Your Top-Rated Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios Restaurants

by on March 6, 2017 18 Comments

Filed under: Dining, Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World (FL)

Best Disney Restaurants

I’m back with more results from our recent Disney World dining survey. Today we’re looking at your top-rated Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios restaurants. (Here are the best Magic Kingdom restaurants, and here are Epcot’s best restaurants.) Like those earlier posts, today’s analysis is based on more than 122,000 Disney World dining surveys we received in 2016.

The Best Animal Kingdom Restaurants

Let’s start with the park’s quick-service restaurants. As before, restaurants in green are significantly better than average, while restaurants in red are significantly worse than average:

Animal Kingdom Quick Service Restaurants

RestaurantNumber of SurveysThumbs-Up %
Tamu Tamu Refreshments25197.6
Harambe Fruit Market18297.2
Royal Anandapur Tea Company11295.5
Zuri’s Sweet Shop12795.3
Flame Tree Barbecue1,42594.9
Thirsty River Bar and Trek Snacks7991.1
Yak & Yeti Local Food Cafes68590.9
Harambe Market58189.2
Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery20087.5
Eight Spoon Cafe3375.8
Mean = 89.7, sdev=6.1
Tamu Tamu Refreshments at Africa in Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park

Tamu Tamu Refreshments Photo courtesy of Disney (c)

Tamu Tamu Refreshments serves Dole Whip floats, which is not coincidentally the substance that scientists feed laboratory mice to test addiction. (I’m, like, 99% sure on that.) Also doing well is the Harambe Fruit Market, wedged between Kilimanjaro Safaris and some gift shops. It’s got a good selection of chilled fruits, probably very refreshing on hot days.

Two of my personal favorites, Flame Tree Barbecue and Royal Anandapur Tea Company, also do well. Flame Tree’s seating has been expanded over the past year, with lovely views of either its own multi-level terraces, or the waterfront where Rivers of Light plays at night.

Harambe Market comes in at about average for the park. I think the food quality here is better than the rating shows. The original ordering system, where you had to go to multiple windows to order different foods, may have been dragging down Harambe’s ratings. On my last visit, you could order most items from more windows. We’ll see if that helps.

At the bottom of the Animal Kingdom’s counter-service restaurants are Pizzafari and the Eight Spoon Cafe. Pizzafari may be the worst pizza in Walt Disney World, and that’s saying something. The crust is too doughy and often feels undercooked. The culinary statement made by the sauce and toppings is that the cooks hate what their lives have become.

I’m not sure why the Eight Spoon Cafe’s mac-and-cheese-based menu is rated so low.  The one time I’ve tried it, it wasn’t terrible. If you’ve sampled it, leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.

Here’s the Animal Kingdom’s table service ratings chart:

Animal Kingdom  Table Service Restaurants

RestaurantNumber of SurveysThumbs-Up %
Nomad Lounge10797.2%
Dawa Bar19294.8
Tusker House1,51692.7
Yak & Yeti79992.1
Rainforest Cafe55883.2
Mean = 89.7, sdev=6.1

If you’ve not been to Nomad Lounge, try it before the Pandora crowds arrive in May.  Every one of our reviewers (including me) thinks highly of Tiffins. The drinks are vastly different than what you see around Disney property, the small-plate appetizers are interesting, and the drink flavors and alcohol are all in balance.

Tiffins' Wagyu Strip Loin and Braised Short Rib

Tiffins’ Wagyu Strip Loin and Braised Short Rib

We’ve done a number of reviews of Tiffins, the park’s newest table service restaurant, all of them positive. The food is substantially better than anything you’d find in, say, the Magic Kingdom, and as good as anything you’ll get at Epcot or the Studios.

As for the rest of the Animal Kingdom’s sit-down places, almost all of them are better than average. The one exception is the Rainforest Cafe, which does much worse than average almost every year. The menu is simply too big and too diverse for the kitchen to do any of it well. Your best bet is to stick with something simple, like a hamburger, or just wait to eat until you get back to your hotel.

The Best Hollywood Studios Restaurants

If you want to know the state of food service at Hollywood Studios, consider these two things:

  1. Disney closed the two highest-rated restaurants in the park, and replaced them with nothing.
  2. The park has as many open restaurants rated “much worse than average” as above average.

Hollywood Studios Quick Service Restaurants

RestaurantNumber of SurveysThumbs-Up %
Writer’s Stop (closed)26995.2
Starring Rolls Cafe (closed)74094.6
Sweet Spells16894.0
Trolley Car Cafe Starbucks24993.6
Anaheim Produce14891.9
Dinosaur Gertie’s Ice Cream10890.7
Fairfax Fare32886.2
Backlot Express97084.6
Catalina Eddie’s15784.1
Rosie’s All-American Cafe17882.0
PizzaRizzo (new)7380.8
ABC Commissary1,04776.5
Studio Catering Co. (closed)5076.0
Min & Bill’s Dockside Diner20175.6
Mean = 89.7, sdev=6.1

I’m disappointed in PizzaRizzo. Disney (rightfully) closed the old Pizza Planet in the same location, ostensibly to freshen up the concept and get ready for Toy Story Land and Star Wars crowds when they start to arrive in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The decor changed, but the low-quality pizza stayed exactly the same.

Remember that Disney had $2.5 billion in profits in its most recent three-month quarter. Management has the money to make better food. They choose not to.

The best place to get a quick meal at the park is the Starbucks on Hollywood Boulevard.

Here’s the Studios’ table service restaurants:

Hollywood Studios Table Service Restaurants

RestaurantNumber of SurveysThumbs-Up %
Tune In Lounge10788.8
50’s Prime Time Cafe1,36488.4
Hollywood Brown Derby72787.8
Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano76987.5
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant1,25086.2
Hollywood & Vine1,24179.5
Mean = 89.7, sdev=6.1

All of the Studios’ table service restaurants are rated below the average for all Walt Disney World restaurants. I think Hollywood Brown Derby is better than average – its Pork Three Ways is fantastic. I also think the prices keep the ratings down.

I’ll be headed back to the Studios over the next month, getting ready to start updating the Unofficial Guide for 2018. In the comments below, let me know what your favorite restaurant and thing to eat is in the park. I’ll give them a try and report back.

Want to let us know your picks? Take our user survey where we ask about every aspect of your trip.

Posted on March 6, 2017

18 Responses to “Your Top-Rated Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios Restaurants”

  • Len, thanks for this, very interesting as always. Your advice that “The best place to get a quick meal at the park is the Starbucks on Hollywood Boulevard” is true, but isn’t that so sad? Inside a Disney theme park, the best food is from a chain shop that you can find anywhere. And as I’ve heard you say before, it doesn’t cost much more to make good pizza than bad pizza. Seems strange to me that the company that put a lot of good restaurants in Disney Springs and that created Be Our Guest and Tiffin’s is stubbornly sticking to the crappy pizza. Maybe there’s a wacky story there for Jim to uncover one day, like they have a 100-year unbreakable contract with the crappy pizza suppliers.

  • Nice photo finish HS TS, except h&v. I would mark Brown Derby lower as just seems less bang-per-Buck but a nice lunch in any of these place is one of the best activities in HS IMO.

  • Len, Our family has made Eight Spoons Cafe a go-to when we are in Animal Kingdom. The lobster mac & cheese was very good as was the three cheese mac & cheese. The latest menu has mac & cheese along with a shrimp or pulled pork versions. You only had 33 responses contributing to the low rating. Could that be because hot mac & Cheese isn’t a favorite of visitors in the hot, humid Florida weather? When we’ve had them they’ve been hot, gooey, and very rich! Or maybe it’s the small portions and $4-$6 price. Still, I wouldn’t rate crappy pizza higher than some good artery clogging mac & cheese.

  • by Liz Faulkner on March 6, 2017, at 12:49 pm EST

    Len, thanks for a great article as always. It is sad that Hollywood studios has gone down in recent years especially the counter service with the closure of starring rolls. I agree with Hollywood and vine we go there only for the characters the food is horrible. I do think The Brown Derby took a bit of a hit over the last couple of years, food quality went down and service had been inconsistent however last couple of trips I’ve noticed the quality has increased and the service seems better so maybe it’s on the upswing. I do agree I think it is price that drives this rating lower. Mama Melrose is one of our favorites at Hollywood studios most likely not for the food because it’s standard Italian chain restaurant Quality but more the atmosphere a place to sit down that’s cool and dark with a few good drinks (ok maybe just a couple of pitchers of sangria) and some high-level carbs. I really wonder if the restaurants in Hollywood studios have taken a hit in the survey due to all the closures of attractions, rather than any major differences in the food quality or service.

    • Thanks Liz! I agree about Mama Melrose’s. It’s a good, safe choice for a lot of people.

      You may be on to something about the attraction closures leading to lower restaurant ratings. I’ll see if we can look at that.

  • For me, what keeps my scoring down for the Hollywood Brown Derby isn’t the pricing, but the service: our visits there have always been accompanied by a strangely uptight attitude from the hostesses and servers. Although I would say that I can get better food for the same prices elsewhere (not out of the ordinary at theme parks), when the best service I’ve received at a Disney park restaurant is “aloof,” there’s something not right.

  • I stand behind Sci-fi dine in. It is consistently a favorite, but we never remember what we are there. It’s just amazingly fun and unique.

    • Agreed – the movies make the food taste better!

      • We LOVE Sci-Fi IF, and I do mean IF, you stick to burgers, fries & shakes! They serve some of the best cheeseburgers on WDW property and the shakes (oh and Sundaes!) are delicious!! Would love it if they could tweek the movies with some new clips but otherwise, feel this restaurant is not to be missed! Having the oppty to get out of the hot FL sun for an hour or so, watch old sci fi clips and enjoy a delicious burger w/ an ice cream treat? Sign me up every time!

  • I agree Pizzafari is terrible. Pizza at Epcot Napoli is outstanding. And Yes I need to get to Nomad soon before Pandora. Whispering Canyon for breakfast is awesome with skillets are very good as is the banana bread french toast with foster sauce, no bananas! The macadamia nut pancakes at Kona are much better than the Tonga toast which was chewy because of the sugary outside. Must try Lillikoi juice! Drinks at the bar next to Tusker House are very good, sugar cane mojito, the watermelon cocktail, and other with rum and punch – very good.

  • The problem I have with Brown Derby isn’t the food, it’s the service. It remains the only Disney restaurant we have had to leave because they simply weren’t able to serve us. In 2016 we got there 15 minutes before our reservation and waited until 20 minutes after before we gave up. There were empty tables the whole time, they just weren’t seating anyone in them. The previous visit in 2015 we had a lunch that took almost two hours. It’s nice food, but expensive and not worth the hassle.

  • If you’re wanting to eat outside at Tiffins on their patio, are reservations required?

  • My family LOVED Starring Rolls. I never have read why it closed and we can’t imagine any reason it would. Every time we have been there, it’s been crowded. It was one of the best quick service meals in all of Disney World.

  • Bad as some of these may be when compared to each other, at least 3/4 of the people would recommend eating at any one.

    • It’s grading on a curve, Rosie! The *average* restaurant gets an 89.7 – it’s basically an “A- student”. Again, that’s *average*. The ones that are rated in the 70s are so far below average that you should consider eating elsewhere.

  • by Rob Crawford on March 10, 2017, at 9:07 am EST

    I was at the World last October, staying at All Star Sports, and was craving their nachos. Sure, it’s not great for you, but after walking miles and miles all day, it won’t hurt you.

    But Disney, on their “healthy” kick, removed them from the resort menu.

    Min & Bills, though, had nachos. They were “meh”. You have to be *trying* to disappoint someone who is *craving* something as simple as cheap nachos.