Actually, it was an early supper at Tiffins, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to reference a classic.
Last fall, I took a trip to Disney World with my husband, children, and mother-in-law. I was putting together a photo book of our trip and I thought I would share a particularly interesting experience we had there at a restaurant called Tiffins, located in the Animal Kingdom.
About six months prior to the trip, when we were instructed to do so by the travel agent, my mother-in-law and I made “sit down” meal reservations for each of our days in the Disney parks. We made this reservation having no idea what this place was like, but it was one of the only places where we could actually get a reservation. If you’ve ever planned a trip to Disney World, you’ll likely understand this problem – all of the good places where the princesses serve you tea are taken. We certainly could have done some more research on the place, but that seemed unnecessary at the time. It’s Disney! How bad could it be!?
On the day of our arrival at Animal Kingdom, we had, of course, slept in – meaning we were running late for our first Fast Pass (for those who don’t know, that is a device that lets you cut in line, for lack of a better description). The lines to get into the park were long (to put it mildly!) and the security screening took a good 20 minutes longer than expected, leaving us with about five minutes to make it all the way across the park to our scheduled date with the Kilimanjaro Safari. We made it, despite some grumbles along the way about the quick pace.
This rushed morning start caused us some timing issues. We had planned to eat breakfast prior to the safari, but had to settle for an early lunch afterward. This left most of us hungry enough to eat a dead rhinoceros, a fitting expression considering we just got off of a safari preaching the horrors of rhino poaching. We were hungry, and as any pack of true Disney World novices would be, we were embarrassingly unfamiliar with the inner workings of our meal plan. That said, we quickly made our way to the nearest food stand and proceeded to stuff ourselves silly on pizza. Delicious pizza, I might add.
At about 11:15 am, we found ourselves just one hour out from our first sit-down reservation of the trip at Tiffins. We called to change the reservation time, and thankfully, they had an opening at precisely 4:05 pm. That should have tipped me off that something was amiss, since it was next to impossible to get into places such as the Princess Tea Room, or the Crystal Palace, or almost any restaurant in the Magic Kingdom. But we considered it to be good luck and went about our day.
The rest of the afternoon was filled with laughter, roller-coasters, and dinosaurs as we explored the rest of the park. And the time eventually rolled around to make our way to the dinner reservation. Our party of five walked into the entryway of Tiffins right on time and were greeted by a lovely hostess from New Zealand sporting an adorable short haircut and a familiar “down unda” accent. She smiled politely at us and assessed us from head to toe before asking if we were there to claim a reservation.
I should take a moment and briefly describe the state of our group. My daughter and I, after being soaked head to toe on the Kali River Rapids, had both purchased cheesy Mickey Mouse t-shirts at one of the many park stores. My son sported a hat that looked like Mickey’s hat in Fantasia’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, complete with mouse ears. My mother-in-law had on pink mouse ears and a sweatshirt that said “I’m not retired, I’m a full-time grandma.” She had also forgotten to bring her regular glasses to the park, forcing her to wear her prescription sunglasses, even while indoors. My husband looked the most normal of us all, with a button-down plaid shirt, blue jeans, and absent any sort of mouse ears. That said, Tim’s attire, under any other circumstance, would have been considered subpar for the clientele of this restaurant.
The hostess leaned into her computer screen for several seconds before saying, “Ah yes, here is your reservation. It will be about five minutes before we have your table ready.” With a sweet smile, she asked for a cell phone number that she might text when it was time to go to the table. At about 4:15 pm, we received a text telling us that our table was indeed ready and the hostess lead us into one of several dining rooms. ALL of them empty. Not a soul in the joint except for those enthusiastic cast members and our damp, sweaty, dirty, rambunctious crowd. It didn’t occur to me until later that the whole “wait for the text” thing was just for show.
We were seated at a little corner booth in a large room with vaulted ceilings. The walls were painted terra cotta and adorned with African-inspired artwork. The table was set with upside down wine glasses and oval salad plates along with heavy silverware. As we took our seats, the hostess from New Zealand made sure that we were aware that the decor was picked specifically to fit the theme of Harambe Village (as if we knew what that was!) There was also a large-scale installation of wall art that consisted of stereo wires wrapped in bundles and scattered about the walls. My daughter asked me why, if this place was so nice, were the wires sticking out of the walls? Actually, quite a logical question!
The menus were leather-bound and complex. Many of the items were foreign to us and and had fancy names that we couldn’t pronounce. The children were restless after the long day with all the waiting around. The formality of this place was lost on them… they started to get loud. The waitress was not impressed… Everyone managed to order something and it took a good 20 minutes before any food actually arrived.
By the time we left, we were still hungry – let’s just say that the portions were not up to our expectations. We had used up TWO of our meal vouchers without even knowing it (like I said, we did NOT understand our meal plan). And finally, we later found out that the chocolate souffle that everyone had for dessert (because we had no idea what the heck any of the other options were), must have been laced with something too rich for our bowels… because the toilets in our little hotel suite worked overtime that night.
When all was said and done, it gave us a good laugh. We fit in at Tiffins about like the Griswold’s would have on their epic trip to Walley World. Live and learn – and do your research! Next time, we’ll stick to the pizza buffets… that’s just more our style.