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Review: Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar

“Aloha, ahoy, aha! And welcome to the mystery, romance, and adventure of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar.”

These are the words that lure you into Trader Sam’s story when you first look at a menu in this brand new Tiki bar in the Disneyland Hotel! In fact, a good friend of mine has referred to it as “the best of the Jungle Cruise, Adventurers Club, and Tiki Room rolled into a liquor license.” I heartily agree.

Let’s take a trip to the “happy outpost,” shall we?

Trader Sam's Welcome Message - click image for larger version

Atmosphere

I had been watching the creation of Trader Sam’s with great interest during the Spring and early Summer of 2011.

All I’d heard is that this destined-to-be-great spot might incorporate some of the decor of the old Pleasure Island Adventurers Club in Disney World, one of my very favorite places. And with the brilliant artistry of Kevin Kidney and Jody Daly behind it, it had to be good.

Trader Sam's Bar

Kevin and Jody painted Tikis -- the eyes mooove

The line to get in can be long — the bar opens in the early afternoon and there can even be a wait then, but it’s well worth it once you’re in side. (Don’t forget to SHUT THE DOOR!!! when you come in!)

At the bar

With literally hundreds of things to look at all over the walls (souvenirs from Trader Sam’s adventures, of course) — many of them equipped with sight and word gags, or even special effects — this place definitely fits into the true, classic Disney imagineering style.

This will remind those of us who grew up with Disney’s early theme parks where there seemed to be surprises hidden around every corner.

Trader Sam's Bar Close-Up

Trader Sam's Decor Close-Up

Ship decor

It's a Tiki Bar!

Close-Up of Trader Sam's Decor

Now, once you’ve had the chance to take in a bit of the decor (and have waited for a table to open up), you may start to notice a few of the other effects taking place around you.

Bar Tables

For example, if you’re at the bar, be sure that you don’t annoy the Bartender or you may slowly find yourself feeling a bit low…

Falling Bar Stools

And beware angering the tiki gods — you never know when Krakatoa might erupt!

Krakatoa Window While Quiet

Krakatoa Window After Krakatoa Punch is Ordered!

Ron, one of the wonderful bartenders at Trader Sam’s, holds all of the secrets, so try to get on his good side! :-)

Bartender

Whew — now that we’ve taken a good look around…let’s get down to the real reason we’re here — to drink!

Eats and Drinks

The Trader Sam’s menu is a sight to see. Each drink is individually illustrated next to its description!

Trader Sam's Menu

Drink Menu - click image for larger version

Bar Menu - click image for larger version

You’ll find many Disney and Jungle Cruise puns on the menu — Schweitzer Falls, Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum, Skipper Sipper, and the Shunken Zombie Head being a few. But they DON’T happen to tell you what might happen if you order one of these colorful beauties!

One of the best presentations — and a drink we couldn’t pass up — is the Uh Oa! This shared drink includes light and dark rums, orange, passion fruit, guava, and grapefruit juices, falernum, cinnamon, and freshlly squeezed lime juice. It comes to the table amidst a thunder storm of activity and is punctuated by its own floating island of fire! Things can definitely get a little sparkly…

Check out this fun video of John Lasseter experiencing the Uh Oa!

And here’s the drink in person!! That’s cinnamon in the little tikis around the main drink — when the uh oa arrives, grab a pinch of cinnamon and throw it on the fire to create sparks!

Uh Oa -- Light and Dark Rums - orange-passion fruit -guava - grapefruit juices - falernum - cinnamon - freshly squeezed lime

But that’s not the only drink that will cause a stir at Trader Sam’s! Order the Shipwreck On The Rocks and cross your fingers!! Make sure you ask your server what side of the bar to be on in order to see the effect in full force. :-)

Shipwreck on the Rocks -- Bourbon with Freshly Muddled Lemon and Mint with Organic Agave Nectar

Another drink we ordered was an old favorite of mine — the Kungaloosh! This is a classic drink that was developed at the aforementioned Adventurers Club in Disney World’s Pleasure Island; and though it isn’t actually on the menu at Trader Sam’s, they’re happy to re-create it for you!

But what makes Trader Sam’s even MORE rad than it was to start is that even though the Kungaloosh! isn’t on the menu, they know that there are two recipes for the drink (old and new), and they ask you which one you’d like when you order it! Astounding. My Disney geekery is in full force.

Kungaloosh Old Style!

There are some really fun “no-booze brews” on the menu at Trader Sam’s as well, and we couldn’t help but order the Schweitzer Falls (named after the beautiful Schweitzer Falls, which is named after it’s founder, Dr. Albert Falls, and seen on the Jungle Cruise attraction).

This concoction is made with tropical juices, Sprite, and “Sam’s Gorilla Grog,” which you can find heartily stored with the rest of the mixers at the bar.

Grog

(FYI — Grog is a mixture of passion fruit, guava, pineapple, orange, and lemon juices all mixed with falernum, which is a sweet/spicy syrup reminiscent of cinnamon, cloves, and other sweet spices.)

Interestingly, this drink was one of our favorites of the visit, so that Grog must have something going for it!

Schweitzer Falls -- Tropical Juices and Sams Gorilla Grog topped with Sprite

By this point we were needing a bit of sustenance, so out comes the Pu Pu Platter!! This had been highly recommend to me, and it’s obvious why. 1.) It’s gorgeous, 2.) It’s delicious, 3.) It has all kinds of wings, therefore it is awesome.

Included on the platter were Tamarind-glazed Island Pork ‘Wings,’ Sweet and Spicy Asian Wings, Panko-Crusted Chinese Long Beans, Green Papaya Slaw, and Sriracha Aioli. For $15.99 this is not a bad way to spend the afternoon. My favorite? The Asian Wings, of course.

pu pu platter -- tamarind glazed pork wings - asian wings - chinese long beans - green papaya slaw - sriracha aioli

The menu has several other yummy appetizers like chicken-lettuce wraps, fish tacos, Kalua Pork Flatbread, and the Trader Sam’s Dessert Flight. And I just heard that a few more items have been added, including a Panko-Crusted Chicken Sandwich, and an Angus Cheeseburger (thanks to the Trader Sam’s facebook page for that update)!

Overall

Like I said, this place is popular and there are definitely waits to get in. Luckily, there is plenty of seating outside along with the Tangaroa Terrace nearby for eats while you’re waiting for the big wooden doors to open and let you into the fun.

However, if all good things DO come to those who wait, this is definitely an example. Trader Sam’s is one of those quintessentially Disney experiences. You’re not just watching a show or drinking at a bar, you’re experiencing an incredibly fun and imaginative attraction the whole time you’re there. It’s very easy to lose track of time and stay at Trader Sam’s for hours. And, honestly, why wouldn’t you? Something you’ve never seen before is bound to happen — no matter how many times you’ve been there.

On the specs and details front — Trader Sam’s turns into an over-21 bar after 8pm, but your kids are welcome there before that deadline. We DID have a couple of kiddos with us when we visited Trader Sam’s, and while they weren’t mesmerized by the goings-on (they’d had a long day by that point), they did enjoy the eats. Your mileage may vary.

Have YOU been to Trader Sam’s? More importantly, do you WANT to go to Trader Sam’s? Let us know what your drink of choice would be from the menu!

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15 Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    I’m hoping to get a group of friends there for my birthday this year and I am really excited after reading this, I know it is going to be so much fun. I wonder if they do table reservations at all?

  2. Alan says:

    What a fun looking place. The Mai-Tai is very close to the classic recipe, so, without trying one, I will give it a thumbs up. And, any restaurant that can find those flying pigs so they can serve tamarind glazed pork “wings” is sure to be great.

    Wouldn’t it be a happy thing to have something similar at WDW – there is plenty of room at the forlorn Pleasure Island, and wouldn’t it be nice to have the Kungaloosh back on that Island.

  3. NT3 says:

    WOW…that place sounds AMAZING! This basically needs to come to either Downtown Disney or the Polynesian Resort. And you’ve gotta think that if it’s as popular as it sounds in the review with the waits at opening and all, that they would eventually bring it to Orlando.

  4. marcellina says:

    I could kick myself for never going to the Adventurer’s Club but maybe I could get a little taste of it by going here… I can definitely see myself spending hours here with friends enjoying the drinks and good conversation! What a fun place to hang out! I think if I lived in southern California I’d be a regular! That tiki tiki tiki tiki tiki rum is calling my name!

  5. Jenny says:

    Sounds awesome! I’ll be 21 in 2 months from tomorrow so hopefully I will get a chance to stop by here when I finally visit disneyland!

  6. Heather Sievers says:

    @Jennifer – Unfortunately they don’t take table reservations, but if you go in early, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting a table.

  7. marcellina says:

    Happy early birthday Jenny! What a great way to celebrate turning 21!!! LOL…. don’t go crazy with the drinks now! ;)

  8. NotChris says:

    The combo with Tangoroa Terrace might be my favorite casual spot at DL or WDW. The atmosphere is the main attraction, the bar food is PF Chang decent.

    If you order souvenir drinks, ask them to wrap the cups if you’ve finished before you head out. They swapped them out with clean dry ones too.

  9. Ed says:

    Sue hope some of the Adventurers Club magic comes back to Orlando. That’s he only way I’ll be able to experience it again.

    On the other hand, it’s great that the west coast people can sample some of it.

  10. Matt says:

    While the decor is absolutely fantastic, and the appetizers are tasty, I have some issues with this place, and mostly with one of the bartenders who has served us a few times. Every time he has served us, he’s been for lack of a better term, an ass.

    I ordered a Midori Martini once and he looked at me funny and said “That’s such a girlie drink”. Then there was about 5 of us at the bar one other time (my birthday actually) and he asked who was ready, we all said we were, so I started to give him my order and he said “Ok hold on, I’m going to start over here first” in the middle of me ordering! He’s the only one we have ever had an issue with, everyone else there has been super nice. But because of him, none of my group of friends wants to go back. We did recently to see if he was still there and sure enough, there he was.

    As for drinks, if you get the ones from the menu, they are fine. But whenever any of us has ordered any other type of drink, it hasn’t been that great. Take for instance, a vodka tonic. I’m not sure why but on 2 separate occasions they’ve been awful. I’m not sure how you can screw up one, but they managed to both times I have ordered one. I’d stick with the tropical drinks they specialize in if I ever went back.

    The appetizers are really good. They’ve always been flavorful and unique. Not your typical bar food which I appreciate.

    I’m not sure how many times I can give this place a chance anymore unfortunately. If it’s a good coktail I’m looking for, I’ll stick with Cove Bar, or the Napa Rose lounge.

  11. Nate says:

    Fantastic! This place is wonderful atmosphere. Anyone know how late they stay open, or how to find out that info?

  12. I think this place needs to be checked out next weekend during Food Blog Forum :)

  13. AJ says:

    Jennifer — Have SO much fun on your birthday!! Go early! :-)

    Alan — I haven’t dared to dream of something like this back on Pleasure Island, but it would be wonderful!

    NT3 — That would be awesome!

    Marci — It really is a fun spot, and it’s one of those places where you notice something new every time you’re there!

    Jenny — Congrats!!! Enjoy, and happy birthday!

    NotChris — GREAT tip to have them wrap the cups.

    Ed — Agreed on both points!

    Matt — Oh, what a bummer! A bad CM can ruin everything, eh? Thanks for your review on the non-menu drinks as well. I don’t know if I could bring myself to order off the menu here (I go so rarely), but that’s GREAT info to have… Haven’t been to Cove, yet! Looking forward to it!

    Nate — Great question, Nate! I definitely haven’t closed the place down yet. I’ve sent a DM to a friend to find out.

    Aly — Sadly, this location is in Disneyland, not Disney World :-( But there are plenty of other spots for us to check out at Food Blog Forum Orlando! :-) Thanks for the comment!!

  14. Mary de Leon says:

    Our group went to your restaurant/bar on July 27, 2013. The drinks were good and atmosphere nice. But the waitress was pretty slow and it really seemed like she did not want to be there working. There was no bus boy. The waitress said she was going to have to clean up as the bus boy had to leave work early. Really? On a Saturday night? Anyway, that was not the problem that night. For some reason, Tina (we don’t know what was her capacity) acted as if she was some kind of security guard. She was blocking the door and not letting people in even to use the restroom because the resto was supposedly up to capacity inside. I understand that you want to follow Fire Dept rules. But, does she have to be nasty about it? She was pretty nasty to others before us too. We gladly obliged and went down to the Hotel to go use the restroom the first time around. Shortly before some of us tried to go in again, we had overheard Tina ask another server/worker to check the numbers inside. That worker had not gotten back to her yet by the second time we wanted to go in. So, when she said it was to capacity again she clearly did not know what the numbers inside were. And, did not even double check as a courtesy to the others waiting outside. She claimed that my husband was touching her when he was trying to get it. But, it was actually her who was touching him. We got this on tape as someone in our group thought that this was ridiculous. Needless to say, our night was ruined. Too bad, we would have gone back except for what could have been Tina acting on her prejudices. Please educate your staff so that they are fair to everyone and have better customer service skills, or you may lose a lot of customers that way. I think someone should talk to Tina about her nasty behavior and that she be written up. She could cost you a lot of good customers. Please email me back if you wish to discuss this further.

  15. Corey says:

    I have to go to Disneyland for the Disney Institute next week. I read this review (again) and cannot wait to get to Trader Sam’s. I’ll probably go more than once. I’m looking forward to it. Thanks for helping my excitement level grow, A.J.!

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