Every family has traditions for their Walt Disney World vacation. Brad and I have a tradition too. It’s called Sanaa.
Seriously. Sanaa is a must-do for us everytime we visit Walt Disney World. We first dined there in December, 2013, and we’ve been back on every vacation since. Maybe you think we’re crazy. Why would we trek all the way out to Animal Kingdom Lodge for a restaurant on every vacation? There’s no characters, no show, what could make this out-of-the-way restaurant so special? I’ll tell ya. Here are seven reasons you also will love Sanaa!
1. Animal Kingdom Lodge
Sanaa is awesome in large part because Animal Kingdom Lodge is awesome. Joe Rohde is a genius man. Animal Kingdom Lodge carries over the theming from Disney’s Animal Kingdom in a wonderful way. An ideal day for me is touring Disney’s Animal Kingdom, leaving mid-afternoon when the day is hottest, and heading over to the Lodge for a rest. The lobby has comfy couches, and balconies with rocking chairs. So whether you want to watch some animals, or relax on your phone for a while, Animal Kingdom Lodge is a great place to rest. We always spend at least an hour hanging out at the Lodge before our dining reservation.
2. Savannah View
Sanaa has huge, arched windows that open the restaurant up to the savannah outside. Since the restaurant is located on the ground floor, the animals are on the same level as you. Ostriches, zebras, giraffes, cattle, and more will wander past the windows.
To take full advantage of the incredible views, dine here when the sun is up. For our first visit to Sanaa, we made reservations for December in July. We forgot that we would be there during the darkest week of the year, so our 5:30 pm reservation only yielded dark windows with no animal viewing. Luckily, right outside the restaurant, there is a viewing deck, complete with a fireplace, night vision goggles, and Cast Members to help you find animals.
3. Dining Plan Value
The first time we dined at Sanaa, it was with the Free Dining promotion. I did a little bit of research to find new restaurants for us to try (it’s a lot easier to convince people to try new things when it’s free!). I came across a post from Disney Tourist Blog about the best values on the Dining Plan, and Sanaa was on the list. We ended up trying a few places on the list, and they were a big hit with the whole family (Kona Cafe over at Polynesian was also a new favorite).
Sanaa is a one credit table service restaurant, and several of the menu items (like steak and seasonal fish) are great values with the Dining Plan. Whatever you choose, the African-Indian fusion at Sanaa is delicious departure from other food at Walt Disney World.
4. Out of Pocket Value
The few pricier menu items make Sanaa a good value for the Dining Plan, but the menu isn’t full of expensive meals. Several of the menu items have a similar price point to Olive Garden. For folks looking to get the most bang for the buck, dine at Sanaa for lunch, order water, and share a dessert. Sanaa also accepts the Tables in Wonderland card, which gives the cardholders 20% off the whole meal, including appetizers and alcohol. We’ve eaten at Sanaa both on and off the Dining Plan, and enjoyed it every time!
While the Walt Disney World Cast Members are good across the board, we’ve always had servers that go above and beyond at Sanaa. Here’s a few stories.
In March, 2015, we visited Sanaa on a Spring Break trip with Brad’s sister (Rachel) and his grandparents. Pops is allergic to shrimp, and just like at most Disney table service restaurants, the chef came to our table to discuss his menu options with him. He and the chef hit it off after Pops made an offhand comment about wanting a Chicago style pizza-- turned out the chef was also from Chicago. Pops just told him “make me whatever you want.” Well the chef’s eyes lit up at that, I don’t think he’s heard that from a guest before. Pops’ meal ended up being a customized surf ‘n turf plate with seasonal vegetables. Both the chef and our server, Hicham, came out to see Pops’ reaction to the dish. It was a win, needless to say. Pops started gobbling it up before we had a chance to get a picture of it.
Fast forward to May, 2015. Brad, Rachel, their mom, and I enjoyed an early dinner the evening before the 24 hour event at Magic Kingdom-- knowing that we would leave Sanaa feeling stuffed and sleepy, thus helping us go to bed early. Low and behold, we had Hicham as our server again. He recognized Brad almost right away, even though it had been almost 3 months since we had seen him. Hicham then asked where Pops was, and was genuinely upset to hear that he had cataract surgery that week and did not come to Disney World with us. Hicham’s reaction was so sweet, because he not only remembered Brad and remembered who he was with the last time, but was actually concerned about Pops, even after we assured him that his cataract surgery had gone just fine, he just wasn’t up to Florida sunshine.
At the end of the meal, Hicham offered us coffee, remembering that we had taken coffee to-go in March. When we told him we were going straight to bed after dinner, he brought Brad and me a little container of ground coffee beans instead! He also brought a bag with a “present for Pops.” Inside was a light-up Buzz Lightyear toy, the kind that clips on to kids' drinks. It was such a sweet, kind gesture! We were tickled pink that Hicham even remembered us, but when he brought us parting gifts, we were astounded. Our experience that night at Sanaa was one that really sets Walt Disney World apart from other tourist attractions. That’s not the kind of service you find in a regular restaurant. It was Disney magic.
6. Na'an Bread
This amazing appetizer deserves a cult following just like the Dole Whips and School Bread. I can’t fathom why is doesn’t have one. I’m here to start it. You’re witnessing this history in the making. Na’an Bread is gunna be big.
You get five different kinds of flat breads (gluten free is also available, and delicious), plus a choice of three dipping sauces, or bite the bullet and order all nine sauces! The whole thing comes on a giant wooden platter. It may not seem like much, but the na’an bread will leave you stuffed. On our most recent trip, Brad and I made a meal of the na’an bread (plus a couple other appetizers and dessert). It’s that good. Order the na’an bread. You will not regret it.
Besides the Na’an Bread, dessert is the real reason we keep coming back to Sanaa is the dessert. Mainly because I insist on eating the Tanzanian Chocolate Mousse as often as I can. Sanaa recently changed the name of the mousse, and I almost died when I looked at the menu before our spontaneous trip three weeks ago. But all’s well because the mousse is still on the menu, just with a name change. It’s now called Afrika Povu, but Tanzanian Chocolate Mousse is in the description. The mousse is a heavenly combination of chocolate, coffee, and salted caramel, with a chocolate butterfly stamped on the plate. You want it, trust me. Sanaa offers other desserts as well, like seasonal kulfi (think Indian ice cream), tapioca pudding, and cheesecake. Plus there’s a dessert trio which includes the mousse, making it a great option for the indecisive.
Ever since that first meal in December, 2013, we’ve been back to Sanaa every time we travel to Walt Disney World. When we did our Friend-cation last fall, we talked up Sanaa to Julie and Nathan so much that I was a little worried we would over-hype it. Sanaa was our first stop on the trip, and luckily Julie and Nathan loved it as much as Brad and I do! We can’t wait to revisit Sanaa on our next Friend-cation in June!
Do you also love Sanaa? Are you thinking about eating there? Is there something else on the menu we should try? Let us know! We would love to hear from you! If you know someone who is planning a Walt Disney World vacation, share this article with them, so they don’t miss out on the deliciousness at Sanaa!