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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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

              1. Great report! We love Napa Rose, it's one of our favorite restaurants to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, etc...

                1. Also went to Disneyland/CA Adventure after ~2 decades way. My God, the place has changed! Couldn't get a reservation at Napa Rose but hugely enjoyed the corn dogs (my partner and I had 2 each) and the Monte Cristo (my first time at Blue Bayou, I think).

                  While I liked the hot link, I actually think the plain hot dog was better b/c there was a weird chemical aftertaste from the hotlink. Regardless, the batter was SO good.

                  Also agree the Monte Cristo was surprisingly light (for what it is). I'm not a huge fan of sweet or fried, but this was just delicious (and side of the fruit reduced the guilt a little bit). I liked both sauces equally.

                  1. I would love to know how much it all cost you, in total.

                    18 Replies
                    1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                      From what I recall:

                      Entrees at Napa Rose run in the $40s
                      Entrees at Carthay Circle run in the $30s
                      Entrees at Blue Bayou (at lunch) run in the high $20s to low $30s (you are paying for ambience, worth it if you are sitting in the row of tables next to the ride). Adding the shrimp cocktail is $6 extra instead of soup/salad
                      Corn Dogs were in the $7-$8 range, cheese stick is cheaper
                      Beers are $8, wine is $8 at Flo's $10 in Mendocino Terrace (or at least what we got)

                      1. re: thranduil

                        Okay..... With the park hopper tickets, what would you say your cost was in total? And did you stay overnight at the Hotel Californian?

                        1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                          We did stay overnight at the Grand Californian. The information on specific costs is findable pretty easily on the Internet. If your question is whether you should spend $ on food in the park or not, you need to weigh the opportunity cost of not maximizing your time in the park vs. better variety and better less expensive food outside (that is not always close), keeping in mind your overall budget constraint. Since we are semi-local, we have been to a lot of the places in Orange County (e.g. Thai Nakorn) and also Downtown Disney before so these are not so novel for us. If on a tight budget, I would probably not suggest park food as much except as an occasional treat. http://www.Mousesavers.com suggestions are pretty reasonable.

                          1. re: thranduil

                            I appreciate your attempt at being helpful. Was just wondering what a park hopper ticket x2 and the expense of your meals ended up being..... I don't need to know re the hotel cost......just trying to determine if a park hopper tix plus meals is doable for us.

                            1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                              I bought the 3day park hopper pass for two of us and it was around $500.00. I know we spend over $200.00 per day for food (but that was alcohol drinks too).
                              Food and drinks are pricy, even plain bottled water is $3.69 to $3.99 everywhere in the parks, so it was essentially 16 bucks a day (2 each) just for water.
                              Magic morning breakfast was just under 60 bucks without a tip (28 each).

                              1. re: sedimental

                                Thanks for the specifics, sedimental. I appreciate it. Makes me think a trip to Florida is not much more and would be more enjoyable for us anyway....thank you.

                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                  When you factor in plane tix and car rental it will be considerably more expensive, assuming you live in So Cal. hotel and food will cost aout the same at either and the food in general is better at Disneyland when you consider Napa Rose, Carthay Circle and the food at California Adventure.

                                  1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                    florida a lot better and more fun, nice hotels, more space and better chow....it's already super expensive, might as well spend the extra cake on the plane etc.

                                    1. re: jessejames

                                      I know, that is my thinking also.... We have family there so hotel & car are not an issue for us anyway. And my kids have never been to D World, and I've gotta say, D Land is getting pretty played & long in the tooth.....

                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                        much bigger park too, well parks, which spread out the peeps...you can do 4 or 5 days and be in different spots each time (like epcot, the new safari thing, etc...).

                                        nice tiki bar at the Polynesian hotel for mom and dad!

                                        1. re: jessejames

                                          Sounds like a much happier place than Anaheim! I haven't been to D World in decades, thanks for the tips, appreciate it!

                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                            without question. just being more spread out makes it easier on the brain for me...the monorail travels through space and time...not sure if you have a girl or girls but the little ladies love the ariel's grotto and various princess meals/meet and greets. we had a great time and sure you will also!

                                            1. re: jessejames

                                              Yes the parks are nicer, the food options are better, and it is more spread out so it does not seem as crowded, but you have to deal with Orlando in the summer. I'll take Anaheim any day . There is a reason why they screen in their swimming pools in Orlando. Went to Disneyworld for a meeting a few years back over Memorial day weekend, and it was one of the stickiest most miserable weather I have ever been in. And I went to school in St. Louis

                                              1. re: littlestevie

                                                Gonna be 95 here Sunday

                                                Kids high on mouse don't give a duck about the weather

                                          2. re: jessejames

                                            The Poly is under major construction until 2015. Just FYI.

                                            Also, we have found the food quality has declined all around The World since the advent of the Dining Plan, especially in the theme parks. Don't go expecting the quality of Napa Rose, unless you are dining at V&A.

                                            Read more here: http://www.disboards.com/forumdisplay...

                                          3. re: Dirtywextraolives

                                            If y'all think the food is better in Florida, we have very different tastes.

                                            1. re: PommeDeGuerre

                                              Having spent much time at both resorts I agree that the food is much much better at the Disneyland Resort than in Florida with the exception of Albert and Victoria's.

                                              1. re: wienermobile

                                                Epcot has a ton of good spots. In park we go light popcorn dogs Mickey Mouse icecream pops. Polynesian hotel has a good spot too. We don't go to Disney for the food but the whole experience is a lot better for us in Florida. More space. Less mouse race.

                          2. one of my favorite stops to get a quick bite for lunch is earl of sandwich in downtown disney! you get a pretty decent sized sandwich for about $7, the chipotle chicken avocado is on my list of best sandwiches i've ever had!!

                            thai nakorn is my absolute favorite thai restaurant! i've dined there my entire life (I'm 21) and it is still the best thai food i've had hands down! pad thai, stuffed chicken wings, papaya salad, and whole fried fish are all great choices, and yes they do have pretty large portions :)

                            1. Thank you for the detailed report. As an annual passholder, I tend to get stuck in my Disney food rut. Other options that I tend to enjoy are the Plaza Inn for fried chicken and Gibson Girl for a root beer float.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: djquinnc

                                Even after years of going the Disneyland Corn Dog is still the one treat I never grow tired of.

                                1. re: wienermobile

                                  you're a corndog you wiener! (and that's a good thing!)

                              2. +1 for Carthay Circle - had a good dinner there a few months ago - good food and service.

                                On the other hand, self-service offerings in CA Adventure are generally quite dismal.

                                1. Great review! I am going to Napa Rose Friday for the first time in years (and will have suffered a similar drive) … looking forward to it.

                                  I had dinner at Carthay a month ago and really enjoyed it. My one 'qualm' was that every entree seemed to have a sweet/fruit flavor. I am savory over sweet so that was not ideal. But great drinks, lovely room, wonderful service and the food was very good.

                                  As for food in the parks: I've always wanted to try Blue Bayou, just to do it. One day.

                                  I am a BIG fan of the Ginormous Turkey Legs near Tom Sawyer Island. LOVE those.

                                  1. I went to Napa Rose last Friday night and had one of the best meals I've had in years. Truly exceptional from the moment we walked in until we walked out the door. Hostesses, servers, bussers, everyone was amazing. And the food! Wow. Many great dishes but the top of the top were the 'Smiling Tiger Salad' and the Duck with Almond Gnocchi. The flavor combinations were incredible. What a wonderful place.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Tom P

                                      Sounds like we need to try Napa Rose. See you real soon (as in tonight) Ha!

                                      1. re: xoxohh

                                        ha! You did indeed! Loved loved loved the time!

                                    2. great thread. when we lived in LA and my best mom friend had a husband that worked at Disney we were there all the time with our kiddos. then she moved out of state so we got annual passes and did overnights once in a while. Our favorite places are the Trattoria in CA across from carsland and Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel. For a steakhouse the prices are comparable to a regular steakhouse and the quality is pretty decent. Husband likes the buffet at Storyteller. I'm ok with it. I'm not a big buffet fan and I find the dishes there to be meh. We always missed out on The Napa Rose but next time. And it's probably the only higher up restaurant we'd take our 5 year old out to. People on this board are generally not into the food there and I can see their point. But I refuse to walk all the way to the car, out of the lot then to a restaurant. For me it defeats the purpose of going to DL. And a walk out is always 20+ min out and 20 back to the park. and the OC traffic was so unpredictable that I find leaving not worth it on a busy park day.