This ranks the best quick service restaurants in Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World, with the pros & cons of each dining option. It includes options for eating in Avatar land, barbecue on the waterfront, dinosaur-themed food, a veritable pizza-safari, and much more.
While Animal Kingdom has a limited number of counter service options, the top choices here each pack some punch, and are among some of our favorite places for a fast bite at Walt Disney World. These rankings are based upon overall appeal, with factors such as value for money, cuisine quality, theme, uniqueness, and variety all taken into account.
Animal Kingdom is an under-appreciated park, so it should come as a surprise that its dining options are under-appreciated. (With Rainforest Cafe being the notable exception–if it’s “rated” at all, it’s overrated.) Our Top 10 Counter Service Walt Disney World Dining list features an Animal Kingdom restaurant near the top, and 1-2 other come close to making the cut.
As for the counter service restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Here are their rankings…
6. Restaurantosaurus – This restaurant’s greatest distinction is that it’s the most uninspired restaurant concept possible for a location that purports to be dinosaur-rific. The menu is about as basic as you can possibly get, and while the theme does have some clever kitsch (making it significantly better than the rest of Dino-Rama), it’s not enough to overcome the menu.
One distinction you could say Restaurantosaurus has ‘earned’ is that of worst entree option of any counter service restaurant at Walt Disney World. Through the dedicated, collaborative efforts of those who prepare the food and those who priced the menu, the Double 1/3 lb Angus Bacon Cheeseburger is the worst possible intersection of value and quality on any menu. The other burgers and sandwiches here will likewise leave a bad taste in your mouth, but at least not (as much) in your wallet. (Click here to read our full Restaurantosaurus Review.)
5. Harambe Market – Now that we’ve gotten past Restaurantosaurus, you really can’t go wrong with anything on this list. In fact, the top 5 choices are arguably a matter of personal preference, with any of them being valid picks as “the best.” Harambe Market has a couple of entrees that I really like, although I’ve found portion sizes here hit or miss (and skewing towards small).
Like several locations on this list, Harambe Market takes advantage of Animal Kingdom’s lush outdoor areas for its seating area. This area has an abundance of clever details, making it enjoyable to simply poke around to see how the enterprising businesses of the market are trying to prosper. Harambe Market exemplifies the best of Animal Kingdom’s details, and is a great choice for a temperate day. (Click here to read our full Harambe Market Review.)
4. Pizzafari – Pizzafari used to be one of the worst counter service restaurants in all of Walt Disney World. It has received a couple of menu changes in the past few years, though. The first time Pizzafari added hand-made, artisan quality pizzas and flatbreads. The second took away the pizzas, but left the flatbreads. Two steps forward, one back. Nonetheless, these inventive flatbreads are significantly better than what was served at Pizzafari a few years ago, and elevate it to “very good” territory.
The theme and decor of Pizzafari is a matter of taste. Its biggest selling point here is that it’s the only (good) counter service restaurant at Animal Kingdom with indoor seating. The restaurant oozes vibrant colors; from murals on the walls to little touches here and there, it’s definitely an explosion of color. Midday, it can also be an explosion of loudness, as Pizzafari is Animal Kingdom’s busiest restaurants. (Click here to read our full Pizzafari Review.)
3. Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe – Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe has tweaked its menu several times over the last few years, and now features the most crowd-pleasing menu at Animal Kingdom. (That is, if you have people in your party who don’t appreciate glorious BBQ.) At first blush, it looks like a moderately adventurous Asian restaurant, but you’ll notice the “Kobe Beef” hot dog and burger are actually just standard Disney burgers and hot dogs. (Maybe they were made by a dude named Kobe?) Not my idea of a good meal, but they make this a good compromise choice.
Like several counter service restaurants at Animal Kingdom, outdoor seating is the only option at Yak & Yeti, so this is definitely best reserved for the evening hours when the temperature is cooler. We like sitting around the fountain (above) but there are cool details throughout the seating area. (Click here to read our full Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe Review.)
T1. Satu’li Canteen – The newest restaurant at Animal Kingdom, Satu’li Canteen is on the far side of Pandora — World of Avatar, adjacent to Pongu Pongu and the Windtraders gift shop. I have to admit that I was really temped to rank Satu’li Canteen in the #1 spot all by itself, especially after so-so recent experiences at Flame Tree BBQ, but ultimately couldn’t do that to my perennial favorite.
With that said, Satu’li Canteen absolutely gives Flame Tree a run for its money. The highlight of the menu at Satu’li Canteen is the “Create-Your-Own-Bowl” option, which lets you select a protein, base, and sauce. The beef with potatoes and creamy herb dressing is out of this world, but healthier options also exist. For desserts, the the Blueberry Cream Cheese Mousse is exceptional, even if it does seem vaguely like eating a Smurf. (Click here to read our full Satu’li Canteen Review.)
T1. Flame Tree BBQ – The gold standard of Animal Kingdom dining, and one of the best options at Walt Disney World, in general. Well, assuming you like BBQ, that is. The smoked flavor and texture of just about everything on the menu makes this significantly better in quality than you’d expect from counter service.
The ribs are the star, and their fall-off-the-bone quality makes them unrivaled. The entire menu is on the pricey side (good if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan!) and the portion sizes have gotten smaller over the years, adding insult to injury. Still, the food remains fantastic–it’s some of the best barbecue at Walt Disney World. Not only that, but there are a couple of less expensive items if you don’t want to break the bank.
In terms of theme, Flame Tree BBQ doesn’t have indoor seating, so you might expect it to be lacking in this regard. However, it takes advantage of its open-air outdoor seating to not only offer beautiful views of Expedition Everest, but also bring guests in touch with the natural world. There’s a quiet reflecting pool, beautiful foliage, and an predator-prey motif adorning the rain shelters. It’s not the hallmark of theme at Walt Disney World, but Flame Tree BBQ works with what it has–and does a shockingly good job. (Click here to read our full Flame Tree BBQ Review.)
Outside of the two best and absolute worst choices on this list of Animal Kingdom dining, there really isn’t much that distinguishes the middle of the pack here. The good news is that, even though Animal Kingdom has the fewest number of counter service restaurants of any park at Walt Disney World, it has (arguably) the best pound-for-pound options. Beyond that, there are several snack spots with standout options, and the table service scene at Animal Kingdom is also exceptional. As a whole, dining at Animal Kingdom is underrated, with several under-the-radar options once you get past fan-favorite Flame Tree BBQ.
Do you agree or disagree with our rankings of counter service restaurants at Animal Kingdom? Which would you rank higher: Satu’li Canteen or Flame Tree BBQ? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!