The week of Thanksgiving, my boyfriend Todd and I traveled to Delray Beach to spend the week with his awesome family, and we decided at the eleventh hour to make use of the time we were on our own to visit one of the more kooky tiki bars in the country, Trader Sam’s Enchanted Grog Grotto! It would require a three-hour drive from where we were staying, but we figured we’d just make a day of it, and go antiquing and record-shopping prior to going for drinks.
After hitting up some neat places near downtown Orlando and making a few purchases for our jazz vinyl collection, the magic hour finally arrived, and we headed toward Walt Disney World. I hadn’t been to Orlando since I was 10, so I gawked out the window in much the same way I’m sure I did at that age. The whole Disney complex was MASSIVE. We got to park for free (I am not quite sure how that happened, but yay!), which was really nice. As we made our way to the Polynesian Resort, my excitement started to really build up. Todd had to drag me away from things I was drooling over, mostly because we were working with limited time. The first thing that greeted us in the lobby was the majestic Sunshine Tiki. I found myself wishing I could just take it home with me!
We were told by various people we asked as we made our way to the resort that the Grog Grotto could very easily be missed if you weren’t looking hard enough. The entrance, contrary to many tiki bars, is VERY non-descript, but that is what is so neat about it. It’s located along a hallway on the left side of the resort that leads outside, so walk slowly once you get into the hall, or you will walk right past it!
We walked in, and were greeted by a young man at a host booth who told us to sit wherever we liked. Immediately, I was entranced with the decor and general feel of the place. It was VERY tiki. We found a spot, and got handed some drink and food menus. Our server was a fun gal, who referred to herself as “Skipper Debbie”. I ordered the HippopotoMai-Tai, and Todd ordered the Shrunken Zombie Head. To snack on, we ordered the lettuce cups with chicken, and the pan-seared dumplings. Mind you, they serve bar appetizers only, so if you are looking for a full meal, you might have to order two things!
The inside of the bar
The bar area
As we waited for our drinks and food, we both oohed and ahhed at the fun tiki decor, and laughed as we saw a couple of drinks trigger neat happenings and startle a couple of patrons nearby. My favorite was the Nautilus, which is served in a beautiful punch bowl that looks just like the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Skipper Debbie brought it out, with a Dory hat on her head, yelling, “Swim! Swim!” The fellow bar patrons began air-swimming, and bubbles suddenly appeared. The bartender pulled out a water gun and began squirting water at some other patrons, who laughed it up. She presented the drink, and then played a little game of Marco Polo with all the bar patrons, which ended with her going, “Nemo??” At this point, Nemo appeared behind the bar for a few seconds before everything went back to normal. It was FUN.
Todd’s drink came out first, accompanied by eerie noises in the bar, and and a bloody eye patch on Skipper Debbie’s face. The drink looked super appetizing, and after one sip, Todd was in Zombie Heaven. I am not a huge fan of the Zombie due to the usual presence of anise flavor, but even I have to admit it was tasty. My drink came out next, to the sound of a thundering herd of hippopotamus, and people yelling out “Two shots of rum!” It was legit…all the flavor I am accustomed to, with the added bonus of a very unusual and cute glass, which I ended up purchasing.
The Shrunken Zombie Head
Our appetizers were delicious, as well…about what you would expect out of higher end Chinese food. The dumplings were wonderful (I wanted more of them), and the chicken lettuce wraps were also a delight – I liked that the chicken was diced so finely so you could scoop it into the lettuce leaves with greater ease.
Our last drink was the Krakatoa Punch, which Todd and I split. Ordering this drink activated the fun illuminated “window” next to us, which had a snow-covered volcano that erupted. I particularly liked this drink, as it fell more on the sweet, rather than spicy side.
Overall, the bar was everything we hoped it would be, and then some. Not only did we enjoy our own drinks and the fun things that happen when you order them, but we also enjoyed seeing the faces on the other patrons’ faces when they ordered drinks, and we joined in on the “playing along”, so to speak. The atmosphere was kooky and fun…everything a true tiki bar should be. I highly recommend it, if you find yourselves in Orlando, or anywhere close to it. Our three hour drive was well worth it!
Me with Skipper Debbie