Cook’s Reopens, Waffle Fries Disappoint, TTA is Orange, Did We Really Get New Benches Without A Media Event? – Magic Kingdom 8/17/14

by josh on August 19, 2014

Captain Cook’s at the Polynesian Resort reopened in the middle of last week after closing at the end of March for what ended up being a refurbishment that lasted about 4.6 months.

Changes are limited mostly to the cosmetic, though a few operational changes affect the overall guest experience.

The self-serve ordering kiosks are gone – replaced by exactly one cast member accepting orders, which seems a bit short-sighted considering the resort is currently expanding.

When we arrived at 3:25pm on Sunday August 17th, there were two people in line in front of us. While waiting the 14 minutes it took for our food to arrive, the line backed up outside with just two or three families arriving. And that’s with about 40% of rooms out of inventory due to DVC construction.

After ordering from one cast member, you walk your receipt eight feet to the left and pay here after potentially collecting dessert or other items from one of the fridges.

And then wait for the Disney Difference themed buzzer to go off and collect your food from a third counter.

Lunch and dinner menu:

Several items are brand new to the location, including the Chicken and Waffles, Fish Tacos, and Grilled Ham and Cheese. One noticeable item missing is the “Grown Up Grilled Cheese Sandwich.” In fact, there’s really only one vegetarian item on the menu – the Traditional Flatbread, though the various salads and udon noodle bowl can be ordered without meat. Nonetheless, the lack of vegetarian options is a decided step in the wrong direction.

Nothing has changed on the RapidFill front other than the paper cups are good for two hours from the time of purchase for up to four fills. Cook’s has Coca Cola, Coke Zero, Diet Coke, Sprite, Sprite Zero, Fanta Orange, Barq’s Root Beer, Minute Maid Lemonade, and Powerade in the RapidFill machines. Gold Peak Tea, Hot Chocolate, Coffee, and Water remain unregulated.

Seating is comfortable and it “felt” brighter and more pleasant inside with the fun retro posters depicting the various longhouses.

Construction compromises most of the views for now.

Lisa tried the Fish Tacos – Blackened Fish of the Day on a Flour Tortilla topped with Broccoli Slaw – $7.99. Unlike most quick services, most of the items at Cook’s come unbundled, meaning it’s just the entree. We were advised that a side would be an additional $2.

The Polynesian chips at Cook’s are actually really good and a smart choice if you’re hungry and like chips. The slaw is a small cup, but it’s cold and refreshing on hot days. We ended up declining a side, which meant the two tacos arrived sort of sad-looking next to each other on a large plate.

The fish is actually the same as what was recently added to Sunshine Seasons at Epcot. The fish is quite spicy with a poblano pepper aioli that’s unadvertised at Cook’s. We didn’t mind, but be prepared for one of the spiciest quick service dishes on property should you opt for the tacos. They’re otherwise recommended with the Sunshine Seasons version being one of our all-time favorites.

I ordered the Chicken and Waffles – Crispy Buffalo Chicken Fritters on a Waffle topped with Romaine and Ranch Dressing – $7.99.

These are two freshly pressed waffles doused in honey with buffalo chicken nuggets, romaine lettuce, and ranch salad dressing on top. While a popular dish, I’m not sure the sweet/spicy elements complemented or contrasted particularly well here. On the plus side, it was more filling than you might expect and a fairly unique offering.

In the fridge:

Hopefully sushi from upstairs will return once Kona Island Sushi Bar reopens at the beginning of October. Otherwise it’s salads, lobster rolls, turkey sandwiches, noodles and other grab-and-go items.

No Dole Whips are currently available at the Polynesian. They are expected to return at the Pineapple Lanai at the end of the month, along with the addition of Dole Whip Floats. Trader Sam’s opens next to Captain Cook’s sometime next year. Tonga Toast is still available at breakfast along with the rest of the menu.

Cook’s offers a nice variety of food outside the limited vegetarian options and the refurbishment has only made sitting and eating inside more pleasant. One major negative may be the single cast member accepting orders. Mara at Animal Kingdom Lodge works somewhat similarly where one or two cast members mark a paper slip with what you want to order and then you collect other items and pay. Things should work out one way or another.

The Poly otherwise remains a mess during the DVC construction and pool refurbishment.

Half of the entryway walled off.

Fountain destroyed and completely walled off.

Upstairs walled off.

Store walled off, though Samoa Snacks continues to operate.

Kona Island Sushi/Coffee Bar walled off.

Pool walled off.

Pool drained.

Looking out from the upstairs windows toward Magic Kingdom.

DVC construction continues.

From the bridge over to the monorail.

One last look.

A few days ago, Disney Parks Blog announced Golden Oak Outpost would begin offering a menu heavy on Waffle Fries.

Four varieties arrive alongside Sweet Potato Nuggets. Currently, the location operates from 11am-9pm.

I gathered the usual suspects to give them a try. Unfortunately, we came away unanimously disappointed.

First up is the $5.99 Brown Gravy and Cheese Waffle Fries topped with Brown Gravy and White Cheddar or as literally every other review has SO CLEVERLY POINTED OUT it’s like poutine! The first problem here is portion size. Six bucks buys you about eight limp, largely unseasoned waffle fries, this time topped with Heinz gravy and a sprinkle of very salty cheese. Nobody finished these, despite potentially looking attractive.

BLT Waffle Fries topped with Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, and Ranch Dressing -$5.99 or as every other review has SO CLEVERLY POINTED OUT they are almost Figaro Fries! Minus cheese! Because Disney really is that cheap! If the fries were crispier, these would be pretty good, despite the brown lettuce and doesn’t-need-to-be-refrigerated-somehow-via-science bacon. Six bucks is still pretty rough.

Barbecue Pork Waffle Fries topped with Barbecue Pork and (theoretically) Coleslaw – $5.99. In this instance, your $6 buys you six waffle fries topped with a scoop of Pecos Bill’s “pulled pork,” which is in the vicinity of Lloyd’s meat tub quality. Taste here is what you would expect from the low quality pork doused in a sweet sauce over unseasoned french fries.

For a buck-fifty more at Sleepy Hollow Refreshments, you can order a gigantic Chicken and Waffle Sandwich.

Eight dollars buys you a heaping pile of chips, chili, and cheese at either nearby Tortuga Tavern or Casey’s.

Anyway, you may want to lower your expectations on the waffle fry front.

On the positive side of things, we all enjoyed the $2.99 Sweet Potato Nuggets, which arrive with about 20 piping hot morsels dusted with powdered sugar. They have a nice subtle sweetness to them along with a nice crispy exterior.

The Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover reopened after a relatively brief refurbishment. Astro Orbiter is currently expected to reopen September 28th.

While it’s unlikely that anyone without @disney in their Twitter handle cares, the exit escalators are now sort of orange, sort of red.

With most of the paint work yet to commence, it’s difficult to say how it will tie in to the rest of the concrete jungle that is Tomorrowland. But perhaps a little color never killed anybody.

Outside of the paint job, PeopleMover is otherwise unchanged, save for some reupholstered seats.

Astro Orbiter’s elevator shaft is painted red for more of a NASA vibe.

The color may or may not attract people as the line is backed up into Tomorrowland at 4:40pm on the 17th.

Back out front, Disney is replacing the roof on the Wilderness Lodge/Ft. Wilderness dock.

Character wait times are a strange phenomenon. Granted we’ve doubled the Tinker Bell Capacity at Town Square Theater and hid her inside a building where the theming doesn’t make any sense, but her waits were routinely 45+ minutes in Adventureland. And 10 minutes at Town Square Theater.

Just in case you’re looking for Aurora/Sleeping Beauty and Marie/The Cat, you’ll find them nearby in Town Square.

The only scrim in Magic Kingdom.

Not the only wall as Hub construction continues.

Adventureland side.

And yes I’m still serious that it’s going to take another year.

Tomorrowland side.

Pretty in the opposite direction.

In surprise bench news, the tent in the back of Storybook Circus added a lot of ummmmmmmm eclectic seating surfaces:

Cue hilarious joke about needing a FP+ for the Storybook Circus picnic table.

Considering “literally” nobody comes back here, this all seems a bit superfluous, particularly because it has closed the FP+ kiosk back here (“temporarily,” though it’s already been three weeks).

There’s already plenty of seating. And it’s so slow that they had to relocate the pretzel cart next to Dumbo to drum up business.

At 6:20pm, Mine Train was posted at 50 minutes.

Anna/Elsa all the way down to 60 minutes at the same time.

Walls up at the store to the right of Friar’s Nook.

Peter Pan’s Flight is undergoing an extensive queue refurbishment that’s expected to bring interactive elements and wider lanes for ECVs/wheelchairs/Americans.

Much of the queue is moved down to the right where Peter Pan and Wendy have been meeting.

Yankee Trader to the right of Haunted Mansion is closed while it’s converted over to a dedicated Haunted Mansion store – a process that should take at least another 4.5 months. Haunted Mansion is expected to close for a short refurbishment from December 1st to 19th, probably to install on-ride photography equipment.


{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

George August 19, 2014 at 7:10 am

“…wider lanes for ECVs/wheelchairs/Americans.” :D


Bernadette August 19, 2014 at 7:17 am

Memo to self: Never read Josh’s article title while swallowing vitamins.


Jesobelle August 19, 2014 at 7:46 am

Thanks for the update, Josh. This living vicariously is keeping me sane until I get to return in 2016ish – those waffle fries will not be on my to-do list.

I’ll be happy if Peter Pan’s getting wider lanes. I felt such a sense of guilt bypassing the line because of my ECV back in August last year – almost all other attractions are accessible one way or another.


Mike August 19, 2014 at 7:57 am

Are Peter and Wendy still meeting near PPF?


Mike August 19, 2014 at 8:02 am

I really can’t see how one would be happy staying at the Poly now.

And I’m a glass half full kind of guy.


mmdisney August 19, 2014 at 8:10 am

I’m so bummed to hear the waffle frys are NOT GOOD! They sounded so yummy. Thanks for the update..


Edward August 19, 2014 at 8:20 am

Thanks for the update! Hopefully by the time the Poly refurb is done I’ll have enough money to actually stay there…circa 2019, and for one night only.


Greg August 19, 2014 at 8:27 am

Argh! My son really wanted to ride it but we missed Haunted Mansion last time because we just couldn’t fit it into our touring plan. Now it looks like it will be down for our December trip. With Maelstrom being closed too (his fav ride from last trip) I will need to rejig some of our touring plans.


Jim August 19, 2014 at 8:40 am

Too bad Captain Cooks got rid of the mahi mahi w/ rice and veggies platter.


Megan August 19, 2014 at 9:08 am

The porta potties on the dock at the Poly by the DVC construction are a nice touch.


TiggerGirl August 19, 2014 at 9:47 am

walk your receipt 8 feet to the left LOL

thank you for the updates! And for confirming the rumors about the roof on the FTW dock!

Also I couldn’t get a FP+ for the Storyland Circus Tent Picnic Table – do you think I’ll need one for the yellow polka dotted chair or should do that at RD?


Karla August 19, 2014 at 9:55 am

Do you think the Haunted Mansion store could possibly be open by the first week of January?


katie_gal August 19, 2014 at 10:03 am

No Dole Whip?????

Polynesian, you are … dead … to … me.


MrsSkarsgard August 19, 2014 at 10:19 am

Can you confirm whether the FP+ kiosks have been removed from the area near Splash Mountain? It’s not showing on Disney’s map anymore…


Donna August 19, 2014 at 11:21 am

It’s nice to see food being served on something besides a brown cardboard box.


Monica G August 19, 2014 at 11:24 am

Any anticipated date for the sushi bar? Beginning of Oct as in 10/1 or as in some time before 10/31?


Becky A August 19, 2014 at 12:09 pm

So, the ordering system at Captain Cooks is now the same as the one at the Mara at AKL. Never made much sense to me.

Mike – When I was at MK in late July, Peter Plan M&G was in Adventureland to the right of Aloha Isle.

Katie-Gal – Word is that there is going to be a new Dole Whip location at Poly (Pineapple Lanai kiosk) but it will not be self serve. :(


Nia August 19, 2014 at 12:51 pm

I wish the haunted mansion store was open last September when I went. I was getting a souvenir for my friend who loves the haunted mansion, but they had such a crappy, limited selection. Oh well, it should be done when I go again in June, then I can get him something cool. (like the stretching portraits)


Someone August 19, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Mike, I was at Poly for two nights in June and had a great time. Yes, the volcano pool was still open, but everything else was walled up and tore up the same way. Regardless, Poly is STILL located on the monorail and therefore a short trip to MK and Epcot.

Would I stay here for a once-in-a-lifetime trip for a week? Probably not. Would I stay here for the leg of a split stay when I’m hitting up MK? Definitely.


TriSeb August 19, 2014 at 1:12 pm

Thanks Josh.
- No touch screens and a 2 man order/pay system… I simply don’t understand but then again, I’ve never eaten there so maybe it works… and won’t consider it until the construction is complete.
- Also wonder why a simple waffles fries with Chili/Cheese isn’t an option
- What a waste of a refurb period, I would expected revamp elevators on Astro
- I rode mine train twice at closing as Josh suggested total wait time about 40 minutes, as expected the last car is the ‘funnest’ but man is the ride smooth! The AC blowers in the final ride queue “A” is an awesome way to cool off!… I won’t even start on the morning show rush to the MC… crazy, crazy, crazy!


RebeccaMcK August 19, 2014 at 1:18 pm

That new chicken & waffles dish at Capt. Cook’s seems like a missed opportunity. Chicken & Waffles (a la Roscoe’s in Hollywood and Pasadena, CA) should not have salad served atop it (let alone with yucky ranch dressing – a personal opinion)….the chicken should just be fried chicken, doesn’t need to be spicy at all. And put syrup with the waffle – it’s weird to fathom, but these two entrees actually go together really well when done right. Also, I was hoping the new waffle fries at the GOO would be good and a possible option during a MNSSHP night (since I’ve cancelled our LTT dinner ADR and we’ll just be finding quick service on 10/16)…..looks like we’ll still head to Casey’s or elsewhere.

BTW Josh….either you or co-author Dave called Captain Cooks by the wrong name in the book – in the chapter re: hotels, the Poly write-up has it as “Captain Jack’s.” People will still find it if staying at the hotel, since it’s the only place with the title/rank of Captain – but it’s something to change in a future edition.


Tanya August 19, 2014 at 2:50 pm

WOW. The waffle fry dishes look really disgusting! I’m not sure I understand the storybook circus tent. We were there Aug 2-10 and let me just say NO ONE sat in there because it was 900 degrees outside and there is no a/c in there. What is that place about? Surely they can find a better use for that area.


Tanya August 19, 2014 at 2:53 pm

MrsSkarsgard – there was no FPP location near Splash when we were there Aug 2 to 10.


Dom August 19, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Cannot recall the last time I saw the word “scrim” in an internet blog or article. I appreciate the vocabulary.

On a more serious note, I hope all of the construction doesn’t put a damper on our stay next February.


JB Meier August 19, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Thanks for the post, but more importantly thank you for the decimals – such precision has been forgotten by many in the Disney community.

It’s tough waiting through the hub redesign. Being such a prominate and central feature of the park it’s a shame they are progressing at typical Disney speed.

Follow me: @disney_fanatic_princess _magical_dreamdust


Carol O August 19, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Josh, seems to ‘feel crowded’ in MK. Have the crowds been down? What is that hellacious mess by Crystal Palace going to be?
Welcome back and thanks for the laughs.


Jennifer August 19, 2014 at 6:07 pm

I can’t get past the “Americans” comment! :) :) You always make me laugh!!!


Emily August 19, 2014 at 6:20 pm

DD11 would tell you that the Tink line is way down because she no longer meets with any fairy friends. Tink was a meet once and done that meet and greet for her and lots of other girls, but they kept going back to meet the friends.
And those seats in Storybook Circus??? LOL! So random!


RebeccaMcK August 19, 2014 at 7:09 pm

That tent area in Storybook Circus USED to be where the old legacy Fastpass machines were located, and there are outlets in there for charging phones/devices. Maybe they’ll re-purpose that area some day.

Don’t be surprised if some time soon Wendy is gone from the Peter Pan meet’n'greets….I read somewhere that her character will be cut from the line-up in the future. Too bad they can’t put Peter Pan with Tinker Bell – he’s supposed to be much bigger than she is, of course, so I guess they can’t be seen together in the same photo op. Plus, the Tinker Bell we get to meet in Magic Kingdom is from all the Tink “pre-quels” (before she meets Peter Pan, etc.).


Laurie August 19, 2014 at 7:28 pm

I second Greg.
Double bummer that both the Haunted Mansion and Maelstrom won’t be part of our December trip.

And, yes, the “Americans” comment is quite funny. Embarrassing as it is.


Jess O August 19, 2014 at 7:32 pm

I second the Tink comment. My girls don’t have her on the list for Nov. since they have already meet her. ODD was really wishing to meet Rosetta but C’est la vie. Any idea when the Peter Pan line will be done?


Elizabeth August 19, 2014 at 8:17 pm

DFB got me really pumped about those waffle fries. Well, dang.


Brenda August 20, 2014 at 7:19 am

Can you still watch the magic kingdom fireworks from the Polynesian Beach? If so, where? Thanks so much.


Jen K. August 20, 2014 at 8:16 am

More duck photo’s please!


neffernie August 20, 2014 at 9:58 am

I am glad to see that I am not the only person who thinks the TTA being orange is news.


IndyND August 20, 2014 at 4:02 pm

I thought the view at Captain Cook’s looked great until I noticed it was a construction wall… Also, that furniture back in the Big Top area looks like it belongs in Seuss Land over at IoA.


Lisa August 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm

@Brenda – we just got back from the Poly. You can watch the fireworks and the Water Pageant) from the beach between Fiji and the Spirit of Aloha


dusty cheatham August 21, 2014 at 2:42 am

what no photos of your book signing, 1,0000s of adoring fans in 100* weather queued up for # 1 best selling author photos with you & dave & lisa . josh come on your fans want to see .


weepstah August 21, 2014 at 8:15 am

TTA is the new black. That is all.


Megan August 21, 2014 at 9:55 am

Are the half-hour return cards still being handed out after the standby line fills for Anna and Elsa? And if it is not happening right now, will they be handing them out in the near future?


Rebecca August 21, 2014 at 4:42 pm

As a mom to a 6 year old and 5 year old, I saw the shorter waits for Tink coming as soon as they cut the fairy friends from the meet and greet. My kids always wanted to meet the friends, not Tink. We stopped in every trip to meet them. Not anymore.


RebeccaMcK August 21, 2014 at 7:17 pm

I think my 9 year old got to meet Tink twice in the past (in regular outfit and in fall cape outfit) along with Rosetta and Vidalia (if that is her name). Never got to meet the others, and Terrence and the Pirate Fairy would have been fun. I don’t know if the Pirate Fairy ever did wind up doing meet’n'greets, from the latest Tink movie.


Christine August 21, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Thanks for the update! I sure wouldn’t want to stay at the Poly while under construction.


Erin August 23, 2014 at 6:25 am

We just got back….TTA orange is ugly and I like blue/purple tommorland. Same with green/brown being painted in EPCOT futureworld, ugly. But whatever. My gripe about FP+ kiosks wasn’t the locations or time (I used them later in the day and never waited), but the darn screens are touch screens and you have to hit the stupid things half the time to get them to work. The finish is wearing off them already where people are having to tap so hard with their nails to get it to work. FP+ worked ok for us, but gone are the days of re-riding headliners. And for our local friends that joined us last minute, we were not able to ride our 3 FP together, which was a drag. Everything else seemed like a 30 minute wait in the afternoons and evenings. We will be back, so it’s fine. I would not be happy if I only got to visit every few years or this was my only visit. Poly is an absolute mess, it’s ridiculous they stayed open for refurb. First stay for us at AKL, loved it, but will return to BC/YC and Poly in the future for better convenience. Finally, we thought zebra domes were gross, to each his own.


Erika August 24, 2014 at 4:49 am

I know what all those chairs are for in Storeybook circus- the summer downpours….in June we were back there when the sky opened and a million people crammed into the store….

Glad TTA is back, after we left in June when you asked the 3 yr old what his fav ride was he said … The little blue train…. When he was reminded we didnt go on it he simply said , I know, but its my favorite…


Annie August 28, 2014 at 8:36 am

My daughter would tell you that the reason Tinkerbell’s line wait has diminished so much is because the old meet involved other fairies, too, not just Tink. There’s less interest with just Tink.

Btw, when did Cosmic Ray’s enclose its balcony? We missed the balcony last trip.


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