VIDEO, PHOTOS, REVIEW: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto Improves Upon Original Tiki Bar Concept
When Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar opened at the Disneyland Hotel in 2011, Walt Disney World regulars immediately were clamoring for the amazing concept to make its way to Florida. Tiki bars are certainly not the most unusual thing in the world anymore, but throw in some Disney magic and nods to some of the greatest theme park attractions of all-time and you have something really special.
Some of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks on the menu are transplanted from the California location, but many are unique, and (for the most part) the appetizer menu offered is completely exclusive to the Florida hot spot.
If you plan on visiting Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto anytime soon, be advised hours are subject to change as it is in a soft-opening phase now until late April. The official operating hours are 4PM-12AM midnight. These hours are indeed shorter than the west coast counterpart, but the food menu is slightly more limited here and you do not have access to the counter service menu of the nearby establishment like Tangaroa Terrace at the Disneyland Hotel. With the popularity of the bar so far (resulting in multi-hour waits to get inside), I find it hard to believe that these hours will not expand at a later date. Also, children are not allowed inside after 8PM. Right now, the bar is using a pager system and inviting guests to enjoy the same full menu outside on the Tiki Terrace patio which features live music and (soon) a view overlooking the pool area.
Besides the interior ambiance, the main draw of Trader Sam’s is a series of limited-run collector cups that started with the opening of the Disneyland location in 2011. Many of the original mug designs from Disneyland have already been retired or updated, making the originals quite desirable. Despite Disney claims that the souvenir cups would not be available during this soft opening period, most of them actually are. New souvenir mugs include the Polynesian Pearl, the HippopotoMai-Tai, and Rum Flight.
Additional special souvenir glasses just for Grog Grotto are coming, but for now you can acquire some of the Disneyland glasses and bowls as well. The Nautilus drink can be ordered now as well, but they do not have any of the submarine-shaped bowls for purchase just yet.
Sure, getting a Disney-themed souvenir mug is cool and all, but what really makes ordering a drink here an experience is the special effects that take place when certain beverages are offered. While Disneyland has just 4 triggered effects in the bar and lounge, Grog Grotto at the Polynesian currently has 6:
The appetizer menu is a bit small and it would be nice to have some more variety or larger dishes, but whatever plates we did try, we generally enjoyed.
I would like to see the menu here expanded a little, even though you can always go to the bar upstairs and get wings and such, or even next door to get a counter service meal at Captain Cook’s. We continually ordered drinks, but there just wasn’t enough variety or large enough meals to satisfy everyone’s hunger. Bar food can be great and a lot of the lounges at WDW do a fantastic job putting together small plates that can equal a sizable meal. The focus here is certainly on the drink menu, but I think it’s crazy to not develop a bigger dining menu when you have 130 seats between the Grog Grotto and the Tiki Terrace. Captain Cook’s and the other restaurants here are overwhelmed all of the time, so making this another valid option to guests, even if they just want to eat on the patio, would be great.
I’m really nit-picking about the menu size because everything else was fantastic. The servers are doing a fantastic job for being only 3 days into this (considering the nightmares I’ve had on first nights at new WDW restaurants), the drinks are spectacular, and the ambiance in unmatched. Yes, it is a bar, but it is a great gem for the Polynesian Village.
While many lament the loss of the original lobby, the resort is looking brand new and has only bolstered their already fantastic line-up with Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. This resort is a special place and they built a really special place inside of it with not much real estate to work with. Trader Sam’s has remained ever-popular over the last 4 years at the Disneyland Hotel because it doesn’t age. It is so well done, so perfectly executed that people keep coming back, just like Pirates of the Caribbean or the Haunted Mansion. It surely will have a long and prosperous run at Walt Disney World as there isn’t anything like it anywhere on property or off.
Even if the wait is a little long, it will be worth it. I can’t imagine anyone wouldn’t have a wonderful time in here, even if you don’t enjoy bars or drinking. It’s just a very pleasant place to hang out, enjoy a beverage and a bite, and soak in some memories from attractions long-gone or much loved.