The “new” area is so so wonderful … and like New Harambe before it, it seems impossible to imagine a time when Harambe Marketplace wasn’t right exactly where it is. Sure, it’s just a food court. But it’s a rich, interesting area that seamlessly fits in with its surroundings.
Be forewarned … the market is a Swahili/English speaking zone, so you may encounter some folks that you can’t understand. But that’s okay: We’re all children of the world.
When you step into the Marketplace (actually, before you even step inside) the signage advertising the four different food stalls is a little overwhelming. In a nice way.
Sort of. Here’s the deal: Harmabe Marketplace is basically like the Cosmic Ray nightmare all over again. It’s the confusion of trying to order food at a Value-level resort. It’s four windows, each serving a distinct featured item or two but all serving the same drinks and desserts. So if your kid wants a corn dog and your husband wants ribs … you’re in for twice the queue. You’ve got to stand in two lines.
The first window, Wanjohi Refreshment, is devoted entirely to drinks. And you’ll need them. Because Animal Kingdom is HOT! There’s a couple of beer options and several wine options, which I think is just great. (I still wish that there was alcohol in the Magic Kingdom.) The winners here, in my opinion, are the Starr of Harambe (rum with mango) and watermelon lemonade.
At Boerewors Sausage’s, you get what’s basically an upgraded corn dog, with curry flavoring. I loved how thin and crispy the batter was, and I was worried that I wouldn’t like the curry flavor, but it turned out to be really inoffensive, and beyond that, delicious. It was actually almost amazing because I thought there wasn’t too much spice, and Dan thought there wasn’t too little spice. We were like Goldilocks up in Harambe.
At Kitamu Grill, the featured items are a grilled chicken skewer and a beef kabob flatbread. I didn’t try either of these items, but Dan did, and he said that the flatbread reminded him of gyro (his favorite) with slightly different spices.
These three mains (the corn dog, beef flatbread and chicken) are served alongside roasted broccoli and tomato salad.
At Chef Mwanga’s Rib Shop, the specialty is spice-rubbed ribs. Dan and I both so very much loved these. They were so moist and flavorful and came with two sides: papaya-carrot slaw and chickpea, cucumber and tomato salad. All three of the salads were nice and fresh and served cold. Very cooling and delicious.
Also (not pictured, but definitely eaten) there’s one dessert offered at the food windows in the Marketplace: the milktert. It’s coconut custard in a chocolate shell, topped warming spiced and chocolate sauce. This was good but … being honest? There has been another version of this dessert available at Jiko, and it’s so vastly superior that this little quick service tart really never stood a chance.
Once you’ve got your food, it’s time to find a seat, but remember:
The seating is a good mix of small, umbrella-covered tables and long, family-style tables under a makeshift picnic pavilion, and the tables and chairs are all unique and mismatched and painted.
The seating area is also home to lots of examples of upcycling and reusing bits and bobs to make the marketplace work, which is one of my all-time favorite things about Animal Kingdom. Not only are the details so awesome, they’re also totally real: I mean, this marketplace seems very put together on the fly by the men and women who are running it. They’re holding things together with twist-ties and gum and repurposing old signs to make new ones.
Scattered throughout the seating area, there are also a couple of mini-markets. The smaller one offers hand-woven baskets for sale, while the larger one (located next to the train tracks heading to Rafiki’s part of the park) offers a variety of well-worn kitchen items. Oddly, neither of the proprietors of these markets have ever been working while I was in town …
Like I said earlier, this feels like a real-life bustling marketplace: The atmosphere is welcoming but a bit frenetic, and it’s almost like you’ve traveled 12,000 miles to a whole new world. If it weren’t so darn hot, I could spend literally hours exploring every inch of this place. (And I sort of did … there’ll be a couple more posts to come about the Marketplace in the coming weeks!)
The food strikes a great balance between safe, recognizable choices (corn dogs, sandwiches and ribs) with a deliciously mild twist of flavor that nudges you just a bit out of your comfort zone.
Definitely check it out on your next trip if you haven’t yet … it may not replace Flame Tree as everyone’s favorite quick service spot in the Park (which is insane because Restaurant-osaurus is vastly superior … this is not a joke), but it is definitely worth your time and money.
Have you chowed down like a Harambian? Let us know in the comments!