Everything You Need to Know About ‘Ohana
One of the most crowded restaurants at Walt Disney World is just a short hop on the monorail away from Magic Kingdom. Open for more than 20 years now, it’s an anchor part of Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. Guests happily schedule reservations 180 days in advance to eat here, knowing that they will leave with a full belly and a big smile. The hint is in the name, which means family, something all fans of Lilo & Stitch know. Here’s a review of ‘Ohana, the most popular monorail eatery.
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is three stops after the Magic Kingdom on the Resort Monorail system. It’s the stop before the Transportation & Ticket Center, and you can’t miss it due to the décor. The transcendent island vibe of the hotel will beckon to you as you stare out the monorail window. Your every urge will push you to exit the vehicle and walk inside the Polynesian. Should you give into this temptation, you’ll stare straight across to your destination.
‘Ohana resides on the second floor of the Poly. It’s directly opposite the monorail exit’s walkway into the building. To reach the restaurant, all you need to do is turn follow the pathway. The flow of traffic organically leads to ‘Ohana, which should tell you something. The designers of the building want you to eat here.
The island vibe is unmistakable at ‘Ohana. The backdrop features many trees, flowers, and shrubs, all of which are native to the South Seas. You’ll feel transported to a secluded slice of heaven, even as you sit in a huge crowd of hungry diners.
Several floor-to-ceiling windows are visible inside the restaurant, and they all offer the same amazing view. You look out over Bay Lake, with views of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Most importantly, Cinderella Castle aligns perfectly with the line of sight of ‘Ohana.
You can even watch the Happily Ever After fireworks display from the restaurant if so inclined. The restaurant pipes in the music so that you can best enjoy the show. Whether you watch or not, I can assure you that everyone else in the dining room will.
In terms of décor, the tables and chairs accentuate the island mood. It’s like a Jimmy Buffett concert performed at Tahiti. You’ll feel like grabbing a ukulele and strumming your way through a singalong, one you might even start. Plus, the presence of tiki dolls everywhere in the restaurant will remind you of Vincent Price on The Brady Bunch, assuming you’re old enough to know/remember that reference.
The other inviting part of ‘Ohana is the open kitchen space. You can watch cast members prepare and serve food throughout the evening. A giant flame rises over the kitchen stones, creating a unique kitchen perspective. Plus, the barbecue smell will whet your appetite the moment you enter the area. The fragrant aromas all but assure that you’ll overeat here. The theme dictates your indulgence.
Lunch and dinner at ‘Ohana are both heroic exercises in protein consumption. The meal here isn’t a true buffet per se. It’s a serving process that Disney calls All-You-Care-To-Enjoy. What they mean is that as long as you keep asking for more food, your server will keep bringing it. The whole process almost feels like a dare.
The unique part of service at ‘Ohana is that you don’t get to devour everything you want at once. Instead, there’s an order to the festivities. You’re eating a multi-course meal that’s on a precise schedule. While the order of food delivery changes every couple of years, the basics remain the same.
The first course is pineapple coconut bread offering along with some salad. Eat the salad at your own peril, as you’re missing the point of the meal if you munch on lettuce. As for the bread, it doesn’t include the same nut butter as Kona Café, which makes it slightly inferior in my estimation.
Still, the bread itself is dizzying in its precise flavor. You shouldn’t make a rookie mistake here, though. ‘Ohana’s the one place where you don’t want to fill up on bread. You’re going to need that empty stomach lining for richer proteins.
The next course is a massive serving dish containing honey coriander chicken wings. Your server will bring out a gigantic serving tray full of these wings. You’ll quickly wonder how your party will eat them all. Minutes later, you’ll almost hypnotically ask for more. It’s the mystery of the meal. No matter how much you eat at ‘Ohana, you always find room for more.
The wings are but the first of four servings of rich proteins. The current serving order has sweet and sour chicken available second followed by grilled shrimp, and then a final course of sirloin steak. Pork is also a wildly popular option here, but it’s currently not available, much to the chagrin of many ‘Ohana loyalists. Yes, the restaurant is so beloved that people are irritable when only four out of five potential proteins are available.
The meal ends with one of Disney’s most famous recipes. The ‘Ohana Bread Pudding recipe is a hotly contested debate online, with many YouTube videos claiming the best version of it. Personally, I’m always stuffed by the time dessert arrives, which explains why I haven’t developed the same passion for it. By that point, I have nothing left to give.
The flavors at ‘Ohana are simple but elegant. It’s an island cookout, the classic Hawaiian luau style that would otherwise include a pig roasting in the ground. Since you’re at an indoor restaurant, that’s not really possible, but the atmosphere is similar. People salivate the instant they smell the grill at ‘Ohana, and that’s why it’s so popular.
As for the price, ‘Ohana costs $34.08 for lunch and $45.80 for dinner for adults. Children receive a discounted meal of $20.24 for lunch and $25.26 for dinner. It’s also one Table Service credit on the Disney Dining Plan, which I feel is tremendous value.
While the prices are hefty for a non-character meal, the restaurant’s constant sellouts speak volumes about what an amazing deal it is. The ambience in combination with the flavors have carried ‘Ohana to the top of Disney’s dining reservations list since its debut in 1995. This place is a barbecue factory that many Disney loyalists deem an indispensable part of a vacation stay.
The Character Breakfast
While my family loves the dinner at ‘Ohana, we rarely eat this meal. Instead, we usually attend Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, which serves a similar menu. Plus, it has the advantage of fire-walking, something I don’t get to see when I’m at home (which is probably a good thing).
Instead, we attend ‘Ohana at Breakfast. And I mean A LOT. By my count, we have eaten breakfast here an average of once every five days during out last four Disney vacations. The appeal is simple. It’s a character breakfast starring Lilo & Stitch, the duo that gets my vote for Best Disney Movie of the 2000s.
Even though Mickey Mouse also appears at Best Friends Breakfast, Stitch is ostensibly the star of the meal, as he has a personal photographer who follows him around. He also hosts all the children in the restaurant in a celebratory restaurant walk as Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride plays. The kids get to play loud instruments and dance as Stitch leads them on a joyous walk. It’s one of my favorite things to witness at Walt Disney World.
As for the food, proteins still rule the morning at ‘Ohana. Sausage and bacon are the main components of the meal, although Mickey Waffles and fried potatoes are also integral to breakfast here. Really, you can tell just from this description everything that you need to know about the restaurant. This isn’t a place to go when you’re not hungry. You will eat hundreds of calories more than you intend at ‘Ohana. That’s the power of the place. Look at it as a positive, though. With that much fuel in your belly, you can push through even the most strenuous walks at Walt Disney World.
‘Ohana is perfection. People are right to love it, and every compliment that you’ve ever read about it is valid. It should be one of your go-to restaurants each time you visit Walt Disney World.
PS: It’s even better if you’re already staying at the Polynesian. Talk to MickeyTravels about booking a room at THE best resort on Disney property. Then, book a reservation for its finest breakfast option, ‘Ohana!