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Guest Review: Kona Cafe Dinner at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

Guest author Aaron Crum returns with a review of the Kona Cafe. Let’s join him now for dinner where he shares some great eats and exciting news (Congrats!!) at this Polynesian Resort restaurant in Walt Disney World. Pass the bread, please! ;-)

For those of us who frequent Walt’s playground, we know that there are endless possibilities when it comes to dining. Each trip usually requires a new adventure or a new experience.

However, every now and then, you find a “diamond in the rough” (yes, Aladdin pun intended). With that being said, I find myself booking at least one meal every trip at Kona Café. This well-kept secret inside Disney’s Polynesian resort is, in my opinion, one of your “Disney Must-Do’s” (you know, that little park infomercial that is on a constant loop in your hotel room?).

Atmosphere

Kona Café is on the second floor of the lobby in Disney’s Polynesian resort. And upon entering, you find yourself quickly transported to a tropical oasis. The foliage from the lobby is ever-present and really leads you to believe you are no longer in central Florida.

There is hardly a “waiting area” specifically designed for Kona; rather, it shares a waiting space with ’Ohana. While Kona often gets busy, you can sometimes dine there without the expense of an advance dining reservation. In fact, we were there celebrating a special occasion (I will elaborate!) and we were told by the manager that they keep several time slots open in order to accommodate walk-in guests.

Seating Area

Eats

Let’s get to the good stuff, the FOOD!

First to the table is a loaf of bread, accompanied by a side of macadamia nut butter. The bread was light and fluffy — you know, the kind of bread where you can eat a whole loaf by yourself and not even realize it (I can neither confirm nor deny that I did this!)? But what really tops this is the butter.

The butter is whipped, but has that distinct taste of the macadamia; and that stands out due to the fact they add sea salt crystals to enhance the flavor.

Bread and Macadamia Nut Butter

As if the bread wasn’t enough to get us started, we order several appetizers to pass around the table. They consisted of Sticky Wings for Two, Lump Crab Cakes, and Pot Stickers.

When they set the plate down that held the Sticky Wings, I remarked that they should change the name to “Sticky Wings for several.” They didn’t skimp on the portion size, and that became a theme throughout the course of the meal!

The wings were HUGE and looked just as good as they tasted. I hate it when you are faced with that enigma — you know, the dish looks too pretty to eat, but your mouth is watering just looking at it!

The glaze was sweet, almost like a barbeque sauce laced with brown sugar; you folks in the south know what I am talking about. But the tanginess of the mustard drizzle was an awesome compliment to the dish. I know AJ loves her wings, and who doesn’t really, so do yourself a huge favor and get these next time you visit!

Sticky Wings

The lump crab cakes were sat down on the table next. And just judging by the appearance, they looked dry and flaky. I was WRONG.

When you visit most restaurants, except for ones on the coast, you end up getting more bread binding than crab. This was the opposite, there was far more crab than anything in this dish.

The cake did tend to fall apart, but that was due in fact to not having enough binding to hold the crab meat together. Not a bad problem to have if you ask me.

Lump Crab Cake

The last appetizers to hit the table were the pot stickers. Now, let me be transparent, I am not a big pot stickers fan, but several at our table were. So I will give you their feedback: best Pot Stickers on the property.

The sauce was incredible and again, there was no skimping on the filling. I tried a bite just for good measure, and yeah, still not a real big fan. But I am not a good judge, so take it from the ones that are experts — these are some GREAT Pot Stickers!!

Pot Stickers

Main course, and there wasn’t too much surprise here for our group. All but one of us ordered the Teriyaki-style New York Strip; it’s why we go to Kona. However, one of us ventured out and ordered the Tuna Oscar (it wasn’t me).

Listen people, believe it or not, Kona has moved into the domain of one of the best steaks in all of Disney. I know everyone wants to debate about Le Cellier or Yachtsman’s, and not to take anything away from them, but Kona is usually over-looked and under-valued as it pertains to steaks.

Always cooked to perfection, the sweetness of the teriyaki glaze and the pineapple offset the saltiness of the steak. The broccolini adds to the savoryness of the dish. The problem a lot of places run into with stir-fried broccolini is that they tend to over/under cook it. It either comes out cold and crunchy, or warm and soft. Not the case here, fresh, crisp and seasoned well! The potatoes were great as well. But for me, the winners are always the steak and broccolini on this dish!

Teriyaki Style New York Strip Steak

The Tuna Oscar was an interesting dish. It looked awesome, and according to its diner tasted great. Everything was served hot and fresh. The crab that topped the Tuna was a pleasant surprise — jumbo lump meat and full of flavor.

The tuna itself is prepared rare, and if you like tuna, it doesn’t disappoint. This isn’t your standard can of “Chicken of the Sea;” this is a seared Tuna steak, cooked to perfection. And the southern delicacy that is fried green tomatoes provided that crunch to the dish that the seared tuna lacked.

Tuna Oscar

Celebration Time

So, onto the special occasion I mentioned earlier! You see, my wife and I are expecting our first child this year. Our family who dined with us was under the impression we didn’t know the sex of our baby. Well, that wasn’t entirely the truth.

In fact, we were using this night to tell them our great news. We had stopped by Kona Café earlier in the week by ourselves and asked to speak to a manager. We explained to her what we were doing and wanted to put something together. This was her response, “This is awesome! Can I have your cell phone number? If we have any questions we will call you, otherwise, we will take it from here!” And that was that.

So the whole meal, we were waiting for a big reveal. The waiter offered to bring us dessert menus, and instead, arriving at our table was this beautiful cupcake accompanied by smaller cupcakes for each person in our party to enjoy.

Celebration Cupcake

Cupcakes

Now, as far as taste, these weren’t your Contempo Café or Kusafiri cupcakes, but at this point it wasn’t about taste, it was about the moment. And the staff at Kona delivered.

We each received pink leis to commemorate the occasion and the manager came by to offer her congratulations. We pulled her aside and thanked her for this moment and proceeded to hand her a token of our appreciation. She absolutely refused to take it, and commented that “it was payment enough to be a part of this special occasion.”

Overall

So when people ask why you love Disney — this is why Disney is so great and this is why eating at Disney restaurants is just as exciting as visiting the parks. Any ordinary dining experience can turn into something extraordinary!!

Have you enjoyed the Kona Cafe as a walk-in? Tell us your favorite meal at Kona Cafe!

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38 Comments

  1. Claire says:

    Awwwww I love a bit of Disney magic, congratulations. The food looks great as well

  2. Neil says:

    Those appetisers look very similar to the ones served at Ohana’s. Do they share a kitchen as well as a waiting area?

  3. Jenn says:

    Kona looks amazing. I definitely need to try this restaurant out. Congrats on your baby girl!!!

  4. Libby says:

    Aww congratulations on your baby girl!! What a lovely way to tell your friends and family :) That steak looks amazing, Kona dinner is on our list for next year!

  5. Frank says:

    I know you can get the wings at the sushi bar, but can you get sushi at the Cafe???
    Frank

  6. Congratulations! This is such a happy special Disney moment!

  7. Carolyn says:

    I love Kona too, and almost always eat there at least once each trip as well! And congratulations! What a special moment for your family!

  8. Wendy says:

    Kona definitely gets my vote for best steak on property! But I go with the ginger-crusted ribeye… AMAZING!!
    Congrats on the baby girl!!

  9. Alan says:

    Back in the old days, when there were only three Disney hotels, and there were far fewer dining choices, we ate here many times. In those days this spot was called the Coral Island Cate and it was a nice place. By the time the Kona opened in the late nineties there were so many other choices that this place kind of slipped to the back burner of must visit spots. This great review has sort of put a stickum note saying “don’t miss” on the itinerary for our next visit.

    Aaron, great review and great personal story.

  10. Frank says:

    If we are talking steaks, my vote goes to Flying Fish with Shula second.
    I have to admit I haven’t been to Canada though.
    I’ve been disappointed with Yachtsman recently.. last 3 times.
    Frank

  11. Tony says:

    This is my favorite place to grab some quick sushi, it may not be the best on property, BUT still good and a great value. You can order sushi from the restaurant or at the Kona Island. When at the Kona Island you can order from the sushi or regular restaurant menu. If Kona has a long wait eat at the Kona island. Ask for Scott and tell him Tony sent you !!!

  12. NT3 says:

    Oh my those wings look amazing. I’m pretty sure next time I’m at the Poly the wings for 2 appetizer is going to be a wings for 1 dinner.

    And I should have known something was up when I didn’t see any Kona lagers on the table! ;) Congrats on the baby girl!

  13. vanessa gordon says:

    This is another of my “Disney secret spots”….When I am dining alone,I can always get a seat In the Sushi bar area. Yes you can order off the Kona Menu there too.
    I have also asked to order the Sticky wings for two in a “to go” box to take home with me after a day at MK. As long as you are there 30 min before Kona closes, I have never had a problem asking to order from the menu and have my items boxed to carry home to my Stepmom’s. I still tip as if I was staying. ( the 18% Tables in Wonderland automatic gratuity)
    Yes, you can also order from the sushi bar menu while sitting inside the Kona area too…My favorite of that is the Volcano roll….

  14. Jessica says:

    Congratulations! And I couldn’t agree more with this post — Kona is my absolute favorite! Reading your description of the sticky wings made my mouth water and think about when I can get there next.
    Kona is such a wonderful option for breakfast, lunch or dinner! :)

  15. Sommery says:

    Is it wrong that I teared up at the end? What a beautiful end to a wonderful meal. Congratulations!

    That being said, I have only been to Kona for breakfast. I believe I will be trying it for dinner on my next trip :) Thanks for the review. Nothing beats Disney Dining.

  16. Bob says:

    The New York Strip there is great but the Brocollini is better. I just love that stuff. We liked Kona cafe so much last trip we went back the next night for dinner and then the next morning for breakfast. Tonga toast say no more.

  17. Denise says:

    It was a spectacular night! I was part of the family that received the good “baby girl” news, and the evening was just incredible! Loved the food, loved being with our kids and loved the surprise at the end! What a great memory to have tucked into our life journey!

  18. Jenny says:

    Wow and I thought the food was the great story(review). This is great news, and congrats you are having a girl. Disney makes special occations just magical.
    Congrats to you and your wife.
    :)

  19. Penny from Vermont says:

    CONGRATS to you!
    Several years ago I went to WDW by myself for a week so on my last night I had a rez at the Kona. I had one of their complete meals as I was on a budget, so my choices were slightly limited but it made my decisions much easier.
    THE BREAD/butter..oh so fantastic, then the Pot stickers…yum, the Asian Noodle Bowl with shrimp and a coconut dessert no longer on the menu..yummo. The waiter was very attentive all evening, and even let me have an extra loaf of bread and butter to take back to the room with me for breakfast the next day as I had an early flight. ( I love that Disney magic!)
    So I will certainly go back as the staff was so great and hey, what’s not to love about the Polynesian?

  20. Karen says:

    Thanks for the review. Was hesitant about going there and was even going to cancel our ADR for August but I think now we’ll give it a try. That steak looks scrumptious !!!

  21. CraigInPA says:

    I’ve eaten at Kona many times. Reviews like this, while deserved, make it impossible for those of us “in the know” to dine at Kona without an ADR!

    Kona’s kitchen makes the pot stickers and wings that are served at ‘Ohana. The pot stickers, in particular, are one of my favorite appetizers when dining at Kona. When at ‘Ohana, we ask the waitress to hold off on the wings and noodles and load us up with extra pot stickers. They’re THAT good.

    I like the Kona Teriyaki Steak as well. VERY tasty, as is the Coconut Almond Chicken and the Shrimp and Scallop dish.

    The desserts at Kona, unmentioned in the review, are simply fabulous. Not only fabulous in taste, but in presentation as well. When you dine at Kona, make it a point to walk straight into the restaurant to the arched serving station 30 or so feet from the entrance. On the counter there are mock-ups of all the desserts they’re serving that night. Once you have a look, you’ll be plotting ways to make sure you have enough space left to enjoy one!

  22. Becca says:

    Congratulations!

    Also… Ssshhh!!! The fewer people know about the wonder that is Kona Café, the better. This place is without a doubt an every-trip essential! You’re right about the portions – they are huge! We struggled to eat more than a few mouthfuls of dessert.

  23. Dana says:

    Congratulations! :)

    I booked a late lunch for us here in October, not really knowing what to expect. I had heard their breakfasts were great, but I wasn’t sure about lunch or dinner. Now I can’t wait to go!

  24. Aaron C says:

    Thanks all for your responses. It was a fantastic night both foodwise and experience-wise. And I know, everyone hates sharing the tride and true disney spots, but with food like this, coupled with the experience we had….it makes it hard not to share!!

  25. Steph says:

    Congratulations!
    We have had Breakfast and Dinner at Kona Cafe and I cannot rave enough about it! LOVE LOVE LOVE Kona Cafe! Never stayed at the Poly but it’s my fave resort and we usually visit there each time to the World! Amazing food and service and atmosphere!! When we stay at the Poly I could eat there almost every meal! Love it!

  26. canadianslovewdw says:

    First .. Congrats… baby girls are the best…
    second.. this looks like a place i will be trying next trip to the world…

  27. Sherri Erwin says:

    Congratulations to you, and I’m glad you had a great meal. Our last Kona meal was truly terrible, charred steak, under-seasoned bland bland food. Even the desserts were dry and not good. The server tried to make amends and bring me a new dessert, but the second was just as bad. We might never go back.

    We do enjoy ‘Ohana for the atmosphere and the Tambu Lounge is one of our favorites. The wings are slightly different at ‘Ohana, Kona, and Tambu Lounge. Each wing recipe has a twist that sets it apart from the others, but I love them all.

  28. Kelly says:

    Congrats on the baby girl! Have fun!
    and I love Kona Cafe! My husband and I like to leave the Magic Kingdom and take the monorail ride over for a peaceful lunch. I second that the wings are super good! I always love getting their big sundae dessert with the waffle cone and the cotton candy.. can’t remember the name of it, but I highly recommend it! :)

  29. Rose says:

    We love Kona. Thanks for a great review. I just made a reservation for Nov. on the one nite we had open. We were gonna just ‘wing’ it that nite but the pic of those wings changed my mind! LOL! The only thing is I don’t like the mustard drizzle. We ask for it on the side so my DIL can enjoy it. We usually get 2 teriyaki steaks 1 rib eye and a pork chop. And for dessert my fav is the chocolate fondue. BUT the cupcake was a very nice touch to your special occasion!! Congrats on your baby girl!

  30. JoAnn says:

    Great review. I’ve had breakfast at the Kona Cafe and want to try other meals there on future trips.

    Congratulations!

  31. Tina says:

    Trying to decide do we need to go to Kona or Ohana’s. Which do you think is the best. We have 5 adults and a 3 year old. We havn’t ate at either one of them yet. We have a 9:30 reservation at Ohana’s or should I go to Kona’s instead. Congrats on the baby girl! What a blessing.

  32. AJ says:

    Tina — ‘Ohana is a very fun experience with good food; Kona has great food, but not as much atmosphere. I think I’d do ‘Ohana first — for the experience — then Kona.

  33. Tina says:

    Thanks for the info. Try Ohana this year next Kona……

  34. Heather says:

    Aww, I teared up seeing now they announced your special moment! That’s awesome. :)

    I can’t share enthusiasm for Kona, though. I’ve eaten there several times since my mom sometimes needs her coffee fix, lol, and I’ve never had a good meal. It’s ranged from ok (but quality I could get at at chain restaurant) to awful. The only good thing is we were always able to do walk up there.

  35. Christi says:

    Thanks for the great review and congratulations! What an incredible way to announce your news, I’m so happy for you that the Kona staff went above and beyond to create a unique magical moment!!

  36. D says:

    Thanks for the great review. We are actually going to try this place out tonight. Being an adult, I believe that the dining is now just as exciting as the parks. Now I am excited for tonight !

  37. Tammi says:

    Great review .. Love what they did for the “surprise” That is wonderful!

  38. Alyssa Moccio says:

    They make the BEST dirty martini is Disney! The food is excellent. We too were walk-ins. No problem.

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