The Kona Café is one of those super-secret handshake restaurants inside Walt Disney World. While obviously open to the general public, the eatery’s reputation is perhaps most widely circulated through Disney superfans, a blindly passionate group that always speaks highly of the establishment, practically breaking down in tears when the name of a certain menu item is uttered. That’s right, I’m talkin’ Tonga Toast.
Tonga Toast is one of those Holy Grail eats for Disney food connoisseurs. It’s the most famous breakfast delight in the area, served up daily in the Kona Café, located inside perhaps the most vividly themed of all the Mouse House getaways, the Polynesian Resort. Go to a Disney gossip site or flip open a guidebook, and there’s sure to be a mention of the Kona Café on any must-do restaurant list. Devouring the Tonga Toast almost seems like a rite of passage to anyone brave enough to spend a considerable amount of time in Orlando, so it felt like a natural progression of caloric villainy to jump in a car and head to the (fake) South Pacific.
“Hey everybody, we’re all gonna get leid!”
While remaining steeped in plastic Disneyfied atmosphere, the Polynesian Resort is always a pleasure to visit. Not only is there a grandiose tropical playland to get lost in between dining and park duties, but the location is one of the few connections to Walt Disney World’s hastily erased past, serving as a reminder to the company’s once mighty reputation as a relaxing vacation destination. Remember when they used to sell Disney as a hotbed of recreation? Well, the Polynesian Resort sustains that sensation with its watercraft adventures, beaches, and various restaurant options, including the dreamily garish home of the grilled meat decathlon, ‘Ohana.
Kona Café is a more modest establishment, maintaining a thoughtful South Seas appearance to balance out ‘Ohana’s face-first submersion into kitsch. Kona Café services lunch and dinner for the completists, but the big show occurs in the wee hours of the morning, with a limited breakfast menu centered on the signature dish: Tonga Toast.
So what is this sweet system-stunner? Two pieces of sourdough bread pressed together with a banana filling, fried to hilarity, and topped off with a Tony Montana-style mound of cinnamon sugar. It sounds so simple, borderline forgettable, but Disney fans break out into cartwheels when the item is brought up in casual conversation, so I just had to try one.
Yes, the sausage is there to help the coming heart attack along.
Tonga Toast absolutely overwhelms with every last bite, taking sunrise sweetness to new, unheard of extremes. While it looks neatly contained on the plate, the blast of sugar and fried bread sends taste buds into a tizzy, while the molten lava of melted banana singes the tongue upon impact. Eating the crispy sandwich involved more of a combat attitude than a jovial breakfast one, which surprised me. It’s a hard thing to consume for multiple reasons, which is why I felt somewhat, ever-so-slightly, teency-weency disappointed in the hallowed Tonga Toast experience.
First of all, the bread is coated with cinnamon sugar. I write coated, but I mean it’s walloped with the stuff, feeling miles thick while chewing through the grit to get to the goo. The sugar force field is far too much to work against, killing the taste of the sandwich in the process. Every bite is cinnamon. The banana center, once reached, is also a tad strong, though I suppose the whole concept of warm banana glory is up for debate. Me? I only enjoy steamy banana gunk in small doses. Nothing about the Tonga Toast comes close to a small dose.
The sandwich as a whole is a challenge to gobble down, giving off a heavy Monte Cristo vibe where every bite contains pure syrupy joy and a healthy side of hell, killing the eating experience prematurely. Helping to restore the sensation of flavor to my mouth was a glass of Lilikoi Juice, which blends orange, passion fruit, and guava into a chilled breakfast drink. Absolutely delicious, but a word of warning to avoid undue humiliation: refills aren’t free. Believe me, it’s impossible to stop after one glass of this wondrous hotel nectar.
My companion had the sense to deal in more traditional terms, ordering the Macadamia Pineapple Pancakes. Fluffy and sensibly adorned to increase flavor and help nudge along the Polynesian theming, the pancakes were quite tasty and moist, with an ideal blitz of regional crunch. Compared to the Tonga Toast, the flapjacks were practically rice cakes, working wonders to help balance out the morning’s extremes.
Now with vital Tonga Toast knowledge in my back pocket, I can safely talk the talk in Disney groups, but walk the walk? I get back to you on that one when I come down from the sugar rush, somewhere around 2014.