For years Animal Kingdom was nothing more than a half day park with a couple quick service dining options and a great safari ride. Now fast forward more than 20 year later and Animal Kingdom has now turned into a must do for almost any guest visiting the Walt Disney World Resort packed with multiple thrill rides, animal experiences and even their own signature dining location.
What is Signature Dining?
Since the addition of the Disney Dining Plan, signature dining has become a hot button topic. But you may be wondering what is signature dining? Now there has been plenty of debate about what actually qualifies for signature dining including the quality of food, the service, the entertainment or the best Disney dining but what is really comes down to is the price point.
If you are using the Disney Dining Plan, you are going to notice that there are different credits available such as a quick service dining credit which is any location that you order your food at a kiosk, pick it up yourself and then find your own table (unless you use Mobile Ordering).
Then you have table service dining credits. When you are trying to plan out your meals you are going to notice that some locations only use one table service dining credits while others need two. And that is basically what it comes down it. Signature dining locations are basically just more expensive. Disney decides which location qualifies for signature dining which means there is a higher price point and should be worth two table service dining credit.
If you are trying to do Disney on a budget then you are going to want to stay away from Signature Dining whether you are using the dining plan or paying out of pocket, there is always going to be a higher price point and you are going to overspend each time. On the other hand, if this is your splurge vacation with no real price point, you are definitely going to want to book a few Signature Dining experiences.
Tiffins is Animal Kingdom’s first and only Signature Dining experience and it is definitely not going to let anyone down. From the moment you step through the doors, you know why are you spending that extra money or using those extra dining credits.
So What Is Tiffins?
Located in Animal Kingdom at Discovery Island, Tiffins is not only Animal Kingdom’s only signature dining location, but it is also the newest addition to table service dining experiences at Animal Kingdom as well.
In more recent years, Disney has been making every last attempt to have experiences themed to the best of their ability and Tiffins is going to be another example of that. Tiffins opened right before the Pandora expansion and with that Animal Kingdom knew that they would be having more foot traffic. So Tiffins is located relatively close to the Land of Pandora. This is going to make it an ideal location to begin an immersive experience that eases one into the world of adventure.
With the lost of the Adventurer’s Club in Pleasure Island at Disney Springs, there was something missing at Disney World when it came to the land of adventure and exploration. Tiffins has managed to bring that back to life. From the moment you walk through the front doors you are going to feel as if you have walked into a restaurant fit for any adventurer making their way through exploration. You are going to feel the wonder of travel through every room of Tiffins.
There are three main dining rooms inside Tiffins each one inspired by African and Asian culture with some of the world’s most exotic animals gracing every corner. There is going to be gorgeous artwork to a giant map featuring some of the world’s most splendiferous adventures to photograph collages, paintings, sculptures and even some notes and sketches from famous adventurers themselves. This particular dining location is covered in cool earth tones which really provides a relaxing environment when you spend your day running around the park trying to catch every character experience in between those fastpass reservations.
So There is Food, Right?
Yes, there is definitely a large selection in food, but keep in mind if there are any picky eaters in your family, they may have a harder time picking something to eat here than other dining locations in Animal Kingdom.
The cuisine here is based on African, Asian, Indian and some Mediterranean flavors known for being hubs of exploration of travels. So the theming that exists inside the decor is going to flow nicely right into the food you are going to consume.
Tiffins is going to offer a lunch and dinner service daily, but unfortunately they do have a breakfast option yet. Lunch service is going to be offered from 11:30AM to 3:330PM and the dinner service is going to be from 4:00PM onward. There are going to be different offerings, but the most important thing to remember if you are paying out of pocket is that dinner is going to be more expensive than lunch, so if you are trying to complete Disney with a limited income, make sure you select the lunch option. Because this is a signature dining location it is going to be more expensive, but if you are trying to do signature dining on a budget, lunch is always going to be the best option
For the lunch you are going to find international and domestic cuisine such as:
- Fort McCoy Rib-Eye
- Shrimp and Grits
- Pan-seared Alaskan Halibut
- Crispy Sadza
- Braised Lamb Shank
- Chicken and Waffles
- Surf and Turf
- Whole-fried Sustainable Fish
- Crispy Sadza with Braised Berkshire Pork Belly
Dinner is going to have most of the same selections, but at a higher price point, so when we say, save some money and just go for lunch, we mean it.
Unlike other Disney Dining Plan locations where the entire menu is eligible for the dining plan, Tiffins does have two enhancement meals that are not eligible for the dining plan. So if you do want the Lobster Macaroni and Cheese or Gobi Manchurian make sure you budget for it because it does not qualify for the dining plan.
The one must try on the menu is going to be the Tiffin Signature Bread Service which is $11 whether you get it for lunch or dinner. This is considered an appetizer and is a bread selection featuring Indian-spiced Tomato Chutney, Eggplant Dip and Apricot Chutney. It is the perfect way to start any meal, but at Tiffins it is going to be the one item everyone will love each time.
But What if I Do Not Want a Whole Meal?
When Tiffins was planned out they did come up with another option for Kingdom adventurers to find a way to experience the signature dining location without needing to break the bank or pre book a dining reservation. This is going to be the Nomad Lounge.
The Nomad Lounge is not going to require any dining reservations and you do not need a full appetite or dining plan to eat here. Instead located adjacent to Tiffins is going to be a beautiful watering hole nestled right into the atmosphere where your family and yourself can enjoy small savory plates and delicious drinks while taking a break from the hustle and bustle of Animal Kingdom.
I do suggest making this a stop before you head in Pandora: The World of Avatar. It is a great way to take a break and eat something small before you make the long trek into one of the most crowded areas of the theme park. It is also beneficial to have a nice snack before you make your way in. Due to the popularity of the attractions inside Pandora, you will spend a large portion of your day waiting in stand by lines if you do not have a fastpass, and having a full stomach or a nice snack is going to keep the entire party patient while exploring everything Pandora has to offer.
DISNEY NOTE: If you can, try to snag fastpasses for Flight of Passage. If you are trying to fit Tiffins inside your daily plans to Pandora (because they are close to each other), make sure you give yourself some leeway time. Even if you have a fastpass selection or a dining reservation, if you book everything too close you really are going to miss one or the other and no one wants to have that happen during their vacation.
So What is the Verdict?
Even though this is one of the most expensive dining locations at the Animal Kingdom, I strongly suggest carving out some Disney dining plan credits and some cold hard cash to make sure you enjoy everything that Tiffins has to offer and do not skimp on the appetizers.
If you do have picky eaters in your family (like I do) you are going to want to make sure you go through the Disney dining menu website itself and sit down and plan if there is anything they would like. And if not everyone in your party would enjoy the meal, you can always split if you are a larger party so everyone can enjoy their meal. Plus Animal Kingdom has some amazing quick service dining locations that are perfect for the most picky of eaters.
But even if you do not want to splurge on an expensive Signature Dining Location or are trying to save your dining credit for a character buffet, that still is not a problem. Because the Nomad Lounge is considered part of Tiffins and has a small sampling menu from Tiffins itself, you still have the ability to try some of the unique cuisine with just a fraction of the cost. There really is an option for anyone trying to fit the Tiffins experience inside their budget and time frame.
One of the biggest things I always warn about when planning out a Dining reservation and this is no different a probably one of my biggest complaints about dining reservation on park days is that you need to carve out at least 1.5 hours. Between travel time of making your way to the dining location and waiting.
Yes, even with a reservation depending on the time of year, you may still have to wait for your table and this can really eat away at your time when dining if you have fit this in during the middle of a busy park day. When booking your reservations which can be done 180 days you need to make sure you always remember that you have to fit your fastpasses in your plans. If you are planning to eat at a location that requires dining reservations I always try to make sure we plan them towards the end of the day especially for Tiffins.
Since there is limited table service restaurants inside Animal Kingdom, there is a always a high demand for these locations and Tiffins is included. If you are planning to wait stand by remember that there is no guarantee you will get a spot and it can force you to rush to another less desirable dining location just because there is no more room. And dining reservations book up fast. So we prefer to book any dining reservations towards the end of our day that way we know it will not interfer negatively with any fastpasses we may book for during the day. This is also going to be the time we have the most give when it comes to trying to fit everything in.
Overall, I give Tiffin four stars. It is a favorite for me as an diner with unlimited boundaries, but for those including my children who are picky eaters, it can really be difficult to find something on the menu they will enjoy. And for someone who goes to Disney a lot with their kids, this is worth losing a whole star for me. But for myself, it is by far one of the best places to eat on Disney property and is my favorite in all of Animal Kingdom.
So take the risk, go outside your comfort zone and explore everything the world has to offer your tastebuds. Make sure to carve out a decent chunk of time to enjoy your entire dining experience and make your way over the Pandora – the World of Avatar after for the perfect way to cap off a busy day at Animal Kingdom.
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