This is the second biggest part of your vacation and you don’t even know it. Attractions and shows are first followed by all your lovely meals. Your hotel is third because you’re mostly never there..
Hunger hits us all at the parks and it’s typically earlier than normal. Your stomach growls and you look at your watch and it’s 10:30am. Yikes! We just had breakfast; but all that riding and standing and walking has got you hungry again. So now what?
You want to find a good place to eat.
Disneyland has 4 major offerings for food
The first is the most common called cart dining. These are your snacks such as a pretzel, churro, ice cream, cotton candy, and popcorn to name a few. It’s an in-between meals dining experience.
The second is called quick service. You will typically order at a register and pick up your food then go sit down for these meals. Some are carts as well such as the turkey legs, hot dogs, and corn dogs. Quick service food ranges from $7 to $14 dollars. Most quick service places will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but not all.
The third option is sit-down dining. These are your reservation restaurant including the Blue Bayou, Carthay Circle, Wine Country Trattoria, Ariels Grotto, and a few more. You’ll spend a decent amount of money here, between $16 and $34 per plate.
Your last dining option is called character dining and it’s the most popular experience among families. Why? Because all their favorite Disney friends show up to say hi while they are eating! While these are really fun and give your kids some character experiences they can be pricey. Typically between $22-$48 depending on which experience you do.
Tip: There are ways to save on character dining experiences. aRes Travel offers character dining tickets that already include taxes and gratuity, something you’d have to pay if you just showed up and dined. That’s a savings of over 12%!
Where are the best places to eat?
There are a lot of choices and everyone craves different foods at different times of the day. We would eat dessert for every meal if we could! With that said there are certainly places that are better then others in taste and quality. Having spent so much time at the parks (we’re there several times a month) we an give you our honest opinion about all the food places…but instead we’ll list out our top three to four from each category.
Tropical Imports – Adventureland. Prepare yourself for some amazing fruits and veggies including pineapple spears and giant pickles. They also randomly sell Funyuns…outside of that you can always find a health snack here.
Maurice’s Treats – Fantasy Faire. This place is a gem and a fantastic place to get a garlic cheese twist or different flavored churros. Shhh, we don’t want lines to get bad here!
Troubadour Tavern – Fantasyland. Disney technically considers this place a quick service but we call it a quick stand. It’s a great place to grab a stuffed baked potato or our personal favorite a bratwurst on a brioche roll with bacon sauerkraut. Ya…it’s amazing.
Quick Service Dining
Jolly Holliday Bakery Cafe’ – Main Street U.S.A. This place serves up some super great food including their classic grilled cheese and tomato soup. So delicious! They also have really great house made chips and desserts.
Bengal Barbecue – Adventureland. Who loves meat?! If so you’ll love this BBQ joint that serves up very flavorful skewer meats. There are lots of meat options and a fantastic drink called Piraña Pomegranate Lemonade. It’s a must try!
French Market Restaurant – New Orleans Square. If you want a hardy southern style meal this is your place. Serving up one of our favorite french dip sandwiches with house made chips, half seasons chickens, and of course their famous slow-roasted Louisiana beef stew. Plus the live jazz music is very inviting and creates a fun atmosphere.
Little Red Wagon – Main Street U.S.A. We’re really surprised that Disney does not mention this place on their website. It’s a classic. For about $8 you’ll receive the best corn dog you’ve ever had and a bag of chips. Simple and delicious.
Blue Bayou – New Orleans Square. Remember when you ride Pirates of the Caribbean and you see that really cool restaurant inside the ride at the begging? That’s this place and it is as cool as you think it is. Their claim to fame is their Monte Cristo Sandwich..which is super good. We personally love their Flat Iron Steak and a Louisiana Lemonade (with glow cube of course). Also be sure to try their sweet potato bread.
Carnation Cafe’ – Main Street U.S.A. This restaurant is based on the likings of Walt himself. He loved to sit at this sidewalk cafe and have his breakfast while watch his guests stroll down Main Street. He also loved hardy meals which is what you can find here. Chicken fried chicken, Homemade Meatloaf, and Walt’s Chili. Try breakfast!
Cafe’ Orleans – New Orleans Square. French onion soup? Gumbo? Monte Cristo? This sidewalk cafe will treat you to some of the best Louisiana food you can find. By the way, the Monte Cristo sandwich that they serve here is the same one they serve at the Blue Bayou..but for less. What a delicious tip!
Tiki Juice Bar – Adventureland. There’s a reason this place can have long lines. That whipped, fluffy, juicy pineapple ice cream is amazing! You can also get it in a float! Get there before lunch, just after breakfast. Trust us, it’s not too early.
Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor – Main Street U.S.A. If you love ice cream and lots of flavors and toppings, this is your place! Choose how many scoops, your flavors, and which kind of cone (sprinkles of course). They also serve ice cream bars and sundaes as well.
The Golden Horseshoe – Frontierland. Most people come here for food but little do they know it’s also THE best place to get a sundae. Mint chocolate chip sundae, strawberry sundae, ice cream float. You get the idea. The quick service option of this place located outside called Stage Door Cafe also serves up the best funnel cake topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.
River Belle Terrace – Adventureland. What was once a great quick service place has now turned into an over-priced mediocre food sit down restaurant. It only took us one visit here to say never again.
California Adventure Park
Cozy Cone Motel – Cars Land. This place is really cool because they have a ton of different options at each cone. Our favorite is the pretzel bites with cheese and a root beer float.
Fairfax Market – Hollywood Land. We always want to include something “healthy” and this place has it. Fresh fruits, hummus, veggie cups, and trail mix to name a few.
Schmoozies! – Hollywood Land. The best smoothies you can find at Disneyland! We love all their flavors that include Mango Madness, The Dynamic Duo with strawberries and pineapple, and the famous Chocolate Dipped Strawberry smoothie. These are especially great on a hot day!
Quick Service Dining
Pacific Wharf Cafe’ – Pacific Wharf. This place serves our most favorite salad at the parks, the Chicken, Apple, and Walnut Salad in a bread bowl. It’s amazing! If salad is not your thing then try their bread bowl soups. Killer!
Award Wieners – Hollywood Land. Okay. We know. A hot dog place? Really? Yes. We truly mean it. This place is good! That’s why there’s always a line before it opens. Try the Spicy City Dog and Bacon Street Dog.
Flo’s V8 Cafe’ – Cars Land. We REALLY like this place for breakfast. How does Brioche French Toast with bananas foster sound to you? We eat two….For lunch and dinner you can except some good home style cooking.
Smokejumpers Grill – Grizzly Peak. If you’re looking for a place that has really great burgers, fries, onion rings, and shakes, this is it. Plus their build-your-burger bar has soooo many choices.
Carthay Circle Restaurant – Buena Vista Street. One thing that we love about this place is their seasonal menus. Every time you go there the menu has different offerings; and yet their staples like their Fried Biscuits and Fire Cracker Duck Wings are always there.
Wine Country Trattoria – Pacific Wharf. Who loves Italian food and wine?! This place has amazing Lasagna Rustic made with real bolognese. Super amazing. Their desserts like the chocolate-caramel panna cotta and Tiramisù are also fantastic.
Cove Bar – Paradise Pier. This technically is not a sit-down although it is connected to Ariels Grotto. We list it here because it’s as hard to get into as any place that requires a reservation. The line starts forming an hour before it opens. Why? Two words: Lobster Nachos; and trust us, it’s worth the wait.
Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop – Pacific Wharf. This is our #1 ice cream place at Disneyland. Their world famous hot fudge sundae is incredible. Plus you can make it your own by changing what goes on it. Their Nob Hill Chill is also one of our favorites. Plus you get a free chocolate square when you go in!
Clarabelle’s Ice Cream – Buena Vista Street. Hand scoop ice cream and fresh ice cream bars made to order are hard to beat. Choose your topping for both and if you really want that chocolate covered cone as well, by all means.
Carthay Circle Lounge – Buena Vista Street. Go in an sit down at the lounge and open their drink menu. In the very back there is a small food menu that includes desserts. Order the Ice Cream Macaron Sandwiches. Just do it.
Lucky Fortune Cookery – Pacific Wharf. This place has been bad since day one. Quick service Chinese food is not Disney’s specialty. The food is like mush. Don’t ruin your love of Chinese food by coming here.
World of Color Dessert Party – Paradise Pier. Don’t fall for it, it’s a trap! The price per person vs. the food they serve is not worth the money at all! You’re basically paying $80 a person for a somewhat better view of World of Color. It’s sad really..
Minnie & Friends Breakfast Buffet at Plaza Inn – Disneyland Park. This is the best breakfast to attend with characters because you’re right in the park before and after you eat. All the other ones are located outside the park. Minnie and her Friends will come by to say hi and help you enjoy a delicious breakfast.
Storytellers Cafe’ – Grand California Hotel & Spa. We love this dinner with characters! Enjoy a really great buffet is a cozy woods setting while your favorite characters come by to say hi.
Save big on your Character Dining Experience with aRes Travel. Their pre-paid character dining vouchers include taxes and gratuity. That’s a savings of over 12%!
Hotel Dining Options
All 3 Property Hotels have several dining locations available to anyone at the resort whether you’re staying at the hotel or not. We’re going to list our favorites based on the above categories with one additional add: Lounges
Steakhouse 55 Lounge – Disneyland Hotel. This place is incredible and there are a few secrets we want to share with you about this place. First, you can order the full restaurant menu at the lounge as long as you’re sitting at the bar. No reservations needed. Second, the lounge menu food is really really good but they’ve left one thing off: 24 layer chocolate cake. You’ll die and go to heaven. Share it with 3-4 people. It’s our favorite cake in the world.
Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar – Disneyland Hotel. This place offers sitting inside at a bar or outside amongst tree, fire-lit torches, and live Hawaiian music. You can guess where we sit..their drink menu and food menu are killer including their flat bread pizzas. Not drinking? No problem; they make up non-alcoholic specialty drinks too!
Tangaroa Terrace – Disneyland Hotel. If you love kalua pork (and we do) this place will have you coming back everyday. Slow cooked kalua pork BBQ sandwich with sweet potato fries and flat bread pizzas are their specialties but they have so much more to offer.
Whitewater Snacks – Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. This place cooks hot made to order food for all meals of the day. Plus they have a Coca Cola Freestyle drink machine and some super good ice cream offerings.
Downtown Disney has great options too
We really like several Downtown Disney dining places. We aren’t going to go in depth on these but we will make some suggestions and then give you some inside tips on how to save here.
Tortilla Jo’s is a great Mexican food place with some really good chips and salsa.
Catal Restaurant is a bit pricer but they have excellent food and a really cool outside bar.
ESPN Zone is the best place to catch the game and enjoy some burgers, beer, and salads.
Earl of Sandwich serves the best hot sandwiches in the world. Period.
No we do have some really cool saving tips for Downtown Disney. You can thank us later.
Earl of Sandwich had an email club that you can sign up for and receive coupons for discounts on sandwiches. Sign-up before you arrive but not too early.
Catal, Tortilla Jo’s, and Naples are all owned by the same company, Patina. If you sign-up on their website for their email they will send you a $30 off coupon to use on your birthday. It works at any of the 3 restaurants.
Jamba Juice’s email will send you deals and coupons to use at their store there.
Wetzel’s Pretzel’s has an app and if you download said app they will give you a free pretzel. Nice!
All the sit-down restaurants require reservations and it’s a good idea to make them in advance. 60 days out is when you can start to make them for your trip. For restaurants like the Blue Bayou and Carthay Circle Restaurant we suggest using this full time. You can always try to walk in to any of these restaurants and some will have available seating. There’s no harm in asking! To make a reservation call 714-781-DINE.
Tip: The Blue Bayou is Disney’s most popular sit-down and for good reason. Everyone who dines here wants to sit by the water. They call the water tables. You can show up 20 minutes early before your reservation and request one. However, the best thing to do is to book your lunch or dinner right when each one starts. They guarantee you a water table if you do.
Eating at Disney isn’t the only option
There are the money savers out there and we have respect for you. Disney is an expensive place so anywhere you can save money is great. There are several options for you if you don’t want to dine on Disney food. Here are our best suggestions..but first let us answer your one big question: Can I bring food into the parks? YES, yes you can. In fact, we bring a cooler full of food and snacks.
There are some delivery options for groceries in Anaheim but the best is Von’s. Order online in advance of your arrival and pick all the groceries you want! $50 minimum order and if you sign-up as a first time buyer they will give you free delivery. Never pay a delivery fee. Have the groceries delivered to your hotel where they will be held until you’re arrival (or after you’ve arrived). Just make sure they are delivered the day you’re getting there.
There is a Wal-Mart just down the road from Disneyland and it’s a great place to buy your groceries if you have a car or want to use an Uber or LYFT. It will save you a lot of money in the long run.
CVS/Pharmacy and Walgreens are both located on the corner block of Disneyland. They have shopping options for food and are priced pretty well actually.
Across the street from Disneyland on the East side there are tons of other restaurants including McDonald’s, Mimi’s Cafe’, iHop, Denny’s, Tony Romas, etc.
Uber Eats is available in Anaheim, so is Door Dash. Get your food delivered from the places you want.
Amazon Pantry is also a great option to have groceries delivered to your hotel. You can find almost anything here that is non perishable. Soda, water, chips, granola bars, breakfast items. They have great pricing too.