Welcome back to another installment of Melyssa and food, I mean Melyssa and the Mouse! Seriously, though, I love that this has turned into almost a food blog since food is one of the best experiences at Walt Disney World that I don’t think many people quite realize. From quick service places to signature meals, there’s so much more than burgers and chicken nuggets, which is why I love to talk about it and make people aware that you can get much more than typical “theme park food’ here.
Pete and I were able to finally head to Tiffins in Animal Kingdom and experience this signature restaurant during lunch. It was a Saturday, but we were able to make reservations about two weeks in advance and the lunchtime crowd was not a crowd at all, though there were plenty of children in attendance. There are plenty of seating options separated into themed rooms, which I’m sure help the restaurant feel less crowded, particularly during lunch when not too many people are choosing a signature type of meal in a theme park. Now, normally, I feel many of the park restaurants don’t hold a candle when compared to those in the resort hotels. Animal Kingdom Lodge, for instance, has 3 of the best sit-down restaurants on property with some of the most unique flavors. So, having a restaurant in Animal Kingdom park already had high expectations for me. And, honestly, I can say Tiffins did not disappoint and did not follow the typical park fare that you might expect from somewhere such as Tony’s or Coral Reef.
To start, we were seated in the Grand Gallery, which was probably the largest of the three dining rooms. It held many pieces of art, including totem poles which had once stood in the park itself but were moved inside and feature carvings of many animals, both real and mythical (aka the dragon). The thing that I loved most about this restaurant was the theming that comes with most areas associated with Animal Kingdom, which is to say, there was no shortage of theming/decor/artwork. You can instantly tell that the places that inspired all corners of Animal Kingdom park and Lodge truly impacted those artists and imagineers who traveled there. In the waiting area of Tiffins, near the restrooms and kitchen, there are shadow boxes with plenty of pictures of imagineers off on adventure while obtaining said inspiration. There’s at least one picture of the main imagineer for Animal Kingdom just casually placed besides the numerous other pictures of imagineers and staff, which just goes to show how down to earth he really is.
Ok, I know what you’ve all been waiting for- the food. The first thing that everyone has to understand is that the park restaurants have to be accessible to most guests, which sometimes comes at a detriment to the menu (aka the minimization of the menu at San Angel Inn in Epcot). However, I feel that the places within Animal Kingdom allow for a little more risk taking, though never to the level that one would find in the resorts. For example, Tusker House is a great breakfast, featuring menu items that are not typically offered on a normal character buffet breakfast menu, yet, when compared to Boma in the Animal Kingdom Lodge, the menu is much more generic at Tusker House. With that in mind, though, the offerings at Tiffins did not disappoint in variety and “exotic” flavor choices. The menu is a great blend of many different African dishes, some inspired by Indian food, others inspired by Asia. Here's a shot of the regular menu appetizers and the lunch special menu:
To drink, we both ordered the Hibiscus Henna, which features watermelon hibiscus, lime juice, and soda water, and offers a refreshing cocktail-type drink without any alcohol. We then began with the bread service. Now, anyone who has enjoyed the bread service at Sanaa will know that there is no other place on property that gives such a great selection of breads and dipping sauces. However, if you have tried the Taste of Africa at Jiko, the bread service at Tiffins is similar to that in that it features 4 dipping sauces, pomegranate olive oil, harissa yogurt, zhough yogurt, and black-eyed pea hummus, along with 3 different types of breads including a pita type bread and a pomegranate focaccia bread that is made in house and which was absolutely fantastic. For $10, this was not a bad way to start the meal.
Moving to the entrees, Tiffins does a fantastic lunch-time special, The Taste of Tiffins, where you can order 2 smaller plates of their regular entrees and enjoy both of them for only $28/person. I thought this was a steal and, if you’re not planning on ordering multiple appetizers and desserts, can really allow you to taste multiple dishes without the cost adding up on you. Both Pete and I chose this entree and I tried the combination of the Masa and Pulled Pork Tamale and the Market Vegetable Curry, while Pete chose the Crispy-Fried Fish and the 72-Hour Beef Short Rib. Our entrees were also served with a side of Jade Rice Blend, which was also amazing. The tamale was absolutely delicious, though it took me a few bites to find the pulled pork. The red mole sauce that they have the tamale sitting on is one of the best sauces I’ve had on property and paired perfectly with the pork. The size of this was also pretty decent, though I believe it was supposed to be “smaller” than the normal size dish. My absolute favorite was the curry vegetables, which were not spicy at all, but offered a different flavor than what is normally offered in the parks. Pete’s dish of the crispy-fried fish was light with a unique Som Tam and black bean sauce that was creamy but not too heavy. The beef short rib was super tender and cooked to perfection, though it would have been nice to have a little dipping sauce with this one, not that it was needed as the flavor that was infused in the meat would have been lost to an overwhelming sauce. Overall, I think the Taste of Tiffins is great as it allows guests to try multiple dishes for a more than fair price and gives them the opportunity to enjoy more than one unique flavor.
Best part- desserts! While not your typical park dessert fare- the desserts served reminded me more of a resort-level restaurant dessert as they were modestly sized and artistic in presentation. It’s no peanut butter and jelly milkshake from 50s Prime Time Cafe. However, the South African Chocolate Ganache ($12) that Pete ordered and the Calamansi Mousse ($12) that I ordered were dishes that could be similar to ones found in California Grill or Bluezoo. The mousse was super light and the mango lava as they call tasted like pure mango puree, but in a way that you would want if you were making a fruit smoothie. A nice light ending to a flavorful meal. The chocolate ganache had a couple of banana slices with it, but the banana was not too overwhelming (good if you don’t like too much banana, not so great if you love banana more than chocolate). Overall, a great end to a great meal.
A few closing thoughts. I absolutely loved this meal and would go back for lunch in a heartbeat. There’s so much more I would love to try and the Taste of Tiffins allows such great access to so much of the menu without killing the wallet. However, I don’t know if I would sacrifice 2 dining points on this- definitely not for lunch. While the food is amazing, I’m not sure I ordered anything that would constitute the 2 point signature classification, though the Wagyu beef short rib would justify that in my mind, the other dishes don’t conjure a signature restaurant to my mind, and I’ve been to most of them on property. I really think the Taste of Tiffins is a great way to get people in there. I love the flavors and don’t want them to change that either since that tends to take so much of the enjoyment of the foods away for me. I’m just not sure this park is made for that type of signature label when there’s so few other sit-down restaurants to choose from. But, on that note, I do think everyone who enjoys Sanaa, Boma, or Jiko will also love Tiffins. If you want to give it a whirl and see for yourself, definitely go during lunch when the Taste of Tiffins is offered and try a few dishes with your friends or significant other.
If you have tried Tiffins, I would love to hear from you- leave a comment on the post or here at the end of the article. Let me know what you think of the food itself, as well as the price. Do you think this should stay a signature restaurant or do you think it should go down to a 1 dining point place? Would you prefer it stay a 2 dining point restaurant to keep the crowds in check?