It took a couple days longer than originally expected, but WDW’s hotly anticipated Trader’s Sam Grog Grotto soft opening finally began on Saturday, March 28th. Of course, we were on hand when the new watering hole’s doors opened for the first time, in order to bring you these photos and video (it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it). So grab a bottle of rum and take a virtual visit to the Polynesian Village Resort‘s trendy tiki bar, minus the long line or hangover.
Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in the Disneyland Hotel has a loyal following, and its east coast cousin looks to be a hit right out of the box, based on the crowds attending the Grog Grotto’s initial days of operation. For the first day of soft opening, some guests got in line 5 hours early, and by an hour before the 4 p.m. scheduled opening there were already well over 100 people waiting.
I arrived early enough to get a wait list pager before they ran out, and spent “only” about 2 1/2 hours on the outdoor patio before getting my turn as one of the 50 guests at a time allowed inside Trader Sam’s. I can’t complain; others behind me waited four or more hours just to enter on the first day.
On the bright side, the full selection of Trader Sam’s food and drinks are available on the patio, along with live music and a lovely view.
Table service is offered outside on Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace if you can snag one of the 82 available seats, or you can walk up to the bar and buy direct.
Signature drinks are sold in the same souvenir cups found inside, but aren’t accompanied by special effects.
Speaking of special effects, there’s one for every cocktail that’s served in a take-home vessel, and seeing them all almost makes the wait to get inside worthwhile. Several of the drink effects are similar to gags originated in Anaheim’s Trader Sam’s, but have been spiffied up with more advanced video projections, black light, and even wind machines (though no moving animatronics).
Of course, if you want to save some time and money (not to mention liver cells) just watch this video:
Diehard Disneyphiles will want to keep an eye out for artifacts from former attractions, like this key from Mr. toad’s Wild Ride and a flotation ring from Maelstrom. Uh-Oa herself is a tribute to the late, unlamented “Under New Management” version of the Enchanted Tiki Room.
So, how much is all this fun going to cost you? The menu doesn’t actually list prices for the signature drinks, but don’t panic. Most single-serving drinks cost about $18, including a sturdy collectible mug made of ceramic or glass. Two-person drinks run around $30 to $50. You can save a few dollars by ordering without the take-home container, but the souvenirs are a smart value compared to what similar barware sells for in resort gift shops.
Note: During the soft opening, some of the cups — like the Krakatoa — come from Disneyland, while others — like the Hippopotomai-tai — are specific to Orlando, and the Nautilus bowls are not yet available to take home.)
Best of all, instead of having to take a sticky used glass home with you, your finished drink is whisked away and a brand-new cup is handed to you at the exit. You cannot, however, purchase an empty cup without getting the drink.
If you’re trying to collect one of each cup, you’re going to want to put something in your stomach, and Trader Sam has you covered with a small but tasty bar menu. Sadly, the beloved panko crusted long beans didn’t make the trip over from California, though the Hawaiian poke and lettuce cups did make the cut.
The highlight of the menu is the Portuguese sausages coated in corn batter (not unlike a grown-up corn dog) and served with a slightly spicy tomato dipping sauce.
Bahn Mi sliders were also delicious, with grilled chicken, pate, and pickled veggies packed into a tiny crusty bun. Not as authentic as those you’ll find in downtown Orlando’s Vietnamese district (I’m partial to Boston Bakery on East Colonial Drive), they’re still pretty exotic by Disney standards.
The Headhunter sushi roll, on the other hand, was a big letdown. It looked unique, but the raw salmon and tuna on top was barely supermarket quality, and the beet-colored rice was bland and a bit sweet, lacking the essential vinegary bite.
My companions also ordered the pork tacos, and shrimp and pork-stuffed dumplings, both of which earned thumbs up. However, it is a shame that none of the food items are vegan or even vegetarian.
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto should now open daily from 4 p.m. to midnight, though the official grand opening won’t occur until April. As soon as the crowds die down a bit, you can count on finding me there, working on my mug collection.
A final word of warning if you want to check out the bar for yourself: we’ve heard that security is cracking down on non-guests parking in the hotel’s lot. Your best best is to park as if you are going to the Magic Kingdom, then walk to the Polynesian or take the resort monorail there from the TTC. On the way back, you’ll have to take the monorail for nearly the full loop before returning to the TTC, so it may be swifter to walk — or stumble, as the case may be.