, corn chip pie, churros, beer)
- Corn-ivores (popcorn, bottled beverages)
- Feeding Ground (popcorn, frozen lemonade, beer)
- Eight Spoon Café (macaroni and cheese with pulled pork or shrimp, pretzels)
- Isle of Java (coffee, pastries, chocolate donut holes)
- Snack Cart near Tiffins Restaurant (all-beef hot dogs, ice cream treats)
Pandora – The World of Avatar
- Pongu Pongu (pretzels, pineapple lumpia, specialty beverages)
- Beverage Cart near Pongu Pongu (chips, bottled beverages)
- Ice Cream Carts (ice cream treats, bottled beverages)
So if you’re visiting over the next week or so and planning on spending $50 on a variety of snacks and drinks, which includes beer, margaritas, and specialty cocktails at select locations, then you may want to commit the $50 in advance in order to pick up the $10 quick service bonus. You can always use it to order another beer, dessert, snack, etc. at that major quick service. In a way, it might even be construed as an opportunity to buy five beers and then get one free. It’s hard to argue against that.
The Tasting Sampler is almost like a miniature, Animal-Kingdom-ized version of the Food and Wine Festival made popular at Epcot. This kiosk, called Terra Treats and located on the walk towards Africa on Discovery Island, almost right across from the Creature Comforts Starbucks, would be right at home in the Africa Outpost section of World Showcase during a Festival.
Pricing, portion size, and scope aren’t dissimilar, either, though we’re going to see virtually no unique alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages offered. If the Tasting Sampler proves popular, this is assuredly something that will change in the future. Two other things of note on pricing – you don’t have to commit to the $50 digital card if you don’t want to – every item is available for cash or credit and just about everything is good for a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan. If you’re participating in that, then you can probably find quite a bit of value with some of the heartier snacks that cost $7+.
First up, we have the $6.49 “Meatball Slider – House-made Beef and Spinach Meatball Dressed in Marinara with Shaved Cheese on our House-made Focaccia Roll.”
This was one of my favorite items of the day – the Meatball was large, plump, moist, and flavorful underneath a couple thick shavings of nutty Parmesan and a mildly-spicy Marinara sauce with a nice little kick to it. The Roll was substantial enough to contain the Meatball and hold up to the sauce, while still maintaining a nice pillow-y softness and bread-y bite. The Spinach is a smart way to add volume and fiber, while helping to reduce calories and perhaps in Disney’s favor, cost.
While each piece of the Slider is pre-made, it is put together carefully by a friendly cast member who will be very excited that you’re making a stop. On the value front, we probably need to rationalize the cost by comparing the size and quality to the various Epcot Festivals. Picking up two of these individual sliders cost as much as most quick service meals at the Park and the sum amounts to about a third of the food. As far as this particular Slider, the quality is better than most quick service meals, but it may be hard to justify the cost. On the plus side, it is fun to bounce around the various kiosks, talk about what you want to order, and enjoy a lot of different flavors. If you’re looking at the Sampler, the Meatball Slider is definitely one that I would recommend. If each item that you pick up is about $7, then that means your $50 buy-in is good for about seven items. With the $10 bonus, you might be able to convince yourself that you’re offsetting the cost of the Sampler items by about $1.50 each, bringing the “real” cost of the Slider down to about $5.50. I think Disney may have been better off by simply reducing the cost of each item by that much, in turn making each more desirable to the casual passerby that isn’t going to read eight paragraphs of fine print before committing $50 towards Spinach Meatballs.
Next up, we have the $7 “Sausage and Peppers Pizza – Deep Dish Pizza Slice with Italian Sausage and Red Peppers.”
What we were served may be an anomaly with the sad state of the toppings, almost all of which are relegated into a shallow, narrow crevice towards the center of the “slice.” There’s only one small piece of sausage, less than an inch in diameter, hiding underneath a couple tiny pieces of and red and banana pepper. Even with better coverage, I’m not sure this does anything to differentiate itself from your typical quick service pizza. The crust, dense yet soft, is certainly an improvement. But the slices are made well in advance and just sit in a heater until someone purchases one. I’m surprised we were served such a sad slice considering we appeared to be the only people interested in the item in the entire Park. Being so small, it’s a pretty easy skip even given the best of scenarios. A cheese version is available for $6. Outside of Sampler Days, it’s unlikely that Terra Treats will be open, but a sad cardboard boat filled with a couple of allergy-friendly chicken wings is typically on the menu for $6.
The Shrimp Flatbread from nearby Pizzafari is a smarter buy. I review it in full here.
Kusafiri is one of the few participating locations that’s open virtually all day, every day, on the left side of Africa on the walk to Kilimanjaro Safaris.
For the Tasting Sampler, it’s all about Curry, with the addition of a cheap Moscato:
The sweet wine may not be “perfect,” but you could certainly spend more on grapes in the area with Dawa Bar’s selections now starting at $9.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the two available Curries were straight out of Tusker House.
Here’s what the Spicy Green Coconut Curry with Shrimp, under much harsher lighting conditions, looks inside the character buffet.
We also have the Cape Malay Curry Chicken over there.
You can pull up my complete Tusker House Lunch/Dinner review, including my thoughts on whether the Rivers of Light Dining Package makes sense, as part of this review.
Back to the Curry at hand, the $6.79 Sampler is a hefty portion that “feels” heavy in the hand, complete with four decent-size shrimp bathed in a thin, mildly spicy green curry sauce with a nice snap to each bite. I would have liked more substantial hunks of chicken in the other version – it “felt” like the thin, shredded pieces that we received had almost disintegrated in the thick sauce. I saw some better portions, so I think this was another instance of bad luck. The Basmati Rice in the center was just fine, adding heft to the dish and soaking up the flavors from the curries. Overall, this is a dish that I would recommend and would work as a hearty snack for one or a nice shareable portion for two. It’s also a great value on the Dining Plan; you’d be close to a meal with two of these.
Caravan Road is the name of one of the next two kiosks that we’ll see, both of which situate themselves on the walkway in between Africa and Asia. Theater in the Wild, where the UP! show takes place, is ahead on our left, followed by Yak & Yeti.
On the off-chance that it’s open under normal conditions, Caravan offers this proficient, yet under-sized, Teriyaki Beef Slider for $5.49.
During Tasting-Sampler-Season, we see a menu that leans towards an Asian flair:
Both items seem to be right out of the Food/Wine/Flower/Garden playbook.
First up, we have “$6.29 Tuna Tataki – Chilled Rice and Slaw served with Seared Tuna and Sake Soy-Glaze.”
We’re joined today by the Brickers of the excellent DisneyTouristBlog.com, and The Tom Corless, of…the notorious WDWNT.com, as we are on a lot of these types of endeavors. It’s a nice way to split costs, try a little of everything, and come away with a variety of opinions on each item. Typically, we come close to a consensus on most dishes. This was not one of them, with the Brickers complaining that the Tuna was tasteless and Corless not having anything more positive to say about it. I actually liked it – as far as I was concerned, the Soy Glaze mixed sweet and salty nicely and the Tuna was seared to a beautiful pink medium rare with just a little bit of togarashi to perk up the flavor of the mild Tuna. But I’m not Basically Japanese, so I may need to defer to our Kyoto experts on this one. At best, it’s probably just average Tuna, which may make it an easy skip, but anyone that’s liked the Hawaiian Tuna at Food/Wine over the last couple of years should enjoy this. I found the Chilled Rice refreshing and the vinegar-forward slaw adds an acidic punch along with the usual crunch. #teameasywdw
The $6.29 “Pork Bao – Shredded Pork in a Hoisin Sauce with Pickled Vegetables on a Steamed Bao Bun” is much easier to poo-poo.
The Pork, which there isn’t a tremendous amount of, is dry, and the flavorless bun doesn’t do much to improve the situation, particularly with a real lack of the promised Hoisin Sauce. A Bao Bun this size might be worth it if it’s executed perfectly, but that seems unlikely in this setting. The Pickled Vegetables are nice and crunchy though.
Here’s a look at Mr. Kamal’s from the opposite side.
Mr Kamal has offered his Seasoned Fries for a number of years now.
In what may seem like an odd pairing, they’ve been topped with Tzatziki Salad and Sriracha Ketchup for the same money. I wish you could have heard the audible groans when we realized that these six-dollar fries are now served naked alongside a quartet of dipping sauces.
And so we had to have them with Ketchup at the top, followed by the Tandoori Honey Mustard, Safron Aioli, and Honey Kimchi Ketchup. And they were actually a really good, basic snack, with fresh, crispy fries tossed in a zesty blend of spices alongside some varied, interesting sauces that were almost unbelievably satisfying. Disney fries are typically a pretty ho-hum accompaniment, but this version is delicious and I think most people will find the sauces a refreshing change of pace. There’s always ketchup, if not. I doubt Mr. Kamal’s will be awarded more than one Michelin star anytime soon, but these are a fun, shareable, no-nonsense snack. The portion is pretty sizable too if you want to take some time to count the number of fries that are probably in the boat.
You can dispense as much of any of the sauces as you like. I might show up next week with Tupperware.
Normally on the menu, you also have the opportunity to pick up these three very golden, very deep-fried dumplings with a crisp, thick batter that gives way to the juicy chicken and crunchy vegetables inside.
The Ponzu Sauce is appropriately tangy, but perhaps too vinegar-forward for most. There’s at least six times more sauce than you’ll need for what ends up being a pretty paltry portion of dumplings for the money, given the fact that this is a grab-and-go kiosk. I’d recommend them highly if it was five dumplings for the money, and probably say they’re an okay value at four dumplings for six dollars. But three for six bucks is rough. They’re potentially a decent use of a snack credit if you’re looking for something that isn’t sweet, but these barely register as a snack for the amount of food you’ll receive.
Where you head next on your culinary adventure may depend on whether you’re ready for desserts, or whether you have an attraction to visit in another area. The exclusive Tasting Sampler items at two our final three stops are going to be ice-cream-related. Smiling Crocodile here on Discovery Island continues with savory selections.
We’ll stop there first with three more Sampler opportunities.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the Crocodile open, but they’ve served different versions of these Open-faced Sandwiches during the last few years.
The $7 “Pastrami Beef Slider – House-smoked Pastami, Sauerkraut-Kale Slaw, and Whole Grain Mustard” arrives first.
The Pastrami carries a nice meaty, smoky flavor and there’s four decently-sized slices in between the soft, lightly-toasted bun. The Sauerkraut-Kale Slaw mixes creamy and vinegary perfectly with a nice crunch from the shredded vegetables. At seven bucks, it’s at least a dollar overpriced, even by Disney’s standards, but it’s nicely put together and one of the tastier items offered as part of the Sampler.
The $7 “Pulled Pork Street Tacos – Two Pulled Pork Tacos tossed in our House-made Sauce with Cotija Cheese, Pickled Onion, and Cilantro served on a Corn Tortilla” might have been the most underwhelming dish of the day. The meat, which there isn’t a whole lot of, is incredibly dry with none of the advertised House-made Sauce to speak of. The Cotija Cheese didn’t add as much flavor as you’d expect and the entire production ended up being overwhelmingly dry and herb-y. For some reason, there’s actually two tortillas under each set of toppings, making for an even dryer experience. It’s sort of like listening to me on a podcast, if you’ve ever had the misfortune of that experience. There certainly aren’t enough toppings to make four tacos here. You might fare better, but I doubt the portion of meat will get much bigger, making these a marginal value at best even given the best of scenarios.
They look pretty good though. If you didn’t actually taste them, you might even give them a positive review.
Your third option is $5 “Chips & Queso – Multicolored Tortilla Chips served with our White Queso.”
This is just about what you would expect, though the cheese sauce is perhaps a little better – thick, cheesy, and with a nice bit of spice. If for some reason you lose a bet and are forced to order the Street Tacos, you might add these. Doused in cheese sauce, the Pork Tacos are passable, at least as far as food I’d be happy to eat at 1:30am on a Saturday, if you catch my drift. With all of the tasty opportunities around Animal Kingdom, these should probably only attract those with simpler tastes. But even then, the pepper in the queso might be off-putting. I think the Fries from Mr. Kamal’s present more value, even if they’re a dollar more.
You’ll find Trilo-Bites on Discovery Island, in between Flame Tree Barbecue and the entrance to DinoLand.
The $6 “Scrooge McDuck’s Billionaire Bacon Caramel Sundae” is the Tasting Sampler exclusive, though I’m a bit surprised that it’s not always offered given the Dino-Bash! tie-in.
The Sundae is probably more sizable than it looks in the picture, with a thick layer of candied bacon in between two thick layers of vanilla soft serve, which is then topped with the gold-colored chocolate pearls, plenty of sweet caramel sauce, and the chocolate Scrooge McDuck coin topper. It ends up being a sweet, salty, crunchy, refreshing treat that I would recommend if you like the bacon element. If not, Dino-Bite Snacks, which we’ll get to in a moment, is probably a better stop. Of course, you can request the sundae without the bacon if you like the rest of the look.
Dino-Bite Snacks is situated to the right of Restaurantosaurus. Scrooge currently meets on the right.
The $7 “Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Sandwich – Strawberry Ice Cream served between Sugar Cookies rolled in Strawberry and Vanilla Cake Crumbs” is even more substantial.
I would think it has to be at least eight inches wide and stuffed with several scoops of ice cream before the second cookie is sandwiched on top.
Even if it doesn’t look that big. I got hungry in Asia and ate my banana – otherwise we would have it to compare.
The flavor of the Ice Cream Sandwich brought me right back to those Good Humor Strawberry Shortcake Bars that none of us may have enjoyed since the eight grade. The two cookies are soft and sweet with a ton of sugary sprinkles baked in. The ice cream is tossed in cake crumbs, bringing even more strawberry and vanilla flavor, in addition to making the texture more interesting. It was quite the treat and something that I would recommend searching out if it’s available.
Overall, the Animal Kingdom Tasting Sampler is almost identical to the Food and Wine Festival experience with some hits and some misses. Almost all of the food is over-priced given the portion size and what you could come away with for your money at a major quick service, but sometimes the items are higher quality than the majority of the fast food options available. But, and particularly if you’ve visited Animal Kingdom a number of times before, it’s fun to meander from location to location and try a lot of different things, discussing likes and dislikes, and enjoying the time in the Park together. On a first or second visit, or if it’s been a while, then you may want to commit to spending only the time and money that it takes to eat a proper meal at one of the better quick services or restaurants at the Park. Certainly, your money will take you further at Satu’li Canteen or Flame Tree. Among four people, we spent about $90 and left just as satisfied as if we had stopped for a quick service lunch that would probably have cost us closer to $70.
Our favorites, based on portion, price, and quality were, in order:
- Dino-Bite Snacks Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream Sandwich
- Kusafiri Bakery Chicken & Shrimp Curry
- Terra Treats Meatball Slider on Focaccia Roll
- Smiling Crocodile House-smoked Pastrami Slider
- Mr Kamal’s Fries with Dipping Sauces
- Dino-Bite Snacks Scrooge McDuck’s Billionaire Bacon Caramel Sundae
I’d specifically recommend against:
- Caravan Road Pork Bao
- Terra Treats Sausage and Peppers Pizza
- Smiling Crocodile Pulled Pork Street Tacos
Of course, tastes differ and occasionally, what you’ll be served may differ from ours. But hopefully the reviews offer some insight into what’s currently available and what we may see from the Park in the future.