Trader Sam’s – Enchanted Tiki Bar is located at the Disneyland Hotel (and rumored to be opening at Disney’s Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World in February 2015). Drawing inspiration from the Jungle Cruise, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Adventurers Club, and many other locations from Disneyland and Walt Disney World, Trader Sam’s is a richly themed location, and is a veritable treasure-trove for Disney theme park fans with its excellent drinks, sight gags, and many many references to Disney history. You can take a look at some of these awesome references and gags in our Trader Sam’s Backstory & Details post.
Trader Sam’s offers Annual Passholder discounts and also serves food from its own menu and from the kitchen of the nearby Tangaroa Terrace. Both restaurants opened as part of the extensive recent overhaul to the Disneyland Hotel.
Before we get too far and potentially lose the interest of those who don’t consume alcohol, you absolutely do not have to be a drinker to enjoy Trader Sam’s. If you’re a fan of the Disney theme parks or fun in general, you will most certainly have a good time at Trader Sam’s. The ambiance and great backstory are what make Trader Sam’s an amazing place to visit.
If you’ve ever experienced the Jungle Cruise, you’ve encountered Trader Sam. He is the head salesman of the jungle–you know, the guy who will trade one of your heads for two of his (shrunken heads). Well, the story of his bar is that he’s assembled all of the artifacts and correspondence from traveling friends that he has acquired over the years and put them all into one quaint little bar.
You might be wondering how something in Disneyland, a bastion of commercialism, can seem quaint, but it does. Trader Sam’s is fairly small (capacity is 47, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait to experience it on busier nights), and nearly every inch of the bar was decorated by Sam with help from his friends at the Jungle Cruise Navigational Company. You could literally spend hours exploring the walls. I did just that, and found myself constantly chuckling and discovering new layers of story.
The Disney Parks Blog has stated that Trader Sam’s decorations are influenced by the characters and lore in Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Tokyo DisneySea’s Tower of Terror, Indiana Jones Adventure, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (film). The Disney in-jokes and references don’t stop there, though. There are really too many to name (this Disney Parks Blog article lists a few to look for). My favorite is the hilarious tribute to famed Imagineer Joe Rohde. Has anyone else spotted it?
Beyond the cool ambiance and decor, which make Trader Sam’s a must visit, the menu is great and the unique drinks are…wait…unique drinks? This must be a typographical error, you say. Nope! Trader Sam’s – Enchanted Tiki Bar is one of the only locations at Disneyland that has a unique drink menu instead of what I pejoratively refer to as the Generic DisneyParks® Drink Menu®. If you read the Disneyland Suited-Up Bar Crawl installment of my November 2011 Disneyland trip report, you know that I loathe this menu.
It is a prime example of what is wrong with the contemporary Disney theme parks: homogenization has replaced unique experiences in the name of saving a few bucks because bean-counters either don’t understand the “Disney Difference,” or think most guests won’t notice, anyway. I could go on and on with a scathing post about this, but I will spare you my ranting. If you want to read more about this problem, check out this post on the Disney Food Blog.
There are several unique drinks on the menu, a few of which are interactive in the sense that there are special effects in the building that are triggered by someone ordering certain drinks. These are really fun to watch, and in the name of research, we’ve ordered every such drink that either triggers a reaction or has cool presentation. Some of these drinks include the Adventurers Club Kungaloosh (classic or new recipe), the HippopotoMai-Tai, Shrunken Zombie Head, Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum, Shipwreck on the Rocks, and Uh Oa!, just to name a few.
My favorite of these drinks is the Uh Oa! The menu describes it well: “Whoever is brave enough to conjure up this concoction cursed by Uh Oa, the tiki goddess of disaster, must be forewarned: When you mess with Polynesia, the tiki gods will squeeze ya (often with a lime)! Light and Dark Rums, Orange, Passion Fruit, Guava, and Grapefruit Juices, Falernum, Cinnamon, and Freshly Squeezed Lime Juice. Recommended for two or more guests.”
This drink is awesome. The presentation is great and it’s not just sugar water and juices with a splash of alcohol (like many of the Generic DisneyParks® Drink Menu® drinks). Not only is it delicious, but it’s a lot of fun with a group. Highly recommended.
With so many wonderful alcoholic concoctions, you’re going to need something to soak up the booze. Fear not, as the food menu at Trader Sam’s is also wonderful.
We’ve sampled most of the items on the menu, with the Pu Pu Platter, Ahi Poke, and Kalua Pork Flatbread being our favorites.
However, it’s all good, and not just in a “I’ve had a couple drinks so any greasy bar food will taste delicious at this point” kind of way. It actually all is good, with great flavor and surprisingly good presentation on a lot of items. The dessert flight was also pretty good and compliments the sweet drinks, but I preferred the non-dessert appetizers. Even thinking about them now has me salivating!
This flatbread was good, but fairly basic.
We thought the Ahi Poke was an aggressive choice for a bar, but they pulled it off, and it tastes fresh!
Overall, Trader Sam’s isn’t just a bar. It isn’t just a restaurant. It’s an attraction. It’s one of the greatest things Disney has built in years. Kudos to Disney for taking a risk with this location instead of just making it a generic cash-cow poolside bar. I would imagine that the Walt Disney Imagineering team had a field day with this location, and it really shows. This is sure to be a favorite location of ours for years, and I highly recommend anyone who is traveling to Disneyland walk over to the Disneyland Hotel to check it out. It’s family friendly until 8pm (and your kids will love it!), so it is something everyone can experience. I really don’t have enough superlatives to describe Trader Sam’s – Enchanted Tiki Bar. It’s a must visit–as close to perfection as Disney has come in recent years.
Overall Score: 10/10
To read other Disney restaurant reviews from Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Disney Cruise Line, organized by location, check out our Disney Dining Reviews Index.
Do you agree that Trader Sam’s is so great that it almost qualifies as an attraction? What are you favorite gags and easter eggs? Share your thoughts in the comments!