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Review: The Tambu Lounge in Disney’s Polynesian Resort

Today we’re headed to one a lounge that’s achieved cult favorite status among Disney fans in the know like you guys — The Tambu Lounge!

Located at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, this is one of my favorite spots in the entire resort to kick back, relax, and enjoy an adult beverage while awaiting my table at ‘Ohana. But what you might not know is that Tambu also serves up some tasty island-inspired pub grub as well.

It had been a while since I’d indulged in the menu here, so when the opportunity arose (in the form of a huge impending rainstorm) I knew just the place to hide away!

Atmosphere

Tambu Lounge is located in the open air atrium lobby of the Polynesian Resort. It actually serves as the waiting area for Disney guest-favorite restaurant ‘Ohana, and it’s also a stone’s throw from Kona Cafe, the resort’s other table service restaurant. This makes Tambu the perfect place to indulge in before dinner cocktails. But I had another idea in mind.

Since the space is open, the same decor that serves for the rest of the resort is found here as well. Dark walls, tikis, thatched roofs, and folk art serve to signal that you’ve traveled to Polynesia. And because this is Disney, you’ll often see guests of all ages here.

Tambu Lounge at Disney's Polynesian Resort

The comfortable, airy lounge features floor-to-ceiling picture windows that look out on the lush garden paths of the resort, and you can just catch a glimpse of the water through the trees. If you haven’t started the relaxation process by the time you hit Tambu, this spot is likely to get you moving in the right direction.

Eats

As I said before, normally Tambu is a Disney first day tradition for me. Either I’m awaiting my table at ‘Ohana, or I’m grabbing a Lapu Lapu before heading to the Polynesian’s beach to watch Wishes from my favorite spot. :-)

But today, I was all about noshing, and I couldn’t wait to check out the menu. We started, of course, by taking a look at the Specialty Drink Offerings.

Tambu Specialty Drink Menu

Although Disney has switched to a resort-wide beverage list for many of their bars and lounges, you can find some unique specialty cocktails at several of the resorts…and I’m so glad Tambu has kept several of theirs!

All the drinks are delicious, but nothing says “kicked back and relaxed” to me like that Lapu Lapu!

Lapu Lapu at the Polynesian's Tambu Lounge

This is one of my all-time favorites in Disney World. Served in a hollowed-out pineapple, it’s a delicious blend of dark rum and tropical fruit juices. In my opinion, it’s practically a rite of passage, and everyone should try it at least once (even if you don’t like rum…which I don’t)! It’s just super fun.

Lapu Lapu -- Up Close

And they also can pack a wallop if you indulge on an empty stomach, so it was time to check out the Tambu Lounge Food Menu. I spied a couple of items that bore resemblance to some of our favorite ‘Ohana dishes, like the Chicken Wings.

There were also flavors from Captain Cook’s here, too, like the Pulled Pork items. But I’m not complaining — all of these dishes have been awesome when I’ve tried them.

Tambu Lounge Food Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Since I was familiar with many of the flavors, I decided to try something a little different: the Beef Satay.

Mini skewers of grilled beef were served with a very flavorful chimichurri sauce. That may not be strictly island fare, but they were still delicious and great with the tropical drink.

This reminded me of the beef skewers from the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, which are among my favorite items at the Argentina Booth. Here’s hoping they’re back for the 2013 Food and Wine Festival!

Beef Satay with Chimichurri Sauce

But the Pulled Pork Nachos had come highly recommended to me, and I had to try them! These are a wonderful twist on a classic bar item. They start with thick-cut housemade potato chips, and then layer on plenty of that wonderful pulled pork and cheese. Then they are topped with sweet and tangy pineapple salsa and a spicy mayonnaise.

It’s a HUGE-MONGOUS dish, so bring friends to help you (or make some friends close by at the lounge!).

Pulled Pork Nachos

Together with the Lapu Lapu, the dishes made for a really excellent meal.

Lapu Lapu, Pork Nachos, and Beef Satay at Tambu Lounge

With a combination of exotic flavors, I totally dug this!

Overall

Here’s my opinion: you must visit Tambu Lounge at least once. Because the Polynesian Resort is one of the original Walt Disney World resorts, opened when the park opened in 1971, there is such a strong sense of history here. Sitting in this lounge and sipping a drink from a piece of fruit is a quintessential Disney World experience.

You are transported, and that’s what being at Disney is all about. It’s not just about the cocktail. It’s about that experience that you repeat until it becomes a tradition, and then it’s a part of you and your Disney memories.

So pencil in some Poly time on your next visit to Disney. I’m confident that you’ll be glad you did.

Do you have a Tambu Lounge favorite? Share with us in comments below!

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28 Comments

  1. Jen says:

    And the salty crispy Asian explosion of won ton chips!!

  2. Joni says:

    I remember being here in my 20′s love Lapu Lapu and you are right everyone should try it at least once. But what I equally liked was being able to hear and see the Firework over the castle. Wonder why they let the foliage grow so you can not see that anymore. Like you said you can just catch a glimpse. Sad it was a wonderful place to watch the show.

  3. Heather says:

    I have a monorail crawl on the agenda for our next visit! Thanks for the visuals. No doubt we’re gonna try the Lapu Lapu and nachos!

  4. Alan says:

    I’ve been coming to this lounge for thirty years and it always was my nostalgic favorite. But I haven’t stopped by for a few years because it has gone from being a quiet hideaway into a frenetic waiting area for the restaurants until late in the evening or maybe a couple of hours right after it opens. Unless you can get an inside corner table, by the windows, there is just too much noise and movement. Back in the early 80′s the lounge seemed bigger and more tucked away, sort of around the corner. However, I have tried to research this impression, and I can’t find anything that confirms my feeling. As far as the drinks, I wish they would make an authentic Mau Tai but they do have a slightly better selection than most WDW lounges. But like the Poly, the Tambu is still a taste of Old Disney World.

  5. JoAnn says:

    I agree with Alan. We prefer the more quiet spots. We really enjoyed the Wave. It was almost empty at the same time the Tambu was shoulder to shoulder.

  6. Liana says:

    We followed your advice and on our first disney night we grabbed Lapu Lapus and hit the beach to watch the fireworks. It was magical and will be a life-long memory… then we went back inside and got sushi at Kona and hung-out poolside. It was awesome!!

  7. Jeff says:

    I notice you said you stopped here unexpectedly from a rainstorm, but for those awaiting a table at O’Hana, I can’t imagine wasting stomach space on this food (as wonderful as it may be) when you’re about to indulge on an all you can eat buffet. I wonder, do you always have help eating the foods that you blog about? I didn’t have any help during my four day Disney food crawl, and that second day hitting up the Flower & Garden Festival kiosks was tough by the time I got to the last one.

    I still have 38 items from my “must try” list I sent you that I’ll have to grab on my next weekend trip, although these nachos might make it 39 now. It can be tough with my wife being gluten free, as it usually means that she’ll have a small bite of something at the most, leaving the rest to me. Your job of eating through Disney is amazing, but it certainly can be tough at times. Too much food, not enough time. I know, first world problems…

  8. Jennifer says:

    When we got engaged we stay @ the Poly. One of my best memories was sitting at the Tambu and trying my 1st Lapu Lapu,, and fiancé had his first Backscratcher.

  9. Prof. Brainard says:

    Booze always tastes better when drunk from a hollowed-out pineapple. If you don’t believe me, just ask Mr. and Mrs. Howell.

  10. Sherri Erwin says:

    I love the Tambu Lounge. You can hit it during some quiet times if you work around the ‘Ohana schedule (which means you have to be willing to drink early, but what the heck, vacation).

  11. Michael says:

    Bad news: Disney is discontinuing the use of Pineapples in the Lapu Lapu… Boo :-(

  12. Leslie says:

    Oh no! Michael, do you know when? I was totally going to steal AJ’s tradition in September.

  13. Michael says:

    I was told this on my recent trip in May. It was supposed to be the last week (3rd week of May 2013), according to the bartender… But, I can’t confirm if it’s still there or not. I hope! Good luck.

  14. Ashley says:

    I like to take my Lapu Lapu to the beach during the day and soak up the sun while sipping away. Cool off with a dip under the waterfall, then drip-dry, still sipping, while listening to the sounds of the Share a Dream Come True Parade and the train whistle waft across the Seven Seas Lagoon. Heaven!

  15. Galloping Gourmand says:

    This is my favorite place in WDW to sit. I like to face the lobby and watch the people. I enjoy sitting by the windows and looking at the resort. Funny, though. I don’t remember ever ordering anything!

  16. Carly says:

    We just went to the Tambu Lounge for the first time on June 1st for a late supper and it was DELICIOUS!!! This is definitely going to be a must for every trip! I had the Island Sunset – very good. Then my aunt and I shared the pulled pork nachos! So yummy and definitely had to share – you get a whole bunch – and it was just right for the two of us! Thanks for your review – I can’t wait to go back!

  17. Joni says:

    NOOOOO Michael say you were just kidding…
    If it is true sniff sniff. we all must protest. Do not buy a fake Lapu Lapu and we need to make up t-shirts Bring back the pineapple!!!!! WHY would they get rid of decade(s) long favorite??

  18. Linda says:

    OMG can someone find out if this is true about the Pineapple??!! :-(

  19. AJ says:

    Regarding the Pineapple — we just contacted Tambu today and received the response that they have not heard anything about discontinuing the pineapples at all. Sometimes they run low and have to order new cases, but there doesn’t seem to be any danger of the pineapples going by the wayside. Crisis averted. ;-)

  20. Linda says:

    Yay!! Thank you! :-)

  21. Joni says:

    Thank You!! Boy Michael, you almost caused a riot. :)
    Next time I get one, I am sure it will taste so much better knowing that for a minuite it was on the lost but not forgotten list.
    Thank You AJ, whew!!!

  22. Michael says:

    Thanks AJ. Sorry to blow everyone’s proverbial gaskets! I was only reporting what the bartender told me! :-( I’m just as happy as everyone else! :-)

  23. AJ says:

    Michael — No; thank YOU!!! I appreciate the reporting! You never know when things are going to change, and I’ve gotten plenty of tips and updates from you before. We’ll keep an eye on the situation, and if you hear anything more, please let me know.

  24. Kylie says:

    I can’t wait to try those nachos! Probably going to get them at Captain Cooke’s so I can use the DDP, though! They look delicious

  25. Jay says:

    Does anyone know when the best times to go to avoid the Ohana crowds? What time do they open?

  26. AJ says:

    Jay — They open at 5pm. That’s probably the best time to make a reservation; then arrive early to avoid the crush and be the first one seated. They close around 10pm, so going at 9:30 is also an option to avoid crowds.

  27. Jerry says:

    The bar opens at 1:00. I was there just last week. Mid afternoon is a great time to avoid crowds. O’hana’s opens at 5:00 pm, hence large crowds waiting to be seated for dinner. They still have pineapples and probably will forever….. When you are the most profitable lounge on Disney property you don’t make too many changes.

  28. Jess says:

    I love the Pina Colada from the Tambu Lounge. It’s my favorite!

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