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Guest Review: Tangaroa Terrace at the Disneyland Hotel

Welcome back guest author Carrie Hayward, author of PassPorter’s Disney Weddings & Honeymoons, as she shares her recent trip to the Disneyland Hotel’s newest restaurant — Tangaroa Terrace. Thanks, Carrie!

My husband and I are big fans of Disney’s take on tiki culture and often wonder why they don’t exploit the theme more around the parks and resorts, especially when it comes to food service (Aladdin’s Oasis, I’m looking at YOU). So we got very excited when we heard that Disney was reimagining the counter-service restaurant at the Disneyland Hotel with a tiki theme. On Sunday we had a chance to try the new Tangaroa Terrace.

Tangaroa Terrace Entrance

Atmosphere

Much has been made of the restaurant’s modern take on tiki décor. While Trader Sam’s next door has the dark, cave-like feel of an authentic mid-century tiki bar, Tangaroa Terrace has high ceilings and plenty of windows, making it a pleasant space to eat in but nearly impossible to photograph with a point-and-shoot camera, as you will see…

Tangaroa Terrace Outside

Tangaroa Terrace Inside Decor

Like Captain Cook’s at Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Resort (which, incidentally, used to have its own Tangaroa Terrace Restaurant), Tangaroa Terrace requires you to place your own order at touch-screen kiosks just inside the door. There’s a large menu hanging in the queue area, but the only way to see pictures and complete descriptions of menu items onscreen is to go several steps deep into the ordering process for each dish individually.

Touch-Screen Ordering System at Tangaroa Terrace

Touch-Screen Ordering Screen at Tangaroa Terrace

Once you’ve input your order, the kiosk spits out a receipt for you to take to the cash registers. A cold case next to the kiosks offers salads, sandwiches, fruit, kids’ meals, desserts, and a few drinks. More bottled drinks are available across from the cash registers.

Cold Case of Grab and Go Items

The sweet potato cake is inexplicably pink

Hand the cashier the receipt you got from the kiosk plus any impulse buys, pay for your meal, and get a number to put on your table for hot food delivery.

Check-Out Area

Check-Out Area

Napkins, cutlery, and condiments are behind the cash registers, against the bamboo wall separating the tiny indoor seating area from the sales area. A station for fountain drinks, coffee, and tea is located in the seating area.

Self-Serve Drinks Area

Indoor seating is scarce—the dining area seats maybe 20 people. Outside is an attractive wraparound patio, but only parts of it are shaded.

Tangaroa Terrace Outdoor Patio

Tangaroa Terrace Outdoor Patio

We were expecting more tiki flourishes in the décor at Tangaroa Terrace—squint and you could be at almost any fast-casual chain restaurant—but there are a few items of interest, mainly the light fixtures. The high ceilings and abundance of natural light help compensate for the anonymous interior design too.

Tangaroa Terrace Light Fixtures

Tangaroa Terrace Light Fixture

Great photos, but what about a mural or mixed-media piece by Kevin Kidney?

Eats

What really got us excited about Tangaroa Terrace was the menu, which was billed on the Disney Parks Blog as a fresh, Polynesian-accented take on classic counter-service fare. We ordered the Angus 1/3 lb. Hawaiian Cheeseburger and the Island Fish & Chips.

Tangaroa Terrace Menu -- click for larger version

The menu describes the Angus 1/3 lb. Hawaiian Cheeseburger as a “ground angus burger with teriyaki sauce, fresh grilled pineapple, Havarti cheese, bacon, lettuce and tomato on a multigrain bun with choice of sweet potato fries or green papaya slaw.” The trouble is, the touch-screen ordering system doesn’t let you select how you want the burger cooked, so ours came out roughly the consistency of shoe leather.

The thin patty had a veneer of plasticky cheese and a hint of teriyaki glaze, but the burger was otherwise dry—it’s up to you to craft some kind of sauce from the ketchup, mustard and mayo offered at the condiment bar. A few shriveled pieces of pineapple, tough standard-issue Disney bacon, a tomato slice and a pale yellow fringe of lettuce rounded out the accompaniments.

Angus 1/3 lb. Hawaiian Cheeseburger

Described as “panko-crusted mahi mahi and sweet potato fries served with lime tartar sauce,” the Island Fish and Chips were even worse than the burger.

The fish was dry and flavorless, and the runny “lime tartar sauce” seemed to be ranch dressing mixed with horseradish. The best thing you could say about the dish was that the fish arrived hot, something we almost never find at Disney restaurants. On the other hand, the sweet potato fries with both meals were cold and soggy.

panko-crusted mahi mahi and sweet potato fries served with lime tartar sauce

I snapped pictures of a couple other items waiting in the kitchen to be ferried to guests’ tables.

Asian Chicken Salads

Chicken Breast Nuggets and Kalua Pork Flatbread

Overall

Now Tangaroa Terrace had only been open a few days when we went, so maybe they were still working the kinks out. But so far the low-quality ingredients and poor preparation are pretty much on par with the rest of Disneyland’s counter-service dining—in other words, not great. It’s just a shame that all the effort put into designing the building and packing the menu full of exotic descriptions didn’t extend to crafting truly interesting, well-prepared food to match.

Carrie Hayward is the author of PassPorter’s Disney Weddings & Honeymoons (http://www.passporter.com/weddings.asp), a guidebook and bridal organizer for weddings and honeymoons at Walt Disney World and on the Disney Cruise Line. Follow her adventures in Disney dining at http://disneytravelbabble.com.

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16 Comments

  1. Heather says:

    Such a bummer it wasn’t good. I’m checking out breakfast there on Friday, I’ll report back.

  2. Alan says:

    That’s too bad about the mediocre food. Just when you think they are paying more attention to the quality you get a glitch like this.

    It’s like buying an expensive hand made German stein and then drinking PBR out of it.

  3. AJ says:

    I’m amazed at how much the place looks like Captain Cook’s at the Poly. Even the ordering systems are almost exactly the same graphics! I think I’m more looking forward to Trader Sam’s than Tangaroa…

  4. Cindaddy says:

    Brutal. Very disappointing. Hoping that Trader Sam’s is a winner. I have to agree with AJ. Very much a Poly feel.

  5. Janet says:

    We had dinner there Sunday night. One of our friends ordered the cheeseburger, my husband ordered the chicken sandwich & I noticed that I could get a regular hamburger, so ordered that (See picture of screen above). After I clicked hamburger, it asked if I wanted cheese – yes, or no – so I clicked NO. Seemed like a dumb question…

    Once we got our meals – I noticed that mine did not have dressing on it. Our friend did get dressing on his cheeseburger. Same thing happened to me at Hungry Bear inside Disneyland previously. Apparently Disney thinks that if you want a regular burger, you only want lettuce, tomato & onion – nothing else. Just like at Hungry Bear, I asked at Tangaroa Terrace for the dressing & they brought it out. It is available, you just have to ask. And yes, the burgers were only served WELL DONE.

    Both my husband & I hated the fact that you HAVE to have sweet potato fries. Not only did we want regular ones & my husband told the cashier we wouldn’t be back because of it – they were way too sweet & yes, soggy too. I can’t see how they were that much healthier then regular fries.

    The rest of the group said the food was just ok – no one said they’d come back to eat here again. If we’re at the hotel or in downtown close to the hotel, maybe we’d come back, but we won’t go special for the food. I was told it was the Disneyland Hotel’s version of WhiteWater Snacks, but even though they have a much larger selection, I’d pick WhiteWater at the Grand Californian over Tangaroa Terrace.

    As for Trader Sam’s….only one friend got to go in & see it – they would not allow the rest of us in as it was full, with a line waiting to go in & sit. They gave us the “one person out, one person in” speech even though we just wanted to walk through & check it out for a couple minutes.

    We didn’t bother ordering drinks while waiting for our friend, as we did not plan to be sitting but a few minutes. The drinks seemed interesting,and the fireplace seems to be a cool place to hang out, but apparently you have to get to Trader Sam’s early if you want a seat inside. (We were told it holds about 30-40 people, and that’s why they have all the outdoor seating.).

  6. Madoka says:

    We were at Tangaroa Terrace on Sunday night also around 8:30pm (and Trader Sam’s the night before). DH and I both got the Hawaiian burger. He got it with sweet potato fries, and I ordered the green papaya slaw side. While I agree that the burger patty was unfortunately dry, the rest of both burgers were actually very good. The lettuce and tomato were crisp and fresh. The pineapple slices were juicy and nicely grilled. There was just the right amount of teriyaki sauce to give the burger a nice teriyaki flavor but was not overwhelming. Overall I thought the flavors were very well balanced. The sweet potato fries were hot and crispy, and the green papaya slaw refreshing and flavorful.

    I agree that it would be better for them to offer regular as well as sweet potato fries, though we would personally choose the sweet potato every time. And I would appreciate it very much if they gave diners a choice on how well done they want their patties (I am a medium-rare girl). But I have to say we were very pleased with Tangaroa Terrace and will definitely be back. Next time I want to try the kalua pork flatbread. Incidentally, the DisneyParks Blog announcement said that there will be island-inspired daily specials at the ordering kiosk, but I didn’t see any. Perhaps they are still being introduced. I also find it odd that salmon is an option for the kids’ menu, but it is not available for adults?

  7. Jeanine says:

    Although I haven’t eaten there yet, I found the Tangaroa menu offerings a little pedestrian, except for an odd emphasis on tofu, which apparently you could get on anything. I said the same thing about the salmon–if I were to eat there, I’d probably try ordering the kid’s menu.

    I did eat at Trader Sam’s however, which was much more interesting. The attention to detail in the decor is both involved and involving. I had the ahi with avocado and wonton chips which was very good, and the Schweitzer Falls which was overpriced. My best advice is to sit where you can see both the windows and the ship in a bottle, so you don’t have to keep leaping up and wandering around through your meal.

  8. Alex says:

    It is sad that the hot food isn’t better, but I suspect that I would only go to Tangaroa Terrace to grab a small meal, likely breakfast before hitting the parks or on the way back to my hotel room. I was hopeful this would be a new Sunshine Seasons-esque eatery in Disneyland, which badly needs one.

    I would like to see how the food in the grab and go cold section fared, it seems like that fruit plate would be really nice to snack on while laying out by the newly renovated pool.

  9. Janet says:

    I too wanted the salmon. Didn’t know why it was only on the kids menu. Maybe if we go back, I can try that. Or maybe they’ll have the dining specials listed.

  10. Pam says:

    My husband and I had breakfast there last saturday, and it was just ok. I had the french toast with bananas and caramel sauce. For some reason I only got 3 toast halves. What did they do with my extra half? And it was barely warm, which was disappointing. It tasted alright, but really needed to be warm, and maybe needed some butter. My husband had the breakfast wrap and he seemed to like it.

    The atmosphere in the restaurant itself was really disappointing. The bathrooms were themed much better. The staff was very friendly and helpful though, so that’s a plus.

    Oh, I tried the sweet potato cake. I’m not sure it was even made with sweet potatoes, maybe just regular ones and the frosting made it sweet? The grated potato in the cake was definitely white. And it had so much frosting, it was pretty gross. That pink frosting had a sort of strawberry flavor to it and that’s all I could taste. Just say no to the sweet potato cake!

  11. Christian says:

    Just ate there and got the fish and chips and it wasn’t as dry and soggy as everyone is saying. But the prior comments, most from about a month ago, seemed to acknowledge that this could be because it was a new place trying to work the kinks out. I did like that they had Minute Maid Light Pomegranate Lemonade there.

  12. AJ says:

    Christian — We have another review coming up soon that showcases a bit better experience. :-) Thanks for your review!

  13. Christian says:

    Excellent. With my Mexican food blog I used to like to get to new restaurants the day they opened and tell everyone about them right away. Later on a restaurant owner told me most places like to keep things on the downlow for about six months so they can get things worked out.

  14. Shelly Valladolid says:

    We ate there opening night and then again about a week ago. My husband likes his burgers well-done, so when we returned, he ordered the Angus again. The sweet potato fries were hot and crispy. On both occasions, my fish and chips were excellent – hot, meaty, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The parfait in the dessert trio alone is worth a return trip. In between the two visits, I went for breakfast. My companion had the eggs and bacon, which she said was very good, and I tried the French Toast. It seemed more of a dessert to be than a breakfast; very, very rich and sweet.

    Oh, and the sweet potato cake? Orange sweet potato is strickly mainland ting. In Hawaii, get rose-colored to magenta to purple. And now you know.

  15. Shelly Valladolid says:

    Oh! I forgot! The Kalua Flatbread is also so good we ordered it to share both times. I usually hate cilantro but this was good, not overwhelming. Could have used a little more kalua pig, but.

  16. Joel says:

    We ate breakfast at Tangaroa Terrace on 3/4/2014. My wife and I had the breakfast platters and two of my kids had french toast. Basic food. The breakfast platters came out hot. The roasted potatoes were good (my wife especially liked those). The biscuit was good, but nothing special. The french toast was the same. I would eat there again.

    Oh, I agree that they could up the ‘tiki’ feel.

    I would suggest trying breakfast at Earl of Sandwich. We tried the Bacon, Egg ‘N’ Cheddar hot sandwiches and the oatmeal. I thought the food was good and a better value than what we had at Tangaroa Terrace.

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