Last week, I had the pleasure of heading to Walt Disney World for a super quick jaunt around the parks.
Flame Tree Barbecue
And while there, I decided it was high time to stop by one of my (and yours!!) favorite spots in Animal Kingdom, Flame Tree Barbecue.
Flame Tree Barbecue consistently gets rave reviews from Disney food fans as one of the top — if not the top — counter service spots in all of Walt Disney World. I was anxious to see if it still lived up to my fond memories…
Located in the Discovery Island section of Animal Kingdom, you’ll find this colorful restaurant adjacent to the entrance to Dinoland (which is awesome, and you should totally go there). And as the name clues you in — they specialize in barbecue, with meats that are smoked right in the “Flame Tree Barbecue Smokehouse.”
Normally, you see lines snaking back from the ordering area — note the cow-line ropes in the picture. But it was shockingly not busy when I got there late in the afternoon (around 4:30pm). See? I told you those Disney Dining Tips are for real!
The set up is your standard Disney counter service situation, with multiple ordering stations and pick up lines. You won’t find any automated kiosks here…yet!
For guests who aren’t familiar with smoked meats and the pink color that the meat takes on due to the process, you’ll find these signs. You can be sure that your meat is thoroughly cooked, even though it may appear pink inside.
Once you’ve chosen your food, be sure to take a look around at the fantastic themeing that Imagineers have dreamed up for this corner of Animal Kingdom. The surroundings here depict the Circle of Life (i.e. animals eating other animals…seriously) and you see it everywhere.
With the bright, cheerful colors, what’s actually happening in the carvings and pictures might escape your notice. But look closer, and you see that predators and their frightened prey are pictured in carvings and statues throughout the various pavilions. It’s a fascinating combination of the whimsical and the slightly disturbing. OK…really disturbing if you really thing about it.
While we are on the subject of decor, this is a great time to mention the unique seating situation at Flame Tree. You may not realize how extensive the seating areas are at first glance, but if you follow the paths through the jungle and off to your left, you’ll find lots of interesting places to enjoy your meal.
And some of these spots are really gorgeous. This is what I really, really love about dining at Disney. It’s about so much more than the food (which is usually pretty good.) Where would you ever go in the United States to find such a lovely fast food destination? This spot by the reflecting pool is among my favorites.
If it’s shaded seating that you prefer, you’ll find several open-air pavilions like this one. Protected from the sun and cooled by ceiling fans, the spots are very pleasant, even during the heat of summer. But if it’s super cold outside, you may prefer a restaurant with indoor dining spots — Flame Tree is all outside.
But on a quiet day like this one, there was no better place to relax and enjoy our lunch than in this shaded spot by the water, which offered a fantastic vista of Expedition Everest in the distance. Framed by trees, the view just doesn’t get any better than this.
While I really love showing you all the beautiful details about Flame Tree’s setting, it’s time to turn our attention to the other big star of the show — the food!
Because this is a barbecue place, it’s just sort of a given: your top choices are going to be meat-centric. All the traditional standards are here: St. Louis-style ribs, chicken, and pulled pork figured prominently in the line up. (You can see my review of the pulled pork sandwich here!)
The day that I visited, I really only noticed one option, the Fruit Plate, that would have been appropriate for my vegetarian friends. (More vegetarian options would likely be available upon request.)
There are a couple of sides that are big enough to share, as well as some on-theme options for the kids, like a Baked Chicken Drumstick.
A limited selection of beer and wine are available too. Check out the fun taps.
Safari Amber is specially brewed for Disney, and you’ll find it at both Animal Kingdom as well as Animal Kingdom Lodge (the picture below was taken during a visit to Sanaa.) While it’s a more interesting option than Budweiser, we haven’t found it to be anything super special. It does make for a great pairing with barbecue, though!
Because of the completely open and spread out nature of Flame Tree’s seating, you’ll find condiment stations located at the seating pavilions, rather than near the ordering area. This makes it much easier to find a seat before fetching your sauces and napkins.
Meats are smoked but not necessarily “sauced.” You can add just the right amount of sauce so that your meal is to your liking (extra for me!)
There are a couple of different varieties of barbecue sauce available, but they’re both fairly traditional options.
I love the Sweet and Spicy Sauce, with that little kick it provides!
It’s nice to mix them together in just the perfect ratio for a custom sauce experience. If you’d like to try your hand at recreating that signature Flame Tree Barbecue sauce flavor at home, check out our Flame Tree Barbecue Sauce Recipe! You’ll swear you’ve been transported.
I was really excited to try the new-to-me Mandarin Orange Lemonade during this visit — it’s one of the new lemonade flavors that’s been spotted at the Animal Kingdom dining locations.
It has more flavor than regular lemonade, and the beverage was a nice match for the smokey-sweet barbecue we were consuming. I really enjoyed this, and would gladly have gone back for more!
I always like variety, so I opted for the Ribs and Chicken Combo, featuring a quarter of a rack of ribs and a quarter chicken. This platter is served with two sides — Baked Beans and Cole Slaw.
Since it tends to be lean, Barbecue Chicken can be a tricky thing to make because it becomes dry so easily when smoked. Unfortunately, I found that to be the case here. While the flavor was good, there was no juiciness to the meat because of the extended “low and slow” cooking time. Lots of sauce helped the situation, though.
The Ribs, on the other hand, were tender, moist, and delicious. Ah, you have to appreciate the goodness of fat when it comes to meat!
Now, let’s talk Turkey. Sandwich, that is. According to the menu, the sandwich is made with turkey breast that is smoked on-site.
The sandwich does boast a lovely House-Made Cranberry Mayonnaise, which will be a winner if you’re a mayo fan. The sweet and creamy combo worked well with the salty, smokey meat. It also stood up nicely to the hearty, multigrain bread. The tomatoes were kind of weird, though.
Still, you can see that they weren’t stingy with the sauce — even if they could have included a little more turkey.
The sandwich was just okay. I think the next time we are craving a turkey sandwich, we will stick with The Earl of Sandwich or another special spot we found on this trip! I can’t WAIT to tell you about the World’s best turkey sandwich…coming up on DFB soon!
As for desserts, we tried the Key Lime Mousse on a previous visit. Since I’m not a big fan of the gelatinous green goo that appears on top of the parfait, I don’t really recommend it.
Instead, I suggest you head over to Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery to snag a Paw Print Brownie or White Chocolate Elephant Cupcake (oh how I love you, Elephant Cupcake!) if you fancy something sweet to end your meal.
Although the chicken was a bit dry and the turkey sandwich a little chintzy, I still think that Flame Tree Barbecue offers some fantastic food value. With slow-cooked meats that are akin in quality to some table service spots, you’ll get a good meal here without having to wait or pay a tip. The sides are delicious as well, and I appreciate the interesting option of the Mandarin Orange Lemonade.
But when you factor in the incredible themeing and beautiful seating area, Flame Tree becomes a can’t-miss counter service destination for your Disney World trip. With spectacular views and thoughtful touches, a meal here really is a feast for the senses. And that’s not something you can say about every counter service experience you have, to be sure.
What’s your favorite food find at Flame Tree Barbecue? Share your thoughts in comments below!