Welcome back to Animal Kingdom’s Smiling Crocodile!
Now, you may be thinking, “Huh? What do you mean ‘welcome back’? I’ve never heard of the Smiling Crocodile.”
Well, the Smiling Crocodile previously went by a name you may be more familiar with: the Gardens Kiosk. In fact, several Animal Kingdom snack stands have received mini-makeovers in the form of new names and, in several cases, updated paint colors; spots like the Eight Spoon Cafe (formerly the Beastly Kiosk), Mahindi (which was Harambe Popcorn) and Warung Outpost (previously known as Upcountry Beverages).
In most cases, though, the changes have been in name and fresh coats of paint only while the menus have remained the same. The Smiling Crocodile, however, is one of the exceptions to the rule. Last summer brought a menu refresh to this kiosk featuring the Trek Power Salad and Farmers Salad along with some unique and refreshing beverages.
But our recent visit to the Smiling Crocodile was to check out its refreshed menu and try one of the new items: Smoky Cheddar Grits. Care to join us?
The Smiling Crocodile is located in Discovery Island, right before the entrance to Asia. Blending in well with its environment, the colors are mild with mostly browns, orange and greens.
In true Animal Kingdom fashion, the stand itself is something of a work of art, with the outside featuring “carvings” of creatures such as buffalo and snakes.
And of course, the creature behind the name… the smiling crocodile!
Given that it’s a kiosk, that pretty much wraps up the tour! Which is great, because now we can explore the new menu that much sooner…
The Smiling Crocodile is a simple counter service kiosk with two registers. There is some seating in the area, but the updated menu items are pretty well made to grab-and-go and continue your meanderings around the park: the Chicken Drumstick with potato salad and bread-and-butter pickles, and the Smoky Cheddar Grits with Pulled Pork and more of those pickles. (Both food items are snack credit eligible on the Disney Dining Plan. )
The Smoky Cheddar Grits definitely struck me as a unique theme park offering, so I decided to give it a go.
Similar to the two pasta dishes over at what is now known as Eight Spoon Cafe, the grits are served in a small ramekin-styled bowl. (Those of you who have Disney counter service dessert will be familiar with it.) For $5.99 out-of-pocket the portion is on the small side, but pretty well packed. The grits are served warm and the rest of the ingredients are assembled per order.
I found the grits to be freshly prepared.
The four bread-and-butter pickles tasted terrific with the final ingredient..
… which is the pulled pork! It was nicely tender and brought the as-promised “smoky” aspect to the grits.
All mixed together it was a savory and unique snack (and even somewhat filling, thanks to the meat) that was easy to eat while walking around and taking in what is — these days, anyway — an ever-changing Animal Kingdom.
Is anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? Maybe it’s just the similar presentation and serving size, but some of the creativity and flavors of the mini-dishes that have made their way to Animal Kingdom over the past several months bear a striking resemblance to some of the heartier dishes served at Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. (Consider the Lobster Baked Mac and Cheese at Eight Spoon Cafe, and the Teriyaki Beef Slider at Caravan Road, previously known as Bradley Falls).
To be sure, these eats at Animal Kingdom are unique dishes all their own that have clearly been given a lot of thought behind-the-scenes. I just can’t help being tempted to snack my way around Animal Kingdom these days much the way I do each fall for the Food and Wine Festival! What do YOU think?
What are your thoughts on the new style of snacks popping up around Animal Kingdom? Please let us know in the comments below!