To outsiders, Disney World may not be known for its food, which is a shame because you can find great food options both at the theme parks and the Disney World resorts. Animal Kingdom Lodge, the massive and impressively themed resort that features actual savanna views is one of those resorts, and it houses Sanaa, one of my favorite restaurants, period. Let’s talk about why Sanaa needs to be on the top of your list on your next Disney World visit.
Where is Sanaa? Avid readers of this blog know I can’t resist a bit of a wayfinding. Sanaa is located at Animal Kingdom Lodge, which is tucked away on the western edge of the Walt Disney World property. Animal Kingdom Lodge is comprised of two separate buildings— Jambo House and Kidani Village. (Note that you can walk from one to the other, but not through one to the other.) Jambo House is the original building, which initially opened with only standard resort rooms. Disney Vacation Villas (DVC) were later added to Jambo House, and Kidani Village was separately constructed as part of the DVC addition to Animal Kingdom Lodge. Jambo House is where you find the gorgeous lobby, restaurants, and the main amenities. (For the sake of time, I am resisting the urge to fully drool over the resort here, but I will be doing so in a separate article.) Kidani Village consists only of DVC rooms, and contains its own lobby, souvenir shop, and pool, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. Kidani Village is where you find Sanaa, on the ground floor of the main lobby.
If you are driving, you can park in a quasi-underground garage at Kidani Village. Buses take you to the lobby. From the lobby you can take a winding staircase down to the check in desk at Sanaa. Tips for parents with strollers and those with accessibility needs: a set of elevators is located close to the lobby; this takes you directly down to the ground level.
From that level you will notice savanna views along the hall towards Sanaa. Large bathrooms are located here, too, which offer more privacy than the amenities found at Jambo House.
The Menu. Sanaa offers two experiences: Kuamsha Breakfast, which is a quick-service experience that does not require a reservation, and table-service for lunch and dinner. Sanaa is quite popular, so advance dining reservations are strongly encouraged during those periods. (Note that during particularly busy seasons, proof of a dining reservation may be required to park your car at the resort during your visit.)
For lunch and dinner, Sanaa offers African and Indian-inspired cuisine, including its famous butter chicken and a range of vegetarian dishes. For those interested in unique libations, you can pair your food with wine from South Africa and beer from Kenya.
A discussion of the food is incomplete without mention of the Indian-style bread service that is famous among Disney pros. The five breads and nine accompaniments costs $21 and includes: Traditional Naan, Garlic-Ginger Naan, Spiced Naan, Onion Kulcha, or Paneer Paratha. Accompaniments – Cucumber Raita, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, Mango Chutney, Tomato-Date Jam, Tamarind Chutney, Coriander Chutney, Garlic Pickle, Red Chile Sambal, or Spicy Jalapeño-Lime Pickle.
The bread service is Sanaa’s biggest selling point, and for good reason. My favorites are the Spiced Naan, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, and Coriander Chutney.
Each time I visit I order the Potije inspired option, which offers several “journeys” consisting of a meat and a vegetable served with Basmati rice. I particularly enjoy the butter chicken and the Sukuma Wiki. Both options are consistently delicious, boasting memorable flavors and large portion sizes. Sanaa especially shines in contrast to the majority of Disney World eateries that feature fried food, burgers, hot dogs, and the like. I very much look forward to the unique menu and flavorful options.
And for those traveling with infants and toddlers, fret not: like other Disney World restaurants, there are traditional options like pizza, cheeseburgers, and mac & cheese. For dessert, my kids especially enjoy Pumbaa’s Dessert Grub, which is Disney’s take on pudding, crushed Oreos, and gummy worms.
Theming. An experience at Sanaa is accentuated by its thorough theming to a West-African eatery. Low-lit lighting warms the space and handcrafted African decor adorns the ceilings and walls. Large acacia trees sit between tables and extend upwards, their branches connecting to form a canopy above the tables. You are transported the second you step in to the restaurant, making you forget you are in Orlando, Florida—that is Disney magic.
Savanna Views. Did I mention you can enjoy an unparalleled view of exotic animals grazing just outside the restaurant? That’s right, a meal here comes with quite the view, one normally reserved for those staying at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Depending on where you sit—don’t be afraid to ask (and then wait, if needed) for a table by the windows—you will see zebras and giraffes (and more!) roaming by as you dine. There really is nothing like it at Disney World or elsewhere.
Tips for parents: either before or after your meal, head to the savanna viewing area just outside the lobby at Kidani village. This is a great way to let your kids see the animals up close, and if a cast member is there, potentially learn more about each animal. If you are not heading into the Animal Kingdom theme park, you can choose to eat at Sanaa instead to give your kids (or yourself) the option to see the animals, without the cost of theme park admission.
The Lounge Life. Looking for a quieter experience or having a solo moment? Try Sanaa Lounge, located just to the left after you enter Sanaa. The cozy space offers African wines, cocktails and appetizers on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The Verdict. Sanaa is a the rare Disney gem that lives up to the hype. Exquisitely unique, both in dining and its setting, Sanaa caters to the crowd that yearns for the Disney difference. Though it is located a little further from the main Disney attractions, it is more than worth the trek. Order the Indian-style bread service and thank me later.
Have you tried Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge? Let me know in the comments!