Harambe Market Archives

July 16, 2015

UPDATED -- Review: Animal Kingdom's Harambe Market


If you are a repeat visitor at Walt Disney World, chances are you have favorite foods at each of the theme parks that you can’t wait to sink your teeth into again. For my family and I, a visit to Animal Kingdom usually means a meal at Flame Tree Barbecue. We like the food there well enough, but part of our enjoyment of that restaurant is also the shaded seating overlooking the lake in front of Mount Everest. But, a new quick-service restaurant that opened last month has us rethinking our tried-and-true routine.


Located in the Africa section of the park, Harambe Market mimics the atmosphere of an open-air marketplace and serves dishes that would be considered African street foods. My family and I recently tried some of the offerings and were pleased with what we sampled. And, when we found the perfect shaded table, we enjoyed the atmosphere of the market, too.



Our experience began as we approached the area near Kilimanjaro Safaris at the back of the park. Yes, this is a trek from the front of the park, but we thought it was worth it. And, of course, if you’re already in the park, it’s not such a hike. Just keep this in mind if you’re planning on going to lunch first before your day’s activities in the park.


Harambe Market is colorful, loud, and, when we arrived at 1:30 p.m., it was busy! By the time we finished standing in line, found a table and ate, it was 3 p.m. and the place had cleared out. I suspect the crowds were there in full force because of the novelty of a new eatery and the start of the summer season at Walt Disney World, but it never hurts to avoid peak meal times if you want to skip the lines.


Although there are four shop windows advertising different menu items, know that you can pick any line to order from the entire menu. You do not need to stand in separate lines. The queue for the ribs – on the far right when looking at the storefronts -- was the shortest on the day we were there and it offered the most shade. Also, on the day we were there, cast members were at the front of the lines, handing out menus for customers to browse before they got into the lines.

Your choices include:

** Kitamu Grill: Skewered chicken and a kebab flatbread sandwich

** Famous Sausages: Corndog made with a South African boerewors sausage dipped in curry-infused corn batter

** Chef Mwanga’s: Spice-rubbed Karubi Rib paired with green papaya-carrot slaw

Each of these service counters offers a kids version of the main dish. For the chicken and ribs, it’s just a smaller portion with kid-friendly sides. For the sausage station, it’s a traditional corn dog instead of the sausage. A Kids Snack Pack with yogurt, apple slices, carrot sticks, Goldfish crackers, apple-cinnamon bar and choice of small lowfat milk or small water is also available.

** Wanjohi Refreshments: Craft draft beers like Safari Amber Lager; six South African wines by the glass, The Starr of Harambe frozen drink with Starr African rum and mango puree in a souvenir mug, red Sangria with Van der Hum tangerine liqueur, and non alcoholic tangerine lemonade or fountain beverages like Sparberry from Zimbabwe. (My husband loves a good IPA and he highly recommended the I-4 IPA from Orlando Brewing.)

For dessert, all the counters serve a coconut custard in a chocolate tart shell.

For complete menu details, including prices, see our AllEars.Net dining page.


For our meal, my family and I tried the Karubi Ribs and the Boerewors Sausage Corndog. The guys tried the ribs, which are served with green papaya-carrot slaw on top and a cucumber and tomato salad on the side. Predictably, my 12-yer-old son did not like the slaw, but both he and my husband raved about the ribs, which are kind of like the variety they often order at Flame Tree Barbecue. This dish is a little spicier, but they both said they liked it equally as well, if not better than the other Animal Kingdom ribs.


My 10-year-old daughter and I were tempted by the African version of a corndog for lunch. I thoroughly enjoyed the unexpected flavors of the sausage and the curry-infused corn batter and certainly would order it again. The sausage is served with a roasted broccoli and tomato salad that has a light and tasty dressing. My daughter, however, would have been happier with the traditional corndog that is offered on the kids menu.

Both the ribs and the sausage are served in generous-size portions – more than enough to be filling for one person or possibly two less-hungry patrons. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this marketplace is serving appetizer-size portions, as is done at kiosks during Epcot food and beverage festivals. If you want to sample several dishes, plan accordingly!


I recently spoke with Animal Kingdom’s chef de cuisine Albert Youngman about how foods were created for Harambe Market -- specifically how he and his team chose flavors that would be palatable to guests who might not be accustomed to typical African foods.

“The earth tones of the flavors and the actual flavors that come from the cardamom and the coriander and cumin and things like that are very much tasted in all of our food [at Harambe Market], but it’s not overdone to where it’s offensive to our guests,” Youngman said. “So, we tried to get a balance with the food. So, you take the African corn dog, for instance. People sometimes are scared of curry, right? Curry means hot. But [the corn dog] is not really hot. It actually has more of an earth tone and a sweetness to it and we incorporate it with our sweet corn batter that helps that flavor kind of mend together.”


On a second visit to Harambe Market for a media event, my family and I sampled the skewered chicken, which we missed the first time, and found it to be rather plain, not offering the interesting flavors of the other foods we’ve come to enjoy there. Still, Youngman said it is the most popular item at Harambe Market – both for adults and children. Perhaps that’s because it’s not a culinary risk for most people. Yet, this is exactly the place to try something new, he said. “If you just go out of your element a little bit, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.”


At Harambe Market, guests seat themselves at the outdoor tables. Because of the crowds, we started at a table that was in the sun. When an umbrella table emptied, we jumped at the chance to sit in the shade, which definitely made our experience more pleasant. The marketplace is, of course, creatively decorated and the Wildlife Express train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch passes by in the back on a regular schedule. Disney officials have said that live entertainment eventually will be offered in the marketplace, as well.



During the media event, I also spoke with Imagineer Emily O’Brien, who was the lead designer for Harambe Market. You can read about how the new restaurant was developed and what it’s like to be an Imagineer here.




Last month, Zuri’s Sweets Shop opened across from Harambe Market. This African-themed shop is the first dedicated consumables store, said Steven Miller, Walt Disney World Merchandise Communications Manager. It features three new lines of goodies: one based on “The Lion King,” one inspired by the bold and colorful African Kente cloths, and one that celebrates African spices and flavors. Miller talks to me about the tasty treats in the video below:

We found Harambe Market to be a fun – and tasty – addition to the quick-service restaurants at Animal Kingdom. The African flavors offer guests exciting alternatives to the traditional sandwiches, salads, burgers and fries that we’ve come to expect at counter-service restaurants at Walt Disney World, and there are enough kid-friendly choices to please the little ones.

The trek to the far corner of the park might be a far one from the front gates of Animal Kingdom, but, based on our recent dining experience, the journey there is a rewarding one if you’re looking for good food in a uniquely themed atmosphere. But, just as you would on the savannah grasslands west of Nairobi, try to find a nice shady spot to enjoy your lunch unless you want to end up feeling as baked as the Chef Mwanga’s special.

Enjoy this video of the Harambe Market:

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of Walt Disney World for my second visit to Harambe Market. The first visit was at my own expense. This did not affect my story; my opinions are my own.


July 14, 2015

Disney Parks Imagineer talks about designing Animal Kingdom's Harambe Market


Animal Kingdom’s newest eatery, Harambe Market, has been well-received by Walt Disney World guests, and that’s no surprise. After all, it was designed by the Imagineer who headed up the development of restaurants and shops in the popular Cars Land at Disneyland, as well as a long list of beloved attractions at Walt Disney World. I recently had the opportunity to speak with that Imagineer -- Emily O’Brien, the executive producer for Animal Kingdom -- about the open-air, counter-service marketplace at Animal Kingdom.


Could you tell us how the concept of Harambe Market came about?

Looking at the village as a whole, we were looking to give our guests some other options in the area. We developed this marketplace as a colonial train station, what I would call, a street fair market that you would find in any town along the coast of Africa. Goods would come in either by boat or by train. As you can see, we have a train that runs right by here, and people can experience the flavors that have been developed by locals to serve the community. We’re really trying to tell the story of a full neighborhood, a full town. To me, it doesn’t feel like a theme park, it feels like a neighborhood that you would go to. And from people who have been to Africa a lot, it really does feel like a small town, including the Lion King Theater, Harambe central street, [Kilimanjaro] Safaris, and then this area.




How did this project get started?

It’s a big team of people that all work together, from park operators to our food and beverage team to the Imagineering team that helps come up with concepts that fit to serve a need – in this case, to offer more food. We all get together early on and figure out how big of a restaurant we need and what kinds of foods we are trying to do – are people going to sit down and be served or is it a more casual walk-up like this area? I started on [the project] in late 2012. But we go in ebbs and flows; we’re working on obviously a bunch of stuff at the same time. If it’s a concentrated effort, it can be a much shorter timeline.


Did you travel to Africa to do research for Harambe Market?

I personally did not travel, although we did have a few Imagineers who did. The point of those travels is to really soak up what happens when you go around corners. You can get a certain feeling from pictures, but it’s a whole different experience to see how people live and interact with each other – the cultural aspects of it that influence why things look the way they look. [For example] you’ll see bundles of wires pulled from one place to another and that is true to what you’ll see if you go to Africa. People are what I would call “McGivering” wire from one spot to another. You can see everything that is powered pulled from one location. So, you have a big bundle and everything goes out from it. For those kinds of things, you might see a picture of a telephone pole with a whole bunch of wires on it, but you don’t know why it’s that way. So, the reason we travel for research is to understand the why, not just the what.


Once the theme has been established, how do Imagineers proceed with designing the restaurant?

In this case, I was the Imagineer that was tasked with laying it out. I knew how many seats we were trying to put in here [220], I know the code requirements for how much space you need to walk around, and those sorts of things so I started developing a plan. And we also work with our kitchen contractors to figure out how much kitchen equipment we need, how big the kitchens will be and how those interact with each other. We basically start with an overhead, bird’s eye layout and we go 3D from there. A lot of Imagineers design it 3D in their heads as they are drawing things flat from an overhead view – but you know what it looks like in your head. Also, look at all of the details, the props, the inventive spirit. If you look at the bicycles, there might be a makeshift wheelchair made out of bike parts because they don’t have a wheelchair. There’s a very kind of usefulness that comes out of being very inventive with how pieces and parts go together to serve a purpose.

Tell us how you got started as an Imagineer at Walt Disney World.

So, about 18 years ago, I started as an intern in Interior Design. Over the course of time, I helped out and learned from people who have now been Imagineers for 30 years and are still here. I had great mentors that taught me the ins and outs of why we do what we do, how it all works together, and what to be sensitive to. I’ve done many, many restaurant designs. Most recently, I was the principal interior design Imagineer for Cars Land. I did Flo’s Restaurant and Cozy Cone, the shops there, and pretty much everything indoors in that particular park. Of course, there was a team of people, but I was the lead designer. Going backwards from there, I’ve done various bars and restaurants: Trader Sam’s in California, Turtle Talk here, Soarin’ here. I’ve been really fortunate to have people recognize my abilities and try to stretch them [with more responsibilities and bigger projects].

What did you enjoy the most about this Harambe Market project?

I think what’s great about this project is that when we finished, we had a guest come the very first day from Kenya. This particular person said that it felt like being in their own town, and that was like, “OK, we nailed it!” The idea is to be as authentic as possible, but it’s not just about what it looks like but what it feels like. And that’s not really even tangible, unless you’ve experienced both. We want to give our guests the real feeling of being in Africa, and from what I’ve heard, we were very successful at doing that.

On a day-to-day basis, what’s your favorite part about being an Imagineer?

There are so many facets to it because it goes from design to meeting with animal programs in this park and talking about new baby animals being born and how we’re going to incorporate those to meeting with kids in high school and encouraging them to go after what they’re passionate about. There are so many pieces to it that it’s hard to pick a favorite. One thing that I like to do if I’m struggling with something is to come into the park and do a lap. I watch people enjoying themselves and remember why I’m doing what I’m doing. People go through things in their lives and so one thing that people come to Disney Parks to experience is to get away from stuff. I try to really appreciate what we’re providing for people in that aspect.


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About Harambe Market

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Harambe Market category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Finding Nemo - The Musical is the previous category.

Party for the Planet is the next category.

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