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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch: Ferocious Feast at the Flame Tree
4 September 2011

Before I begin this ferocious feast, I'd just like to give a hearty Happy Anniversary to my mom and dad!  May your years be filled with more love and food!

Restaurantasaurus'check! Pizzafari'check check! Restaurantasaurus minus McDonald's'check! Yak and Yeti counter service'check! Tusker House'check! Yak and Yeti table service'check! Animal Kingdom is my favorite park and after my first visit in 1999, it has taken me 12 years to finally eat at all of the restaurants found within this wild land. Last week I had the pleasure of dining at the Flame Tree Barbecue, a counter service restaurant on Discovery Island by the entrance to Dinoland, USA. Out of all the counter service restaurants in the park, one would think this would provide the most allure since its name alone indicates a menu uncommon to other theme park counter service cuisine. For one reason or another, our family never really found the restaurant appealing until this year when we decided to change things up and skip Pizzafari (much to the chagrin of my brother) and try some of the Animal Kingdom's barbecue.

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If the savory aroma of meat cooking is not enough to draw you in, then the sign should. With flaming red letters and the whimsical, brightly colored animal designs common to the architecture of Discovery Island, Flame Tree Barbecue beckons for guests to dare to eat such treats. Though fun and colorful looking at first glance, this restaurant's d'cor is probably one of the most deceptively morbid; the whimsical colors distract from the gruesome depictions of animals on the hunt'crocodiles chomping on fish, an owl in flight with two scared rabbits captured in its claws, not to mention the other carnivorous predators of the wild, Flame Tree Barbecue really wants guests to understand that ferocious dining is up ahead.

A mongoose and its lizard prey decorate the barbecue's menu signs.

The pick-up counter's d'cor depicts snakes on the hunt for adorable little mice. Rather morbid for Disney World! Go see Fantasmic if you want to see the mice win over the snake.

With your mouth salivating after seeing all of these meat eaters on the prowl, it's time to check out the menu. Disney's somewhat recent pictorial menu items system really works to not only help those with language barriers, but also to give you an idea of what you expect to get. At Flame Tree Barbecue, you get exactly what you see in the picture, sans the colorful dishware. Platters include the Half Slab of St. Louis Ribs, Half Chicken, Pork Sandwich, Ribs and Chicken Combo, Barbecued Chicken Salad, Fruit Plate, and Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich. Most platters come with a side of baked beans and coleslaw, while the Fruit Plate comes with honey yogurt and the Turkey Sandwich with fresh fruit. Children's Menu offerings include a Baked Chicken Drumstick, Hot Dog, or Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich, all with the usual assortment of side items and kid's drinks. If you're really ravenous, side orders of onion rings and French fries can augment your meal with Chocolate Mousse or Key Lime Mousse available to round out your meal for dessert.

Our order arrives and resembles the pictures in the menu! Also, notice the Timon and Pumbaa Safety Tip cards, which we will discuss later.

Our family ordered the Barbecue Chicken Salad, Smoked Turkey sandwich, and the Ribs and Chicken Combo. My father tried to substitute his coleslaw for French Fries, and while Disney is usually more than happy to accommodate your power of choice, Flame Tree Barbecue's cast members stated they do not do substitutions. I am assuming it is either the costs of producing coleslaw and baked beans over French fries outweigh guests choice OR the executive chef of this establishment believes you cannot have a barbecued meal without having your baked beans and coleslaw! I am hoping it is the latter.

Flame Tree Barbecue promised a hearty meal of barbecued, smoky goodness and they certainly delivered. Portion sizes were monumental, with enough food for two to share and eat their fill. My brother's BBQ chicken salad was 'cool and crisp. There was no dressing but the barbecue from the chicken acts as enough flavor.' My parents shared the Ribs and Chicken combo platter and they let me taste some of the ribs. I'm not really much of a barbecue fan, but the meat was hearty and smoky, which I'm sure was the intention. The barbecued baked beans were a bit fiery in the back of the throat, making one wonder the types of spices used for their barbecue sauce.


My meal was the Smoked Turkey Sandwich with fresh fruit because I'm lame and didn't order barbecue at Disney's BBQ restaurant. I have to say I was quite pleased with my selection! I have had the turkey sandwich at the Board Walk Bakery before and it was quite fresh and delicious, but the sweet and creamy cranberry mayonnaise used in this sandwich was an excellent accompaniment for the smoky flavor of the turkey. This sandwich was part of the 'chilled selections' of the menu and helps remind guests that barbecue does not always come hot from a grill. Actually, the true definition of barbecued foods is slow cooked, smoked meats, not something you slap on the grill and drown in sauce, which in popular culture has become the new meaning of having a barbecue.

I also admired the move to include fresh fruit as the side. While a bag of crispy chips or side salad would have been welcome, fresh fruit not only was a nice healthy forced option, but also a great way to keep the theme of the Animal Kingdom. We're dining in the wild, where fresh fruits are an abundant resource and a welcome side or dessert for a simple meal in the jungle. If you're really picky you could always order that side of French fries.

Though barbecue is not among my favorite foods, the Flame Tree Barbecue is certainly tops in my rankings of Walt Disney World Counter Service Restaurants. I do wonder why we let this place slip by us all of these years. The portions are a healthy, filling size with menu items a bit different than the typical fare found around the parks. The food was fresh and delicious. Other than the food, there is still much to say about the dining area of Flame Tree Barbecue; after all, eating is Disney World is much more than refueling the body. It's a complete dining experience, which we will have to save for next week's Sunday Brunch! Here's a bit of a preview:


With the counter of this counter service restaurant clearly visible from the walkways of Discovery Island, one may subconsciously wonder where they are supposed to feast on the marvelous food the restaurant has to offer. Jungle explorers and adventurous diners alike must discover for themselves the seating areas for Flame Tree, smartly tucked away among the great towering trees of the jungle forests of the Animal Kingdom.

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