Review: Lunch at Kona Cafe in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

Kona Cafe may not be all that interesting to look at.

But — breakfast, lunch, or dinner — this spot consistently offers delicious and unexpectedly good to great food.

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.

Atmosphere

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!

Kona Cafe

Newly Renovated Polynesian Village Resort Lobby

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.

Kona Cafe sign

Kona Cafe sign

And that’s mainly modern hotel chic, circa 1993, with a healthy suggestion of the outdoors.

seating Kona Cafe

Seating and Glass Partitions Separating the Restaurant from the Lobby

Seating is mixed, with some banquettes. I like the large round tables, though, and I frequently request one.

Seating

More Seating

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. :-)

Hidden-Mickey-in-Carpet Kona Cafe

Carpet Flower Hidden Mickey

Nature carries over into some of the lighting fixtures as well, which are leaf-shaped.

more lights Kona Cafe

Lighting

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.

lights Kona Cafe

Cool Fans (No Pun Intended)

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.

Lighting and a View Outside

Lighting and a View Outside

And you are likely to catch a glimpse of the monorail as well here!

Eats

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.

Beverage Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Beverage Menu — Click to Enlarge

Of course, I’m always game for starting a meal with a Lapu Lapu!

Lapu Lapu

Lapu Lapu

And I think it’s pretty cool that you can get a Kona Beer Flight as well, just like the one at Trader Sam’s!

Kona Beer Flight at Trader Sam's Tiki Terrace

Kona Beer Flight at Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace

Here’s a glimpse of the menu. Everything sounded incredible, which made it super hard to choose!

Main Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Main Menu — Click to Enlarge

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.

Beef Satay

Beef Satay

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.

Sticky Wings

Sticky Wings

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!

Island Chicken Sandwich As Served

Island Chicken Sandwich As Served

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… .

Island Chicken Sandwich -- Bun On

Island Chicken Sandwich — Bun On

The Pan-Asian Noodles. Seriously, why has nobody made me get this before?!?

Pan-Asian Noodles with Chicken

Pan-Asian Noodles with Chicken

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.

Pan-Asian Noodles -- Up Close

Pan-Asian Noodles — Up Close

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.

Dessert Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Dessert Menu — Click to Enlarge

And fans of the Kona Kone — no worries! It’s still here!

Kona Kone

Kona Kone

I decided to give some new flavors a try, however. It was the Yuzu-Citrus Tart for me.

Yuzu Citrus Tart

Yuzu Citrus Tart

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!

Yuzu Citrus Tart -- Up Close

Yuzu Citrus Tart — Up Close

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.

Jasmine Tea-Infused Cheesecake

Jasmine Tea-Infused Cheesecake

Overall

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!

Comments

  1. Katie says

    I had the pan-Asian noodles for lunch on my last trip, and I agree that it was amazing! In fact, the other two people I was dining with ordered it as well as we all still rave about it.

  2. Nicole says

    Love Kona! It’s always a staple for my family and I, we eat there almost every trip (still crying over the loss of the pan fried shrimp and scallops)

    We’ve done Ohana several times too, and sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not. The wings they serve at Ohana are not sticky wings though, sticky wings are way better then the Ohana wings. Anyone familiar with sushi, they are coated in an eel sauce/teriyaki glaze at Kona– so so good!!

    One tip I have, since Kona and Ohana share a kitchen: if you go there for dinner service, you can order a single portion of the Ohana bread pudding for dessert!

  3. Jaime says

    I had the Pan-Asian Noodles with tofu on my 1st trip to Kona Cafe and they were spectacular. Went back on another trip, ordered the same thing, and it was completely bland. My server brought me some peanut sauce from Ohana to add flavor, but it just ended up being a completely different dish than my first experience.

  4. Dean says

    Kona is one of my favourite restaurants. It’s often overlooked, but we almost always try to eat there on our first day. Before the menu changes, the steak used to have a more Polynesian taste to it — I think the unifying of menus across the Disney property has taken a great deal of the flare from this level of restaurant. That being said, it’s still an underrated place for lunch and dinner. Sometimes it’s enough just to be there for the bread and macadamia butter.

  5. Katie says

    Kona Café is one of my favorite restaurants at WDW! Last time I was there for lunch I had the Grilled Teriyaki Steak, which was just as good at lunch as it is at dinner (and much less expensive)! My mom had the Asian Noodle Bowl, which she has not stopped raving about since we were there. We both also had the Lapu Lapus, which is just about the best tropical drink I’ve ever had. I could drink about three of those easily, but then I would be out for the day since they’re very strong haha. We are planning our next trip for November and Kona Café will be on the itinerary for sure!

  6. Cathryn says

    In all the years I have been going to Disney, I had never had lunch at the Kona Cafe. I decided that I would take my daughter for lunch for her birthday. The place was empty when we arrived and we were sat in a very small booth. It took a very long time for the server to acknowledge that we were there. I had the chicken sandwich, I didn’t realize the pear slaw was on the sandwich, which I didn’t care for and I even inquired to my server and she never mentioned it was on the sandwich. My daughter had a sushi roll which she said was fine, but nothing to be excited about. The service throughout the meal was just awful and probably the worst I have ever had at a Disney restaurant. Everyone I talked to really liked it here so I really excited to try it. Too many other choices at Disney to even bother trying this again.

  7. Nancy S says

    “And if you’re looking for low-sugar, Kona has a lovely fruit plate that you could order instead.”
    FYI, fruit is full of sugar, so it’s not a low-sugar option. It may be considered more healthy because it’s not refined sugar, but it’s still sugar.

  8. Cartier says

    I tried Kona for Breakfast after I was given a free dining credit. I tried the Tonga Toast. It was wayyyyyyyy too sweet for me so I haven’t been back, but the chicken sandwich looks good (minus the bacon), and so does the wings so maybe next trip I’ll add Kona on my “To Do” list.

  9. Randi says

    I’ve only eaten at Kona once, but I had a really enjoyable experience! I got there at around 3:00, with no ADP, and got seated almost immediately. I had the Teriyaki Steak Plate Lunch, and it was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had! I still love thinking about that meal!

  10. Shannon says

    We had dinner here on our last trip in 2014. I had the sticky wings and sushi for dinner and they were amazing. I would go back for both. Sadly, it is not on the list for our upcoming trip in April, but I would definitely go back to Kona for those wings. : )

  11. Hannah says

    We went to Kona Café for lunch once. The food was very good. Service was awful and we found out, later that we should have received their special bread that they bring to the table, but she didn’t bring it. I’m very willing to give them another try but because of the server, the last visit was a bit disappointing.

  12. says

    Nancy S — So true. It is a lower glycemic option, however, for folks who are hoping to keep insulin spikes in check.

  13. says

    Cathryn — So sorry you had a bad experience. This is why we always review restaurants over and over again. Disney restaurants are inconsistent — you have have a great experience one day, and a horrible one the next — at the same place!! We like to be sure to give several examples of the same spot throughout the years we’ve been writing the blog. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  14. Kristen says

    We’ve always really enjoyed the food at Kona, but sadly the service on our most recent trips has been very much lacking!

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