*This gluten free dining experience took place in February 2021. It includes information about dairy free options, as well as fish/shellfish, peanut, hazelnut, cabbage, and chicken & turkey allergies.
Lunch at Kona Cafe
Kona Cafe, located at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, is one of our favorite resort table service restaurants on Disney property for delicious special diets meals and affordable prices. Normally, we dine at Kona Cafe for dinner or breakfast, but on this visit, we decided to grab an early first seating lunch. We were excited to dine at Kona as it had been quite a few months since our last meal there.
COVID-19 & Reopening Notes
On this particular visit, we made reservations for the restaurant a few days before we dined there. I used the My Disney Experience app and found that there was a first lunch seating, which we decided to book (the restaurant opens for lunch at 11:30 a.m. but does serve breakfast earlier in the day). 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 were able to use the online check-in when we arrived with no issues.
The restaurant 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. We also noticed on this visit that there was some overflow seating for Kona Cafe on the walkways outside of the restaurant since the monorail is not currently operating.
As a note, at the time of writing this review, we have been to several of the Disney Resorts, including the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boardwalk Resort, Contemporary Resort, Coronado Springs Resort, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Old Key West Resort, Polynesian, Riviera Resort, and Wilderness Lodge Resort along with all of the theme parks. 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.
We’ve reviewed Kona Cafe many, many times. So, we won’t go into a lot of the theme in this review. You can find some of our other reviews with more photos and information on the blog.
Generally, the restaurant is a contemporary take on modern Polynesian decor. But, the restaurant has not been updated in many years. So, you may find that the decor has a bit of a 1990s feel to it. There’s lots of bright colors and patterns featured on the carpet, upholstery, and decorations at Kona Cafe.
The restaurant is also “open” in that it’s a lobby restaurant that fully opens to the 2nd floor walkways. Depending on where you’re seating, you might get a lot of people watching in.
When we dined at the restaurant, the breakfast and lunch hours were just switching over. So, that meant it was very quiet. If you are looking to avoid large crowds or prefer quieter times, we highly recommend an earlier or later lunch which seem to be the best when dining indoors with less people right now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This photos also gives you a good idea of what the interior of the restaurant looks like along with the general theme and atmosphere that you’ll experience when dining at Kona Cafe.
The restaurant does include social distancing measures throughout. And, we found that dining at 11:30 a.m. helped make the restaurant feel even quieter and more socially distanced due to the low number of diners.
Like most Disney owned restaurants, Kona Cafe does have an allergy-friendly menu. You can, of course, always speak to a chef when you dine at Kona Cafe too to discuss different options, modifications, and any questions that you might have.
Because we have dined so much at Kona Cafe, we don’t always speak directly with a chef. But, because our server noted our multiple special dietary needs, she recommended that we bring a chef out to discuss the options. It was actually a great thing to do, as I was able to make a special request for a to-go order, which I’ll talk about later in this post.
Up first were allergy-friendly rolls. These are gluten free, dairy free & free of the top 8 common allergens and vegan. The current brand used was Bloomfield Farms, which I really love. They were very well heated and tasted great, as always. I also got some Smart Balance vegan buttery spread on the side. The restaurant does usually offer Earth Balance, but due to supply issues they only had Smart Balance (both of which are gluten free, dairy free & vegan) at this time. It’s always a good idea to ask a chef when dining at a restaurant what dairy free & vegan options are available.
For my entree, I decided to get the Kona Chicken Stir-Fry which came with Rice Noodles, Napa Cabbage, Carrots, and GF Teriyaki Sauce. This dish is marked safe for Gluten/Wheat, Egg, Fish/Shellfish, Milk, and Peanut/Tree Nut Allergies.
I had this dish on a previous visit and really enjoyed it. The last visit, I found the dish to be a bit heavy on the GF teriyaki sauce, which I enjoy but thought was just a bit too much. This time, the noodles had the perfect amount of GF teriyaki sauce. The chicken was really well cooked and the vegetables were flavorful and tasty. If you enjoy noodles and stir-fry, this is a great option for gluten free and dairy free guests.
Brandon absolutely loves Kona Cafe’s Pork Belly Noodle Bowl, and you would be hard-pressed to see him ordering anything else from Kona Cafe for his entree. This dish is marked safe for Fish/Shellfish, Milk, and Peanut/Tree Nut Allergies. It was also made safe for chicken & turkey and cabbage allergies by swapping out the bone froth for a vegetarian Jasmine broth and omitting bok choy and other types of cabbage from the vegetable medley in the noodle bowl.
Brandon absolutely loves all the flavors of this dish and always raves about it. If you enjoy noodle bowls and pork belly, this is a great dish for you.
On this visit, we had briefly mentioned that it was my birthday the day before. Unexpectedly, the chef brought out a lovely platter of special diets treats for us to enjoy for dessert. This included Enjoy Life Cookies Snickerdoodles & Chocolate Chip Cookies, fresh fruit, coconut macaroons, and a gluten free, dairy free & vegan tapioca pudding. Everything was gluten free on the plate and all but the coconut macaroons and chocolate decorations were dairy free. If you’re a dessert fan, I do highly recommend the tapioca pudding. There’s lots of bright citrus flavors in it, and I absolutely love the creaminess of it. We enjoyed it all, and it was such a thoughtful treat from the chef.
The special request that I mentioned earlier was a to-go order. Because were dining just after the breakfast and lunch switchover at Kona Cafe, I asked the chef if it was possible to order a to-go order of breakfast food — specifically the gluten free macadamia nut pancakes. The chef checked in the kitchen to see if that was possible and was able to make this dish to-go. If you are dining at Kona Cafe for breakfast, the GF version of the macadamia nut pancakes are not listed on the allergy-friendly menu, but you can order them upon request. I had these the next morning, and they reheated really well! It was a nice treat and good to know that you can sometimes get take-out during that switchover period if you ask.
If you want to get more information about our visit to Kona Cafe, we did film our visit for our YouTube channel.
We always really enjoy our meals at Kona Cafe. And this visit did not disappoint. We absolutely loved the entrees that we ordered, which were repeat dishes for both of us. And, we also really loved the surprise dessert platter. All of the food we had was great! Our experience with the chef and low crowds was also outstanding. We so appreciate that the chef could accommodate a breakfast to-go order too. While it may be a bit before we’re back at Kona Cafe again, we always enjoy it and can’t wait to have another great meal there.
Have you been to Kona Cafe? What was your experience with the special diets options there?