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Review: The NEW Trader Sam’s in the Disneyland Hotel

Please welcome Drew Roberts, Disneyland expert and columnist at Daps Magic’s Geek’s Corner, who was lucky enough to get a peek at the Disneyland Hotel’s NEW Trader Sam’s and Tangaroa Terrace! Read on for his review!

For far too long, Disneyland has been inferior to Walt Disney World in terms of food. Sure, Disneyland has the amazing corn dogs, Bengal Barbeque skewers, Monte Cristo sandwiches and the Blue Bayou, but until recently, the rest of the food offerings have been the largely homogeneous selection of burgers, hot dogs and chicken nuggets that are often referred to as “theme park food.”

Thankfully, the tides have seemed to be changing for those of us who love the eclectic selection of food found within Walt Disney World. The menus at the Hungry Bear and Village Haus restaurants have been updated to reflect a more food savvy palate, and most recently, the openings of Tangaroa Terrace and Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar have added even more fun and delicious dining options for the Disneyland foodie.

Atmosphere

Walking up to Trader Sam’s you are greeted by a huge run barrel welcoming you inside — through a large, wooden tiki-inspired carved door. Upon entering, you are often welcomed by the bartenders yelling at you to shut the door, and doing so, you enter the small, dimly lit bar. But this is like no bar you have ever been to before.

Entrance to Trader Sam's

The story is that Trader Sam, the “head salesman” of the Jungle has decided to collect all of the artifacts that he has collected through his 55 years of world traveling, put them in one place, and invite all of his friends in for a snack and a drink.

First and foremost, the décor and atmosphere of the bar is out of this world. If you have ever loved the Jungle Cruise, original Tiki Room or the Adventurer’s Club, you will feel like you are coming home. The walls are covered in photographs and souvenirs, both collected by and sent to Sam by his many globe-trotting friends.

Table at Trader Sam's

If you have a few hours and a good flashlight you will find puns, historical facts and Disney references a ‘plenty. It’s obvious that whoever designed the bar truly “gets it” as far as Disney and Disney fans are concerned. There is even a rumor going that a mysterious crate or two from a collection of adventurers was sent to Sam from an address in Orlando. Hmmm….

Trader Sams Bar

Trader Sam's Bar

Eats

Once you have exhausted your eyes and flashlight batteries trying to see any, and every, thing you can, it’s time for the main event, the food and drinks. I assure you, you won’t be leaving disappointed. Having visited the bar a few times already, I have had to opportunity to sample a wide variety of the appetizers offered, as well as a few of the drinks.

First, the food. Disney has kept to a relatively authentic, or at least well-themed, menu, with many Polynesian-style dishes available. My particular favorites are the Kalua pork flatbread, and the tamarind-glazed island pork wings. The menu says that the pork flatbread is “pulled pork, red onion, cilantro, barbecue sauce and mozzarella.”

The bread was crispy, the pork was extremely tender and the barbecue sauce was sweet, but with a smokiness that balanced the sweet flavor of the sauce perfectly. Needless to say, I was a bad sharer and there was nary a bite left on my plate.

The tamarind pork wings are fairly self-explanatory and come with a side of crunchy green papaya slaw. The wings are sweet, as you would expect with a tamarind glaze, but not sweet to the point of cloying. The pork itself was, again, exceedingly tender and was easy to gnaw off the bone.

Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum and Sam's eats

I have also sampled the chicken-lettuce wraps and the cheese flatbread and have yet to be disappointed with any of the dishes.

Sam’s also offers Sam’s Dessert Flight, which features pineapple upside-down cake, a cappuccino-chocolate chunk brownie and a pineapple mango fruit parfait. This would be great after dinner treat, perhaps with a nightcap from Sam’s wide and varied cocktail menu.

Trader Sam's Dessert Flight

Speaking of that cocktail menu, Sam’s seems to be bucking the trend that has been affecting the Walt Disney World bars, which is the over-generalization of the specialty drink menus.

Aside from the standard beer and wine menu, all of the specialty drinks are unique to Sam’s, and the menu descriptions are a virtual carnival of puns worthy of the most seasoned jungle cruise skipper. Take, for instance, the “Hippopotomai-tai.” The drink is described with “dare to enter this hippo pool with…bang! Bang! Two shots of rum! Don’t worry; this drink is only dangerous when you start to wiggle your ears!” Many of the drinks will either elicit reactions from your server, or might even trigger the bar to react to your order!

Overall

The atmosphere within Sam’s is infectious; within minutes of sitting down, many visitors were joining the bartenders in their various gags and catchphrases, and despite being a bar, it’s a fun place to bring the whole family — at least until the eight o’clock 21 and older curfew kicks in.

A word of warning, however — the seating capacity inside is a mere 47 people, so if you come, be prepared for a wait during the busier times of the year. With Sam, though, even the wait can be enjoyable on one of the many comfortable couches scattered about the patio, where orders will also be taken. In addition, there will be a live band every evening, performing from a vast catalogue of Polynesian songs and popular hits from throughout the years.

Live Music at Trader Sam's Patio

Overall, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar is a must see for any Disney fan, especially for those still mourning the loss of the Adventurer’s Club. While not a direct descendant, my guess is that Sam may have spent a few nights in Pleasure Island learning some tricks from his adventure-seeking counterparts.

The food is incredible and the drinks are fun and delicious, as well. I give Sam two thumbs up; and if you do make it to the bar, tell him I want those thumbs back!

Kungaloosh!

Don’t forget to check out menus from Tangaroa Terrace here! Thanks, Drew!!

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16 Comments

  1. Brular says:

    Ohhhh that review was fun and informative, nice!

    I’m a bit ashamed, however, to have not found the “tamarind pork wings” to be “fairly self-explanatory”, but after Googling pork wings, I felt as if my culinary horizons just burst wide open!

    Pork wings… *drools*

  2. AJ says:

    Brular — I know! I was wondering about those! Now I have to go google them… pigs with wings? :-)

  3. What a fun little place!

  4. DarthTod says:

    The guy at the bar with the glasses looks a little young. Is this a true bar in the age restriction sense, or just in name only?

  5. AJ says:

    Darth — I think the 21 and under kicks in at 8pm :-)

  6. Mr. DAPs says:

    GREAT post Drew! We need to go with my flashlight! :) Thanks for a great look at this new hot spot at the Disneyland Resort!

  7. Nate says:

    Where in the Disneyland Hotel is this? I haven’t been there for a while, so did this replace something? Sorry…

    This sounds like a great time! Let’s all go down there and get a Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum!

  8. Alan says:

    Wow. What a great place. I’d fly out there just to hang out in Trader Sam’s. Interesting eats, great decor and theme and original drinks. I’m sensing a turn of the tide in the food and beverage mind set of the Disney Parks execs. Vive la nourriture de Disney blog!

  9. Mike Frisco says:

    I’d like to know what the capacity limit is for Trader Sams vs The Lost Bar.

    The new smaller venue is not going to hold up at all once that pool opens up.

  10. JoAnn says:

    looks like a fun place

  11. Jeff says:

    Very, VERY excited about this place!!!

  12. Madoka says:

    I can vouch first hand that the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum is excellent, as are the pork wings. The fried long beans are also highly recommended. The ahi poke though, was disappointing. It was seriously lacking in sauce and so were just chunks of chopped up raw tuna and avocados. I did mention that to our server so hopefully the kitchen will take note and improve that classic dish. The theming in this bar is just incredible. Various elements of the room come alive with special effects when certain drinks are ordered, and the bar stools have a trick of their own. I don’t understand though, why Trader Sam doesn’t offer coconut shrimp or crab rangoon?! As a tiki culture lover, I hope to see those must-haves of the classic tiki bar added to the menu.

  13. clarke t. says:

    Unfortunately this ‘Re-Imagineering’ of the Disneyland Hotel complex isn’t doing it any favors. And Tangaroa Terrace (TT), the extension of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar (TSETB), is just one example.

    And I admit it. I’m old school here. I’m not one that thinks just because change is inevitable it is somehow good. I wasn’t at all impressed with TT / TSETB inside and especially TT outside. Inside too small and too dark. Outdoor terrace didn’t remind me much of a Tiki bar what with that sad iron fencing/railing surrounding it. Iron lanterns? You’ve got to be kidding me. Can’t you at least make iron to look like bamboo? Of course you can. And that furniture? Much too modern looking. Waiters & servers? Don’t get me started. What’s with those uniforms??? If you want someone to have that ‘enchanted tiki’ feeling you don’t put uniforms on your waiters/servers. Dress them up ‘in costume’.

    The only thing that was good was my martini. But how can you mess that up? But even though it’s now served in a glass instead of plastic as with the ‘use to be there ‘The Lost Bar’, I’d give anything to have it back that way. And while you’re at it. Give me back my water falls, my koi ponds, my Jungle Cruise arcade…

  14. Dickrichie says:

    Order a Backside of Water. Its not on the menu but its delicious! I hear a secret drink that only Jungle Skippers know about. Basically its a Schwitzer Falls with a shot of Pirate Rum. SO good.

  15. AJ says:

    Nate — It’s in the Disneyland Hotel. Tangaroa Terrace and Trader Sam’s have replaced Hook’s Pointe and Wine Cellar.

    Alan — I know! I can’t wait to try it out!

    Mike — Good point.

    JoAnn and Jeff — Agreed!

    Madoka — Thank you for the awesome recommendations!!

    Clarke t. — Thank you for your review and thoughts. Lots to think about, to be sure.

    Dickrichie — Awesome! I’ll order it when I’m there in a couple of weeks!

  16. Denise says:

    We just went to Trader Sam’s and loved it – took tons of photos for my site, and enjoy all the references to the Adventurer’s Club and Jungle Cruise.

    I don’t agree at all that the food at Disneyland is standard theme park fare. The counter service, IMHO, is much more varied than at Walt Disney World. From the carved meat sandwiches at the River Belle Terrace, to the fried chicken at the Plaza Inn, to the chicken fusilli at Red Rockets and more – there is a tremendous variety that you can’t find in the parks at WDW.

    Denise

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