Sampling the Famous Lapu Lapu at Tambu Lounge

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After a long day at Disney World, an adult beverage may be in order. One of the more popular places for such a respite is the Tambu Lounge at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. (Although, the hotel’s new tiki bar Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is about to steal its thunder in a major way.)

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It’s located on the upper level of the Great Ceremonial House next to ‘Ohana restaurant, and in the evenings it gets packed with people enjoying drinks while waiting for their dinner reservations. The thatched hut bar is anchored by large carved tikis and overhead you’ll notice a tapa print ceiling. About a dozen chairs are available plus a few clusters of rattan armchairs and benches alongside the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the tropical landscaping and longhouses.

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Extending out along the atrium is additional seating at brand-new furniture (part of the resort’s recent renovations). It’s a bit farther from the action, but it’s a nice spot to admire the new display of giant glass fishing floats in the center of the lobby.

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The most famous drink at Tambu Lounge is the Lapu Lapu, which is presented in a pineapple. It’s one of four specialty drinks that are exclusive to this bar, along with the Backscratcher, Island Sunset and Tropical Macaw. There’s more to the cocktail menu, but it’s just the same standard drinks you’ll find at any other bar at Disneyland or Disney World.

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Don’t expect it to taste like a Chief Lapu Lapu drink, though, because there’s no passionfruit in it. Rather, it’s a potent concoction of Myers’s, pineapple juice, orange juice and Bacardi 151. I was happy to cross the Lapu Lapu off my Disney World to-do list, but I actually preferred the Backscratcher, a riff on Hawaiian bartender Harry Yee’s Tropical Itch made with Bacardi, Myers’s and passionfruit juice, topped with Jack Daniel’s. Plus, it’s garnished with a bamboo backscratcher (much to the delight of my boyfriend ;) ).

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I also sampled the Island Sunset (Seven Tiki spiced rum, Parrot Bay coconut rum, melon and peach with guava-passionfruit juice), but it wasn’t any great shakes. According to The Atomic Grog, some of the longtime bartenders will still make drinks from past menus, like the Scorpion, Navy Grog and Zombie.

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The booze starts flowing at 1 p.m., but food is only served from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. The short menu includes breads and dips, chicken wings, pork sliders, beef skewers and the amazing pulled pork nachos (also served for lunch and dinner at Capt. Cook’s restaurant on the main level). People also rave about the ‘Ohana bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and banana-caramel sauce. It’s the signature dessert from its neighbor restaurant, but you can try it here in the lounge without having to spring for that all-you-can-eat meal.

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It’s pretty safe to say that the cocktails at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto are going to blow these out of the water, but I’m sure Tambu Lounge will still draw the devotees it’s earned over the decades. I know I’ll be back for that bread pudding at the very least. In the meantime, I’ll be able to recreate the recipe for the Backscratcher at home, thanks to the reverse engineering of The Atomic Grog.

Related Posts:
Lunch at Capt. Cook’s: Set a Course for…Nachos!
The New Look of the Great Ceremonial House at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
More Tiki Bars in Orlando

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Lunch at Capt. Cook’s: Set a Course for…Nachos!

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Five years ago when I first set foot on Disney’s Polynesian Resort, I was pretty unimpressed by the decor of Capt. Cook’s, the quick-service restaurant in the Great Ceremonial House. Dated pastels and bland hibiscus flowers weren’t doing it for me. When the major renovations started at the resort last year, this interior was one of the first things to be refreshed. (Oddly enough, the entranceway remains the same.)

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Capt. Cook’s reopened in August 2014 and we got to see its new look last month when we stopped by for a meal before drinks at the Tambu Lounge upstairs. (Alas, the bar opens at 1 p.m. but doesn’t serve food until 5 p.m.) Rustic, natural-looking materials (like wood in various tones) play off warm oranges and bright, colorful images. The light fixtures, flooring, tables and chairs were all changed for the better, too.

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I especially love the 12 vintage-style travel posters highlighting the Polynesian islands after which the resort’s longhouses have been named: Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, etc.

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The dining area on the other side of the cash registers isn’t as detailed in decoration, but the floor-to-ceiling windows should reveal some nice views once the construction walls are removed. (That’s likely to be very soon after I post this.)

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The touch-screen kiosks are no more, so guests place an order with a cast member near the menu boards then take a receipt to pay at the central register. (Also gone are the self-serve Dole Whip machine — there’s the Pineapple Lanai for that now — and the Grown Up Grilled Cheese, a cult food favorite made with cheddar, Swiss and Boursin. That actually sounds really good so I’d be on board with bringing it back.)

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On the lunch and dinner menu (served 11 a.m.-11 p.m.) you’ll still find mainstays like the grilled chicken sandwich on a pineapple coconut bun ($9.49, pictured), pulled pork sandwich, bacon cheeseburger and flatbreads. (With the sandwiches you get a choice of fries, chips, steamed vegetables or Asian slaw.) A slew of new dishes were also added recently, including fish tacos, a noodle bowl, coconut curry meatballs, a hot dog with garlic ketchup and mango relish, and buffalo fried chicken and waffles.

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I went for the famous pulled pork nachos ($8.29) and they totally exceeded my expectations. House-made potato chips and seasoned fried wontons are heaped with super-flavorful coffee-rubbed pork plus cheese, tomatoes, onions, spicy mayo and pineapple salsa. I polished off that entire plate! (FYI, these nachos are also on the abbreviated dinner menu at Tambu Lounge.)

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In the mornings from 6:30 a.m.- 11 a.m. you can drop in for Tonga Toast, The Poly’s notorious “banana-stuffed sourdough bread, battered and deep-fried, and dusted with cinnamon sugar.” It’s a staple from the breakfast menu at Kona Café upstairs, but I appreciate that it’s also served here so one doesn’t have to worry about making reservations in advance to try it.

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With the imminent opening of its neighbor, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, I imagine Capt. Cook’s will get a boost in business from the overflow of people who won’t be able to get in next door. Naturally, the new tiki bar would be at the top of my list if I were there, but Capt. Cook’s should get credit for being a pretty delightful option for a quick, casual meal at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

Related Posts:
The New Look of the Great Ceremonial House at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
Where to Find Dole Whip with Rum All Year Round at Disney World
Tiki Bars in Orlando

Captain Cook's Snack Company on Urbanspoon

Dole Whip + Rum = A Dream Come True at Disney World

Dole Whip with Rum!

Adding rum to Dole Whip has probably crossed the minds of many who have enjoyed that frozen pineapple treat. (Sidenote: VenTiki in Ventura makes their own version once in awhile.)

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Disney World first made that wish come true at the 2013 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival with the Pineapple Promenade booth serving up Dole Whip with Siesta Key spiced rum. Last year they followed up with versions with Parrot Bay coconut rum and Myers’s dark rum, and those two offerings soon after found a permanent home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando.

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Tamu Tamu Refreshments, a counter-service spot located in the Africa section of the park, is the only place at Disney World where you can get spiked Dole Whip all year round. Apparently, “Tamu Tamu” is the Swahili equivalent of “Yum Yum,” so that’s appropriate.

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Next to the ordering area is an entryway leading into Harambe Fort, a seemingly crumbling edifice “erected 1420.” This all plays into the Imagineers’ backstory for this area’s setting, which is a fictional East African port town called Harambe. (I suggest reading more about it on the Jambo Everyone blog.)

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Here you’ll find a somewhat shaded courtyard full of tables. I’d seen this described as a quiet, hidden area to sit down but the secret must be out as there was no shortage of people the Saturday we were there.

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Be sure to admire the kigelia (also known as a sausage tree for its hanging fruit) and beautiful, “aged” walls of Swahili-inspired plaster carvings. (This is a tradition in Lamu, the coastal town in Kenya that served as the muse for Harambe.)

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Tamu Tamu’s menu offers just three savory dishes — chicken curry, vegetarian curry and African-spiced chicken salad — along with Dole Whip (regular or with coconut or dark rum), snack packs for kids, chocolate milkshakes, soda and bottled water.

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The chicken curry ($9.49) is listed as mild, but it does have a bit of a kick. It’s a great alternative to your typical theme park food of pizza and burgers, though you’ll find that at the park, too, of course. (The shorter line here is also a bonus.)

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Now, on to the part we really care about: Dole Whip with rum! Technically it’s billed as pineapple whip soft serve ($6.25) but it tastes the same although the texture is softer and more like a Frosty from Wendy’s. The serving size is on the petite side if you’re used to Dole Whip floats, and there’s not all that much rum in there (the cast member guessed less than a shot), but it’s a fun novelty. I would get the coconut rum version again.

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No alcohol is served at Disneyland (except at Club 33), so we’ll probably never see anything like this at the Dole Whip stand at the Enchanted Tiki Room. However, Dole Whip can also be found at Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt and Whipp’d, so I think I’ve got to start spiking it on my own. What rum would you pair with Dole Whip?

Tamu Tamu Refreshments on Urbanspoon