So, one of my favorite things about Disney Imagineering is that they can get kind of cheeky and creepy sometimes, and Flame Tree Barbecue offers a little bit of both.
Picture this: you’ve just piled your tray with your half-slab of St. Louis ribs, fruit plate, and cole slaw, and you’re wandering off into the Flame Tree’s outdoor seating area. There’s a reflecting pool to your right and several covered pavilions with tables; a little bridge leads you past the water to stepped seating, ending at a tree-framed view of Animal Kingdom’s Mt. Everest. You take a deep, relaxed breath and start walking toward…a seating sign sporting a giant snake swallowing half a mouse? Well, that’s a little weird when it comes to Disney decor. I mean, there are usually a couple of villains here and there, but… .
Regardless, you keep walking toward your chosen table with the view and, down by the reflecting pool, happen upon a statue of a cat…lifting its freshly-caught, still-living lunch into the air.
Right. OK. What’s up with this restaurant!?
The Circle of Life
Starting to feel clued in, you take at look at your other surroundings and notice that images and representations of predators catching and eating prey surround you.
Carved, stylized anteaters buttress the roof of one seating pavilion, their tongues forming golden curves as they reach for painted ants (check the lampshades, where it’s an even more graphic representation). Owls snatch terrified-looking rabbits on windsocks hanging from another pavilion. The pattern in the wrought iron chairs depicts predatory animals circling. Even the restaurant’s sign gives you a clue: an alligator snaps at a fish right at the top! Fascinating!
The more you look, the more you see. This seating area is a giant representation of the circle of life: particularly when it comes to the food chain! Like I said, Disney Imagineering can be highly creepy! But it’s the cheeky part that I like best. As you’re walking through this virtual National Geographic documentary and finally take your seat down by the water, you look down at your plate and see that big ol’ half-slab of ribs! I mean, c’mon! You just had to look at terrified mice and rabbits about to be injested and now you’re going to rip into this? I can hear them laughing now…!
Kudos to Disney for continuing the teachable moments even into mealtime, though it might not have to be quite that close to home!
Flame Tree Barbecue is often touted as a favorite (if not THE favorite) counter-service restaurant in Disney World by many visitors. It has good food, a decent selection (not a burger in sight), some healthy options, and, like I said, a beautiful seating area with great views. Choices include those BBQ ribs, smoked half-chicken, pulled-meat or turkey breast sandwiches, and a mixed green salad with BBQ chicken.
The restaurant is located on Discovery Island in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.