Skipper Canteen Review
Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World is a Jungle Cruise-themed restaurant. This review features food photos and our thoughts on the ambiance and experience of dining at this new table service spot in Adventureland. (Updated July 6, 2020.)
The menu at Skipper Canteen is “daring” (odd word choice, but I didn’t want to go for the obvious “adventurous” pun, but I guess I’ve done that anyway with this parenthetical) by Magic Kingdom standards, making it an interesting place to try. Additionally, Skipper Canteen accepts the Tables in Wonderland card for 20% off.
Note that when Magic Kingdom reopens on July 11, 2020, it will do so with a limited slate of restaurants (see our List of Reopening & Closed In-Park Restaurants at Walt Disney World). Additionally, most restaurants will offer scaled-back menus at first, which includes Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen. As such, some of the items reviewed here may not be available in the near future…
When Skipper Canteen was first announced, the concept reminded me of three different restaurants: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, The Explorer’s Club Restaurant, and Magellan’s. These are three of my favorite Disney restaurants/bars anywhere, each being exquisitely done thematically. If it could live up to the reputation of any of these, it would be a huge success for me, especially since it was previously a vacant location in the Magic Kingdom.
Did it live up to my lofty expectations? Well, let’s start with thematics, and go on a bit of a photo tour of Skipper Canteen…
Prior to closing in 1994, this location housed the Adventureland Veranda, a counter service restaurant with interiors designed by Disney Legend Dorothea Redmond.
Since then, it’s been largely neglected, used during hard ticket parties for makeshift meet & greets, and also housing Tinker Bell and her pixie homies for a spell. Unless Skipper Canteen were botched significantly, this would be an upgrade from all that nonsense, at absolute minimum.
Fortunately, Skipper Canteen is a huge upgrade.
Many of the Dorothea Redmond interiors remain intact, and portions of the restaurant are 1971 opening day Magic Kingdom originals. Alongside that, there are new design elements and decor that have been added, providing added texture and newness that compliments that original design.
This is especially evident in the lobby and the main dining room, the Crew’s Mess Hall. This is a light, breezy area where the colors pop and texture is provided through details along the walls and overhead.
We dined in here for my second meal at Skipper Canteen, and although it’s my least favorite of the rooms, that’s relative. I’d still take this over almost any themed area at other Magic Kingdom restaurants.
Despite being called a “mess hall” (words you never want associated with a table service restaurant) this area succeeds in not feeling over-crowded thanks to the spacing of the tables and the airy feeling of the restaurant. It almost reminds me of the type of restaurant you’d find in the South Seas, or heck, even Florida.
I’m a bit surprised it doesn’t have an open air component. (My biggest disappointment is that the remaining verandas outside are sitting unused…perhaps that’s why “Adventureland Veranda” wasn’t chosen as a name?)
For my first meal, I was seated in the S.E.A. Room–a secret meeting place for the Society of Explorers and Adventurers.
I’m a huge fan of S.E.A. (despite it shunning Disney’s greatest explorer: Duffy the Bear) and the way it has weaved together multiple attractions and restaurants from around the world with this common motif.
There must be some Imagineers who are big fans of S.E.A., too, because it’s been showing up in more and more projects as of late.
This room reminded me a lot of the hidden wine cellar in Magellan’s at Tokyo DisneySea.
While there’s a coolness to that wine cellar actually being a secret room, the S.E.A. Room at Skipper Canteen works better because it conveys the stately elegance that you’d expect from a meeting place of people of such status as the members of S.E.A.
It’s not quite as ornate and lavish as Magellan’s as a whole, but this room works really well in the context of Skipper Canteen, and is my favorite room of the bunch. It is warm, intimate, and rife with detail.
You could probably spend hours just looking at the book shelfs trying to place all of the references.
I spotted about 20, including this to the extinct Tokyo DisneySea show, Legend of Mythica. I suspect every title or author name contains such a reference to Disney history, some more obscure than others (at least a couple were probably lost on me).
From the secluded “Butterfly Booth” to the tables by the fireplace to the sea mural, every seat here offers a unique draw.
This room is really a treat, and for me, exemplifies how this space was repurposed in a way that was respectful to the original Adventureland Veranda, while bringing something new to the table.
I am slightly concerned about the potential for overuse of S.E.A. and the Navigation Co., as both are very self-referential.
There’s a fine line between respectful, self-referential homage and over-the-top fan service. A location should stand on its own thematically, adding to a common theme, rather than devolving into a simple tribute.
Thankfully, these are only cautionary words (in my opinion) as Skipper Canteen stays on the right side of that line, keeping its references to respectful homage.
Some things could stand to be a little more subtle, but by and large, it’s all well done.
The final room is the Jungle Room, which is the former Falls’ family parlor. This is the only room in which we haven’t dined, but we spent some time exploring it, and I rather enjoyed this room as well.
Thanks to stained glass lights and parrot light fixtures, it has a vibrant sense of the tropics, with the carpet, ceiling, and fireplace offsetting that with a bit of formality.
Texture and depth are words that keep coming to mind when describing the rooms of Skipper Canteen, and that’s true again of the Jungle Room. My favorite of these details is–by far–the parrot light fixtures.
I’m currently putting together a caper to heist one with the help of Bill Murray and the Wu Tang Clan. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.
All in all, I’m pleased with the theming at Skipper Canteen. It’s more restrained than other recent high-key efforts like Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar and Trader Sam’s, and in this case, I think that’s a good thing.
The aforementioned bars work in their own ways, but I’m not sure if that would have been the case at this table service spot. At some point, a high-level of decor crosses from appropriate theming to looking like the lair of a hoarder, and that does not occur here.
There’s plenty to see, explore, and discover without wondering if some of the Jungle Cruise skippers need a Buried Alive intervention. My only complaint is that some aspects of the S.E.A. room do feel a bit overly-new, but I can’t recall any specific examples to cite, so this is a minor quibble.
Phew. That’s been an abnormal amount of text devoted to theme. Now, for the menu. I’m almost not even sure it’s worth bothering. Skipper Canteen has a very ambitious menu.
It’s far more adventurous than anything else in the Magic Kingdom, and as such, I would not be surprised to see this menu change dramatically at some point. Still, the inveterate optimist in me hopes that the restaurant retains this menu, so I’ll cover each of the dishes we tried.
The meal starts with bread and a honey dip.
I was unimpressed by the bland loaf, and the honey only improved things a tad.
For my first visit, I started with the S.E.A. Shu Mai. This is 6 pork, shrimp and mung bean mixed dumplings presented in a metal container. From the first bite, I knew this wasn’t your average Magic Kingdom restaurant. These bad boys had a spice that I was not expecting.
They weren’t spicy, per se, but rather, they had a complexity more akin to an authentic Chinese restaurant than anything at Walt Disney World–and that includes World Showcase. Highly recommended.
After the unexpected taste of the shu mai, I was really excited for Skipper Canteen’s take on lamb chops. Well, the Grilled Lamb Chops were definitely…different.
They were incredibly thinly sliced, which really subdued the natural, distinct flavor of lamb (something I really like, but your mileage may vary). The berber spice was a nice addition, but not enough. Much to my surprise, the green lentil stew was actually the highlight, and had a delicious flavor to it. Still, not enough for me to recommend this dish. It was good, but should have been better.
For the second visit, we started with the Falls Family Falafel.
This was Sarah’s choice, as I’m not the biggest fan of falafel. Despite that, I thought these had a good texture, with the garlic and herbs carrying this dish. The dip and tomato-cucumber salad actually made it good, which is more than I can say about most falafel. Again, I’m the wrong person to ask on this, though.
Sarah had the Rice Noodle Bowl with Chicken, which she really enjoyed.
The herbs and fresh (she emphasized this) jalapeÃ±os mixed well with the perfectly-cooked vegetables, and the chicken breast provided heartiness to the otherwise light dish. Sarah highly recommends this.
For this meal, I had the Char Siu Pork. After the disappointment of the lamb, this was a rousing success. These pork medallions were some of the most tender pork I’ve tasted in a long time. The char sui marinade really did the trick here, as these were flavorful without tasting like they were soaked in a vat of mystery sodium-sauce. This carnivorous-perfection was accompanied by some vegetables and rice, neither of which were particularly noteworthy, but were nice filler. I’d definitely recommend this.
Several friends also joined us for this meal as we celebrated our conquest of Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend with a grand circle tour of Disney restaurants. I’ll summarily cover their meals with photos and passing thoughts…
First up is the Skip’s Mac & Cheese, which a couple of people at our table ordered.
I really wanted to get this, but as someone who constantly whines about Walt Disney World menus being too vanilla, I felt it would be hypocritical of me to opt for this. It seemed to be a hit among our group, with the sentiment being that the meat gave oomph to the dish.
The Dr. Falls’ Signature Grilled Steak was another dish that tempted me, but I ultimately refrained due to the price.
The presentation of this dish was excellent, and our friend who ordered it, and liked it.
Another of our friends had the Curried Vegetable Crew Stew, which he really seemed to like.
He commented that the sweetness of the squash provided a nice counter-balance to the spices of the curry. This looked like a fairly large dish to me, and good value for its price point.
Someone else ordered the “A lot at Steak” Salad. I don’t recall them having a strong opinion on this one way or the other, but the steak on the salad looked nice.
During this meal, we overheard an adjacent table whose kids ordered something off the menu at Liberty Tree Tavern. I mention this in case the menu options at Skipper Canteen are too adventurous for your kids, now you know that might be an option.
The kids menu seems pretty standard to me, but what do I know. Besides, introducing things outside of kids’ comfort zones at a young age builds character and teaches them that the world won’t cater to their every whim. (Just wait until I inflict my uninformed and impractical views about parenting on you all with “Tom’s Absurd Parenting Blog” 😉 )
Then there’s dessert. We tried one and some friends tried another (the Kungaloosh!, above and the Coconut Bar with Pineapple-Basil Compote and Vanilla Cream, below) and both were, in a word, small.
They were good desserts (especially the coconut bar!), but were more “fine dining” style desserts.
Interesting, I think the same could be said about several of the plates at Skipper Canteen. The presentation and plating of some items suggests an almost Signature-caliber restaurant, but the ambiance says otherwise. I certainly wouldn’t peg it as fine dining, but its menu is on the upper end of standard table service.
I’ve heard many people comment on prices, but I wouldn’t say its particularly expensive by table service restaurants standards. This is especially true when you consider quality. At most, Skipper Canteen’s prices are a couple of dollars higher than comparable entrees elsewhere, but significantly higher in terms of quality.
Overall, Skipper Canteen is not a grand slam, but it’s an in-the-park home run. Of the Magic Kingdom table service restaurants I’ve done, this is the clear winner in terms of both ambiance and cuisine (Sarah puts it #2 behind Be Our Guest Restuarant’s dinner), and its interesting cuisine should be lauded, even if there are a couple of misfires. I love comfort foods, but this is definitely an improvement over most table service options in the Magic Kingdom.
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Are you intrigued by the menu or theme at Skipper Canteen? Planning on dining here? 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!
We’ve eaten at the Jungle Navigation Co several times over the last few years. It is one of our favorite places to eat at WDW. I wish there was one at DL too! We’ve had several birthday meals here. My son says: “It’s a great place, I love it!” And we’ve had the same waiter over different years :). “The waiter dude has some really good jokes!” per my 10 year old. The boys always order off the menu and are perfectly happy. I agree with you, Tom. The world won’t cater to their every whim, and they need to experiment with new things. I can’t wait to see that parenting blog of yours! I’m a long time reader but don’t comment much. Thanks for all of your insight in your blog. We’re not traveling any time soon, so I’m living vicariously through you and the other readers!
We have had dinner twice at Skipper Canteen and it was wonderful both times! Love the theming and atmosphere.
I was fortunate to have accidentally happened upon this place when they first opened and were not even taking reservations at that point. Our party of 5 adults was seated right away. We ordered a variety of apps and entrées and shared everything. I’ve eaten there several times since then and have never been disappointed. We almost always order ala carte, but because we know how to “work” the dining plans, we’ve also split three Deluxe DP credits among four adults. It allowed plenty of food for everyone especially with an appetizer, entrée, dessert and adult beverage for each credit. I just took a look at the current menu. It seems a bit more restrained than in the past, and I surely do hope that’s simply a response to current conditions. The quality, variety, and non-American-ness of the food (without being “out there”) is top notch. I will be very disappointed if they keep it “dumbed down,” so to speak. Cinderella’s Royal Table is great for a special occasion. I’ve only done Be Our Guest for lunch which is worth doing once (I haven’t done dinner there since the upgrade). Other than that, Jungle Navigation Co LTD Skipper Canteen is the only table service restaurant I do at Magic Kingdom. Now I really wish they’d shorten the name!
Hi Tom, would love to see an updated review of the Skipper Canteen! Looks like they now accept dining plans and ADRs. I’m a huge Disney fan but actually had no idea this place existed. We don’t typically do sit down restaurants at MK and I’ve somehow overlooked it for many years. Excited to try it in December!
We really love this restaurant (2 adults who travel solo or with other adults). I notice from your photos that the menu seems tweaked from the early days (we’ve never been served the bread and honey, and the falafel is one of our must-haves…served with hummus and pine nuts (?) now, and just a different dish that what you’ve photographed). This is a great spot for us to do an early lunch, have a glass of wine and relax a bit, before barreling back out for our sunup to sundown days.
They definitely take ADRs (at least over the past year), and we had a great first visit with a larger birthday group last year in the jungle room. Our server at the time was top-notch with the black humor one-liners. Subsequent servers have done a bit of that, but none have matched our first amazing experience.
Food was slightly hit or miss, though I, personally, have never been disappointed by a meal. In fact it’s one of my top dining choices. I always order the sustainable fish which is served over couscous with black garlic aioli and I an incredibly flavorful light broth. Lemongrass? Ugh, its SO good! However, on our larger group experience, two in our party sent back their steak salads. One worked in the restaurant industry for many years and, sensitive to guest behavior, would never have done that if he wasn’t genuinely displeased. I think the Pad Thai another so-so dish.
Overall, though, we love it and have lunch here at least once per visit. The danger for us is over-eating and then being too full to waddle onward.
Tip: The birthday cupcake they presented me with was really adorable. In fact, this birthday lunch was so fun for me, I really didn’t need a separate ‘birthday dinner’ later in the week, because I felt we’d had such truly special dining experiences throughout the visit. (Which is great because the confusingly ‘sub-par’ bday dinner that was planned was really just a ruse for a fireworks cruise! Fooled!)
I hope you and Sarah have occasion to revisit!
Does anyone know how exotic the kids menu is? My typical children are not adventurous eaters but my husband and I would love to try this place!
I just changed our reservation to here from character buffet at Crystal Palace. I have three kids and my husband and I love good food. You can see menu on Disney’s website-not typical chicken tenders, fries, but I think they have good looking options for kids. There is a chicken meal and mac n cheese meal I think.
Thanks! I missed the crispy chicken option when I looked at the menu! I wish I could get my kids to eat chicken soup . The kids menu looks great, mine are just typical stubborn kids that refuse to try new things. I figure they’ll grow out of it eventually
I actually proposed to my girlfriend here in November with her parents. I wanted to make sure she had no idea it was actually going to happen. She figured I’d propose at Sanaa since that was where I did a reservation for just the two of us, but figured it wouldn’t happen after I told her I didn’t see why I had to bring “nice” clothes when she asked. All of us loved the food, atmosphere, and our server. I had our server bring her ring out with dessert which was made into a spectacle, a total of 4 servers to bring out just her dessert. Our server filmed the proposal and took numerous photos! This and Sanaa are must revisit restaurants for us in November for our Honeymoon.
My wife and I just got back from a 5 day trip around new years. Having discovered this blog, we spent a lot of time planning our meal reservations based on your recommendations.
We spent our first day at the Magic Kingdom with lunch at Be Our Guest, which we loved, followed by dinner at Skipper Canteen. I have to say that Skipper Canteen was the most pleasant surprise of our trip. I had the char siu pork and my wife had the lamb chops. Both were excellent.
Thank you so much for your recommendations.
Ok, based on your review, I just booked a table for the first night of our vacay. This will be our “opening meal” and I’m really looking forward to it! Somewhat related, we are having a very late lunch here (3:55) because I’m planning on filling up on free cookies and hot chocolate at MVMCP. Is that a solid plan, or should I expect to need actual food?
P.S. As you can also see by my post, I am happy to report that I was able to make an ADR.
My family of 4 dined there in April and had a fine time!We liked the food and the service. There was a woman and a small child next to us and right when their food came, the child’s misbehavior became too much for the adult and they left! Left their food right there! We joked for a long time about reaching over and stealing it because it looked so good! Our meal was fine, but now I don’t remember too much about what we had.
I am writing a dining report on the DIS from our trip in October and realized that your review of Skipper Canteen has two great shots of our exact table (the 6-top adjacent to the butterfly booth, below the sea monster mural). Would it be OK if I linked to your review in my report? I will of course credit you before providing the link!
Go for it–thanks for asking! 🙂
Awesome, thank you so much! Here’s a link to my report in case you find yourself really bored and in need of something to read 😉
We ate at this restaurant back in September. I changed my reservations from Tony’s Town Square after reading good reviews. The themed decorations were nice and the wait staff was excellent. I loved his jokes and puns.
My husband ordered Dr Fall’s signature Grilled Steak and told me after our trip it was the best meal he had all week.
I ordered the Rice Noodle bowl with Duck…it was okay but that was possible my fault as I asked for the jalapenos to not be in the soup (too spicy) but it left the soup kinda bland…but there was ALOT of soup.
Our desserts were the Coconut Bar with pineapple (pretty good) and the Kungaloosh (amazing).
We enjoyed our meal here and would probably return to try more of the menu in the future.
Between how the service (cast members) is described and the food, this restaurant is the biggest disappointment we’ve ever experienced from a Disney restaurant. We went a few weeks back & won’t be returning. We’ve been to Disney dozens of times and our experiences with their restaurants are in the hundreds
We were able to make reservations at the Skipper Canteen on our trip to WDW at the beginning of September. We enjoyed the food at the Skipper Canteen as much, or more than the food and service at Be Our Guest.
I really enjoy your blog!
We had a vacation booked earlier this month when Matthew decided to visit, and we decided to cancel. In the planning for that we were unable (as you mentioned) to make reservations . That would have been mid spring planning for an early October trip.
All partied involved were quite accommodating with the hurricane related cancellation, but we still had airfare and DVC points that would expire in relatively short order so we decided to re-book for this December (Yay Christmas party!) As of this booking, we were able to reserve a table at Skipper Canteen. I’m not sure if this is across the board, or because we are much closer than the usual 6 months in advance.
We are all really looking forward to some finer food options at the Kingdom.
Thanks for the review and all of the information you have put up here for us!
Tom, you commented that Skipper Canteen does not take Advanced Dining Reservations. Positive change! I just made an ADR for late July. Thank you so much for your reviews of restaurants, hotels, and rides, plus the numerous tips – in short, anything a visitor to WDW needs to know to plan their vacation.
My family of 5 ate at the Skipper Canteen in January. When we left, we all agreed that would be that last time we ate there!
We love adventurous, ethnic food. This place was horrible. The only item we enjoyed was the falafel. The portions were small, the steak was tough, and the noodle bowl was terribly bland. The Mac and Cheese was…in a word…disgusting. The guests at the next table agreed and sent theirs back.
To top it all off, our bill was $225! For lunch!!! With no alcohol! We were told they didn’t accept any dining plans because it is a new restaurant….however I have heard (later) that they do accept TIW.
Overall, we were greatly looking forward to a great table service as it’s almost impossible to get into BOG these days. Sadly we left with a hole in our hearts and an empty wallet.
Between this review, and Lou Mongello’s live podcast of his meal, I can’t wait to try Skipper Canteen! Although I really wish it had ADRs. I’m not normally a super-planner, but I am when it comes to vacation planning.
Do you remember what item the kids were allowed to order from the Liberty Tree Tavern menu? We ate at LTT November, 2014 and were able to order chicken nuggets for our son even though it was not on the menu. We were also able to order him chicken nuggets at Ohana – they have several choices for kids who will not do the usual feast at Ohana. Please let me know. My husband and I would love to try Skipper Canteen – but it isn’t vacation fun if everyone can’t enjoy themselves – at least in my book.
So glad that Disney added another quality table service restaurant. After Cinderella’s Royal Table and Be Our Guest, we have a hard time of being excited about a table service experience. So it sounds like we have another choice in the Magic Kingdom. Thanks so much for the review. Really enjoy your work.