Flame Tree Barbecue is a counter service restaurant in Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World serving some crazy-delicious barbecued meats. This review features food photos of those glorious meats, our take on the cuisine, and general thoughts about what has become one of the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World. (Last updated January 25, 2019.)
It’s been a while since we’ve refreshed this Flame Tree BBQ review, and a lot has changed at Animal Kingdom since then. Several restaurants have refreshed–and improved–their menus, and the snack options have expanded tremendously. Pandora – World of Avatar also opened and, along with it, Satu’li Canteen, which one of us considers to be the new best counter service restaurant at Animal Kingdom.
“Fortunately” it’s not the one of us writing this review. I won’t bury the lede: Flame Tree BBQ is still the heavyweight champion of quick service dining at Animal Kingdom. Actually, it’s right up there as one of the best Counter Service restaurants in all of Walt Disney World. It even has a new menu item, which is arguably the very best thing available…
Before we dig into the new dishes at Flame Tree BBQ, let’s cover some background. This restaurant participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a counter service credit. Unlike most counter service restaurants in Walt Disney World theme parks, it DOES accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount.
Thanks to two menu options that are each over $18, Flame Tree BBQ can be one of the best value quick service restaurants for value on the Disney Dining Plan if you order a one of the more expensive barbecue options. Even the moderately-priced entrees are very strong values as counter service credits on the Disney Dining Plan.
It’s no secret that Disney’s Animal Kingdom is not our favorite Walt Disney World theme park, but we’ve recently come to appreciate it much more. We’re also huge fans of Pandora – World of Avatar, both for the ambiance and the attractions. Flight of Passage is one of our Top 10 Attractions at Walt Disney World, and two other attractions from Animal Kingdom also make that list.
Even before Pandora opened, counter service dining at Animal Kingdom was a highlight for us, with Flame Tree Barbecue being the flagship of those counter service restaurants. While there was a rough patch in its quality a couple years ago, we’re happy to say it has rebounded from that and is as good as ever.
Let’s turn to theme and decor…there’s not really any. For a restaurant this popular, Flame Tree BBQ oddly does not have any indoor seating. It’s an order kiosk with pick-up system, and it looks somewhat unassuming at first blush.
This lack of indoor seating is fine, as the outdoor seating is a sprawling complex with covered pavilions, a lush canopy of foliage, and water features.
The great ambiance doesn’t stop there, as the secluded dining area also offers great views of Expedition Everest across Discovery River. This is also great at night if you want to chill for an “alternate” view of Rivers of Light. (Just be warned, it’s really dark and a bit spooky here at night.)
Likewise, 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!
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 details of the restaurant and the ambiance. If you’ve dined at Flame Tree BBQ before, you might be thinking, “ambiance?”
Take a closer look, and you’ll notice 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 menu is pretty much a carnivore’s paradise, and for years, the 1/2 Slab of St. Louis Ribs, served with baked beans and coleslaw was my go-to meal in Animal Kingdom. That is, until the debut of the Full Slab of St. Louis Ribs. The only thing better than BBQ ribs? More BBQ ribs.
The smoked flavor and texture makes them far superior to other ribs served at Walt Disney World, and their fall-off-the-bone quality makes them unrivaled. The ribs are on the expensive side, but they are seriously better than some Table Service meals we’ve had at Walt Disney World, and absolutely worth the money.
Beyond the ribs, there are a few other options. The most notable of these is the new-ish Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork. This is baked mac and cheese topped with smoked pulled pork, onion rings, and coleslaw. We recently visited with a large group so I could update all this review, and my hope was that everyone would order something different, and I’d get this new item. Literally everyone ordered this, and everyone loved it.
To be frank, I’m not sure how this dish “works” so well. It sounds like an odd combination (and to be fair, I don’t think the onion ring adds much), but it somehow all works together fantastically, with exceptional and rich flavor. It’s a hearty and incredibly filling dish, and is probably better shared (I devoured the whole thing by myself). If you’re not on the Disney Dining Plan, this is the best option on the menu at Flame Tree BBQ–it’s a great value for those paying out of pocket.
Another new favorite of mine is the French Fries with Pulled Pork and Cheese, which qualify as a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan.
While I personally really enjoy this side item, I’d only recommend it to people wanting to burn a Disney Dining Plan snack credit. If you’re paying out of pocket, the above-mentioned Baked Macaroni & Cheese with Pulled Pork is at least twice as filling and tastes even better for less than twice the price.
Next, there are a couple of combos: the Ribs & Chicken Combo and the Ribs, Chicken, and Pulled Pork Sampler. I’m not a huge fan of the Ribs & Chicken Combo. Don’t get me wrong, I love ribs, but you only get a quarter slab of ribs with this, plus the chicken.
In total, it’s about the same amount of food as the 1/2 slab of ribs, but for a few dollars more…for some reason. You aren’t getting a 1/2 slab of ribs plus chicken, which is a disappointment for me since the ribs are significantly better than the chicken.
Other menu options, like the Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich would be solid anywhere else, but are a bit of a disappointment here.
Oddly, Flame Tree BBQ has removed its one vegetarian option–the beloved Watermelon Salad–making it a poor choice for those who are not meaticionados. (You can order the Smokehouse Chicken Salad without chicken…but at that point, why bother? Just go to Satu’li Canteen if you’re a vegetarian.)
In terms of desserts, Flame Tree Barbecue is now doing Seasonal Cupcakes. As of January 2019, that’s the Salted Caramel Apple Crisp: “Vanilla Cupcake, Apple Pie Filling, Caramel Buttercream, Salted Caramel Drizzle, Streusel Crumbs and a House-made Apple Chip.”
This is a pretty tasty cupcake, with a variety of flavors and textures to give it some oomph. A few bites, of the cake itself, were dry, but otherwise it’s a winner. (Note that this will probably disappear by May 2019, so if you’re planning for months down the road, don’t expect to find this.)
Overall, Flame Tree BBQ is without question the flagship counter service dining experience for serious carnivores at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It really doesn’t stop at those divine meats, either. The menu has something that everyone (even vegetarians!) can enjoy, plus wonderful ambiance, excellent views across the Discovery River, and intricately understated theming. All of this combines to make Flame Tree BBQ one of the top Walt Disney World Counter Service restaurants.
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Do you agree with us that Flame Tree Barbecue is one of the elite counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World? What menu items here do you like? What do you plan on trying? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!