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Dining at Disney

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.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.)

Posted on Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 07:23AM by Registered CommenterDeborah Lockridge in | Comments2 Comments

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Reader Comments (2)

My husband and I stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge a couple weeks before you guys for our honeymoon. We didn't get a chance to eat at Boma or Jiko, but we did eat at The Mara and got to be friends with The Mara's manager, Lucy. We also ate at the new restaurant at the Animal Kingdom's Kidani Village -- Sanaa. It was just OK, nothing to rave about. Next trip we are definitely making reservations at Jiko!

June 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

I could not agree more!!!!!! Boma is a supeb buffet -I myself try to avoid buffets these days not just to avoid the over-eating, but also as the quality is just nowhere near that of cooked-to-order food. Having said that, Boma is a superb exception. The choices are myriad including many unique and delicious preparations, that while not necessarily based on a specific cuisine of a region of Africa, are based on influences of different African cusines.

As good as Boma is, JIKO is even better! My wife and I have dined at a good sampling of the Disney restaurants both in the parks and in the hotels, and Jiko is far and away the best food I have eaten on the property (Kona Cafe at The Polynesian is my second favorite BTW). While pricier than many WDW restaurants, the prices are fair considering the top quality of the food. Not only are the dishes delectable,they are pleasing to the eye as well with beautiful presentations and platings. Desserts deserve speacial mention as well: both the Granny Smith apple and mascarpone trifle that I had and the pistachio creme brulee my wife ordered were among the best desserts we had ever had.

June 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRandall Teed

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