‘Ohana is one of the most popular restaurants at Walt Disney World. This family style Hawaiian feast in a tropical setting keeps people coming back year after year. Guests travel from far and wide to experience Walt Disney World and its many offerings; if you get to talking with some of the people around you, you will see that most have been coming to ‘Ohana for years. I think of ‘Ohana as one of those attractions that has become a right of passage; just as you wouldn’t want to miss Illuminations or the Main Street Electrical Parade, you will not want to miss eating at ‘Ohana.
Getting reservations to ‘Ohana can be difficult on short notice. If you are planning far ahead of time, be sure to take the opportunity to book your reservations at the 180 day mark. If you are taking a spontaneous trip, I recommend that you get your advanced dining reservation as soon as possible. As always, if you can not get right away, be persistent. There can be cancellations that may pop up. Also, ‘Ohana does require a credit card on file for the reservation and they do have a cancellation and “no-show” policy – please read the terms when making your online reservations.
If you just happen to be at the Polynesian, there is always a slim chance that you can get a same day walk up seating. We have been denied at least four times, but we have been able to do this twice before. The first time we got to eat at ‘Ohana we had to wait about 2 hours, and we needed to put together an impromptu family of 13 people to get in. That family consisted of us and the 11 other people in front of us at the stand by line. Unlucky for all of us, the original party of 13 that did not show up for over an hour, finally did show up an hour late; and ‘Ohana management just ignored us for about another hour. So waiting 2 hours to eat and the chance that they could turn us away at any moment and deny us dinner was pretty nerve-wracking. The second time got in without reservations, it was probably around 5 or 6 pm, we were a party of 4 and they were able to seat us in about 5 minutes. There were no others waiting at all, the restaurant was mostly empty.
‘Ohana is located on the second floor of the main building of the Polynesian resort. The check-in desk located near the elevators. Be sure to check-in prior to your scheduled time. They will usually give you a pager to let you know when they are ready for you. There is a large seating area and Tambu bar where you can order drinks and relax while you wait for your party to be seated. I do not recommend ordering drinks if you are going to be seated right away, it will usually take 5-10 minutes to get your drinks from the bar and this can cause some confusion if they are ready to seat you promptly.
Once your pager goes off, you will report to the entry way of ‘Ohana, it is to the left of the Tambu bar. The host will collect your pager, and then give you a brief introduction about the drinks and food while they show you to your table. Take a look around and you will see the 18 foot barbecue grilling pit where they cook up all the meat. You may have also noticed the entertainer(s) on the floor, there is usually entertainment going on during dinner. They have a Hawaiian singer and dancer (who interacts with guests and encourages everyone to participate in the dancing and other activities). Usually, you will be given an artificial flower necklace at some point in the evening.
Bring on the feast.
Your “cousin” will take your drink orders and then begin the feast. They will bring out some yummy pineapple coconut bread and salad to start. They also bring your dipping sauces, the peanut sauce is always a favorite. It is easy to fill up on bread, so be patient – you can always get more and there is so much more food to come. Appetizers of honey chicken wings, fried dumplings, and side dishes of broccoli, asian lo mein noodles and snap peas are delivered next. Then they will start bringing the grilled meats; beef, pork, chicken, and best of all large and delicious shrimp. The feasting continues with refill upon refill of anything you want.
Just when you think you have had enough, possible even too much by this point, your distant cousins will tempt you with some mouth-watering dessert. Imagine the scene where John Cleese brings Terry Jones, Mr. Creostoe, a wafer thin mint in Month Python’s The Meaning of Life; but I’m pretty sure you will be able to handle your dessert! It’s one of the best bread puddings I’ve ever had, served with ice cream with a side of banana foster caramel sauce. They will even bring you more if you like, and they certainly will bring you more vanilla ice cream. We usually like to have extra ice cream, that way it doesn’t melt so fast on the warm bread pudding.
Overall, I enjoy the atmosphere and the food, the dumplings and noodles are really good. I wish I did not get full so fast, but I just can not eat a lot of food. My mom could have been a real champ in eating contests, despite her small size she could pack in the food (she can not eat like that anymore). Alas, I did not get her eating ability or my father’s, so I eat as much as I can without getting super stuffed – I try to pace myself and save room for dessert. The downside to buffet and family style dinners is that you can not take anything home. It is sad to see meat being wasted, so I try to be careful with what I put on my plate to make sure I can eat it all.
This year I hope to “drag” along more of our family to ‘Ohana. What I really enjoy is sharing Disney with friends and family. ‘Ohana is one of those places that is best shared. It s not just about the food, it is about sharing it with family and making happy memories. It is places like this that I know my father would have loved.