At one point, if you asked where to get quick-service food at Animal Kingdom, Flame Tree Barbecue was the top contender for most people. With the opening of Satu’li Canteen, the removal of a house-made barbecue sauce, and reduced portion sizes, Flame Tree has slipped down a bit in status among regulars. Does it still provide a solid meal for a decent value?
Some of the things that are the greatest assets of Flame Tree are also its biggest downfalls. The menu is somewhat limited, and not very flexible for people with various dietary restrictions or for the vegetarian and vegan crowd. Also, although certain times of year, the fact that all of its seating is outdoors is delightful for a dinner at dusk, if you’re hitting it up for mealtime during a Florida downpour or in the hottest part of the day, outdoor seating may not be the most desirable experience. If these end up being features to your party instead of design flaws, Flame Tree still provides a quality meal, with some items being large enough to share (even with the reduced meals sizes).
For our recent trip, we went for a late-ish dinner and had little wait to place our order. It did seem to take longer than other counter-service meals, so I do recommend using mobile ordering if time is of the essence. On the other hand, I loved looking at all of the details around the kitchen area, including mice about to be eaten by giant snakes. (Mickey, is that you?)
Once the meal was in hand, we headed down to our favorite spot to grab a table, down near the water. There are a variety of shaded pavilions and tables out in the open to grab a table, and finding your party along the different winding paths can be difficult if you don’t know your way around. Because there’s so much seating, you shouldn’t have to send part of your party ahead to claim a table without you.
Our favorite location offers a beautiful view of Everest. It is gorgeous right around sunset as the Rivers of Light floats start to be moved into position.
In the pavilions, you can find utensils, napkins, and additional barbecue sauce (both regular and “sweet and spicy”).
Enough with the setup, though–how’s the food? The good news is that the food still maintains the excellent flavor that Flame Tree has been known for over the years. If you happen to be walking by Flame Tree and say “Gee, that smells good”, the food does taste as good as it smells. First up, the chicken and ribs combo.
Yes, you can certainly get a larger amount of food for a better price off property at a local place like Four Rivers, but if you’re in the park, this meal for around $16 is substantial enough to be filling. The chicken remains moist and has a good flavor, and the ribs are tender and have a decent amount of meat on the bones. The sides of coleslaw and baked beans have gotten smaller over the years, and they’re not going to win any sort of awards for taste–they’re not bad, but they’re nothing special.
The next dish is one of the newer offerings–a pulled pork mac ‘n’ cheese monstrosity.
If you’re looking for comfort food in a paper serving tray, this one is right up your alley. On the bottom, you have a sizable scoop of mac ‘n’ cheese (but the baked kind that is more firm so it doesn’t spread out all over the place). On top of that, you get a healthy (or unhealthy?) amount of pulled pork. Top that with a scoop of coleslaw, and then because you’re on vacation and your cardiologist can’t find you, add a couple onion rings. I tend to take this dish and slide the slaw off to eat separately from the pork and mac ‘n’ cheese, just because the texture seems a bit odd when all combined together. But you can’t go wrong with this dish in terms of flavor. And at $12, it may look a little small when you get it served to you, but it fills you up very quickly.
If you’re looking for a healthier option, one of my all-time favorite healthy meals is on Flame Tree’s menu….
A variation of this watermelon salad makes an appearance at Epcot during Flower and Garden, but the serving here is much larger. The salad is a blend of watermelon chunks, arugula, feta, and pickled onions with a white balsamic dressing. If it is hot out and you’ve been wandering the park all day, this salad is so light and refreshing that it is a perfect meal in itself. It also makes a great option to split as a side to help go along with all those smoked meats.
For the kids, Flame Tree offers a chicken drumstick meal that even my daughter (who is a rather picky eater) loves to order.
What’s nice about this meal is that it is rather healthy compared to other quick-service options at Animal kingdom. On the other hand, if you have a child with a healthy appetite, this meal may not provide enough food. One way to add a bit to this meal is to grab a serving of mac ‘n’ cheese from Eight Spoon Cafe (but check their hours–they usually close fairly early and may not be open for the full dinner hour).
Overall, Flame Tree is still a solid quick-service dining option in Animal Kingdom. With Animal Kingdom no longer being seen by many as a half-day park, having more than one location where you can get a good meal for a reasonable price is very welcome. As long as the weather is in your favor, the setting is beautiful and is far less noisy and chaotic compared with other restaurants. It may just be the last oasis of tranquility in an increasingly busy park.
Flame Tree is open for lunch and dinner, offers Mobile Ordering, and participates in the Disney Dining Plan.
Have you eaten at Flame Tree Barbecue? Do you think it is still the best quick-service in the park, or has it been eclipsed by Satu’li Canteen? Let us know in the comments.