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Disneyland/California Adventure Reflections

Haven't been to Disneyland in over two decades. But we now have a two year old who loves Cars so we took him to see Cars Land and got a Parkhopper to also go into both parks this past weekend. Had low expectations for meals, and overall was pleasantly surprised.

Dinners:

Napa Rose (Grand Californian Hotel): the best dinner of our trip, probably because it was a nice change after a painful two hour drive from the Westside in Friday night traffic. They were willing to honor our reservation up to 30 minutes afterwards - we made it in 25. The staff was very helpful with our two year old who couldn't sit for long periods of time likely due to being cooped up in the car. Both my wife's Virginia black sea bass (sustainable fish of the day) and my barbacoa style berkshire pork were tender and flavorful. The "Sizzing Beach Rock" appetizer of garlic seared shrimp, soy glazed spare ribs, and lemon grass chicken skewers was a nice presentation. The bottle of the Lasseter wine (Paysage, Bordeaux style) also helped. :) Most have mentioned that Napa Rose is one of the best restaurants in Orange County - for the combination of service, food, and ambience, it definitely fits the bill.

Storyteller Cafe (Grand Californian Hotel): we opted to do the buffet and were pleasantly surprised. The chicken tenders were really good for both adults and our two year old. They had a carving station of roast beef and roast turkey. Salmon was tender for being part of the buffet. Corn chowder was a bit too creamy for my taste. The desserts were also very good, with petite sized cupcakes and tarts plus a moist bread pudding.

Carthay Circle (California Adventure): we did an early dinner at 5:20 without reservations (doubt this would have worked out on a Saturday) and got to sit on the upstairs terrace. That worked out well for the two year old to watch the entire Pixar Play parade. Wife had the sesame soy glazed salmon and I had the fish of the day, sea bass, which was a bit firmer than the Napa Rose sea bass but also very good. The two year old had a soba noodle bowl which was also quite good. Not at the same level as Napa Rose, but a pleasant dinner.

Lunch:

Corn Dog Castle (California Adventure): we tried all three types: hot link, original, and cheese stick. A good amount of cornmeal, but also the dogs are reasonable sized. The hot link is much more flavorful, but the original is more kid friendly. The cheese stick is smaller, best eaten when you first get it so that the cheese is hot. Opens at 11am - lines not as bad as the corn dog stand in Disneyland which we saw started at 10am.

Blue Bayou (Disneyland): Never been able to do the reservation on prior visits but had the Monte Cristo sandwhich previously at Cafe Orleans. I remember it being way too heavy previously. This time around (maybe I was hungry) the external batter was fairly light. Our two year old ate all of the fruit that came along with it. It is a big portion, I prefer the vanilla dipping sauce over the fruit-based sauces. Do I get a prize for finishing it? The gumbo was ok, less broth than I would have liked and topped with a small spoonful of rice. My wife opted for the jambalaya which had good sized shrimp and andouille sausage in it, and also liked her shrimp cocktail which has one large shrimp and the rest is "ceviche" style where it is chopped. As long as you are not expecting this to be equivalent to the best of New Orleans, I thought it was fine. Plus watching the boats go by was a lot of fun, instead of being on the ride watching people eat at the restaurant.

Breakfast:

Flo's cafe (California Adventure): we got the chicken tamale breakfast and the brioche French toast. Overall reasonable portions. We liked both, particularly the accompanying sauces - salsa verde for the tamale and the caramel for the french toast. Coffee left something to be desired. Better off going to Starbucks in Fiddler, Fifer, & Practical cafe on Buena Vista Street.

Snacks:

Jazz Kitchen Express (Downtown Disney): we got the family pack of beignets. These were big, a bit too chewy, and it was like they dumped the entire box of powdered sugar in the bag. It was just ok, probably would pass on this in the future.

Wine/Beer (California Adventure): couple of choices near Cars Land - Mendocino Terrace at the Golden Vine Winery, Flo's Cafe, Karl Strauss Brewery Truck by Pacific Wharf. Our preferred spot was Flo's Cafe for the combination of wine/beer plus being able to hang out in an air conditioned restaurant. Beer seems like a better value than the wine in terms of liquid volume.

Dole Whip (Disneyland): you can get this outside of the parks or Hawaii these days, but there is still nothing better than a Dole Whip on a hot day in Disneyland. Well worth going to the Tiki Room to get the shorter inside line, I still was faster than the people waiting in the external line.

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  1. Great Review!
    I just got back a few weeks ago too. I took my adult daughter, so we ate a bit differently. She is also gluten free and vegetarian :/ Here are a few additional rec's:

    The Wine Country Trattoria has a comfy bar/lounge upstairs with a nice, extensive and creative mixed drinks menu and a small menu for apps and dinner. Really decent food. I had a beef tenderloin panini with crispy fried onions with aioli, and my daughter had a mixed mushroom crostini -they can make it gluten free if you ask. They have a full menu downstairs, and we have had decent food there before, but the lounge is quite nice with the view and bar menu.

    Red Rockett Pizza Port in Disney Tomorrowland had a lot of choice (including Gluten Free items). It is like a buffet. Pizza whole or by the slice, pasta choices like ziti and penne, breads, various salads. I had a chicken pesto pasta that was really just perfectly fine. Corkscrew pasta, moist chicken breast meat, lots of pesto and parm on ....but al dente, not goopy...needed some salt. My daughter had GF cheese pizza that she thought was tasty. We shared a big Caesar salad which tasted fresh and had a nice punch of flavor.

    We went to the expensive character breakfast at the Plaza Inn at Disney. They seem to have improved this quite a bit from last time I was there. It is a big buffet with a ton of choice. They make omelets to order (a big plus!), the best choices were fresh fruit, pastry, the biscuits and gravy, decent coffee....and the breakfast meats were good. Way too much money, but hey...Eeyore and Tigger hang out there :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: sedimental

      Thanks, good to know about these too. I noticed the upstairs lounge too late at the Trattoria. I suspect we will be making more forays into Tomorrowland, so good to know re Pizza Port and the Plaza Inn is close by to Tomorrowland.

    2. Just to add--for a great snack or light meal try the kabob place in Adventureland, right across from the Dole Whip place. It's a pretty good value, tastier than most park offerings, and has a veggie option :)

      3 Replies
      1. re: schrutefarms

        I don't know if you actually tried the veggie kabob, but it is terrible. We threw it away. The meat ones looked good, but the veggie one had unseasoned hunks of zucchini squash, one slimy mushroom, one piece of red pepper and a hunk of white onion. Gawd awful ! They give you a lemon slice to flavor it with. My vegetarian daughter couldn't choke it down and she was hungry.
        I did not try the meat ones but they looked better. I chose a cheese stuffed pretzel instead. It was okay.

        1. re: sedimental

          I've tried both the beef and the veggie. I definitely liked the beef better, but I didn't mind the veggie at all. I think as far as most of the park food goes (inside Disneyland and not at the hotels or downtown Disney) it's good in a pinch.

        2. re: schrutefarms

          I'm a big fan of the Safari Skewer (bacon wrapped asparagus) at the Bengal BBQ

        3. really appreciating this thread - please keep it coming folks! I find disneyland to be very over-stimulating, and appreciate when i can sit and actually enjoy a meal there.

          1. We did 2 days at Disney/CA Adventure about two years ago, stayed just outside the park, but pretty much avoided eating in the park as I needed a change of scenery after a couple hours so slightly alternative itinerary, choosing places within quick driving distance.
            Day one: Grab coffee at Starbucks, free hotel fruit and Banh Mi Sandwiches to eat in the park from Banh Mi Cho Cu Bakery in Westminster – solid Banh Mi and they held up well after 3 hours in the stroller. Cheesy pretzel and sno-cone in the park. Dinner at Thai Nakorn, Garden Grove, very good, but portions are large, even apps, so can’t try very much with just two people.
            Day Two: Pastries/coffee from Starbucks near the park and free fruit from the hotel. Snack at the Corn Dog truck – really excellent corn dog, hot all the way through, nice crispy but not too bready coating. Lunch: drove to Bludso's in Compton, Texas Sampler, got there early so no line and no traffic, ate it by the pool, then back into the park for the late afternoon/evening. Also got a couple beers at Flo’s Café in CA Adventure – agree it’s a nice place to sit for a minute. Dinner we drove and met friends at Animal – so not really Disney-centric.

            1. I feel your pain. That Friday drive must have been brutal.

              Thanks for the report!