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Dec 8, 2008 06:13 AM

Disney California Adventure

Welcome to part two of our series on Disneyland Park dining in which we delve into Disney California Adventure. Since its lackluster opening in 2001, Disney California Adventure has been the Rodney Dangerfield of theme parks, getting so much criticism and so little respect that Disney finally caved in and started a major revamp this year. Personally, I've always liked DCA, and in dining terms, California Adventure is significantly better, on average, than its mousy counterpart, and there's booze to boot.

Like Disneyland, Disney California Adventure is divided into different themed lands, but the lands at DCA are a bit less defined. I will group the eateries by location but also try to give some description of where they are. As with my Disneyland reviews, this list in not exhaustive and includes only food within the park, so no Downtown Disney and no hotel food (sorry Napa Rose). One additional note, due to the refurbishment of the Park, there have been some closures and others are expected.


If you take a right at the park entrance, there will be a number of eateries leading up to the excellent Soarin' Over California ride, including the basic but decent Bakers' Field Bakery and Bur-r-r Bank Ice Cream (serving Dreyer's ice cream).

Taste Pilots' Grill

The aviation themed Taste Pilots' Grill, adjacent to Soarin' Over California, serves ribs, chicken and burgers with big waffle fries and onion rings. Usually Disney just mangles this type of food, but the pork ribs are pretty decent, and I like both the rings and waffle fries. This is definitely one of the more edible choices in either park.


Paradise Pier is the boardwalk-style area located near Paradise Bay. The Golden State eateries are adjacent to the pier in the wharf area which appears to be modeled after some combination of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf and the Monterey Cannery district.

Corndog Castle

I've written up Corndog Castle before, in its own right, and as I explained last week, I think their corndogs are better than the similar ones on Main Street in Disneyland. These giant dogs are fried to perfection, creating a non-uniform crust that bulges at the top and tapers down to the stick. The batter has a great sweet corn taste that melds well with the dog juice, and the texture is just right -- crisp on the outside and corn bread/cakey underneath. I like the hot link best, but the original dog is also excellent. This humble dog is probably the best single dish in either park, so don't miss it. My only quarrel with the Castle is that, like many Disney dining establishments, they don't open until 11:00 a.m., and I'm usually craving one of these babies by 10:30.

Burger Invasion/McDonalds

The only chain fast food restaurant in the park, this McDonalds at the edge of Paradise Pier is cleverly disguised as something called Burger Invasion. Did someone think this would fool us? Did they think people would think that Disney has its own restaurant that just happens to serve Big Macs? Despite the fact that this is a McDonalds, as I noted last week, Disney makes some of the worst burgers in the world, so if you must have a burger, this might be your best bet, though it is currently closed as part of the refurbishment.

The Boudin Bakery Tour

Boudin bakery has a stand in the wharf area which is the equivalent of what you'd find in their airport stores with fresher bread, which they bake on premises. The food is fine, but I really enjoyed the Boudin Bakery tour. While peering through glass at the actual breadmaking process, you are guided by a series of videos, starring Rosie O'Donnell, which do a nice job of explaining the elements of sourdough bread baking. The Boudin Bakery and Tour are scheduled to close February 9 for the refurbishment, so catch it now if you're interested.

The Mission Tortilla Tour

The Mission Tortilla tour is similar to the Boudin tour but less informative, though you do get to see the tortilla machines in operation. At the end of the tour, you get a fresh tortilla (sometimes corn, sometimes flour), and heck, even a Mission tortilla is pretty darned good when served hot off the press.

Rita's Margaritas

Outside the Boudin Bakery is Rita's margarita stand. It may seem tempting to walk around the park holding a margarita, but resist that temptation. These frozen, fluorescent concoctions are to margaritas as Disneyland's "mint julep" drinks, which I discussed last week, are to real mint juleps, with the exception that the Disney margaritas at least have alcohol in them, or so they claim. These are syrupy sweet and artificial tasting slushies with little redeeming value. AVOID.


Award Wieners

The only proper food in the Hollywood Backlot section of DCA is the unfortunately named Award Wieners hot dog stand. I thought this sounded promising given the great dogs at Corndog Castle, but alas, it was not to be. These dogs were totally lackluster, cooked to a sickly, wrinkled state and served in stale buns. I had a plain dog and a BBQ, the latter of which was covered with an overly sweet BBQ sauce and a few sad onions. If you want a dog, head to the Castle.


A Bug's Land is a toddler-friendly land based on the 1998 Pixar film A Bug's Life in which the mean grassphooper, Hopper, tries to enslave a colony of friendly ants. In a perfect world, A Bug's Land would feature Hopper's Chapulines stand. Well, needless to say, it doesn't, but there is a half-way decent ice cream place called San Andreas Shakes, serving flurries and shakes made from soft serve. I like it, but I'm sort of a sucker for soft serve, shakes and flurries.

Now's the Time to Say Goodbye

Well, I hope you have enjoyed our guide to culinary survival at the Disney parks. I know haven't tried every single eatery and have even missed some landmarks like Ariel's Grotto (my family went without me and refused to return on a subsequent visit, which I took as a bad sign) and Wine Country Trattoria. If I missed something good or even vaguely edible, please let me know.

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  1. Actually Burger Invasion is closed for good and McDonald's is no longer even associated with the park. It's going to re-open as a yet to be disclosed eatery in a re-themed "Beer Garden" area.

    As for eats I agree Corndog Castle is a can't miss in DCA, and I like the Boudin Restaurant for salads and bread bowls of clam chowder. I haven't eaten at Taste Pilot but the waffle fries are always beckoning me. The soft-serve with the mix in swirl flavors on the boardwalk isn't bad either.

    More often then not I leave the park and go into the Grand California Hotel to eat at Whitewater Snacks. Although, you did say the eateries you would cover would be strictly IN the park.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ReelMike84

      Is Whitewater Snacks the cafe next to Napa Rose? What's good there?

      1. re: sku

        I agree with ReelMike, Whitewater is as convenient as eating inside DCA. I like their chicken sandwich with anaheim chili, they are actually grilled and the fries are good. Better than the chicken sandwich I had last time at Taste PIlots, which seemed awfully pale and cottony.

        Burrbank Ice Cream is now hosted by Nestle, (is that Dreyer Ice Cream?). The adacent bakery is the place to get the good coffee and espresso drinks. (There's also usually a cart at the hub near Golden Dreams that is the second best coffee place).

        Since DCA is the alcohol park, it seems a shame not to mention the BEER TRUCK in Pacific Wharf, which has on-tap a selection of Karl Strauss brews.

        For excellent margaritas, hand-mixed and strong if you tip the BT, the bar at Avalon Cove (limited hours) is the place. Last time we went, they had some pretty decent bar food, too. If the fried calamari make it to you hot, it's quite good. (This place is the patio that you reach by walking thru Ariel's Grotto). Be sure to visit the restrooms, they spent some $$$ on the decor.

        Remaining on the alcohol theme, the port and blue cheese tasting on the Terrace near the Wine Co. Trattoria was way better than we expected, and a pretty good value. They do wine tasting also.

        Wine Country Trattoria is good for a sitdown meal, with alcohol, if you have time for the somewhat sluggish service. Assorted pastas, paninis, salads, and a decent tiramisu.

        I caution anyone that the Mexican restaurant at DCA is not good. Go to the one in Disneyland if you must have Mexican food.

        I agree about skipping Award Wieners. However, they've added some new fast serve places in the Hollywood area, "Studio Catering" and "Between Takes". I have Studio Catering on my list to try this month. Also if you like smoothies, there is Schmoozie's (cute wordplay), which is quite good although often it is out of service. It's right there near Award Wieners.

        1. re: sku

          Yes it's the quick service place at the dead end.

          The charbroiled chicken sandwich, the french dip, and the beef nachos are the three things I've had on a couple different visits and they were all good. The nachos in particular.

          You're thread actually came at a good time because I was just there and actually did a write up today of all three items.

          The only thing I don't mention is the cheeseburger which I didn't get enough of to get any impression. I had a bite of my girlfriends while I was plowing through nachos. It looked good though.

          Famished L.A.

        1. Always enjoy talking about Disney Resort food and nice of you to continue your thoughts. A couple of points. Not only is the Mexican food, as mentioned below, bad but the throughput is about the slowest of any place in either park.

          Indeed the hot dogs are terrible at Award Weiners, but you can get the famous turkey leg.

          We have eaten at Ariel's three times. Mostly for the Princess interaction. The food isn't bad, but it tremendously expensive. Be sure to get your 10% off AAA discount.

          Ate once at Wine Country and found the food OK and the price, again, too high.

          FWIW, I can't eat corn dogs--they seem (no offensive meant here) like they are for children.

          All told I think one's best bet is usually Taste Pilot. And though your review mentions that you aren't considering Downtown Disney spots it's worth mentioning that the highly regarded Whitewater Snacks and Storyteller's are right in the Grand Californian hotel and you can enter it through a side entrance without leaving the park. Going into the hotel to see the great lobby can almost be considered one of the experiences of DCA.

          4 Replies
          1. re: The Old Man

            Alright, I'm convinced. My next task will be to review the food at Grand Californian. Thanks so much for all the comments and suggestions.

            1. re: The Old Man

              Wine Country Trattoria (the downstairs restaurant) is a good value (especially if you share). The pricing is virtually the same as Taste Pilots, but the food is better or at least more than grill food. Eg, split a panini/pasta salad plate, add an extra side salad, share a tiramisu and it's $20 plus tax tip (and drinks) for two people. I don't think that's expensive unless you start ordering $7 beers (which is the same pricing as at TPG).


              1. re: mlgb

                We ate at the the Wine Country Trattoria for the first time in Dec and was very pleasantly surprised. We had the minestrone, meat lasagna, meatball sandwich, and tiramisu. All were excellent! We were especially impressed with the tiramisu. And like mlqb said, it is a good value for an in-park, sit-down restaurant. The atmosphere is relaxed, and we had wonderful service. It was a really enjoyable respite from the hustle-bustle of the parks. We are going back in March and will definitely eat there again (along with trying the Napa Rose).

                Too bad the Vineyard Room is closed now.

                1. re: madoka

                  Perhaps when they closed Vineyard Room, they moved some of the better, more experienced servers downstairs. I am also sorry it closed, although I haven't been for a few years. Perhaps it suffered by requiring an admission to the park and proximity to Napa Rose, which didn't. For a while it was nearly as good as NR.

            2. Nice report.

              A couple months ago, we had corndogs @ DCS on the strength of its popularity w/chowhounders. I must be one of the very few that does not like them; too much batter....

              1 Reply
              1. re: OCAnn

                So these restaurants are all inside disney? Good idea about the sharing. When on holidays you dine out alot and really dont need to spend the huge prices on lunches and huge portion meals. Save room for a nicer dinner.

              2. Second the above tip about the beer truck--by far the best thing to consume in DCA. As annual passholders, we have literally made the drive to Anaheim on occasion just to get a Red Trolley or two.

                A tip for the adults, especially if you go to DCA frequently--go to Boudin Bakery and get a fresh loaf of sourdough for $4.50. Proceed to the Trattoria Wine Tasting area and get a couple of glasses of wine. Sit on the Terrace, people-watch, and enjoy an indulgent carb-tastic lunch. This is our favorite way to dry off after the whitewater rafting ride!

                8 Replies
                1. re: thursday

                  Can you go to the Trattoria wine tasting area with children? I dont mean hanging out there all day drinking but the sour dough and a glass of wine and people watch sounds likea lovely combo!
                  Is red trolley a beer sold only at Disney california adventure hotel??

                  1. re: palmtree38

                    Yes, you can. It's just a terrace area overlooking the main walkway--actually, it's a great place to watch the Pixar parade from, so that would be a really nice place for you to unwind and the kids could get a great view.

                    Red Trolley is one of the varietals of beer they sell at the beer truck in the pier section. My personal favorite. Haven't found it anywhere other than CA adventure.

                    1. re: thursday

                      Thanks thursday. writing all the tips down as we are heading there this week. thanks so much!

                      1. re: palmtree38

                        Can you pack bagels/cheese to bring with you inside the park? Or can you only bring fruit and bottle waters etc ???

                        Sounds like we should pass on the burger places and little ones seem to just graise and if they had it their way would eat frenchfries.
                        Is there a wine tratoria and one that is for port and blue cheese or is it the same place??

                        1. re: palmtree38

                          "Can you pack bagels/cheese to bring with you inside the park? Or can you only bring fruit and bottle waters etc ???"

                          I've brought in bahn mi & burritos to D'land in a backpack, so yes, you can bring in bagles & cheeses.

                          1. re: palmtree38

                            Some friends of mine brought a whole watermelon in a baby stroller.

                            1. re: palmtree38

                              As long as you're not smuggling in alcohol or a ridiculous amount of food (entire picnic baskets, etc.) they shouldn't bother you. What you can't do, though, is take a table at a sit-down place and eat your own food. You can do it at quick-serve places, but not sit-down places.

                              You can wander around with beer truck beers; wine from the wine bar and drinks from the full bar behind Ariel's Grotto can't leave their designated areas.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                gosh I have my gravol packed just to take the kids on rides lol I dont think I will be drinking until after were finished with those. I thought I outgrew this and did for my teens/20's until this summer's amusment park trip ughh..

                                Good to know.. We have a smaller collapsable cooler so will bring bottled water/drink boxes and a few bagels for the kids. Parents can always grab something in the park.