Food may not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning a trip to the Disneyland Resort, which has included California Adventure Park since 2001, or even the second but maybe it should be the third. There are some irresistibly naughty treats, such as the Monte Cristo sandwich, which have been around for decades, as well as relative newcomers, including Blue Moon Belgian White Beer, that might surprise you.
The culinary landscape at Disneyland, when it opened 1955, looked quite different than it does today, with eateries like the questionably-marketed Aunt Jemima Restaurant, serving pancakes “hot off the griddle” by a stereotypical “mammy.” Another anachronistic option was the fully-automated Space Bar in Tomorrowland, which sold tuna sandwichs for 50 cents and pie for 20 cents out of vending machines. For “Mexican” fare, Casa de Fritos in Yesterland served spaghetti and chili for 40 cents – and yes, Fritos corn chips were served with all dishes.
The Magic Kingdom now makes a concerted effort to offer more healthful (and less culturally offensive) choices – hello fruit! – while still tempting you at every turn with ice cream, cotton candy and the aroma of deep-fat fryer oil. There's something for almost everyone – and even more choices right outside the parks at Downtown Disney, like La Brea Bakery and Jamba Juice if you're craving something that more closely resembles real food. Here are 10 of our favorite dishes. Happy (and we do mean Happy) Eating!
A good burger is hard to find, and while the Blue Cheese and Bacon Burger at Taste Pilot's Grill in Condor Flats is no match for Umami or Father's Office, it is quite good. The hefty patty is slathered in a creamy blue cheese sauce, topped with two strips of bacon and finished off with steak sauce. The condiments bar at Taste Pilot's Grill is unusually robust, with the usual suspects augmented by pico de gallo, jalapeños and green chiles for a little spice if you want it. The overall package is worth going out of your way to find. Taste Pilot's Grill is located in Condor Flats at Disney California Adventure Park.
9. Crispy Chicken Mixed Green Salad
On the healthful side – a relative scale – of Disneyland's fare, the Crispy Chicken Mixed Green Salad combines actual leafy lettuces, such as spinach and oak leaf, with crunchy pieces of fried white meat and grated cheddar cheese. The result is decent, with just okay packaged salad dressing choices (ranch and honey mustard). As a lure the venue, The Golden Horseshoe Saloon, features live performances throughout the day by Laughing Stock Co., a parody of cheap vaudeville. The Golden Horseshoe Saloon is located in in Frontierland at Disneyland Park.
When California Adventure opened in 2001, the addition of alcohol to the parks was a huge change for the sanitized world of Disney. From the Carthay Circle Lounge's mojito to the Cove Bar's Zombie (an off-menu option using an inordinate amount of different liquers, rum and fruit juice that turns an unsettling green) to the Wine Country Trattoria with twenty-five wines available by the glass, there are a lot of options to imbibe. Bayside Brews, located in Paradise Pier, keeps it simple with six craft beers on tap and a few salty pretzels to balance it out. On a hot day, under the Mickey's Fun Wheel, with the roar of California Screamin' in the background, an ice-cold Blue Moon or Sierra Nevada pale ale hits the spot. Bayside Brews is located in Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure Park.
7. Mickey Lollipop
A large, round, swirl lollipop from Disneyland is the perfect souvenir and probably one of the best buys in the resort at just under $4. The sheer size will make your mouth water and the fruity sweetness works a bit like Proust's madeleines, evoking memories of Matterhorns past. This sweet is truly nostalgia on a stick. Found throughout the Disneyland Resort in shops and snack stands.
6. Chili Cone Queso
Having received a drubbing for its chintzy and lackluster appeal when California Adventure opened, Disney recalibrated and went whole hog with Cars Land, submerging you in the world of Radiator Springs, a town inspired by the two Cars movies. The Cozy Cone Motel presents five teepees, or “cones,” each with differing choices for chow, from sweet to savory. The savory options include the Chili Cone Queso, a thin piece of bread rolled into a cylindrical shape, filled with cheese, chili and a surprise crunch of fritos. This a good place to get grub on the go, or for standing in line, if you're looking to maximize your ride count. The Cozy Cone Motel is located in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure Park.
5. Bread Bowl
One of the sluttiest foods at Disneyland, bread bowls can be had in many ways, and in many places in the park. The Royal Street Veranda in New Orleans Square serves the clichéd clam chowder version of the dish – or you can get the carb-heavy vessel filled with steak or vegetarian Gumbo. The fillings are a little glue-y but adequate. The Pacific Wharf Café in California Adventure serves broccoli and cheese soup, clam chowder, San Francisco Shrimp Louie and even a Sonoma chicken and apple salad in their own freshly baked version from the Boudin bakery next door. The French Market in New Orleans Square scoops up creamy corn chowder with black-eyed pea maque choux and slow-roasted Louisiana beef stew in sourdough boules. Finally, the Golden Horseshoe goes with an unfortunately uninspired chili in their bowl, topped with cheddar cheese. Phew! Throw a stone anywhere in the Magic Kingdom and you're likely to hit a bread bowl. The Royal Street Veranda is located in New Orleans Square at Disneyland Park. The Pacific Wharf Cafe is located in Pacific Wharf at Disney California Adventure Park. The Golden Horseshoe Saloon is located in Frontierland at Disneyland Park.
4. Strawberry Streetcar Sundae
A decadent treat dished up at the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, the Strawberry Streetcar Sundae appeals to everyone's inner Sparkle Pony. Two scoops of vanilla ice cream fill a crunchy waffle cup which is then bedazzled in “strawberry” sauce, sprayed with whip cream and crowned with a maraschino cherry the color of Rudolph's nose. Situated smack dab on Main Street, U.S.A., between the Carnation Café and the Penny Arcade, the ice cream shop pays homage to the Gibson Girl, an image of American female beauty drawn by artist Charles Dana Gibson starting in the 1890s. Who knows what the connection between the image and ice cream is, but the result is pure nostalgia. The Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor is located in Main Street, U.S.A. at Disneyland Park.
3. Mickey Mouse Pancake
Moving on from the larger problem of the pancakes and waffles a la Aunt Jemima, the legendary Mickey Mouse Pancake is served at the River Belle Terrace in Frontierland. A favorite mostly by virtue of its rodent-head shape, the pancake resembles the mascot's head and ears and features eyes, nose and a mouth made of fruit. This breakfast is a big pleaser for kids ready to jump-start their Disney extravaganza. The pancake is a little flat and simple if you're used to say, Axe's 9-grain version, but it does a competent job. The River Belle Terrace is located in Frontierland at Disneyland Park.
2. Dole whip
Redolent of the '50s, when Hawaii became a state and it was the age of Tiki, the Dole whip actually debuted in Adventureland at the Enchanted Tiki Room counter in 1976. Overly sweet and only slightly exotic, this pineapple frozen dessert is sort of like ice cream and sort of like sherbet. It reaches true grandiosity when paired with pineapple juice to create The Dole Whip float. Although remarkably unevolved in the healthful eating department – one ingredient is “pineapple crystals” – there is no denying the refreshment value in a Dole Whip float on a hot day spent standing in shockingly long labyrinths, also known as lines. The Tiki Juice Bar is located outside Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland at Disneyland Park.
1. Monte Cristo
The Monte Cristo appeared on the menu at the immersive Blue Bayou Café (located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride) in 1966. This remarkably decadent creation starts with a turkey, ham and Swiss cheese sandwich on egg bread that is generously battered and deep-fried. The sandwich is then dusted with powdered sugar and served with a side of blackberry jam for dipping. The surprising combination of salty and sweet melts into a delicious, bastardized version of a croque-monsieur. The Blue Bayou Cafe is located in New Orleans Square at Disneyland Park.