After many months of waiting, the Jungle Cruise-themed Skipper Canteen restaurant soft-opened today at the Magic Kingdom in Adventureland. Despite early rumbling that it may be a counter service location or a hybrid like Be Our Guest Restaurant, it is table service-only offering lunch and dinner currently.
The restaurant accepts the Disney Dining Plan and the Tables in Wonderland discount card already, usually not the case with new restaurants at WDW, but welcome indeed. There are no reservations being taken as of yet, so it is walk-ups only, but they do have a nifty texting system to tell you when your table is ready (as long as you have a U.S. cell phone number).
The interior is brilliant. While not a whole lot of work needed to be done to the main dining room (this was the Adventureland Veranda restaurant many years ago and the room was never heavily modified for any meet and greets), two new rooms in the back of the restaurant are elegantly decorated with tons of amazing nods to the Jungle Cruise, the Enchanted Tiki Room, and even the now-shuttered Adventurer’s Club from Pleasure Island.
It does seem like not all of the decorations have been installed yet, but what is there already is fabulous. It is clear that they needed to be open to handle the holiday crowds in the park, so don’t be surprised if new details pop up daily over the next few weeks.
Take a video tour of the Skipper Canteen:
Not only is the decor brilliant, the cast members working here are too. I had so many fantastic interactions with servers, seaters, and greeters today, I find it hard to single out just one. They were all ready to unleash a repertoire of bad puns on us and I could not have been happier. While the service was a little slow (as to be expected on a first day), the crew kept everyone entertained and you could see they were trying their best which is all you can really ask. With atmosphere this good, I was in no rush to eat and get out anyway, so the wait for food never felt too long.
As for the menu, it is a BIG departure for the Magic Kingdom. It is easily the most exotic menu in a park mostly known for hamburgers and hot dogs (although this has been slowly changing over the last few years). The menu is also quite large, offering plenty to choose from. There’s even a allergy version of the menu which is quite helpful for those who need it.
I didn’t order a ton off the menu since I was alone, but I did get an appetizer, entree, dessert, and both of the signature beverages (which can come in a beautiful souvenir cup.
Let’s get the bad out of the way: I hated the signature drinks. One is basically apple juice and the other, well, I’m not really sure what I was drinking. Personally, I don’t drink lot of fruit juice, so it may just be me, but I didn’t care for either of these.
A nice offering, complimentary bread is brought out with a honey spread. This was fantastic. It was unique and unexpected and I loved it.
The S.E.A. (Society of Explorers and Adventurers) Shu Mai was my favorite item I had today. It had a nice and spicy kick to it and was very flavorful. The dipping sauce was also fantastic.
For my entree, I had the Skip’s Mac and Cheese which came highly recommended. The mix of spiced ground beef, pasta, and bechamel sauce blended nicely and had an interesting flavor that I really enjoyed.
Then there was dessert…
I ordered the Kungaloosh just to make all you Adventurer’s Club fans happy… OK, it was the most chocolate thing on the menu so I wanted it.
It was really great. Nothing too crazy, but prepared very nicely and certainly a must if you love chocolate as much as I do.
Overall, I LOVED Skipper Canteen. I’m a sucker for story, so even if the food wasn’t good, I was prepared to return several times, but honestly, this is the BEST table service menu at the Magic Kingdom. It’s unique, it’s diverse, and everything I’ve had or any dishes I asked neighboring tables about (yeah, I was THAT guy) recieves high marks. It’s seriously really good. It’s good to the point that I’m afraid Magic Kingdom crowds will be afraid of the menu and they may change it, but we’ll see what happens. As of right now, this is THE BEST restaurant at Magic Kingdom. I know that doesn’t often mean much, but I would seriously rank the meal I had today in at least the top 20 restaurants at Walt Disney World. I would go higher, but I really need to try more of the menu, which I plan on doing very soon based on my experience today.