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Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort: 50 Facts for its 50th Anniversary

Graphic introducing Part 5 of the series "Disney's Polynesian Village Resort: 50 Facts for its 50th Anniversary"

Tonga Toast, Pineapple Macademia Nut Pancakes, Lapu Lapu, ‘Ohana Bread Pudding… the list could go on and on when it comes to the iconic foods and beverages of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

With a history spanning five decades, it makes sense that certain meals at the resort’s dining locations have become tradition for Walt Disney World guests. To close out this series celebrating 50 years of Disney’s tropically-themed accommodations, this last entry is serving up a buffet filled with the varied culinary delights of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.  

1. The dining location that originally held the position where ‘Ohana sits today was Papeete Bay Verandah which was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Dinner was particularly special as it included the Kaui-Pono Polynesian Revue which was a nightly show developed by Kau’ihealiani (Aunty Kau’i) and her husband Pono.

2. Today, ‘Ohana is known for its decadently delicious ‘Ohana Bread Pudding made with its ‘Ohana Breakfast Bread and topped with a bananas foster-style caramel sauce. But, there was a time when the all-you-can-eat feast was topped off with a much simpler dessert: pineapple with caramel sauce. While humble in presentation, the fresh pineapple chunks and creamy caramel dipping sauce were scrumptious nonetheless. While ‘Ohana has seen several menu changes over the decades, there have been none as inflammatory as the “Great Noodle Crisis of 2021.” As the restaurant prepared to re-open following the pandemic shutdown, its family-style menu was released with the beloved ‘Ohana Noodles nowhere to be found. After much public outcry, the pineapple and teriyaki glazed Yakisoba noodles made their return. However, many patrons are unaware that, once upon a time, that carb-heavy dish replaced an equally favored side dish: Maui Scalloped Potatoes.

3. The Polynesian Village Resort’s iconic banana-stuffed breakfast dish, Tonga Toast, can be purchased via three different methods. It is available at Captain Cook’s quick-service, Kona Café table service, or through the resort’s room service menu. It also may be the most-widely available Disney Parks recipe as the ingredients and instructions have appeared in The Disney Magazine, Delicious Disney, Delish Loves Disney, the Disney Parks Blog, the Taste of Disney video series, and various other publications.

Photo of Tonga Toast as it is served at Captain Cook's at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

4. Before Kona Café was Kona Café, it was known as the Coral Isle Café. An opening day dining location, Coral Isle Café offered up a wide variety on its menu including everything from corned beef to teriyaki steak to spaghetti and meatballs. Before its closing in 1998, the offerings had found a little more focus with items such as stir-fry vegetables, Polynesian barbequed ribs, coconut shrimp, fruit plate, and more. Any child who visited the Coral Isle Café in the ‘80s and ‘90s will remember the iconic kids’ menus. At breakfast, the menu featured Goofy on the front and included a punch-out pair of “Goofy Glasses” which looked like two sunny side up eggs. The lunch and dinner menu was a panoramic illustration of characters from The Jungle Book, each of which had a special children’s beverage named after them such as the Shere Khan, a blend of cranberry and pineapple juice.

5. Malasadas, or Portugese doughnuts, can be found on the menu at the Oasis Bar and Grill next to the Oasis Pool. These delicious little pastries have a long history in Hawaii. In the 1800s, Portuguese immigrants arrived in Hawaii to work the plantations and brought with them this traditional dish which they would often cook up in order exhaust their butter and sugar supplies before Lent. The practice became so widespread throughout the islands that Hawaiians refer to Fat Tuesday as Malasada Day.

Photo of the Oasis Bar and Grill at Disney's Polynesian Resort where guests can find Malasadas on the menu

Malasadas are served with Passion Fruit Curd at the Oasis Pool Bar and Grill

6. Once upon a time, Tangoroa Terrace was not only the name of a dining location at the Disneyland HotelTangaroa Terrace was a buffet-style restaurant at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort that was located in what was most recently known as Lilo’s Playhouse (the building to the east of the Rarotonga longhouse). 

7. Captain Cook’s quick-service restaurant on the main level of the Great Ceremonial House holds the distinction of being the first location in Walt Disney World outside of Aloha Isle in Adventureland to offer Pineapple Dole Whip. Before the addition of Pineapple Lanai, there was a self-serve kiosk in the marketplace area of Captain Cook’s which allowed Guests to pile-high a twist of Dole Whip limited only by their ability to precariously balance the soft-serve.

Photo of Captain Cook's quick-service restaurant before its most recent renovation

In this previous layout, the self-serve Pineapple Dole Whip machine can be seen on the back wall to the right of the coolers.

8. Decades before the BouTiki opened in 2005, that location was the South Seas Room which housed the South Seas Room Buffet Dining. For $6.95 for adults and $3.95 for children, patrons enjoyed a buffet including round of beef, roast pork, Chicken Tokyo, shrimp, vegetables, potatoes, rice, salad bar, and dessert.

9. Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is home to a number of Easter eggs including three attraction specific details:

  • Anyone who visited The Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management may have a feeling of déjà vu when they visit Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. The Uh-Oa animatronic who was known to bake Iago’s behind in the former iteration of that attraction now resides within the lounge. Anytime the cocktail bearing her name is ordered, the bartenders chant, a thunderstorm ensues, and the figure’s eyes alight.
  • A bit of the former EPCOT attraction Maelstrom lives on within Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. A life preserver bearing the phrase “Vesta V Gruppen” that could be found in the fishing village area of the Norway attraction can be found hanging on the wall in the lounge.
  • Mr. J Thaddeus Toad, Esq. must have had a few too many while visiting Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and was unable to drive his motorcar home because his keys can be found hanging in the rafters.

Photo of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, photo copyright Disney

10. Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort would not be what it is without the influence of Tiki Culture, and while that motif combines a number of facets, it is perhaps best known for its multilayered fruity beverages. Disney’s tropically themed hotel is no different with its most iconic beverage, the Lapu Lapu, being a blend of dark rum and fruit juices, served in a whole pineapple. Today, the menus across the resort are filled with a number of specialties such as the Backscratcher, Pina CoLAVA, and more. Throughout the Polynesian’s history, guests could find beverage favorites such as the Parrot Passion, Melon Colada, The Seven Seas Drink, Smooth Sailing and Pink Lei-Lani. While not every bartender at Tambu Lounge knows how to mix up these vintage offerings, it never hurts to ask!

WDW Radio Blog Editor, Dan Mulka (right), enjoying a Lapu Lapu with his family.

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and ‘Ohana photos copyright Disney. Lapu Lapu photo from the personal collection of Dan Mulka. Lead image and all other photos from the author’s personal collection.

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort: 50 Facts for its 50th Anniversary – Part 1

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort: 50 Facts for its 50th Anniversary – Part 2

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort: 50 Facts for its 50th Anniversary – Part 3

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort: 50 Facts for its 50th Anniversary – Part 4