We’re at ‘Ohana!! And ‘Ohana means FAMILY.
From the moment you enter ‘Ohana, you’re informed (or reminded, for returning guests) of the meaning of the restaurant’s name. This family-friendly spot is perched atop the Great Ceremonial House at the Polynesian Village Resort, and it’s become a must-dine for guests of all ages — including Disney World first timers!
The warmth of the atmosphere at ‘Ohana really makes you feel like you’re part of a massive extended family (where your server is your cousin), and that’s a really good thing.
‘Ohana has two dining experiences. Breakfast features characters with Lilo, Stitch, Pluto, and the Main Mouse himself. Dinner, on the other hand, is not a character meal, but still includes entertainment (which I’ll show you in this post). In either case, meals are all-you-care-to-enjoy. And while I really do love breakfast here, my most recent visit was for dinner.
You are very welcome here at ‘Ohana!
‘Ohana echoes the Polynesian’s rich design, from fabrics to artwork to wood details. Tiki idols set the mood as soon as you enter the restaurant.
The center of the large dining room has a grand raised ceiling complete with thatched roof elements, and dimmed lighting throughout provides a cozy feel.
During dinner service, an enormous open grill sizzles with skewered meats emitting spellbinding aromas. (These skewers are brought around to your table throughout your meal.)
Entertainment during the evening might include Coconut Races, which allow kids to get up and get moving around and around the restaurant!
And it pretty much always includes a singer armed with a ukelele, which adds to that relaxed Hawaiian island feel.
Even better: if you time your meal just right, you’ll have a long distance (and unique) view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks show, Happily Ever After.
And this is where I have to share a story… on my most recent visit, our server was exceptionally awesome throughout the meal. And at the end? Even after I settled the bill, he noticed the table next to us — located directly in front of the window offering prime Castle viewing — had been vacated. He cleaned it off in case my friends and I wanted to move to that table for the evening’s fireworks. This was simply above and beyond, and just downright nice.
Yep, ‘Ohana means family.
So! Now that you’ve gotten into the island vibe and put on your Hawaiian shirt, it’s time to eat! And along with that shirt, may I suggest some stretchy pants? You’re about to see why…
We’ve mentioned that the meal here is all-you-care-to-enjoy, and that’s the truth. But I often find that I don’t have a ton of stomach space for those seconds and thirds. That’s because dinner at ‘Ohana has several components. (Plus, you’re going to want to save at least a little room for dessert. Trust me.)
It all starts with ‘Ohana’s signature Pineapple Bread, which travels to your table with you as your seating host picks it up on the way to your table. It’s got a subtle sweetness paired with a toasted, golden brown exterior. You’ll find some coconut incorporated throughout as well.
Head’s up, though. No butter is served here — it’s just the bread.
Arriving shortly is a crunchy, fresh, veggie-packed salad. This part of the meal has seen a lot of iterations over the years (the current Lilikoi Dressing replaced the much-beloved Honey-Lime Dressing that used to be used).
But as salads go, it really is a good one. There are a lot of fresh and colorful vegetables in it, as well as some crispy wonton strips. (One of my friends couldn’t resist seconds, but I knew better in regards to saving prime stomach real estate ;-D ).
The next wave of food features two sauces meant for pairing with the appetizers and main course meats: Peanut and Sweet and Sour. (These were delivered to the table in this state….I promise we’re not THIS messy with our eating.)
The appetizer platter is up next! The Honey-Coriander Wings (which you can also order up at Kona Cafe) are always a messy highlight. The Pork Dumplings are tossed in Ginger-Garlic Sauce, but you’ll still want to dunk these in the dipping sauces.
Lo Mein takes up the center of the platter. The noodles are tossed in a teriyaki sauce without a whole lot of wow. They’re not terrible, but you likely won’t want to spend too much time on them.
The same could be said for the Stir-Fried Vegetables, except that you might want to balance out some of the heavier components of the meal with the veggies.
The appetizers are pretty great, but don’t forget the entree round is next. You’ll likely smell the huge skewers before you see them! Servers carry the skewers ’round and ’round the restaurant, sliding generous portions directly onto your plate per your preferences.
Now let’s stop a minute here to reflect on our previous ‘Ohana experiences. My elevator speech on ‘Ohana until this meal has always been “great apps, horribly over-cooked meat, great dessert.” So I wasn’t expecting much when it came to the meats. They’ve always been super over-done…to the point of being rubbery and difficult to chew…in my experience.
BUT, ‘Ohana, you proved me wrong on this visit!
The Sweet-and-Sour Chicken, which is grilled over an oak wood fire, arrived first.
I’m happy to report that on this visit the chicken was nice and juicy, and surprisingly flavorful.
Next was the Szechuan Sirloin Steak! It’s grilled over that same oak fire and coated with a bit of sauce.
Not only was it tender and juicy, but it was also nicely medium pink inside. It. was. DELICIOUS. (OH, and FYI, don’t stress out about the sauces on the meats here. They’re very mild and you’ll barely notice them when it comes to flavors.)
The final skewer option is Spicy Grilled Peel-and-Eat Shrimp. While this is a slightly messy option as far as those peels are concerned, they retain a good amount of flavor from a salty (wouldn’t exactly call it spicy, though) glaze.
If you’re looking for a lighter protein option, the shrimp is for you! (But remember, you aren’t at all limited, so try it ALL!)
If you’ve been a DFB reader for any length of time, you’ll recognize this next beauty right away. Dessert at ‘Ohana is its very own legend: it’s ‘Ohana Bread Pudding with Caramel and Banana Sauce.
The bread pudding arrives with a huge scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream and a pot of warm bananas foster sauce on the side.
It may not look like much at first. But when you pour that warm sauce over the cold ice cream and it all melds together… it’s my favorite dessert in Disney World. Has been for years and years.
DFB tip: If you’re not up for the whole shebang at ‘Ohana (or can’t land a coveted Advance Dining Reservation), you can also get the ‘Ohana Bread Pudding at the Tambu Lounge, adjacent to ‘Ohana! It’s not available all day (typically you can get it after 4:00 pm), but if the timing works for you, the ‘Ohana Bread Pudding is well worth a Monorail ride over from the Magic Kingdom.
Nosh or Not
You’ll want to grab your hula skirt and make your way to ‘Ohana for dinner if:
- You love the island vibe of the Polynesian Village Resort and want to indulge all your senses.
- You love meat!
- You want to make terrific use of a Table Service credit on the Disney Dining Plan.
- You want a unique view of the fireworks.
Make your way to a different food island if:
- You and your party aren’t big meat eaters and fear this huge meal will be lost on you.
- You aren’t planning to spend any time at the Monorail Resorts.
Like many of the most popular restaurants in Disney World, ‘Ohana can be hit or miss. Though the setting is always great (especially when you can time things right with fireworks viewing), I’ve had my nights when the skewers were slow to show up and, once they did, the meat wasn’t very impressive.
What I can tell you with certainty, though, is that on this particular visit, ‘Ohana was COMPLETELY firing on all cylinders from the atmosphere, to the stellar service, to the well-executed food. It easily earned its way back to the top of my list, and I am already looking forward to my next visit.
Are you an ‘Ohana fan, cousin? Let us know in the comments!