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.
Our biggest complaint about Captain Cook’s is the size of the restaurant. In the past we’ve dined at Captain Cook’s and it was pretty much a zoo during prime hours. As part of the significant overhaul to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, the the restaurant was changed with its look refreshed. We have dined at Captain Cook’s a couple of times since the renovation, with our most recent meal and update to this review in early 2016. Frankly, the biggest change with the redo was the removal of the self-serve Dole Whip machine (RIP homie!), but that’s (almost?) made up for with some menu improvements.
Substantively, the remodel didn’t do a ton to the restaurant. The seating areas look nicer, but they are exactly the same size. These indoor areas are too small during peak hours, but you can eat outside if there are no available tables inside. “Having” to dine outside at the Polynesian isn’t such a terrible thing…unless you happen to catch an afternoon thunderstorm.
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 motif, and is decorated with graphic posters representing the various islands of Polynesia, but that’s about it.
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.
For this updated review, let’s start with some of the new menu items at Captain Cook’s. First up is the Big Kahuna Sandwich. As you can see, this one is a beast, piled high with turkey, ham, salami, roast beef, and swiss cheese, plus lettuce and tomato on Foccacia bread. The red pepper mayo spread brings it all together, and makes this an incredibly delicious and filling option. I actually prefer this to my beloved turkey sandwich at Sunshine Seasons, which is really saying a lot given how much I order that.
It normally comes with house-made chips for under $10 (adjust for “Disney inflation” if you read this in 2017 or beyond). However, you can order without the chips for around $7, making this one of the absolute best counter service entree values in all of Walt Disney World. Because saving a couple of bucks will take the sting off of paying $2,000+/night for a stay in the Polynesian Bora Bora Bungalows. 😉
The Fish Tacos are likewise pretty tasty, but the portion of fish on these is pretty meager. If you have a small appetite, these are a suitable option, but anyone with a moderate or above appetite should look elsewhere.
One of the more popular items at Captain Cook’s is the Grilled Cheese Sandwich, which has seen a few variations over the years. 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 (below). 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 noodle dish, 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. 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 the menu has grown (in a good way) since the recent renovation. It’s also inexplicably reasonably priced relative to counter service restaurants around the Magic Kingdom-area resorts. 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). Still, there are enough great options here, and favorites like the Big Kahuna Sandwich, Pork Nachos, Grilled Cheese, and the Hawaiian Flatbread (not to mention the Tonga Toast) that completely redeem Captain Cook’s, and make it a great option for Magic Kingdom-area dining.
Want more dining tips? Check out our 101 Delicious Walt Disney World Dining Tips. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews.
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Do you agree that Sunshine Seasons is the best Counter Service restaurant at Walt Disney World? If so, which entree is your favorite? If you don’t like Sunshine Seasons, why not? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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!