REVIEW: Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom – The Most Overrated Counter Service at Disney World

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For years, I’ve been told by hundreds of other Disney World guests that their favorite counter service restaurant at the resort is Flame Tree Barbecue at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Heck, it was the winner by the largest margin in “The Top 10” segment’s history on the WDW News Today Podcast back in the day (in voting to rank quick service options at the Vacation Kingdom of the World).

Now, I’ve been to the restaurant at least 4 times in the decade and I have never really had a positive experience. Twice, myself and others in the party got sick after dining here, and the other two times I was just truly underwhelmed.

Now, I fully expect the comments regarding this article to be hateful as I bash the beloved Animal Kingdom smokehouse, but I want you to understand that I tried. I visited twice in the last month in an attempt to give Flame Tree Barbecue a fair chance, and both times I was fairly unimpressed. That being said, this place isn’t all bad and I certainly found some redeeming qualities outside of the menu:

  • It is beautiful – the seating area is gorgeously themed (even if it is outside in the Florida heat) and offers breathtaking views of the park, as well as serene dining gazebos surrounded by trees and water features.
  • The spicy barbecue sauce makes anything better. Available at the condiment station, you are welcome tog et as much as you please.

Well, let’s get this over with, and then I will provide my address so the angry mob can find me…

Flame Tree Barbecue Menu

Flame Tree Barbecue Menu, Disney's Animal Kingdom
Flame Tree Barbecue Menu, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Flame Tree Barbecue Menu, Disney's Animal Kingdom
Flame Tree Barbecue Menu, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Flame Tree Barbecue Menu, Disney's Animal Kingdom
Flame Tree Barbecue Menu, Disney’s Animal Kingdom

French Fries with Pulled Pork and Cheese ($6.49)

French Fries with Pulled Pork and Cheese ($6.49)
French Fries with Pulled Pork and Cheese ($6.49)

These sounded so good that I was excited to eat here, but they did not meet any expectations. I HATE the Disney counter service french fries (check out my Plaza Restaurant review), and they are presented here with toppings that do nothing to enhance them. The pulled pork here is mostly flavorless and the cheese is probably the equivalent of melted Kraft American Cheese Singles.

French Fries with Pulled Pork and Cheese ($6.49)
French Fries with Pulled Pork and Cheese ($6.49)

Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich ($10.99)

Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich ($10.99)
Smoked Pulled Pork Sandwich ($10.99)

I though the pulled pork sandwich would be a safe option… I was wrong. The bread was pretty standard and the pork itself flavorless. I did order this without the coleslaw as I am not a fan of it, but this felt like something I had ordered at Six Flags Great Adventure not too long ago. I expect more from Disney counter service.

1/2 Chicken ($13.99)

1/2 Chicken ($13.99)
1/2 Chicken ($13.99)

This particular dish was ordered by a peanut/tree nut allergy guest, so some of the sides have been altered to protect the innocent. The chicken itself is good, but requires a fair amount of work to get the meat off of the bones. Once you do, it may not feel like $13.99 worth of food. The coleslaw and beans are fine enough as sides.

1/2 Chicken ($13.99)
1/2 Chicken ($13.99)

Ribs, Chicken, and Pulled Pork Combo ($19.99)

Ribs, Chicken, and Pulled Pork Combo ($19.99)
Ribs, Chicken, and Pulled Pork Combo ($19.99)

Yes, there is a $20 entree at this counter service location, but is for sure big enough to share. I split this with another adult and we were both pretty full after. That being said, the chicken is the same from the 1/2 chicken dish, so I need no reiterate my feelings on it. Both the pulled pork and ribs were flavorless, and the ribs were fairly fatty. The spicy barbecue sauce I added from the condiments bar helped a lot, in fact, I would happily walk food over from any other location just to add that sauce to it. The jalapeno cornbread wasn’t bad, but paled in comparison to what you will find at Trail’s End, Boatwright’s, or similar establishments around the Walt Disney World Resort.

Overall

Flame Tree Barbecue is underwhelming in my opinion. I like barbecue, and I even like a fair amount of quick service barbecue joints outside of the theme parks. My review doesn’t come from adversity to the type of cuisine served here. I feel like this could be much better with little effort. I would very much like to see a menu revamp for Flame Tree in the not-too-distant future. Until then, I will likely not be returning to the Discovery Island eatery.

Overall Score for Flame Tree Barbecue – 2 out of 7

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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]

31 Comments

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  • I must say I 100% disagree with you here. I love the Flame tree and its a must stop for me every time I go to Disney. To each their own I guess, but The Chicken/Ribs platter is delicious and the baked beans are outstanding.

  • Based on the photos, the food doesn’t look the same as before the refurb last year. It appears as though they’re skimping on the rub, and may have changed recipes on a couple things. The ribs used to be totally and evenly coated, and yours look like they got a passing sprinkle if at all. The pulled pork had the rub mixed throughout and tended to be fairly moist and juicy, and yours looks plain and dry. (Though I do admit that any pulled pork without sauce or slaw is going to be on the dry side.) I think there must have been a change during the refurb.

    Also, please stop punishing yourself with variations of quick service fries trying to give them a chance. They’re universally awful.

  • I totally agree with you! I thought I was the only one that didn’t get it, and accurate review in my opinion.

  • I kind of agree. The fries are meh and I hate coleslaw of all kinds. I’ve only dined there once (back in 2011) and I don’t remember anything standing out about that experience. It wasn’t terrible but wasn’t excellent either. It was so much food (combo platter x 3 adults and 1 kid whom I think had a kid’s meal) we just probably couldn’t finish it all. I’d like to try the watermelon salad some day but other than that I’d probably dine elsewhere.

  • I completely agree with you, I have never had a good meal here. Every time I eat at this restaurant, I go in with high expectations and every time I am very disappointed.

  • I have never eaten here but am thankful for the honest review. I feel like Even though the prices are rising the quality of food that is overestimate is declining. This definitely sits on my mind for next years trip as far as stay on property. We have been doing so for the last few years that we have come and some times twice. We will be back in November and if the quality is still the same I guess I would not mind paying for a car rental and staying off property.

  • I completely agree with you! As a BBQ lover I find that the offerings at WDW in general are not that good(have not been able to score a reservation at House of Blues my last two trips, so this opinion may change). It is disappointing since BBQ is one of my favorite foods, and we are in the South when we’re there. Every time a new restaurant announcement is coming I pray that it’s a good BBQ joint.

  • Last i heard, “Discovery Island” has been closed for many years.
    That being said.
    I miss the original menu at flame tree and the variety of BBQ sauces they had when Animal Kingdom first opened.
    I use to suggest to people to go to Tusker House but, their menu changed as well and is not as impressive as it once was. I never go back there any more.
    Flame Tree is still my favorite treat when i visit.

    • The central part of Animal Kingdom where Flame Tree is located is called Discovery Island so while the island by that name in the middle of Bay Lake has been closed for some time, the “version” at Animal Kingdom is not

    • HaHa!
      Next time you try to make a snarky remark Mr Harrington, make sure you have your facts straight.
      That way you end up sounding like an Idiot. Lol

  • I actually felt this to be a more fair review than others, my only gripe albeit minimal is when people — and many are guilty of this — claiming to be sick after eating a particular thing or at a location. There are many different “bugs” that get your tummy turning & some may infect you days before you feel sick, others attack much more quickly.

  • Well, you aren’t wrong. The food is rather dried out, flavorless and overpriced. Now. It didn’t used to be that way.

    Like with all good things at Disney, once they see something become popular, the response is to raise prices and cut value. Those ribs used to be among the best one could get at any quick service establishment anywhere. Now, they barely pass for edible. The chicken is greasy, basics like fries and onion rings way too overpriced, for what they are, and again, far more expensive than they should be.

  • Though I am from Memphis and barbeque is pretty popular in the Bluff City, I have eaten and Flame Tree a few times and have to disagree with you. I happen to be an avid distance runner and have gone the healthier option. I have only eaten the smoke turkey breast sandwich — with ample amounts of their special BBQ sauce. Have yet to try the watermelon salad, but plan on having it next time (I have eaten variations of the watermelon salad outside of Disney).

    Hailing for Memphis, BBQ is a food group and the Flame Tree pulled pork sandwich pales in comparison to an award-winning pulled pork and slaw sandwich from Central Barbecue. Come for a visit.

    Flame Tree has some great views and ample shade to relax while you eat with nature.

  • We agree ! The last time we were there (pre refurbishment) we all got sick AND it was the only place I got mosquito bites all around my ankles even with knee high socks and long pants. With all the current mosquito concerns, I hope they have addressed that issue. Thank you for offering the first not-wonderful review I’ve read. We thought we were the only ones !

  • This place is awesome. Have been their several times and has been fantastic each time. No complaints from us, oh wait I forgot it’s Disney so I must get on these forums and bitch!!

    • Disney employee obviously posted this comment above. How about fixing the parks instead of posting how guests complaint who want you to stop being so cheap and cutting quality to disgusting level. Review is truthful. Used to be good. VERY few places on Disney worth eating at anymore. They cut quality of everything by 10 and charge triple now.

  • I’m largely disappointed with the food at Animal Kingdom. Tusker House was pretty bad and it costs a lot to eat there.

  • The last few times I have been there it’s been just so so , it used to be my go to place , next time I go I will be finding something else to take its place! I’m no longer stopping there I can make bq ribs and pulled pork better at home so no need to stop there.

  • Totally agree with you. I would say a few years ago it might have been better. Recently, the food has changed. The chicken is dry and hard to eat. Last time, I ate there I got sick as well.

  • Phew I thought I was the only one that felt that way! I have a hard time passing up BBQ. But I just can’t bring myself to try it again.

  • I am going to 100% AGREE with you! I have read so many positive reviews about FT BBQ and was so excited to try it. WELL, it was probably one of the worst QS I have ever been to. I was so disappointed, I honestly don’t when I would even give it another try.

  • I think the pulled pork sandwich would be great once the BBQ sauce is added. Most pulled pork is dry without sauce

  • The outdoor seating by the lake was a fantastic break from the movement of the parks with an amazing Sunset view. The onion rings were pretty good, but my son’s rack of ribs were leather on bone at the ends and tough in the middle. He was a little disappointed. We never saw the comdiment bar so just ate it as is. We’re from St. Louis and chuckled that it’s giving our bbq a bad name. The beans were like high fructose corn syrup grocery store canned beans. I suggest ordering the dressing on the side if you get the watermellon salad. Mine had a lot, and it was like watermellon cube sponges soaking it up. Not the healthy break from grease I was looking for. And my plate was mostly watermellon, dressing, some cheese, and a few lettuce leaves. We realized the over sweetness was trying to be like St. Louis style? But the dressing was over the top. Maybe in a smaller dose it would be good. We had a time of ordering also, they said I couldn’t get a snack with the meal plan because I ordered a salad. I had a hard time communicating I wanted it in lieu of the dessert not as a side dish…so I substituted bottle water in lieu of it instead. Lol. My husband had the platter and he said it was meh, not that great. So glad to hear its not just us! Breaded curry sausages in the African market with the Odwalla drink was way better! The beauty of the surroundings and having the free meal plan left us feeling jovial, but if were to pay out of pocket I have to admit we’d be a bit cranky about it.

  • Flame Tree is a counter service must. The sauce is outstanding, the flavor and quantity for the price unbelievable, and the speed is impeccable. You can’t please everyone, obviously, but for a counter service credit on the dining plan, this is a home run.

  • Everyone told us we HAD to eat here. So we did. Our first time there, our food was cold and they forgot parts of our order the first time we went. We dismissed it as just bad service and that maybe if our food was actually at least warm it would have tasted better.

    The second time we went, we both got the half chicken. It was dry and I don’t think it tasted great, but it wasn’t horrible. Less than two hours later we both got ill. Who knows if it was from the food or not.

    We gave it one last try and took our 5 year old peanut/tree nut allergy daughter with us. We asked about the kids menu and what was available for her. They said absolutely everything was fine for her. She got a hot dog, grapes and a cookie. Except, they forgot the cookie and when we tried to ask them for it, they yelled at us to go to the back of the line (which was very long). When we refused and said they forgot part of our order they wouldn’t acknowledge us until the couple behind us got mad at the employee for not fixing their mistake. They finally got the cookie for us and we looked at the ingredients – “May contain peanuts and tree nuts” was written on the package, so we asked if we could substitute it for something else. We were told “No, Disney doesn’t do that. You get what is on the meal and that’s it.”. Well, Disney has ALWAYS done that for our other daughter when we had traveled there, but I really wasn’t in the mood to argue at that point and my husband said he would trade his dessert with our daughter and eat her cookie.

    We sat down to eat and once again, our food was cold. I got the pork sandwich that contained about one tablespoonful of meat and the rest was just the bun (although surprisingly the bun was good). The baked beans had no flavor and I couldn’t really tell you what the meat tasted like since all I could taste was the bread. The fries were just like every counter service, so I wasn’t expecting them to be great. My husband had the chicken sandwich and it was very dry and he said the same about the beans and fries.

    The worst part was that my daughter’s hot dog was so cold, it actually had some ice on the bottom of it. There’s no way they had even cooked it through (although I am sure it was precooked to begin with). The bun was so hard, she asked if she could take the hot dog out and eat it off the bun. Then she opened her package of grapes and asked me why they were all mushy. They were expired and full of mold!

    My husband went back and after waiting for almost 20 minutes he was told they didn’t have any more grapes. No offer for anything else at all.

    Most of the issues I think have to do with the employees. Maybe if they had employees who cared, the food would be cooked better and would taste better. At this point, we don’t plan to try it again.

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