We’re taking a trip to Animal Kingdom’s Asia for lunch today, at none other than Local Food Cafes.
This counter service spot is known by a few monikers, and might be best known as “Yak & Yeti Counter Service.” It sits directly next door to one of my very favorites eateries, the Yak & Yeti Restaurant (I’ve learned to live with my near constant craving for their Fried Wontons dessert). And indeed the full name is Yak & Yeti/Anandapur Local Food Cafes.
Name aside, it’s a convenient stop for anyone who has just faced the Yeti on Expedition Everest, or is looking to dry off in the sun after a drenching on Kali River Rapids. The focus here is Asian food featured in an assortment of rice bowls, salads, and wraps. In fact, today we’ll be sampling one of each, so please join us!
At first glance, the only thing you can really see are the ordering counters, and long lines here often accompany them.
Local Food Cafes blends in so well with its surroundings that I often think people see the lines before they notice the ordering stations and menus.
There can be a brief moment of confusion for many guests who wonder where to go after receiving their orders, and that’s where a few more signs come in handy, pointing you to the right.
That’s also where you’ll find your utensils and a fairly large assortment of condiments ranging from Soy Sauce, Duck Sauce, and Hot Sauce to ketchup and mustard.
A tip: there is hardly ever a line at the second cart towards the back seating, since most people have already stocked up at the first cart just past the ordering station.
But the more you wind around, the more seating you’ll find. It goes on…
and on. All seating here is outside, though some of it is covered.
And, as always, there plenty of
details for your eyes to take in, specifically towards the back areas.
I really like the way stories are continued all over Animal Kingdom. For instance, the first sign below says “Stop Tetak Logging Company,” bringing to mind the illegal logging and deforestation methods that guests are made aware of through the Kali River Rapids attraction near by.
Though there is less shade, I think the prime spots are right next to the calming water fountain.
And, since it is Animal Kingdom, you never know who might drop by.
As always, though, Animal Kingdom requests that you please not feed the animals. Now it’s just time to feed ourselves!
Local Food Cafes features hot food of premium quality. Here’s how we know this:
More specifically, though 😉 , the menu at Local Food Cafes has gone through a makeover in recent months. While the focus remains on Asian fare, newer items include the Korean Stir-fry Barbecue Chicken, along with the items I tried: the Teriyaki Beef Bowl, Roasted Vegetable Couscous Wrap, and Ginger Chicken Salad.
Before we dig in, you won’t see any of those fun Yak & Yeti takeout boxes for the dishes I ordered, but rest assured that they’re still in use for some of the entrees, like the Honey Chicken, which survived the menu changes.
The Teriyaki Beef Bowl sounded right up my alley: marinated beef, carrots, snap peas, and mushrooms in teriyaki sauce, served with white rice.
I thought the white and black sesame seeds were a nice touch — I don’t recall seeing that in many other dishes here.
All of the ingredients for a good meal were there: a plentiful portion, the light touch of the teriyaki, and nicely cooked, non-mushy vegetables of a decent variety. However, the star of the show — the beef — was tough and chewy, making it really difficult to enjoy.
When all was said and done, I just couldn’t get past the texture. A shame, since the previous Beef Lo Mein dish here had some dedicated fans. I think next time I’ll opt to try the Stir-fry Barbecue Chicken, since I’ve liked chicken dishes here in the past. Wish I could say the same for this one.
Next up: the Roasted Vegetable Wrap with Couscous. This comes accompanied by a Lemon Herb Yogurt Sauce, and a side of packaged grapes.
There is a lot about this dish that you won’t glean from the name and menu description. For starters, if you’re thinking, “Wow, that looks like a whole lotta couscous, and not much veggie,” you are correct ;). The emphasis here is definitely on the grain over the veggies; I only spied a few slices of onion, green pepper, and chickpeas throughout the mixture. I’d just call it a couscous wrap, personally.
Once I got over that, though, I found this to be a nice surprise. There was a terrific presence of curry which I really like, but since it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, that’s good to know. The other boost came from the accompanying Lemon Herb Yogurt sauce, which is flavored heavily with garlic and carries a fair bit of spicy heat. I found it to be delicious and addicting. I actually detected only a small hint of citrus, but the taste was so good otherwise I didn’t mind.
So basically, my experience was the exact opposite of what I expected: I was much more excited to try the Beef Bowl than the wrap, but walked away having enjoyed the wrap much more. Chock it up to one more win for Animal Kingdom’s above par vegetarian fare.
Lastly, I tried the Ginger Chicken Salad.
It’s simply greens and grilled chicken with ginger dressing and crunchy noodles alongside. This one matched what I’ve come to expect from salads at Disney: I’m consistently pretty pleased with the level of freshness.
Though the ginger dressing is tasty (sweet and tangy at the same time) and the noodles add some fun crunch, it’s not terribly unique from other chicken salads you’ll find on property (for instance, the Asian Salad with Chicken at ABC Commissary bears a strong resemblance, though that one is helped along with a hearty helping of edamame). But it still fits the bill for being a good option for someone on the hunt for something less heavy, and — perhaps even better — a chilled option on a hot day.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Local Food Cafes because it was somewhere I really liked visiting on vacation in the days before I lived in Florida, back when my entire goal was soaking up as much sun as possible before returning to the snowy north. Where Restaurantosaurus and Pizzafari will bring you fun and whimsy, the atmosphere at Local Food Cafes transports you and really keeps you immersed in the Anandapur marketplace, all while providing some decent eats.
True, a few dishes definitely standout more than others, and from my previous experiences the hot chicken dishes tend to rise to the top here (and I’m happy I can give the Couscous wrap a thumbs up, too). Even though my beef bowl wasn’t what I was hoping, I still give Local Food Cafes a recommendation if you’re looking for some tastes outside of the burger and pizza variety in a truly unique setting.
Which new menu item will you be trying? Let us know in the comments below!