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Trader Sam's - Orlando
EPCOTExplorer
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 13, 2014
Posts: 298
From: Miami, FL
Posted: 2015-04-04 06:37 am   Permalink

Give em time to figure out their rhythm. It's not like the one in Disneyland doesn't get overwhelming at times, and they've been at it a lot longer.
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1of42
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 26, 2014
Posts: 11
From: Orlando, FL
Posted: 2015-04-05 6:29 pm   Permalink

I am so excited to go to this! Wonder how long lines will be on a Thursday...

 
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kkocka
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 23, 2013
Posts: 792
Posted: 2015-04-06 01:07 am   Permalink

Sorry for the delay, all. After my trip I had to get back to work followed by a busy weekend. I've been talking to a lot of friends since my visit on their thoughts and now I finally have some time for my own review. I flew to WDW Mar 31 - Apr 2 specifically to check this joint out, in hopes of many things. Unfortunately I left very disappointed in a place I had high hopes for. I'm a regular at Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel and have probably dropped thousands of dollars at this point since its opening in 2011. The bar staff there, and the bar itself, helped steer me into delving seriously into the world of tiki and its fantastic cocktails. I'll try not to compare the two, but for those who have been to the original, you'll know its near impossible. Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar set the bar pretty damn high, and rightfully so.

The Decor
Pretty much along the lines of what you'd expect from a second Trader Sam's. A lot of people felt that Enchanted Tiki Bar (ETB) got "all the good props" which sort of seems true upon the casual scan of the walls. Since I'm not a Florida resident, I'll probably never be able to give a solid comparison, but there were a few more kitschy pieces than I would have liked to have seen (glittery Hawaii pennant flags, etc). However there are some impressive items such as the two totems underneath the mounted Uh Oa goddess which I've seen numerous times as either Enchanted Tiki Room concepts or maybe just general Adventureland pieces - when I find them I'll post but can't recall them exactly for now.

The decor isn't as nautical as we thought it would be - or hoped, as I wished. Given the name "Grog Grotto" you would only assume more of a grotto-like tiki bar along the lines of Smuggler's Cove's "The Boathouse." There's a giant octopus tentacle (and a photo of Walt holding one) and an old diver's helmet that serves as sort of a fishless fish tank, tiki mugs from various artists and/or locations...but of course you should just check it out because I sure as hell ain't gonna recite everything in the bar!


The Layout
The layout is probably the nicest thing about the bar, in my opinion. The entrance is in the corner of the room and you enter immediately surrounded by small tables with booth-seating against the wall (a nice rock wall btw, which is great use of texture and scene-setting!) and a surfboard-shaped table straight ahead that seats maybe 10 and has bar-height stools to sit on (some may sink, of course). The place is pretty easy to move around in, even at capacity, so for that I'll give Disney credit and an improvement over ETB. Behind the surfboard table is the bar and this is where, as always in my opinion, we see some failure. The bar only has about 6 or 7 bar seats which means a few things to me:

-little interaction with the bartenders (where I can pick their brains, get to know my skippers, etc).
-bartenders won't be earning as much because they'll be directly serving less, and getting tipped less.

At home, if I can't sit at the bar at ETB then I'll probably not bother or just wait until I can get a seat. Of course I'm not the average visitor who is satisfied with the usual menu drinks upon every visit. There aren't any bathrooms in this Sam's so that frees up some space, too. Unfortunately the distance between the bar and the back of the room is a pretty long one when you consider announcements are made FROM the bar and that everybody is supposed to be able to listen up.


The Menu
Regarding the physical menu itself, things looked recycled from California. It looked like two new pages, followed by the same background art we've seen before. Not too surprising, but the new pages look out of place with their blue and green backgrounds vs the remaining beige old stock. Almost all the drinks made it over to Grog Grotto, plus some new ones. The food menu is alright but you'll be ordering again and again as they probably won't fill you up. These are more appetizers whereas ETB features full on meals for you to dine on. I appreciate the asian influence though with a few sushi options, dumplings, banh mi sliders and the like.


The Drinks
Ah, okay so here is the real meat of my review and much of the reason for both my visit and my disappointment.

The drinks suck. SUCK!

I'm referring to, of course, the new drinks. Whereas the old drinks are pretty tried and true (minus the Mosquito Mojito which I'm just not a fan of at all), I don't think that any of these drinks have a genuine tiki or exotic history to them - meaning that they were created after...I don't know what. There's an exception or two in the list. Sure some of the older drinks are sweet, but they're still well made in my opinion, and some will still get you drunk. Here are the carried-over drinks before I break down the new ones: Uh Oa!, Krakatoa Punch, HippopotoMai Tai, Rosita's Margarita, Mosquito Mojito, Shrunken Zombie Head, Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum, and the non-alcoholic drinks Skipper Sipper, Schweitzer Falls, and Polynesian Punch. Those that didn't survive the tip: Ka-Blue-Ie!, Piranha Pool, Passionate Python, Lost Safari, Murky Mojito, and Shipwreck on the Rocks. Grog Grotto basically recycled half their menu from ETB. Here's my rundown on the new drinks:

Polynesian Pearl (Rum Chata, Grand Marnier, Cinnamon + Tropical Juices)
Disgusting. Should be a holiday-themed drink at best. You know you're in a legit tiki bar when your base is Rum Chata. As you might guess, this drink is too sweet. Imagine blending a churro and drinking it. Best (or worst) of all is the souvenir mug that it comes in is 100% plastic. Sorry mug-lovers. There's a fat "Trader Sam's" logo on the back and the giant beverage hole is at at 45 degree angle on the sphere, not the top. I'm only minorly disappointed that I forgot the pearl is complimentary upon ordering and accidentally left it behind. At $16, you may as well order a Mai Tai or Zombie instead because we all know those two are much more worth it.

Nautilus (Barbancourt Pango, Appleton Estate Reservve, Combier Creme de Peche de Vigne liqueur, Tropical Juices, Falernum)
I actually didn't order this marquee group drink, though I was curious. My buddies have said it's better than the Uh Oa! although sweet. I'd tribute the sweetness to the Barbancourt Pango, though its nice to see the Appleton in there.

Castaway Crush (Leblon Cachaca, Cream of Coconut, Cinnamon, Lime Juice)
My first drink I tried and only one of the two that I was looking forward to trying prior to flying from California. Unfortunately my first impression was not a good one - possibly because I hadn't had cachaca before, though that shouldn't have bothered me. The whole thing tasted rather dilluted to me and the flavors just didn't seem to align well. Also I think my muddled pineapple may have been pulverized. I have an approximation as to how it was made and will probably try subbing cachaca for rum and do a few other little tweaks. One cast member told me "basically it's a pineapple caipirinha" and I nearly scoffed. I don't know how he makes a caipirinha but I'd pass for sure. Mind you I'm just a hobbyist when it comes to cocktails, but I do know my good from bad.

Dark & Tropical Stormy (Gosling's Black Seal, Ginger Beer, Falernum, Lime Juice)
Pretty straightforward. I'd argue that I got a little shorthanded on the Gosling's but I think that was just bad luck. My fellow drinkers had a better ratio. I'm not a giant fan of the dark and stormy anyway so this had little affect on my review. Had to try it regardless.

Spikey Pineapple (Barbancourt Pango Rum, blended with pineapple Dole whip
Didn't try. One of the drinks I knew I'd pass because I don't need to try it to know how it tastes, though one of my fellow drinkers said it was sweet and he "didn't even taste the alcohol" which to him I think means it was blended well as opposed to "there's nothing in it." But with a pineapple and mango rum into a pineapple soft serve, I wouldn't think you'd be able to taste it either. I'd like to try a dark rum in it personally like a Myers's or Coruba.

Tahitian Torch (ByeJoe Dragon Fire Spirit, Tropical Juices, Passion Fruit, Lime Juice)
This was the second drink I was really looking forward to trying, if not mostly because I had no clue what the hell ByeJoe was. Even after reading their site's description, I can't really relate ByeJoe to anything familiar. It seems to be basically Baijiu, but I've never heard nor touched the stuff. Regardless, this drink tasted like 100% passionfruit. REALLY disappointed in this one. I was fortunate to try a very small bit of the ByeJoe neat and it was just the taste of mango or passionfruit though somewhat pungent. A friend had tried this cocktail on his preview night and said that the drink had a nice fiery spice to it but on the days I was there it was the same reaction - an all passionfruit cocktail with any real alcoholic punch. Looks great on paper though.

Rum Flight (.75 oz pours of Bacardi 8, Pyrat XO, Ron Zacapa)
We all know how this goes - savor the Ron Zacapa, down the Pyrat and Bacardi 8. How I'd love just more Ron Zacapa! Still, I like the option for a rum flight because it caters to those who enjoy rum or would like to experience more.


The Tiki Mugs
So I'm not a big mug collector by any means, but I do enjoy a well-made and a well-designed mug. As is the theme, most are recycled from California - Zombie, Krakatoa, Uh Oa, and Polynesian Punch are complete with "Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar" on the bottom. Stock was extremely low and ran out by day 2. You couldn't buy mugs straight-out which sucked. Hopefully that changes in time.

Polynesian Pearl - Plastic as mentioned.

Nautilius - This bowl is probably of the highest demand and it was made known upfront that this one isn't for sale just yet. Their supply won't be ready I'm guessing until late April if not May. Designed like the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

HippopotoMai-Tai - Made of clear glass and is actually not too unlike the generic Lancaster Colony tiki mug that Trader Sam's has been using, and the Polynesian Village Resort has used for decades. One complaint I've heard is that this one is made in the style that margarita glasses are, which means lots of air bubbles. Bummer.

Rum Flight glasses - Tiny tiki shot glasses basically, made of ceramic. A bit generic unfortunately and don't seem to have any direct tie-in to anything Disney or Disney tiki. The only mugs I came home with though because I like the size and variety of color.


The Effects
As you'd expect, certain drinks have their matching audio and visual experiences. Quick rundown:

Uh Oa!
Chants start, windows go rainy and stormy, and Uh Oa herself finally come alive (audio only) and drop a line from Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management. I used the word "finally" in the previous sentence because I swear this sequence is about 20 seconds long - it really needs to be edited down to be more compact! Disneyland Hotel's Uh Oa effect is just long enough - you can get people interacting just long enough before the interest dies down and the attention dies. One nice touch though is that after the storm you hear the calm of the windows return and some birds peacefully chirping. Great effect overall, just too damn long. This can (should) be fine tuned however!

Nautilus
Also runs a bit long, but the lights in the room are cast to an watery blue with some underwater projections. An audio clip from the 20,000 League Under the Sea attraction plays during this - I believe it's from that but unfortunately it was rather inaudible to me every time I heard it. Unfortunately most of the skippers are pretending to swim which is just awkward and sorta runs the mood. Maybe it's the blacklight snorkle mask or the damn kiddie pool innertube that crewmember is suddenly wearing next to me, but that sort of distracts me from paying attention to what I'm supposed to be paying attention to. More on the staff later.

Shrunken Zombie Head
An occasional slow drumbeat, some ghostly eerie audio effects, and the infamous "family tree" of shrunken zombie heads that you can see at ETB (and now Grog Grotto) glows blue vibrant in blacklight. Cool, but I think this one needs to be trimmed as well. It's also confusing if you aren't near the bar looking back, because it's a little indistinct I think.

Polynesian Pearl
Nothing too special, but the giant clamshell behind the bar opens up and allows the bartender to grab a pearl for your drink. One of those variety of suble touches that I like about ETB. I've heard 1 of 100 is a black pearl but I dunno how accurate that is.

HippopotoMai-Tai
An announcement is made, you hear some audio growls and rumblings, and then two gunshots ala the Jungle Cruise followed by the cast shouting "two shots of rum!" A bit confusing for the average guest I noticed, and honestly this one is probably unncessary and could/should be pitched out.


The Music
This was probably the other half of the reason I flew out. I really wanted to make note and get the playlist/area loop for the bar because I can listen to the soundtrack for Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar all day. I honestly probably listen to it once a week on the weekends. Well it seems that Grog Grotto just reuses the same playlist both inside and outside when there isn't live music playing. The Polynesian Village Resort has plenty of contacts for talented musicians so the live music outside shouldn't ever be a problem, but the inside playlist playing outside just doesn't seem to fit very well. I think the sounds of Martin Denny, Tikiyaki Orchestra, and Kenny Sasaki and the Tiki Boys are much more appropriate in a dimmed tiki bar than outside in an open patio. More intimacy inside than outside.


The Staff
I feel this one has been making the rounds online a lot - the quality of the staff I would say is...below par. None of them seem to have much clue as to what tiki is, or even have a remote passion for it. My feeling is that Grog Grotto is sort of the popular new cool hangout and that these kids (in their early and mid 20's I'm guessing) just want to be at the hip spot part of the hip crew that has had SO MUCH hype for the last number of years.

One Florida resident compared Enchanted Tiki Bar and Grog Grotto as such: "In California there were a couple 50 year old dudes behind the bar, and from the videos I've seen here so far it's like a bunch of young girls just screaming." I think that's pretty accurate. The staff in general trips over each other vocally, so that there isn't one clear leader a team of supporters. At ETB one person begins the call to attention (doesn't have to be an actual lead staffer, etc) and the rest follow. At Grog Grotto, someobdy begins the call to attention and then everybody throws in their one-liners, puns, screams, bells, all at once. One bartender throws out a joke, and the host throws out another not to be undone. It just goes on and on and on and on and on without any real order but plenty of chaos and ear rape.

Example: see
https://youtu.be/CLdvYtC5Eg0?t=13m10s and you'll get the idea. Is it NYE or a tiki bar? Holy shit how long do you hear "AAAAAAAAAAH" for? And I thought people complained about ETB's crew! They're church mice in comparison. And mind you I'm not complaining about the CONCEPT of an act, because I obviously am okay with how the show is run in California, but it's the lack of tact here. I'm pretty sure, literally, every other order of water went off as "Attention Trader Sam's! Presenting the 8th wonder of the world, the backside of water!" Take it easy guys! Save those up and use them sparingly so that when it IS time to use a punchline, it kills as opposed to runs dry. I'm sure they're eager to bust out all the lines and puns they've studied and practiced, but Trader Sam's is about quality and not quantity if you ask me. That's why sometimes at ETB they'll announce a Krakatoa once two or three have been made, and not set off three erupting Krakatoas one after another. Make your experience special, not just another one in the production line. Give the impression that "we" did this and not "oh, this one is yours. oh, now it's my turn."

There's also been some total cockiness with particular crew members such as James reminding those to use #skipperjames on their social media...ugh! When did Trader Sam's become about those who work there and not the guests? These guys should be leading the show, not trampling all over it. Lead the room into the show effect, don't compete with it! No matter how cool you are, or think you are, the guest is probably there for the show and not for you. I tried not to call any particular crewmember out by name - because there are some good ones, but then I'd have to call out all the bad ones as well.


The Bartenders
One bartender was showing another how to make a Shipwreck on the Rocks from California (which is just a simple Whiskey Smash cocktail in the end) and after the mint and lemon were muddled, just threw the Makers Mark and agave in and served it as-is without even shaking the damn thing! Fortunately I wasn't on the receiving end. Much like my statement above, I don't believe any of them have a good exotic cocktail background or even knew what real mai tai was prior to their training. Don't bother asking if you can get a navy grog, or something original they've made up. There's one or two that I have some faith in and sound like they're genuinely taking steps to learn more (Jeff Berry books, etc). I certainly hope that a few emerge to be real leaders and guest "favorites" for the right reasons because they'll probably be glad they took the initiative.

The Crew
Most non-bartenders seemed to have real attitude issues. I'm not sure if it's because they're trying to be funny (I can tell staged versus real shit) or that they're protective about the new bar, but there is a lot of self entitlement abound both in the bar and outside on the patio. My friends and I waltzed in when our pager went off and he threw a pissy tantrum (accurate description) because I showed up with two alongside myself (they misheard that my entire party was just two), all while the bar was half empty. Again I think it's a lack of maturity thing.


"Tiki Terrace"
So Trader Sam's Tiki Terrace is the official name for the patio. For some reason that sounds odd to me...anybody else? I think I call it patio out of habit and given that's what it is. I talked about the music and layout above, but I did want to point out that they have their own bar outside which is more of a service bar, but will eventually get a handful of bar stools. Nothing fancy about that bar though, it's pretty much functional-only.


Conclusions
That's a lot for only being there 48-72 hours huh? Overall Grog Grotto does a good job in allowing everybody to view the shows easily and equally. The patio certainly holds enough people and although I was only there for 2 nights, the outside wasn't even near packed the entire night. You might think I came off rather overly critical, but I'd argue that most of my points are extremely valid. YES I realize the place hadn't even been open for a full week yet. Most of my issues are totally fixable though.

1. Shitty atitudes can be changed.
2. Show "management" or cast-involvement can be refined, matured, fine-tuned and perfected. Hopefully the staff will learn to work as a team and not play free-for-all.
3. Show and effect length can also be edited and fine-tuned.
4. New drinks...eh, are probably not going anywhere. I can't imagine those things can pop on and off the menu so quickly, not with a giant company such as Disney. Still, plenty of good ones on the menu.
5. Mugs can change over time as we've seen with improved glazes at ETB.

I hate that I was disappointed but would have killed myself had I not been able to check this out for myself. Did I set too high expectations of myself? Nope, I don't think so at all. A lot of what I've voiced has been repeated all over the internet in other forums and to me in person by others who experienced it. I'm glad I flew out. I really want this place to do well and hopefully in time it will. It just seems that when Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar opened up, it was carefully crafted and everything was a delicate process. I don't think it experienced any of the issues that I listed in this review. Trader Sam's Grog Grotto is more like a strongly-hyped movie sequel that ultimately falls short.
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EPCOTExplorer
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 13, 2014
Posts: 298
From: Miami, FL
Posted: 2015-04-06 05:08 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2015-04-06 01:07, kkocka wrote:


The Decor
However there are some impressive items such as the two totems underneath the mounted Uh Oa goddess which I've seen numerous times as either Enchanted Tiki Room concepts or maybe just general Adventureland pieces - when I find them I'll post but can't recall them exactly for now.



Those are original Oceanic Arts pieces from 1971. They were originally in the Tangaroa Terrace. In fact, lots of the resort's most historical pieces that were moved around and lost over time were found and refurbished and included in this project.

In addition to the two totems that Uh Oa uses, there are several masks on the walls and several columns as well.

IMO, this use of historical tiki art alone, makes the project a success, for me. I was rather attached to seeing those classic tiki pieces in the resort before they were changed out and having them back is really great.
Quote:

On 2015-04-06 01:07, kkocka wrote:

The Tiki Mugs
So I'm not a big mug collector by any means, but I do enjoy a well-made and a well-designed mug. As is the theme, most are recycled from California - Zombie, Krakatoa, Uh Oa, and Polynesian Punch are complete with "Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar" on the bottom. Stock was extremely low and ran out by day 2. You couldn't buy mugs straight-out which sucked. Hopefully that changes in time.

Polynesian Pearl - Plastic as mentioned.

Nautilius - This bowl is probably of the highest demand and it was made known upfront that this one isn't for sale just yet. Their supply won't be ready I'm guessing until late April if not May. Designed like the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

HippopotoMai-Tai - Made of clear glass and is actually not too unlike the generic Lancaster Colony tiki mug that Trader Sam's has been using, and the Polynesian Village Resort has used for decades. One complaint I've heard is that this one is made in the style that margarita glasses are, which means lots of air bubbles. Bummer.

Rum Flight glasses - Tiny tiki shot glasses basically, made of ceramic. A bit generic unfortunately and don't seem to have any direct tie-in to anything Disney or Disney tiki. The only mugs I came home with though because I like the size and variety of color.





Since the bar is still in a soft opening phase, the mugs being used are not TSGG's from what I understand. Shipping problems has basically meant that TSGG will be using ETB's mugs until ours come in. I think we're getting the same molds, but new editions or, colors.

I'm hearing that we'll be able to buy mugs once stock improves.

The Mai Tai mug has air bubbles as it's meant to evoke a Japanese float lamp... kinda like what's hanging in the lobby. I kinda like the texture of both, to be honest.
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kkocka
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 23, 2013
Posts: 792
Posted: 2015-04-06 10:49 am   Permalink

[quote]
On 2015-04-06 05:08, EPCOTExplorer wrote:
Quote:
The Mai Tai mug has air bubbles as it's meant to evoke a Japanese float lamp... kinda like what's hanging in the lobby.



Where are you pulling that out of? I don't buy it, personally. Looking and holding the glass, I do not make that connection at all!
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JOHN-O
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 16, 2008
Posts: 2720
From: Dogtown, USA
Posted: 2015-04-06 12:38 pm   Permalink

Keith, you're one opinionated Tiki SOB. I love it !!

Thanks for taking the time to post such a comprehensive review.


 
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EPCOTExplorer
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 13, 2014
Posts: 298
From: Miami, FL
Posted: 2015-04-06 12:44 pm   Permalink

[quote]
On 2015-04-06 10:49, kkocka wrote:
Quote:

On 2015-04-06 05:08, EPCOTExplorer wrote:
Quote:
The Mai Tai mug has air bubbles as it's meant to evoke a Japanese float lamp... kinda like what's hanging in the lobby.



Where are you pulling that out of? I don't buy it, personally. Looking and holding the glass, I do not make that connection at all!


Simple observation? It looks like a Japanese float lamp.
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kkocka
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Joined: Jul 23, 2013
Posts: 792
Posted: 2015-04-06 12:57 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2015-04-06 12:38, JOHN-O wrote:
Keith, you're one opinionated Tiki SOB. I love it !!

Thanks for taking the time to post such a comprehensive review.



Haha, I think i'm just being straightforward and honest. When you hype something like this for years... Anyway I already received two PM's saying I nailed those users' experiences perfectly. I'm also a man of detail and who, in my opinion, understands a fair amount of Disney's intentions and creative directions. A lot of Disney boards are saying the same thing, mostly in regards to the staff/shows which I honestly think was the biggest turnoff. Hopefully it improves. I wouldn't have been as bothered as a whole otherwise. Again, I totally understand I was there during a soft opening. I think things just need to mature, though with some pace. I swung by Tangaroa Terrace/Trader Sam's this weekend when I was home and it was sooooo soothing. I truly felt home.


Quote:

On 2015-04-06 12:44, EPCOTExplorer wrote:
Simple observation? It looks like a Japanese float lamp.



I'll leave that to difference of opinion then. No worries though.
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finky099
Tiki Socialite

Joined: May 15, 2012
Posts: 512
From: Orange County, CA
Posted: 2015-04-06 3:20 pm   Permalink

KK, thanks for all the commentary and detail. Reminds me how lucky we are in SoCal. I'm sure the GG will improve over time, but I'm preaching to the choir here when I say, this seems like another prime example of how WDW runs itself differently than DLR. Hope to catch ya at Sam's, Don's, or, WHEREVER again soon.

Cheers!


 
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wizzard419
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Jul 10, 2013
Posts: 341
Posted: 2015-04-06 7:02 pm   Permalink

Since WDW is not a heavy repeat resort, compared to DLR and their local presence, I have a feeling nothing is going to change unless it is so overwhelmingly broken it needs to be pulled. People come in once, get a drink and never return because the place sucks look exactly like people who come in once, get a drink and never come back because they want to try a few different bars on their trip.

 
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1of42
Tiki Centralite

Joined: Mar 26, 2014
Posts: 11
From: Orlando, FL
Posted: 2015-04-07 04:58 am   Permalink

Made it to the Grog Grotto last night!

I had a Shrunken Zombie Head and my boyfriend had a Krakatoa (both of which we got to take home the mugs, which was awesome).

Taste-wise, I prefer the zombies that Tambu makes, but this one was still decent.

The atmosphere was quite nice, though they did repeat the special-effects drinks a little too often. Would be amusing if they spaced them out more.

We did get to fill out a survey after we left, so we mentioned that our waiter forgot my dumplings (but he was cool about it and brought them out immediately after we reminded him). The food wasn't great, I have to say Publix makes better dumplings, but that's not primarily why we were there.

Overall, cool experience, and I hope they improve over time. Very exited to have more tiki bars in Orlando.



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Hurricane Hayward
Grand Member (first year)  

Joined: Jun 07, 2008
Posts: 1496
From: 16 miles from The Mai-Kai
Posted: 2015-04-07 12:58 pm   Permalink

Just a few photos and notes now. Full review coming later. I was there last Tuesday for the media event for the opening of the villas and bungalows, so I got a full tour of the DVC rooms plus Trader Sam's. Check the main Polynesian thread for some photos and notes from my DVC and resort-wide observations:
http://www.tikiroom.com/tikicentral/bb/viewtopic.php?mode=viewtopic&topic=5863&forum=2&start=165

It was nice to run into kkocka, though sadly we didn't have the opportunity to share a Nautilus or Uh-Oa! I just jumped back on here and haven't read his in-depth review yet, but I'll probably chime in with any replies later. I need to finish my big-picture stories for my newspaper and blog, then come back later for a story specifically about the Grog Grotto. I also want to give it time to work out the bugs since it's still technically in soft opening phase for a few more weeks at least. I also need to sample many more drinks and food to offer a fair review. I don't like to review any establishment until I've visited multiple times and given everything a fair shake.

I'll be going back in early May and will stop by on multiple nights. If anyone plans to be in the area then, perhaps you'll help me with the Nautilus and Uh-Oa! I can, however, give you some initial reactions. Just please don't consider any of this my "review."

As part of the media horde, I was among those who got a private tour during the afternoon. Beverage manager Jason Cha-Kim and chef James Kleinschmidt gave us their spiels and a sample Uh-Oa! (including the effects). Honestly, I was surprised that this drink was better than I expected. I had heard poor reviews, but I tasted a nicely balanced sample with lots of falernum.

Cha-Kim made a point of mentioning the falernum in this and other cocktails. The B.G. Reynolds syrups do make a big difference. Cinnamon and orgeat are also are prominent in some others.

Cha-Kim also confirmed that after the grand opening, they will no longer use any Disneyland mugs. "Some are similar, some are different," he said. As for the grand opening date, he said they're shooting for late April. He also mentioned that there are around "1,200 artifacts" on the walls and behind the bar that are unique to the Grog Grotto.

One other detail he mentioned that I'm not sure I've heard before is the time frame of the back story. While the Disneyland bar is set in the late '30s, "here you're in the '60s," he said.

Mrs. Hurricane and I returned in the evening and first hit the Tiki Terrace while we waited for our seating. It was around 2 hours to wait, but we were happy to hang out on the patio and watch the fireworks. I'd say this experience exceeded expectations. Our server was great, the background music was perfect, and the Polynesian musician was very good.



My first drink was a Shrunken Zombie Head, while Mrs. Hurricane had the Polynesian Pearl. Both ended up being our favorites of the entire night. She got another one inside later, and as probably stated above the plastic cups are gratis. I also bought the Zombie mug, and as far as I know all the mugs were available that day except for the Nautilus. The Zombie was a little unbalanced, but it was quite strong so I didn't mind. Considering the rums used (Goslings 151, Appleton Estate Reserve, Bacardi 8 ) this may end up being my go-to drink. The Pearl is definitely a "girly" drink, but it has some distinctive exotic flavors that I liked, including the aforementioned cinnamon. It reminded me just a bit of The Mai-Kai's Moonkist Coconut. Creamy and exotic, but not cloyingly sweet.

We also had some food, which was not as big a hit. Both the sliders and tacos were a little bready, but I would definitely give them another chance and perhaps go heavier on the sauce. Overall, I give the Tiki Terrace excellent initial marks. It's a great place to chill and still experience the same food and drinks while avoiding the lines and hubbub inside.



We got into the Grog Grotto around 10 and stayed for around 90 minutes. I like the fact that there's no standing room and that everyone can have a seat and enjoy the experience. I won't speak to the "performance" of the cast members yet, since that's one area I'd especially like to give them time to sort out. But certainly that's one thing that can be improved. They all seemed to be pretty young and enthusiastic, which is both good and bad. But they're also just following a script that's been given to them, and the place was open for only three days when I got there, so I won't be overly critical. More annoying to me, actually, were the "performances" by the fanboys in the crowd. They seemed to be playing along and shouting over the cast members during every gag, as if this were the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I'm assuming this will (hopefully) die down once the opening frenzy has worn off.

Of course, the decor and special effects are top-notch, everything that I expected and more. The place was full of fanboys, so lots of drinks were being ordered and I think I got to experience all the "magic." The Uh-Oa! and Nautilus are the show-stoppers, but some of the others are pretty good. The drinks I had inside were not as impressive as the Zombie. The Krakatoa Punch was a disappointment .... too sweet and not enough punch from the rum (great effects though). The HippopotoMai-Tai was better than I expected, easily the top Mai Tai at Disney World. The Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Rum was pretty much as expected, a Painkiller lite. I went home with the Krakatoa mug and later picked up an aloha shirt and limited-edition pin in the gift shop. I tried a couple more food items: the dumplings, which were somewhat disappointing; and the sausages, which were quiet hearty though not particularly memorable. The chef told us earlier that all the food is prepped upstairs in the main kitchen, but it's fired to order in a small kitchen behind the bar.

Hayward's got a sinking feeling about this place:


My honest advice to people would be to go in with an open mind, but know what you're getting into. If you're expecting a quiet and relaxing Tiki bar, the Grog Grotto ain't it. Spend most of your time on the Tiki Terrace, then hit the inside for a late nightcap. If you're there for a rowdy good time, dive right into the Grog Grotto. The food and drinks are mixed, so far, but I still have a lot more menu items to try. Definitely looking forward to my May visit. In the meantime, I have quite a few stories and photo galleries to work on. I'll share any appropriate links here and on the main Poly thread.

Okole maulua!


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[ This Message was edited by: Hurricane Hayward 2015-04-07 12:59 ]


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EPCOTExplorer
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Joined: May 13, 2014
Posts: 298
From: Miami, FL
Posted: 2015-04-14 06:22 am   Permalink

New glaze, coming soon!


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finky099
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Joined: May 15, 2012
Posts: 512
From: Orange County, CA
Posted: 2015-04-14 10:52 am   Permalink

Quote:

On 2015-04-14 06:22, EPCOTExplorer wrote:
New glaze, coming soon!





Grog Grotto exclusive?


 
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kkocka
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Joined: Jul 23, 2013
Posts: 792
Posted: 2015-04-14 12:19 pm   Permalink

Quote:

On 2015-04-14 10:52, finky099 wrote:
Grog Grotto exclusive?



I believe so. It matches the mug featured in their menu. Grog Grotto's mai tai glass is going to be universal and featured in California as well - though I don't expect the lettering to stay if it is manufactured in the same manner.
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