This post doesn't have anything to do with Birmingham, other than the fact that many of us in the Magic City travel to Disney World. We were there last week and had some wonderful food at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.
One of the reasons we chose this Disney resort, as opposed to one of the ones more convenient to the parks (it's a 20-minute bus ride from the Magic Kingdom) was that based on my online research, it seemed to have the best food options. One post on Chowhound even went so far as to recommend "anything at the Animal Kingdom Lodge."
We were not disappointed. Jiko, one of Disney's "Signature" restaurants, was definitely worth the double points on our dining plan. And the African-themed decor did not feel overdone; it didn't feel like a hotel restaurant. Some of our favorites: Duck confit salad with poached pear, dabo croutons, mustard-shallot vinaigrette, goat cheese; spiced ostrich filet with spiced chick peas, red onion, tomoto and lemon-mint yogurt; Swahili curry shrimp with East African Curry Sauce, Artichokes, and Coconut Rice; and pan-seared scallops with cucumber raita salad, grilled papadam and peppedew Vinaigrette; and roasted lamb loin with herbed cous cous, figs, sun-dried cherries and red curry sauce.
Then there was Boma, a buffet that's so popular I wasn't able to get dinner reservations a month ahead of time. Luckily we were able to get in one evening after only a 30-minute wait. We normally hate buffets, but this was amazing. From the carving station and authentic African stews at one end to the dessert station with an array of delicious and beautiful mini-desserts, we could have eaten here several nights and been happy. The breakfast buffet was equally good, with an addictive fruit juice drink featuring pineapple juice, guava juice, orange juice, and papaya juice.
Both Jiko and Boma featured South African wines, as well.
Even the quick-serve place, the Mara, was pretty good for a counter-service place. Along with the usual sort of burgers and sandwiches, we enjoyed flatbreads topped with olives, cheese and pesto; and a falafel pita sandwich with a couscous salad. There was even an African stew, but with temperatures in the 90s, we didn't try that one.
All three restaurants also featured more traditional American fare, including chicken nuggets at the casual options that our 6-year-old insisted were the best she'd ever had.
So if you love good food and you're planning a trip to Disney, even if you don't stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, we'd recommend making a reservation at Jiko or Boma for dinner, maybe after you've had a day at the nearby Animal Kingdom Park (where our favorite attractions, by the way, were Expedition to Everest, the safari ride, It's Tough to be a Bug 3-D show, and the Primeval Whirl.)