Sometimes you want a nice meal when you are out at the parks. At the same time right now sitting inside, out of the sun and in air conditioning, is almost essential to enduring an extended stay in the parks. This weekend my fiance Kim and I took a stroll through Animal Kingdom to get a little laid back walking in after some long morning runs. We wanted a good meal and needed a break from the sun so we stopped in Santu’li Canteen in Pandora.
I am not really a fan of Avatar and I haven’t had the best experience in Pandora so far. I went on Na’vi River Journey and wasn’t impressed and I haven’t been able to ride Flights of Passage due to the wait. As someone who enjoys just strolling through a fun setting though, I do enjoy the scenery and theming. Luckily there are a few unique food options in the area to balance things out. I enjoy a good coconut fruit bar over a strawberry one, and a stand that’s in Pandora is the only place I’ve seen one in the parks. There is also a great pineapple dessert called Pongu Lumpia at the Pongu Pongu walk-up window that’s worth a try. The Santu’li Canteen though is actually a great restaurant for a unique and tasty meal sit down meal.
The location is themed to a military commissary in the jungles of the alien planet Pandora. There is a mixture of military and tribal decor. The earthy hanging decorations along with the peaceful music playing in the space make for a relaxing environment. There is a good deal of seating inside the restaurant and a lot more outside. Not all the tables are covered under the shade or umbrellas, but at least there will likely never be a problem getting a table to sit at outside.
We went on a Sunday, during lunch hour and although the restaurant was busy there wasn’t a long line to order. Since indoor seating is more limited, I would advise someone in the party to go find a table once they pick what they want from the menu. To make this even easier, there is Mobile Ordering so you can secure a table first and order from there. Otherwise you place your order at a walk up cashier and then wait for your food at the counter. On the way in to order we noticed the cook at a covered station freshly grilling meats for the meals. This was a nice touch and made me feel better about what I was getting with my order.
The menu style here is create your own Satu’li bowl. Each dish consists of one of four proteins such as chicken or tofu and a base like noodles or vegetables tossed in a sauce, To make the dish look more alien there are Boba balls on top of the bowl as well. The multiple combinations of protein, veggies and sauce you can choose from provide a reason for a return visit with a unique experience. For the kids there is a smaller simpler version of the bowls for $8. There is a more standard kids’ menu as well, which has a quesadilla, dough wrapped hot dog and a cheeseburger filled bun. There are also a few desserts and a non alcoholic specialty drink available that are designed to look especially colorful and unique to fit in with the alien and jungle theme.
Santu’li also offers beer and wine. The beer and wine here is made specifically for chosen specifically for Avatar. There are four draft beers for example, but no Bud Light or Coors Light. There are two local beers from Orlando Brewing along with Hawkes Grog and Mo’ara High Country Ale, which are served exclusively in Pandora. Beers here start at $9 for the 16oz with the option to go bigger with a 20oz for $10.25. The wines available are Banshee Chardonnay and Banshee Pinot Noir which are a reference to the flying creatures from the nearby Flights of Passage.
We ordered the beef and chicken combination bowl with sweet and red potato hash as our veggie base and a green onion vinaigrette as our sauce. It did take a little while for the food to come out, but it was clearly a busy time. The food came out hot and freshly prepared though.The bowls are big and can easily be shared. It’s an especially substantial meal with all the potatoes that are included. The chicken and beef were grilled and the beef came somewhat medium rare. The bowl was both filling and satisfying. The flavors were good, but nothing too overpowering or strange. I didn’t really notice the Boba Balls while I was eating. I think they just add a little extra crunch or pop when they are eaten mixed in with everything else, but no flavor change that I could tell. Overall the dish tasted fresh, healthy and worth it for the two of us for $17.
I’ll admit we did take our time eating as it was a welcome break from the sun. When we were finished I felt refreshed from both the hearty food and the air conditioning. We headed back out into the parks primed for a few more hours of strolling. I can see myself returning and trying a different combination in the future when I’m looking for a guaranteed good meal. I recommend Santu’li Canteen for anyone looking for something different and fairly healthy. It’s a nice change up from the standard theme park food routine. It’s also a way to get a positive experience in Pandora without having to wait 105 minutes.