Flame Tree BBQ is the best Counter Service restaurant in Animal Kingdom. Actually, it’s right up there with Sunshine Seasons and Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe as the best Counter Service restaurant in Walt Disney World.
It’s no secret that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is my least favorite of the United States Disney theme parks (long story made short: its theming is great, but is no substitute for substance, which DAK severely lacks). Heck, I even prefer Typhoon Lagoon to it! That said, Flame Tree BBQ is one of the real highlights of the park, and a restaurant I’ll rarely pass up if Sarah will let us eat there.
I love Flame Tree BBQ for a number of reasons, but reason #1 is Smoked Specialty #1. The 1/2 Slab of St. Louis Ribs, served with baked beans and coleslaw. At over $10, it’s the most expensive menu item, but it’s seriously better than some Table Service meals we’ve had at Walt Disney World, and absolutely worth the money. Flame Tree BBQ might as well not even have any other menu items, because there’s really no point in ordering anything besides the ribs (okay, in all fairness, I’ve never tried anything besides the ribs, but they’re so good that I can’t bring myself to order anything else.
If a delicious plate of smoked meat isn’t enough to propel this restaurant to the top of your Disney’s Animal Kingdom “Must Do” list, then dine at Flame Tree BBQ for the amazing details of the restaurant and the ambiance. If you’ve dined at Flame Tree BBQ before, you might be thinking, “ambiance?” as that’s what I would have said until recently participating in the Great Disney Scavenger Hunt, which included several Flame Tree BBQ questions.
As a result, I noticed the very morbid predator-prey motif of the restaurant that is carried out throughout the seating area, and is really cool–and even subtle in places. It’s interesting to think about the Guest’s place in the whole process, especially as you essentially become an active part of the Circle of Life in a restaurant actively hinting at that circle.
The great ambiance doesn’t stop there, as the secluded dining area also offers great views of Expedition Everest across Discovery River. Eating an early or late lunch in this seating area is especially enjoyable and tranquil, and really takes you away from the hustle and bustle of being in a Disney theme park. With the abundant jungle foliage and real-looking mountain across the water, it feels like anything but a theme park eating-area!
Overall, Flame Tree BBQ is the full experience. A flagship menu item that everyone (even vegetarians!) will enjoy, and additional menu items that are probably excellent as well. Wonderful ambiance and views, and intricately understated theming. All of this combines to make Flame Tree BBQ one of the top Walt Disney World Counter Service restaurants, and to give Sunshine Seasons a serious run for its money as the best counter service restaurant!
Overall Score on the Disney Dining Brick-o-meter: 10/10
What do you think of Flame Tree BBQ? Best counter service at Walt Disney World? Share your thoughts in the comments!