Kona Cafe at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – Review & Menu Guide
Aloha! Kona Cafe, Disney World’s all-day destination for Asian and all-American favorites with an island (the Hawaiian Islands, that is) twist at the Polynesian Village Resort is closing for refurbishment starting August 15, 2022. So, we decided to head to the restaurant to get our fix before it goes away for a while.
But, is this casual, table-service restaurant a worthwhile stand-in for ‘Ohana, Polynesian Village’s incredibly popular all-you-can-eat, family-style buffet? With its bright, tropical flavors with a splash of Asian zing and a more wallet-friendly price tag, there’s a lot to like about the Kona Cafe. So, set your watch to island time as we dig into everything this Magic Kingdom Area resort restaurant has to offer.
Kona Cafe, Disney’s East-Meets-West Eatery at the Polynesian Village Resort
Dining is, in our opinion, one of the most important parts of any vacation – and we don’t just mean at Walt Disney World. Wherever you are, a memorable meal or two can take your trip from ordinary to extraordinary. Sadly, it can be tricky to track down a truly unforgettable dining experience at The Most Magical Place on Earth, especially if you don’t want to spend an arm and a leg.
Although there are plenty of notable restaurants inside the theme parks, some of the best dining at Walt Disney World can be found at the resorts. What’s more, while there are certainly some reservations that are hard to come by, such as at the perennially popular ‘Ohana at Polynesian Village or the Contemporary’s California Grill, you don’t need to plan your meals out months in advance just to get a taste of the best that Disney World has to offer.
Several hotel restaurants dotted around The Most Magical Place on Earth are hidden gems, featuring a blissful blend of yummy dishes, fewer crowds, attentive service and a laidback atmosphere, all at a price point that’s typically easier on the wallet. Kona Cafe at Polynesian Village is one of those restaurants (minus the lackluster ambiance – more on that in a bit).
Going to Kona Cafe
Disney Polynesian Village Resort is home to some incredible dining – and, not to mention, drinking! From fast food with tropical flair at Capt. Cook’s to bottomless breakfast and dinner delights served family-style at ‘Ohana to fruity, rum-heavy cocktails and punny jokes at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and more, the South Seas-inspired deluxe resort is positively overflowing with delicious dining options.
Not only is this a huge perk for hotel guests, but given the resort’s convenient location in the Magic Kingdom Area on the Resort Monorail Loop, it’s also a great choice for folks trying to escape the craziness of the theme parks for a few hours.
Open almost all day long, Kona Cafe hours are generous, serving up breakfast from 7:30 AM to 11:00 AM, lunch from 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM and dinner from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM. This Polynesian resort restaurant is found on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House in between the hotel’s monorail station and ‘Ohana.
If you’re coming over to eat from the Magic Kingdom, you have a few different options for how to get here. One of the easiest, of course, is the Magic Kingdom Resort Monorail. Just hop on near the park’s main entrance and enjoy the views as you cruise through the atrium of the Contemporary Resort and past the Transportation & Ticket Center. Then, hop off at Polynesian Village for the short walk to the restaurant.
Alternatively, you can also take a leisurely boat ride or even enjoy a walk around Seven Seas Lagoon. If you opt to take advantage of Disney World’s water transportation, climb aboard the Gold Flag Water Launch near the entrance to the Resort Monorail Loop.
Or, head past the resort monorail and boat launch entrances to find the walking path around Seven Seas Lagoon. This picturesque waterfront stroll past Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Wedding Pavilion takes about 30 minutes and is the perfect way to burn off a few more calories before dinnertime.
Does Kona Cafe take walk-ins?
Yes! While reservations are encouraged at Kona Cafe, they aren’t absolutely necessary. You can also snag a table by joining the restaurant’s walk-up list, making it an ideal choice if you like to keep your dining times more spontaneous. Best of all, depending on what time you want to eat, you shouldn’t even have to wait too long. At 5:30 PM, the estimated wait time was only 10 minutes – great for an early dinner.
Can you order Kona Cafe to go?
Yup! Do you wish that you could tuck into some Tonga Toast from your cozy hotel bed or snack on sushi beachside? Well, this is Walt Disney World, after all, and thanks to Kona Cafe To Go, the dream that you wish can come true. As with the restaurant, Kona Cafe To Go is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and almost the entire regular menu is available, including sushi rolls and the eatery’s famed Tonga Toast.
Need some caffeine to get your morning going, or are you craving a sushi roll or something sweet? You can also head next door to Kona Island, the restaurant’s attached snack stand and sushi bar for things like grab-and-go pastries, coffee drinks (including press pot Kona Coffee for two), sushi rolls and dainty dessert.
An Asian-Inspired Eatery with Hawaiian Island Flair & Reasonable Prices
Nestled on the upper level of the lobby overlooking the atrium, Kona Cafe isn’t exactly known for its ambiance. Between the patchwork of patterns and riot of bright colors, the restaurant feels a bit, well, dated. (Fingers crossed that will change during the upcoming refurbishment.)
Most of the time, the dining room is bright and open. However, it can start to feel a little claustrophobic when there are tons of people waiting around for their ‘Ohana reservation. Fortunately, you aren’t coming to Kona Cafe for the atmosphere. Instead, it’s all about the yummy food at budget-friendly prices.
Kona Cafe, like the Aloha State, has long been a hub of fusion cuisine at Walt Disney World. Due to its lush, tropical climate, an idyllic location in the mid-Pacific and thriving tourism industry with visitors from both the United States and Asia, Hawaiian cuisine effortlessly (and deliciously) blends tropical ingredients and all-American classics with the flavors of the Far East.
Similarly, adventurous diners and picky eaters alike will have no trouble finding something that tantalizes the tastebuds at Kona Cafe. From an anything-but-basic burger crowned with crispy cheddar, brown sugar-black pepper bacon and roasted tomato to more globally inspired items like sushi rolls and dashi and poke bowls – and everything in between – there’s something to please all sorts of palates.
Here’s what’s on offer throughout the day at Kona Cafe, Polynesian Village’s casual, sit-down restaurant:
Kona Cafe Menu
Kona Cafe brings the fresh flavors of Hawaii to breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the morning, kickstart your day with aloha-inspired dishes like Macadamia Nut Pancakes($15) crowned with macadamia nut butter and pineapple sauce or a plate of the restaurant’s famous Tonga Toast ($17), a cinnamon and sugar-encrusted French Toast stuffed with banana and served with strawberry compote for drizzling.
Even vegetarians and vegans can get in on the tropical breakfast fun with Plant-based Loco Moco ($16), a Hawaiian mainstay reimagined with animal-friendly eggs, meat-free sausage and coconut milk. To eat like a true kamaʻāina, or Hawaiian local, don’t forget a side of Spiced Ham ($5) – AKA Spam, a classic Hawaiian protein.
Wash it all down with an addictive glass of Liliko’i Juice($6.50) or POG juice made with passion fruit, orange and guava. Alternatively known as Jungle Juice at Animal Kingdom Lodge or Moonshine at Trail’s End Restaurant in Fort Wilderness Campground, it’s an appropriate accompaniment to the sweet start to your day.
During lunch and dinner, savor some of the Aloha State’s delicious Asian influences. For a taste of ‘Ohana without the steep price tag, start your meal with Glazed Chicken Wings ($14) smothered in a sticky-sweet sauce or griddled-to-perfection Crispy Pork-Vegetable Pot Stickers ($10). Or, sip on a Seafood Coconut-Curry Soup ($11) studded with shrimp, crab and scallops.
Looking for a light meal that won’t weigh you down for the rest of your night in Magic Kingdom? Sink your teeth into a Spicy Tuna Roll ($18), California Roll ($18) or Rainbow Roll ($24) with tuna, salmon, shrimp, Hamachi and lump crab.
For something similarly refreshing, go for a quintessential poke bowl. The Tuna Poke ($18) with passion fruit boba pearls, citrus yuzu and wasabi chips keeps things bright and fruity with a hint of heat, while the Rainbow Poke ($20) spices things up with Fresno chili peppers and spicy ponzu.
Want something just a bit cozier? Slurp down one of the restaurant’s dashi bowls. The Pork Belly Noodle Bowl ($24) with savory bone broth and a soy egg is made for meat lovers. Or, lighten things up with a plant-based Vegetable Bowl ($22) made with jasmine broth, pineapple tofu and an umami tomato.
Need something a bit more substantial? You’ll find a few different entrees available at both lunch and dinner, as well as a few mealtime exclusives. At lunch, tuck into the Kona Chicken Stir-fry ($22) or Duck Fried Rice with Leg Confit ($32), while dinnertime features Asian-marinated Airline Chicken ($24) with sticky rice and Kona-braised Short Rib ($36) made with Kona coffee and served with creamy mashed potatoes.
Looking for more simple pleasures? A Turkey Banh Mi ($18) zhuzhed up with pork pâte is available throughout the afternoon and evening, as is a tasty Crispy Cheddar Burger ($21). For an all-American favorite with an elevated twist, go for the Mahi, Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato ($30), a deconstructed, carb-less take on a classic sandwich. Or, go the healthy route with a Steak Salad ($25) topped with a sunny-side-up egg.
And be sure to save room for dessert! Fortunately, since these are teensy dessert glasses, you don’t need too much stomach space. Petite sweets are available in Lemon Tart, Key Lime, S’more, Tiramisu, plant-based Coconut Tapioca and no-sugar-added Cheesecake ($5). But, that’s not all. Though not on the menu, ‘Ohana’s famed Bread Pudding is often available for in-the-know diners. Just ask your server.
With must-visit Trader Sam’s located just downstairs, it’s no surprise that Kona Cafe also shakes up some fantastic drinks. Keep things booze-free and refreshing with a flavored Lemonade, Grapefruit Spritzer or Sparkling No-Jito ($4.99-$5.49) or get caffeinated with a freshly brewed press pot for two of rare Hawaiian Kona Maragogype Coffee ($9.50).
For a more adult addition to your meal, enjoy a fruity, rum-based specialty drink like a Polynesian MaiTai, Puka Punch or Rum Swizzle($14-$15). Not into cocktails? That’s ok – go for sake, wine or a Hawaiian-brewed craft beer instead.
Kona Cafe Dinner Review – Is This Casual Restaurant a Worthy ‘Ohana Alternative?
Ok, it’s time to dig into our delicious experience. Similar to other Walt Disney World table-service restaurants, the meal kicks off with some carb-licious, complimentary bread. Now, we’ll admit that the standard bread service at Kona Cafe isn’t exactly earth-shattering.
The rolls, though pillowy-soft, are pretty basic, making them the ideal vehicle for butter. However, don’t just use the pat that comes with it. Instead, be like the Kona Cafe pros and ask for some Macadamia Nut Butter. Though typically slathered on the Macadamia Nut Pancakes at breakfast, this sweet and salty whipped spread takes the fluffy rolls to a whole other level.
Next, it was time for drinks. As passionate POG juice lovers, we couldn’t resist getting the Backscratcher, a potent concoction of two different rums with a whiskey float, all served on the rocks alongside an actual bamboo backscratcher. And yes, it did come in handy throughout the evening – talk about a fun freebie! Let us tell you, for fellow passion fruit-orange-guava fans, this boozy number is dangerous. And by dangerous, we mean super incredibly tasty.
As for the main course, we decided to keep things relatively light. Central Florida is hot enough as it is during the summertime, and since we were heading back into Magic Kingdom for more rides after dinner, the last thing we wanted was to feel weighed down.
No matter which Disney World restaurant we go to, we always seem to gravitate towards the soup. Full of flavor for not a lot of money, it’s perfect for a starter or light entrée. Though warm, the Seafood Coconut-Curry Soup wasn’t overly heavy. From shrimp to scallops to crab, the seafood packs a punch. Delightfully briny and creamy with complex hits of coconut and curry powder, it’s a tasty combination.
For us, nothing says Hawaiian cuisine like a poke bowl. So, you know we had to try one from Kona Cafe. Though a bit on the small side, the Tuna Poke was everything we could have hoped for. Between the tuna, passion fruit boba, citrus yuzu and wasabi chips, the flavors were wonderfully balanced, with a great mix of sweet, salty, savory, spicy and umami. And while too-large chunks of raw fish can often be texturally unappealing for some, the smaller tidbits of tuna used for this poke bowl blended beautifully with the rice and boba pearls. In a word, yum.
When it came time for dessert, we couldn’t resist trying a cute Key Lime cup. Sweet, tangy and creamy, each spoonful unearthed another layer of something yummy – smooth key lime and passion fruit curds, a ribbon of blood orange and mango jam and, of course, a graham cracker crust. Would we order it again? Absolutely.
Have you enjoyed dinner at Kona Cafe? What’s your favorite thing to eat at this Polynesian resort restaurant? Let us know in the comments! Then, make your travel and dining budgets stretch even further with our discount Disney World tickets.