It’s no secret among our circle of close friends that we are pretty much addicted to Disneyland. In fact, it’s a joke to some of the more curmudgeony of the pack. (Eh, hem… Big D.)
We’re at the point where I have to post disclaimers on my facebook page before our bi-monthly trips, so they’re all fully aware they’re about to be bombarded with images of my kids thoroughly enjoying their one-and-only childhood, and all of the delicious eats we’ll be consuming in a jam-packed three day festival of fun.
Sure, we could branch out in our vacation adventures, but why? With a plethora of family friendly entertainment and mega food selection all in one convenient location, it’s literally our perfect one-stop-vacation-shop.
The first few times we visited Disneyland and California Adventure, we fell prey to the basic carnival and street-style food options that are more than abundant throughout both parks. But let’s face it, you can get a hot dog or standard cheeseburger and fries anywhere, folks.
By the second day my taste buds were screamin’ for a little more excitement.
Don’t get me wrong, classic treats will forever hold a special place in my comfort food loving heart. While we’re there, we still indulge in chocolate dipped cones, funnel cakes and churros. But, we’ve also done a little digging and found some ‘off-the-beaten-path’ culinary gems at both parks.
So, by popular demand, I’m sharing some of my favorite spots to eat at The Happiest Place on Earth. I think even grumpy Big D might approve of the majority of them:
1. Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland
This is, hands down, our favorite quick service meal option. For under $10 you can grab a 3-4 oz sweet and spicy steak skewer, and a bacon wrapped asparagus skewer. They also have a brownie and orange marshmallow dessert skewer that’s on my hit list for our next trip.
2. Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen Express at Downtown Disney
By far, our go-to place for breakfast goodies. The small bag of New Orlean’s Beignets is just the right amount for a family of four, and you can’t beat the price at $5.49. You can find beignets in the park at Mint Julep Bar, but trust me, they don’t compare to these legit french style treats.
3. Rancho del Zocalo in Frontierland
This little foliage covered patio is tucked in behind Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and is fairly easy to pass by if you’re not looking for it, but look for it. It’s one of the best non-traditional faire options in the Disneyland park. The prices are reasonable, and the portions are large enough to share. Try the Pollo en Molle or the Carne Asada Platter. Yum squared. OH, and the kid’s Chicken Taco plate is a great option if your little ones are sick of chicken nuggets and kraft mac n’ cheese.
4. Trader Sam’s Tiki Lounge at the Disneyland Hotel
It’s a bit of a trek to the other side of Downtown Disney, but well worth it for a late afternoon break from the busy park scene. They just renovated the Disneyland Hotel grounds a few years ago, and added this polynesian style tiki bar with the revamp. The food prices are comparable to any of the other quick service options at the park, but the selection is more mouth watering by-far. And, you can imbibe in a legit Mai-Tai or Zombie with your Shrimp Taco Plate or Pu Pu Platter, while enjoying the lush tropical landscaping and view of classic style Disneyland, backed by a killer sunset. Win, win, win.
5. Main Street Confectionery, Main Street Disneyland
Okay, you’ll walk through the door and probably be tempted to indulge in a fancy cake pop or candy adorned rice krispie treat on a stick. Don’t do it. Instead, treat yourself to the best confection in the entire park (in my opinion): The Peanut Butter Sandwich. Thick homemade graham cracker base, topped with a thick layer of creamy peanut butter fudge, all dipped in sweet milk chocolate. I dare you to stop at one bite.
6. Cove Bar, Paradise Pier, California Adventure
Two words: Lobster Nachos. The Cove Bar is a great little patio overlooking the boardwalk, where you can enjoy the view along with a glass of wine or an ice cold beer. Yeah, I said wine or beer. There are no standard ‘kid’s meal’ options on the menu, but the staff didn’t frown on us bringing in food from outside for the boys to enjoy while we grown ups face planted into a plate of Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Spicy Peanut Sauce. The prices are comparable to those of the other quick service menu options in the park, ie. Cheeseburgers, and as you can see the portions are definitely large enough to share.
7. Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop, Pacific Wharf
A picture speaks a thousand words. Try the Salted Caramel Hot Fudge Sundae, it’s worth every stinkin’ penny.
8. Corn Dog Castle, Paradise Pier
Yes, it’s true, the Corn Dogs do rule at Corn Dog Castle… but the Cheddar Cheese stick rules way harder. As far as I know, this is the only place you’ll find the deep fried cheddar gem in either park. Do yourself a favor, order a dog AND a cheese and split them among the family. Add, a little squirt of basic mustard with each bite and you’ll be transported back to the days of yore when amazing grilled cheese ruled the lands. Or something like that.
9. Carthay Circle Lounge, Buena Vista Street, California Adventure
The Carthay Circle Lounge is a nice spot to have a quiet bite in a cool, lounge-type atmosphere. They have a limited kid’s menu but the offerings are so much better than what you’ll find in other quick service locations. Our boys gobbled up the creamy tomato soup with grilled cheese dunkers and an order of the mini franks wrapped in puff pastry (which came with a side of fruit). I myself, inhaled the twice cooked beef tacos with pineapple mint salsa, then went back to the room and took a much needed siesta.
10. The Cozy Cone Motel, Cars Land
If you’re jonesin’ for a sweet treat, head on over to the Cozy Cone Motel in Cars Land. Here you’ll find amazing little Churro Bites served with Cinnamon Chocolate Dipping Sauce, along with classic style soft-serve twists dipped in chocolate magic shell as big as your noggin.
11. Alfresco Tasting Terrace, Pacific Wharf, California Adventure
The big draw here is the scenic view overlooking the new Cars Land area of the park… and, the wine flights and/or craft beer selection. And yeah, the food is great too. There is no official kid’s menu at the Alfresco Tasting Terrace, but our boys enjoyed the Aged Cheddar Risotto Bites and the Fritto Misto right along with us. They even provided coloring sheets and crayons so Jon and I enjoyed a semi-adult style meal, right smack in the middle of the park.
12. Trolley Treats, Buena Vista Street, California Adventure
Jon’s favorite sweet treat, by far, is the English Toffee bar from Trolley Treats in California Adventure. They make the toffee on site, dip big squares of it in sweet milk chocolate, then coat them with chopped, roasted almonds. Crunchy, creamy, buttery goodness.
13. Churro Carts, Multiple Locations in Both Parks
The self-proclaimed “CHURRO KINGS” would never forgive me if I didn’t advise you to eat as many fresh, hot churros as you possibly can while you’re at either park. Anything else would be considered treason. Churro treason, the worst kind of all of the treasons.
Well, there you have it. My official food lover’s guide to Disneyland and California Adventure. Let’s just call this ‘Volume I.’
OMFG. SO GOOD.