the disney food blog Rotating Header Image

Review: Kona Cafe

We escaped to the Kona Cafe after a madhouse morning in the Magic Kingdom on a recent Disney World visit, and I immediately knew how I was going to frame Kona for this review — it is, indeed, an escape from the hectic theme parks. Located in the Polynesian Resort — a resort located on the Monorail loop — it’s very easy to get to from the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

As a sister to the Polynesian’s more popular restaurant, ‘Ohana, many folks only try Kona Cafe as a last resort — which means those of us who know better get first crack at it!

This unassuming restaurant is actually a den of cult favorite menu items for many Disney World veterans. Home of Tonga Toast, the Big Kahuna, the Kona Kone, and some of the best steaks on property, Kona Cafe is a frequented and beloved staple for many Disney guests.

Kona Cafe

Atmosphere

Located in the Polynesian Resort‘s Great Ceremonial House, Kona Cafe is to the left of the entrance doors on the second floor of the lobby.

Kona Cafe Dining Room

Open to the lobby, the restaurant has the general feel of any ho-hum hotel restaurant, but you might find a few interesting shapes in the bright floral carpeting…

Hidden Mickey in Carpet

Other Polynesian touches like interesting light fixtures and island fans strive to make this restaurant more out-of-the-ordinary…but they really don’t get the job done. Let’s face it — you don’t come to Kona Cafe for the experience; you come for the food!

Great Light Fixture

And the partially open kitchen is a fun place to watch it happen! On the day I visited, I was able to snap some shots of a Chef preparing two of Kona’s desserts — the famous Kona Kone and the white chocolate cheesecake!

Chef Making Cheesecake

I though it was especially fun to spy the waffle makers spitting out fresh Kona Kones. I even found the piles of blue cotton candy that form the base of the dessert!

Kona Kones and Waffle Cone Makers

Kona Kone Cotton Candy

Pretty fun for a Disney food nerd like me…

Eats

Back to the table to order! The menu recently changed at Kona Cafe, but fan favorites still remain. We visited for lunch, so that’s what we’ll take a look at today.

Kona Lunch Menu -- click for larger image

Kona Lunch Menu -- click for larger image

We started with the Sticky Wings for Two and the Pot Stickers, which are currently duck dumplings with a ginger-soy sauce.

The sticky wings are pretty much the same as the ‘Ohana appetizers, and they’re wonderful. As you know, I’m from Buffalo and swear by my Buffalo wings, but these make a fantastic second in line. They’re sweet and savory all at once, but the flavor isn’t so out-of-the-park that your picky eaters will have any problems. This is pretty much a must-do when you go to Kona for lunch or dinner, so work them in if you can.

Kona Sticky Wings with Mustard Sauce and Sesame Seeds

The pot stickers were fine, but definitely nothing special. The duck flavor didn’t make a huge impact on either of us, and the dumplings were a bit tough. We’ll stick with the wings and possibly try the new crab cake next time!

Kona Duck Pot Stickers

Pot Sticker Cross Section

Off to the entrees! We ordered the Plate Lunch Pan-Fried Chicken with Coconut and Mango Sauces and the rather famous Angus Chuck Kahuna Burger with bacon and swiss.

Let me just say here at the beginning that although the chicken was fine, I should have ordered that grilled teriyaki steak with grilled pineapple salsa. Everyone raves about it, but silly me was thinking I’d go for the less-caloric option. Sigh. I’m not even sure I saved that many calories! Regardless, the chicken was quite good, but there is a very sweet taste to those Coconut and Mango sauces, so if you’re in any way sensitive to mixing sweet and savory, order the sauces on the side (I definitely would have done so).

Pan Fried Chicken Plate Lunch

Luckily, I got the chance to take a few bites of this gorgeous burger! I’m pretty sure this thing might make its way onto the best burgers in Disney World list sooner rather than later. Just check out the size of that thing! And I’m including an extra pic of the thickness — and the bacon!

Kahuna Burger with Swiss and Bacon

Kahuna Burger Close Up

Now, it’s on to dessert… . Kona Cafe has plenty to pick from.

Kona Cafe Dessert Menu

We went with the Kilauea Torte (an “explosion of warm liquid chocolate inside a chocolate cookie volcano”) and the White Chocolate Cheesecake.

The torte was quite good, but I wish there’d been more of an “explosion” involved. The volcano itself was more cake than cookie, and while the inside was gooey, it wasn’t exactly a molten river of chocolate. Still, chocolate dessert, whipped cream, I’m not complaining.

Kilauea Torte

Cross Section

The White Chocolate Cheesecake was very standard. It wasn’t the best cheesecake you’ve ever eaten, but it does its duty as dessert well. Sweet, cold, and creamy really can hit the spot on a hot Florida day.

White Chocolate Cheesecake

I wish I could be more effusive about these choices, but they were…well…boring. I wonder if we should have chosen some of those below instead. The Kona Kone is very well-known among Disney enthusiasts, and the Chocolate Fondue and Banana Creme Brulee are well-loved desserts as well.

Kona Kone

Chocolate Fondue

Banana Chocolate Creme Brulee

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

No Sugar Added Apple Stack

Ice Cream Sundae

Overall

When it comes to Kona Cafe, go with the menu options your neighbors and other Disney fans suggest — they really are the best. From the sticky wings to the burger, steak, tonga toast, and desserts, Disney fan favorites will not let you down here.

If you do decide to choose something else from the menu, you won’t be disappointed; that’s important to note. My experiences and reviews I’ve heard from others back up the belief that the food at Kona is consistently quite good.

This is a great restaurant for a late breakfast or early lunch after a morning in the parks, and it’s not one of the first to book up, so you’re likely to be able to get a reservation here at the last minute.

This is truly hidden gem in Walt Disney World. Highly recommended.

Let us know your thoughts on Kona Cafe! Favorite menu items? Good or Bad Experiences? Share them with other Disney Food Fans in the comments section below!

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

25 Comments

  1. jrriddle says:

    Love Kona for breakfast or dinner, but I really wish the Poly would get am upscale restaurant like the other monorail hotels. Maybe if they add DVC one day we will get one.

  2. James says:

    Thanks for the review and great pictures! The Kona has been on my favorites list for quite a few years and I’ve made it a point to eat dinner there on every one of my trips for the past 3 years. I’m looking forward to trying that pineapple upside down cake in about 2 weeks. I’m surprised you didn’t mention the bread and macadamia nut butter. Do they not serve it at lunch?

  3. Kristin says:

    My family & I love Kona Cafe (esp the desserts!:)) thanks for the review!

  4. Pudge the Fish says:

    We love Kona for breakfast, but surprisingly have never had dinner there. Based on your review I think we will stick to breakfast or stop in for dessert. In my countless visits to Disney I have never stayed at the Polynesian, yet no trip in complete without a visit to Kona on the last morning of vacation.

    While the monorail glides over Chef Mickey’s, Kona has the distinction of being the restaurant with the shortest walk to the monorail line. Therefore making it very convenient for a quick hop in and out when combining a meal with a day in the Magic Kingdom.

  5. Kelly says:

    Love Kona. For dinner, I had the Tuna Oscar and it was incredible.

  6. John Grigas says:

    The Kona is a terrific place for a meal, or even just dessert.

    My wife and I discovered it when we were on a multi-family trip and needed a break from the crowds AND the rest of our family! It was great to get on the monorail outside the Magic Kingdom. While they were sweltering in the Dumbo Line (literally . . . that was their next choice at 4pm on a Spring Break Tuesday), we were cooling off with a big rum drink served in a whole pineapple! We were refreshed and ready to meet them at Pirates a couple hours later!

    The first time we went, the hostess walked us over to the prep counter where they showed off their creations with chocolate before being seated. They don’t have that chocolate commitment anymore, it seems (R.I.P. Koko Puffs and Chocolate Lava Cake), but the restaurant is a sure bet for some creative desserts.

    Oh, and we haven’t had a bad dinner yet! But I always gravitate toward their fish entrees and haven’t been disappointed.

  7. Wendy says:

    Kona is currently my favorite dinner place. We’ve never tried lunch. But the ginger crusted ribeye is INCREDIBLE. I love the sides that come with it just as much (mashed potatoes and broccolini). And the bread/butter is sooooo good. It is currently THE restaurant that I will definitely make it a point to hit for dinner every trip until they take that steak away.

  8. MouseMisers says:

    I wish you would stop talking about Kona Cafe, easily the hidden gem of WDW restaurants. Super high qualify food, usually very easy to get into. If you keep this up, you may get an angry message from me next time I try to book there and it is full.

    By the way, the Samoan could be the best breakfast I have ever had. I was disappointed they got rid of the eggs benedict, the Samoan is a fantastic take on the dish, even better than the original.

  9. Alan says:

    We have always used the Poly as a mid day break from the parks. Before 9/11 when things were a bit looser we would drive over there from our resort, park the car and use the resort as a sort of headquarters for each day (including the pool). You could take the monorail for resort hopping, to to the MK or Epcot and from Epcot go over to the Studios and the Boardwalk. The parking all day part is gone but we still take the monorail over for a lunch break and the Kona is a great place for a lunch. BUT being prone to excess we never seem to get out of the Tambu Lounge and wind up with the Pu Pu platter. But the times we have pried ourselves from the bar, the Kona is the place to go.

  10. Susan says:

    Great review! I have to say though… if you aren’t sure you like sweet and savory together, the teriyaki steak with pineapple salsa might not be for you either. It was very good, but sweet. If I ordered it again, I might ask for the sauce or salsa on the side.

  11. Marianela says:

    In my last trip (December 2009) I was lucky enough to persuade my dad to have lunch at Kona Cafe…I actually order the same that you (Chicken with Coconut and Mango sauce and the White Chocolate cheesecake) and was the best food ever!! I usully have lunch at the parks, breakfast and dinner at the resort that I’m staying so for me was a whole new experience.
    My mom ordered the Teriyaki Beef and was pretty good too. My dad ordered a salad that was not very successful…I can’t remember the name of the plate.
    I highly recommend the chicken for those who likes the mix of sweet and salty in the same bit…

    I hope to try in my next trip the Kahuna Burger and the Banana Creme Brulee…or try something new, in a whole different restaurant!

  12. Galloping Gourmand says:

    I had a solo lunch at Kona about 3 years ago. I, too, started with the pot stickers as I’m a sucker for them. They were perfectly fine, but not outstanding. The duck wasn’t noticeable, in fact it could have been chicken or pork and had the same flavor. I thought the Beef Teriaki salad was quite good, but had too much dressing. Unfortunately I had forgotten rule 1 for ordering salad: “dressing on the side, please.” The ingredients in the salad were well balanced. there was just enough lettuce so that it made a nice filler but didn’t overwhelm the vegetables. I got one or two veggies per forkful, which, to me, is just enough for a salad.

    The service, sadly, was awful. I won’t go into details because everyone is allowed one bad night but suffice to say although I liked the food and found it to be reasonably priced I haven’t been back.

  13. I really need to get here for a lunch and/or dinner sometime. Have enjoyed Tonga Toast a few times here. Great post!

  14. Teresa says:

    Going to WDW in August and will be making dinner res. at Kona. Can’t wait to try the Tuna Oscar- the pictures I’ve seen of it make my mouth water!

  15. Joanna says:

    I love your blog and this article is great! I have gone to the Kona many times for breakfast but now I may try lunch! That burger looks awesome!

  16. Amanda says:

    I really enjoyed Kona cafe when we went to breakfast there. We got the tonga toast and a omelet. The coffee is really good too, nice and strong, and the prices are great. Our waitress was kind of rude, but that was my only complaint. It is a nice escape from the crowds, when we went there were only 2 other tables in the place. Maybe thats why the waitress was so crabby, she has a perfect view of the masses of people waiting to get into Ohana.

  17. Gray says:

    Great review. I want to give this place another try during the day sometime. My dinner was a disappointment–too loud, too crowded, and as a solo, I’m still bitter about the fact that the sticky wings are only sized for two to share. But I’ll give it another chance. I hear mostly rave reviews all the time, so it’s got to be better than my first meal there was.

  18. Heidi says:

    Kona Cafe is one of my favorite restaurants for breakfast (I haven’t had another meal there….yet.). I LOVE the macadamia nut pancakes with macadamia nut butter and pineapple. I HAVE to get it several times each visit to WDW. I hope to try another meal at Kona on my next trip(September 2011).

  19. melissa sue says:

    I must protest!!! I love the Kona Cafe’s decor!It is fun and beachy without being too silly and over the top–the light fixtures and fans and all … it’s fun!

    I’ve only ever been for breakfast, but we loved it so much (the pineapple macadamia pancakes are absolutely to die for), we’ll certainly be going back again!! I can see myself making a lunch our of the sticky wings and crab cakes!

  20. Sheila DeStefano says:

    I would have to disagree. I absolutely LOVE Disney, going quite a few times per year. I almost always have pleasant experiences when it comes to Disney dining. However, I was thoroughly disappointed and upset by my experience at the Kona Cafe. We ate there this past December, around lunch time. Our waitress seemed perfectly nice, but she seemed very overwhelmed by everything. We did not receive bread (none of her tables did) and when we asked her about it, she claimed that they ran out. I ordered a burger and my boyfriend ordered the fish tacos. He loved his dish. My burger, on the other hand, had to be sent back 3 times because the chef would not make it well done. The manager, who I wish I could report to some higher authority, argued with me about how my burger was cooked. Although pink in the middle, she rudely insisted that it was well done. I will never eat there again simply because of the rude manager and I recommend to everyone I know not to ever eat there. I was way more than disappointed; it practically ruined my day. I thought the “Disney way” was to be polite and accommodate their guests. I guess that does not apply to all of Disney.

  21. AJ says:

    jrriddle — Good point! I’ve never thought about the fact that the Poly is “signature dining”-less! Imagine what they could create! I think they need a celebrity…maybe Roy will do it!

    James — I don’t remember getting the bread and mac nut butter! Unbelievable!

    Kristin — What’s your favorite dessert?

    Pudge — You’re so full of interesting trivia! I had no idea it was the closest restaurant to the monorail line!

    Kelly — I’ve heard great things about the Tuna Oscar! Thanks for confirming!

    John — KoKo Puffs! I’d forgotten about them!! Thanks for the reminder! Also, a Lapu Lapu is definitely the way to escape from a Spring Break day at the MK. Just the thought of it is relaxing…

    Wendy — Thanks so much for your review! Now I have to get some of that bread!

    Keith — Thanks for the info on the Samoan!

    Alan — Tambu Lounge is one of my favorite “relaxing” places in WDW. I can understand completely why you can’t pull yourselves away!

    Susan — Good point. Thanks for the suggestion!

    Marianela — Thanks for the review! Agreed — Kona is definitely a good place to try if you’re looking for something not ordinarily on your routine.

    GG — From the look of the other comments, it sounds like service isn’t a strong point for Kona. We didn’t have too much of a problem, but the restaurant was VERY empty when we were there. Thanks for the review, as always!

    Scott — I need to get there for breakfast! Let me know when you head over for dinner.

    Teresa — I know! I’ve heard so many positive reviews about that dish! Let us know how you like it :-)

    Joanna — That burger was massive! And my husband LOVED it. I wish I’d ordered it. Hmph. ;-)

    Amanda — Hmm… maybe you’ve hit on the reason why the service seems to have a bad rap! :-)

    Gray — I know. Kona is definitely a favorite for folks, so I think a second try is in order. Try it for lunch at a down time — not crowded at all when I’ve seen it. (We hate crowded restaurants, and that can easily put us off another visit.)

    Heidi — Let us know if you try lunch or dinner! Still, I’ve heard great things about those Mac Nut pancakes!

    Melissa Sue — Ha ha!! Well done! Stand up for the decor if you must! ;-) You can definitely make a lunch out of those two appetizers, by the way :-)

    Sheila — Oh no! What a horrible experience! Everyone definitely has an off day. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  22. Dana says:

    Easily my favorite resturant in all of WDW. I almost had a heart attack when I saw the picture of the menu and didn’t see my favorite- Tuna Oscar! Then I realized it was the lunch menu, and I could relax.
    I’d like to think you had an off day with the chocolate dessert– usually they’re nice and gooey inside!

  23. John says:

    I’ve been to Kona for breakfast and dinner, and am going for lunch in April. While it’s not signature, I’ve never had a bad meal. I had the sirloin with pineapple for dinner and it was very good (with the best rice I ever had, as strange as that sounds). Banana creme brulee was out of this world — loved the brulee on the banana itself! Also, it has a chocolate bottom.

    For breakfast I had tonga toast and my friend had the macadamia nut pancakes. We enjoyed both, and my friend said the sausage there was great. A word of warning: the menu says “pineapple sauce” but it’s really more of a slaw (shaved pineapple). I had my tonga toast with the pineapple instead and once I saw it wasn’t really a sauce, instantly wished I had the strawberry compote instead. Oh well, next time!

    And as I’m sure many know, you can get the same tonga toast (sans compote) at Cpt Cooke’s for a cheaper price.

  24. chantel says:

    Kona is a winner with us! Just changed a GF Cafe ressie to Kona at the girls’ request…why??? So they could get kona cones!

  25. Libbie says:

    Have not tried the Kona but was very disappointed with the Ohana Breakfast which was very expensive. The eggs were not real eggs and the bacon was precooked. I expected powdered eggs and low quality bacon at the Quick Serve Meals at the Hotels (they were still too expensive) but expected Great Food at the Ohana. The Breads were Ok but Starbucks has better bakery items. Will not eat there again.

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *