the disney food blog Rotating Header Image

Review: The Mara at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

The Mara is absolutely a “go-to” spot for me at Walt Disney World. It’s a great place to get away from it all and just take a breather in the middle of one of my favorite Disney resorts.

Located at Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House, The Mara counter-service restaurant offers exotic eats inspired by the diverse flavors of the African continent, while also providing more traditional American fare for the less adventurous eaters in your crew.

And don’t even get me started on all of the special Disney food cult favorites that we’ll make a trip here just to snag!

But I just realized that for all of my visits to Mara, I didn’t actually have my own review of the spot up on the blog! Time to remedy that right away.

Atmosphere

Located on the ground floor, The Mara is just a stone’s throw away from Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Uzima Springs Pool. It’s accessible through an outside entrance near the doors to Jambo House’s other restaurants, Boma and Jiko.

Outside Menu and Information Stand

The Mara is named for the Masai Mara National Reserve in North Tanzania, a game conservation area established in 1948.

The reserve serves as home to dozens of native animals and over 470 species of birds, making it an excellent place to observe the big game with which Africa is associated.

The Mara Story

The indoor seating area takes its themeing from the wetlands and grasslands of the Reserve, with colorful murals painted on the back walls, and a canopy of trees overhead. With the predominant background color of blue, the setting is soothing with plenty of natural light flooding in, which gives you the impression of a cool space.

Indoor Seating

There is also ample outdoor seating at tables that are shaded by umbrellas and plenty of foliage and trees.

Outdoor Seating

On your way over to the ordering area, you’ll find last minute pool gear and an assortment of bagged candy available for purchase. This is a great option near the pool since the gift shop, Zawadi Marketplace, is relatively far away if you forget your pool noodle or need some extra sunscreen!

Gifts and Gear

On the day we visited, we found the restaurant to be fairly uncrowded and quiet as we headed to the food area to make our selections. This is often the case with the Mara for me, but perhaps I’m just visiting during “off-hours.”

Eats

You’ll find The Mara open from 7 a.m. until 11:30 p.m. daily, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Mara Menu and Info -- Click to Enlarge

The menu features many items that you’ll find every time that you visit, but guests will also find some dishes available as daily specials.

Daily Specials -- Click to Enlarge

The menu boards overhead are LCD and offer both descriptions and pictures of the dishes available.

Picture Menu -- Entree Items -- Click to Enlarge

Picture Menu -- Additional Entree Items -- Click to Enlarge

Kids’ Meal choices offer a good variety of both standard options like macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets, and healthier offerings like a Chicken Leg Meal or Rotisserie Chicken.

Menu -- Entree and Kids' Meal Descriptions -- Click to Enlarge

Menu -- Entree and Kids' Meal Descriptions -- Click to Enlarge

In addition to the bakery snacks and dessert offerings that we see at most resort counter service spots, you’ll also find some more upscale beverage options at The Mara, like smoothies and specialty coffee drinks.

Picture Menu -- Specialty Drinks and Sweets

Menu -- Sweets and Specialty Beverages -- Click to Enlarge

When it comes time to order, you won’t find any computerized kiosks here like you see at Contempo Cafe or Captain Cook’s. Instead, a Cast Member will complete an order form and hand you a pager.

Ordering Process -- Order Form and Pager

Take away containers make it a cinch to transport your meal or any leftovers back to your room or to a poolside location.

Take Away Containers

Once you’ve ordered your main dishes, it’s time to take a look around and see what else is available. There’s plenty, to be sure!

The bakery case is always stocked with breakfast pastries and a few dessert items.

Bakery Case Items

On the bottom tier, I even found one of my new favorite treats, the Mickey Ganache Tart! Here, it features a chocolate shortbread crust and is dressed up with a few star sprinkles.

Mickey Ganache Tart

In the refrigerated grab and go area, you’ll find a large selection of fresh salads, sandwiches, and ready-to-eat fruit and breakfast items.

Grab and Go Refrigerator

I really love the convenience of this individual serving of Hummus and Veggies. It’s perfect for snacking on the go, and a great option for throwing into your bag and taking to the park as well.

Hummus and Veggies

Kids’ Picks and refrigerated desserts can also be found here as well.

More Grab and Go and Kids' Picks

If you’re making a pilgrimage to The Mara to pick up some Zebra Domes, this is where you’ll find them!

Zebra Domes!

There’s a wide selection of bottled drinks available, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Grab and Go Drinks

Additional Grab and Go Drinks

And you can also satisfy your craving for ice cream treats here as well. The wide selection includes iconic favorites like the Mickey Ice Cream Bar, the Mickey Ice Cream Sandwich, and one of our other favorites, the Nestle Delicias Pineapple Bar.

Ice Cream Novelties

You’ll find the Triple Blast Ice Pop here as well, in case you need an icy treat between park visits.

More Ice Cream Novelties

Whole fruit is also available — wrapped, and ready to go.

Fresh Fruit Selection

Bread for toast (or picky eaters who want PB&J) is also on hand, and there’s a toaster nearby as well.

Bread

A selection of cereals in disposable bowls makes a light breakfast or snack quick and convenient. You can also snag a Rice Krispie Treat here!

Cereal

Shelves containing African art accent a wine rack that includes a selection of South African Red Wines. (You’ll find a selection of White and Rosé Wines in the grab and go refrigerated section as well.)

Selection of South African Wines

You’ll also find your refillable drink station here if you’ve purchased refillable souvenir mugs for your visit.

Refillable Drink Station

Coffee and Tea

As I mentioned before, The Mara also has a nice selection of “fancier” beverage options, like Iced Coffee, Smoothies, and Espresso drinks. It will be interesting to note whether the coffee options remain once Joffrey’s becomes Disney’s Official Coffee Provider.

Coffee Drinks

Smoothies

Espresso for Specialty Coffee

Beyond the beverage station, you’ll find plenty of condiments and fixings to dress up your food items.

Condiment Bar

More Condiments

Ketchup and Other Condiments

Sauces on the Condiment Bar

And there is also a toaster as well as a microwave for toasting breads, or for heating up baby foods, leftovers, or other items.

Toaster and Microwave

Whew!! Once you’ve made all of your selections, you’ll proceed to the check out area, where you’ll order beverages. At that point, the cashier will tally your order, drinks, and any grab and go items.

You’ll pay and will await the pager’s signal that your food is ready. By the time you explore the area, it may be time to head to the pick up area!

Check Out Area

After picking up the food, it was time to settle into a table and get eating!

I tried the Butternut Squash Soup. Consistently one of my favorites throughout Disney World, I have to give top marks for this one, which is similar to what you’ll find at Boma and Jiko as well.

It’s very creamy with an almost sweet-nutmeggy flavor that’s indicative of the complex flavors you’ll find at play in African food, with a background note of coconut. It tasted more like Pumpkin than Butternut Squash to me.

Butternut Squash Soup

The Chicken Pita was touted to me as a guest favorite by Mara cast members. It looks deceptively simple here, but there are some really nice flavors hidden beneath the fresh, crisp lettuce.

Chicken Pita

The sandwich is dressed with two different sauces — a nutty Sun-dried Tomato Hummus as well as a creamy Mint Yogurt Sauce. Paired with the pliable pita bread, they worked well to make this a delicious and different alternative to a fairly common sandwich offering.

Chicken Pita -- Up Close

Entrees at The Mara come with your choice of a side of Fries or Couscous, and I opted for the latter.

Served cold and flavored with lots of fresh chopped veggies and a dash of that wonderful spice, it’s an interesting accompaniment. There was a definite nutty flavor to this.

Couscous with Chicken Pita -- Up Close

Next, we sampled the African Stew. A hearty dish full of beef, turkey, and ham combined with chick peas, green peas, and other vegetables, it’s served over a massive helping of basmati rice.

African Stew

The addition of raisins adds a sweet-savory component to the stew. I consider this dish a hidden gem, and such an amazing option to find in a counter service spot.

African Stew -- Up Close

And with that, we wrapped up lunch — knowing that ganache tarts and zebra domes were ours for the taking later that day. :-)

Overall

As with Animal Kingdom Lodge’s other restaurants Boma, Jiko, and Sanaa at Kidani Village, The Mara remains one of my favorite hidden gems for dining in Disney World. With food that is interesting and delicious, it’s a welcome departure from the hamburgers, fries, and other standard fast food options that can sometimes become too prevalent on our visits to Disney World counter-service spots.

Even though it’s a bit off the beaten path, I urge you to take some time and head to The Mara at some point for a meal. Really, you can’t go wrong, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. With delicious hot food items, premium drinks, and an interesting selection of African wines, you’ll find that The Mara is a counter service spot that’s worth your time.

Have you eaten at The Mara in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge? What’s your recommendation? Let us know in the comments below.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

19 Comments

  1. Pat says:

    Maybe it’s a home resort bias, but we have found AKL (both Jambo and Kidani) to have some of the best resort food offered. We have never had a bad meal or experience at Boma, Jiko, Sanaa or the Mara and even the pool bars with the food delivery have been quite nice.

  2. Kris says:

    I just got back from a 10 night stay at AKL Jambo House and I was seriously impressed by the food offerings at the Mara. I had the Chicken pita with couscous on a few occasions, the hand carved turkey sandwich, and the Oak smoked half chicken and it was all delicious. Other family members tried the flatbreads, burger, and salads and everyone was impressed with the freshness and taste for a quick service location. Also, Boma impressed as well and jumped to the top of the dinner buffet list for me!

  3. Sue S says:

    Thanks for the great review. I love the Mara! Even with all the spectacular food in and around WDW, this is one of my favorite places to eat. The butternut squash soup is like liquid pumpkin pie. Delish! I had to get a bowl every day of our vacation. :)

  4. Jennifer says:

    I love Mara! We are DVC members and one of our ”homes” is AKL…We just got back from 9 days @ AKL. We ate at Mara a few times this trip, and several times over the years. Always good, always consistant. Agree that the chicken pita looks simple, but looks can be deceiving. Yummy!

  5. Christa M. says:

    Love Mara! We ate there a few times during our stay at AKL a few years ago. Love sitting outside and eating, but beware the birds! They will stalk you!

  6. Bill says:

    Great post! We are locals and visit often.

  7. Niki M says:

    I’ve sampled both of the African inspired breakfast dishes and they were good – exotic but not too much so. This counter service spot never seemed overly busy when we visited between thanksgiving and christmas last year.

  8. Emma says:

    Great post! We have stayed at the AKL before and are going back again in November. Enjoyed the very detailed post of the Mara, I forgot so much about it…..thanks again x

  9. Heather says:

    We are heading to AKL for the first time this summer and I am looking forward to trying the dishes at the Mara. I am excited to see the Mickey Ganache tart! I had one last summer at Jolly Holiday Bakery at DL and loved it!

  10. Kristen says:

    I ate at Mara only a few weeks ago. The African stew was absolutely delicious. I also highly recommend the falafel pita – I didn’t see it on the menu boards pictured above, but it was one of the lunch options when I was there. The falafels were a perfect texture – crispy on the outside and warm and soft inside. I also thoroughly enjoyed my single serve margarita :)

  11. Celia says:

    I ate at Mara a few years ago while exploring AK Lodge. I grabbed a flatbread pizza, cupcake & drink and went to sit on the patio. I was traveling alone and had to run back inside for something and came back out to several birds hopping around the table and beak imprints in the icing on my cupcake! Luckily the cast member let me swap out my cupcake for one without beak marks. This was also the same visit where I saw two zebras having a “good time” out in the savanna area! But the flatbread pizza was good as was the replacement cupcake with lots of white frosting. :P

  12. Colm says:

    During the summer my wife and I resort hopped a lot trying to find a great burger. The Mara won hands down. No speciality burgers, just a well cooked piece of meat!

  13. laura says:

    LOVED this article !
    We will be staying 14 days at AKL – planning many meals at Mara / Boma.

    I have a question PLEASE : what is chakalaka ? I see it is offered as BREAKFAST item.
    I’m also not sure about pap : is it sort of cracker ?
    THANKYOU !! laura

  14. Jeff says:

    AJ,

    I’m know I’m late commenting on this post, but we’re just getting settled in Dallas and I finally fired up Reeder and started catching up on DFB posts. I was having withdrawal symptoms!

    Mara is a major part of our vacations. We’re usually at AKL (we’re DVC), and we stop here often. Regardless of whether we’re eating (the Rotisserie Chicken is amazing) or just stopping in for a snack (D’uh…Zebra Domes!) or filling up our mugs on the way back to the room, Mara is a daily occurrence for the family.

    Great post. Happy to see a perennial favorite getting it’s due.

    Jeff

    °o°

  15. Crystal says:

    Hey DFBers! 7 day countdown til the Mara for us!! This will be our first stay at AKL. Tried Boma for bfast a few years back and swore to return. Many of our lunch/quick dinner options this trip will be poolside and we will rely on the Mara quite a bit. So glad for the pics and reviews! I am on a gluten free diet and am so glad this place has so many options that look to be gluten free. Quinoa for bfast will be a great find! Hard to boil that up back in the room…:) Looking forward to different flavors!

  16. AJ says:

    Crystal — Awesome! Enjoy!

  17. John says:

    Thanks for the great review. We’ll be staying at Kidani in about 5 weeks and will make sure we stop in at The Mara to check it out!

  18. Dusten says:

    Is Indaba available at Mara?

    I saw it listed here http://allears.net/menu/menu_aklin.htm

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *