Update 03-27-2015: New details have been revealed for Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney World, which soft opens March 28, 2015. This article originally ran July 30, 2014.

When Disney announced that Trader Sam’s would be coming to the Polynesian Resort as part of its big renovation, I was thrilled. As a Disneyland local, Trader Sam’s quickly became one of my favorite places to dine when I started visiting the park on a regular basis. There’s so much I love about it: the atmosphere, the drinks, the food, the staff. For those of you who have never been to Trader Sam’s or haven’t even heard of the bar, I’d like to share some of my experiences with Trader Sam’s.

When Trader Sam’s was first described to me as “a Tiki bar with lots of fun drinks and cool special effects,” I imagined something akin to Rainforest Cafe, which is not my favorite place to dine by any means. Once I stepped into Trader Sam’s, I instantly knew my expectations were  wrong. Trader Sam’s is small, with dim and intimate lighting. The walls are covered with fun details and references to the Jungle Cruise and Adventureland, but in a subtle way that begs you to look around and discover them. Where a themed restaurant like Rainforest Cafe is big, loud, and pretty obvious with its theming, Trader Sam’s is the complete opposite. Trader Sam’s feels like nothing else at Disneyland, and that’s what makes it so special.

Trader Sam's - Interior

Trader Sam's - Behind the Bar

As for the special effects, they range from subtle to pretty blatant, but they’re all well done and fun. The eyes on the totem poles throughout the bar slowly creepy from side to side. The beer taps have glowing eyes, and sound effects play as the bartender pours a drink. Then there are the drink-specific special effects. Order the Shipwreck, and a model ship in a bottle behind the bar sinks. Order the massive Uh Oa!, and the lights dim, thunder claps above, and the volcano in the window erupts as the bartender sprays a water bottle and exclaims “It’s lava!” The commitment and playfulness of the Cast Members at Trader Sam’s really help sell the effects. Unsurprisingly, the CM’s have always been extremely nice and give great service. The last time I was at Trader Sam’s, I had to take a phone call outside the bar. Even though the Shipwreck I ordered was served to our table, they waited to do the effect until I came back in.

Totem Pole - Trader Sam's

Speaking of the drinks, almost everything I’ve had here has been great. If you’re a fan of flavorful tropical drinks, you’re going to love Trader Sam’s. The Krakatoa Punch is a fruity concoction featuring Gorilla Grog, Grenadine, and Spiced Rums. When I had it, it was served with a glowing ice cube: a fun touch that made it reminiscent of lava.

Krakatoa Punch - Trader Sam's

Trader Sam's - Passionate Python

The Passionate Python is another fruity drink, featuring red passion fruit and tropical juices garnished with an orange peel. For the ultimate Trader Sam’s drink, try the Uh Oa! Served in a bowl, this bad boy features a mixtures of rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, lime juice, passion fruit, and cinnamon. It makes a dramatic entrance that even features a little bit of fire. The Uh Oa! can be shared by 2-4 people. If you don’t want something quite as sweet, definitely try the Shipwreck on the Rocks. It’s a mixture of bourbon, agave nectar, lemon, and mint that is oh so refreshing. The Shipwreck is my go-to drink at Disneyland. Trader Sam’s also has a full service bar featuring wine and draft beer. Non-alcoholic beverages are also available.

I really doubt I would love going to Trader Sam’s as much as I do if they only had great drinks. Fortunately, the food is also exceptional. Most of the offerings at the Enchanted Tiki Bar are appetizers that can be easily shared with your party. The Pu Pu Platter is always a safe bet, as it gives you a sampling of a few of the dishes at Trader Sam’s. With Sweet and Spicy Asian Wings, Panko-crusted Chinese Long Beans with Sriracha Aioli, and Tropical Slaw, pretty much everything on the Pu Pu Platter is excellent. I’m especially fond of the wings, which are more sweet than spicy. The Panko-crusted long beans are somewhat addictive, especially when dipped in the Sriracha aioli. They recently changed out the pork ribs that were included with the Pu Pu Platter with glazed sausage bites. I haven’t had a chance to try those, but knowing the track record of this bar, I’m hopeful that they are very tasty.

Pu Pu Platter - Trader Sam's

Trader Sam's - Wings

For those wanting an entree, the Kalua-style pulled Pork Sandwich is great. It’s topped with a tropical slaw and served with sweet potato fries. The Shrimp Tacos were also very tasty, but the serving size was a little small for the price.

Pulled Pork Sandwich - Trader Sam's

Trader Sam's - Shrimp Tacos

Trader Sam’s pretty much has everything you could ask for in a dining location at Disney. It has a fun theme that is wonderfully executed. It has a unique, intimate atmosphere. The food and drinks are very good. All of these combine to make Trader Sam’s a pretty special place at Disneyland. If Disney can recreate those elements at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at the Polynesian, then I’m sure it will be a special place to visit at Disney World as well. I’m also excited because the concept art Disney has released for the WDW Trader Sam’s has some new elements, which means that it won’t be a simple copy/paste of the Disneyland location.

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar is located at the Disneyland Hotel, near the pool. Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is due to open at the renovated Polynesian Village Resort in 2015.

What are you most looking forward to trying at Trader Sam’s? Let me know in the comments below.

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James is a lifelong Disney Parks fan. While at the parks, he loves finding new details, learning more about Disney World history, and taking pictures. His favorite WDW attractions include Spaceship Earth, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.
James is a filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles.

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