Tambu Lounge, Kona Cafe, and The Polynesian

It’s the best time of year in Florida.  Highs are in the low 80s with a 0% chance of precipitation most days.

It looked like they were hauling out some of the asbestos.  You can read about the ongoing refurbishment here at Tikiman Pages.  I love that logo!  I think the “Not Mickey” hand in mine needs a drink.

Things are otherwise bright and happy.

Feels crowded.

The resort is otherwise as we left it.

Artsy fartsy flowers.  This isn’t even my 35mm F1.4 lens.  Things are going to get a lot worse before they get better!

The Tambu Lounge sits adjacent to ‘Ohana on the second floor of the lobby.  This area will be crawling with people waiting for their pagers to buzz for Kona Cafe and ‘Ohana in a couple of hours.  Because of that, the Tambu is not one of my favorite resort bars.  Unless you arrive before 4:30pm or right around 5:15pm, it’s unlikely that there will be anywhere to sit.  A lot of the people who arrive around 5pm will be seated by 5:15pm, which is the reason for the early evening exodus.  And the last several times I’ve been, they’ve seemed to be understaffed.  It’s unlikely that anyone will return to see if you would like another drink, let alone ask how the first one tasted.  Service at the bar itself seemed to be better because you’ll at least see the bartenders making the rounds as they prepare customers’ drinks.

Above is the “Captain’s Mai Tai – Captain Morgan Original Spiced rum, amaretto and tropical juices topped with a float of Myers’s Original Dark rum.”  It was good enough that Judy ordered another.

I opted for the “Ultimate Long Island Ice Tea – Bacardi Superior rum, Tito’s Handmade vodka, Hendrick’s gin, Cointreau and sweet & sour with a splash of Coca-Cola.”  This was the best drink I ordered over the course of a couple of days.  Strong-ish and refreshing.

Christine kept it simple with a “vodka tonic.”  While Disney offers a drink menu, they can whip up just about whatever you want.

The simpler “Vodka” was significantly cheaper than the drinks on the Disney menu.

Hmmmmmmmm.  Oh I know!  “Pimm’s Punch – Pimm’s No. 1 liqueur, Hendrick’s gin, Odwalla lemonade and wild strawberry.”  This one seemed to be well balanced.  Gin is my least favorite of the major alcohol types.  I drank very, very cheap gin in college because it basically guaranteed no one would try to mooch off me.  Or once they got a whiff of a Crystal Light and Potter’s Gin, they were no longer interested.  This one didn’t reek of gin.  One has to assume all the drinks have a pretty similar amount of alcohol in them.  It was also cold and refreshing with a ripe strawberry on top.  I think these kinds of tropical drinks in the taller glasses work well here at the Polynesian.  You may want to save the Rye Manhattan and Forever Young for the Top of the World Lounge or Mizner’s.

A “Tennessee Honey – Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, agave nectar, fresh lemon juice and Sprite.”  Tennessee Honey is a sweet, syrupy bourbon.  Evan Williams makes a similar, less expensive product and you’d also find similar versions from Jim Beam and Wild Turkey.  The Tennessee Honey was sweet, but the lemon juice and Sprite seemed to temper the syrupy-ness inherent in most “blended bourbons.”  I probably wouldn’t order a second as it would be pretty easy to put together yourself.

The “Red Stag Lemonade – Red Stag Black Cherry Bourbon and Odwalla lemonade garnished with Luxardo gourmet maraschino cherries.”  Hopefully that isn’t a bug in the drink.  Red Stag is another of the blended bourbons.  It’s unique in that it maintains being 80 proof.  The others are in the 70-proof vicinity.  This one was pretty good too – there isn’t a whole lot to it.  The blended bourbons are worth checking out if you’re not a terribly uppity bourbon person.  They mix well with a simple Diet Coke or other easy ingredients.  I think I like the Honeys more than the Cherries.  Cherry may remind you of ‘Tussin.  Although the Red Stag Cherry might come in handier with a broken leg or asthma.

The “Agave Nectar Margarita – Tres Generaciones organic plata tequila, agave nectar and fresh lime juice.”  I think.  Another well balanced drink.

Tambu Lounge opens at 1pm and serves food after 5pm.  They are pretty serious about that 5pm time too – a bartender can’t even put in the order until then.  Above is the “Pulled Pork Nachos – Polynesian chips topped with Pork, Cheese, Pineapple Salsa, and Spicy Mayonnaise – $8.99.”  This was pretty terrific.  It’s hard to gauge portion size from the picture, but this is a lot of food for nine dollars.  The pork was sweeter than I was expecting, but not necessarily in a bad way.  I would have liked a bit more of it, but that’s my only complaint.  There’s a similar item on the menu down at Captain Cook’s.  I think the intelligent would tell you that the chips are fried wontons, which adds to the uniqueness of the dish.  The nachos are $7.59 downstairs.  Certainly a nice, easily sharable appetizer while you sip your beverage.

The $5.99 Crisp Bread and Dips – assorted breads with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, and Baba Ghanoush.  This would be a nice light accompaniment to some evening drinks.  The portion size wasn’t gigantic, but there aren’t a lot of things on the menu for under six bucks at Disney.  All the dips and breads tasted good.  I’m not sure I have much else to say about them.

Kona Cafe is located off the lobby on the second floor.  We had no trouble walking up right around 5pm and getting a table for three.  By 6pm, the place was quite busy with a lot of people waiting around outside in the lobby for a table to become available.  I think the one critique you could make about Kona is its placement on the second floor with very little privacy.  You can see that I could physically touch the people seated at the tables closest to the lobby.  I’m not saying I did.  I’m just saying you could.  You may want to request a table further back in the restaurant.

The menu:


You’ll see Kona on a lot of “under appreciated Disney restaurants” lists – so much so that I think you can move it over to the “appreciated” column.  It’s a great spot for lunch in particular, outside of the hustle and bustle of the theme parks.  Of course, this assumes no monorail delays.

One of the big draws to Kona is their sweet bread, which is a fluffy, airy, and (YOU GUESSED IT!) sweet bread that at least feels lighter in the tummy than most.  If not for the thought of a lifetime supply of always-warm Olive Garden breadsticks, my choice would be a lifetime supply of Kona bread.  It’s that good.  Someone may have to correct me, but I don’t think they serve the bread with lunch.

It’s served with a macadamia nut butter, which I would describe as a light whipped, slightly nutty sweet butter.  The bread/butter combination really is delicious and don’t be shy about ordering a second (or third…or fourth…) loaf.

Judy opted for the $8.49 Sticky Wings – Glazed Chicken Wings with Tangy Mustard Drizzle and Toasted Sesame Seeds.  It looks like you get six for the price.  They are generally rated highly, though I didn’t have as much luck at Tambu Lounge a couple of months ago.  A similar item is available next door at ‘Ohana:

I think it would run you slightly north of $40/adult these days.

Breakfast runs closer to $25/adult.

Christine went with the Coconut Almond Chicken – Breaded and Baked Chicken Breast with a Salad of Asian Greens, fresh Fruit and Almonds – $16.99.

She compared it favorably to what was once a very popular item over at Wolfgang Puck Cafe – the Macadamia Nut Chicken.  At less than two bucks more than a Cosmic Ray’s Chicken/Ribs plate, you can see why Kona is popular among those of us “in the know.”

And I ordered the Pan-Asian Noodles – Yakisoba noodles, Wok-seared with Vegetables and your choice of Chicken or Tofu in a Garlic-Ginger Sauce – $17.99.  Or with Shrimp for $18.99.  I thought this was quite good and one of the best meals I’ve had on property recently for less than $20.  There were at least a dozen shrimp tossed with the noodles, crunchy pea pods, and peppers.  It was served piping hot, which adds quality points in my book.  It was also filling, relatively inexpensive, and just spicy enough.  I’ve read some unfavorable reviews of the Noodles, so I’m not sure if they’ve corrected the problem or I’m just easy to please.

You may remember that Kona also has a sushi bar attached.

You can theoretically waltz up without a reservation, but space is limited and service is on the slow side.  But if you arrive around 5pm and Kona Cafe is less then enthusiastic about your chances of getting a quick table, you can plop yourselves down at the Sushi Bar.  At the Sushi Bar, you can order anything off the regular Kona Cafe.  And at Kona Cafe, you can order the sushi.  The Kona Cafe seating area is just to the right.

I’m no expert on sushi, but I’ve had nothing but good experiences.  There’s a longer look around here.  The Sushi Bar accepts to-go orders, but expect the transaction to take at least ten minutes.  They make and package the sushi while you wait.

Oops, forgot a drink – the Jameson Irish Whiskey Sour – Jameson Irish whiskey, Cointreau, agave nectar and fresh lemon juice.  This didn’t have as much of a whiskey flavor as one of my own creations would.  I tend to double up on the alcohol.  With the carefully crafted bar menu that’s offered resort wide, you can be pretty certain that all of the drink recipes are created with America’s palette in mind and that they’re going to be similarly prepared wherever you go.  Assuming you enjoy a whiskey sour, margarita, Manhattan, etc. it’s unlikely that you won’t enjoy Disney’s versions.  It’s not like we’re really comparing apples and oranges between various restaurants or hotels.  It’s all the same.

Here’s what’s on the Captain Cook’s menu these days:





They have a beer flavored cupcake of some sort that I’ve heard is disgusting.

And of course, the self serve Dole Whip machine is still there.

Like the other resorts, movies are played in the evening.  Brave, in this case.

The pool bar with the usual menu.

That concludes another Polynesian Resort upgrade.  The pool area seems to look better with the lights edited out.

Comments

  1. keri says

    I am SO jealous!
    I’ve only ever eaten at Kona for lunch, because of the way the timing works out (I really want to try the lamb chop, though, so may do a 5pm dinner soon), and have never been able to try that bread! Also, the sushi bar isn’t available for lunch.

    On the other hand, I usually only order 2 of the potstickers and basically go to town shoving them into my belly, because they are super delicious. (One order of potstickers leaves me wanting more, but two plates is almost too many.) It’s a great lunch, and I have never, ever had a problem walking up between 11:30 and 2:30 to get a table – the one time it was close was the first Saturday in June and we went for a 2pm lunch (I rarely visit on weekends). But I put a reservation in just in case some party of 50 descended on the place from the Underrated Lunch Places forum or something crazy like that, and we got seated in about 15 minutes. (Also it was my birthday and I wanted them to put a birthday candle in the dessert.)

  2. Safroim says

    Now I’m really kicking myself for not tryng the Tambu and Kona on our last trip. DH and I meant to get back there on our last trip, but never made it. It’s definitely going on our “must-do” list for our next trip. The Captains Mai Tai is what I really wanted to order at ‘Ohana when I stuttered and ordered a Chardonnay. Great review.

  3. cgulls says

    ” the “Ultimate Long Island Ice Tea – Bacardi Superior rum, Tito’s Handmade vodka, Hendrick’s gin, Cointreau and sweet & sour with a splash of Coca-Cola.” This was the best drink I ordered over the course of a couple of days. Strong-ish and refreshing.”

    Strong-ISH? A four booze drink with a splash of non-booze. I’m not seeing the “ish” part. Sounds good to me. Even at 8:54 a.m. as I write this. That’s probably not good, right?

  4. Jenn says

    I have been trying to remember the name of the drink I had at Ohana! Is the Mai Tai the drink with the glowing fake ice cube?! It was in the smilar glass andbwas sooo good!! Been wantung to try to make it at home. :)

  5. RebeccaMcK says

    Do they still have the prix fixe 3-course menu at Kona Cafe? I had it for dinner a couple Octobers ago, so maybe it’s semi-seasonal. I had those Pan-Asian noodles, an appetizer I can’t remember and the upside down pineapple cake for dessert (that one slice lasted us a few days in our room’s mini fridge, yummy). I’m strange when it comes to Long Island Iced Tea….I want it to be mostly Coke with just a small splash of all the other ingredients, lol. I’m a lightweight with a rum allergy (well, it just gives me instant headaches, so I always order drinks without rum).

  6. tanya says

    If you just go to the bar, and don’t order food, do you know if you can use your TiW card? I’m thinking not, just curious if you’ve tried it.

    Now I’m kicking myself too for cancelling my Kona ressie from January. I’d order the same thing as you, those noodles! But with chicken, of course. And naturally, you’re easy to please, hence the name of your website. I think we’re all easy now. Especially after all those cocktails…. 😉

  7. armscrossed says

    In your photo of Ultimate Long Island Ice Tea I see a large stack of “Disney Parks” napkins. Would you say that is a ‘years supply’ of napkins?

  8. Andrea says

    Yes, it’s over priced and needs a little sprucing up – but I really love the Polynesian. It just FEELS like vacation when we are there. I have never stayed there…I am too cheap…but I love being there for meals, walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. Thanks for this – helped me with my winter blues a bit!

  9. Ana says

    We did lunch at Kona lonce and after asking very nicely for bread, they brought it to us. We were told they would check and see if the bread was done baking and if it was, that they would bring us one……and they did. #Heaven

  10. marlaine says

    We only stay at The Polynesian on our WDW trips, and have eaten at every restaurant there. Kona is very good-never had a bad meal there. The set up always reminds me of the coffee shops in Vegas. Great food and great service. Captain Cooks is very good for counter service, although it gets pretty crowded at times. Who wouldn’t love a self-serve Dole Whip! We always eat at O’Hana. My DH and I enjoy it, and it’s never been a problem for them to bring chicken nuggets and FF for my DS, who is a picky eater. We also like Breakfast with Stitch, although we haven’t eaten there for the last few trips. We’ve had plenty of drinks at Tambu Lounge, but really, really enjoy the Barefoot Bar outside by the pool. The bartenders, Steve and Tim are incredible!

  11. DaveTheWaveUSMC says

    Having the character breakfast there on 2/15. Wish I could have booked it earlier in our stay but we waited to long. Keep checking multiple times a day, fingers crossed.

    I tried to talk our dinner group into ‘Ohana for dinner instead of Biergarten this year. Was unsuccessful there too. Although we always have a blast at the German Oktoberfest experience.

    Thanks again for the pics Josh.

  12. melissa says

    Kona is a complete favorite of ours. At least twice a trip! And I too second Judy/Christine from Help Around the Mouse – I am using them for this summer’s trip and have found both so helpful in other forums!! Very nice ladies! :) Thanks for the update Josh. We go in June every year and I always think of the comment you made about the bar area looking like a refugee camp when there is a rainstorm. It is awful!!!

  13. Chuck says

    Don’t get the ultimate Ice Tea. The regular one is a steal. My wife and I get 1 to go each Friday on our wat to the Magic Kingdom. Two cost $16.81 a steal compared to all other bars in Disney. Hope this doesn’t have them update the pricing.

  14. Dan Young says

    >If you just go to the bar, and don’t order food, do you know if you can use your TiW card?<

    Yup. I use it all the time at lounges all over the World with no problem.

  15. Psac says

    @Tanya — yes, we were able to use our TIW card at the bar just on a drink order last year. I had to wait for the manager’s approval, but no grief from the bartender at all or anything.

    Kona is definitely our favorite non-signature restaurant for dinner. In 6 or 7 times, also have never had a bad meal there, and the service ranges from decent to good (but never bad yet.) Those sticky wings are awesome, they taste better than the Irish ones at O’hana next door.

  16. Mike says

    Josh you must have quite the alcohol tolerance, last time I had long island iced tea I had 2 of them, they went down like juice, and I could hardly walk straight afterwards (I’m in the 200 pound range too). Although I’m guessing the stack of napkins is a size comparison, the glass doesn’t look terribly large. But good times anyways 😀

  17. Britkate says

    Dh was feeling distinctly tired and emotional after one lapu lapu or whatever it is. A pineapple seemingly completely filled with rum. Yes that will be a great idea on our first night with raging jet lag. Had to drag him back to OKW like a cave lady.

  18. says

    Okay. To clarify. Those drinks may have been on the same day. But they were not in the same sitting. Were they? I don’t think they were…..

  19. Mike D says

    Thanks for another great review. We arrive at the Poly in April and will enjoy both ‘Ohana and Kona Grill during our stay again this year. You didn’t list the breakfast menu at Kona or Capt. Cook’s as I’m sure people will ask about the tonga toast…

    Will you be updating your April calendar? BTW, nice picture of your receipt. Did you get your 20% Tables in Wonderland discount?

    Mike

  20. Cindi says

    I loved my experience with ‘OHana and can’t wait to return and try out Kona too! The menu sounds good and the food looks great. I’ll pass on the Red Stag Lemonade and it really does look like there is a fly in there. You rarely get any freebies from Disney, so… Bonus! Think of it like you do the worm in Mexican tequilla.

  21. Carly says

    Thanks for the Kona and Tambu Lounge review! I love any meal at Kona – always yummy. We are having lunch there in June – I will ask if we can get some bread!
    I like eating at Ohana for dinner – but it is rather pricey – but the noodles and the dessert there are yummy!!!!!!

  22. Clover says

    You used some of my favorite words in this one… Tito’s… Meyer’s… yum. FYI, you can get a Captain’s Mai Tai at Outback Steakhouse.

    The Poly is such a beautiful resort. I’ve had breakfast at Kona Cafe but it wasn’t on my radar for dinner until today.

  23. Melanie says

    Captain Cook’s introduced me to the joy of WDW muffins. I have opted for a muffin over all other quick serve breakfast offerings ever since. Muffins everywhere else just don’t measure up.

  24. Terri -back home is So. Cal says

    Thanks Josh. Is it possible to click on a larger image of the cold case at Capt. Cooks and the photo of the Barefoot Bar? (trying to see the bar menu) TIA! Also, we had the Pork Nachos at Capt Cooks a few years ago and I really enjoyed them. I would go back there just for the nachos and the Dole Whip. Can’t wait for your next resort update-I’m working on my resorts snack list.

  25. Kathy says

    Early on in our planning for our late Feb trip, I secured my first ‘Ohana ADR. Now, with 2 weeks to go, we’ve added Kona breakfast. So excited for both, especially after this post!!

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