Wednesday, March 16, 2016

WDW's Skipper Canteen: Photo Tour & Review

Last week John and I had some time before a park meetup, so we moseyed over to the new Skipper Canteen restaurant in Adventureland.

We'd heard it's almost always a walk-in - no reservations needed (or even accepted, last I checked) -  and the rumors are true: the cast members at the exterior check-in podium looked positively GIDDY when we asked for a table.

Here's the interior courtyard, presumably where you wait if the place is full:

Your first look inside is another waiting area/lobby:

... with a pretty eclectic design. It feels like Caribbean meets... Victorian? Which I suppose does equal West Indies...

Here's the little sitting area outside those shuttered doors:
You may notice the lack of any people. We certainly did. o.0

(Granted, this was mid-afternoon on a weekday, but this is also DISNEY, so... foreshadowing?)

There's a nifty contraption on the ceiling:

It took me a moment to realize it was moving on a motor, not just being blown by the slight breeze. It's supposed to be an old-timey fan of sorts, but moves so slowly that it's really just decorative.

Now let's get to the good stuff. Here's the main dining hall:

When I first saw photos of the Canteen, I'll admit I was really disappointed - and this room is a big reason why. Don't get me wrong, it's lovely, but it's not the cram-packed Jungle Cruise homage I was expecting. I hoped for a restaurant-sized Hangar Bar or Trader Sam's, both of which are densely packed with obscure treasures and elaborately themed down to the tiniest detail. This... is not.

However, there is still hope! Because through this "hidden" doorway built into a set of bookcases:

...lies the S.E.A. Room.

The S.E.A. Room (which stands for Society of Explorers & Adventurers) is much closer to what I originally hoped for, and echoes the beyond-stunning Magellan's Restaurant in Tokyo Disneyland. 

The prettiest seat in the room has to be this Butterfly Booth: 

But there are also stunning carved reliefs and maps around the other tables:

And check out the ceiling!

We shared the room with two other families, but here's a people-free shot from Tom Bricker's review:

(Tom's photos blow mine out of the water, btw, so I highly recommend clicking over to Disney Tourist Blog to see the rest.)

That back wall houses plenty of exotic-looking statuary, masks, and relics:

Of the three dining areas in Skipper Canteen, the S.E.A. Room is the smallest and the Mess Hall is the largest. The Jungle Room is in between in size, and lives up to its name with bold tropical colors and lots of wicker and wood accents:

Mostly dishware on display, but with plenty of fun finds tucked in:

Another colorful stained glass fixture:

So now that you have a sense of what the place looks like, lets talk food.

John, could you hold...?
Great, thanks.

The menu is somewhat limited (these two pages are it), but the choices are pretty exciting, from noodle bowls to arepas to falafel.

The starter bread is... funky.

My first bite was quite bitter (I forget which herbs our server said are in there, but they're almost... musky? Is that possible?), but fortunately it improved with the honey dip.

We ordered the arepas appetizer, but these are nothing like the sweet fair arepas we're used to:

They come with beef, tostones, and beans, so it's like a build-your-own-taco affair. Everything except the beef was quite bland - the arepas were mostly just bread, then add beans and the yucca starch, and you can imagine why - but I still liked them all together quite well. 

John did not.


For an entree we split the Skip's Mac & Cheese, which has layers of ground beef & creamy Bechamel sauce in with the pasta:

This was *also* somewhat bland (adding salt helped), but still hearty and incredibly filling. The two of us together didn't finish the large crock.

For dessert we tried the "Coconut Bar with Pineapple-Basil Compote:"

This was a dense-yet-light-tasting cake with tiny bits of pineapple and dollops of crunchy meringue decorating the plate. It was good, but not great. (And small as it was, not worth $8.)

That actually sums up my feelings on the food overall: kinda good? But not great. 

John, on the other hand, won't even grant it a "kinda good." I believe he compared the overall meal to feet? But really, I think he's just bitter we paid $20 for Mac & Cheese. o.0

I should note our server kept asking how the food was - I mean, like, a LOT - which John took as a sign that the food isn't much of a crowd pleaser. I think she could tell we just weren't thrilled - although we kept assuring her everything was fine. I'll be curious to see how much the menu changes over time.

I've heard the wait staff at Canteen is supposed to be in character, ala Jungle Cruise, but sadly we didn't get that on our visit. In fact, with the constant queries on how the food was, we felt more like we were the test subjects on review night than guests at a reasonably high-end restaurant.

In summary, I doubt we'll be returning to Skipper's Canteen, but take that with a grain of "we're really cheap bastards" salt. For theme park food, though, it's fine, and the atmosphere is quite fun if you can get out of the main Mess Hall.

Speaking of which, here are some more shots on our way out:

There were slightly more people around now, as it was getting closer to dinner time.

At the far end of the Hall is an overhead balcony packed with treasures I wish we could see better:

These bits appear to be Christmas decorations - perhaps from the Jingle Cruise?

The Lost and Unfound shelf:

And what appears to be the employee's community clipboard:

My favorite find in the Hall: owner Albert Fall's office, which is over the entrance:

And one last look at the Veranda, which was still empty when we left:

Hope you guys enjoyed the virtual visit! And if you've been to Skipper Canteen please let me know how you liked what you ordered, since I'm curious to see how the rest of the food compares.


  1. Well, you confirmed that my decision not to eat there when the kiddo and I visit in three weeks was the right one. I'd love to take a look inside, though; do you suppose I could get away with it, or would that cruelly raise the waiters' hopes? ;-)

    1. Nah, cast members have always been great about letting us walk through restaurants just to take a look, so definitely ask!

  2. I wonder if the parrot chandelier is an homage to the Tiki Room Birds of times gone by. (I miss those guys.)

    1. It definitely feels like it! (I assume you already know, but for others: the original Tiki Room was meant to be a restaurant, and they only changed it to an attraction-only last minute!)

  3. The interior of the main hall reminds me a lot of Don Pablo's. Their website says they have Florida locations, so I don't know whether or not you've been there, but the patios and windows are very reminiscent. The decor is a little more...random? At Don Pablo's it definitely got a Mexican town square kind of vibe. The Skipper Canteen kinda looks like they couldn't decide what vibe they were going for and just threw a bunch of random stuff together. Sorry it was disappointing. Hopefully they can get their act together.

    1. We used to have a DP not too far from us, and John was ADDICTED to their queso - so it's probably good they closed a few yrs back. ;)

  4. I think you missed an opportunity to give them a chance to spruce up their menu. Since the waiter kept asking how the food was, I think suggestions would have helped.

    1. If there was something obvious that might have been helpful, I think I might have chimed in - but as it was, saying "it's fine" was pretty honest. Heh.

  5. I actually hope they don't change the menu, because the more adventurous choices can be kind of tough to find at WDW. :(

    When my family ate there, I had the rice noodle bowl with tofu, which I really liked.

    I did have the good sense to scoop out a LITTLE of the fresh jalapeno, because I didn't want anything TOO spicy, but I left enough in to get the right amount of kick! Maybe they should serve the jalapeno on the side, so people can add to their preference.

    My husband had the lamb, and loved it, and the little one had the "croc" of chicken noodle soup, which was in a broth that had a slight gingery flavor. Not your standard soup, but he ate it, so he must have liked it.

    I had the congee dessert (I've heard people bash this dessert on the basis that the texture is 'weird' but that texture IS the texture of congee. At least mine was, anyway), the Kungaloosh dessert looked good, and the Monkey bites dessert (on the kids menu) was a big hit, too.

    So our dining experience was good, and we were lucky enough to get a waiter who was very much IN character, which was fun.

    I'm with you on the prices, though. They seem a little higher than other, comparable table-service restaurants, especially given the portion size.

    I do wish we'd have been there when you guys were, though. It was pretty busy on the night we were there, but that was when they were testing out their "same day reservation" system. We got to walk right in because I snagged a reservation, but there were a LOT of people loitering around the walk up podium, so it was busy.

    1. Oooh, see, I wish we'd eaten with you guys! And I definitely agree on keeping the more "adventurous" choices; that was the most appealing part to me. I just want them to taste better. :D

  6. Wow, that's pretty disappointing. Seems like so much wasted potential...both in the space and in the food. Well, your photos are great, at least. But, yeah, I'm with John. If I'd spent that much on a meal that unappetizing ("feet"....hahahaha!), then I'd never want to go back either.

    I am happy to see that, even on a menu so limited, there are a few vegetarian/vegan options. But, even vegans can't enjoy bland food.

    If I go to Disney in November, I'm skipping Skipper Canteen. Thanks so much for reviewing it for us, Jen!


  7. We also had the Mac and cheese, and I thought the beef part was almost too flavorful...interesting. LOVED the's so hard to get good tostones! We also had the plate and it was mostly excellent. Now, our server was totally in character. At the beginning, she asked if we wanted our water with lemon slices to cover up the taste of the piranhas! And at the end she did the whole "get out...sorry, that's rude...please get out". I suspect the quality of the server experience is much like the quality experience of a jungle cruise...sometimes your skipper is hilarious, and sometimes you are just waiting for it to be over!

    If you go back, look closely at the employee bulletin board...there's a note that the lecture by Dr. Jones canceled. =D

  8. VEGETABLE plate! We had the vegetable plate!

  9. I am sorry we missed you! We were visiting Disney World last week and also went to the Skippers Canteen. I agree on the whole it was pretty underwhelming.

  10. I was excited to see that Skipper Canteen would be open when we were there in early Feb, but then I saw the menu and realized that there was NOTHING my children would eat (okay, really just one of them, but he would make the rest of us miserable, too). Plus we couldn't justify the food prices for 5 of us, when we weren't at all sure we would actually like anything. My husband and I are adventurous -- our favorite meal was at Sanaa -- but the kids are not, so we mostly stuck to counter service this trip.

  11. LOVE the Tiki room homage! That is my favorite at Disneyland!

  12. They have one of those weird old fans in the lobby of Port Orleans Riverside too!

  13. Here is info for the fan:

  14. minor correction, Magellans is in Tokyo Disneysea, not Tokyo Disneyland. Disneysea is the most beautiful park I've been in, when we stumbled across Magellans inside a castle (that we spent way to long running around like kids in) it blew us away. We didn't eat there, but the cast members let us walk around and soak up the atmosphere. stunning. Also, thanks once again for brining WDW to my living room, it's a little too far away for my to travel too, maybe one day...

  15. Why does this blog always reveal things that I didn't know existed yet now I really want? For example, a chandelier comprised of stained glass parrots. WANT.

    1. Seems like a good future tutorial for Jen & JthoJ right? :-)

  16. Jeezy Creezy, that's an expensive menu! Do I see $23 for a noodle bowl?

    1. To be fair, all food is expensive at WDW...

  17. The first pictures you posted makes it looks like a Bahama Breeze! At least the entrance to the restaurant. Too bad the food wasn't tasty cuz it SOUNDS interesting.

    BTW, I know of two different kinds of arepas and those things you are don't look like either one LOL. I like the ones that are made of sweet corn and have mozzarella inside. Those actually look more like pan de bono

  18. Just a nerdy observation...the ceiling contraption when you first came in was found over dining room tables in the past. Staff/servants would move it back and forth to keep flies off the food.

  19. My family ate at Skipper Canteen about a month and a half ago and we loved it. Our waiter was very much in character and we mostly followed her suggestions in regards of what to order and it worked out really well. We split a lot of entrees, mostly Char Siu Pork and Rice Noodle Bowls I think and between that and the appetizers it was plenty of food. The Falafel appetizer was really good too. Plus my brother is a vegetarian who doesn't like salad which means that Skipper had hands down some of the best options for him in terms of food we've seen in the parks.

  20. I was very excited to see this place open, and I actually love that there are more adventurous dining options in MK, but it does seem pricy. Matthew decided it was a little too exotic for him, too, so I guess we won't be eating there on our next trip (which admittedly will be short - two days at the parks before a cruise).

    Thanks for your review, though!

  21. Well, that's disappointing. I would eat here just for the atmosphere. Perhaps when I make it back to Orlando they'll have upped the quality of the food. I find that Disney restaurants are usually really good or meh. Your pictures are gorgeous, as always though :)

  22. We ate there a couple weeks back. My son has the Char Sui Pork and loved it. My daughter and wife split the Skip's Mac and Cheese and still had enough left over for my son and I to try it. I had the Lamb Chops; they were cooked very well but had a strong grill flavor. Overall, it was not somewhere I will go out of my way to visit, but I might pop in if the mood strikes me. On the subject of the parrot lights, my wife and daughter were pricing them online as we ate. Surprisingly, none have appeared on my doorstep yet.

    By the way, my daughter, Katie, is currently working in Adventureland (Tiki room/Aladdin's carpets/Treehouse area) through the DCP until mid-August. If you happen to see a tall girl with curly hair, incredible dimples, and an infectious zeal for life (and all things Disney), tell her hello! She and I are big fans of Epbot and its progenitors.

  23. I'll have to make sure we check it out on our next visit.

  24. As always, your photos are great. I love the wicker chairs with the striped cushions, might have to copy that look on my own "verandah".

    Poor John, sorry he was underwhelmed by his expensive dinner of feet. As least it provided a laugh for us?

  25. The food has to be bland. You want someone losing their cookies on a boat? :)

  26. Who knew I needed a stained glass parrot chandelier in my life?!

  27. Ah, I love your Disney reviews! We just booked our very first trip to Disneyworld and I cannot wait! :) Any recommendations would be the Figment meet & greet still a thing?

  28. "Exotic" food should not be bland. And those "arepas" look nothing like the arepas I've seen. I would probably have followed up with a detailed email suggesting changes to the menu. :-)

    Love the S.E.A. room and especially the parrot chandelier. I doubt we will ever see this in person, so thanks!

  29. I dunno about the decor. It reminds me of what little I've seen of the days of British rule in India or parts of Africa, thus the whole thing gives me negative connotations of colonialism. The individual items are beautiful, but the 'look and feel' that they seem to be going for kind of turns me off.

  30. Some of the decorations in S.E.A. Room look like they came from the old Adventurer's Club in Pleasure Island. Nice to know Disney recycles.

  31. We ate there last week, and had a fantastic meal! I had the whole fried fish, which was LionFish... and it was fish of any kind of I've had! I kept saying "I can't believe I'm eating this at the Magic Kingdom!" I've heard similar reviews to yours on the mac & cheese though.


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