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

Tambu Lounge on Urbanspoon

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

The New Look of the Great Ceremonial House at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

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Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort was one of the original resorts that opened at Walt Disney World in 1971. Last year, the South Seas-inspired hotel began undergoing major renovations. Some changes have been universally welcomed (Trader Sam’s!), while others are more controversial.

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The “re-imagined” interior of the Great Ceremonial House (i.e. the lobby) was unveiled in December 2014. Many longtime fans of “The Poly” lamented the removal of the grand centerpiece of rock waterfalls and dozens of varieties of tropical plants.

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The new focal point is now above — an impressive display of giant netted fishing floats and rattan lamps that give off a subtle glow. Venture upstairs to see them in all their glory (and get a drink at Tambu Lounge if it’s after 1 p.m.)

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A much smaller waterfall feature has been installed in the middle, but it seems kind of silly in comparison. The concept art included a statue of the Polynesian mascot on top of this, but it hasn’t made an appearance yet. (I’m guessing that’s still part of the plan since the Disney Parks Blog had a merchandise preview for a mini-figurine based on it.) (3/23/15 Update: The tiki has finally arrived!)

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From a practical standpoint, it makes sense why they removed it. (Rumor has it that the maintenance was a major factor.) It also opened up the space for more seating areas for guests waiting to check in or just relaxing. (And if you squint you can see Cinderella Castle off in the distance.)

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The downside is the feeling of stepping into a Hawaiian tropical rainforest has been lost. Hopefully they’ll be able to recapture some of that when they finish the waterfalls along the entrance path from the parking lot.

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Near the elevators you’ll find beautiful concept art from two of my favorite Disney Legends: Rolly Crump for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and Mary Blair for the New Guinea scene of It’s a Small World.

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Just outside the far end of the lobby is Pineapple Lanai, a new walk-up counter serving Dole Whip (pineapple, vanilla or swirl) with the option of getting a souvenir tiki bowl. This is where you get your fix since they removed the self-serve Dole Whip machine from Capt. Cook’s.

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So far, the restaurants ‘Ohana, Tambu Lounge and Kona are still relatively the same, but Capt. Cook’s recently received a makeover. (Stay tuned for a full review.) And as I mentioned, on its way very soon is Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, Orlando’s own version of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar.

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On top of that, there’s the April 1st debut of Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, featuring 20 brand-new Bora Bora Bungalows perched over the Seven Seas Lagoon. They were built for Disney Vacation Club members but guests can also rent these two-bedroom accommodations for upwards of $2,000 per night, reportedly. (I love Disney, obviously, but that’s more expensive than staying at some of the actual overwater bungalows in Tahiti…)

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For more information on the renovations, I suggest checking out Steve’s updates on Tiki Man Pages. He also discussed Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto more in depth on episode 71 (March 2, 2015) of the Enchanted Tiki Talk podcast.