Boma Review

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Boma – Flavors of Africa is a buffet in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World. This review features photos and thoughts about dinner at Boma. The menu at Boma features a wide variety of American and African cuisine, and features both adventurous cuisine and more conventional options, making it one of the most diverse buffets at Walt Disney World. Arguably the best buffet at Walt Disney World, participates in the Disney Dining Plan, and accepts Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount. While it’s not a great use of a Disney Dining Plan table service credit if you’re trying to maximize your value on the Disney Dining Plan, it isn’t a bad option either.

We’ve dined at Boma for dinner on a few different occasions, and each time have been really full. It’s certainly not the cheapest buffet on property, but we think it’s the best due to its huge range of high quality options, especially the soups, meats, and desserts (especially those delicious zebra domes pictured above). It’s not a character buffet, so if that matters to you but you still want the kids of foods found at Boma, we recommend lunch at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom (the park) instead. In terms of cuisine, it’s like Boma-lite.

Boma is located on the lower level of Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House, adjacent to Jiko – The Cooking Place (one of our favorite restaurants at Walt Disney World) and The Mara (one of the best counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World). With this hard-hitting trio plus the often-overlooked Sanaa in Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Kidani Village, Animal Kingdom Lodge has arguably the best dining of any resort hotel at Walt Disney World. Only the Grand Floridian really gives it a run for its money. (more…)

2014 Disney Dining Plan Costs, Info & Tips

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Disney World’s 2014 standard Disney Dining Plan costs $60.64/night. Disney’s cheapest meal plan (besides “Free Dining” which is available for these dates) is the Quick Service Plan, which includes 2 counter service meals per day and a snack for $41.99/night. The Deluxe Disney Dining Plan costs $109.53/night for significantly more. We’ll get to what each version of the Disney Dining Plan includes and whether the Disney Dining Plan is worth the money below. (Note: Disney Dining Plan prices for 2014 increased again in March 2014, so if you find lower prices listed on another site, they’re no longer accurate.) First, some basics.

For those who are unfamiliar with it, the Disney Dining Plan is a prepaid meal plan offered at Walt Disney World so guests can budget their dining costs in advance and (potentially) save money. The various plans provide guests with a set number of credits that may be redeemed for snacks, counter service (Disney-speak for fast food) meals, table service meals, or signature dining (Disney-speak for fine dining) meals. These credits are stored on the guest’s MagicBand or Key to the World room key, with the receipt provided after redeeming the credits indicating how many credits remain.

The credits don’t have a set dollar value–for example, a table service credit may be redeemed at an inexpensive restaurant for a water, sandwich, and ice cream dessert that would normally cost $23 total, or it can be redeemed at a nicer restaurant for a smoothie, swordfish steak, and Copetta Sotto Bosco that would normally cost $51 total. (These are actual examples from Walt Disney World restaurants, demonstrating the big difference in value a credit may have depending upon at which restaurant and for which menu items it’s redeemed). A lot of information exists about the Disney Dining Plan, with most focusing on how to best utilize these credits so you get better value out of the credits. In fact, our most popular articles concerning the Disney Dining Plan are our Top 10 Restaurants for Maximizing Table Service Credit Value, Top 10 Restaurants for Maximizing Counter Service Credit Value, and Tips for Maximizing Snack Credit Value. Frequent users of the Disney Dining Plan become pretty adept at getting more bang for their buck on the Dining Plan, but some advance planning, first-time visitors to Walt Disney World can also make the most of the Dining Plan.

From time to time, the Disney Dining Plan is offered for free to Walt Disney World guests who purchase a vacation package (including hotel and park tickets). This is known as the “Free Dining” promotion, and is incredibly popular with Disney fans. This promotion is not always offered, but you can see whether there are currently any dates for free dining by clicking here. Remember that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If “Free Dining” is available, you forfeit another discount that might be available (for example, a percentage off discount on the hotel room). Compare the “Free” Dining Plan to other discounts. With “Free Dining,” you pay rack rate for the hotel room and full price for a minimum number of tickets. For most people, Free Dining is the best discount offered by Walt Disney World. Whether Free Dining is best depends upon party size and resort tier (it’s less likely to be a good deal for smaller parties staying in Deluxe Resorts), so do the math and compare the Free Disney Dining Plan promotion to other available discounts–if there are other available discounts. (more…)

Pepper Market Review

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Pepper Market is a counter service, “buffeteria” style food court in Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World. The menu features a wide variety (and we do mean wide) of American and Mexican cuisine. It has one of the most expansive menus of ‘things we’d actually want to eat’ of any counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World. Pepper Market participates in the Disney Dining Plan, but does not accept Tables in Wonderland for a 20% discount. It is one of the best uses (currently, second-best) of a counter service credit on the Disney Dining Plan.

Over the last few years, Pepper Market has had a bit of an identity crisis, going from standard counter service food court to buffet, back to food court. It has also tested out a variety of different menu items. For a location that most theme park guests will never experience, it seems that Disney has given Pepper Market a lot of attention. This is likely because of its strong convention demographic, and either trying to make a good impression on business travelers in the hopes of luring them back, or simply trying to find a good balance of efficiency and quality in this spot that can be quite popular during events.

Whatever the reason, all guests of Pepper Market are the winners. Pepper Market has a strong, varied menu with plenty of enticing choices and at a full range of price points, which can make it appealing from a value perspective to those on the Disney Dining Plan and those paying out of pocket. Most important, the food is good and unique.

Let’s take a look at the restaurant and the food… (more…)

Sunshine Seasons Review

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Epcot’s Sunshine Seasons is one of the best counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World. The Sunshine Seasons menu offers a wide variety of choices, including many healthier ones, with some of the best desserts at Walt Disney World. Along with Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, it’s one of our sentimental favorites for Walt Disney World counter service dining. Whereas Cosmic Ray’s is mostly a sentimental favorite, we have to say that Sunshine Seasons is also great from the perspective of the food.

Sunshine Seasons participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a counter service meal. Like most in-park counter service restaurants, it does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card. If you are on the Disney Dining Plan and want to eat here, you’re in luck, because as this restaurant is an exceptional value on the Disney Dining Plan (to read about the other best restaurants for getting the best bang for buck on the Dining Plan, click here).

About the only place where Sunshine Seasons stumbles, and that’s just a little, is in terms of ambiance. The seating area is just a large open-air area in the middle of The Land pavilion, and it can get loud in here at lunch time as people leave Soarin’ and immediately stop at Sunshine Seasons. It’s also a fairly plain seating area, and almost reminiscent of a mall food court. This is too bad, as there used to be a beautiful fountain in the middle of the dining area that made the ambiance more interesting. Still, we really enjoy dining here in the middle of the afternoon or late at night when it’s not nearly as busy, and the background music and balloons overhead give Sunshine Seasons a deceptive sense of calm.

We’ve had most of the major menu items at Sunshine Seasons, but going through each of them would be a bit of a chore. Instead, we’ll take a look at some of the highlights, and offer our takes on the best things to order. It’s actually a bit humorous (to us, at least) that we’ve been to Sunshine Seasons so many times. Thanks to all of the great restaurants at Epcot, we had not discovered Sunshine Seasons until our Summer 2009 Walt Disney World vacation! Since then, we’ve been to Sunshine Seasons 3-4 times per year.

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In my opinion, by far the highlight of the menu is the Oak-grilled Rotisserie Chicken. The first time I tried it, I was instantly hooked. The chicken was tender and moist (miracles at a quick service restaurant) with plenty of flavor. At that time, it came with mashed potatoes. Those were not the standard ‘instant’ type you find at many quick service restaurants, but were soft with a buttery and herb flavor. (NOTE: you can still get the chicken with the mashed potatoes, just specify that’s the side you want when you order!) We were shocked at the quality of the meal for the price. Since that trip, we make it a point to eat at Sunshine Seasons once per trip. For all the praise World Showcase gets for its dining options, we feel that Sunshine Seasons is the best counter service restaurant in Epcot.

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On our honeymoon in June 2010, I made it my goal to give some of the other options there a try besides the chicken and key lime pie, so I opted for the sandwich you see pictured, the Turkey and Monterrey Jack Cheese on Foccacia. The sandwich was great; nice and “fluffy” for lack of a better term (yet filling), and the dessert was rich yet good (not nearly as good as the key lime pie). Unfortunately, that delicious sandwich is has been replaced by a lesser sandwich, the Turkey and Monterey Jack on Ciabatta. 

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In fairness, virtually the only change to the sandwich is in terms of bread. The new sandwich still has the Chipotle Mayonnaise, and is still quite excellent (the current version is picture above). While the Cast Members serving you will not indicate this, you can mix and match sides. The default side for the sandwich is often a pasta or potato salad. If you don’t speak up, you will receive this side by default. We highly recommend ordering the sandwich from its station with no side, and then walking over to the grill station (where mashed potatoes are served), and ordering a side of mashed potatoes. Your order will still be treated as a sandwich combo with one side. Seriously, these mashed potatoes are the stuff dreams are made of. Opting for a side other than the mashed potatoes would be a grave error.

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Sarah also really likes the Mongolian Beef with Vegetable Fried Rice. She finds it to be a flavorful, somewhat healthy option. While I agree that this is a good entree, it pales in comparison to some of the other choices.

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Some other choices we like at Sunshine Seasons include the Sweet-and-Sour Chicken and Slow Roasted Pork Chop. Sunshine Seasons used to have a shockingly good grilled salmon entree (shockingly good for a counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World), but we haven’t seen that recently. It seems to have been replaced by a fish of the day. We have yet to try this, but are curious as to whether it’s as good.

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Sunshine Seasons is also great for dessert. Our number one pick is the Key Lime Pie. This is one of the best desserts at any counter service restaurant. Everything about it, from the rich tangy flavor to the lightly singed cream on top (a nice touch, we thought), to even the excellent graham cracker crust make it a dessert to be reckoned with.

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The Key Lime Pie is not the only dessert that’s excellent at Sunshine Seasons. We rate the Strawberry Shortcake and Chocolate Mousse Cake very highly, too. It’s large in size, is moist, and has some delicious whipped cream frosting. Plus, it has a lot of strawberries, so it must be healthy! These are our two go-to desserts at Sunshine Seasons, but they aren’t the only ones we like.

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Although the selection rotates (we haven’t seen our favorite, the Asian Chocolate Cheesecake in a while), the cheesecake at Sunshine Seasons is also typically pretty good.

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The Tiramisu is also a nice, light snack that tastes excellent. The only downside to it is that it’s smaller than the other desserts and more expensive, so it’s not quite as good of a value. We’ve tried numerous other desserts at Sunshine Seasons, and most have been very good. Our one recommendation with regard to desserts here are to go for something other than cupcakes or cookies. You can find those anywhere–Sunshine Seasons excels at the more “advanced” counter service desserts.

On top of the food quality, we’ve found the restaurant’s location to be perfect for our touring style, as usually we can use our first FastPass for Soarin’, eat lunch, then head for a relaxing voyage on Livin’ with the Land after lunch. Of course, there have been a couple of times where we’ve been so hungry (or arrived to the park a little late), and Sunshine Seasons made a good stop right after picking up our Soarin’ FastPasses.

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Sunshine Seasons also is one of the few Epcot restaurants that serves breakfast. There are only two options: the breakfast platter and the breakfast panini. The platter is the standard breakfast plate you can find at a number of restaurants around Walt Disney World.

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The breakfast panini is a bit more unique, but unique does not equal good. To be honest, both of these breakfast options are fairly lousy. We aren’t big fans of the “standard” Walt Disney World counter service breakfasts, as most taste like they have fake eggs, rubbery bacon, and just are not that good. Sunshine Seasons is no exception to this. We don’t knock it down any points for their breakfasts because it’s basically just the default breakfast to be avoided, and we’re only mentioning it so you know not to expect more. Still, it would be nice to see a breakfast menu as ambitious as the lunch and dinner menu at Sunshine Seasons.

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Overall, we absolutely love Sunshine Seasons. The food at lunch and dinner are unique, (mostly) healthy options and our memories of it are cherished. While the atmosphere is a bit chaotic at times, Sunshine Seasons still always manages to seem tranquil when we’re there. The unique and healthy food is also a big plus. For me, this is no doubt because of its location in The Land pavilion, a pavilion I associate with the earth and healthy living and eating. Even if the food isn’t actually good for you, it sure seems like it is!

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While the food obviously isn’t on par with Walt Disney World’s great table service restaurants, it does come close to some of the lower end table service restaurants at Walt Disney World. Quite a feat, since Sunshine Seasons is certainly not comparable in price to any table service restaurants! In its category, Sunshine Seasons is one of the best-performing restaurants at Walt Disney World. It’s right up there, I think, with a lower-tier table service favorite of mine, Beaches and Cream at Disney’s Beach Club Resort.

Heck, Sunshine Seasons can even go toe-to-toe with some table service restaurants that cost twice as much. It truly is that good. It has a varied selection of food, that, by theme park standards, doesn’t taste overly fatty or unhealthy. Although the hustle and bustle of The Land pavilion is nearby, Sunshine Seasons does a reasonably good job of secluding guests from the Soarin’ Stampede. I almost dinged Sunshine Seasons a point for that, but all things considered, that would be unfair, especially since I believe the menu is that good.

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Overall Score: 10/10

To read other Walt Disney World restaurant reviews, check out our Disney Dining Reviews Index.

Your Thoughts…

Do you agree that Sunshine Seasons is the best Counter Service restaurant at Walt Disney World? If so, which entree is your favorite? If you don’t like Sunshine Seasons, why not? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Kringla Bakeri og Kafe Review

Kringla Bakeri og Kafe is a bakery and counter service restaurant in Epcot’s Norway at Walt Disney World. It has a menu with entrees, drinks, and desserts, but the real draw here is the desserts. Kringla is arguably the best bakery in Epcot, with a variety of popular snacks. These desserts include School Bread, which has a cult following, and Lefse, which should have a cult following. Kringla participates in the Disney Dining Plan, with options for using counter service credits and snack credits.

In terms of location, Kringla is located in the village-front between the Stave Church and the Norway gift shops (and the Frozen Princess Meet & Greet), and across from Akershus. Unlike the newly-opened Les Halles in France, Kringla Bakeri og Kafe is small. Essentially, you’re in the front door, through the line, and out the other to the covered, outdoor seating area. It’s definitely not a place you’ll want to go for a snack or meal if you’re looking to escape the weather. It’s popular for guests on the Disney Dining Plan and guests paying out of pocket, thanks to a variety of snacks with a range of prices.

While it’s technically counter service, Kringla is better known as a bakery. This is not to say that the limited menu of meal items is bad (quite to the contrary), it’s just that the desserts cast a pretty long shadow. We generally only get dessert here, but that’s usually because we’ve already eaten somewhere else or are disregarding proper nutrition and are Snacking Around the World Showcase, but can’t resist a Kringla dessert. The “regular” food at Kringla actually makes it one of the better World Showcase counter service menus.

There are several good bakeries in the Epcot area (“area” is intentional here as BoardWalk Bakery rivals the best of them!), but Kringla is definitely our favorite. It’s right up there with Sunshine Seasons (which also has a solid selection of desserts) as the restaurant we visit most at Walt Disney World. We probably stop at Kringla once per trip, and 50% of the time, we get the exact same thing. Still, over time we’ve sampled just about everything on the menu. (more…)