Jungle Cruise Skipper Canteen New Menu Review at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

The website published a fairly extensive (editor: it was only 3,160 words – I think we’ll consider that brief) review of Skipper Canteen back in February of this year after the restaurant soft-opened late last year. You can check out that review here in case you missed it. In addition to reviewing my experience, I take on a lot of the criticism that had been levied towards it and at least attempt to dispel some of it. That include the “weird” menu, the “expensive” prices, and the “lack” of reservations. The previous review also includes a lot more pictures around the restaurant that I won’t be rehashing here.

But one thing that isn’t debatable is that Skipper Canteen was met with empty tables and largely mediocre-at-best reviews from guests in the weeks that followed its initial opening.

Because easydubz always has its ear to the ground or whatever the relevant colloquialism is, the website occasionally pulls up recent Trip Advisor or Yelp reviews to see what “the people” think. I spend no time reading the four- or five-star reviews and instead hone in on the negative, which drives everything I do. According to David Ashley H, the menu here sees some Asian influences in a few of the dishes he ordered.

First of all, Jesse R. is this your first attempt at blogging? You never order the same thing as anyone else at the table. Second of all, it was suppose to be [sic] pork belly, which is fattier and might “feel” under-cooked to someone that gave Pollo Tropical five stars during the same trip. One wonders what the point of comping meals is if “making it right” still leads to 1-star reviews.

If only she had told us which agency…But Mary is not necessarily wrong…Disney should probably tell you that it’s pork belly.

But in the last 6-ish weeks, those are the only three 1- or 2-star reviews on tripadvisor.com, so people seem to be enjoying their meals a little more or at least everyone who didn’t is adequately bought off after walking out without paying.

But the menu was particularly contentious, so much so that news leaked in late April via WDW News Today that the restaurant would undergo a “radical menu change” with “almost all of the current offerings going away or moving to another restaurant at Walt Disney World.”

This is the original entree and dessert menu:

My assumption was that the “radical” changes would be the easing of some of the language and perhaps switching out some of the sides for more familiar items. Or at least have the option to do so. The steak could certainly come with whatever yuca planks are and chimichurri by default, but the option to switch those out for fries and garlic butter might fill some seats. The kitchen is shared with Liberty Tree Tavern after all. They certainly have the equipment to make fries back there.  The chicken could arrive with teriyaki sauce instead of whatever hoisin sauce is and you could switch out the words “shiitake fried rice” for the more familiar “vegetable fried rice.” Put six shrimp on two skewers and take the heads off. And on one hand, you would still have a restaurant that offers different flavors than any of Magic Kingdom’s other restaurants, but you’d also be attracting a lot more people that just want to enjoy a comfortable, comforting meal after junior’s third meltdown of the day.

But that’s not what happened. And if anything, I think the menu is a little more out there than it was originally. Here’s the updated version:

So out of 11 entrees, four are exactly the same, two (Beefy Baked Pasta and Noodle Bowl) are 95% the same, one is completely new, two (Steak Salad and Vegetable Stew) switch out some ingredients, two (Chicken and Pork) are new preparations, and in an interesting turn of events, the one new item (Whole Fried Fish) is probably not attracting anyone that’s iffy about sofrito.

So whoever is in charge here apparently doesn’t think that it’s the menu or the menu descriptions that are keeping people away. Or they don’t care.

The changes to the drinks and appetizers are similarly minimized:

The Shiriki Noodle Salad replaces the Fish Collar and the Baladi Salad arrives with a “Coriander-Mint Vinaigrette” rather than a “Garlic-Coriander Vinaigrette.”

This is the updated kids’ menu, which admittedly still has me scratching my head over:

Why Disney can’t just add a flipping hamburger and a hot dog to throw parents a bone is beyond me. I’ll eat almost anything within reason at the ripe old age of 31, but if you served me “cucumber planks” when I was six you were going to have a problem. “Chef Tandaji’s Crispy Chicken served with White Rice, Seasonal Vegetables, and Sweet-and-Sour Sauce” or “Chicken Nuggets with Broccoli, French Fries, or (regular old) Mac & Cheese – $11.” It’s not hard. Word is they should offer a kids’ meal from Liberty Tree Tavern upon request, BUT WHY THEY DON’T JUST ADD SOMETHING TO THE MENU.

Is a restaurant’s menu perfectly themed if there’s nobody dining inside to see it?

The shtick here is the same with your server acting as a Jungle Cruise skipper. In my experience, that makes for a meal that is somewhere between mildly entertaining and moderately awkward, but that is also the story of my life. If you can’t crack a forced smile when your server asks, “What do you call a camel with no humps?”

Humphrey…Hump-free…….anyone…..then you might be better off with the frozen chicken parm at Tony’s Town Square.

Another change I thought they would make – switching out the Ethiopian ambasha bread for something more rudimentary. The bread has a slightly sweet, slightly spicy flavor to it thanks to the ground cardamom, which kind of tastes like ginger and cinnamon. It’s served alongside a thin honey spread infused with fenugreek, which has an earthy, aromatic quality to it. Bottom line: it’s really dense and even when fresh, “feels” stale. And the spices are unfamiliar. I tear off a piece whenever I visit, but it’s hard to imagine people wouldn’t want something more akin to a mealie cornbread or something – sweeter and more buttery. And still appropriately themed.

I tried each of the two new new/modified appetizers over two separate meals. This is the Shiriki Noodle Salad zoomed out to offer a better look at sizing.

With Rice Noodles, Edamame Beans, Mushrooms, Green Mango, and Cucumber tossed with a Sweet Chili Sauce. Famously served at Hotel Hightower on December 31, 1899.

Served chilled, this salad was as refreshing as the colors were vibrant. I thought there was a nice attention to detail on the plating as well.

It arrives on the table looking effortlessly constructed – just a pile of stuff on a plate. But once you stick your fork in it and give it a stir, you’re left with a salad that looks like it erupted on the plate.

Anyway, there is a lot going on here – even more than in the menu description with the addition of red pepper, carrots, lotus root, and some herbs – but it works. The noodles are soft and soak up the salty, sweet chili sauce and the various fruits and vegetables offer some crunch and a variety of other flavors from earthy to mild to sweet.

All in all I was impressed and I’m not sure that I can name an appetizer salad around this price point that I’ve recently enjoyed more. It’s a large portion for the money too – someone with a smaller appetite could probably get by with this as an entree perhaps helped by a couple bites of another appetizer or seconds on the bread. It might also be preferable if a Mickey Pretzel, Main Street Confectionery cupcake, and Dole Whip are all on the itinerary. Very good.

This is the new version of the Baladi Salad – Classic Egyptian Salad consisting of Romaine Lettuce, Red Peppers, Tomatoes, Cucumber, Parsley, Coriander-Mint Vinaigrette, and Ambasha Bread Croutons – $9.

This was a lot more straightforward though I’m relatively certain that the cast member in charge of the pepper shook the shaker a little, the top flew off, and half of the world’s supply of  ground pepper ended up on top of my salad. The cast member then dug a handful out, threw that in the trash, and served me what was left. Okay, it was not quite that peppery, but you can see how much there is in the picture. In a strange way, it kind of worked with the coriander-mint vinaigrette and cucumber cooling each bite. But too much seasoning. It’s also a fairly substantial portion that you could easily split as an appetizer if you wanted.

We couldn’t help but return to a few favorites. Corless loves these $10 S.E.A. Shu Mai – A Legendary blend of Pork, Shrimp, Edamame Beans, and Spices wrapped in Gyoza Skin then steamed. The presentation is actually a little different here than in the past.

They originally arrived in this stainless steel pot thing.

But no matter which vessel carries them, each of the six delicate gyoza wrappers gives way to a surprisingly complex array of spices mixed in with the blend of Pork, Shrimp, and Edamame Beans. It’s easily a top three appetizer in Magic Kingdom and is easily shareable.

While it’s not a new dish, I hadn’t tried the Falls Family Falafel – A secret recipe of of Chickpeas, Garlic, Onions, Lemon Juice, and Herbs served with White Bean Dip and Tomato-Cucumber Salad – $8.50.

Quite a bit goes into these round little balls – 14 ingredients in all including dried chickpeas, coriander, cayenne, garlic, cumin, cilantro, and parsley.

And while falafel is almost dry by definition, these had a nice crisp exterior and a light interior that was complemented nicely by the fresh flavors from the cucumber and tomato salad tossed in olive oil and more importantly, the bean dip with its yogurt base and hint of sriracha spice.

It was better than the falafel that I’ve tried at Jock Lindsey’s, Trader Sam’s, and Tangierine Cafe, perhaps among others, but might not be so fantastic that they’re a “must try.”

Like several of the other appetizers, including these arepas, they are very shareable though you might not want to.

This is how the Skip’s Mac & Cheese was originally plated for $19.

This is the current Skip’s Beefy Baked Pasta – Egyptian-inspired dish of Spiced Braised Beef, Pasta, and Béchamel Sauce served with Seasonal Vegetables – $21.

I wasn’t particularly impressed by the re-imagining. The original, served in its own precious little ramekin, “felt” like it was made specifically for whoever ordered it with about half of the pasta and the beef hidden underneath a thick layer of macaroni with the creamy sauce delicately spooned over the top.

The current version “feels” like after receiving an order, a cast member goes into the fridge, pulls out a baking dish of half eaten lasagna, peels the aluminum foil off the top, cuts off a square, puts it on a plate, and then puts the aluminum foil back on and sticks it back in the fridge.

But it tasted about the same – the pasta was a little gummier and now that the onus is on the operator to move the sauce about the pasta, a little less creamy and decadent. It’s also a significantly smaller portion for what ended up being one of few price increases on the “new” menu. I originally remarked that this was easily shareable among two adults, particularly with the addition of the arepas or one of the other heftier appetizers. But I don’t think that’s the case anymore. I preferred the more interesting “Chinese Broccoli” to these unseasoned green beans as well.

So I don’t think that was an improvement. But it’s not exactly a disaster, particularly if you don’t let your imagination run wild with what they’ve got going on back there.

Larger: http://www.easywdw.com/reports13/whole_fried_lion_fish_skipper_canteen_magic_kingdom.jpg

I know many of you have delicate sensibilities, so I will give you the opportunity to take a look at the full size picture of the $30 Whole Fried Fish – You’ll get hooked on Skipper Annette’s latest catch! Served with Jasmine Rice, Grilled Scallions, and Soy-Ginger Vinaigrette if you so choose.

Considering many expected Skipper Canteen to go “more mainstream,” the addition of serving two whole lionfish, eyeballs and all, was a surprising move. But also a tasty one. The fish is prepared in this manner to trap as much flavor and moisture as possible into each bite of the delicate, flaky, mild white fish. The firmer texture and less brittle bones compared to what Tiffins is serving over at Animal Kingdom, makes this a lot easier to eat than that version and each bite is succulent with a mild lingering spice from the rub, in addition to the sweet/spicy quality of the soy ginger sauce. The crunchy spines (is that what they’re called?) have almost a potato chip quality crunch to them as they can easily be broken off and eaten.

Overall, this is a very well put together dish and one that is easily shareable given the fact that two large fish are served. I thought it was a good value and a testament that Disney has no interest in “dumbing down” the menu here.

Also a reminder that the souvenir mugs are back for between $10-$14 depending on whether you want it filled with soda, juice, or one of the signature drinks.

The Schweitzer Slush – Frozen Apple Juice and Passion Fruit topped with Bursting Green Apple Boba Balls, first concocted by the noted explorer and humanitarian, Dr. Albert Slush is extremely sweet, making the ten-ounces-or-so served here about as much as you’ll probably want to drink over the course of a meal.

Overall, Skipper Canteen remains my favorite table service lunch at Magic Kingdom, though the competition is not exactly fierce. The atmosphere is fun, interesting, and unique. The service I’ve received has always been as friendly as it is prompt. I think the menu and execution of some of the dishes still leave something to be desired. The kitchen seems like they want to offer some dishes that are a little out of people’s comfort zones, but because they are still catering to the hamburger and hot dog crowd, tend to dumb the flavors down to the point where the people that want to experience those flavors are left disappointed. It seems to me like offering a sizzling skirt steak with a flavorful homemade chimichurri alongside the usual well done sirloin with a side of fries would be wise. You’re giving both sides what they want and both will leave happier.

Since the last review, Skipper Canteen accepts reservations like most other restaurants. They typically take walkups during lunch hours, but dinner can be a bit busier. You always want a reservation as soon as you know you want to eat at a restaurant. So fire up the app or the website as soon as you’ve made a decision, even if it’s just a couple hours before you want to eat. We made our 12pm reservation for two on the way over to Magic Kingdom from Sanaa breakfast around 10:30am. Note that the restaurant appears under “J” for Jungle Cruise rather than “S” for Skipper Canteen.

The restaurant now accepts the Tables in Wonderland discount and Disney added a plethora of discounts for Annual Passholders, including 20% off at Skipper Canteen. A full list of new Annual Passholder discounts is available in the forums here. That list also includes whether the new discounts are better, worse, or the same as the previous discounts.




I’ll be back at Skipper Canteen this weekend and will update if anything seems to have changed.

Comments

  1. Christine says

    I appreciate the review of the new menu choices and revisiting some of the old ones. I was very excited to try Skipper Canteen on my last trip in January. The choices didn’t put me off at all, I just found the food…underwhelming. I had the Head-On Shrimp. They were fine, but not outstanding in anyway. $25.00 for three (not terribly large) shrimp seemed like a lot compared to Be Our Guest where I had a small casserole of shrimp, lobster and scallops nicely prepared for a similar (at the time) price point (even less, as Be Our Guest took Tables in Wonderland and Skipper Canteen did not). As you mention the bread is fine but not particularly delicious. (I’ve found myself eating several of the rolls at Be Our Guest and other restaurants in WDW). We had an appetizer but now I can’t even remember which one and two desserts that were good but not anything that had me rushing back to re order them. Having worn out most of the table service restaurants in the Magic Kingdom, I was ready to love Skipper Canteen but it just didn’t spark. The ambiance was lovely but everything seemed a bit half- hearted, even the waiter, considering it was a brand new establishment at the time. I will give it another try on my next trip and see if I have a better experience.

  2. Melissa S. says

    Mary, a travel agent, was disappointed that her two “children”, ages 10 and 12, were not offered children’s menus? How is anyone familiar with Disney (particularly in a travel-planning capacity) not aware that “children” per anything WDW-related (dining, lodging, tickets, etc.) are 3-9? SMH…

    I haven’t had the pleasure of trying SC yet, but we have an ADR for our first evening in MK during our late Nov/early Dec trip. Looking so forward to that, and appreciating your frank reviews in advance. Between this and Trail’s End dinner, I feel like we have some excellent new choices lined up this time. Thanks!

  3. Roger says

    Hi Josh, I had the whole fish last week and completely agree, it was excellent. I was only served one large lion fish, so number of fish might change on size. I was still stuffed when I finished it.

      • Mary Ann says

        Do you eat the skin? I assume that it’s been scaled even though the spines are still there. And I thought those guys were poisonous, so I guess they’re not once cooked. Interesting. would love to try.

  4. Joel says

    Next time I am at Epcot, I am going to take a ride on Living with the Land to see if they are now raising Lion fish to be served on property. Nemo better hope that Whole Clown fish are not going to be served as an appetizer.

    • LilyOneAndOnly says

      Actually lion fish have become an invasive species to the native Florida ecosystem, generally due to home aquarists dumping their unwanted pets into the sea. The cultivation of lion fish as food for human consumption is actually a way we can make some use of these fish as they are continously pulled out of the ocean by the hundreds where they wreak havic on the local fish and coal population.
      Yay for Disney to help lead this effort!

  5. keri says

    I got the last seating there on Sept 10, and it was the best meal I’ve ever had at the magic kingdom. I couldn’t decide what to order and I’m allergic to fish, so eventually settled on the lamb chops. I’d never had lentils before in my life, and was pleasantly surprised by them. The lamb chops were exactly what the Boma chef made in 2014 at one of the Food & Wine demonstrations I attended, which was amusing (but delicious – I love that spice mix).

    The menu may be a bit odd, but I can’t say enough about having options that aren’t burgers and fries or pasta or whatever the usual is. The spices and veggie options here are a welcome change after days of WDW park food, especially if you’re mainly eating quick service meals or not visiting the resorts for dinner. I’m looking forward to going back explicitly to try the curry or noodle dishes. (The mac’n’cheese is also very tempting, but I learned my lesson the hard way about rich cheese dishes in the park. Those are only acceptable if it’s a) not hot as hades and b) i’m fixing to lie down and sleep it off a bit)

  6. Anon says

    Any chance we’ll get a review of Homecoming any time soon? I know you posted about it on facebook, but I would love a 3000+ word piece of art about it. <3

  7. Sherry says

    I am glad to see whole fish on the menu. The fish collar was delicious when I visited in February and I’m happy bone-in fish hasn’t vanished completely. There is so much that appeals to me on this menu and I agree the ambiance of this place is great. If the menu scares away the hordes I might be OK with that as long as it does well enough to continue.

  8. Christina says

    We ate here last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had the shrimp which I thought was tasty and they removed the heads for me in the kitchen which I appreciated. My son got the macaroni and cheese and while I thought that it was going to be the Egyptian beef version, it was just regular Mac and Cheese. No one really liked the bread though, so they might want to consider a choice of bread between the bread what they have now and something a little more familiar.

  9. CMM says

    Clearly Jesse R is a connoisseur that will accept nothing less than PREMIUM BOSTON BUTTS.

    And I know there is a Tom Bricker meets Bursting Boba Balls joke to be made here somehow…

  10. LNS says

    I love that they haven’t dumbed down the menu. People need to eat more than just burgers and fries, and it’s nice to have a restaurant that you can actually get reservations to.

    • Jen B says

      I agree – there is diversity in the food choices. if someone wants more middle of the road food there is the Plaza. I look forward to trying this place on my next trip and I will be bringing my <12 kids.

      • jeni says

        I am a full out foodie as adventurous as it gets — BUT when we dined here, the food unfortunately just wasn’t prepared well. We left the majority of our entrees on the plate. Waste of money. I’d take a well-prepared burger any day. Yeah I’m still disappointed. :(

  11. Leslie Beam says

    If it were just the husband and myself, we would be all over this place. We are adventurous eaters. However, now we have a picky 3 year old and I know this child well enough that she would not eat anything on the kids menu. The closest would be the mac & cheese and that’s up for debate sometimes. That’s why we went for lunch at Liberty Tree instead for our December trip. I do hope to try Skipper in the future. Thank you for the honest review!

  12. Rich says

    In August my family of five ate at The Boathouse, Tiffins, and Skipper Canteen, among others. Skipper Canteen was our favorite meal, by far. The entire experience was great. Our waiter was so “in character”, he was incredibly nice, funny, and attentive. This meal was a huge highlight of our trip.

  13. Holly says

    First of all, isn’t that how everyone reads reviews? You are not alone Josh! I do the same thing! Now onto my SC experience. Granted, I had my first allergic reaction to shellfish after eating at this restaurant which may or may not have influenced my experience, but I was pretty underwhelmed. I had the head on shrimp and split the falafel with my husband. Both were just kind of meh. For the life of me, I can’t remember what they served my son (that pesky allergic reaction coloring my memory) but when we asked if there were other options than on the menu, we were told no. I applaud Disney’s commitment to offer some more exciting options other than burgers and hot dogs but I fail to understand why they can’t offer a few standard children’s options in addition to the other items. It doesn’t have to be either/or. That way, parents can enjoy a sit down meal with some more interesting flavors regardless of how picky their children may be. It seems like a big oversight.

  14. Chris says

    Thank for the review. I can honestly say that there was not one picture of anything I would eat and definitely not anything my Wife or 3 kids would eat. You saved us from a bad meal….

  15. jeni says

    I was so bummed when we went. The waiter did absolutely no shtick, the bread was stale and the pork was the worst thing I have ever eaten at a restaurant bar none. Apparently I ordered the wrong thing. I’m not exactly excited to try eating there again, but I just might after your helpful review — mainly just to try the appetizers that look so good! Thanks as always for the new input and ideas.

  16. Billy Jo Bob says

    Our 1st trip last April with original menu- Falafel was dense but edible. The Lamb Chops & Steak were awesome tender juicy cuts. Kungaloosh dessert was fantastic while the Congee Pudding was meh- ok, probably why it was dropped off the menu. They should’ve just served the crispy cookie thingy on top x3.

    Last month we tried the Falafel again & it seemed a bit lighter and better. The Steak was again delicious (those yucca fries are pretty similar to potato fries) and we braved the whole fish. The Whole Fried Fish was beyond delicious! A young Japanese couple sat next to us and ordered the fish after seeing ours. Then another lady ordered the fish after seeing the couple sharing theirs. It was easy to navigate & find plenty of meat. Don’t be scared. We all loved it!

    The new Mac-n-Cheez isn’t trying hard enough to deny it was just nuked for 3 minutes before arrival. The cling-wrap visual seems spot on. We’ll pass, but now we need to try those salads. Thanks for the pics 😉 We really enjoy Skipper’s food & atmosphere, added plus that ADRs are attainable even a week out.

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