WAYYYYYY BACCCKKKK in the day, when I was a Walt Disney World Cast Member, one of my roles was that of am agent for the Disney Dining line. Back then, you could only book over the phone (no fancy schmancy website or app, that’s for sure!) and there were a small handful of places that were so challenging to book unless guests were calling 180-days in advance, that we’d cringe when the names were mentioned (Cinderella’s Royal Table, Le Cellier Steakhouse, and Chef Mickey’s were usually the culprits).
Another common theme from those days was the fact that Magic Kingdom was woefully devoid of good dining options. Whereas the other parks and resorts were diversifying in their menu offerings, and setting new bars for dining experiences, MK was living in the burger/chicken finger world. Sure, there were a few sit-down options, but nothing really stand-out (in my humble opinion).
ALL THAT BEING SAID, fast forward, YEARS later, MK is finally starting to gain its dining identity – and most recently with the opening of the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper’s Canteen (we’ll call it Skipper’s Canteen from here on out), I am excited to say that the future for fun and yummy new experiences in the Magic Kingdom is bright!
I made a reservation pretty last minute for our recent trip after asking for opinions in a Disney group I participate in. The responses were varied, just as other reviews had been when I had searched around online, but the common issue seemed to stem from personal dining preference, rather than service/theming/other issues, so I thought I’d give it a go!
Our reservation was an early dinner (4:40 PM) and we arrived just on time, after riding the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. The restaurant location, right near the entrance to Adventureland, almost blends into its surroundings, which actually gave it kind of a neat “hidden” feeling. Within 5 minutes of checking in we were called up, and our hostess walked us in, explaining that we were passing through the mess hall, to our dining room, the “S.E.A. Room” (check out all the details and room descriptions here).
I had reviewed the menu ahead of time, and had a good idea of what I wanted to order, but it was still fun reading over the descriptions and uncovering little clues and jokes! My favorite? The Shirki Noodle Salad, as I had recalled that character from the Tower of Terror at Tokyo DisneySea.
Luckily for me, my lovely dining partner Abby loves to eat and try new things, so we split two items: the S.E.A. Shu Mai and the Curried Vegetable Crew Stew, plus Punch Line Punch (in the collectible cup, of course).
Our server was perfectly friendly and helpful, but he didn’t really play up the theme as much as the hostess had, or the server at our neighboring table. That was okay though, as Abby always attracts a bit of attention, so a few servers stopped by to ‘talk’ to Abby and threw in some punny little sayings. It was also fun to just eavesdrop on the little jokes and things guests were uncovering in the menu.
Before our meal arrived, we received a nice bread (Ethiopian inspired, with a honey sauce) which was yummy. Abby had a few pieces, along with her fruit and veggie pouch, before the shu mai appetizer arrived. Served dim sum style in a bamboo steamer basket, the flavors of these pork and shrimp morsels were just right. There were five shu mai, which proved just the right amount (I ate three, Abby had two – I cut hers in pieces, and she enjoyed dissecting the filling and gyoza wrapper).
The real stand out of the meal, however, was the main dish. It took me a while (before visiting) to narrow down the choices (there were a handful that sounded yummy to me) but I went with the stew for a few reasons – one, it was a cooler day (perfect temperatures) and so stew sounded like a nice accompaniment, plus I sometimes have a tendency to forget to eat enough veggies when I am visiting the parks, so this yummy array of seasonal veggies (including zucchini, carrots, green beans, butternut squash and cauliflower) in a delightfully spiced coconut-milk base was perfect!
Along with the crock of stew came two carb-y accompaniments: a generous piece of naan bread, and coconut rice. Abby probably chowed down half of the naan (which was perfectly pillow-soft in the middle, and crusty on the ends) and I ate about 1/3 of the rice mixed in with the stew.
Our dining experience was about an hour and 15 minutes long, which was really nice. The timing was good – we didn’t have to wait long to be seated, or our food, but we didn’t feel rushed, either. After we paid the bill, we took a trip to the restrooms before taking a little walk around to check out the artwork and artifacts around the restaurant.
Although I am not sure when our next trip to the Magic Kingdom may be, I can say with confidence that this will not be our last visit to the Skipper’s Canteen! Between the cool theming and tasty food (reasonably priced too, given the experience and preparation), it’s probably my second favorite dining experience in the park (Liberty Tree lunch still holds #1 for me).