Review: Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

You’re in for a treat today, as we visit one of my most favorite Disney World restaurants —
Sanaa.

Sanaa is truly a hidden Disney treasure, and while I hope you all have the opportunity to enjoy it, honestly, I hope the word never totally gets out!

I know that may sound selfish, but Sanaa is a favorite of mine for many, many reasons. In addition to a number of truly exquisite meals in the past, I also appreciate the quiet atmosphere. And it’s never been difficult to get an Advance Dining Reservation here — even at the last minute.

There had been some changes in the menu since I visited last, so I was anxious to book dinner at Sanaa on a recent trip to see if it’s still just as wonderful as it’s always been.

Atmosphere

Sanaa is a hidden gem in part because it’s actually somewhat hidden. To get to Sanaa, you’ll need to head to Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Once there, look for signs pointing you toward Kidani Village, the Disney Vacation Club portion of the resort.

Outside of Sanaa

Outside of Sanaa

As with all of the other restaurants at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Sanaa has been thoughtfully named. The word “sanaa” is Swahili for “art”. Step up to the restaurant’s entrance, and you start to see why. Hand woven trays decorate the area behind the podium and beautiful beads line the counter.

Sanaa check-in

Sanaa check-in

Be on the lookout for this guy though. (We’re talking about the Hidden Mickey…not the bird. :-) ) You’ll catch a an artistically rendered glimpse or two of him throughout the area.

hidden mickey 3 at entrance Sanaa

Hidden Mickey at Sanaa’s Entrance

One of my favorite touches are the African Proverbs that you’ll find on walls throughout Kidani Village. Think about it for a while!

decor Sanaa

African Proverb and Beads

While you wait for your table — and the wait isn’t likely to be long — you’ll get your first glimpse of Sunset Savanna. Keep your eyes peeled. The area is home to dozens of birds and animals, including gazelles, zebras, cranes, ostriches, and more. And right outside THESE windows, you my get to see a tortoise or two.

waiting area hallway Sanaa

Windows in Sanaa’s Waiting Area

En route to your table, you’ll pass the Lounge. This is one of my favorite spots to relax and unwind.

Bar area Sanaa

Bar Area

Because it’s opened continuously from 11:30 to midnight, it’s a good option if you’re looking for a meal at one of those in-between times, or you just want to meet friends for a quiet night cap.

bar area 2 Sanaa

Bar Seating

This is a detail that I love about Animal Kingdom Lodge (and most spots in Disney, actually) — no space is left untouched. Check out the rich detail on the ceiling in the bar area, which provides a subtle sense of definition…

ceiling detail Sanaa

Ceiling Detail in the Bar

…And this is what I mean. Once you enter the main restaurant, you leave the “building” of the entrance, and you’re under the canopy of a sprawling acacia tree.

overview of restaurant Sanaa

Atmosphere

It blends beautifully with the wide-arched picture windows, and melds the interior with the exterior.

Request a window-side table, and you’ll enjoy great views of the savanna as you dine.

Seating and View Sanaa

Window Seating

Chances are pretty good that you’ll even see a few of these guys.

And it’s a good time to note — the ever-changing parade of wildlife outside the windows is a great diversion for little people in your group! There are few better ways to distract a toddler than by pointing out real life zebras!

view 1 Sanaa

Sanaa’s View

Seating is broken up into small alcoves, and tables and chairs are fashioned with the same artisan detail as other surroundings. The mismatched chairs give the space an eclectic feel.

seating 2 Sanaa

Seating and Atmosphere

Padded booths also offer a cozy option, if you prefer extra comfort to views.

Seating 1 Sanaa

Seating and Rich Ceiling and Lighting Detail

hidden mickey 2 Sanaa

Another Mickey and Round Booth Seating

And remember when I said to keep an eye out for Mickey sightings? :-)

hidden mickey 1 -- on table Sanaa

Hidden Mickey on a Table

Because the restaurant is decorated to resemble an East African spice market, you’ll find some interesting elements. I always stop to take in this [Read more…]

Guest Review: Lunch at Disney’s Hollywood Brown Derby

Join us in welcoming Claire Gregory as a DFB guest reviewer.

She brings us to the Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World.

Let’s do lunch…

This signature restaurant celebrates the golden age of Hollywood. And since it’s inside a theme park, there’s no need to dress up!

Main Dining Room

Main Dining Room

Here are some pictures from my recent lunch at Hollywood Brown Derby.

First up: Butternut Squash Soup. Very nice!

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

Then three words that make me smile — Venison Osso Bucco — and it was good as it sounds or even better.

Venison Osso Bucco

Venison Osso Bucco

Followed by pick your own dessert.

Dessert Menu

Dessert Menu

You can pick whatever you want you, so my three choices were: [Read more…]

Review: Tony’s Town Square at Magic Kingdom

Time for a visit to a great little table service stop in the heart of all the magic — Tony’s Town Square in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom!

This spot has it all — Disney history, beautiful themeing, and if you play your cards right, some of the best views in the entire resort!

But while I love the restaurant itself, the food hasn’t always been the main draw in the past.

We’re checking in today for lunch to see what’s new, and if my love affair with that the patio seating remains firmly intact!

Atmosphere

Tony’s is located right on the Town Square (natch) of Magic Kingdom — as soon as you pass below the train station and enter Main Street USA. You can’t miss it.

Tony's Sign

Pass by the Town Square Theater where you can meet Mickey, and you’re there!

Tony's Entrance

Inside, you’ll check in at the hostess stand and await your table. While a walk up spot isn’t unheard of, it’s best to make an advance dining reservation here — especially if you’d like to take advantage of Tony’s biggest draw. We’ll get to that in a few minutes.

Tony's Check-In

The waiting area was given a bit of a refresh last year, when the Town Square Theater opened as the new spot for Mickey’s meet-and-greet.

The space retains its turn-of-the-century charm, but the finishes are newer. You’ll also get your first dose of the restaurant’s star characters and theme! The animated classic Lady and the Tramp plays continually on the flat screen television.

Tony's Waiting Area

Once your table is ready, you’ll be shown to one of three main seating areas. The restaurant is [Read more…]

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 [Read more…]

Review: Victoria and Albert’s Chef’s Table at the Grand Floridian Resort

Today, we travel up the elegant stairway to the pinnacle of fine dining at Walt Disney World, Victoria & Albert’s at the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.

Join me for an unparalleled experience as I take you behind the opulence to the excitement and camaraderie of the Chef’s Table! And let me tell you… it’s AWESOME!!

Victoria and Albert’s is the crown jewel in Disney’s culinary offerings. And while it is certainly expensive (that might be an understatement), I aim to show you that for the true food lover, the Chef’s Table experience is worth every penny.

By the way, if you read through this review and decide the Chef’s Table is not for you, you can also dine in the Dining Room to the more intimate Queen Victoria Room.

Victoria and Albert's Plate

Reservations for Victoria and Albert’s go quickly. It is recommended that you book as close to 180 days out as possible. As for cost, the menu is prix fixe, meaning that you pay a set price for the meal. Expect your meal to begin at $135 per person for the Dining Room, with an additional charge of $65 for wine pairings. That price includes six courses. Queen Victoria’s Room and the Chef’s Table menus may include up to thirteen courses, and prices start at $210/person for dinner and $105 for wine pairings. Keep in mind that these prices do not reflect tax or gratuity, so be prepared.

While Queen Victoria’s Room offers the height of elegant dining, the Chef’s Table provides interested guests full access to the restaurant’s culinary team in a meal that is as much performance as it is sustenance.

Atmosphere

Once you check in for your reservation at the Chef’s Table, you are escorted through the well appointed (and very quiet!) main dining room. You’ll notice low light, beautiful fresh flowers, and the strains of harp music. The whole effect is quite romantic and very formal. There is a strict dress code here, and men must wear jackets.

Victoria and Albert's Main Dining Room

The Dining Room consists of a mere fourteen tables, beautifully set with spotless crystal and china. Very chi chi.

Victoria and Albert's Seating

We followed the debonaire Maître d’hôtel, Israel Perez, through this space and into the brightly lit kitchen. At that time, we were informed that Chef de Cuisine Scott Hunnel would not be joining us because of a conflicting event. In his place, Sous Chef Aimée Rivera would guide us through our meal.

Maître d'hôtel Israel Perez and Chef Rivera

Both Mr. Perez and Chef Rivera were phenomenal, and it’s clear that their passion and driving force is the comfort and enjoyment of their guests. Chef Rivera invited us to interact at will with the kitchen staff, and suggested that we voice any and all questions that we might have (Mua ha ha ha!!! She didn’t know just how annoying I can be!).

An interesting fact: once you are seated, you can’t [Read more…]

Review: Wolfgang Puck Cafe

Wolfgang Puck is the epitome of “celebrity chef.” Having successfully taken LA and several other USA cities by storm, he’s created a global empire (and worldwide name recognition) the likes of which have yet to be attained by any other chef that I know of.

Puck’s empire exists in Disney World’s Downtown Disney in the form of two counter-service restaurants, both named Wolfgang Puck Express; and two table-service restaurants — Wolfgang Puck Cafe and Dining Room.

On our visit, we headed to Wolfgang Puck Cafe — the less upscale and more boisterous of the two table-service restaurants — found in Downtown Disney’s West End.

Upon entering, you’ll know exactly what you’re in for. On any given evening, this restaurant is bustling. During busy dinner hours, it’s loud (due to the echoing-ly high ceilings and tile decor), colorful, and energetic.

Sushi Bar

The bright colors and geometric shapes of the decor here will remind 80’s kids of [Read more…]