Harambe Market Review
Harambe Market is a counter service restaurant at Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World. This review features food photos, thoughts on the cuisine, and a general look around this area of the park. This is the newest restaurant (for now) in Animal Kingdom, expanding an already solid (top end of the) counter service lineup there. In terms of money-saving info, it participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a 1-credit counter service restaurant, but does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount.
Located in the expanded area of New Harambe at Animal Kingdom, Harambe Market was undoubtedly built to prepare for an influx of crowds once Rivers of Light and Pandora: World of Avatar open. I suspect we will see more ‘supporting players’ dining & shopping options plus ‘release valve’ infrastructure changes like this in the next couple of years.
Like the rest of New Harambe that opened before it, the execution on Harambe Market is spot on. The courtyard is flush with details, many of which are pretty clever. It’s enjoyable to simply poke around to see how the enterprising businesses of the market are trying to advertise and make themselves prosperous. These are the sort of details that I’ve always appreciated about Animal Kingdom.
With that said, there’s a certain “sameness” to the area that makes it feel very similar to the rest of Africa…and Asia. I’ll discuss that as we start the photo tour of Harambe Market…
These areas both fixate on the undeveloped areas of those continents, with many of the fictional businesses depicted using low-rent, behind the times means to promote their businesses. (I feel compelled to give a nod to my “I was Wrong About Animal Kingdom” article before offering any criticism of the park, just to show I’m not a typical “Animal Kingdom hater.”)
To be sure, there’s a great deal of authenticity in this approach, and there are clear distinctions made between the Africa and Asia lands, but the same general approach in each glosses over disparate and lavish elements of the cultures.
In fairness, I’m not sure there’s any good way to resolve this. If New Harambe deviated substantially from the existing Africa, it would be derided as jarring and incongruous with the rest of the land.
If Asia were built to showcase modern Asia, it would be out of place in the park; if it focused on the opulent culture of the past, it would’ve risked being duplicative of World Showcase. What each of these lands, New Harambe included, present is probably the best case for the park–it’s just interesting to think about things from a “what if” perspective.
Well, at least for me. Probably not for you if you arrived wanting to read a quick review of food, and don’t care about off topic, holistic rambling about an idealized Animal Kingdom.
The short version of the above is that, all things considered, the theming at Harambe Market is very well done. Theoretical conceptions aside, my biggest criticism here would be that it’s yet another outdoor “order window” restaurant in a park that already has several of them. This is the case with every* counter service restaurant at Animal Kingdom, and is unfortunate, especially in a park that is, averages** a temperature 13 degrees hotter than the other Walt Disney World parks.
(*Restaurantasaurus and Pizzafari don’t count because they are both disgusting as compared to the excellent Flame Tree BBQ, Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe, and now, this.) (**Average temperature based on my personal “feels like” estimate, which is probably about as accurate as any scientific weather “forecast.”)
Another logistical criticism is that there’s not enough seating. On both occasions that I dined here, it took forever to find a place to sit, and these were moderately busy weekdays in October. I can only imagine how bad it is during peak season, or once the new attractions debut.
Like Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, Harambe Market has an ordering bay system. Families will probably sigh at this while those who want a respite from their party will rejoice. I visited Harambe Market twice during our recent Walt Disney World trip, and on both occasions, the lines for the second bay were significantly longer than the other bays. On the second occasion, there was actually a manager out redirecting people to the third bay, indicating anything from those two menus could be ordered from either bay.
Hang your head in shame, my fellow Americans, as neither time was there any line at the bay dedicated to ribs. Naturally, to rectify this great injustice, I opted for the Spice-rubbed Karubi Ribs–as did both of my friends who joined me for the meal. While there are supposedly “a lot” of spices in the rub, it tasted fairly traditional and not as exotic or adventurous as I expected. The meat itself was tender and moist, almost like a less fatty version of the pork shank at Gaston’s Tavern.
Normally, I wouldn’t complain about discrepancies in portion sizes at Walt Disney World. I get that it happens, and minor deviations are bound to occur. However, in this case, I was on the losing end of receiving an order of ribs that was a little over half the size of what both of my friends received. There shouldn’t be that much of a difference in portion size. Regardless, these are a solid alternative to the ribs at Flame Tree BBQ and will work if your party is filled with communists who don’t appreciate the culinary wonders of that inspirational barbecue joint.
I later returned and decided to brave the lines at the sausage bay for the Ground Beef Kabob Flatbread. The sausage kiosk is the less busy of the two middle bays, and even then, the line was long and moved at a glacial pace. This has much more in common than a gyro than a flatbread.
The beef was thin but flavorful, and the creamy, Tzatziki-ish sauce provided a refreshing contrast to the flavors in the meat. It wasn’t as filling as I was hoping, but still very good. The accompanying veggies (heavy on the broccoli, light on the onions and tomatoes) had an overpowering vinegar taste, that I’d also describe as refreshing (I don’t know many words), but not in a way that works with the “more chill” flavor of the flatbread.
I also ordered the African Milk Tart, which I found to have a wonderful, creamy coconut flavor. Like everything else here, this is nicely spiced, with a light cinnamon and nutmeg flavor to round out the dessert. It felt reasonably complex for a counter service dessert, and I’d definitely order it again.
Overall, Harambe Market is a mixed bag. The design touches are well done and make it fit perfectly in Africa, but the guest experience leaves a lot to be desired. I planned on returning for another meal so I wasn’t just reviewing two entrees, but the first two visits were such a hassle that I nixed these plans. It simply takes too long to order and find a table, and this is exacerbated by standing in the Florida sun (which is perfectly themed to the scorching African sun, it seems) while waiting. At least when you deal with this nonsense at Cosmic Ray’s, it’s all in air conditioning, and there’s a Cast Member “gatekeeper” preventing table-saving during peak hours. This is all very unfortunate because the food at Harambe Market is good (and is the basis for a strong score here–which would be lower if we didn’t weight heavily for theme and food), but it’s a spot I’ll be skipping in the future unless I happen to wander past when lines and tables are both empty. Ain’t nobody got time for that when you can feast upon perfectly barbecued meats over at Flame Tree.
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If you have dined at Harambe Market at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? Did you think it was a hassle to order and get a table? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of the food? Share your thoughts in the comments!
We ate at Harambe Market in August with two adults, two teens, and two younger kids. That gave us room to try everything on the menu. Surprisingly to us since we have some major rib fans, they were the least favorite dish. Pleasingly to us, since we have average kids in terms of pickiness, both the younger kids and the teens liked at least half the dishes, even though the the flavors were not run of the mill. We actually had to go back for a second flatbread because it was so popular with the kids.
We did not have a problem securing seats, although we were there right at 11:30, but truthfully we’ve had similar problems getting tables at Yak & Yeti. I think there are two contributing factors here for Harambe:
1) The average wait time of a family sitting at a table waiting for others to get food is generally increased by the bay system, although in our case we had enough older people to send one into each line.
2) I think that geographically, this location is really popular. AK has some of the best CS in the park, but they are not (were not?) evenly distributed. If you’re going for an efficient touring plan that minimizes walking, which is a priority for many families with younger kids, then this is going to be your counter service option if your lunch slot is before or after the Safari, Pangani, Rafiki, or Festival of the Lion King. Tamu Tamu is over there as well, but that menu has always lacked kid appeal IMO, so I think Harambe is going to get a ton of traffic from this segment of visitors.
Hi Tom. I have been reading your site for a few months, and really enjoy it. Just a tip for this restaurant, when my wife and I visited in June they were serving all dishes at every window, so we simply got in the shortest line and ordered what we wanted. Not sure if that’s still the case, but it couldn’t hurt to try!
A nice juxtaposition is to spend daylight hours at Animal Kingdom, and go to Epcot at dusk. You’ll get a better appreciation for the greatness of Epcot.
Great photos! That milk tart looks yummy 🙂 I just might have to try this place out next time I’m in DAK!
My husband and I stopped by the Harambe Market in the morning (before it was open) on our last trip. We both really enjoyed poking around and exploring the details. We decided not to eat there after checking out the menus (neither of us have ever been big fans of African food), but while it doesn’t appeal to us specifically, I am always glad to see more counter service options in the parks. Especially ones that are well-themed!
I don’t know that I’d necessarily consider this African cuisine. While it is much more ambitious than typical counter service fare, it seems pretty approachable to me. It’s not like any of the restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge.
I’d actually give the menu team kudos for this. Nothing on the menu seems “un-African,” so it’s not out of place, yet all of the options are fairly safe choices, while also being high quality.
I think when you criticize the theming, it’s important to remember that this is ANIMAL Kingdom. The major focus of these parts of the park has always been the animals, with a strong conservation message. What the Africa section really shows is an eco-tourism view of Africa. It depicts the kinds of food and settlements you might see if your goal was to see wildlife in countries like Kenya, Tanzania, or Madagascar where eco-tourism is popular. Having spent a lot of time in Madagascar as an ecology and conservation student, I thought the theming was spot-on, with the exception of the Disney version being cleaner and generally nicer looking.
It’s true, there is really no Egypt, and not much in the way of Nairobi or Johannesburg (or other major African cities) in the Africa section so, perhaps it’s just a matter of how you think about it. If that park section is supposed to depict all of Africa, it fails miserably (it’s a pretty big continent). If it’s supposed to depict the world of conservation and the places you would see if you were in Africa with the goal of appreciating wildlife, then it really does a very good job.
That’s a really good point about the park depicting eco-tourism areas of these continents, as it should be doing given the nature of the park. To that extent, it’s quite successful and faithful to those places.
Admittedly, I cannot envisage a different thematic style for either Africa or Asia. There are plenty of reasons I’m just a critic of things on the internet, rather than an actual Imagineer, and that’s one. Perhaps an alternative approach to these lands is not possible given all of the constraints. Or perhaps any alternative would be inferior to what’s already there. Joe Rohde is nothing short of brilliant, and if this is what his team arrived upon, it’s probably because it was the best possible option.
I guess my problem is that I mentally compare these lands to the countries in World Showcase, and I far prefer the idealized approach of the latter. However, World Showcase is a different beast entirely, and it makes much more sense to take that approach there, and this approach in Animal Kingdom.
I agree that depicting the entirety of Africa (or Asia) is unreasonable, and would make the lands feel like “greatest hits” approaches, rather than actual lived-in places.
My husband and I have also always felt like Animal Kingdom is the hottest park at WDW as well. Must be because of good theming and the “feel” of being in Africa?? Therefore, we always get there as soon as it opens and leave by 1pm and go to a different park because of the blistering heat and crowds. (It also seems more crowded to us then other parks) In fact, I have yet to eat lunch at AK because most of the options are outside or way too crowded.
It’s strange to me that you describe Animal Kingdom as hotter (in perception) than the other parks. During my first visit to Orlando it was the 4th park I visited, in a September hot and humid as only a September in central Florida can be. And I came after a week in New York, so I was already tired and miserable.
I found AK full of shade and cooler, with all the trees in the oasis, the shaded path between Asia and Africa, the animal treks and much more vegetation than the other parks. However it’s true that ordering at Yak and Yeti counter window and eating outside was a miserable experience. So I look forward eating at Harambe market, but rather in the evening.
I don’t know why it always feels hotter to me, as there is definitely more shade in Animal Kingdom, but it just does. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels that way, either.
Maybe it’s because you spend a lot more time outside at Animal Kingdom than any other park? In addition to the best CS restaurants being outdoors, so are the walking trails, the safari, and Flights of Wonder. Not nearly as much time spent in air conditioned queues might contribute to the overall perception, and heat-fatigue? I’m not sure how else to explain it…
My un-scientific opinion on why it feels hotter is because of the trees. In the other parks you have more buildings so whatever breeze there is, when it hits a building is redirected along that wall so you still have some air movement. At AK, the trees don’t reflect the wind like this, they diffuse it causing the air movement to mainly be dissipated in the leaves and branches, killing whatever air movement you have. When we were there it seemed much stiller than the other parks. But that is just a guess on my part.
I agree with Jeremy, that’s what we always thought it was.
Tom, I couldn’t agree more. I feel like Animal Kingdom is like walking on the sun! My wife and kids and I, always note how much hotter it is there than any other park. I did read an article, can’t think of it at the moment, that says that Disney designed Animal Kingdom to be nestled into a bowl type atmosphere to make it hotter for the animals. I guess it helps them feel more like home…. As if Florida in July could be any hotter.
We have walked past here a few times – I have wanted to try it, but my wife has nixed it because the menu didn’t look appealing. (And it’s hard to argue with Flame Tree or Yak and Yeti.)
Personally, I wouldn’t lump Restaurantasaurus together with Pizzafari: 1) Even burgers and chicken are far better than Disney pizza 2) Free refills 3) Dinosaurs!
Restaurantasaurus is a fun, kitschy restaurant that–unlike the rest of the land–actually works on a thematic level. I’ll give it that. I’d give it even more credit if it took a serious approach to dinosaurs and presented beautiful murals, artifacts, facts, etc. I’d absolutely love that.
Dinosaurs are such an easy subject for a theme park land, so it’s frustrating that Dinoland squanders that potential. Even kids who hate to learn are fascinated by dinosaurs. There’s no potential for ‘edutainment’ being boring here, because DINOSAURS ARE UNEQUIVOCALLY AWESOME. It’s as if someone made a concerted effort to–against all odds–make Walt Disney World’s one land about dinosaurs suck.
Maybe I’m just a little bitter about that…
Not to get this restaurant review off-tracked to a critique of Dinoland, but responding to your thoughts about the squandering of it’s potential I do agree. I can’t recall which year it was, but was a long time ago (in theme park years) that Disney hosted part of the restoration of “Sue” the tyrannosaurus. There was an oversized kiosk where you could watch the cleaning of bones and other tasks related to reassembling the skeleton. It was exacting and time-consuming work…and nothing to compare with a thrill ride, but it was fascinating if you took the time to understand what was going on. It was nice that “Sue” ended up at the Field Museum in Chicago, but it seemed like Disney missed a chance to build on her legacy in Dinoland.
Why are there carnival games in Dinoland? I’ve read there’s some sort of backstory to Dinoland, but I guess I don’t get it or how it ties together with the games? “It’s the end of the world as we know it” so let’s blow all our money on cheesy games?
This is a great review. I got a good chuckle at the “glacial pace” and even more at “I don’t know many words.” This makes me want Flame Tree BBQ even more. lol.
I was there last week, and agree with your assessments. We had the grilled chicken and the sausage, and both were good, I’d order them again. And about the broccoli being refreshing, I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but yes, that sounds right.
But we didn’t realize you could order the chicken and sausage from either bay, my husband waited in one line and I waited in the other, so that’s annoying. And they were both completely in the sun, and took excruciatingly long. As a result I ordered the sangria to have something refreshing, so if that was their goal, well played Disney… The sangria was very good by the way, it’s the same sangria servered at Jock Lindsey’s, just under a funny name and backstory there.
And it was really hard to get a seat, we had just done Maharajah and Pangani so were looking forward to sitting at that point other wise we might have walked and ate. We went off hours because we saw the long lines at lunch time but they never died down. It has good options, looks great, but kind of a hassle at this point.
While “low rent” and “behind the times” may be…apt descriptors of the theming choice, I would argue that this is less intentionally that, and more “edge of civilization”. You wouldn’t expect to be in a shining beacon of metropolitanism (which is what I presume you want, if not this more rustic theme), then travel a mile outside of a major city be thrust into safaris and animal preserves. The AK theming reflects the “last outpost” feel that I would expect before riding off in a large truck to track down animals on the savannah.
Not sure how you reached the conclusion that I want it to be a shining beacon of metropolitanism: “If Asia were built to showcase modern Asia, it would be out of place in the park; if it focused on the opulent culture of the past, it would’ve risked being duplicative of World Showcase. What each of these lands, New Harambe included, present is probably the best case for the park—it’s just interesting to think about things from a “what if” perspective.”
With that said, point well taken that it has the “last outpost” feel. That works in both the case of Africa, where the flagship attraction is the safari, and Asia, where it’s a trek to Everest.
I do wish there were some middle ground. I *don’t* think Animal Kingdom is condescending or depicts imperialism, but I do think it’s overly ‘low-rent,’ for lack of a better term.