Jambo from The Mara in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge!
It wasn’t all that long ago that we were here, pointing out three Must-Eat Snacks at the Lodge’s Counter Service option and sipping on some new-to-The-Mara Frozen Jungle Juice. But the Jungle Juice wasn’t the only new thing we found on that visit, which is what we’re excited to share with you today.
Longtime standouts at The Mara for lunch and dinner include unique items such as African Potjie Stew and tasty Soups of the Day alongside classic Burgers, Flatbreads, and Chicken Breast Nuggets.
That said, they aren’t afraid to switch things up every once in a while — and that’s a VERY good thing! Every so often, your basic Hot Dog or sandwich gets a bit of an African-inspired twist, as is the case with two of the three new items we’re trying today.
So, come right back into The Mara with us!
The Mara gets its name from the Masai Mara National Reserve, located in southwestern Kenya on the border of Tanzania. The small food court is only accessible from outside the resort, on the lower level and near the pool. Once inside, you’ll immediately notice the ceiling artfully mimicking the tree tops and some soft ambient lighting that creates interesting shadows.
Seating is in a fairly small area, as food courts go. But there are beautiful murals, massive “tree trunks,” and sunny views onto the pool deck.
There’s also some outdoor seating with huge umbrellas to keep you comfortable almost all year ’round.
It’s a really nice place to relax with a dish — or three — of Mara eats!!
On this visit we tried three new menu items, all sandwiches.
Like Animal Kingdom park, there are always terrific vegetarian options at Mara. In the past, we’ve tried the Falafel Pita, but Mara has replaced that popular option with the Falafel Burger. And if you love falafel, this is definitely a meal for you.
The burger starts with a fabulous Brioche Bun, which is toasted and delicious. But we found it a bit soft in combination with the other ingredients.
Still, it’s brioche, and it’s good. Slightly salty with the addition of butter in the dough itself, it’s better than your average burger bun, for sure.
The burger itself is a Falafel Patty — and it’s massive. It tastes spectacularly falafel-y, with the cumin and other spices that define this chickpea-flour-based delicacy.
Look how thick this patty is! And with flecks of herbs and that dark, fried exterior, you just know it’s gonna be good. The burger has a bit of heat to it, which is a nice surprise and allows it to balance out the toppings.
Those include long strips of Cucumber, which is a common accompaniment to traditional falafel and works well.
But the other toppings really make the sandwich. The top bun is slathered with Sun Dried Tomato Hummus — you may know and love it from Boma, or as one of the dipping options with Bread Service at Sanaa. (You can also pick up grab-and-go containers of it in The Mara refrigerator case — this stuff is in demand).
Finally, on the bottom bun is Garlic Yogurt to cut that hint of heat in the patty. Thank goodness there was a lot of it on there because we might’ve jumped over the counter to get more, had we needed it.
Guys, this burger is stellar. The flavors are traditional with little twists that make it special, and it tasted really fresh. My only small complaint is that between the softness of the bun, the patty, and those condiments, it started to fall apart a little.
But seriously: who cares? Grab a fork, scoop up the fallen morsels, eat. The Falafel Burger costs $10.99 and comes with fries or slaw, and it’s worth every penny. Yay for another stand-out vegetarian option!
Next up: the Crispy Chicken BLT. (We aren’t the only ones who think those words should go together always, right?)
This sandwich starts out right with a bun that could stand on its own. It’s Artisanal Cheese Bread! This roll has tons of cheese baked into the top, plus herbs throughout. Awesome.
And thankfully there’s plenty of it! The roll is substantial and more than capable of containing the other components of the sandwich.
And the other parts of the sandwich? Fried Chicken. Goooooood fried chicken. It’s thin, but the crunchy breading is super duper crispy. If your favorite part of fried chicken is exactly that, then get ready to go to town.
Although it really is quite a thin piece of meat, it’s not dry at all, which is sometimes not a guarantee in the world of quick service dining.
The toppings for the BLT are standard fare, for the most part: Fresh Tomato, Lettuce, and Red Onion add another kind of crispness and texture. And there’s some nice, salty Bacon in there too.
Instead of the mayo one might find on a traditional BLT, this version features Buttermilk Ranch. It’s a really good and creamy addition to the sandwich.
Like the Falafel Burger, this comes with fries or cole slaw, and for $11.99, it’s a simple but solid counter service sandwich option. (See if you can snag some extra Ranch for the fries!)
The final new sandwich we tried is the Tamarind Barbecue Pork Sandwich. Tamarind is indigenous to tropical Africa, and it’s used in African, Indian, and East Asian cuisines. It’s typically quite sour, so the addition of tamarind to sweet barbecue sauce totally works.
This sandwich is served on traditional Ciabatta Bread, which is thick enough to round up the fixings inside, without getting soggy.
The Pulled Pork has a great balance of sweet and sour, owing to the tamarind. Absolutely it is the winning flavor in this sandwich.
That said, there wasn’t enough of the pork! Since it’s carrying the sandwich, we expected more. But it’s a little crowded out by the Tangy Cole Slaw. Which is a bit of a misnomer, as there wasn’t much tang to be found.
But the slaw is colorful and fresh, with tons of crunchy bits to add texture to the soft meat. Still, we were looking for flavor, and the slaw was lacking.
For $10.79 (again, with fries or coleslaw — but you’re already getting some of that on the sandwich), this is the least memorable of the three sandwiches we tried. It just couldn’t compete with crispy chicken and yogurt-covered falafel.
Nosh Or Not:
The Mara might be for you if:
- You love unique eats with thoughtful flavor combinations
- Your family is staying at AKL, or would like to explore the resort
- You like truly amazing peanut butter brownies.
You might skip The Mara if:
- You’re not staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge and aren’t interested in seeing it
- You don’t want to spend precious vacation time traveling to the restaurant
- You have super picky eaters who will only stand for chicken nuggets or cheeseburgers
There is simply a lot to love at The Mara. For a smaller food court, it’s packed with interesting options outside the norm, and I really appreciate how even familiar dishes often receive the African-inspired treatment, whether from the addition of one simple ingredient or an entire dish. Plus its setting in the gorgeous Animal Kingdom Lodge sure doesn’t hurt! Simply put, The Mara rarely disappoints.
What’s your fave out-of-the-way quick service restaurant? Tell us all about it in the comments!