The Mara Restaurant Review
If you are not staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, like my family was not, finding The Mara can be a little tricky. It’s a trek worth taking, however, to enjoy a family-friendly quick service restaurant that delivers African flavors worth sampling.
The Mara takes its name from the African river which flows through Kenya and Tanzania. To find the restaurant from the main lobby, you need to wind your way down a level and outside of the hotel. Follow the gracefully curving stairway to where the restaurants Boma and Jiko are situated, then head out to the main pool area which The Mara is located across from. This large eatery has a made-to-order kitchen as well as a bakery station and small marketplace offering grab-and-go foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. (Being near the pool, The Mara also has a small section that sells sun and water necessities.)
After watching the animals in the hotel’s conservation areas, the children and I headed to The Mara for dinner. Like almost every indoor space at the Animal Kingdom Lodge after dark, I found the lighting a bit too low for my taste. This didn’t stop us all from enjoying the artistic touches around restaurant, which include a winding mural of savannah animals and metal sculpted tree boughs which hang suspending from the ceiling. I personally liked the wide open space which I imagine can easily handle peak dining crowds.
The Mara offers a great selection of food options which go beyond burgers (though you can get that favorite here too.) The menu offers a nice selection of soups, flatbread pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and entrees that range from well-known to more adventurous flavors. I was surprised that instead of placing your order at a cashier station, there was a friendly Disney cast member who checked off your selections on a slip she handed to the kitchen. I was torn between a couple of choices so I asked her opinion. I am guessing that she was newer to her position because she could only tell me what she saw ordered more frequently.
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I settled on the Falafel Pita over the Chicken Pita and was happy that I did. The Falafel Pita is a generous sandwich with lots of great flavors. Two well-seasoned falafel patties are tucked into a fresh, soft pita which is spread with red pepper hummus. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and a minted yogurt sauce top the falafel, and then as a last touch comes a handful a fresh salad greens in a light vinaigrette. Though my falafel patties were a bit dense, I loved all the different tastes this sandwich delivered. I chose to have my sandwich with French fries though couscous is an option.
My teenage son went for the Bacon Cheeseburger which he said was everything a hungry guy could want. It consists of a half-pound grilled Angus beef patty topped with cheddar cheese and bacon (which of course makes everything better!) We both found appealing the fresh toppings bar which offered lettuce, tomato, onions, and other condiments.
My daughter picked chicken nuggets off the children’s menu (again!) which she enjoyed but they are no different from chicken nuggets served anywhere else on Disney property. My middle son chose the roasted chicken leg, which turned out to be a breast and wing section when it arrived (not that he or I minded). The roasted chicken was somewhat dry, but we were intrigued by the tasty but subtle seasoning and smoked flavor. As is custom with Disney kids meals, my youngest children’s dinners included two picks from a selection of children-friendly sides, like yogurt, fruit, and chocolate chip cookies.
I am certainly interested in returning to The Mara to enjoy some of the other yummy looking dishes. The flatbread pizzas that other parents were eating, such as the Vegetable Flatbread, looked fresh and appealing. The African Stew and the Butternut Squash Soup also seem to be another great opportunity to savor the taste of the sub-continent. In the end, The Mara offers dining options to please both close-to-home and adventurous eaters – something very helpful when planning your family’s eating journeys.
Food – An enticing quick-serve location that offers soups, flatbreads, sandwiches, salads, and entrees – many with a delicious African flair that keeps you from thinking “food court.”
Atmosphere – Neat, artistic touches, such as a fun savannah mural and uniquely sculpted metal tree branches give the impression of eating out on the open plains. The front wall of the restaurant features wide glass windows that let in light during the day but make for a darker eating experience once the sun goes down.
Service – A friendly cast member stands waiting to take your order on a slip that is handed off to the kitchen staff, making for streamlined operations that get your food out warm and fast.
Tips – Take a look around before you order. The Mara also is a small marketplace with a refrigerated section of pre-made salads, sandwiches, fruit, and cheese that can make for a nice grab-and-go lunch to enjoy poolside.
The DisDining Mama Says – This is a great restaurant for the whole family. The children’s menu has all the standard favorites while the adult menu offers a variety of choices that are anything but boring. If you have adventurous eaters, The Mara can be a great place to try flavors you may not often serve at home.