Flame Tree Barbecue Review

Flame Tree Barbecue is a counter-service restaurant in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  The restaurant resides in Discovery Island and has a vast seating area.  Flame Tree Barbecue is one of the most popular places to eat in Animal Kingdom.  The restaurant serves barbecue food and takes part in the Disney Dining Plan.  Flame Tree currently accepts a 20% Annual Pass discount but is not a part of Tables in Wonderland.

I can’t believe that I’ve never reviewed Flame Tree Barbecue.  Wandering in Disney has been around for a little over two years and this restaurant is one of the most on-the-radar counter-service options around.  I always just assumed I had written a review of Flame Tree but you know what they say about assuming?  Don’t do it very often.  I think that’s how the phrase goes.  Anyway, here’s the long-awaited (sarcasm) Wandering in Disney Flame Tree Barbecue review!

Via Disneyworld.com

Barbecue and a beautiful setting don’t always go hand in hand.  When I think of barbecue restaurants my mind typically pictures a crowded counter and outdoor seating with barbecue sauce dripping from the corner of everyone’s mouth.  I guess that’s beautiful in its own little way but not exactly picturesque.  While there are parts of Flame Tree Barbecue that certainly fit that stereotype, most of the restaurant transcends and fits the overall beauty Animal Kingdom possesses.

As you can see above, Flame Tree Barbecue has a counter where people order their food and then go sit down.  Possibly the biggest downside of the restaurant is standing in line to order during the heat of the day.  Lines can get quite long and Animal Kingdom isn’t a place to go cool down during a hot day.  There is some shade but Flame Tree Barbecue isn’t the most pleasant place to wait and order food.  Fortunately, the experience gets much better after that.  To limit your wait time try to plan your meal at Flame Tree Barbecue for an off-hour.  Instead of lunch at noon or 1, go at 11 or 2.  This will make for a more enjoyable experience for you and your group. (I should note that sometimes crowds aren’t bad at all and you won’t need to worry about that at all.)

Via Disneyworld.com

That’s the bad of the Flame Tree Barbecue experience.  The good is nearly everything else.  We’ll start with the seating.  The seating area is all outdoors but is shaded by these beautifully carved wood pavilions.  These pavilions also tell the story of the food chain, each one showcasing different predators that eat other predators.  It may sound vicious but I find the pavilions all very tongue in cheek as I take a bite of barbecue food.  As you can see, there is a ton of foliage around the seating areas and this makes for a relaxed dining experience.

On first look, the seating area appears to be a bit cramped but instead, after ordering, hang a right and just keep following the steps down the path. This will eventually lead you to waterside pavilions that look out towards Expedition Everest.

This is one of the better lunchtime views you can have.  Even if the food was bad (it isn’t) I think this area is worthy of spending 15-30 minutes of your day, having a cool drink and sitting by the water.  It is usually easy to find a seat down here because people don’t follow the path all the way down.  I highly recommend it.

On to the food!  I don’t generally have high hopes for barbecue food at theme park restaurants, especially counter-service ones.  Bland barbecue sauce and dry meat is your typical fare at these places.  Flame Tree Barbecue consistently rises above that and offers quality options in comparison.

Flame Tree entree

I should caution, I’m far from a barbecue snob.  I haven’t spent much time in the midwest and I’m sure this pales in comparison to barbecue in those areas.  Outside of those areas where barbecue is like a religion, I think a meal at Flame Tree compares favorably.

There are a decent amount of choices here (menu link) and I’ve tried several.  Pictured above is the Ribs, Chicken and Pulled Pork Sampler.  I really like the rub on the ribs and chicken, as it blends really well with the barbecue sauce.  Both of those meats were juicy and prepared really well.  I didn’t think quite as highly of the pulled pork, as I thought it had a little too much fat.  With that being said, Melissa regularly gets the Pulled Pork Sandwich here and we both really like it.  When served by itself, I didn’t find it quite as enjoyable.  They don’t skimp on the serving size here as the dish also comes with coleslaw, baked beans and corn bread.  The coleslaw was good but nothing spectacular.  A nice option on a hot day.  I prefer the baked beans to the Coleslaw but they aren’t as refreshing.  The corn bread was solid, as well.  At $19.99, this is a good meal to share with another person.  The sampler is also a great use of a Disney Dining Plan counter-service credit.

The Ribs and Chicken Combo is also good and what I actually recommend.  I think this gives you the best two items on the menu at a more affordable $16.49.  The Pulled Pork Sandwich is $10.99 and is also a good option, as I mentioned above.

Onion Rings AK

We had the Onion Rings here last time and I thought they were well prepared.  They were crispy and fresh, with a good seasoning to them.  One last recommendation I would make is the Mandarin Orange Lemonade.  As opposed to most lemonades around Disney World that are just from the Fountain, this is made fresh and is one of my favorite drinks.  The orange flavor and lemonade balance each other really well to make something sweet and just a little tart.  Another great option to cool down with on a hot day.

Overall, when you combine Flame Tree Barbecue’s atmosphere with the quality food I think the restaurant earns it’s reputation.  Sure, the food is a little overpriced (like nearly every theme park restaurant) and the food may not be quite as good as it was when the restaurant first opened (I can’t speak to this as I’m a relative newbie), Flame Tree Barbecue far exceeds expectations as theme park BBQ restaurant.  Animal Kingdom doesn’t lack for good counter-service options but Flame Tree is still my favorite place to eat there.

Overall Rating – 9.5/10

Have you eaten at Flame Tree Barbecue?  What are your thoughts on this restaurant?  Let us know in the comments!

– Andrew

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