Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Tail Of The Tape: Boma vs Tusker House

Let me preface this by saying that Boma and Tusker House are two of my absolute favorite restaurants in all of The Mouse. Same goes for our whole family. So to compare them is like comparing Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle - you simply can't go wrong with either. Basically, they both offer many of the same phenomenal qualities and they're both great at what they do. And as with DiMaggio and Mantle, it's the little things that make the difference when it comes to picking a favorite.

Boma has nostalgia and sentimentality on its side for me. It's one of the first "sit-down" restaurants I ever tried at WDW and over the years we've had several celebratory meals there, as it's tried and true and great - a known commodity.

Tusker House is a recent player on the scene. For several years it was a counter service restaurant in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom. It was a good counter service, and I was actually disappointed when I learned they were shutting it down. But I didn't know what they had in mind to take over when it opened its doors again. But it has not only cracked the lineup of great table-service restaurants in WDW, it shot its way up to the top like a Rookie Of The Year candidate. It's now a stand-out.

The similarities are interesting. Both are inspired by African and Mediterranean cuisine. Both have interior design schemes that may be completely different in tone and atmosphere, but they share an authentic African feel. Both are located amongst the Animal Kingdom park and resort areas. Both are buffets. Both have not only an incredibly varied menu to choose from, but a high-quality menu; the food is top notch at both establishments.

So, as in comparisons when there are many similarities, it's the differences that make the difference in the end.

Boma is open for breakfast and dinner - not for lunch. This, in my opinion, is the biggest ding in Boma's armor. First, lunch is usually a cheaper meal than dinner. For many people who are interested in saving money, they can eat lunch at a great restaurant and save some pennies in comparison to eating dinner at the same place...yet the menu offerings are very similar (dinner will usually feature an extra entree dish or two and desserts that aren't offered at lunch). Second, if I'm going to eat at a buffet or have a large meal such as the kind you can get at Boma, I'd rather have it earlier in the day so I have more time to digest it and work it off (at least work part of it off). Huge meals late at night to me are not a good idea.

Tusker House, on the other hand, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You have all your options available, including a slightly cheaper lunch offering.

Boma is located outside of the Animal Kingdom theme park - meaning if you're in the park, you have to actually leave to enjoy Boma. This isn't a problem for most people who have dinner ADRs for Boma, as Animal Kingdom is usually closed by about that time, but it's still not optimal. Tusker House is located inside Animal Kingdom and you obviously don't have to leave in order to get there.

Boma has some of the most incredible soups you will EVER taste. The carrot ginger and butternut squash soups alone are worth the price of admission, and honestly there isn't soup there I've tried that I didn't LOVE. They are masterpieces. Tusker has a few soups, but they don't hold a candle to Boma's selection.

Tusker's buffet set-up is more user-friendly. It is wide open and spacious, allowing for minimal crowds and lines at each food station - plenty of room to move. Boma has very little room by its buffet tables and sometimes the lines get ridiculous.

Boma has Zebra Domes. One of the best desserts you will ever try. Tusker doesn't have Zebra Domes. Tusker does have the 7-layer cookie, however. At least they used to - I haven't seen it since the first visit a year ago. If they still have it, it at least gives the Zebra Dome a run for the money...although I'd still pick the Dome.

Tusker has their orzo pasta with feta, spinach and kalamata olives. Incredible. No side dish at Boma touches it.

Boma has a spit-fired prime rib that is out of this world good. No entree at Tusker touches it.

Basically, both restaurants offer a few dishes that are unique and not available at the other...but most of what they offer is similar in style and flavor, being African/Mediterranean in origin. It's more the experience and circumstances in each that is the main difference. If you want a darker, more beautiful and even romantic (for a buffet) atmosphere, Boma is the way to go. It also has a huge selection of beers, wine and mixed drinks that Tusker doesn't have. If you want the convenience of in-park dining, Tusker is the way to go. If you want a slightly cheaper lunch option, Tusker is your only choice.

In the end though, I have to pick Boma. Partly for nostalgia reasons, partly for the fact that it's still great and hasn't lost its quality, and partly because its atmosphere is far superior. Tusker, while it loses this battle, loses only by a nose. Boma set the bar very, very high and Tusker House is right there with it.

Tail Of The Tape
Food quality: Slight edge to Boma
Food variety: Even
Service: Even
Price: Tusker House (option for a cheaper lunch)
Overall Experience & Atmosphere: Boma

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