Captain Cook’s is a counter service restaurant in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu items. This review covers the all of those menus. Captain Cook’s participates in the Disney Dining Plan as a counter service credit. It does not accept the Tables in Wonderland card for a 20% discount. Captain Cook’s has items that range in price from cheap (by Disney standards) to moderately expensive, but almost every entree is in the $8-10 range. Overall, it’s a better value when paying out of pocket; it’s not one of the better value quick service restaurants for value on the Disney Dining Plan due to the lack of pricier options on the menu.
Captain Cook’s is a place we’ve visited a few times in the last few years, but it never seemed like we got the full experience as we rushed the meal for one reason or another. Plus, I never managed to grab photos of our food, so I didn’t think a review was appropriate until now. On a recent trip, we stayed at the Polynesian Village Resort, and we had the chance to have a few meals at Captain Cook’s. Much as was the case with the Polynesian in general, I really wanted to love Captain Cook’s, but it didn’t quite live up to expectations. Still great, but not quite as great as we had hoped.
In fairness, my expectations for all things related to the Polynesian are pretty much through the roof. I choose the beach of the Polynesian as the location for my proposal to Sarah back in 2007, and we’ve long enjoyed the mood and relaxed attitude of the Poly. Plus, ‘Ohana, Kona Cafe, and the Tambu Lounge are all great locations. The Polynesian earns bonus points for me as it contains some of the last vestiges of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. Point being, Captain Cook’s–as you’ll read here–is still pretty great, despite not living up to my lofty expectations.
In terms of its failings, the actual space of the restaurant is probably the biggest one. In the past we’ve dined at Captain Cook’s during times that might put undue stress on it in terms of crowds (after July 4th fireworks, during the Christmas “resort tour” season, etc.). However, on this trip we stayed during a relatively quiet off-season weekend, and Captain Cook’s was just as much of a zoo during prime hours. The footprint of the restaurant itself is about half as large as it should be, and the seating area is about the same. At least 50% of the time that we’ve dined at Captain Cook’s, we have had to eat outside because there were no available tables inside. “Having” to dine outside at the Polynesian isn’t such a terrible thing, fortunately.
Beyond that, the level of theming in Captain Cook’s is minimal. This seems to be fairly common with counter service locales in Deluxe Resorts, and I’m not really sure why. The seating area has a bamboo and leaves motif, with a green and yellow color palette that borders on pastels, but there isn’t much in terms of decor or ornamentation.
Captain Cook’s utilizes the self-service order kiosks that are in a few other locations around Walt Disney World. We really like these, although we almost always see other guests who are perplexed by them. It’s a pretty easy system: just pick your entrees (via photos!) on the kiosks, pay, and receive a buzzer that lets you know when your food is ready.
One of the more popular items at Captain Cook’s is the Grown-Up Grilled Cheese Sandwich. It’s “grown-up” because it uses a blend of three more sophisticated (for lack of a better term) cheeses in Swiss, Boursin, and cheddar, and is served on a whole grain sunflower bread. As far as grilled cheese goes, I think this sandwich is very good, but at the end of the day, it is just grilled cheese. I wish it came with tomato soup rather than chips, fries, or slaw, as I think that would make it a better entree. If you’re really hungry, we’d recommend ordering something different. If you’re just looking for a snack or a light meal, this is a good option.
Next, we come to what we feel are the stars of the menu, “the pork stuff.” We consider the Pork Nachos and the Pork Sandwich the two best items on the menu. The nachos are incredible. Not quite up there with the glorious lobster nachos at Disney California Adventure, but still very good. These consist of a plate of Polynesian Chips (potato and fried wonton skins) topped with tender pulled pork, melted cheese (none of that plastic stuff), tomatoes, and pineapple salsa. These have a unique and delicious taste. A very “crave-able” menu item.
The other excellent “pork stuff” is the Pork Sandwich. This is a pulled pork sandwich lightly dressed with tangy barbecue sauced, topped with pineapple cole slaw, cheddar cheese, cucumbers, and tomatoes, all served on a warm pineapple-coconut hoagie roll. A lot of flavors for a “simple” pork sandwich, right? They somehow work together well (probably thanks to the heaping of pork on the sandwich that affirms it as the predominant flavor, by far), and this has become one of Sarah’s favorite entrees at Walt Disney World. When I mentioned that I was writing this review, she emphatically reminded me to highly recommend this sandwich. So there you go. Personally, I prefer the pork nachos, but this sandwich is a very close second for me.
I’ve also had the Chicken Sandwich here. You know how those cows in the Chik-Fil-A commercials had this campaign to get people to eat more chicken (presumably because everyone knows beef is superior, so the cows have to trick people into eating chicken…an odd message for a chicken restaurant to send, when you think about it)? Well, pigs should campaign for the same thing at Captain Cook’s. This sandwich was topped with the pineapple salsa, bacon, and served on the same pineapple-coconut hoagie roll, but it’s not in the same league as the Pork Sandwich. Heck, it’s barely even playing the same sport. Despite all of the additional flavors, the dominant force here is dry chicken. The rest of the sandwich was good, but I couldn’t help but think that the dry flavor of the chicken overpowered all else, and made it a basic dry Disney chicken sandwich.
Sarah has also has ordered the Stir-Fried Noodles with Chicken, and that was far less memorable. It was heavily salted and greasy, without much flavor beyond the salt and grease. I didn’t think it was quite as bad as she did, but she enjoys good stir fry, and I don’t mind greasy foods. Regardless, this is something that neither of us would recommend ordering–there are better options.
Captain Cook’s also has a selection of flatbreads. We’ve only tried the Hawaiian Flatbread, and it was very good. This is your typical ham and pineapple flatbread (with other items that I can’t remember), but it’s pretty good. It seems that all of the flatbreads Disney serves skew towards “gourmet,” and while this one didn’t necessarily have any ingredients that might lend to that distinction, it seemed high quality.
Finally, Captain Cook’s has some pretty solid sushi from Kona in its coolers. I normally don’t go for these prepackaged items, but when we returned from the Magic Kingdom at 1:30 am one night, I was still hungry, so I walked over to grab something and this sushi seemed like the best option, since the kitchen wasn’t cooking made to order items. Worth noting is that the self-serve Dole Whip machine was on, so I could have gotten myself a huge helping of that. I came this close to doing exactly that, but decided against it for some (probably stupid) reason. The sushi was pretty good–nothing amazing, but much better than “cheap” sushi.
For desserts, Captain Cook’s seems to rotate through different cupcakes pretty regularly. We’ve tried the Pina Colada and PB&J cupcakes here, and neither have been anything spectacular. Certainly ambitious in concept, but the Pina Colada cupcake was too dry, and the PB&J cupcake just flat out did not translate well to cupcake form (odd, because it makes a great milkshake!). We definitely do not recommend this cupcake.
More recently, we’ve tried the Minnie Mousse cupcake. Unlike the other two duds, this cupcake was spectacular. It was moist, chocolate cake, topped with a light and rich dome (not just a thin layer–an actual dome!) of chocolate mousse on top. We highly recommend this cupcake, but it’s probably one you’ll want to split due to how rich it is.
We’ve also done breakfast at Captain Cook’s. Unfortunately, we don’t have photos of this meal, either. Being a true patriot, I had the Tonga Toast (I can’t imagine trying anything else on the menu). Sarah had the Bounty Platter because she doesn’t care for Tonga Toast. The Bounty Platter is nothing memorable–just the standard, uninspired Disney breakfast options, plus some ordinary French toast. The Tonga Toast is the same, delicious banana-stuffed sourdough goodness available upstairs at Kona Cafe, but for less than half the price! If you are unfamiliar with Tonga Toast, ignore the fact that Sarah doesn’t like it (it’s too sugary and unhealthy for her) and get some immediately. Tonga Toast is one of those hyped up Walt Disney World snacks that I definitely think lives up to the hype. I don’t know if it’s because of Tonga Toast or what, but on our recent trip, the lines were so long here for breakfast the morning I had set aside for Tonga Toast (the other morning we did breakfast at Kona Cafe) that I decided not to wait. In retrospect, I should have been willing to wait up to 3.5 hours for it.
Overall, there are a lot of great options at Captain Cook’s, and it’s well deserving of a place on the list of the Top 10 Counter Service Restaurants at Walt Disney World. It does disappoint in terms of how busy it is (for a “hidden gem,” a lot of people certainly dine here) and some of the items either don’t live up to the hype or are just plain duds. Still, there are enough great options here, and favorites like the Pork Nachos, Grown-Up Grilled Cheese, and the Hawaiian Flatbread (not to mention the Tonga Toast and self-serve Dole Whips) that completely redeem Captain Cook’s, and make it a great option for Magic Kingdom-area dining.
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Do you think that Captain Cook’s is one of the top counter service restaurants at Walt Disney World? What menu items here do you like? Any that you don’t like? What do you plan on trying? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!