Greetings, fellow Explorers and Adventurers!
We’re back for another dining adventure at the Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen… more often referred to (for obvious reasons) as the Skipper Canteen, or — before we learned that tongue twister of a full name — the Jungle Cruise Restaurant, themed for the classic Jungle Cruise attraction.
Your very own Jungle Cruise Skipper is ready to take you on a culinary tour through the Jungle Cruise’s regular stomping — or floating — grounds of Asia, Africa, and South America. That’s what makes up the “World Famous Jungle Cuisine!
And you may just enjoy some of that Jungle Cruise slapstick — both from your server and your surroundings — while you’re at it.
So, welcome back, Cruisers…
… as we once again set foot inside the Skipper Canteen!
Our story begins with Dr. Albert Falls (the name behind the Schweitzer… Falls in the Jungle Cruise. Naturally 😉 ).
In 1911, he founded the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd., specializing in tropical river cargo shipping.
In the years that followed, the company was taken over by the Dr.’s daughter, Alberta.
As it turned out, though, the tropical river cargo shipping business wasn’t quite what it used to be. As shipping opportunities declined, the business model changed.
Thanks to the suggestion of a Skipper, the Jungle Cruise was born, offering guided rivers tours where tourism had eclipsed cargo shipping! The banner above hangs in the Crew Mess Hall, one of three possible dining rooms you may be seated in.
Artifacts from the regions of the jungle rivers line the colorful walls.
And while it may appear less interesting to the eye at a glance, be sure you take a good long look at the Crew Bulletin Board to pick up some of that punny-and-wonderful Jungle Cruise humor along with other Adventureland references.
Seriously, be sure to pack in some extra time for exploring the whole restaurant no matter which room you’re seated in, which may be the Falls Family Parlor, also referred to as the Jungle Room.
Should you find yourself being lead past a group of bookcases, though…
…that means you’ll be seated in the S.E.A. Room, which was once hidden behind those very shelves. Why?
Because this room was once the secret meeting place for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, of which Dr. Falls was a member.
Of course, we could spend all day looking around at the details and diving deeper into the story. But we’ve got even more exploring to do…
You see, the food at the Skipper Canteen is a little on the adventurous side, with dishes inspired by the areas of the world featured on the Jungle Cruise attraction: Asia, South America, and Africa.
But let’s start with drinks, because the offerings here have certainly changed since my last visit. Like a few other Table Service restaurants in Magic Kingdom, Skipper Canteen began serving alcohol last December (prior to that time, Be Our Guest Restaurant was the only Magic Kingdom restaurant that sold alcohol — for dinner only — in what used to be a completely dry park). Here are the Canteen’s offerings.
You’ll find non-alcoholic options listed on the same page with the the Appetizer menu. I’ll get into more detail about the apps next. But while you’re waiting, just a friendly reminder that you can still opt to get souvenir cups here.
But how about some grub? Because a few of the appetizers here are worth losing your head over (just DON’T tempt Trader Sam with that info)! S.E.A. Shu Mai is a delicious combination of Pork, Shrimp, Mung Beans, and Spices wrapped in a pleated Gyoza Skin. They’re steamed and served with a simple side of rich Soy Sauce.
Visible seasoning includes Sesame Seeds, while you can also get a hint of Ginger and Garlic. The steamed pork and shrimp go really well together, like a pillowy surf and turf. The Gyoza wrappers are simple dumpling dough, providing a slightly chewy texture that suits dumplings.
But for what it’s worth, there’s another app that topped even that one. It’s called Orinoco Ida’s Cachapas, and features many of the components of the Housemade Arepas that this dish replaced. It starts with golden Corn Pancakes that are topped with Mojo-Braised Pork, Black Bean Salad, and Avocado Cream.
Now, maybe it doesn’t sound like much. Beans? Avocado? Corn Cakes? But that Mojo-Braised Pork is seriously outtathisworld! In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I asked for some on the side during the entree round. And then I asked for more. Just sayin’.
Speaking of entrees, this is where the Skipper Canteen really lets the creativity flow for Niles… and Niles… and Niles. Even the names of the dishes will have you chuckling that sardonic little chuckle that’s part of the whole Jungle Cruise experience.
The uber-adventurous diners in your group might be interested in trying the Whole Fried Fish or Trader Sam’s Head-On Shrimp, while “Tastes Like Chicken” Because It Is and “A Lot Like Steak” Salad offers some more familiar fare among the rest of the dishes that make up the range.
Since the Skippers started serving grub at the Canteen, we’ve seen a few subtle and not-so-subtle changes to the some of the dishes. So I wanted to dive in and try some of the updated versions.
First up: a crowd pleaser called “Tastes Like Chicken” Because It Is. This dish used to feature marinated and grilled chicken with a hoisin sauce, but now the chicken is served battered and deep-fried (Aw, yeah). The Fried Chicken now comes with Citrus- and Ginger-Scented Rice, Chili Glaze, and Seasonal Vegetables.
THIS. IS. DELICIOUS. I loved the sweet and slightly spicy Chili Glaze, and the nice julienne of the vegetables. The chicken was perfect — nice and crispy, but super tender and not heavy with oil. It rivaled some of my favorite Disney fried chicken at Homecomin’!
Skip’s Beefy Baked Pasta has also undergone a change, this time in plating. It used to come in a bowl, and honestly looked a little anemic. But the new plating is a large square of the baked pasta dripping in creamy Bechamel Sauce. The protein here is a Spiced Braised Beef (shredded, as opposed to the original ground), which the menu indicates is inspired by Egyptian cuisine.
This incarnation of the dish is maybe a little more assembly-line-esque with its cube-ness, but the flavor is still good, especially thanks to the Bechamel Sauce. But keep the salt shaker handy.
Nile Nelly’s Noodle Bowl is precisely what you’d expect it to be: a large bowl full of Rice Noodles and thinly-sliced Veggies with bits of Chicken in a flavorful Broth. And if you’ve ever tried a noodle bowl, you know it’s all about that broth. I’m glad to say this one is good. You’ll also find fresh Jalapeno and fresh Herbs in there, giving some depth to the flavor as well.
Where adventurous adult eaters can find plenty of fun options on the menu, you may want to know that the Kids’ Menu does have some more kid-friendly options, like Junior Skip’s Classic Mac and Cheese, Chef Tandaji’s Crispy Chicken, and Mickey Check Meals which include Grilled Sustainable Fish, Grilled Steak, and Chicken Noodle Soup.
And, of course, Skipper Canteen offers some playful desserts as well, but none of them are truly great. We skipped them.
Plus, in this case, the options haven’t changed a ton. You may remember the Coconut Bar with Pineapple-Basil Compote and Vanilla Cream.
And, of course, the Kungaloosh!
And with that, as always… the sign off from the Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen remains the same.
“Please get out.”
Nosh or Not?
Skipper Canteen might be for you if:
- You have adventurous eaters. While Skipper Canteen isn’t Andrew Zimmern-worthy, it does stray outside the envelope of typical Magic Kingdom restaurant food.
- You LOVE Jungle Cruise. The puns permeate this joint, and you could spend an hour just looking around at all of the details. Be sure to read the book spines on the bookshelves!
Skipper Canteen might be a miss if:
- You have super picky eaters who just want chicken nuggets and pizza. This place won’t deliver.
- You’re looking for princesses and pooh bears. If your kiddos are looking for Mickey, this place will go totally over their heads.
- You’re seeking romance. While adventuring through the continents may sound romantic, this place is more silly and fun than swoon-worthy.
The Skipper Canteen hasn’t even been open for two years at this point. But thanks to its tie-in to an absolutely classic Disney attraction, it feels wonderfully familiar. And even though the menu has received some tweaks since the Canteen’s opening days, I’m glad to see that it still leans towards the side of adventurous items — by theme park standards, in any case — in keeping with the adventurous theme of the restaurant AND attraction. The fact that several of those items are well made and enjoyable makes the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen a must-visit — at least one time, if not more — for Jungle Cruise fans as well as fans of great dining experiences at Disney World.
And NOW… I’ll get out, as requested 😉 .
Tell us all about your Skipper Canteen adventure in the comments!