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In Photos: Club 33, or, The "Secret" Restaurant at Disneyland

kevin h Oct 24, 2008 04:24 PM

Recently, I had the rare opportunity to dine at Club 33. Club 33 was built by Walt Disney in order to have a place within Disneyland where he could entertain visiting dignitaries. The Club was completed in May 1967; however Walt was never able to see the fruits of his vision, as he had passed away five months earlier. Today, Club 33 operates as an exclusive private club with a very limited membership (several hundred persons). Membership is available to both individuals and corporations, at a cost of several thousand dollars a year. Even so, there is still a multi-year waiting list to become a member.

The lunch cost $105, and included a choice of entree and access to a nice buffet spread (with an especially nice dessert selection). The three entrees I sampled were:

New York Steak, Curried Banana Ketchup, Kennebec Steak Fries
Alaskan Halibut, Meyer Lemon Risotto, Minted Tabbouleh
Pan Roasted Chicken, Mac & Cheese Croquette, Pickled Sweet Carrot

None were particularly impressive, so food-wise, Club 33 certainly isn't going to be winning any awards. Though certainly not atrocious by any means, the cuisine is rather tired and really only a notch above typical "hotel fare." But if you're focusing on the food, you're missing the point. The point of the Club is the exclusivity, the experience, and by that criterion, Club 33 certainly measures up. I'll definitely be back if I have the chance.

Has anyone else been as of late? I haven't been to Club 33 for dinner; how does that compare to lunch (hopefully the food's a bit better)?

Full review with photos: http://www.kevineats.com/2008/10/club...

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  1. m
    mlgb Oct 24, 2008 04:39 PM

    It's been a while, but dinner is a la carte and there is a much wider range of choices for each course, There are more inventive dishes (more along the lines of Napa Rose). The one I particularly remember was a tempura soft shell crab with lavender blossom in the crust, as an example.

    Except for the lobster and crab, the buffet looks similar to the buffet at any of the Disney hotels (although the desserts do look better, there are few Disney desserts that are excellent).

    1. Ruth Lafler Oct 24, 2008 04:46 PM

      *shakes head* I guess there must be something wrong with me. I don't get paying top dollar for hotel food (and what looks like hotel atmosphere) just because it's "exclusive." Now, if it were at the top of the Matterhorn or Splash Mountain with a panoramic view of the park, that might make it worthwhile, but to me something has to have more going for it than that other people are kept out. It seems like almost by definition a place that charges $105 for lunch would keep out the riffraff.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler
        m
        mrhooks Oct 24, 2008 08:01 PM

        The top of the Matterhorn is a basketball (half-)court. If only they had built a little restaurant in there instead...

        The cost of dining at Club 33 is supposed to include VIP parking as well as admission, though I don't know if that's still the case since they expanded. (And I believe the member is only allowed to bring 8 guests.)

        It's a shame if the most exclusive restaurant in Disneyland isn't at least as good as Napa Rose, though since it shares a kitchen with the Blue Bayou, I guess it's somewhat hampered.

        1. re: mrhooks
          m
          mlgb Oct 24, 2008 10:51 PM

          It isn't better than Napa Rose, which after all is one of the best restaurants in OC. As others have mentioned the price quoted includes guest's admission to Disneyland, which is pushing $70 at the moment. I always have my parking comped anyhow, so I'm not sure if parking is included, but I assume it is. That's now $12. So the buffet (ayce lobster and crabclaw included, don't forget) is around $35 which doesn't sound that bad to me.

          If you time dinner right, you can watch Fantasmic from the restaurant. And dinner is definitely better than lunch.

          1. re: mlgb
            m
            mrhooks Oct 24, 2008 11:19 PM

            Yes, I know all that. Technically speaking, cost of admission isn't part of the price tag, otherwise the cost of dining at Club 33 (as a guest of a Club 33 member) would vary depending on whether or not you owned a season pass. (Of course, for members, admission is free as long as one dines at Club 33, so it would be kinda dumb for a Club 33 member also to own a season pass.)

            The point is, Club 33 is the most exclusive restaurant in the Disneyland resort, more exclusive than Napa Rose; it's too bad the food doesn't match that exclusivity. It's like kevin h wrote, the point of Club 33 is the exclusivity itself, which IMHO isn't worth the price of admission (well, maybe once, just to say I've been there). I'd rather spend that money at Napa Rose. And I'd rather watch Fantasmic! from the edge of the lake. ;-)

            1. re: mrhooks
              ipsedixit Oct 24, 2008 11:32 PM

              Not just Disneyland, but Club 33 might be on the most exclusive restaurants in the country.

              1. re: mrhooks
                kevin h Oct 24, 2008 11:45 PM

                We didn't have VIP parking, though we parked in the Downtown Disney lot, which was free anyway.

                I agree that the food is clearly no match for Napa Rose's. Let's just say that I wouldn't be going as often as I do, if it were not for the exclusivity factor. I suppose irrationality really is part of human nature. ;)

                1. re: kevin h
                  j
                  JeetJet Oct 25, 2008 12:35 AM

                  Very nice post kevin h. The exclusivity factor must be factored along with the fact that alcohol is served inside Club 33, and not served throughout the park. That makes both the park and Club 33 exclusive. I mean think of other parks that have, or have had, beer carts at every turn and the resulting factor of too much drink and not enough excluding....No, your not irational at all. You just like it to be nice, fun and happy.

        2. ipsedixit Oct 24, 2008 04:47 PM

          I was there for brunch once.

          The only thing memorable about going to Club 33 was having to change clothes. After brunch, we all swapped out into shorts and enjoyed the rest of our day at the Happiest Place on Earth ...

          1. l
            LisaN Oct 24, 2008 05:23 PM

            105 a person?!?! If so, then its gone up ALOT!!! I went for lunch about 2 years ago, And it only cost us about $185 for 3 people including tip and drinks. We had chateaubriand and I remember it being delicious.

            5 Replies
            1. re: LisaN
              s
              scottyp34 Oct 24, 2008 05:44 PM

              I have been there once on a corporate account, so I did not see the bill. However, I assume the $105 includes the park admission. So subtract a one day ticket from that amount for the cost of the meal? If I'm wrong, I'm sure someone will correct me.

              1. re: scottyp34
                r
                rickym13 Oct 24, 2008 05:54 PM

                you are right...that does include admission to the park...at least it was last time we went....but that was many moons ago

                1. re: scottyp34
                  l
                  LisaN Oct 24, 2008 08:31 PM

                  maybe on a corporate account it is more. It did include admission into both parks, but entrees were only about in the $30-$30 range. I know we didn't pay $105 a person.

                  Just wanted to double check, because I was thinking of asking if our connection could get us in again, but if its $105 each, it may have to wait.

                  1. re: scottyp34
                    kevin h Oct 24, 2008 11:39 PM

                    I was there with a corporate account as well. It was $105 inclusive of everything, including drink, tax and tip. It came with a Park Hopper pass, which allows you entry into California Adventure as well.

                  2. re: LisaN
                    kevin h Oct 24, 2008 11:37 PM

                    My first visit was also 2 years ago, and I also had the chateaubriand! I also remember the food being better: http://www.kevineats.com/2006/10/club...

                  3. j
                    joshekg Oct 24, 2008 06:18 PM

                    I have not been to Club 33 in many years and I do not remember the food being particularly memorable though it was where I first tasted caviar (I was 12). But it was a memorable experience ringing the bell, entering through the 'secret' door and seeing the looks of astonishment on the faces of other people walking down the street as we entered the restaurant. I particularly enjoyed the matchbooks with our last name embossed on them though I hear they do not do this anymore. So I don't think it's a place that I would go to eat at on a regular basis, but when I have kids I would definitely like to take them there.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: joshekg
                      kevin h Oct 24, 2008 11:40 PM

                      If you visit the link, you'll see in the last photo that there aren't match books any more, but there are match boxes. No embossing though: http://www.kevineats.com/2008/10/club...

                    2. c
                      chez cherie Oct 24, 2008 07:33 PM

                      the dessert you couldn't place the name of look like financiers. ?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: chez cherie
                        kevin h Oct 24, 2008 11:28 PM

                        Yes, that's it, thank you! I've updated my review with the correct name.

                      2. vegasmike Oct 24, 2008 08:14 PM

                        My family has been members since the beginning. The food has had its ups and downs over the years, and the prices have increased. Our annual fee to retain our membership is outrageous, but we still love it. We have so many stories about taking business clients there and it always makes a huge impression on them. We always loved to surprise people with where we were going to lunch. We still go several times a year, and it always is special, because there is no other place quite like it. Remember that the price you pay for lunch or dinner includes admission to both parks, so it is really not that expensive if you are going to go there for the day.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: vegasmike
                          kevin h Oct 24, 2008 11:34 PM

                          That's cool that you've been in it from the beginning! I would've liked to have seen what some of the meals in the 60's and 70's looked like.

                          Indeed, a Park Hopper pass like you get with Club 33 currently costs $94: http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disne...

                          It's a downright steal if you look at it that way.

                          1. re: vegasmike
                            i
                            illexis Jan 22, 2011 12:09 AM

                            I have a question for you but am new to this board and not sure how te replies work...if it doesn't let you know when you receive a reply, could you email me? illexis@gmail.com

                          2. n
                            NAspy Oct 24, 2008 09:02 PM

                            I agree the food is not much to write home about. Club 33 reminds me of those stuffy English restaurants in resort towns where the salad is perpetually overdressed and the sauces a tad glutinous.

                            I think the draw of Club 33 was (and maybe still is) the only place in Disneyland where you can get alcohol.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: NAspy
                              m
                              mrhooks Oct 24, 2008 11:26 PM

                              Yes, it's the only place inside the park that serves alcohol (technically the hotels are outside the park). I guess it's worth it if you're really jonesing for some alcohol and don't want to take the extra time to go to one of the hotels.

                              1. re: mrhooks
                                m
                                MarlaPR Jan 8, 2009 07:41 AM

                                I was raised in LaMirada and went to Disneyland fairly often, even spent our Senior "ditch" day there. Many, many years later we were guest of friends at Club 33. Yes, the food was just fine but to share a couple bottles of nice wine and walk around the Disneyland of my childhood was a rare treat. I'll alway have France, Prague, Italy, Greece and even my beloved LA to treat my foodie side. But Club 33 holds a special place in my heart.

                              2. re: NAspy
                                kevin h Oct 24, 2008 11:35 PM

                                I believe you're right, using a narrow definition of "Disneyland." I think you can get booze in California Adventure, and I know you can in Downtown Disney. ;)

                              3. monku Oct 25, 2008 06:18 AM

                                Thanks for the "inside" look to Club 33.
                                Some of the "shrimpiest" shrimp cocktail I've ever seen.

                                1. r
                                  RamD56 Jul 12, 2010 11:48 AM

                                  I realize that the review goes back to Oct 2008, but my family and I attended Club 33 @ Disneyland as guests this past weekend. It was a VERY expensive disappointment.

                                  We were seated by the kitchen and one of our servers ("John") was so uninterested in us, at one point while pouring water, he pulled the bottle away from my cousin's glass. He was so bad, it became entertaining.

                                  Kevin H hit it on the head - I expected so much more, but it was as if they were tapped into Room Service at the Grand Californian. I have had NY Steaks at Fleming's, Ruth Chris, Vic Stewart's that completely put this to shame (Sizzler would be comparable).

                                  The only positive (aside from the history and interior) was that the wine list was very reasonable - many of the bottles were at market value.

                                  Spend your money wisely, avoid the Club 33 experience . . .

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