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.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
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!
I’m gonna have to disagree. We like Flame Tree….but we prefer Yak and Yeti by a wide margin. The chicken and rice is quite possibly the best quick service value in all of WDW. It’s a snack on the DDP and easily fills up 1 adult or 2 kids. Plus…it’s delicious.
French Fries with Pulled Pork & Cheese. Enough said.
Maybe not… they are $6.49, & included on DDP as 1 Snack 😀 yay!
My question is, when will they offer biltong on the AK food carts?
Great “Flame Tree BBQ Review” Fire Tree is in fact astonishing! With respect to Animal Kingdom, it is awesome for my 5 year old. He truly adores it yet in the event that it weren’t for him, I’d presumably skip it and head for Epcot more days. There is some awesome stuff there and I have figured out how to like it a great deal more than I had initially.
Ate there once at the end of the day, and was not so impressed. Turkey legs were almost inedible. Overcooked and lots of cartilage / grizzle. Sides were okay, but messy. Secluded dining room on the lake was attractive, but there was construction at the time. Now, I think that dining room is gone to make way for the new light/water show.
On our last trip to WDW, Flame Tree was probably my favorite meal. I had the pulled pork sandwich, and the pickled slaw was great. The real highlight, though, was the onion rings! They were the best onion rings I’ve ever had, hands down.
We ate at the Flame Tree BBQ a few weeks ago and it was wonderful. I got the rib plate which was excellent but my husband really loved the pulled pork sandwich. He is somewhat of a pulled pork “connoisseur ” & he was wishing we had a Flame Tree BBQ in our town. High praise indeed.
Based on everyone’s comments, we ate at Flame Tree. However, it was not the counter service, it was a food truck Flame Tree. The food there was mediocre at best. Only one choice for desert too. So disappointed. The food was cooked elsewhere and then kept semi-warm. I wish we had gone to the counter service, but it was our first trip and I didn’t pay enough attention.
Yes! Finally someone writes about white christmas musical.
Depends on the heat level. I do enjoy this restaurant but if it’s hot and humid I do not enjoy eating outside.
We tried Flame Tree for the first time last week after many visits. We really enjoyed it and we liked the seating areas in back. We were able to get a table overlooking the river, which was still pretty despite the construction that is going on there. The line in front was fairly intimidating but moved fast and we were surprised to find abundant tables despite the crowd. I got the chicken and my husband the ribs and we traded some of each. Both were very tasty and we couldn’t finish it all.
Yum, yum. Our favorite Quick Service place to eat in Animal Kingdom. Food is delicous. One of the best BBQ pulled pork sandwiches that I’ve had.
Great article! We planned on dining at Yak and Yeti’s full service restaurant, but now I’m leaning towards Flame Tree BBQ.
This place is located in the “Asia” section of the park. It features barbeque chicken, ribs, etc… My wife got a BBQ chicken salad. I got the chicken & ribs combo platter (which came with a side of BBQ baked beans & cole slaw). The flavors were really great and the portion sizes were big. While we were eating lunch, we were accompanied by various wildlife (large billed birds — I have no idea what they were), ducks squirrels, all looking for a hand out. It was a fun place to eat and very enjoyable. Grade: A-
We loved Flame Tree – …..until this past March when we went for lunch – I ordered my favorite Flame Tree BBQ Chicken Salad – well, they changed it. They added beans – corn and other stuff –
I’m not a fan anymore. One of the managers came around and asked how everything is – I told her how I felt – and she said many people have said the same thing….maybe they’ll change back….like the luau brought back the ribs….. so now I have to look for something else….my family loves the pulled pork sandwich and the ribs so we’ll definitely be back but just want to warn anyone who liked the “old” salad – you’ll be sitting there taking the beans out!
Absolutely always eat at Flame Tree when at Animal Kingdom. Actually it is the only place we eat at Animal Kingdom. Food has always been good and to me the value also.
Good article Tom. I agree that Flame Tree Barbeque is very good especially since there are very few barbeque places where I live. Regarding the AK itself, I admit to being a huge defender of the park and on my last trip to WDW in December 2008, I went there five days out of my six day trip. I understand to an extent the “lack of substance” argument but I feel Epcot has this same problem, especially in World Showcase where its basically all dining and shopping around the American Adventure. To each his own though.
My other complaint is that large portions of DAK are a glorified zoo. Disney has disputed this, even launching the “nah-ta-zu” campaign. The thing is…if it really didn’t closely resemble a zoo, that marketing wouldn’t have been necessary in the first place. To me, the fact that they have to market it as “not a zoo” is a tacit admission is that it’s strikingly similar to a zoo.
As for Epcot, World Showcase is only half of the park. If that were the entire park, I’d agree with you. But it’s not.
Flame Tree is indeed amazing! As for Animal Kingdom, it is great for my 5 year old. He really loves it but if it weren’t for him, I’d probably skip it and head for Epcot more days. There is some great stuff there and I have learned to like it much more than I had originally.
I have never understood how some have tried to compare it to a zoo. A couple of attractions feature live animals – but other than that it is nothing like a zoo. I have never been to a zoo that features musical performances. I have never been to a zoo that has thrill rides. I have never been to a zoo that serves alcohol in the park. I see this sometimes from others, and often from you, and I just don’t think it is a fair judgement.
That being said, Flame Tree BBQ is amazing and totally worth the trip!
I remember when it was the whole thing though. I was a teenager when it opened….hated it! As for the flame tree the smell alone is worth the trip!
I agree. Definitely the best place to eat counter service at WDW. We’ve found that for 3 of us a good deal is to get the half-chicken plate and the fruit plate. Keep in mind it’s not your average fruit plate of canned or mass pre cut fruit. You get actual slices of cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, pineapple, orange, and some grapes plus a yogurt dipping sauce. So with all that plus the half of a chicken and the sides with it it’s a great meal to share. I think one time when we added a fourth person to the deal, they got the kid’s chicken drumstick plate with the fruit/veggie options and was satisfied enough that we didn’t need to share any of the rest of the food with them.
This is the ONLY place to eat in the AK as far as I’m concerned. If you ever feel like eating something that won’t require you to bathe before touching your camera, try the pulled pork sandwich. It’s huge and delicious…although I understand not being able to pull yourself away from a favorite…the idea of ordering anything other than the cookie ice cream sandwich at Sleepy Hollow for example is blasphemy.
I think we found Flame Tree BBQ the first time we visited Animal Kingdom, and we’ve never seen the need to even consider trying anywhere else in the park (although we only eat one meal in AK per trip, so it’s not like we’re spending a ton of time in this park)…