Trip Report – Trader Sam’s

“Wow, there’s so much of this trip report that you really needed a second page?”

Well, no. This is actually adapted from a trip report I shared with a handful of people shortly after we returned, and I figured why rewrite it when I could just tack on a new introduction? I’m also hoping to do more trip reports and reviews in the future, and this is a fine place to start.

Now, the first thing you might notice is that the pictures for this section aren’t the greatest in the world. There are a few reasons for this. One, Trader Sam’s is dark. The photos don’t really convey that, and it adds so much to the atmosphere. Two, we were going on about 33 straight hours of being awake. Three, Trader Sam’s is a bar and we did partake since Disney was doing the driving.

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a relatively recent addition to the Polynesian Village Resort in Walt Disney World, and it’s absolutely welcome. The first word that comes to mind whenever we think back to Trader Sam’s is “fun”. Everything from the menu to the theming of the bar itself to the drinks and beyond add to making Trader Sam’s less a bar or lounge and more of an interactive experience, almost an attraction where you can eat, drink and make a lot of noise. If you’re looking for a nice quiet place to relax after a long day in the park, this probably isn’t the spot for you, but if you enjoy a raucous atmosphere or have fond memories of the late, lamented Adventurer’s Club, you might give Trader Sam’s a try.

If you want an idea of what you’re in for, imagine combining the DNA of the aforementioned Adventurer’s Club, The Enchanted Tiki Room and the Jungle Cruise and add a dash of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and some of the best food and drinks on property. The spot is, as Disney fanatics have probably already noted, named for a familiar face from Disney’s Jungle Cruise(he’ll give you a great deal on shrunken heads), but the inside evokes the Tiki Room. Your hosts will, in turn remind you of the Jungle Cruise skippers, with lots of jokes and…

…well, I don’t want to give away too many details, but let’s just say the drink menu is rather unique, and when you order certain items from it, things happen. I’m not a bar expert by any means, but I’ve never been in anything quite like Trader Sam’s. But let’s just say that the bartenders and servers, many of the guests and in some cases even the room itself, will react when you order certain drinks. Certain drinks also afford you the chance to take a piece of Trader Sam’s home with you in the form of collectible drinkware. Even better, rather than taking a dirty mug home, they give you a new, packaged one once you leave. Having grown up where glassware from the Polynesian Village was prominent in our china cabinet, this appealed to me quite a bit in and of itself.

DSC_6013We arrived in the early evening and were given a pager and told it could be up to half an hour, and to stay in the lower section of the Ceremonial House in the resort. This is apparently fairly common, as the inside can only seat 50 people. There’s also an outside section of the bar, but we didn’t try it as we wanted to take in the interior atmosphere. We fortunately ended up waiting only about ten minutes and were given two seats right at the bar. Given the popular, small space and limited number of tables, odds are pretty good if you’re a small group you’ll end up sharing a table with another group. That only adds to the friendly, intimate atmosphere of the lounge. That’s one thing worth remembering too… while the Grotto had some food on the menu(and it provided dinner for us that evening), it’s not really designed to be a sit down restaurant. We were really thrilled with the bar seating because it gave plenty of opportunity to see the show unfold around us.

We started off with two appetizers from the menu, the Kalua Pork Tacos with cabbage and pickled vegetables and the Corn-battered Portugese Sausages with curried ketchup. I’ll be honest, even though Trader Sam’s makes it name through drinks and atmosphere, this was some of the best food we had on property during our trip. The tacos were a little bigger than we were expecting, not quite what you’re used to if you get fast food tacos but still not bite sized either. The shells are fried and have a really nice crisp texture, and the meat and vegetables compliment each other very well. The surprise for both of us, however, were the sausages. We actually liked these even better than the curry batter sausages at Harambe Marketplace(which, don’t get me wrong, we really enjoyed). The surprising star of the show is the curried ketchup. Rather than focus on heat, the ketchup instead captures the spice and flavor of curry with maybe a bit of a bite. We would have bought a jar of this without hesitation.

DSC_6020But if you’re going to the Grog Grotto, then you really owe it to yourself to try the Grog, and try it we did. The choices are almost overwhelming, which means it’s a prime location for multiple visits. If we were staying in the Polynesian, we probably would have ended our night here fairly regularly, wait or no. My wife settled on the Castaway Crush, which is exclusive to the Grog Grotto and has Leblon Cachaça, Cream of Coconut, Pineapple, Cinnamon, and fresh Lime Juice . I opted for an import from the Enchanted Tiki Bar, the precursor from Disneyland: The Krakatoa Punch, with Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Pyrat XO Reserve Rum, Orgeat (Almond), Sam’s Gorilla Grog, and Hibiscus Grenadine. The Punch is served in one of the aforementioned collectible mugs, and is also served with a glowing ice cube that gave the drink a red glow befitting its namesake. Both drinks were fantastic, even if I did potentially endanger the lives of my fellow patrons with my drink choice. Again, I’d prefer not to spoil the surprise, but let’s just say if you know the Enchanted Tiki Room show by heart and notice a familiar window on the walls of the bar, you’ve got a pretty good idea.

You might be worried with the performance aspect, service from the bartenders and servers might suffer a bit, but that’s far from the case. In fact, the playful atmosphere only adds to just how delightful the experience is. Both the bartenders treated us well, constantly checking in and offering to answer any questions we might have had. This also started the trend of Disney cast members noticing our “Happily Ever After” honeymoon buttons that the staff at Port Orleans French Quarter gave us, which only added to the magical experience. One cast member even gave me some good-natured ribbing about my desire to get a few photos in before I started drinking, which in retrospect was probably a pretty good idea.

All in all, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto was a highlight of what was a fantastic honeymoon and perhaps the most memorable vacation my wife and I have ever had together. As we have every intention of returning to Walt Disney World in the next two years, I expect Trader Sam’s will be a first night tradition for us from now on, and we also plan to visit its Disneyland cousin, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, when we next make it to California. If you’re heading to Walt Disney World and don’t mind a boisterous atmosphere, you should plan a stop to the Grotto in your vacation planning.