Blue Jasper Restaurant Review

Blue Jasper exterior
Blue Jasper exterior

Last week I discovered a new breakfast and lunch restaurant, Blue Jasper, quite by accident. My mom and I were out running errands and were hungry for breakfast, but not in the mood for our usual breakfast place or any chains. I took to Yelp and stumbled upon a new place I’d never heard of that had only been open a few months.

I pulled up the reviews for Blue Jasper, which numbered almost twenty and average 4.5/5. I looked at the menu and found an article from the local paper from April when Blue Jasper opened. It talked about how they wanted to use local produce and resources as much as possible, and ran through the impressive resume of the owner/chef. My mom and I were sold.

Showing up only minutes later, we weren’t disappointed. Being mid morning in the middle of the week, it was relatively quiet with only four or five of the twenty or so tables being occupied. The server, Hillary was very friendly, attentive, but not overly so, and was knowledgeable.

After taking a long time to peruse the Blue Jasper breakfast menu, and decide we were coming back for lunch later in the week, we placed our orders. We decided to order a few different things to try and share.

First, we started with the lox and three herb cream cheese on a bagel with tomato. We opted for no onions and the capers on the side. The lox was perfectly sliced and nice and thin with a nice smoked salmon flavor. This was complemented very well with the herb cream cheese.

French Toast
Bagel and lox
Bagel and lox
Corned beef hash
Corned beef hash
Blue Jasper interior
Blue Jasper interior

To balance out the savory bagel and lox, we decided to order the crunchy fruit compote French toast brioche with the whipped cream on the side. We both agreed that this was quite probably the best French toast we’d ever had. It didn’t need butter, we used a touch of syrup, and I used a little of the whipped cream, but the berry compote was perfect served cold over the warm French toast. I am assuming the crunch came from cereal or oatmeal on the brioche toast added after an egg wash.

I also chose to give a side of corned beef hash a try. Now, I am very particular about my hash. I do not like salty things, and oddly enough, corned beef is very salty by nature. So I don’t ever want salt added, and I’m not a fan of peppers in my corned beef hash, which a lot of places like to try to sneak in for some reason. This corned beef hash at Blue Jasper again was possibly the best I’ve ever had. It was perfectly seasoned, not salty at all, but still flavorful. I felt a little bad trying some with a dab of ketchup like I usually do.

The food was all fantastic with great flavor and nice presentation. As promised, we returned to Blue Jasper for lunch over the weekend and were not disappointed! We had the duck confit sliders, and their extraordinary grilled cheese. The sliders are served on sour dough bread with brie, arugula, sweet orange rinds, and bacon aioli. Served with tomato bisque, the grilled cheese has smoked bacon, apple butter, grilled apple slices, and smoked cheddar on brioche. Neither made it home for leftovers, but we did have some extra of the yummy sweet potato fries that made a great snack later.

Duck confit sliders
Duck confit sliders
Grilled cheese and tomato bisque
Grilled cheese and tomato bisque
Tables
Tables
Blue Jasper
Blue Jasper

All in all this is a great new spot, and I’m so glad we found it. We will now be adding it into our regular rotation of restaurants. They are open Tuesday through Sunday 7am – 3pm, and also offer catering. There are vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options, as well as vegan/gluten free options. If you are in the Sarasota or Bradenton area any time soon, make sure to hit up Blue Jasper for either breakfast or lunch.

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Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto Soft Opening Visit

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
Entrance to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto

This past weekend, a few friends and I were lucky enough to experience the soft opening of the brand new Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

We were in the first group to enter this tiki bar located in the Great Ceremonial House next to Captain Cook’s. For those of you familiar with Disneyland, this lounge is the counterpart to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
Being welcomed into Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto as the first guests

The atmosphere at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto draws inspiration from a great combination of Disney classic attractions like the Enchanted Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise, and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Imagineers have hidden lots of great references to these rides as well as many other Disney characters and films. If you keep a keen eye open, you may find the Orange Bird, a nod to the Rocketeer, and even my favorite nefarious Toad, J. Thaddeus.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
Bartenders ready to serve … even a cephalopod

Also, be on the look out for fun audio animatronics like a tentacle swinging from above the bar with a tight grip on a bottle, Uh Oa, the tiki goddess of disaster on the opposite wall, and tons of fantastic blacklight effects.

Once you’ve marveled over the fabulous decor and theming inside Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, it is time to decide which beverages and food you want to experience. Similar to the vibe of the lounge, the small plates and drinks offered have a South Seas flair, heavy on the seafood and rum. We sampled all of the appetizers between our group and found everything to be quite tasty.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows

I definitely had a favorite in the Headhunter Sushi Roll, which if I recall is a beet rice roll with tuna, salmon, cucumber with an awesome hibiscus sauce. This roll was so good we killed it within just a couple of minutes between a few of us. I highly recommend it as a great combination of flavors that is different from any other roll I’ve had before.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
Headhunter Sushi Roll

 

Other popular choices in our group were the Chicken Lettuce Cups that you assembled yourself, which were really nice with the kimchi, and the Kalua Pork Tacos.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows Lettuce Wraps
Chicken Lettuce Cups

As far as what I didn’t particular care for, or feel I will order again in the near future, I’d say skip the Corn-Battered Portuguese Sausages. To me, these tasted kind of like corn dogs with a ketchup infused with curry.

Corn-Battered Portuguese Sausages Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
Corn-Battered Portuguese Sausages

 

The other items that we felt left a bit to be desired were the Pan-Fried Dumplings with soy-sesame dipping sauce. These were pork and shrimp combined, but seemed a bit light on the filling as far proportionally to the dumpling dough. I’d say the Salmon Oshizushi, Chicken and Pork Bahn Mi, and the Hawaiian Poke fall in the middle. I’d get them again, but maybe not as frequently as the Headhunter Roll or Lettuce Cups.

Hippopotomai-Tai Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
Hippopotomai-Tai

I took one for the team and was pretty much the designated drinker, ordering the Hippopotomai-Tai since it came with a new souvenir glass specific to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. This was a really good Mai Tai, with the obligatory “two shots of rum” offering a special effect.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
Polynesian Pearl

Another in our group tried the Polynesian Pearl, which is a signature drink new for the Grog Grotto. It comes in a plastic “pearl” with a fun presentation from the bartenders each time one is ordered. This drink, which I just tasted, came across like a creamy version of Cinnamon Toast Crunch in beverage form.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
Polynesian Pearl Presentation

 

For the non-alcoholic folks out there, we also sampled the Schweitzer Fall, which mostly tasted like pineapple juice and sprite, and the Skipper Sipper, a bit more refreshing and slightly less sweet combo of tropical juice with mint and lime.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
Photo: Mike Beckerman

Several of the alcoholic beverages at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto can be purchased in souvenir glasses, which you can pick up on your way out already wrapped up for you. This is really nice to not have to wait for your used glass to be cleaned out and brought back to you. Our server simply highlighted my receipt, then I showed it to the Cast Members at the door where the glasses are on display. The Polynesian Pearl is plastic, which they will rinse out for you to take if you’d like. The Hippopotomai-Tai souvenir and the Kona beer flight are glass, and the others offered are all ceramic.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows Nautilus
Nautilus

As of this time, the only souvenir glass not available is for the Nautilus, which will run approximately $52, but is currently around $34 for just the alcoholic drink. According to the Food and Beverage Cast Member with whom I spoke, they said it may be months before those arrive. I also asked, and souvenir drink glasses are not for sale independently of the alcohol.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace

Here are a few quick things to keep in mind for your visit to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto:

  • All prices, menu items, and drinks are subject to change as Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is still in soft opening.
  • No discounts are available currently at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto.
  • The lounge can hold about 50 inside, and the Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace outside can seat an additional 80 guests.
  • If you are looking to sit inside the Grog Grotto, there is a pager system since seating is so limited. There are a limited amount a pagers available, and wait times did go up to 4-5 hours on the first day of soft openings. Also, your wait time will depend on the size of your party.
  • The full menu is available both inside and out, with a nice area for musicians and a dancer on the terrace. I really enjoyed this additional entertainment aspect and can see myself spending lots of time here in the future, especially in the warmer summer evenings here.
  • Hours for Trader Sam’s, once they officially open in late April, will be from 4pm until 12am, with the lounge being 21 and up only from 8pm.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto Disney's Polynesian Village Resort Disney's Polynesian Villas and Bungalows

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto met and exceeded my expectations based on my experiences at the West Coast version of Trader Sam’s at Disneyland. The Imagineers have done very well to echo the feeling of the lounge in California, while still making it unique enough to make me want to visit both locations. Like Disneyland, I am sure over time I will be spending hours inspecting all the fun pictures and memorabilia adorning the walls, ceiling, and shelves. This lounge is a much needed addition to the nightlife at Walt Disney World.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
Diver’s mask behind the bar
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