Another change since our last visit was that there is no longer a family photo opportunity with Donald outside - he greets guests inside now with everyone else. This was fine for us but I can see how people might be disappointed if they had the Memory Maker, as none of the characters inside came around with a Photopass photographer. Within minutes of checking in, we received our text message and returned to the host stand.
Tusker House has two seating areas: the large, main area, and a smaller room with about 20 tables total which is off to the side (closer to the restrooms). We were in the smaller room, which was fine with us (it was quieter - as quiet as a character meal at Disney can be, anyway). Our only issue in this room was several small windows up near the ceiling that did not have window coverings on them. As the sun streamed in, our little corner table became quite warm and sunny but we opted to not switch as we were already settled and halfway through our meal when it first occurred.
Our server was a lovely woman from Japan who was extremely efficient. We never had to ask for refills and she returned frequently to remove plates. We were very pleased overall with the service.
Tusker House is set up like an African marketplace, with the buffet arranged in stations throughout a large, open area in the center of the restaurant. The plates and bowls are on shelves just below the food, which makes it easy to hop in and out of each area and choose what you’d like without having to wait in a long buffet line. Right in the center is the dessert section. To the left are breads, spreads, and salads, and to the right are the main courses and side dishes. It’s well organized and we never had to wait for anything except the carving station.
We arrived just as breakfast was ending, so we were able to sample some of the breakfast dishes before they were removed. The Mickey waffles were a welcome surprise for our three-year-old daughter! Despite the fact that breakfast had started almost four hours prior, everything we tried was still hot and fresh.
The lunch offerings were different than our last visit but still good and everyone was able to find something they enjoyed. Some of the food at Tusker House is more on the exotic side - several curry dishes come to mind. This should not deter you from trying this restaurant - they have plenty of variety and many familiar dishes as well. At the carving station, a chef was slicing sirloin beef and a pork loin. Both were perfectly cooked on the fire-roasted spits that line the back of the buffet area and while they had some spice to them, they were mild. There were also coordinating sauces to up the flavor even more. In addition, there was salmon, rotisserie chicken, roasted potatoes, mashed potatoes, rice, vegetables, and my personal favorite, mealie pap (a cross between grits and a corn pudding). There is also a kiddie buffet (plenty of adults were helping themselves to this, as well) with corn dog nuggets, macaroni and cheese, corn and carrots, sauteed green beans, and sandwich fixings. Everything we tried was perfectly cooked and replaced frequently.
The dessert selection was good, although not as extensive as previous visits (the lemon bars were definitely missed). They offered a selection of cookies, chocolate lava cakes, carrot cakes, fruit tarts, coconut macaroons, and a few other items. All the desserts are small, allowing you to sample multiple things. There was also fresh fruit salad. I do feel like they could have added some more choices to the dessert bar - some self-serve soft ice cream would have been great.
In addition to the delicious food, one of the best reasons to visit Tusker House is the opportunity to visit with your Disney favorites in their safari clothing with no lines! Donald, Daisy, Mickey, and Goofy all visit your table, often multiple times. They will sign autographs, pose for pictures, and interact with your family (especially Goofy - he was lots of fun). It was great to see all of them and not have to wait in lines in the parks to see them. However, I wish they would consider adding Minnie to the rotation. It felt strange to have Mickey there without Minnie. Our three-year-old loves Minnie and it would have been just perfect for her to meet Minnie at the same time.
Tusker House is a great restaurant to visit while at Animal Kingdom. It has good food, great character interaction, and it is the perfect location to walk out after a meal and go see Festival of the Lion King or take a ride on the Kilimanjaro Safaris.
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