Kona Cafe may not be all that interesting to look at.
Considered a bit of a hidden gem, Kona is normally a pretty easy spot for snagging an advance dining reservation. And with its super convenient location in the Polynesian Village Resort (right on the Magic Kingdom Monorail line!), it’s easily accessible from — well, pretty much anywhere.
But while we’ve enjoyed meals every time of the day here throughout the years, I never rely on past experiences to predict future outcomes. 🙂 And so I made it my mission on a recent visit to take in lunch at Kona once again.
Sure, it meant missing out on some of my most favorite breakfast items (sob — Tonga Toast!) — but hey, it’s worth it to bring you all the latest! Right?
So hop on the monorail with me, and let’s head to Kona for a midday meal.
If you haven’t had the chance to check out the newly renovated Polynesian Village Resort, be sure to pencil in a little extra time when you head to Kona Cafe. I think Disney has done a great job of simultaneously breathing fresh air into this original Disney World spot and celebrating history. It’s new and old at the same time!
Unfortunately, the Imagineering Love didn’t reach all the way to Kona. So you’ll find the same decor that’s been here for quite some time.
And that’s mainly modern hotel chic, circa 1993, with a healthy suggestion of the outdoors.
Seating is mixed, with some banquettes. I like the large round tables, though, and I frequently request one.
The carpet has a motif of large, colorful tropical flowers. And don’t forget to look down on your way to your seat! You just might spy a Hidden Mickey. 🙂
Nature carries over into some of the lighting fixtures as well, which are leaf-shaped.
I love the awesome fan that runs the length of the ceiling, and keeps the air moving constantly! It reminds me of something you’d find in an open air building in Hawai’i.
And while we make much of the fact that the restaurant overlooks the lobby mostly, there is a view of the outside from the dining area.
And you are likely to catch a glimpse of the monorail as well here!
As I settled down to take a look at the menu, it was fun to check out drinks that are exclusive to the Polynesian Village Resort.
Of course, I’m always game for starting a meal with a Lapu Lapu!
Here’s a glimpse of the menu. Everything sounded incredible, which made it super hard to choose!
We decided to keep it meat-centric for our appetizers. We began with an order of Grilled Beef Satay, which is served with Bulgogi Sauce, a soy sauce-based sauce with all the flavors of Korean Barbecue.
This didn’t really hit the spot for me. It tasted a bit charred and the meat was definitely overdone for my taste.
So luckily I’d also ordered my good old stand-by — Kona’s Sticky Wings. The sweet Glaze is complemented by a tangy Mustard Sauce drizzled across the top.
These are the same wings that you get over at ‘Ohana for dinner. They’re pretty much amazing all the time. Shockingly, they’re not overdone; and they’re always meaty, juicy, and delicious.
Soon, our entrees arrived. FYI — the menu here doesn’t really change up all that often, so if you’re interested in the Surf and Turf Burger or the Teriyaki Steak, check out my previous Kona lunch review.
First up was the Island Chicken Sandwich. There’s a Grilled Chicken Breast under there! I promise!
The chicken is topped with Bacon, Swiss Cheese, and French Fried Onions. Lettuce, Tomato, and Curry-Mango Mayo round out the accompaniments. You can choose from Asian Pear Slaw or Sweet Potato Fries on the side.
I ordered this because the server said it was popular, but there’s really not a whole lot “Polynesian” about it. It’s a decent chicken sandwich, but I’d probably recommend going with something a little more authentic like the Plate Lunches or my next entree choice… .
The Pan-Asian Noodles. Seriously, why has nobody made me get this before?!?
This beautiful dish consists of Yakisoba Noodles, which are finished in a wok with an assortment of crisp Veggies. You can choose from Chicken or Tofu as your protein. Or you can opt for Shrimp. There’s a bit of a markup there, however.
This dish (I ordered chicken) was ah-mazing. The flavors were rich and savory and perfect together. What I loved about this dish is what I love about jambalaya — it’s a whole lot of awesome all mixed together making it even more awesome. Entrees like this make me want to, like, wrap my arms around the bowl and scream, “MINE!”, so nobody tries to share.
After the entrees, we tackled the dessert menu. Normally, I would skip out on a plated dessert and head for the Hawaiian Shave Ice at the Kona Island Sushi Bar next door, or even a Dole Whip Float at Pineapple Lanai. But I wanted to see how the desserts had changed up since my last visit.
And fans of the Kona Kone — no worries! It’s still here!
I decided to give some new flavors a try, however. It was the Yuzu-Citrus Tart for me.
The dessert is served with a triangle of Coconut-Macadamia Brittle and a generous cap of real Whipped Cream. And you guys know buy now that if there’s a lemon dessert on the menu I’ll probably order it.
This one didn’t disappoint. Yuzu is a very popular citrus fruit in Japan, and it was described to me by the server as a “lime-like” flavor. Researching it, I see that it’s closer to a very sour mandarin orange, but the flavors did mimic key lime. So, basically, this is like a key lime tart. Which, sadly, nobody would know unless they actually asked what Yuzu was.
Bottom line? If you love key lime pie or tarts — you MUST order this gorgeous dessert. It’s deeeelicious!
But I also wanted to try out the no-sugar-added Jasmine Tea-Infused Cheesecake. The low-glycemic dessert was garnished with an Orange-Ginger Balsamic Reduction. When I was asking my server about it, he kindly said that “it’s really not very sweet at all,” and by this he actually meant “very few people actually like this dessert, lady.”
And after tasting it I do agree that it’s an acquired taste and texture. And I didn’t acquire either of them during my time at Kona. The texture is more mealy than your standard, creamy cheesecake. The flavor is light and earthy, but not what I’m looking for in a dessert. I’d recommend going with a different dessert. And if you’re looking for low-sugar, Kona has a lovely fruit plate that you could order instead.
Look, I know that Kona Cafe channels 90s cheesy hotel lobby restaurant. But seriously — this place continues to impress.
While my meals tend to tip heavily toward breakfast at Kona, lunch and dinner are just as wonderful. With the interesting mix of Pan Asian flavors, I was tempted by so many different things on the menu. And while our choices were hit or miss, the hits were so good that I would make Kona a destination to get them again.
While starting a busy day with a great Kona Cafe breakfast is always a good idea, don’t overlook Kona for its other wonderful attribute — as an escape from the hustle and bustle of the Parks (especially if you’re at Magic Kingdom) for a midday meal or early lunch.
Now, I’d really like to hear from all of you. What’s your favorite time of day to dine at Kona Cafe? Leave a comment and tell me your thoughts!