No one ever accused Magic Kingdom of being Walt Disney World’s culinary epicenter. However, if you’re inspired to go deeper and deeper into Adventureland, or really just slightly beyond its entrance, you’ll find the park’s World Famous Jungle Cruise restaurant, Skipper Canteen.
We won’t bury the lede: Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen (its full name) is our favorite restaurant in Magic Kingdom–both the themed design and cuisine are fantastic. The interior is a treasure trove of obscure references to the history of Walt Disney World (and other parks) and the menu has something for everyone. Some might say it’s amazing…colossal…stupendous…the eighth ninth wonder of the (Walt Disney) world!
In a park with mostly crowd-pleasing dining options, Skipper Canteen has an exciting and ambitious menu. On top of that, it’s a fun place with amusing servers and exceptional atmosphere. Unlike many Walt Disney World fans, we do not think the other table service restaurants at Magic Kingdom are all overrated (to the contrary, I think pretty much all of them have some redeeming value), but Skipper Canteen is still the standout.
Before digging into the memorable meals you can have at Skipper Canteen, we’re going to start with a look at what makes this a Jungle Cruise restaurant. The backstory, humor, gags, details, and the many references.
The story of Skipper Canteen is essentially an outgrowth of one of Jungle Cruise’s old jokes. No, not that one about seeing water from behind (nailed the delivery there!)–the one about that same waterfall’s namesake. Come to find out, Schweitzer Falls is named after Dr. Albert…Falls. (Fun fact: that doctor himself was named after a certain mystical primate…probably.)
The Jungle Cruise restaurant was once a colonial mansion that the Falls family called home. The estate was home to Dr. Albert Falls, who founded the Jungle Navigation Company in 1911. It was also home to his wife and fellow adventurer Victoria Marie Falls, who assisted him in running the company and operating the Jungle Cruise.
The Fallses also used their manion as a meeting place for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A.), a secret society with secret members and secreting meeting places all over the world, from Magic Kingdom to the Polynesian (Village Resort). It also has outposts in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Anaheim, Paris, and the ocean.
The Society of Explorers and Adventurers would assemble in a S.E.A-cret meeting-room built behind the manor’s library. Members of the S.E.A. who gathered in this gallery included Merriweather Adam Pleasure, Captain Mary Oceaneer, Chef Tandaji, Sango Shio, Luana Teixeira, the majestic monkey Albert Mystic, and his human, Lord Henry Mystic.
While her father was busy traveling on the “lecture circuit” in 1919, Dr. Falls’ eight-year-old granddaughter Alberta was sent to live in the estate. The Falls family recognized an adventurous spirit in Alberta that would be better allowed to blossom in the jungle, so the Falls estate became her new home where she could better learn the business.
In 1927, Dr. Albert Falls met a fate common of S.E.A. members of the era: mysterious disappearance. This left Alberta Falls as the new president of the Jungle Navigation Co. But that wasn’t even the “and something goes terribly wrong” part.
The Falls family had fallen on tough times, economically speaking, so Alberta turned the estate into a mixed use facility. Alberta would also come to work as the Jungle Navigation Company’s manager, bookkeeper, and head-mechanic. (She didn’t have time to take on any more odd jobs, so laughing at her jokes was a must.)
It was Alberta Falls’ idea to transform the Jungle Navigation Co. headquarters into a restaurant to capitalize on all the hungry passengers disembarking the world-famous Jungle Cruise, And with that, Skipper Canteen was born.
The Jungle Cruise restaurant features three different dining rooms. The Crew Mess Hall–which isn’t even messy at all–is the largest one and the one that first greets guests as they enter Skipper Canteen.
Subjectively, this is the worst room at Skipper Canteen, and yet, it’s where most guests are seated. It’s easy to see why Walt Disney World fans have tepid opinions of the restaurant if this is where they’re seated. (Recently, we’ve noticed this room is completed filled before they even start using the better, smaller dining rooms.)
The Crew Mess Hall features wall hangings of photos, documents, masks, native musical instruments, and expedition mementos gathered by the Jungle Cruise skippers on their expeditions. There are some fun visual gags and nods to other attractions and Imagineers, plus entire (amusing) documents to read.
Nevertheless, it’s the least interesting of the seating areas in Skipper Canteen. It’s cavernous and loud, a mess of people and noise, you might even say. The Crew Mess Hall is to Skipper Canteen what the Ballroom is to Be Our Guest Restaurant.
Then there’s the Jungle Cruise Room or Falls Family Parlor. As the second name suggests, this was the family parlor prior to conversion into a restaurant, and accordingly, it’s a more intimate location and features memorabilia culled from the Falls’ family archives.
The Jungle Cruise Room is highlighted by wood carvings of scenes made from wood on the Jungle Cruise docks, stained glass chandeliers in the form of the Enchanted Tiki Room’s birds, and other animal artifacts. Hence its other name, the Jungle Cruise Room. Purely subjective, but this dining room is excellent–far superior to the Crew Mess Hall.
The third and final dining room is located in the…wait for it…backside of bookcase! (Okay, doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.) This room was actually the private meeting place for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, discussed above.
On the way in, you’ll spot several S.E.A. club fezzes on display in a glass case, which name checks those who attended secret meetings in the secret meeting room at Skippers Canteen.
The bookcase itself is a treasure trove of references and sly nods. Almost every single title (maybe all of them!) is an Easter Egg. Whether it be the title or the author, these books almost all relate to something at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, the international parks, S.E.A. or Imagineering.
Fans will recognize hat tips to other offerings in Adventureland, including the Enchanted Tiki Room, Pirates of the Caribbean, Orange Bird at Sunshine Tree Terrace, Indiana Jones Adventure, and more. There are also more obscure references, including things like the extinct Tokyo DisneySea show, Legend of Mythica and other attractions in Hong Kong Disneyland and the Japan parks.
The Society of Explorers and Adventurers room features more display cases and a map of mythological creatures discovered by the members. Again, this contains even more references, this time to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Discovery Bay (the unbuilt land at Disneyland), World of Motion (the extinct EPCOT Center attraction), Imagineer Ward Kimball, and more that I probably missed.
Another highlight of the S.E.A. room is the butterfly booth, which features a wall of display cases with butterfly specimens that once belonged to Lillian Disney. On the other side of the room on the mantle above the fireplace, there’s a painting of Doctor Albert Falls discovering the Cambodian Temple seen in the Jungle Cruise attraction. Across from that, there’s a carved S.E.A. emblem.
Without question, the Society of Explorers and Adventurers room is the best of the bunch at Skipper Canteen.
While the Mess Hall definitely has the biggest Jungle Cruise vibes of the restaurant–and the most nods to its namesake attraction–the other two rooms are more intimate, quieter, and full of more creative and unique details. Don’t get me wrong, I love all of Skipper Canteen, but the Mess Hall feels a bit like a ‘prop shop’ that’s been piled high with Easter Eggs. The design of the other two rooms feels more purposeful, and their atmosphere is more elegant. That’s most pronounced in the S.E.A. room, but it’s also true in the Jungle Room.
Our final room to tour is a secret one.
You can tell by the sign in the photo above that says “restrooms through the ‘secret’ door.”
The tilework, elephant carvings, detail inside the sink, and privacy of the stalls is all top-notch. Truth be told, there are probably a lot of “secret” table service restaurant restrooms that have been “snubbed” from the list because I forget to take my camera into the bathroom (as one does) and capture photos. Moving along…
Even more backstory around the Falls family has been fleshed out thanks to the recent reimagining of Jungle Cruise. This added a lot of lore to the attraction, most of which is difficult to ascertain from the attraction itself. Much of it was published online, including a 1938 issue of The Daily Gnus about Alberta Falls and the World-Famous Jungle Cruise.
The article also introduces a number of new characters, including Victoria Marie Falls, Siobhan “Puffin” Murphy, Dr. Leonard Moss, Rosa Soto Dominguez, and S.E.A. Member Dr. Kon Chunosuke. If you’re interested in more info about these characters, check out the My Disney Experience app, which will give you detailed bios.
Imagineering has also been bolstering references between Adventureland and the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. That’s pretty obvious from the above, as Skipper Canteen was one of the first things at Walt Disney World to really embrace S.E.A. This has continued with Jungle Cruise, and the same is expected to occur with the treehouse at Disneyland.
Beyond the themed design and backstory, another fun aspect of Skipper Canteen is your server. Like the Jungle Cruise itself, this is highly variable–much more so than the ride. We’ve had some servers who have perfected the deadpan delivery, with performances on par with 50’s Prime Time Cafe that kept in character the entire meal.
On other occasions, we’ve had servers who are indistinguishable from any other regular restaurant at Magic Kingdom. I would say that the norm is somewhere in between, with a few Jungle Cruise jokes peppered into the meal and a bit of dry wit. Although the deliveries differ, I’d liken this to Whispering Canyon Cafe lite. Don’t go in expecting this to be a dry (humor) docked version of Jungle Cruise–let it be a pleasant surprise if it happens.
In typical Jungle Cruise fashion, there’s been a lot of talk up until now, but not much “action.” Since this is a look inside the Jungle Cruise restaurant at Magic Kingdom, it only seems appropriate to share our most recent meal there. With that in mind, let’s turn to the menu at Skipper Canteen, and share some food photos and thoughts about what we ate, starting with appetizers…
For our first appetizer, we ordered the Veranda Fried Rice: Spicy Chili-Garlic Shrimp served over Pork Fried Rice with Eggs and Peas.
This is a returning dish for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. As the name sort of suggests, it was served at the Adventureland Veranda Restaurant, which was located in the same location in Magic Kingdom as Skipper Canteen. Veranda Restaurant was an opening day original, operating from October 1, 1971 until 1994.
For a couple of decades, it was used for special events and character meet & greets (we have fond memories of the Country Bears appearing here during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in the 2000s) before opening as Skipper Canteen in 2015. Time flies.
An appetizer making a comeback from a location that closed nearly 3 decades ago should tell you everything you need to know. I do not recall the Veranda Restaurant in the least, and yet, I’ve heard about the Veranda Fried Rice time and time again in the years since. It has become the stuff of legend, and I assumed it could not possibly live up to the hype.
And yet, it absolutely does. The fried rice has a rich salty and savory flavor bordering on umami territory. The shrimp are plump and delicious, and everything is properly seasoned with a medley of garlic, chili, teriyaki, and who knows what else. I have no issue whatsoever with Harmonious and Disney Enchantment glowing away forever in 2023, but this had better stick around. It’s far and away the best appetizer at Skipper Canteen–maybe all of Magic Kingdom. Highly recommended, and ordering this technically might count as community service, since popularity makes it more likely to stick around.
We opted for the Orinoco Ida’s Cachapas (And you thought our jokes were corny!), consisting of House-made Corn Pancakes, Beer-braised Pork, Roasted Corn, Fresno Pepper Salsa, and Avocado Cream.
I’m pretty sure this has been around for several years–perhaps since Skipper Canteen opened. Yet, to my knowledge, we’ve never ordered it. We usually only order one appetizer–the Falls Family Falafel. That’s Sarah’s favorite appetizer in Magic Kingdom.
This was really good, and a nice refreshing contrast to the Veranda Fried Rice. Almost every ingredient here tasted fresh and light, save for the pork. The meat was savory and flavorful, balancing out the dish and giving it a robust quality.
If you’re looking for something more unique and interesting, this is right up there with the Falls Family Falafel. I don’t think it’s nearly as good as the Veranda Fried Rice, but that’s comfort food and this is a bit more adventurous. (It’s still relatively crowd-pleasing.) Also recommended.
For our first entree, we ordered the “Tastes like Chicken” Because it is! – Crispy-fried Chicken with Sweet Chili Glaze, Stir-fried Vegetables, and Jasmine Rice.
This is one of the menu mainstays at Skipper Canteen, and one of us has ordered it or we’ve shared it with others a few times.
To put our review of this dish in pair-a-docks-ical Jungle Cruise terms: inconsistency is the only consistency.
We have had excellent versions of this, and incredibly underwhelming ones. This was most definitely the latter. The chicken was simply too dry and overcooked. Everything else about it–the crunch of the batter, flavor, and accompaniments–were all fantastic as always, but it was impossible to get past the dry meat. When this dish is good, it is really good, but it’s definitely a gamble.
Our second entree was a relatively recent addition to the menu at Skipper Canteen, the Baa Baa Lamb Chops: Spice-rubbed Lamb Chops, Chermoula, Cauliflower, Potatoes, Cipollini Onions, and Harissa Sauce, garnished with Preserved Lemons and Herbs.
Prior to this, there was a different lamb dish on the menu, which was thinly-sliced and grilled. I’m a sucker for lamb, but wasn’t wild about that dish. The dish was over-seasoned and the natural gamey flavor of the lamb was muted; that might’ve been a plus for many, but not for me.
The Baa Baa Lamb Chops deliver exactly what the old dish should have. The meat was tender and perfectly prepared, and the meat’s natural flavor is enhanced by the rub, rather than smothered under it.
This is a fun and more inventive dish, with a (still relatively mild) bit of kick. The accompaniments were also good, but nothing particularly noteworthy or memorable–they did a good job serving their role as filler. (This dish actually reminds me a lot of the lamb chops that used to be served at Be Our Guest Restaurant.) All in all, we loved this dish and highly recommend it.
For dessert, we ordered the Kungaloosh! – An African-inspired Chocolate Cake with Caramelized Bananas served with Cashew-Caramel Ice Cream topped with Coffee Dust.
This hits the right notes with the flavor combinations and sounds absolutely fantastic. We’ve had it before and really liked it. This time, the chocolate cake was on the dry and ordinary side, which dragged down the entire dessert. I swear I recall it being gooey and incredible before. (In general, I think Skipper Canteen is due for a new dessert menu–at least two of the items have been around for a while.)
Ultimately, it should be easy to see why we love dining at Skipper Canteen. Even with a couple of missteps, we had a delicious meal overall. The food can be adventurous and ambitious, or crowd-pleasing and comforting. There are a number of delicious items on the menu, even if a couple can be on the more hit or miss side. The Jungle Cruise jokes and energy make it one of the more fun restaurants in Magic Kingdom, and there are a ton of Easter eggs, visual gags, and nods to other extinct attractions, parks, and characters from the S.E.A. universe.
Honestly, I’m at a loss for why Skipper Canteen is not much more popular. On paper, it checks all of the boxes that should make it a Walt Disney World fan-favorite. I sort of understand why that’s less true for first-timers–kids care more about princesses, Winnie the Pooh, and Beauty and the Beast characters more than they do “Disney Parks IP.”
When it comes to Disney diehards, I think there’s still a lack of awareness (I’m surprised it hasn’t been rebranded as the “Jungle Cruise Skipper Canteen Restaurant”) and also an erroneous assumption that the menu is unapproachable. That’s definitely not true–to the contrary, there’s something here for everyone.
Some fans may not mind one of their favorite Walt Disney World restaurants flying a little under the radar and always being able to score a last-minute ADR. That’s not my position, as that makes menu changes or complete concept overhauls all the more likely. So if you’ve never given Skipper Canteen a chance, we highly recommend going, requesting a table in the Society of Explorers and Adventurers room, ordering the Veranda Fried Rice (or Falls Family Falafel), Baa Baa Lamb Chops (or “Hardy Har Char” Siu Pork), and Kungaloosh!, and enjoying the experience. It’s a great change-of-pace restaurant in Magic Kingdom, one of the rare spots where you won’t feel rushed or overwhelmed, and can explore or just sit back and enjoy the amusing ride.
Have you eaten at Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Cruise restaurant? What’s your take on the cuisine, theme, backstory, etc? Think this is one of the hidden gems of Walt Disney World, or passed over for good reason? Planning on dining at Skipper Canteen on an upcoming trip? Have you already dined here? Do you agree or disagree with our restaurant review? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!