*This gluten free dining experience took place in September 2019. It includes information about dairy free modifications.
Breakfast at Kona Cafe
Kona Cafe, located in Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, used to be one of my family’s favorite table service restaurants for breakfast on Disney property. Sadly, the last few years have seen quite a bit of change to the breakfast menu at Kona Cafe. And, so my family slowly stopped going there regularly due to the declining quality of the food, service, and overall options. Recently, my family came into town and wanted to go out to breakfast at Disney. After a two-year gap in eating there for breakfast and hearing how much Brandon and I have been enjoying the new dinner options, we decided to give it a try after a long break.
The Polynesian Village Resort is one of my family’s all-time favorite resorts on property. We all love the mid-century modern construction and decor. Plus, who doesn’t want to feel like they’re in Hawaii?!
I always love just hanging out in the resort lobby. The second floor, where Kona Cafe and Ohana are located can be a bit crowded, but if you’re there when it’s quiet, the cozy chairs on the second floor are a great spot to rest and relax.
Kona Cafe is a bit of a lobby-style restaurant, in that it’s directly located in the second floor lobby area. Unlike Ohana, where you can walk into a more secluded restaurant area, Kona Cafe is open to the lobby with guests walking by to the shops or the monorail entrance.
There is plenty of spacious seating, and if you like a more quiet meal, I always recommend asking for a seat in the back of the restaurant.
As you can see from this photo, the restaurant’s decor includes bright mid-century modern colors. Although I do enjoy the charm of this restaurant, the decor does feel a bit dated in Kona Cafe. I swear it hasn’t changed since the 1990s, and it could use a bit of a refresh one of these days. But, it’s always nice and relaxing to eat at this restaurant — even if the interior feels a bit dated.
Like most Disney-owned restaurants, Kona Cafe does carry an allergy-friendly breakfast menu. While it does include a lot of options, I always recommend speaking directly to a chef, especially if you’re interested in something not marked safe for your special dietary need on the allergy-friendly menu. As you’ll see from this review, I ordered two dishes not marked on the menu but that the chef was able to easily accommodate and modify.
On this visit, my mom and I were talking before we got to the restaurant, and she asked if we could split an order of allergy-friendly Mickey waffles. My mom does not have any special dietary needs, but she actually prefers the allergy options over the regular ones. Neither one of us loves super sweet options at breakfast. So, we decided we would split two entrees to get a little bit of sweet and savory breakfast options.
When the chef came out, I did ask what allergy-friendly Mickey waffle mix they were using. I had heard from my friend Alexis at Alexis’s Gluten Free Adventures that the restaurant was using Carbon’s Golden Malted Gluten Free Waffle & Pancake Mix. I’m not at all a fan of the flavor of that mix or the texture. And, quite frankly, the waffles made with this mix are just plain gross. On top of that the mix does contain soy. And while it’s certified gluten free, the company does not disclose that the mix is made on shared equipment with wheat and several other top eight allergens. I would much rather eat the mixes from Bob’s Red Mill or Namaste, which are infinitely tastier and that have much better transparency with their food production and allergy-friendly safety.
That being said, the chef did tell me that they still have Namaste Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix that can be used for pancakes. This was great news because I was very interested in the gluten free macadamia nut pancakes.
We decided to order the Polynesian Egg Platter which came with Two Eggs-Any Style with Fresh Fruit Poke, an Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC Donut, and Home-fried Potatoes with Bacon. This dish is not on the allergy-friendly menu. But, the chef said he could easily accommodate this. The only real swap was the regular muffin that comes with it for a gluten free, dairy free, and vegan donut from Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC. The entire dish was gluten free and dairy free.
Both my mom and I agreed that we would 100% get this breakfast entree again. The savory components with the eggs, bacon, and potatoes were all excellent. And, it was nice to get a healthy side of fruit along with the breakfast pastry. I was also pleasantly surprised at the taste of the Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC donut. I have found that sometimes they taste a little stale when they’re served at a restaurant. But, this one was fresh and very tasty.
Of course, the best part of our breakfast were the Macadamia Nut Pancakes. This includes the pancakes made with Namaste Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix and served with with Macadamia Nut Butter, Pineapple Sauce, and a side of Ham. This dish is gluten free but does contain dairy. You may be able to get a version of these gluten free and dairy free, and I would recommend talking to a chef directly if you’re interested in that option.
Both my mom and I were wowed by these pancakes. The flavor was incredible. And the texture was fantastic. The pancakes do contain macadamia nuts in the pancake batter and in the butter served with it. The pineapple sauce was super delicious and added a nice bit of sweetness. Topped with 100% pure maple syrup, this was hands down one of the best sweet breakfast entrees I’ve had in a very long time at Disney World.
The overall portion was huge too. My mom and I split both entrees, and we both couldn’t finish the pancakes because the portion was so big. But, we both agreed that splitting these two entrees was a great way to sample all the different dishes Kona Cafe has to offer. Though, I have to admit, I might lean towards ordering the pancakes over the Polynesian Egg Platter next time I go!
Kona Cafe has definitely redeemed itself from our previous lackluster experiences a few years ago. While I still miss the old days of Kona Cafe with their famous Big Kahuna Entree, I’m glad to see that the restaurant has added some options that offer some sweet and salty options in one dish. And, I absolutely love the gluten free Macadamia Nut Pancakes. These will be high on my must-order list for breakfast at Kona next time I visit.
Have you been to Kona Cafe for breakfast? What did you think of their options?
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