Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Exploring Pandora: Food and Beverage

There are only two places to find food and drinks while visiting Pandora in Disney's Animal Kingdom, but both figure to be busy for the foreseeable future. I was fortunate to sample selections from each location during previews prior to the official opening on this new land and will share my thoughts below.

Satu'li Canteen

A large indoor dining area and covered outdoor tables make for a welcoming location for the newest quick service dining location in Disney's Animal Kingdom. Satu'li Canteen features a relatively short menu that still provides a variety of different choices. For lunch and dinner, adults choose between pods (steamed buns) or a "bowl" that they can customize to their tastes. Children can order small versions of the adult entrees or cuisine more familiar to earth-based travelers. I tried the bowls and the pods and the bowls are what have me looking forward to my next meal on Pandora.

Initially, the "Create-Your-Own Satu'li Bowl" might seem a little confusing, but it requires three relatively simple choices, and while I haven't tried them all, I suspect you won't go wrong with anything you order here. You start by selecting a protein, between beef, chicken, fish, or tofu. You also select a "base" (two different salads, potato hash, or rice) and sauce and then you're set. Each meal is also served with vegetable slaw and yogurt Boba Balls.
I chose the chicken bowl with rice and charred onion chimichurri for my bowl and was pleased with my selection. I might try one of the other sauces when I return (black bean vinaigrette or creamy herb dressing), but the rice was very good and the chicken was outstanding. A friend who eats a vegan diet also raved about the fried tofu bowl, ordering it again when we returned to Satu'li Canteen for a second meal.

I was less impressed with the Cheeseburger 'Pods.' It is an interesting idea and I appreciate the attempt to repackage a familiar sandwich in a different way, but it just struck me as ordinary. I also had some misgivings about the accompanying Root Vegetable Chips, but those turned out to be very tasty.

Satu'li Canteen also deserves commendation for it's beer list. There are only two choices, both of which are also available at Pongo Pongo (see below), but both are above average options. Since it seems breweries are scarce in the Valley of Mo'ara, Disney reached out to Georgia's Terrapin Beer Co. to create two beers that are (to the best of my knowledge) are only available on Pandora. You'll probably see a little of pictures of the green Hawkes' Grog Ale, a pale wheat ale that is more than just a novelty beer that should please just about anyone who enjoys beer. It's not spectacular, but a good solid all-around beer that left me pleasantly surprised.

Less impressive, but still a solid choice for those who prefer lagers is the Mo'ara High Country Ale. There wasn't anything special with this oddly named lager that calls itself an "ale", but also nothing wrong with it. If you want a cold lager on a hot day, then you'll be happy to drink one of these. Also available is a limited wine list an two beers that you can find anywhere on earth, along with sangria and a variety of self-service fountain drinks. If you collect novelty cups, then there's one available here for an additional $8 - $8.50, depending on what drink you want to put in it.

Satu'li Canteen also features a couple interesting desserts, but I haven't tried those yet. One other feature of this restaurant that is worth paying attention to is the ability to place your order online, through the My Disney Experience mobile app. You can enter an order there at any time during the day you are visiting Disney's Animal Kingdom, then return to the app to submit your order when you are near the restaurant. If you are visiting during a busy time, then this could save you a substantial amount of time waiting in line for your food. However, as of the opening of Pandora the app only allowed you to pay for your order by credit card, so there is not currently a way to pay using Disney Dining Plan credits or with a Disney Gift Card. If you are interested in details of how this process works, then the folks at Touring Plans wrote a pretty comprehensive blog post on that topic.

Pongo Pongo

Located just outside Satu'li Canteen, Pongo Pongo is mostly a drink stand, serving beer, bottled water, and some pre-mixed novelty drinks. As of opening, the menu did not include any soda selections, so you'll have to go to the full quick service restaurant if that's what you want.

I tried the Mo'ara Margarita, gold tequila mixed with strawberry or blood orange, topped with strawberry Boba Balls. This was a decent frozen drink that I wouldn't be unhappy having again, but not something I'll make a point of ordering during future visits (ie: it's not like the frozen slushes at the France pavilion in Epcot). it's more likely if I feel like I want a drink on Pandora that I'll order another of the land-specific beers that are also available at Pongo Pongo.

Since I mentioned collectible cups inside at Satu'li Canteen, I'll note that drinks at Pongo Pongo can be served in a different drinking vessel you can take home with you, this time in mugs with "glowing unadelta seed". I've somehow managed to survive this long without "glowing unadelta seed" in my home and as much as I enjoy novelty glowing drinks I didn't need to pay double the price for my margarita for this souvenir.

That wraps up your food choices while you visit Pandora. I'd love to hear what your experiences are with these new quick service locations!

Keep a close eye on your drinks in Pandora, because you never know who or what might try to get their hands on it.

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