*This gluten free dining experience took place in August 2020. It includes information about dairy free options, as well as fish/shellfish, peanut, hazelnut, cabbage, and chicken & turkey allergies.
Dinner at Kona Cafe
Kona Cafe, located at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, reopened in July 2020 after the Disney Parks & Resorts closed temporarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kona Cafe is one our favorite resort table service restaurants for a reasonably priced and delicious special dietary needs safe meal. So, Brandon and I were thrilled to be able to finally get back to the restaurant for a meal when we went in August 2020.
COVID-19 & Reopening Notes
On this particular visit, we made a last minute reservation on the same day that we dined. I used the My Disney Experience app and found that there was a 8:30 p.m. seating, which we decided to book (the restaurant closed at 9 p.m.). The app worked as it normally does, and we were able to add in our special dietary needs in the app and alert cast members of our needs when we arrived at the restaurant. We also utilized online restaurant check-in when we arrived at Kona Cafe. Online check-in includes using your My Disney Experience app to check-in yourself. It’s super easy, and I hope Disney keeps this going forward too.
The Polynesian Village Resort itself featured many mechanisms to provide sanitization, social distancing, and safety for both guests and cast members. All cast members wore facial masks and some cast members also wore protective shields, as well. All servers in the restaurant wore both facial masks and protective shields. In addition, there were many portable hand sanitizer stations for guests to use. We also saw cast members regularly cleaning surfaces and restrooms throughout our visit. The resort itself was fairly quiet — making social distancing very easy. The restaurant was a little busier than expected (it is currently the only table service restaurant open in the resort), but the tables were well spaced out to provide social distancing.
As a note, at the time of writing this review, we have been to several of the Disney Resorts, including the Contemporary Resort, Old Key West Resort, and Riviera Resort. All locations have the same protocols, as far as we have observed. Be sure to check with restaurants and the official Disney World website for additional information about current guidelines and recommendations.
Kona Cafe has Polynesian inspired decor. The restaurant decor hasn’t been updated in many years, so the restaurant theme does feel a bit on the dated side. Still, there’s a lot of charm and nostalgia for me in this restaurant.
Kona is located on the second floor of the main building at the Polynesian Village Resort and is open to the second floor lobby area. It’s a good spot to watch other guests walk by as they head onto the monorail and other Disney destinations.
The restaurant is definitely very bright and cheerful. There’s a lot of seating options including standard tables and booths with plush seats.
During our visit, we both agreed that we felt in terms of the seating that the front area of the restaurant, with the booths and plusher seating, seemed to be more of a challenge for social distancing. We were seated in the far back of the restaurant and felt the spacing there was definitely more comfortable for our personal preference.
We did also dine at one of the last seatings of the evening, so your mileage may vary on seating and capacity depending on the time that you visit.
Like most restaurants at Disney World, Kona Cafe does offer an allergy-friendly menu. We were also told by our server that we could speak with a chef at any time. As far as protocols and offerings, we found the restaurant to be just as accommodating as they are during normal times.
The only interesting part about our visit was that the allergy-friendly menu that we were sent by a reader from the week before was different than the one that we received on our visit. So, on whatever visit you have to a Disney restaurant, be aware that the menus can change depending on supplies and availability. For the most part, the biggest changes we have seen in the past few months is that restaurants are slowly adding more dishes back to their menus, which is great news.
To start our meal, Brandon and I were served the Bloomfield Farms brand Allergy-Friendly dinner rolls. These are gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free, and vegan. We were also served regular butter, but the restaurant does offer Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread, as well.
We have had these rolls at pretty much every Disney restaurant that we’ve dined at this summer. So far, Kona Cafe was the restaurant that did the worst on heating these rolls up well, but overall, we enjoy the flavors of these rolls and love having them as an allergy-friendly option whenever we dine out at Disney.
Brandon wasn’t initially a fan of these rolls, but he has come to enjoy them a lot — especially if they are well-heated.
For my entree, I asked if I was able to get the Gluten Free and Dairy Free Chicken Teriyaki Stir-Fry that had been on the allergy-friendly menu the previous week (but wasn’t on the menu when we visited). I was glad to hear that this was not an issue and easy to accommodate.
The dish included rice noodles, grilled chicken, lots of veggies, and gluten free teriyaki sauce. Overall, I really enjoyed this dish, especially because they used the GF teriyaki sauce that is normally served at ‘Ohana. So, I totally had ‘Ohana vibes at our meal.
My only slight criticism was that the stir-fry was heavily sauced. I probably would have cut the sauce in half as it was a little too much sauce for my taste (and I am a huge fan of sauces!). I would definitely get this again if it’s still on the menu the next time we visit.
For Brandon’s entree, he ordered his favorite dish at Kona Cafe — the Pork Belly Noodle Bowl. It is marked safe for Fish/Shellfish, Milk, and Peanut/Tree Nut Allergies. They also swapped the broth out and used vegetable broth instead to make this dish chicken & turkey free. And, they also made sure to not include bok choy, as Brandon is also allergic to cabbage.
If you have read any of our other reviews of Kona Cafe, you know just how much Brandon loves this noodle bowl. It’s a must on any visit to Kona for him.
The other dish that Brandon always orders at Kona Cafe is the Mashed Potatoes. Normally, you can order a large side of these. But, on this visit, Brandon was served a small bowl — as the potatoes aren’t currently on the menu (but were available that night the the short ribs entree).
Creamy, rich, and super tasty — the mashed potatoes at Kona Cafe are a great gluten free, fish/shellfish free, and peanut free side dish.
If you want to get more information about our visit to Kona Cafe and the Polynesian Village Resort, check out our vlog that we recorded on our YouTube channel.
Kona Cafe is always a must-visit restaurant for us at the Disney Resorts. It’s a restaurant that we visit again and again for solid special dietary needs food options, delicious meals, and reasonable prices. We are hoping that it remains open to guests during the upcoming refurbishment of the resort too, because would hate to miss out on this great restaurant for a year.
Have you been to Kona Cafe? What did you enjoy when you dined there?