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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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.

Torpedo Room at Eat Street Social – Minneapolis

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With its vintage vibe and old-fashioned soda fountain drinks, Eat Street Social in Minneapolis seemed like a place I would have liked even if they hadn’t installed a pop-up tiki bar last September. Our annual Minnesota visit coincided with one of the last June weekends before the Torpedo Room went on “summer vacation” (aka hiatus).

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The Torpedo Room was hidden behind a curtain off to the right of the main bar and was only open Friday and Saturday nights. The set-up reminded us of Tiki Tolteca in New Orleans, as they’re both tiki annexes operating on certain nights in the private party areas of restaurants. Each also presented its own unique take on tiki drinks (but more on that soon.)

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The narrow room had a small bar on one side with a thatched roof and a “tiki bar” sign — just in case you weren’t sure what kind of bar you’re in. ;) Up on the top shelves above the liquor were a few tiki mugs, including Cthulhu (a smashing kickstarter success) and vessels from Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago.

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The rest of the space had clusters of wicker chairs and nautical-esque barrel tables, chairs and sofas, plus fake palm trees strung with colorful lights and wall decorations of netting, cork floats and a large marlin.

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We arrived right around 7 p.m. when they opened the Torpedo Room and had the place to ourselves for the most part. The impression I got was that most of the Minnesotan patrons wanted to savor the summer weather on the patio, which was where the tiki bar was originally intended to go.

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Twin Cities cocktail guru Nick Kosevich and fellow Bittercube Bitters founder Ira Koplowitz, along with Marco Zappia and the Eat Street Social team, designed the Torpedo Room’s cocktail menu with a “Minnesota exotic” theme. This meant there were a few nods to the Midwest (like Wisconsin’s Modest Vodka and Gamle Ode aquavit) brought to the table in addition to housemade syrups (orgeat, falernum) and interesting ingredients (Red Boat fish sauce and Thai basil). To top it all off, there were even several sno cones — available with alcohol (“makua” i.e. for adults) or without (“keiki” i.e. for kids). These featured sophisticated flavors like “Nectar” (Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac, almond-vanilla syrup, cream and orange blossom water).

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One of their most talked-about tipples was the Corn Tiki ($13), which was inspired by the Painkiller but substituted sweet corn cream for coconut cream and mulled apple cider instead of pineapple and orange juice. (So, it’s really nothing like a Painkiller at all.) I appreciated the unique concept though it was a touch viscous for my taste. I preferred the Royal Hawaiian #Pine ($13), which was accidentally created when Marco misinterpreted the recipe notes and mixed the drink with pine liqueur instead of pineapple juice. The team liked it so much that they kept it, and I can see why. (I told him he missed the opportunity to call it Marco’s Mistake.)

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Served in Atomic Tony Tiki’s Mana Mana mug from Tiki Farm, Zappia’s Zombie ($15) gave a good wallop with Plantation 3 Stars & 5 Yr. Rum, Lemon Hart 151, lime, orange, housemade falernum, cinnamon syrup, passionfruit cordial, pineapple, hibiscus grenadine and Bittercube Bolivar bitters. A few of the other drinks dabbled with more unusual spirits. Case in point was the Sri Lankan Sling ($11), a spin on the Singapore Sling made with White Lion Arrack (a Sri Lankan alcohol made from coconut flower nectar), housemade tart orange and cherry liqueurs, Benedictine, hibiscus grenadine, pineapple, lemon and Mahalo Bitters.

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Meanwhile, the kitchen offered several “Island Bar Food” dishes, including island jerk spice chicken wings ($7), “butcher’s cut” steak ($18) and, my favorite, the house-made Spam and cream cheese wontons ($5).

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I love that they went the extra mile to make their own version of Spam, which was also featured in the steamed bun sandwiches with kimchee and pineapple-cilantro-jalapeno jelly. (They’d ran out of Chinese bao so ours were served on mini brioche buns.)

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Eat Street Social’s web site promises that the Torpedo Room will return in the fall. Perhaps a little tropical escapism will be more appreciated then. As much as I adore the veritable tiki theme park that is Psycho Suzi’s, the artisanal tiki cocktails at Eat Street Social were on another level, so I’m definitely rooting for a comeback.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Eat Street Social’s tiki bar has returned for the Fall 2014 season!

Torpedo Room Tiki Bar at Eat Street Social
18 W 26th St.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
612-767-6850

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