Flame Tree BBQ Review
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!
Anyone know recipe for baked beans? They are so delicious!!!
Clearly some people love the ribs and others don’t,
Is there a specific time to go and get the good tasting ones, maybe avoid 5p ribs???
Who is the chef when you’ve had good tasting ones so I can check… any idea?
My kids have celiac, so we have minimal GF options
Hi Tom! Love reading all your blog info. Very informative and direct. Planning second trip to Disney World end of September 2019 with free QS dining and all the info and reviews of restaurants has been great. However, we are bringing my vegetarian mom along this trip and I would love to hear your take on dining options for the non carnivorous guests visiting Disney World! I want her to e joy her dining experience as well. Keep up the great blogs!!
I ate there with friends on my last WDW visit. We sat by the water and had considerable trouble with birds dive-bombing the table to steal food right around our attempts to fend them off.
Which was… strangely great fun that had us all laughing and made our day. What better experience for Animal Kingdom than real animals insisting on participating?
I enjoy Flame Tree, but I greatly prefer the options, including vegetarian ones, at Harambe Market. BBQ is great but I can find it anywhere…not so with the options in Harambe Market. I take it you’re not a fan? Pandora is worth a trip too, of course.
As a meat-lover, Flame Tree is my favorite counter meal too. The quantity is outrageously fulfilling.
I miss the jalapeÃ±o cornbread!!!!! They need to bring it back! Or let me order a whole plate of those croutons that come on the new salad
FYI – if you head over to watch the Rivers of Light show as we did, don’t sit in the pavilion closest to the water ( the one that offers the best views) b/ c you will get wet! I don’t know if it was just the way the wind was blowing that day or if it’s the norm, but we kept getting sprayed with water & soggy fries aren’t good!
And sadly, I have to partly agree with Brian, I’ve eaten there quite a few times b/c I love ribs, but I’ve never had any there that weren’t waaay overcooked & more akin to beef jerky. The chicken has always been good though. I mostly keep going back b/c I love the ambiance of the seating area, although I’m looking forward to trying the pulled pork on our next visit:)
Flametree BBQ is a solid counter service. Half chicken is my go to.
I was very disheartened last visit that my kids wanted Pizzafari over Flame Tree. I’m pretty easy going about most things but there was no way I was going to AK and not eating at Flame Tree. So the kids got their pizza, walked it over to Flame Tree, sat down, and then proceeded to beg to eat some of mine or my wife’s ribs. And in between licking our fingers we said no way. It was a special moment that underscores that learning can happen anywhere.
“It was a special moment that underscores that learning can happen anywhere.”
Haha, that’s great. Kudos on embracing the teachable moment with your kids!
If it makes you feel any better, it’s become common practice for Sarah to eat at Satu’li Canteen while I go to Flame Tree BBQ. Eating separately is a pain, but it’s worth it!
I am just here to applaud your excellent parenting. A good lesson has been learned on this day.
By far Flame Tree BBQ is the best they have the best ribs at Disneyworld great food this is the one place we eat at when we come down to Disney
Are the ribs pork or beef? I went to the menu on the disney site and it didn’t say. Also did a google search and couldn’t find the answer. It matters to me because I don’t eat pork but I do eat beef.
They’re pork. Unless otherwise advertised, all of the ribs at Walt Disney World are pork.
Thank you for a well rounded blog on WDW. We’re taking our Granddaughter who will be 9 when we go for 9 days in Nov-Dec time frame. We’ll be celebrating our 39th Anniversary and my 64th birthday and it is her 1st time to the magical world. I can’t wait. I gained great tips from you that other bloggers hadn’t mentioned. I’m now on figuring out our character meal planning etc. before my 6 mth date gets here so I’ll be ready to call. Then, If I can understand the fast pass a little better on getting renewals, I think we’ll be set!! We plan on being in the parks most of the time, so we’re staying at the PoP resort.
This was by far one of the worst dining experiences I’ve ever had in Disney or elsewhere. The ribs were the consistency of leather that had been boiled for several hours left out in the sun to dry and then served with tragic difference by Disney cast members. It would seem to me that they share a prisoner level of comraderie with the Disney customers, who after ungodly fares for tickets are held hostage to overpriced cafeteria options. Our chicken was overcooked by about three days. The side orders, which are unable to be substituted, seem to have been prepared with malice. The beans may have caused serious gastrointestinal disruption should they have been consumed. For the same amount of money I could’ve gotten food at four star level at most places. Walt should be ashamed. The Mouse has gone from imagineers to profiteer. Bleh.
I completely agree with you! Absolute WORST meal we had during our trip, and looking at the date of your comment, our meal was 10 months after yours! Thankfully, I was the only one who ordered the shoe leather ribs and dried out chicken. The pulled pork was edible with a good amount of the barbeque sauce on it. I live near Pittsburgh, PA, and have found MUCH better barbeque here. Go to The Polite Pig if you’re at Disney World and want something barbequed half decently. Their sides are 1000 times better than Flame Tree’s.
Hands down my favorite counter service restaurant in any of the Disney parks. The ribs and the chicken are just awesome. I live near a Dinasaur BBQ and these are just as good. Have not tried the pulled pork. Sides good also. Outside seating is very large and has different levels. My daughter loved sitting down by the pond/fountain. Lots of ducks and birds walking around. Will be spending time there again in June. can’t wait.
Your entire site is incredibly useful and I have it book marked for extensive reading prior to WDW trips. On our trip last week, we had the free dining plan, and the person taking my order at Flame Tree BBQ suggested the ribs/chicken/pulled pork combo. It comes with the same amount of chicken and ribs but also a generous portion of pulled pork. Even without the dining plan I think the difference was $2. I ate it myself (it is vacation after all), but it would have been enough food to feed to normal adults for a full meal, or even three adults for a light lunch or substantial mid day snack. Your recommendation of Flame Tree was definitely right on point.
I love Flame Tree BBQ! I first tried it on your recommendation and was obviously convinced to return every trip to Animal Kingdom. My trip a few weeks ago was the first time I’d ever used the DDP and when I saw the $20 options, I was sure there would be restrictions on our options. My mom and I shared the rib/chicken/pork combo and were stuffed. I calculated and we got about $28 worth of food/drinks for one Quick Service credit. So awesome. 🙂