You may have seen our First Look… and now we are back for our full review of Magic Kingdom’s brand new Table Service eatery!
Welcome back to the Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen!
With the exception, perhaps, of the arrival of Trader’s Sam’s Grog Grotto in Disney World last March, no new restaurant has met with as much anticipation as the Skipper Canteen since the opening of Be Our Guest Restaurant in 2012. But while Be Our Guest debuted as part of the all-new Fantasyland expansion, the Skipper Canteen finds its home in Magic Kingdom’s classic Adventureland. This land is also home, of course, to the Jungle Cruise, the beloved attraction on which the Skipper Canteen is based.
We enjoyed our first meal at the Skipper Canteen on its first day of soft openings, but today the restaurant officially opens to all Magic Kingdom guests. So, what better time to get to know this spot a little more?
So, my fellow Jungle Cruise passengers, let’s step back in, shall we?
A portrait of Dr. Albert Falls has pride of place when you enter the Skipper Canteen.
You may know him best as the name behind Schweitzer Falls from your own Jungle Cruise ;). But Dr. Falls also founded the Jungle Navigation Co. in 1911, a shipping business that moved cargo along the jungle rivers.
However, once his granddaughter, Alberta, took over the company, business unfortunately declined.
Noticing that Adventureland had become more of a spot for globetrotters than cargo shipping, a Skipper approached Alberta with the idea to offer guided tours of the jungle rivers to passengers.
And since then, business has been booming! So much so that the Jungle Skipper Canteen was opened to feed hungry passengers fresh from their Jungle Cruises. Set inside the home offices for the Jungle Navigation Co., three rooms were converted into dining spaces for hungry travelers….
The Crew Mess Hall
You know, it’s gotta be hard work being a Jungle Cruise Skipper… navigating Bomokandi Bertha or Congo Connie through the Amazon and Nile Rivers, showing curious cruisers the Backside of Water, and pointing out sandstone formations (because most people take them for granite).
It’s all enough to make a Skipper pretty hungry. So what better place to fuel up for the next cruise than the crew’s Mess Hall?
It’s filled with artifacts from traveling the jungle rivers for Niles… and Niles… and Niles….
These days, the Crew Mess is open for passengers dining at the Canteen, but there are still signs of a functioning crew’s base. Take, for instance, the messages posted in the Skippers board.
Though the crew will be enjoying a White Elephant gift exchange for this year’s holiday party, please note the request for no actual elephants.
And for some reason, the Head Salesman Trader Sam is off the hook for participating in the potluck. I can’t imagine why… 😉
Some of the “Higher Skips” have offices upstairs, as does Alberta herself.
Skipper Marc (most likely commemorating Imagineer Marc Davis, who is best known for the Haunted Mansion and contributed several humorous updates to the Jungle Cruise including the Rhinoceros Chasing Explorers up a Pole scene) always gets the point in the end.
Speaking of the World Famous Jungle Cruise Skippers… meet George, our Skipper Server!
(Although, he did inform us that if we didn’t like anything, his name is Bob.)
To reach our next dining rooms, you’ll pass these bookcases in the hallway.
Or perhaps I should say once-secret bookcases, because one of the rooms that lies near them was formerly hidden…
The (Once Secret) S.E.A. Room
The famous explorer Dr. Falls was a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurer’s, or S.E.A. As such, he used to host secret meetings in a once-hidden room.
Of course, now this room makes up another dining room for us Jungle Cruise passengers. Even so, tributes to the Society remain all around (along with some pretty posh seating options, to boot!).
Do you recognize the structures in the background — not to mention the snake in the foreground — on this painted portrait 😉 ?
And now, like those adventurers who have gone before us, we have one final room to explore…
Huge thanks to our DFB reader Jennifer L., who sent us these pictures of the restrooms (and some food pics as well later!) which are also located in the S.E.A Room! (Fitting, huh?)
The Falls Family Parlor
Dr. Falls and his family used to dine in our final room, the Falls Family Parlor (also referred to as the Jungle Room).
But Alberta became such close friends with all the Skips, she ate in the Crew Mess Hall most often once she took over the family biz’. So, she kindly decided to open up the (formerly formal 😉 ) parlor to passengers. Plenty of the family’s belongings and their personal decor, though, are still available to view.
Keep an eye on some of the decor and carvings to see reminders of scenes from the ride.
We have to agree with the Skippers that these beautiful chandeliers — reminiscent of a certain Tiki Room — are the highlight of the parlor!
The Falls Family Parlor, by the way, is the room in which we were seated.
And our Skipper passed on some great advice when we sat down to our meal: Always remember that in case of emergency, your seat cushion can be used as a floatation device.
For now, though, it looks like we’re in the clear! So let’s dive in before the “waters” become too dangerous!
There was much speculation when it was announced that the Skipper Canteen would be serving “World Famous Jungle Cuisine.” After all, on the Jungle Cruise attraction, that means THIS:
We’re pleased to say, though, that hungry Jungle Cruise passengers have different fare to sample 😉 . Though many dishes are heavily influenced by Asian, South American, and African cuisine, there are also options for less-adventurous eaters on the rather extensive menu, which we’ll be looking through section by section.
No matter what you order, though, the meal begins with the complimentary Ambasha Bread served with a honey-infused mustard-style dip.
Seriously, DON’T try to skip the bread to save room for the rest of your meal because it is delicious. The unexpected cinnamon-like scent let us know right away it would be unique. The spice of the bread paired very well with the honey-infused dip, which has a ground mustard texture.
The very sticky dip melted right into the bread. I could’ve eaten the entire loaf myself!
Next we’ll look at the menu, beginning with the Beverages section. Regardless of the rumors and speculation, Skipper Canteen does not have alcohol on the menu. Be Our Guest Restaurant remains the only spot in the Magic Kingdom where alcohol is sold.
On the Skipper menu, cold options include soft drinks, Pomegranate Light Lemonade, and Powerade Iced Tea; and you’ll even notice some Exotic Coca-Cola Selections from Brazil and Thailand. An assortment of hot drinks are also available, with a variety of teas and specialty coffee drinks.
Loved the graphics Jennifer L. spotted behind the paper section of the menus!
However, the star sips are two non-alcoholic concoctions, both served in the Moscow-Mule style Jungle Skipper Canteen Souvenir Mug: Punch Line Punch (tropical juices and mango puree), and the Schweitzer Slush. (You can get either beverage sans souvenir mug as well.)
We grabbed the Schweitzer Slush! This blend of frozen apple juice and passion fruit topped with bursting green apple boba balls was, according to the menu, first concocted by Dr. Albert… Slush.
The flavors in this one are definitely… interesting. With the predominant taste of the green apple, it definitely falls on the side of tart. That mug, though, is for sure a keeper, and it’s a fun option at least to be able to order a new Disney slush at a sit-down restaurant.
DFB reader Jennifer L. tried both drinks and mentioned she for sure preferred the Punch Line Punch and said it had a great mango flavor.
By the way, no matter which beverage you choose, your Skipper will make sure you’re equipped with a Skipper Canteen coaster!
Oh, and good ol’ water is available, too, of course. But you may be asked for your preference: “Tap, sparkling, or backside?” 😉
On to Appetizers! Sustainable Fish Collar and S.E.A. Shu Mai are two of the more unique options on the list, while Falls Family Falafel, House-made Arepas, Ginger’s “Croc” of Hot-and-Sour Soup, and Baladi Salad round out the international flavors available for starters.
Since the S.E.A. Shu Mai was clearly an offering enjoyed by members of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, we couldn’t resist a bowl ourselves! Before it arrived, our Skipper brought us some chopsticks for a more authentic experience.
The S.E.A. Shu Mai comes with six pork, shrimp and mung bean mixed dumplings in their own little metal container, keeping things nice and warm.
They’re served with a dip similar to a soy sauce.
We thought the dumplings had a terrific amount of spice and great flavor, but we weren’t the only ones. Other guests at nearby tables were raving about these, too.
The S.E.A. Shu Mai was a clear favorite from the day!
And MANY thanks to awesome DFB Reader Matt K., who was kind enough to share some pictures from his meal as well! His wife tried the House-made Arepas. He mentioned that this fairly large appetizer has the potential to serve as good entree as well.
And Jennifer L. tried the Ginger’s “Croc” of Hot-and-Sour Soup and loved it! Mentioned that it is heavy on the ginger and thinner than the traditional Chinese version but was really good!
Also tried by Jennifer L. was the Falls Family Falafel!
And it sounds like another winner! She said it was amazing and was the best falafel she’s had since moving to Orlando!
Like the appetizer choices, the Entrees offer a variety of international cuisines to choose from. The Rice Noodle Bowl is served with the guest’s — I mean, passenger’s — choice of duck, chicken, or tofu for a vegetarian option. Curried Vegetable Crew Stew is also available as a vegetarian choice, while Grilled Lamb Chops, Char Siu Pork, “A Lot at Steak” Salad, and Dr. Fall’s Signature Grilled Steak are a few of the offerings for carnivores.
Rounding out the list are “Tastes Like Chicken” Because It Is!, Sustainable Fish, and Skip’s Mac and Cheese (which also features spiced ground beef). Somehow, even the Head Salesman of the jungle was given a bit of sway over the menu, with Trader Sam’s Head-On Shrimp.
(By the way, if you’d like to see the Allergy Menus for Skipper’s Canteen, you’ll find them here.)
The first entree we tried was the Char Siu Pork, marinated pork tenderloin served with Chinese Broccoli and your choice of five-grain or white rice.
The three pieces of pork are prepared in a barbecue-like marinade to give it that great color.
The pork was cooked beautifully, and was both tender and rich with flavor.
The Chinese Broccoli has the typical broccoli flavor with a kale-like texture, and it works well along with the pork. The white rice, meanwhile, was pretty standard — no unusual flavors there.
Skip’s Mac and Cheese was, of course, a must-try for us!
Listed on the menu as a “typical Egyptian dish,” it’s made of spiced ground beef, corkscrew pasta, and Béchamel sauce, and also comes with broccoli on the side.
The ground beef is tucked in between two layers of the macaroni, and its mild spiciness was a nice surprise.
You can’t go wrong with a white sauce on macaroni and cheese, and this is no exception to that rule! The Béchamel sauce is rich and creamy, adding its unique flavor.
Of course, who can resist a dish with a name like “Tastes Like Chicken” Because It Is!? Even though the name is indicative of a rather plain dish, we thought this was nicely plated, with marinated grilled chicken served atop shiitake fried rice with stir-fried veggies and Hoisin sauce.
And after taking a couple of bites we were pleased to discover that the flavors really made this a step above your typical grilled chicken dish.
The stir-fried veggies (the majority of ours were shredded red and green peppers and carrots) went along with the rest of the dish perfectly. And the shiitake marinated fried rice carried some hints of citrus as well, offering an unexpected, but tasty, flavor combo.
So, the flavors were all there, but it should be noted that we found the chicken portion — especially as the star of the dish — to be on the smaller side, which is unfortunate because it was well-prepared.
DFB reader Jennifer L. tried the “A Lot at Steak” Salad.
She mentioned while the steak tasted great and was cooked perfectly the lettuce was a little on the soggy side for her.
Our friend Matt K. tried the Curried Vegetable Crew Stew. He shared that it was “spicy, but very filling and delicious. The different vegetables blended well together.”
We agree with Matt that “Overall, they are going for more adventurous meals that are spicier than many of the other WDW restaurants.” All this served alongside “great jokes that make you laugh and groan.” 🙂
Before we peek at something sweet, we don’t want to forget the smallest Jungle Cruise passengers among us! Here is a look at the Kids Menu. Mickey Check Meals such as Tiki Tiki Fishy Fishy Grilled Sustainable Fish and Smiley’s Little “Croc” ( a “croc” of Chicken Noodle Soup) are offered along with entrees such as Junior Skip’s Mac and Cheese and Amazon Annie’s House-made Arepas.
The Volcano! tops the list of Kids Desserts, a gooey chocolate cake with caramel “lava” and exploding chocolate rocks.
And speaking of desserts, here’s a look at the regular menu.
Oh, and make sure you turn it around. Because, Ladies and Gentlemen… it’s THE BACKSIDE OF THE MENU!!!
A Coconut Bar with pineapple-basil compote and vanilla cream, Bertha’s Banh Bong Lan Cake with mango-lime sorbet, and Sugar-Crusted Congee Pudding all offer sweet ways to end your meal at the Skipper Canteen.
And you have to know our hearts skipped a beat when we noticed that something called a Kungaloosh! is listed on the dessert menu, so let’s just start there. While it’s not the Kungaloosh beverage as we know it from the old Adventurer’s Club, the Skipper Canteen’s dessert Kungaloosh is a nice nod nonetheless.
It’s described as an African-inspired chocolate cake with caramelized bananas served with cashew-caramel ice cream and topped with coffee dust, but we found the gooey, soft texture of the cake more closely resembled a brownie. Unfortunately, we didn’t get much flavor from the coffee dusting, which sounded great but mostly just looked pretty.
The best part was undoubtedly the salty-and-sweet cashew-caramel ice cream on top!
The Coconut Bar is actually a vanilla chiffon cake with coconut and lime-white chocolate ganache. It’s topped with a pineapple-basil compote and vanilla cream.
This was by far our favorite dessert of the day! The cake is so soft and light, and the ganache is AH-mazing. We couldn’t get over how great the flavors tasted together, including the unexpected addition of the basil!
Finally, we decided to also try the Sugar-Crusted Congee Pudding, which consists of a caramelized custard with millet (an ancient grain), almonds, apricot, dates, and a honey-almond tuile.
At first glance, this one kind of threw us off. Various DFB staffers referred to it looking like both “tuna,” and “cat food.”
And, no doubt, it was a little difficult to adjust to the unique texture. And the flavors — with the emphasis on the nutty almond — are really different, though not bad. The pineapple adds a bit of sweetness to balance things out a bit. But I think I’d pass on this one after my next trip down the jungle rivers.
And that wraps up our second and closer look at our very first visit! But before we go, we leave you with special regards…
… from the one and only Alberta Falls of the new — and already WORLD FAMOUS — Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen!
Even though the arrival of the Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen was only announced this past August, it feels like it’s been a long time coming, especially since rumors about a possible Adventureland table service restaurant began to swirl much earlier in the year. And now, as we wrap up 2015, it’s finally here for us all to enjoy!
We’re glad to say it’s arrived with the complete package: a uniquely diverse menu (especially by Magic Kingdom Table Service standards), a fun and enthusiastic cast, and plenty of Disney details, decor and sight gags… all in honor of one of the most classic and beloved Magic Kingdom (and Disneyland) attractions. It offers unique and flavorful food served up with sides of humor and nostalgia, and we’re glad it’s here at last!
A few details for YOUR visit to the Skipper Canteen: though the restaurant is officially open, it has not yet been announced when Advance Dining Reservations will be accepted (at the time of this writing, it seems it will remain a walk-up only location at least through the year’s end, but that is subject to change). We can, however, confirm that the Disney Dining Plan is accepted. The menu for lunch and dinner is currently the same, but that could change at any time.
So, will you dare brave the dangerous jungle rivers to dine at the Skipper Canteen? We’d love to know!
Are you hoping to dine at the Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen in the new year? Please let us know with a comment!
Contributing to this article: Tina F., Wendy, AJ