Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Village Resort Review

At Disney World, there are several restaurants that are known for their “thing”. Sanna has the delicious bread service, Beaches and Cream has their kitchen sink, Le Cellier Steakhouse has their Cheddar Cheese Soup, 50’s Prime Time Cafe has their PB&J milkshake. There’s too many places that have a “thing” to count, really. But what happens when you visit one of these places intentionally to not get the “thing”? Does it hold up? Our review of Kona Cafe at the Polynesian Village Resort Review excludes their thing, but does that hinder the restaurants performance? 

Now, Kona Cafe is of course known for their Tonga Toast. A breakfast feature that it’s so much toast as it is a half loaf of sourdough bread. The “toast” is covered in cinnamon sugar and it’s stuffed with caramelized bananas. I’ve gotten the dish before and while so many rave about it, I felt it was lackluster. I’ll give it another shot soon but that’s for another review! 

Because while Kona Cafe is known for their breakfast special it’s only available during…you guessed it breakfast. So how does this restaurant fare during other mealtimes? I recently went there for dinner to answer that very question. 

During my time as a Cast Member I used to always hear my co-workers rave about Kona Cafe. I continued to hear those same opinions and it seems like a hidden gem to many folks. But with all the good reviews I had heard I was always perplexed that it seemed like there is always availability. Most of the time a table at a Disney restaurant that is believed to be great, is hard to come by. Now it might just be my personal experience but whenever I log into My Disney Experience it seems like I can always get same day dining reservation. 

Knowing the kind of restaurants that surround it, I can see why it goes overlooked. The perennially popular Ohana is of course right next door and there’s a plethora of options from the other resorts on the Monorail loop. Even with a certain skepticism, I was excited to give this place a try. 

The restaurant itself is nice. Totally open so you can see the comings and goings of the resort. Our table had a view of the Monorail which is always a cool sight. But one thing about our view was interesting to me. As I’m looking at the Monorail I can’t help but notice what is clearly a Cast Member walkway that is used to get to Backstage. No more than two feet away from us is a decorative metal fence. It wraps the entire restaurant and is no doubt used to keep wandering guests from just sitting down in the reserved tables of the restaurant. 

View from the inside of Kona Cafe

But just on the other side of this fence Cast Members were coming and going. Sometimes pushing carts, trash cans and other equipment. It was very distracting and from a design perspective it just had me scratching my head. If you have a choice ask to sit on the right side of the restaurant closer to Ohana. No doubt it will be louder but still I think it might be less distracting. 

There’s plenty of island influence in this place (view the current menu here) but Asian cuisine of all sorts plays a prominent role in the menu. In fact just as you walk in, one of the first things you see is a Sushi Chef preparing rolls fresh. Seeing food being prepared fresh is always a welcome site in my book.

View as you enter the restaurant. In the back you can see Chefs making Sushi rolls and grilling up steaks.
Sushi and Poke portion of the menu.
You can tell that while it features some American staples the menu has heavy Asian influence.

First up, carbs! They have a special bread, the Kona Cafe Sweet Bread. These are fantastic! Definitely a little sweet (think King’s Hawaain style) but oh so tasty. And the Macadamia Honey Butter that comes with it, has me salivating just thinking about it. 

I wish they sold the Macadamia Honey Butter in jars to go!

As an appetizer we decided to just go for the basic California Roll. It was quite good. Definitely fresh and no imitation crab here. A solid choice. As an aside Kona Island is a sushi bar that is located just outside this restaurant. In the morning you can grab coffee and pastries and starting around noon you can get grab and go sushi, sandwiches and salads. In the entirety of Walt Disney World property there is a severe lack of sushi IMHO. So this is a good tip to keep in mind in case you’re in a serious need for some raw fish. 

A solid version of the traditional California Roll

Onto the main courses. First up is the Turkey Banh Mi featuring “slow roasted turkey breast, black pepper bacon, pork pate, cilantro, jalapeno, onions and grilled poblano mayonnaise”. Banh Mi is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich. All the elements of the traditional dish are here. A main protein, pate, cilantro, jalapenos.

Turkey Banh Mi was quite average.

For me Kona’s version was…ok. Where I really think it needed a change was the bread. A typical Banh Mi comes on a french roll, think like a sub. This bread just didn’t give me what I was looking for when I think Banh Mi. It could’ve used more mayo (which I could’ve asked for) because overall it was dry. 

The flavors and other ingredients were good and separately were tasty but the bread really brought the whole dish down. 

Now the shining star for us was the Crispy Cheddar Burger featuring “crispy cheddar, maple-black pepper bacon, roasted tomatoes and braised onions”. This is the sophisticated older brother to the typical bacon cheeseburger you will find across Disney World property. The patty itself was fine but the other elements of the burger were exceptional. First off that crispy cheddar is basically melted cheddar cheese from the flat top. But when melted it becomes cracker like yet still chewy. It’s a hard thing to describe if you’ve never tried it before. But it was fantastic! The roasted tomatoes and braised onions were just additional flavor bombs added to the burger. 

The sublime Crispy Cheddar Burger

This is one of the best burgers I’ve had on Disney World property. When you think about the “thing” this place is known for in Tonga Toast it’s hard to understand why this burger isn’t a bigger “thing”. It’s unique enough, what with the crispy cheddar and other elements. And it’s delicious! More people need to know about this. 

Now during dinner service Kona Cafe also considers itself somewhat of a steakhouse. There’s plenty to choose from when it comes to steak options but I was weary of such a place serving this fare in addition to sandwiches, burgers and sushi. I was skeptical until the table next to us ordered the “Perfect Porterhouse Steak”. At the time of this post being published this particular item is no longer on the menu which makes sense since it was $95. It served two but that’s still a large price tag for a non-steakhouse doing steak. But the quality of the meat that came out looked very promising. When asked if it was good the table next to me raved about it. So the grilled meats at Kona definitely has potential.

Overall I liked Kona Cafe. There’s definitely plenty of options on the menu which is always a welcome sight in a Disney restaurant. There were bright spots as well as duds but I still think it is a good option. Especially if you’re in a pinch looking for a day of reservation. Kona Cafe might be the option for you. 

Have you ever eaten here before? Let you fellow Opinioneers know what you think of the place over in our community. 

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