Tiki Dining at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Terrace

by Casey Morris on August 7, 2015

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One of the newest and most anticipated additions at Walt Disney World is Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Terrace at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Trader Sam’s is a tropical tiki bar and lounge, serving up island inspired cocktails and small plates in a very unique setting unlike anywhere else at Walt Disney World. The Grog Grotto is located off the main lobby of the Grand Ceremonial House, but be careful or you might just miss the door to this mysterious hideaway. The Tiki Terrace is an outdoor seating area located at the back of the Grand Ceremonial House overlooking the pool. Trader Sam’s is open from 4:00 p.m. – midnight, and while families are welcome, please note that anyone under the age of 21 is not permitted after 8:00 p.m.

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If the name Trader Sam sounds familiar, you’ve probably met him as the “head” salesman from the Jungle Cruise. Anyone who has experienced that ride has heard Sam’s offer – two of his heads for one of yours. The story behind the Grog Grotto is written on the front of the menu by Skip, the manager of the Jungle Cruise Navigational Company. Skip explains how Trader Sam developed an interest in mixology and traveled the Seven Seas for his special ingredients and artifacts for his Grog Grotto.

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My family had no idea what to expect for our first visit at the Grog Grotto. Since we were staying at the Polynesian, we decided to check the wait time on our way to our room, after a day at the pool. Shortly after 5:00 p.m., we were given a pager and told the wait was already nearly an hour. We had just enough time to head to our room to shower and get ready. We arrived back within the time frame we were given and were seated immediately. Upon entering, I did not know where to look first. The inside has a mysterious and tropical feel and is full of Sam’s exotic treasures.

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Note that there is no flash photography allowed inside the Grotto because they do not want to disturb the hippos!

After carefully deliberating over the menu, we ordered our drinks – a Polynesian Pearl for me and Shrunken Zombie Head for my husband. The menu also includes “Sam’s No Booze Brooze”, so we ordered my daughter the Polynesian Punch. We also ordered four of the small plate menu items for the three of us to share.

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 The Polynesian Pearl, like many of the drinks, is not simply poured into a glass to be dropped off at your table. Instead, the giant clam shell at the back of the bar lights up, opens, and reveals the “pearl” that the drink is served in. Delivery of the Shrunken Zombie Head also sets off a fun special effect in the lounge.

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Our drinks all arrived in souvenir cups that we got to take home. I loved the Polynesian Pearl! It was sweet with a hint of cinnamon. The Shrunken Zombie Head was a little strong for my taste, but my husband said he would definitely order it again. My daughter loved the blend of tropical juices in her Polynesian Punch (as did her parents). On a side note, all of the drinks, except for the Polynesian Pearl and Punch, can be purchased without the souvenir cups.

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Our food arrived shortly after our drinks. We had the Pan-Fried Dumplings, which were pork and shrimp dumplings served with a soy and sesame dipping sauce and were probably my favorite dish at Trader Sam’s. The Kalua Pork Tacos were beautifully plated with some pickled vegetables on top, and they were also very yummy. The Chicken Lettuce Cups came ready to be assembled and were served with a hoisin ginger sauce. Our fourth dish, the Corn-Battered Portuguese Sausages, were like mini grown-up corn dogs with sausage and a curry ketchup for dipping. As you can see, most of the dishes come with three or four of each item and are perfect for sharing if you want something light, or you can order multiple dishes like we did and make a filling meal.

Pan-Fried Dumplings

Pan-Fried Dumplings

Kalua Pork Tacos

Kalua Pork Tacos

Chicken Lettuce Cups

Chicken Lettuce Cups

Corn-Battered Portuguese Sausages

Corn-Battered Portuguese Sausages

In addition to the amazing food, you just never know what you might see at Trader Sam’s, from the special effects to the servers who really embrace their roles. An erupting volcano, a tropical rainstorm, and an appearance by the Tiki Goddess of Disaster are just a few of the mystical occurrences you may experience while there.

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We LOVED Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto so much that we just had to go back a couple days later in order to sample some more of the menu’s tasty items. On our second visit, we were fortunate to only wait a few minutes for a table. I debated between two different drink items, and finally decided on the Castaway Crush. Our server asked me if I was looking for a sweet drink. I answered yes, and he said he would surprise me with a different drink that I would be sure to love. He ended up bringing me the other drink I was considering, the TIki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum—a blend of rum, cream of coconut, pineapple and orange juices, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Our server was right because I loved my drink. My husband ordered the HippopotoMai-Tai, and he enjoyed his drink as much as his souvenir cup. This trip, my daughter decided on the Schweitzer Falls (named after the waterfall from the Jungle Cruise), which was a blend of tropical juices and Sprite.

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In addition to again ordering the Kalua Pork Tacos we devoured on our first visit, we tried two new dishes – Hawaiian Poke, which was Ahi Tuna served with wonton chips and a Sriracha Aioli, and Salmon Oshizushi—a pressed sushi that was almost too pretty to eat, with edible flowers on top and a mango curry sauce on the side. Both items were delicious, particularly the Salmon Oshizushi, which I can’t wait to order again.

Hawaiian Poke

Hawaiian Poke

Salmon Oshizushi

Salmon Oshizushi

Our second visit to the Grog Grotto was also a huge hit with my family, but our experience with Trader Sam’s is not over quite yet. A review would not be complete without also telling you about the outdoor seating area known as Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace.

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While the Tiki Terrace has the same menu as the grotto, with the addition of one very special item, the atmosphere couldn’t be more different. This outdoor area has a very relaxed vibe, complete with waterfall and live music. It also has a larger seating area and is a great alternative if you find the Grog Grotto having too long of a wait.

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On this visit, we came straight from the pool and arrived right at opening at 4:00 p.m. We had a later dinner planned and decided to get a little something to eat to hold us over until then, and we couldn’t stop at Sam’s without trying some of his unique libations. My husband ordered the famous Uh-Oa. It is a flaming concoction that comes with a side of cinnamon for you to sprinkle on your drink to keep the sparks going. It is recommended for two or more, but he was on his own because I had a different drink in mind…

The Uh-Oa!

The Uh-Oa!

The best part of eating outside at the Tiki Terrace is the Spikey Pineapple! This drink is only available outside, so I knew I had to try it while I had the chance. It was delicious! It tasted just like a pineapple dole whip float but with rum instead of pineapple juice.

My favorite - The Spikey Pineapple

My favorite – The Spikey Pineapple

My daughter again chose the Schweitzer Falls for her drink and requested sushi to eat. We ordered the Headhunter Sushi Roll—an inside out roll with salmon, tuna, and veggies, that’s served with a hibiscus soy sauce. We also decided to go with one of our previous favorites, the Pan-Fried Dumplings.

Schweitzer Falls (one of Sam's "No Booze Brooze")

Schweitzer Falls (one of Sam’s “No Booze Brooze”)

Headhunter Sushi Roll

Headhunter Sushi Roll

After three visits to Trader Sam’s, we tried eight different drinks and seven different dishes between the three of us, and there is not one item that I would not order again. We all agreed it was just that good! However, we differ on where to sit. My daughter prefers the indoor area for the special effects, and I would sit outside just so I could get the Spikey Pineapple again. My husband is torn because he loves the relaxed feel of the outdoor seating but thinks the indoor area is unlike any other dining experience anywhere. Whichever you decide, you will not be disappointed.

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With its convenient location at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, you are just a monorail ride away from any monorail access point. And don’t worry if your family members are not adventurous eaters as you can still enjoy the drinks and atmosphere. Trader Sam’s is not just a dining location but also an experience that is not to be missed.

If you would like help planning your next vacation, contact me at kari@ppddtravel.com

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