It’s nearly IMPOSSIBLE to keep up with all the restaurant changes in Disney World.
Dining locations have reopened in phases, and there are still some that have yet to open. We’ve also noticed the return of character meals (with hugs!) and buffets being brought back to restaurants that were temporarily made into family-style establishments. Now, a buffet is back at a popular character meal, and we stopped by to check it out!
We recently visited Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, because the buffet returned! For more than a year, the restaurant has been operating with a family-style version of its menu, which meant that they were serving limited options. But now, the full experience has returned, and we have some THOUGHTS to share.
First of all, let’s talk about the atmosphere of the restaurant. The entrance set-up is a little different than other places in Disney World because of the location. As you’re walking through the Africa section of Animal Kingdom, you’ll want to look out for the Tusker House sign and follow the arrow.
From there, we walked up to the host’s stand, where the Cast Member greeted us and asked for the name on the reservation. During this exchange, you’ll give the Cast Member your phone number so that you can be texted when your table is ready. Note: you can also check in through the My Disney Experience app.
Once you get your text, you’ll walk past the host’s stand and down a side pathway. There we were greeted by a set of Cast Members who were in charge of seating guests inside the restaurant. We had to wait a minute at the door, but then we were led to our table!
Inside the restaurant, there are five different rooms where you could be seated. The main room has the buffet, as well as tables for larger parties…
…then there’s a section of three different rooms off to the right side. There’s a large room with many small tables…
…as well as a side room that’s a little more secluded. There’s also a second room in the back of the large room, but it wasn’t in use during our visit.
To the left of the buffet area, there’s another side room, where we were seated. This was a mix of small and large tables, and the character experience here was just as thorough as in the other areas.
At our table, we were given small bread plates, a set of silverware for each person, napkins, and a drink menu.
The Cast Member who seated us also handed us one of these autograph cards. It has a photo of Donald, Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy (the four characters you meet at Tusker House) along with each of their autographs.
Shortly after being seated, our waiter arrived to take our drink order. The options included in the price are basic beverages like water, soda, juice, and coffee. Specialty drinks and alcohol cost extra. We got some POG juice, which is known as Jungle Juice here on the savanna!
As soon as our beverage arrived, the characters started rolling in. Everyone here is dressed in their safari gear!
It’s Donald who’s hosting the meal, so obviously, he’s the star. (Or he thinks he is, anyway!)
Goofy is there to make us laugh and provide us with lots of funny antics!
And of course, we’ve got the fabulous queen of style…Daisy Duck! She’s looking spectacular in the outfit that she told us she designed herself.
The characters also dance around the restaurant every once in a while to a special song. It’s fun because all the guests start clapping and you get to see some hilarious dance moves!
So what’s on the menu? Let’s check out that buffet!
Okay, we hope you’re ready for this, because we’re about to throw a LOT of buffet at you. Try to keep up!
For starters, we’ve got the bread station! Here, you’ll find things like cornbread, housemade hummus, mango chutney, naan bread, honey rosemary rolls, and “mini zebra loaves.”
You also get an assorted basket of breads brought to your table. This restaurant is a carb-lover’s paradise, y’all!
After that, you get into the salad and appetizers section, where you’ve got turkey cubes (which was just sliced turkey during our visit), ham cubes, cheese cubes (LOTS of cubes!), and kool slaai.
The salad station is stocked with all the toppings you need — everything from greens to cucumbers to diced tomatoes. There are lots of combinations, and if you want to be more “exotic” you can add things like chickpeas and feta.
There are multiple dressings to choose from, including a housemade ranch, a Sambal Vinaigrette, and a Coconut Curry Vinaigrette. At that station, you’ll also find the Kachumbari.
If you don’t want to make your own salad, they have options for that too! We spotted chickpea salad, black-eyed pea salad, and roasted cauliflower salad (more on that one later!).
Don’t worry, they didn’t forget about your kiddos! Next to the appetizers, there’s a section of the buffet that’s lower than the rest, the perfect height for the little ones to serve themselves. There we found corn, green beans, chicken legs…
…mashed potatoes, corn dog nuggets, and of course, the iconic Tusker House mac and cheese.
If you like more exotic flavors, then make sure to check out the curry section. There, you’ve got Jasmine rice to use as a base, along with Doro Wat Chicken Curry and Green Curry Shrimp.
The Za’atar Braised Beef and the Tusker Market Mashed Potatoes were both very popular options on the buffet!
Then next to that, we’ve got another big vat of that famous mac and cheese. It’s a favorite of Tusker House guests, as well as the characters (we got word directly from Daisy, Mickey, AND Donald!).
For plant-based eaters, there are options like Cauliflower Bunny Chow and “Fiesty” Green Beans. Sounds yummy!
Also plant-based are the Jollof Rice (with plant-based sausage) and the North African Harira Soup.
Continuing down the buffet, we’ve got red-skinned potatoes, chermoula salmon…
…braised root vegetables, Tandoori spice-rubbed rotisserie chicken, and tandoori sauce.
If you want more toppings for your naan bread, there’s a whole toppings bar off to the side with cucumber, tzatziki sauce, and more.
And of course, we can’t forget about the protein and meat carving section! We’ve got Beef and Lamb Shawarma…
…sweet and spicy mustard…
…and rotisserie pork.
Finally, let’s talk about dessert! There’s a Fab Five Safari Brownie — it has Mickey and friends on top.
There are two types of cupcakes, themed to bumblebees and flamingos!
For vegans and vegetarians, there’s a plant-based chocolate mousse that looks quite delicious.
Fruit lovers will want to check out those pineapple tarts. How cute!
And of course, the African-inspired Cookie Bars. Look at that little sunflower decor!
For the kiddos or picky eaters, there’s also a selection of basic treats. Here we’ve got a S’mores Pop, sugar cookies…
…Double Chocolate Zebra Cookies, and fruit salad.
WHEW! That’s everything on the buffet, now let’s dive into those eats!
We loaded up our plate with a variety of items from the buffet. Now let’s dig in!
First up, we’ve got the mac and cheese! Listen, when people rave about this, they’re not selling it short. It was perfectly creamy and cheesy, and definitely tasted 10x better than anything you could make from a box. It’s one of the best (if not the best!) mac and cheeses in Disney World, and it lived up to its legend.
The mashed potatoes were definitely a level up from what we were expecting. They’re chunky and well-seasoned, with some different mix-ins that included crispy onion straws and some kind of greens. We thought it was a great, unique take on a classic side.
We had two different cauliflower options to try, starting with the Cauliflower Salad. It was very light, made with feta and arugula, as well as a light, sweet dressing. There were raisins sprinkled throughout. We loved most of the flavors of this, but that arugula was a little overpowering for the mix. We think it would be a bit nicer with a milder green, that way the other flavors can really shine.
Next up was the Cauliflower Bunny Chow, which was one of the plant-based options. It’s cauliflower mixed with potatoes and onions, and it was very well seasoned. The cauliflower was the highlight of the dish — fresh, crispy, and a little tangy.
Moving on to the meats, the Za’atar Braised Beef was tied with the mac and cheese for the BEST thing we ate during this meal. It was tender and had the perfect amount of chew, well seasoned with African spices. It was served on top of a crostini, and it was seriously…just amazing.
We also really loved the Green Curry Shrimp, which were tender and chewy and paired well with the jasmine rice. The green curry sauce is mild, but it was a good balance of flavors with the shrimp.
The chicken curry was more spiced than the other meats and sides we tried, and will definitely leave some heat behind in your mouth. The slow heat was the main flavor we got, but it was cooked well and cut into bite-sized chunks.
Finally, we had the North African Harira Soup. Ours was served fairly cold, and we would probably like it more if it were heated up. It’s mostly a mixture of lentils and beans in a broth, so it’s a good option for plant-based eaters, although it wasn’t our favorite option on the menu.
Now on to dessert! We tried three different options from the buffet. First was the plant-based chocolate mousse, which was shockingly amazing. It was light and fluffy, but rich as well. It’s served on a hard chocolate base, and the raspberry jam in the center was the perfect flavor pairing.
The African-inspired cookie bar was not our favorite of the desserts. It reminded us of a grocery store bakery cookie that was smushed into a bar, and the icing on top was overpoweringly sweet.
Finally, we’ve got the pineapple tart. We loved the presentation. onthis treat, and the filling was smooth and delicious, but didn’t have a very strong pineapple flavor. It’s served with a graham cracker base and topped with a meringue dollop and a white chocolate leaf.
That’s everything we tried at Tusker House. Time to share our final thoughts!
Nosh or Not
Take a safari with Donald and friends if…
- You really want to do a character meal with Mickey and friends! This is a great option for a character meal for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. You get to meet four main characters in their safari outfits, and those are pretty rare costumes!
- You’re looking for a delicious, fit-to-theme table service meal in Animal Kingdom. There aren’t a lot of sit-down options in Animal Kingdom, and this one is great if you really want that authentic Animal Kingdom experience. There are some African-inspired dishes and the theme of the restaurant is perfect.
- You have a broad variety of palettes in your party. This spot is great for picky eaters or great for adventurous ones, because there’s a little bit of everything. You can’t go wrong with that mac and cheese, or you can branch out and try curry. It’s up to you!
Pass and head elsewhere if…
- You’re on a budget. The meal here isn’t cheap — it’s $45 per adult at breakfast ($29 per child) and $59 per adult for lunch and dinner ($38 per child). You’re paying for a buffet AND a character meal, which can be a BIG bill for a larger party.
- You’re tight on time. This can be a long meal, considering you want to stay for four character meets and possibly multiple trips to the buffet. If you’re on a time crunch or you’re rushing to do rides, this might not be the right choice.
- You want to meet Minnie Mouse. If you’re hoping to meet Minnie Mouse, it won’t happen at this restaurant! Here, you’ve just got the four characters listed above. Instead, try Cape May Cafe, Topolino’s Terrace, Chef Mickey’s, or Hollywood & Vine.
All in all, our experience at Tusker House was fantastic! We loved almost everything we ate, and it was one of the best buffet experiences we’ve had in Disney World. The food has definitely stepped up a notch since the family-style reopening of the restaurant last year.
The character interactions were very special and we felt like we got a significant amount of time with each one. And our server was very attentive, refilling our drinks and taking plates away after each course. We’d definitely come back in the future, and this visit might’ve just bumped Tusker House higher on our list of recommended character meals!
However, that price is definitely hefty. With lunch and dinner at $59 per adult and $38 per child, it might be too much for many guests to pay. Think that you’ll also have to factor in tax and tip. Wow! Our bill wasn’t cheap but our bellies were full and happy afterward.
Stay tuned to DFB for more restaurant reviews from all the spots around Disney World. We’ve eaten EVERYWHERE, and we’ve got plenty of thoughts to share!
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Have you ever been to Tusker House? Tell us in the comments!
The post REVIEW: Buffets Are BACK at Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom first appeared on the disney food blog.