Tusker House Review

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Tusker House is a character buffet at Walt Disney World, in Animal Kingdom, with a mix of African cuisine and more standard American fare. This review concerns lunch at Tusker House, which now ranks as new top character dining experience in terms of both value and food quality. Breakfast and dinner are also served at Tusker House, with dinner having the same slate of options at a more expensive price (and no characters), and breakfast offering characters and (obviously) a breakfast menu. Tusker House is less expensive than other character dining, making it a good value if paying out of pocket, but a poor value on the Disney Dining Plan. In addition to accepting the Disney Dining Plan (1 credit), Tusker House accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount.

Before we dig into the food, let’s talk ambiance at Tusker House. It’s no surprise that the theming at Tusker House is top notch, with incredible attention to detail and a lot fun little touches. It actually looks like a weathered marketplace you might find in Africa. You know, if Disney characters roamed African marketplaces. With the exception of the touches of Disney, Tusker House’s theme is executed so well that you might be able to pass photos of it off as an actual marketplace in Africa. No detail is overlooked, and the restaurant really works well, especially for an adult audience.

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I’m not the biggest fan of Animal Kingdom, but this is one of the things I absolutely love about the park. The details are so meticulous and go beyond just the “big picture” stuff. You’ll see the “unpleasant” details like power lines and random/odd signs, which give more authenticity and make it feel less like a sanitized version of a foreign locale. About the only thing that would make it more authentic is piles of animal feces in the walkways. Ironically, this is something Animal Kingdom “lacks,” but Magic Kingdom sometimes has! In general, the restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom really seem to excel in terms of theming, and I think Tusker House is probably the cream of the crop here.

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When it comes to food, Tusker House is difficult to beat. Since this is character dining that appeals primarily to families, Disney wisely offers standard options in addition to the more adventurous African foods. I would say it’s about a 60/40 split in favor of the African foods (maybe 75/25). Regardless, there are a ton of options–so many that everyone is sure to find something they like. The greater difficulty is going to be trying everything, as there are simply so many choices that even if you have just a little of everything, you’re likely to be full after completing your first “round,” leaving little room for going back to have more of your favorites.

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The big draws at Tusker House, as they are at every buffet that offers them, are the spitroasted meats that are sliced in front of you at the buffet (pictured above). Tusker House had pork and beef when we visited, and although both of the names suggested African rubs or seasoning, these tasted a lot like their American counterparts. These meats were also delicious: perfectly cooked, flavorful, moist, and the seasoning was delicious without overpowering. Picky eaters shouldn’t be scared by the names of these meats, and adventurous eaters should give them a try despite these options being fairly standard.

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Some of our other favorite items on the buffet included the seafood stew (I absolutely loved this), the plantains, curry chicken, both types of salmon, cucumber salad, and root vegetables. And those are just the things I remember the names of! There was also some sort of mango salad stuff that I absolutely loved (pictured in the middle of the plate below). Sarah, being a notoriously healthy eater, loved just about everything on the buffet here (although she didn’t give the corn dog nuggets a chance…what a communist!). Everything the buffet serves is pictured on the plates in these photos, but I am far too lazy to take photos of each serving station at the buffet; check out easyWDW’s review for that. I think there were a couple of items our buffet had that his didn’t, but it’s materially the same everyday. If you’re considering breakfast at Tusker House, Disney Food Blog has you covered with photos from that.

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The one letdown at Tusker House was the desserts. The banana bread pudding is amazing, but everything else feels like an afterthought. There are a few other dessert choices, but neither of us liked a single one of them. They all tasted mass-produced or lacking in flavor compared to the rest of the meal. Luckily, the banana bread pudding was out of this world, so I didn’t feel at all slighted by the rest of the desserts being letdowns. It’s as if the kitchen staff knew they had a hit on their hands with the banana bread pudding, so they phoned it in with every other dessert. Sort of like Don McLean after he made American Pie (the song, not another dessert).

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For all of our praise, character interaction is one thing we noticed seemed to be sub-par at Tusker House. The restaurant is large and has several different rooms, likely making it difficult for the three inside characters (Goofy, Mickey, and Daisy) to get around to everyone. To their credit, Cast Members in the restaurant are mindful of this, and let us know the characters would be around later. When they were “later” taking longer than expected, they again let us know that they hadn’t forgotten about us. I noticed them doing the same in other areas of the restaurant. Still, it took around an hour in Tusker House before the first character was at our table.

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When the characters did show up, it was only for quick poses and then they were off again. We never ended up meeting Daisy because the first two characters took so long, and because the character attendants didn’t come over with the characters, meaning we each had to take a picture of one another and then hand off the camera, causing us to just give up on her and leave (on the plus side, Sarah lucked out in not having to be in a photo with me doing the dorky pose below!). This seems to happen often at character meals, and is a bit irritating. Perhaps most families are fine with mom or dad taking photos of the kids and not being in the shot, but that’s presumptuous, and the alternative is kindly interrupting someone at a table next to you (which we’ve found is not usually imposing, as most times they want the same thing, and ask you to reciprocate) or not having everyone in the photo.

Part of me wonders why Donald is stationed outside if the characters inside are stretched so thin. It could be to sell the photo packages, or perhaps it’s to make sure everyone sees him on the way in. Disney being Disney, I’m putting my money on the former. Figuratively, as I wouldn’t actually put money into one of those photo packages.

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All of this makes for a sort of interesting dynamic to Tusker House. You have this incredible theming that is most likely going to appeal to discerning adults, along with some excellent buffet options that are on-par with the type of adventurous foods you’d find at Sanaa or Boma. And then, at the other end of the spectrum, you have characters, which primarily appeal to families. All of this appeals to Sarah and me, so it’s just about the ideal restaurant for us, but we are probably the exception rather than the rule. For everyone else, Disney balances the “competing” dynamic perfectly. There are plenty of standard family-friendly food choices, and the presence of characters is not so in-your-face that Tusker House should scare away couples just looking for a good meal.

Planning a trip? Read reviews of our favorite Disney restaurants. Plus...lots of FOOD PHOTOS!!!http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disney-dining-reviews-gems/

Overall, Tusker House is a great option for just about anyone. It does have a few flaws, but they are so insignificant or compensated for (in the case of the dessert) that they don’t really make a difference. Our experience with the characters could be an anomaly, but with the set-up and size of the restaurant, we suspect this is a regular issue. Regardless, they have awesome costumes and the theme is so excellent that we weren’t disappointed. Those considering Tusker House primarily for the character interactions may not feel the same way, though, and judged solely as a character meal (emphasis on characters), it’s just slightly above average. In terms of food, the menu trails only Boma in terms of buffet quality and diversity (and we haven’t done Boma since 2008, so that may no longer be true), but it’s cheaper than Boma, has slightly better ambiance, and has characters. This gives it the ever-so-slight edge over Boma as our pick for the top overall buffet at Walt Disney World. For all of these reasons, we highly recommend Tusker House.

Your Thoughts…

Do you agree with us that Tusker House is the top overall buffet at Walt Disney World, all things considered? How do you think Tusker House compares to other character meals? Planning on going? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Read our other Walt Disney World restaurant reviews and Walt Disney World Trip Planning resources.

Overall Score: 9.5/10

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40 Responses to “Tusker House Review”

  1. Beth says:

    Yes – we did two buffets at Tusker House when we were at Disney last; a character breakfast and a magical gathering dinner. Loved them both! We are going back for a character breakfast in 2 weeks. I actually thought the character interaction was quite good – maybe we were just lucky? Food is interesting and delicious.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Maybe we were just unlucky. I rarely mention service in these reviews as I feel it can vary SO much from guest to guest that our experiences aren’t even helpful to others.

      Character interactions can be the same way, although in places we’ve visited numerous times, I’ve noticed things generally seem to be the same.

      I do hope others chime in with their character interaction experiences here–if our experience was an anomaly, I want others to know!

  2. Jacki says:

    We’ve not been there but will definitely try it! We love the buffet at the Fort Wilderness Campground–lots of great food for a decent price.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I haven’t been to Trail’s End in YEARS (probably more like decades). Definitely need to head back there!

  3. Marianne says:

    Tusker House is my favorite Disney restaurant. First because Donald is my favorite character and I also love both the food and ambiance of the restaurant.

  4. Kayla says:

    It’s been a few years, but the character interaction was great when we did breakfast. It was first seating of the morning, and Donald did not meet separately back then, so those factors might have helped.

  5. Kristen says:

    I consider myself a “food snob” and I felt like the meals at Tusker House (dinner) were the most interesting that I’ve had on Disney property. Yet, there were plenty of options for my chicken-nugget-loving children and my meat-and-potato-loving father. We all loved it! We make sure TH is on the agenda every year.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I wouldn’t go that far, but some foodies would turn their noses up to a buffet, but that definitely shouldn’t happen with Tusker House. It has some high quality options on the buffet.

  6. Crystal says:

    We are going the Disney the week of Nov 30-Dec 7 and this is on the agenda. What are the odds you post about the Tusker House the exact same day I am attempting to get a reservation for breakfast? Tuesday Dec 3 must be a busy day (Even though all crowd calendars show AK as low and the week in general as low) since no times except 10:40 AM were available when I was trying to do my reservations on-line at 5 AM CDT. After giving up in frustration – I checked Dec 1 & 2 – which had several opening and settled on Sunday Dec 1 at 8:20 AM. Having an annual pass I can park hop to Epcot after we are done. I really just wanted to get into the park before it opened to get some pictures – breakfast/characters are just a bonus.

  7. Richelle says:

    Thank you for giving Tusker House the credit it so deserves! Our Disney vacation is not complete until we’ve had breakfast at Tusker House. We have not had the chance to have lunch or dinner there, but plan on doing so in the future. We typically do the first breakfast seating of the day and have had excellent character interaction every time. Tusker House is definitely at the top of our “must eat” list as well!

  8. Jessica says:

    We are just back from a week long trip. We loved the food at Tusker House! Some of the best of the trip, however, we also had a problem with character interaction. We had a 8:30 ADR and were very rushed by our server, to the point that he cleared our table while we were gettig another plate. The characters never came to our table. In stead, the character handler took our daughter to the hallway by the bathrooms and had them come to her as they were leaving the nearby room. Our waiter told us to always make our ADRS for Tusker House on the hour.

  9. Amy says:

    We had breakfast here in December (the 11th to be exact), and unfortunately had the same exact experience as you with the character interaction. We were even the first seating of the morning but the characters were VERY rushed to get to the next table (the place was filling up fast!). Mickey skipped us entirely and since there were no character attendants around we had to tell the waitstaff that he missed us. Since we booked the breakfast primarily for the character interaction we were pretty disappointed. Perhaps YMMV when it comes to the character interaction.

  10. rose says:

    We ate at TH for dinner in March. No characters which was fine with us. Food was great. We wil be back in Nov.

  11. Sara Swain Roberts says:

    I just loved that you mentioned the electric wires, it was one if those over the top details that I loved. We did the last round for breakfast seating on our last trip and had a total score with breakfast still on the buffet and lunch being set out at the same time. Total score with the cheaper price and lunch too. I have been there for the past two trips we have had superb character interactions both trips. On our first trip, my youngest was not even two yet, and the characters were great about their approach with her. Mickey was pulled away from my older daughter to do the character parade but clearly motioned with his hand signals he would be right back. He also kept flipping her hair and playfully teasing her when he would come past our table for the rest of the meal. In our most recent trip, we had the characters come by more than once and they returned when my older daughter missed then the first time when she was at the buffet. In my experience, it has been one of the best character dining experiences we have had in all the parks. Enough cant be said about the ambiance and the food is fantastic. It is a must on every trip for our family!

  12. Bernadette says:

    Tom, thanks for reviewing Tusker House, despite ‘losing’ to Artist Point in your FB poll! We have ADRs for lunch at Tusker House in September, mainly because our 7 year old daughter is obsessed with Donald. I didn’t realize that he is only at the front door – what a bummer. At least now we’re going into it knowing that Donald won’t be inside – thanks for the heads-up.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Truth be told, I started writing the Tusker House review because I thought it had won the pool over the weekend. When I was about 75% done, I decided to actually go back and check, and come to find out, it was a tie.

      Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed when Artist Point won the second poll, but I need to get through this backlog of dining reviews anyway, so perhaps it was for the best!

  13. Kym says:

    You’re not crazy, me and my family went there for breakfast back in September. We saw Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Daisy but they seemed to rush. They all came and left so fast it was crazy. We got our pictures but if you didn’t hop out of your chair the second you got there they were almost impatient waiting. The restaurant is definitely gorgeous, but the character interaction could use some work. Still overall a good place to go.

  14. Kevin says:

    Thanks for doing both reviews! When I first saw this I thought “no way it’s the top overall buffet”… but then I couldn’t necessarily think of any that are better. I like the character interaction at 1900PF better, but the food is better at Tusker and the setting much, much better. I like the food at Boma better, but the setting and price are better at Tusker House plus you get characters.

    Based on our one breakfast experience at Tusker (the other time was dinner with no characers) your experience seems typical. They didn’t stay long at the table (and we were unfortunately seated in a tight area where the only way pictures could be taken was with a bright morning window behind them).

  15. Sonja says:

    Having dinner at Boma each visit means we haven’t done the Tusker House buffet with the similarity in offerings. Tusker House did, however, pleasantly surprise us years ago when it was still counter service. The atmosphere, as you mentioned, was amazing and the menu and food were excellent. That’s probably another reason we now bypass Tusker House.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I don’t recall ever trying Tusker House when it was a counter service. I’ll have to ask my parents if we did (doubt they’d remember either, though).

  16. Anna says:

    Thank you so much for this amazing review of this restaurant. My husband and I are taking our two kids this December. My son will turn 3 while we are there and my daughter will be almost 2. We thought we would check this place out since the kids can eat free plus we can meet characters instead of wasting time in the parks. This will be our first visit to this restaurant. We will be having breakfast.

  17. Mike says:

    We ate here for breakfast a month ago and didn’t care for the experience. We have a 2 and a 5 year old and they thought it was too loud. My wife and I also thought it was too crowded and loud. The characters started to come around within five minutes of sitting down and we had to rush to get food and get back for pictures. We liked what little food we tried, but we decided to leave after we saw the characters and didn’t get to try more. I think we were in and out in thirty minutes. I think we are more Cape May Cafe kind of people, quite, calm and not crowded.

  18. Dave Adams says:

    I had to make reservations for a last minute large family trip and tried Tusker House. We had grandparents, three sets of parents and many little boys and girls. This buffet satisfied all. I was worried it would be too ‘African’ for the kids, and too ‘buffet’ for the adults but everyone commented on how much they liked it. On a side note, I had lunch there in 2007 when it was a counter-service. It was absolutely the BEST chicken sandwich I’ve ever had. As much as I enjoy the buffet, the counter-service was superior.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I think the great thing about Tusker House is that it really works for a diverse range of tastes. Interesting to hear all of the praise for it as a counter service!

  19. Amanda says:

    We recently enjoyed lunch at the Tusker House. We found that, while the food was delicious and the theme was fantasic, the atmosphere that was presented to us just wasn’t worth it.

    We were put in a cramped space, where you’d have to move to let another table go up to the buffet. Our server gave us our initial beverage, and we didn’t see them again until it was time for the check. We ran out of our beverage and had to eat with nothing to drink!

    The atmosphere was loud, and the characters took forever. We only got one photo with Goofy and then couldn’t stand being in there any longer.

    We went to four different character meals during this trip, and while this had some of the best food – this was our least favorite experience.

  20. Jenny says:

    My husband and I went there for character lunch and had a great time. The food was very good, he loved the different selections thy offered. I was disappointed that they had Donald, my favorite, separate and could only get your picture taken by a cast member then had to buy the package. I might have bought it if it was a 5×7 but I didn’t need all those pictures. We did get to meet the other 3 characters, it was just my husband and I, no kids, so I feel the cast members with the characters kind of rushed them when they were with us. Other than that I do recommend the lunch, I did try for breakfast but no luck with reservations. The building is beautiful and details are amazing. I remember going there too when it was a quick service and having a huge cinnamon roll for breakfast.

  21. Amy says:

    We absolutely LOVED Tusker House!! My daughter and I had breakfast there this past Mother’s Day, we had lots of time with all the characters and we got LOTS of pictures! We were also asked to be IN the afternoon parade at Animal Kingdom! It was so much fun. We were on the first float with Rafiki. It was the most amazing experience ever! I can’t wait to go back at the beginning of the year.

    If anyone needs help planning a trip let me know!

    Amy

  22. Wendy Miller says:

    We also LOVE Tusker House. It is so nice to eat “adult” food and still have choices for my very picky son to eat too.

  23. Stephanie says:

    I was sad when they added characters to lunch at Tusker House. We thought of Tusker House as our little secret up until then. We loved the food and ambiance as it was! Now, we often have a long wait with our reservation as tables are waiting to see all of the characters. I felt like the characters picked up on the fact that we wanted to eat all that yummy food, so they didn’t stay with us long. I did see them interacting for a while with the baby at the table next to us.

  24. Emily says:

    I was glad I had read this before we went last week. I nearly canceled our lunch reservation, but remembered your praise and thought better of it. Boy am I glad we went! The food was interesting and delicious, the atmosphere superb and our character interaction was fantastic! We probably had my favorite character moment of the whole trip when Daisy took my daughter by the hand and led her around the dining room in a conga style dance. They even handed out percussion instruments to anyone who wanted. It was truly special.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      That is awesome! Glad you didn’t cancel. It seems like a lot of the character meals do the “parade” through the restaurant thing, but I didn’t realize Tusker House was one. Thanks!

  25. Jessica says:

    We did the character breakfast here last year. We loved it! The food wasn’t super different, but it was breakfast. How different could that be made? I was just happy with my Mickey waffles. I love the Jamba (?) Juice. Soo good.
    Our character interaction was great. And a CM just happened to be nearby for pics with Goofy. My daughter was super shy and didn’t want to dance with Mickey but we enjoyed watching all the other kids.

    I love Tucker House buffet. It’s definitely at the top of my list!

  26. Megan says:

    We love lunch at Tusker House. As a foodie who only eats fish & veggies, I was very happy with the options and quality on the buffet, and there was plenty for my picky eater daughter. She also loved all the mini dessert options, by the way. We had great character interactions, and my daughter even got to play an instrument in a parade around the restaurant. We were there during a low crowd time of year so that may have helped. Going for our 2nd Tusker House lunch next month!

  27. Beckie Longacre says:

    Going to WOW in February. Don’t remember seeing tusker house but is now on my must do list. Is it reservation only?

  28. Tammy says:

    We had brunch there this February. Wonderful table service! We are vegetarian. The server called the chef, who walked us through the buffet, explaining all that we could eat. The server allowed me to plug in my cell phone at their station while we ate, which was nice. The food choices for us were amazing, one of the best meals we had during our stay. Characters stopped by for photos, even though we were child-free.

  29. Martha says:

    We had lunch there this March. Wonderful food and ambiance, but character interaction was not great. By far the most rushed we had – in the same trip we also did Akershus, Hollywood and Vine, and Crystal Palace and had better experience with the characters. Donald was not in the front of the restaurant, but visiting tables, which was nice. But there we had our only experience worth complaining during the whole trip: Daisy Duck missed our table since she had to stop for the mini parade. As Daisy did her parade in the room we were seated, our girls followed her very happily, and then Daisy left. As she left that small section of the restaurant, we were the only table she did not visit. I left the room for seconds (great food!) and Daisy’s handler was standing there so I politely approached her asking her to please not forget our table (daughters age 7 and 5 love Daisy) and she said “she will be back”. Thirty minutes later, we were done with the meal and she had not returned. As Daisy was in the adjoining room, again I discreetly approached the handler. She was rude and dismissive. Someone that deals with customers like that has no business in that job. At that point, 20 minutes before our Kilimanjaro Safari FP window ended, I asked to speak with the manager, who came to see us, apologized, and in 5 minutes sent Daisy with a different handler. It would have been a great lunch and overall experience, even with the rushed interaction, if it weren’t for that rude handler.

  30. Tammi says:

    I have had lunch at Tusker House three times. I wasn’t going to make reservations for my trip coming up in September/October, but every time I think of the amazing food there, I cave. So, I made reservations. It is the only restaurant we eat at every time we go to Disney. When we went in February they had moved Donald Duck inside. (My guess is that not enough people were buying the overpriced pictures). We did have one trip that Goofy didn’t make it to our table, but they brought him to the middle of the restaurant and made sure we got pictures with him. My daughter loves the kids’ buffet area. She loves that it is kid sized and she can serve herself. I would recommend to anybody dining here to request the main dining room. We were seated in the school room once and I almost didn’t go back because of it. The room echoes terribly and the tables are really crammed together. The main dining room is much better. Now I always request the main dining room even if it means waiting a little longer.

  31. Kerry Palmieri says:

    My husband and I have a 2 year old daughter. It was her birthday and she loves Disney characters and this was her first time meeting them. She knows all their names. We got seated quickly, and my husband and daughter went up to the buffet. I saw Donald coming, as he was the next table over so I said to Donald wait 1 second my daughter is coming. My hubby came with my daughter and she was so excited to see Donald but Donald passed our table and went to the next table (we were running to sit down). So I went to Donald to ask him to see our daughter and the women handler came up and said sorry but Donald cant go back to your table he will be around again. My daughter is screaming Donald Donald Donald and I said are you sure because she will have a tantrum. The handler said nothing except he will be back around and they have strict rules and they don’t go back only forwards with the tables on a special route. She cried for 15 minutes watching Donald go to all the tables as we waited for another character to arrive. We were fuming and just ate our food quickly. Then Mickey came and Daisy came and Donald came and Goofy came and then Daisy came back again and hung out with her. She hugged and kissed every character and said all their names. I was so disappointed in the handler (the handler avoided me the rest of the breakfast as I stared her down I was so upset at the lady). She had Grey shoulder length hair in her late 50′s. We saw other characters go back to tables in other areas, so it depends on the handler in your area. CHARACTER TIP: If you have to leave and want to see a character that has not come around yet just ask the Handler and they will get the character. I saw this lady do that for another table. I wish my 2 year old understood rules but she was too young to understand. The food was excellent and I recommend you going around 10:30pm as you get both the delicious breakfast and delicious lunch that is served at 11am. We would go back again. Just wanted to warn parents of these strict rules that are followed at times so you don’t have a child that get disappointed. Our server (waitress) was excellent, she knew how upset we were and tried to talk with the Handler as well and got no where. Our daughter drank chocolate milk and loved it! You can get juices and coffee and hot chocolate too.

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