The Best Things I’ve Eaten at Tiki Bars – Part 1

Pupu platters of crab Rangoon and spare ribs are staples on menus at tiki bars, but some places offer more unexpected fare like pizza, burgers and more.

I wanted to spotlight some of the best food I’ve encountered at tiki bars. My made-up rules are that the tiki bar still has to be open (alas, no Bahooka stuffed shrimp then). Also, it has to be a legit tiki bar, so I can’t include any of the awesome grub from A-Frame. Here’s the first installment of what I imagine will be an ongoing series. (Later I plan on doing an all-California edition.)

1. Biscayne Biscuits – Psycho Suzi’s, Minneapolis


The gut-busting Biscayne Biscuits are my go-to brunch order at Psycho Suzi’s in Minneapolis. I describe them as the unholy (but amazing) offspring of eggs Benedict and biscuits and gravy. Two biscuits were topped with a sausage patty and poached egg, then covered with creamy housemade sausage gravy.

Psycho Suzi’s Review

2. Pulled Pork Nachos – Tambu Lounge, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Orlando


The pulled pork nachos at Tambu Lounge at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort are famous among parkgoers — and for good reason. House-made potato chips and seasoned fried wontons are heaped with coffee-rubbed pork plus cheese, tomatoes, onions, spicy mayo and pineapple salsa. (Technically I tried these at neighboring restaurant Capt. Cook’s where they’re also served.)

Tambu Lounge Review

3. Pizza – Tahiti Nui, Kauai


Pizza in paradise is what’s in store at Tahiti Nui on Kauai. The toppings are flavorful, and the buttery crust puts it over the top. We loved the #3 Huli Huli Chicken with red onions and cilantro as well as #5 Da Hui with pineapple and kalua pork.

Tahiti Nui Review

4. Truffle Arancini – Mahiki, London


Although the attitude at London’s posh tiki lounge Mahiki wasn’t to my taste, the truffle and wild mushroom arancini certainly were. Sadly, these delicious risotto balls don’t appear to be on the menu anymore.

Mahiki Review

5. Thai Fried Chicken – Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago

Pupus at Three Dots and a Dash

Three Dots and a Dash in Chciago offers several small plates, including crab Rangoon and egg rolls. However, I think the best thing on the menu is the Thai fried chicken in garlic-chili sauce (upper right).

Three Dots and a Dash Review

What are your favorite foods from tiki bars?

Sampling the Famous Lapu Lapu at Tambu Lounge


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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 ;) ).


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.


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.


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

Tambu Lounge on Urbanspoon

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


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.)


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.


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.


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.)


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.)


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.


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.)


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.


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