Saturday, December 7, 2019

Kona Cafe Breakfast - Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

Last updated July 31, 2020 

On Thanksgiving Day, we had breakfast at Kona Cafe, a table service restaurant at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.

We made advance dining reservations the night before for one reason - Tonga Toast! My daughters, who can eat gluten, love the Tonga Toast at Kona Cafe, and my gluten-eating husband enjoys their pumpkin pancakes, a special they offer for the holidays.

Kona Cafe has an allergy-friendly menu that lists options for people with gluten/wheat, milk, egg, soy, peanut, tree nut, and fish/shellfish allergies.

The steel-cut oatmeal with apple is listed as gluten/wheat friendly, but I highly doubt that Kona is using certified gluten free oats, so I would not order this dish without speaking to a chef if you have celiac disease. I have asked about oats at other Disney restaurants, and have never found one that is using safe oats.

A few days before we headed to Disney World for Thanksgiving Break, I learned that there was a chef at Kona Cafe making gluten free Tonga Toast. I did not want to get my hopes up, because Chef Josh was making a gluten free version of Tonga Toast at Kona Cafe back in 2014 for a short period of time before being told he could no longer make it. My understanding at the time was that other chefs were not willing to make it, and people were complaining to Special Diets.

We were pressed for time, because of our FastPasses at Disney's Animal Kingdom, so I did not ask to speak to a chef when we arrived, but our server went to the kitchen to ask a chef if I could order gluten free Tonga Toast, and I was excited when he came back and said yes.

When my Tonga Toast arrived, I was definitely disappointed. It did not look like the Tonga Toast in the pictures I had seen on Facebook, and it appeared to be overcooked. Tonga Toast is banana-stuffed french toast rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with strawberry compote. My Tonga Toast was made with Deanna's Gluten Free rolls instead of bread, which I was not expecting. Once I started eating it, I could not have been happier with my meal. My Tonga Toast was not overly sweet, and I loved the fried bread with the bananas and strawberry compote.

Chef Tony stopped at our table after I had finished eating my meal, and I told him how thankful I was that he was wiling to make me gluten free Tonga Toast. He told me that they were getting so many requests for it, they decided to make a gluten free version. I really hope that it is here to stay this time around.

Heather Burczynski with Middle of the Magic Travel had gluten free Tonga Toast at Kona Cafe the weekend before we dined there, but it was made with gluten free bread instead of rolls.

She said, "This was amazing! Chef Lorraine was awesome, and asked what I really wanted. I asked about the Tonga Toast and she said YEP! She described it more as a Neapolitan style. I actually think it might be better than the regular - especially if you like bananas. She layered 4 pieces of gluten free bread with caramelized banana slices between each layer. So delicious!"

In June, we had breakfast at Kona Cafe with our friends and former neighbors from Orlando. I started my meal with a fruit plate with fresh seasonal fruit. I was really impressed by the selection of fruit, and the presentation. It was also served with honeycomb and boba.

Kona Cafe uses Golden Malted gluten free waffle and pancake mix, which contains soy, and is manufactured on shared lines with several top 8 allergens, but they also had Namaste waffle mix in June, which is top 8 free, and made in a dedicated facility. I do not enjoy the Golden Malted waffle mix, and I do not like that the company does not disclose that it is made on shared lines on their packaging or website.

My waffles made with Namaste were a little undercooked in the middle, but it was not a big deal, because they were cooked perfectly around the edges, and there was no way I could finish all four of them, so I had plenty to eat.

I asked for a side of strawberry compote to put on my waffles. In June, Chef Tony told me that the recipe had recently been changed to make it vegan, with the addition of coconut milk. It was good, but not as amazing as I remembered from past visits, because I thought it was a little too sweet. Over Thanksgiving Break, it looked a little different, and it did not taste overly sweet to me.

My friend Lorraine ordered gluten free macadamia nut pancakes with macadamia nut butter, pineapple sauce, and a side of turkey bacon. Like the Tonga Toast, the pancakes are not on the allergy-friendly menu as a gluten free option, but the chefs at Kona Cafe will make them for you if you ask.

Lorraine really enjoyed her pancakes, and her turkey bacon looked great. I am not a huge fan of the bacon at Kona Cafe, because it is too thin and greasy. The next time we dine there, I need to remember to order turkey bacon instead.

The macadamia nut butter and pineapple sauce would also be a great topping for Mickey waffles. I also recommend pancakes with a side of strawberry compote at Kona Cafe, which I have had on previous visits.

We bring home ornaments for our Disney trees every time we take a Disney trip. Over Thanksgiving Break, we purchased a Polynesian Village Resort ornament to celebrate adding Disney's Polynesian Villas as our latest Disney Vacation Club home resort, a present for my upcoming 50th birthday. I have not stayed at the Polynesian since I was a teenager, but I am excited to return, so I have easy access to gluten free Tonga Toast!

The service can be very slow at Kona Cafe, which was the case in June, but thankfully, our meals came out quickly over Thanksgiving Break. In the past two weeks, I have heard that Chef Tony, Chef Lorraine, and Chef Carlos are making gluten free Tonga Toast. Only Chef Lorraine is using gluten free bread.

July 31, 2020 Update 

During our trip to Disney World earlier this month, we had breakfast at Kona Cafe. During our two week stay, this was the only breakfast we had at a restaurant. Sadly, with Port Orleans-French Quarter closed, we had a beignet free trip, but my daughters and I love Tonga Toast, so a visit to Kona Cafe is a must. Other days, we had breakfast in our villas at Disney's Riviera Resort and Disney's BoardWalk Resort. We stayed in a one bedroom at both resorts, so we had a full kitchen. If Boma was open, we definitely would have dined there too, but we ended up canceling our breakfast reservations at Topolino's Terrace and Trattoria al Forno in favor of smaller, healthier breakfasts in our room. 

Because of the pandemic, many Disney menus at table service restaurants have fewer options than normal. The allergy-friendly menu at Kona Cafe still does not say that Tonga Toast is an option for gluten/wheat allergies, but I told our server that I wanted to order gluten free Tonga Toast, and he did not even question it. In case you are wondering, the macadamia nut pancakes are still on the regular menu, and can be made gluten free if you request them. 

It appears that Deanna's Gluten Free and Ener-G rolls are now gone from Disney restaurants, and have been replaced with Bloomfield Farms rolls, which were used to make my gluten free Tonga Toast. I love these rolls, which are gluten free, soy free, egg free, dairy free, and nut free, according to Bloomfield Farms' Instagram account. I would have liked a little more banana in my Tonga Toast, but it was delicious. We will definitely be back during our trips in November and December later this year. 

I almost forgot to mention that this was one of the few restaurants that we were not happy with the social distancing of tables. We thought 2 tables were a little to close for comfort, so we wore our masks until our food was served.

You can read more about Kona Cafe, view their menus and hours, and make advance dining reservations on Disney's website.

What are your favorite gluten free options at Kona Cafe?

A big thank you to Heather Burczynski with Middle of the Magic Travel for allowing me to share her photos! 


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