Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers a wide variety of dining choices. Which ones are the best places to eat at Animal Kingdom?
Roy E. Disney said at Animal Kingdom’s official dedication ceremony on April 21, 1998, that “Disney’s Animal Kingdom, like the world itself, will evolve and grow. It’s truly a living thing.” Disney’s Animal Kingdom recently celebrated its 25th anniversary.
An Entirely New Kind of Theme Park
Disney’s Animal Kingdom combined Walt Disney’s love of animals, both real and imaginary, with exciting attractions, spectacular stage shows, and entertaining characters. For over 25 years, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has entertained guests with this unique theme park.
Everything in Disney’s Animal Kingdom takes inspiration from nature and the animal world. For example, the park icon – the towering Tree of Life – features 337 sculpted animals in its trunk. Similarly, building architecture, light poles, benches, and numerous other elements feature animal designs that range from subtle to dramatic. According to Walt Disney World, only at Animal Kingdom are animals so richly and creatively celebrated.
Over the last 25 years, the park has continually evolved with new attractions, entertainment, and even entirely new lands such as Asia and Pandora – The World of Avatar, giving guests new reasons to visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Central Florida. Along with this, the dining options have evolved at Disney’s Animal Kingdom over the years.
Best Places to Eat at Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers traditional theme park cuisine and many non-traditional options. The choices can feel overwhelming with all-the-counter service, table service, and food & beverage kiosks. One will not go hungry at Animal Kingdom. However, some choices are better than others at Animal Kingdom. So, what do you select when only visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom for a day or two? Found below, we made a list of the best places to eat at Animal Kingdom to help with your quest for quality dining.
Counter Service: Best Places to Eat at Animal Kingdom
Using Disney terminology, counter service dining involves a few things to distinguish it from sit-down style table service. Counter service restaurants are where you walk up to a counter, order and pay for your food, pick it up, and then take it to a table. This process may change slightly with mobile ordering, but counter service options do not involve wait staff.
Disney sometimes uses the term quick service instead of counter service in their explanation, so make sure to understand that. These terms are interchangeable. This can be a little confusing for some guests. We find It easier to think of any restaurant without wait staff as counter service. Also, unlike table service dining, you cannot make advanced dining reservations at counter service dining options.
Before breaking down some of the best places to eat at Animal Kingdom, we should mention a fabulous dining option at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Nomad Lounge. For our purposes, this location does not fit the previously stated criteria.
This highly sought-after dining option opens at 11:00 a.m. daily at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The Nomad Lounge resides near the table service option of Tiffins Restaurant.
The Nomad Lounge
The Nomad Lounge offers an oasis of a sort from the hustle and bustle of theme park activity. This relaxing lounge area features excellent beverages and high-quality appetizers.
As mentioned, the Nomad Lounge will draw a crowd. For example, we were at Disney’s Animal Kingdom on a Saturday. The wait to enter the Nomad Lounge was over an hour that day. This was at 11:02 a.m. The wait became longer as the day went on. The My Disney Experience mobile app provides a way to sign up for the walk-up list here.
Many experienced Walt Disney World visitors stop at the Nomad Lounge whenever they visit Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Even though it does not fit the counter or table service category, it must be listed as one of the best places to eat at Animal Kingdom.
Best Traditional Counter Service and Kiosks at Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers many counter-service dining options. We will cover table service later in this resource.
The Best: Satu’li Canteen
Without a doubt, the best counter service dining option at Animal Kingdom resides in Pandora – The World of Avatar. Okay, maybe some will disagree, but Satu’li Canteen ranks as the best counter service dining inside any Walt Disney World theme park.
As Disney says about Satu’li Canteen, “Between your aerial adventures on Avatar Flight of Passage and family-friendly voyages aboard Na’vi River Journey, tuck inside the Quonset-hut structure called Satu’li Canteen—long ago an RDA mess hall, now a peaceful dining facility adorned with Na’vi art and cultural items.”
Though Satu’li Canteen does not serve breakfast, it opens daily at 10:00 a.m. We have enjoyed some of the excellent counter service options here for late non-traditional breakfasts, in any case.
The ordering method at Satu’li Canteen functions like a Subway, Chipotle, or even Blaze Pizza over at Disney Springs, with guests moving down a food assembly line with cast members making their made-to-order bowl. Guests select their protein, sauce, and base when ordering a bowl. We are partial to the rice options when we order, but other base options exist, like potato hash and salad.
Guests may choose to mobile order via the My Disney Experience mobile app. The mobile ordering process also allows guests to select the items they want with their order.
Not to be overlooked, Satu’li Canteen serves Cheeseburger Pods. This bao bun-style item can be purchased as an adult entrée with two cheeseburger pods and chips. Also, the kid’s meal version includes one pod. If you ever wanted to know what a cheeseburger tastes like in bao bun form, Satu’li Canteen needs to be a stop on your next visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
With these pods, bowls, and some enjoyable desserts, the dining choices at Satu’li Canteen are nearly limitless. Satu’li Canteen offers a spacious indoor dining area and an outdoor seating area. For soft drink fans, the sodas here come with free refills while you are dining at Satu’li Canteen.
Based on these positives and more, we recommend Satu’li Canteen as the best place to eat at Animal Kingdom in terms of counter service options. You will find healthy dishes blended with flavor-filled spices, wholesome grains, and farm-fresh vegetables. Unlike most counter service options at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Satu’li Canteen provides great tasting, healthy and vegan-friendly items.
Best of the Rest of Counter Service Dining
As you might expect, Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers some counter service locations with standard theme park fast food. We struggle to recommend those. So, Pizzafari and Restaurantosaurus will not make our list of best places to eat at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
We think you can find far better options for counter service at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For example, the pizza at Terra Treats, a food and beverage kiosk in the Discovery Island area of Animal Kingdom, costs less than at Pizzafari and tastes better.
Also, veterans of Animal Kingdom will notice we do not list Flame Tree Barbecue in the best places to eat at Animal Kingdom list. We feel better barbecue places exist on Walt Disney World property. However, Flame Tree Barbecue is an okay option.
Yak & Yeti Local Foods Café
Yak & Yeti Local Foods Café leads our list of the best of the rest. This walk-up counter service option in Asia provides quality breakfast, lunch, and dinner options. Being in the Asia area of Animal Kingdom, this selection serves a range of counter service style Asian food.
This spot can become popular at standard mealtimes. Still, this place offers lots of outdoor seating. We do wish you good luck finding a well-shaded place to eat, in any case.
The breakfast menu serves as an improvement on the standard Disney breakfast biscuit sandwich. Yak & Yeti Local Food Café serves sausage and eggs English muffins, and breakfast burritos with surprisingly good hash brown bites.
The lunch and dinner consist primarily of Asian cuisine. We recommend egg rolls, teriyaki beef bowls, and vegetable tikki masala. This counter service location also sells a variety of hamburgers, including an American Kobe Cheeseburger. We suggest these burgers over the ones at Restaurantosaurus.
Harambe Market, in the African area, provides dining for the carnivore in your group. Okay, there is one plant-based option here. However, if you like ribs and chicken, Harambe Market calls your name.
These meats receive a touch of exotic spice. This place will not satisfy people looking for burgers and fries. However, those looking for non-traditional counter service should explore this African-themed food area. Like many counter service options at Animal Kingdom, this place has open-air seating for enjoying your food.
Though the menu has been reduced since the theme parks reopened in 2020, Harambe Market still offers a step-up regarding counter service at Disney. If kids are included in your group, Harambe Market sells the typical nuggets and “uncrustables” for them.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom contains several kiosks and coffee stands. For those needing just a snack or a coffee to keep you going, those can be the best dining at Animal Kingdom at the time. However, we feel that Satu’li Canteen, Yak & Yeti Local Foods Café, and Harambe Market make the best dining options at Animal Kingdom for counter service.
Table Service: Best Places to Eat at Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom contains four table service dining options. These are Rainforest Café, Tusker House, Tiffins Restaurant, and Yak & Yeti.
The Yak & Yeti table service should not be confused with the previously mentioned counter service version. All four table service options take advance dining reservations. We recommend considering making a reservation for these dining options.
All four table service options at Disney’s Animal Kingdom provide good food. Even the weakest option, Rainforest Café, offers valid reasons to visit. Rainforest Café at Animal Kingdom offers a reasonably priced Walt Disney World breakfast, and many kids love Rainforest Café. However, Rainforest Café does not make our list of the best places to eat at Animal Kingdom.
The upscale Tiffins Restaurant provides an excellent option for those looking for authentic signature dining at Animal Kingdom. This restaurant is in the Discovery Island area of Animal Kingdom. The menu features items like Spiced Chickpea Falafel, Charred Octopus, Tamarind-braised Short Rib, and Surf and Turf. The price point exceeds what most theme park visitors usually expect to pay for dining. We love Tiffins but feel it should not make the list of best places to eat at Animal Kingdom based on price point. We would steer people to the other two remaining table service options.
Tusker House in the Africa area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom offers character dining all day. This African-inspired buffet provides some excellent items for guests to enjoy.
Tusker House has four different dining room areas with unique African-inspired décor. The buffet area looks like an outdoor African bazaar or marketplace.
Character dining happens all day here. Safari Donald serves as the star of the operation. Of course, he often allows other friends like Daisy, Goofy, Mickey, and Minnie to join in the safari fun. In terms of character dining, Tusker House provides the best combination of food quality and characters inside the four Walt Disney World theme parks.
We highly recommend the breakfast experience here. The buffet offers enough standard breakfast menu items along with some more exotic African-inspired options. We also feel the character experience operates better at breakfast time.
The lunch and dinner buffet menu features some more exotic dishes. Examples include spit-roasted Tandoori chicken, green curry shrimp, flavorful chicken curry, and stewed African vegetables. You can find healthier options and tasty menu items you may have never tried before during lunch and dinner.
This table service restaurant appeals to a wide range of guests. The breakfast buffet costs $45 per adult, a typical price for character breakfasts around Walt Disney World. The lunch and dinner buffet costs $14 more.
Yak & Yeti
Once again, this should not be confused with the Yak & Yeti Local Foods Café. Yak & Yeti offers table service dining in the Asian area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Landry’s Restaurant Group operates Yak & Yeti. Landry’s also runs the Rainforest Café locations and T-Rex Café. As opposed to those more kid-centric options, Yak & Yeti offers some of the best table service dining options in the Walt Disney World theme parks. Well, the best table service dining that most people are willing to pay would be more exact. The food at Tiffins Restaurant is better, for example.
Yak & Yeti serves a mostly pan-Asian-style menu. This place does not offer breakfast. However, the lunch and dinner menus include small plates, shareable appetizers, soups, salads, noodle bowls, grilled entrees, and desserts. This restaurant also offers an extensive kid’s menu, several vegetarian choices, and many alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Yak & Yeti uses a variety of Southeast Asian décor to set the scene for your dining experience. Those that love Asian food will love this place. Those that do not love Asian food will still be okay here based on the large amount of selection on the menu.
Yak & Yeti should be considered something other than an inexpensive meal. The prices here have risen noticeably over the last few years. Yet, in most cases, the quality and portion size move this table service option to the list of best places to eat at Animal Kingdom.
We apologize if this list of best places to eat at Animal Kingdom made you hungry. Still, having a positive dining experience during your Walt Disney World vacation makes everything slightly better.
If this inspires you to plan your next Walt Disney World Vacation, the staff at Pixie Vacations will be happy to help you at no cost. Walt Disney World compensates them after your vacation has been completed. Also, if you want more information about visiting Walt Disney World, we have placed links to other resources below.
Being a Disney VIP, on a budget