Thursday, April 4, 2019

W is for: Walt Disney World for Adults, Part II: Trader Sam's Grog Grotto

If drinking around the world at Epcot is the #1 activity on your Adult Disney World itinerary, then Trader Sam's Grog Grotto should be 1a on your Disney bucket list.

Despite my limited experience in frequenting Disney World bars, I'm declaring it the best one at the most magical place on earth... and yes, it is indeed magical in its own right.

So much so, that our group actually made TWO different trips to this enchanting establishment. Both times, we ordered food (some of my favorite and most reasonably priced items of the trip), and both times, we also ordered an abundance of tropical (and sugary) rum drinks that come with no shortage of fire & animatronics and a side of sass from the hilarious bartenders.

And that is why, my friends, that I am dedicating a whole separate post to this destination tiki bar. Because, at the end of the day, it's not just a bar... it's a full Disney experience!

Getting there: Trader Sam's Grog Grotto is located inside the Polynesian Resort. If you are already staying there, then extra bonus points for you! If you are not, it is easily accessible by monorail, which you can ride straight from Magic Kingdom Park or the TTC (Transportation & Ticket Center.) There are also buses you can take from any of the parks, just ask a cast member for the one that is headed to the Polynesian.

Hours of operation: Depending on what time of year you visit, the bar opens at 3pm or 4pm, so make sure to check the website before visiting. Kids are allowed until 8pm each night, at which point it becomes 21 and over, and stays open until midnight. (That said, I don't recall seeing any kids there on either visit.)

Tiki Terrace: Trader Sam's features two seating areas... one outdoors called the "Tiki Terrace" and the main attraction inside at the Grog Grotto. No question, you definitely want to sit inside at some point to witness the show and spectacle that is Trader Sam's. However, unless you arrive right at 3pm or later in the evening, you will likely have to wait a bit to snag a seat inside, which is fine, because there is one giant advantage to sitting outside: Spikey Pineapples!!

I'm fairly certain this is the only drink that's not offered on the menu inside (though, we discovered that if you ask extra nicely, they might be willing to make a trip outside to get one for you.) So what is it exactly? Well, if you know anything about the food in Disney World, you know that there is somewhat of a cult following surrounding the Pineapple Dole Whip soft serve available in the Magic Kingdom. A Spikey Pineapple involves that soft serve, "spiked" with Barbancourt Pango Rum (and for an extra charge, you can get another floater of 151 rum on top.) This was perhaps my favorite drink of the trip (or maybe tied with the Grey Goose slush at Epcot)... so you need to try at least one of them. This drink will run you $12.50, plus another $3 if you want the extra shot of rum added.

Food: On our first visit, we arrived just around dinner time and happened to be famished, so we decided to enjoy a few food items outside as well. (FYI... this menu is also available inside.) The food offerings reflect a very Polynesian vibe, including these Kálua Pork tacos, which are definitely a must-order on the value alone. For just 10 bucks, you get three large tacos stuffed to the brim with barbecued shredded pork and topped with cabbage and pickled vegetables. The pork was a nice balance of sweet and spice, and the veggies provided a nice little crunch. They also paired quite nicely with the Spikey Pineapples we were taking down.

I was also a big fan of the Roasted Chicken and Pork Pâte Báhn Mi Sliders. These will also run you just $10 and also come three to an order. They are also topped with fresh and pickled vegetables and offer a nice twist on a traditional slider.

We also got the Pan Fried Dumplings, which come with five to an order and are priced at $9. These are pretty standard as far as dumplings are concerned, but a nice sharable appetizer for the table. If you are looking for a healthier option, they also offer Lettuce Cups for $11 with your choice of tofu or marinated chicken. These could definitely use a sauce of some sort, so we re-purposed some of that sauce from the dumplings and used them on the lettuce cups. The Headhunter Sushi roll was tempting as well, but it was $15, and didn't seem as substantial as the tacos or sliders. Overall, I found the food to be really flavorful with nice portions at very reasonable prices (which isn't always the case at Disney restaurants.)

We only had to wait about 45 minutes on the terrace before our pager started buzzing and we were invited to come inside. This doesn't mean you have a table or even a chair, but over the course of our stay, we were able to commandeer a majority of the main bar seats. The drink menu is quite elaborate, complete with illustrations and stories to accompany the cocktail offerings.

Almost all of the cocktails are served in tiki mugs or bowls that can be taken home as souvenirs (for an additional charge, of course.) We learned from our bartenders that some Disney fanatics collect all of the different iterations of each glass, as the design will change every couple of years. I'm fairly certain this particular one was the "HippopotoMai-Tai," which is a mixture of Coruba Dark Rum, Bacardi Superior Rum, Bols Orange Curaçao, Orgeat (Almond), Organic Agave Nectar, and fresh Lime Juice. Cost is $13.25 without the mug.

Several of the cocktails also trigger a series of special effects or songs and chanting performed by the staff, and often, the patrons themselves. (There were several locals there, who clearly frequent the bar on a regular basis, and if you stay long enough, you start to catch onto which effects accompany which cocktails.) This was the "Uh-Oa," which is served on fire and designed for two or more guests. It was one of at least five cocktails that come with a mini-show from the staff, and will run you almost $22 for one bowl ($41 if you want to keep it for a souvenir.) It contains Myers’s Original Dark Rum, Bacardi Superior Rum, Orange, Passion Fruit, Guava, Pineapple, and Grapefruit Juices, Falernum, Cinnamon, and fresh Lime Juice.

Another fun and hilarious thing about this bar, is the way the bartenders are almost encouraged to mess with you and give you a hard time during your visit. (Sort of the surly skipper attitude that fits in nicely with the theme of the bar.) At one point, we noticed one of the bar stools slowly and methodically shrinking its way to the floor. No, it's not broken... the bartenders have control over a couple of seats from a switch behind the bar. Between the shrinking bar stools and the animatronics throughout, this is the only bar in Disney World that can also be classified as a ride. (BTW... A ride with strong tiki drinks and delicious food is definitely my kind of ride.)

They also employ a variety of props for the arsenal of special effects, including a megaphone that our friend Adam convinced our bartender to let him borrow. She agreed on the condition that he declared her the best bartender in the world. He also announced to the entire bar that he met Goofy that day, while wearing his brand new Goofy hat against the wishes of our bartender. But hey, that's what you get when you serve strong drinks and hand over your megaphone to our crew of friends.

Special shout out to our "skipper"... Molly, who was thoroughly entertaining and made our Tiki Bar experience so much fun that we came back a second time later in the same trip. Cheers to that!

If you missed Part I of this post, make sure to read about how to Drink Around the World at Epcot and stay tuned for Part III, which will give a general overview and also detail our day at the Magic Kingdom. 

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