To my great delight, Trader Sam’s opened its doors on May 25, 2011. Located next to the Disneyland Hotel, I was very excited to see what Disney magic would bring to the neo-tropical movement. With Swabbie Chadd at the helm, we sailed east on the 10 freeway to the city they call Anaheim to put Sam’s to the test. After spending a few hours there, where we carefully put into action our refined tastes and extensive cocktail knowledge, Swabby Chadd and I decided that we whole-heartedly approve. Who are we kidding, we were won over by the mere idea there was a dark bar on Disney property that served cocktails. The fact that we actually enjoyed everything was just gravy.
Sam’s exterior is in the A-frame tradition, although much more petite than the A-frames of yesteryear. The well manicured flora and metal tiki torches also reminded me of Mama’s Fish House on Maui, a delightful escapist compound designed for tourists.
As we headed inside, we passed a shifty twenty-something smoking a cigarette. He warned us about some funky chairs at the bar, chairs that we should avoid. We smiled and moved on, thinking he was baked.
Once inside, we found a beautifully lit three-sided bar with 16 stools, and came to find out three of them are gag stools (on hydraulic lifts) that ever so slowly lower the unassuming drinker to make him feel as if he’s had one too many. The way we found out is that I was fortunate enough to sit in one. The effect is very surreal and I was literally chin-level to the bar before I even noticed—and I was only a quarter way through my first Mai Tai. I can only imagine that the bartenders, who have full control of the stools, really mess with drunk customers they don’t like. I know I would.
Moving onto the drink menu, they had 12 tropical specialty concoctions. I had 3 of them (HippopotaMai Tai, Shrunken Zombie Head, Lost Safari) and Swabbie Chadd had 2 (Piranah Pool, Shipwreck On The Rocks). I’m clearly more manly. Two of their drinks, much like the Tiki-Ti’s ritual, come with a production and some chanting. I’ll let you discover those on your own.
Here’s the beautifully garnished drinks themselves, which all tended towards the sweet side. I love that we’re about to get toasty and it’s starting with this napkin:
Sam’s also serves food. We sampled the Fish Tacos, Cheese Flatbread, and Planko-Crusted Chinese Long Beans. They all hit the spot.
As a bonus, a photo of the Trader on the aforementioned gag chair. Swabbie Chadd is bemused and feeling no pain.
For our first Trader Sam’s adventure, we did it up right. We enjoyed the drinks, the food, the Enchanted Tiki Room design, the integration of the Jungle Cruise mythology—and on a hot summer day, the air conditioning. Overall, Don the Beachcomber by way of Trader Vic’s by way of Tiki-Ti by way of Disney really works.
After we bid Sam goodbye, Swabbie Chadd and I felt like some hearty Southern cooking and headed over to Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. He had the Royal Chicken and a Southern Peach Tea, I opted for the BBQ Shrimp & Grits and a Hurricane. We capped it all off with some delicious Beignets and strawberries.
Being inebriated and full, we thought the best thing to do at that point was to wander Downtown Disney and buy caramel apples and chocolate dipped coconut patties. The night was such a success in fact, we didn’t even make it home. We ended up booking a room at Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and spending the night. Now that’s some Disney magic!