There are some fantastic new things to enjoy around Walt Disney World — and especially at Animal Kingdom. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to forget our favorites! So today, we’re heading back to Tusker House.
The buffet restaurant has been around for quite some time now, but I’ve continued to think of it as a hidden gem. Not only does it offer a character dining experience — and now, you can dine with your Disney friends for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — but the menu is also more interesting than most that you’ll find in Disney buffets.
The last time I visited, it was to enjoy that sort of between-breakfast-and-lunch period. (It’s not technically called brunch, but that’s sorta kinda what it is.) This time, we’re taking in an evening meal to see if everything is still as awesome as it always has been.
You’ll find Tusker House in the village of Harambe. Just head back like you’re going to Kililmanjaro Safaris, and you’ll see it on your left.
The themeing here is superb, as it is with every other part of Animal Kingdom. The restaurant itself is fashioned as the Safari Orientation Centre, with rooms tumbling into one another.
Rich details supply an immersive experience. Signs that dot walls remind you of the building’s antiquity.
If you plan to embark on a safari during your journey, you may want to know the proper Swahili words for common greetings and animals. Study this chalkboard and you’ll be good to go.
You can also see at a glance where your favorite driver is. I wonder if I can book a seat on the next Mt. Kili fly-over?
As I mentioned before, Tusker House rambles a bit. The dining area is comprised of four dining rooms, each differently themed. I love the natural light from the skylights.
Internal windows like this one allow for plenty of light and air circulation between the rooms, too.
Seating varies throughout the restaurant. Some chairs are amply padded…others, not so much.
During our most recent visit, we actually snagged a window seat.
But wait until you see the buffet area. The themeing is perfect.
The buffet is housed in its own hall, and it appears to be an outdoor market taking place in the courtyard of this building. Food is displayed in a series of stands and carts throughout the space.
Shade from the hot sun comes courtesy of these lengths of fabric, which filter the light without blocking it entirely.
Be sure to look up and look around. This balcony is filled with detail that you don’t wanna miss.
When you do decide to start filing those plates, however, there’s plenty to choose from. You’ll find dishes below the food on little lit shelves.
I recommend taking a quick tour of the space and seeing everything that’s available before you dive in. That way you can make the best decisions and keep food waste to a minimum.
Now that you have the lay of the land, let’s take a closer look at another aspect of Tusker House that makes it special: character interaction. We’ll take a closer look at the food soon!
A few years ago, characters only joined in the fun at breakfast and lunch. These days, you’ll find the crew at all three meals.
You may wonder what sets the characters here apart. Well…if you can find something more adorable than Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy dressed to go on safari, I’ll need you to let me know.
Donald and Daisy look quite well-prepared in their coordinated jackets.
I’m also digging on Goofy’s little French Foreign Legion flappy hat. 🙂
Don’t forget — you can also book Tusker House for a Rivers of Light Dining Package. You’d be so forward thinking to combine character autographs with reserved seating at the nighttime spectacular. Go you!
Time to check out the food now, though. Follow me for a tour of that buffet.
One super cool aspect of dining at Tusker House is the beverage selection. Jungle Juice — a combo of passion fruit, orange, and guava juice — always hits the spot. 🙂
As you head to the buffet, Donald is there to help you remember to “Be a Pal to the Planet” — and don’t take more food than you plan to enjoy. Remember, you can go back as many times as you like, so there’s no need to load up the first time ’round.
As I embarked on my trip around the buffet, my first stop was to check out the assortment of breads.
There was plenty to choose from, with everything from mealie corn bread (awesome), to rolls, to squares of focaccia.
We also found wedges of pita bread.
The pita is especially good with the assortment of dips and spreads that are available. We found tabbouleh, hummus, spicy South African preserves, and chutney. Butter was available for guests wanting something something a little less exotic.
If you’re looking to start your meal with fresh fruit, you’ll find cubed melon, grapes, and watermelon salad with feta cheese and onions.
There was an assortment of inventive vegetable and grain salads, too. Cold dishes featured green beans, black eyed peas, and couscous.
As with most Disney buffets, Tusker House offers a carving station with selections that change up daily. During our dinner, they were serving an array of options, including pork tenderloin.
A whole ham looked incredible, with a crispy outer crust.
While I’m not much of a pescatarian, I had to admit that seeing whole fish roasted in corn husks was really impressive.
The buffet also features selections that are situated at just the right level for little guests to make their own choices and help themselves. I love that they always feature corn dog nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and vegetables. We found corn on this part of the buffet as well.
There were also mashed potatoes, sautéed green beans, and roasted chicken on the kids’ buffet.
I couldn’t resist snagging some of the corn dog nuggets and mac and cheese. You know. Research. 😉
Beyond the carving stations and kids’ buffet, there were lots of other dishes and sides to choose from, including sweet plantains and roasted chicken.
There were creamy shrimp and curried chicken stews, served alongside plain white rice.
We also spied one of our favorites — potato and pea samosas. I never miss a chance to snag a few of these!
I also spied mashed potatoes with gravy as well as greens and a rice pilaf.
There were roasted veggies as well.
Be sure to leave room for a little something sweet. Tusker House has one of my favorite dessert buffets on property. You’ll find a full array of miniature pastries, like these colorful cakes topped with mousse and fresh raspberries.
Sweet cakes and glazed pastries were other options.
But in my opinion, it’s best to save room for the bread pudding. I loved that this one was topped with extra vanilla sauce and studded with plump raisins.
Magic bars (!!!), caramel brownies, and an assortment of cookies rounded out the desserts options.
After a little something sweet, I was ready to head off for Rivers of Light!
Nosh or Not?
You’ll love Tusker House Restaurant if:
- You enjoy Character Meals, especially when the characters are dressed in super cute clothes.
- You’re looking for a unique, all you care to enjoy dining experience.
- Attention to detail, incredible detail, and an immersive experience.
- You have both picky and adventurous eaters to please, or are looking to explore somewhat exotic fare.
You might want to skip Tusker House Restaurant if:
- You’re looking for a quieter, more adult dining experience (in which case Tiffins might be the place for you.)
- You are juggling a baby or toddler, or have another reason not to want the hassle of making multiple trips to a buffet.
- You aren’t a fan of Character Meals.
I still love Tusker House, but on this visit there seemed to be much less variety than I’ve seen here in the past, and that included everything from breads and interesting bread spreads, straight through to the sweets. But this still going to be one of the most unique and “exotic” buffets.
And Tusker House is your one and only character meal stop in Animal Kingdom. The character interaction is good here. I also still love to wander through the large restaurant, taking in the detail and decor.
But these days, I have to say, if you’re looking for a buffet meal with interesting and exotic flavors of African and Indian cuisine, I’d probably give Boma the slight edge.
So, given that I’m not quite as impressed it this time, I have to ask: Is Tusker House still one of your Disney Dining Must Dos? Leave a comment and let us know where this fan favorite ranks with you!