One of my favorite aspects about visiting Disneyland has nothing to do with the attractions – it’s the food. I’m not alone either, the food offerings at all Disney properties are so diverse and delicious that they’ve sparked entire web sites devoted only to the culinary side of the Disneyland experience. Since I’ve now visited Disneyland and Disney California Adventure on four different trips, today I want to share some of my favorite bites or go-to meals when visiting the Happiest Place on Earth.
Chicken and Mickey Waffles
On a recent visit to Disneyland, I made reservations at the storied restaurant on Main Street, Carnation Cafe. Originally an ice cream parlor, today Carnation Cafe is best known for serving up all-American classics, including menu items that Walt Disney himself loved. I was eager though to try something that wasn’t on their normal menu, a special item that had a limited appearance at the cafe, but I hope it returns as a permanent item. The Mickey-shaped waffle and chicken was a delicious start to my day, featuring of course those mouse inspired waffles that have made the cafe famous amongst die-hard fans. It was the perfect mix of sweet and savory and I even loved the sprinkles on top.
Lunch & Dinner
Modeled after the iconic Wigwam Motel on Route 66, most of us remember the Cozy Cone Motel from the “Cars” movie franchise. At Disney California Adventure it’s been reimagined as a great place to grab a snack, all in cone form of course. My favorite lunch item isn‘t for the faint of heart but, believe me, it’s well worth the extra calories. The Bacon Mac & Cheese cone is a serving of creamy mac & cheese mixed with roasted bacon in a bread cone. If you’re still hungry afterwards, head to one of the other cones for some ice cream.
The newest addition to Disneyland also has its fair share of great snacks and meals. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened a few months ago and almost immediately it was the foodie side that interested people the most. Blue milk, grabbing a cocktail at Oga’s Cantina and more all captivated guests, but my favorite bite was at the modest Ronto Roasters. Located next to the market stall the thing to get here is the Ronto Wrap: roasted pork and grilled sausage with peppercorn sauce and tangy slaw wrapped in pita. Paired with a chilled glass of Meiloorun Juice and I had the perfect meal.
Located on Pixar Pier in Disney California Adventure, the Lamplight Lounge is a Pixar-themed restaurant that I couldn’t wait to try. A table-service restaurant, advance reservations are absolutely necessary as it’s one of the most popular restaurants in the park. My first experience though patronizing the Lounge last year frankly didn’t live up to my expectations. Maybe it was what I ordered or just my mood, but I walked away with mixed feelings about the experience. That’s why I’m so happy that a friend encouraged me to give them another try, adamant that obviously I had been there on an off day. It was with a bit of hesitation that I arrived a few weeks ago to enjoy a quiet lunch at the Lounge, and this time the experience was everything I hoped it would be. Everything inside the Lounge pays homage to Pixar, with so many hidden Easter Eggs it would take months to find them all. The menu matches the décor and the quality and creativity of the dishes impressed me. This was what I had imagined the Lamplight Lounge to be like and I’m thrilled I gave them a second chance.
Like many restaurants in Disneyland, Café Orleans has seen a lot of change over the years. Located in New Orleans Square, the Cafe originally opened in 1966 as the Creole Cafe before being renamed to Cafe Orleans in 1972. It was a modest establishment until 2006 when it became a table service restaurant and today is a favorite place to eat for many guests. The atmosphere and decor can’t be beat, but I was there to try a few of the restaurant’s most well-known dishes and I wasn’t disappointed. I started with the fries, which are tossed with Parmesan and garlic before ordering the massive main course, Disney’s famous Monte Cristo. This isn’t your average sandwich, it’s deep fried and dusted with sugar but it’s also enormous, so come hungry. If you still have room, don’t miss the Mickey-shaped beignets for dessert. Since this restaurant is a cult favorite, make sure to secure reservations well in advance.
Personally, I think the many snacks offered around the parks are the real food highlight of any trip to Disneyland. I would gladly skip a table service restaurant in lieu of snacking my way around the parks. There are many not-to-miss bites, but a few of my favorites, and some of the most famous, include these incredible Disney snacks.
Guests to Disneyland are very quickly acclimated to the sight of Mickey-shaped everything, even hidden Mickeys found around the parks. One of the most beloved snacks echoes this iconic shape and the soft pretzels are easily one of the most popular snacks in the park. They’re widely found and are the perfect snack to help fuel your fun-filled day in Disneyland.
Like all classic Disney snacks, the corn dogs found at the Little Red Wagon at the top of Main Street, U.S.A have created a legion of loyal fans. While they’ve been around for decades, it was only at the start of the millennium when they dramatically changed the batter and in the process created a corn dog that has almost addictive properties. They’re also enormous, so putting them in the snacks category may be inaccurate, but no matter how you classify them they’re not to be missed.
Another cult classic, this tasty dessert has become the stuff of legend among Disney devotees. It’s a simple enough concoction, a soft serve pineapple treat served in a cup. You can also get a Pineapple Float, but the purists go for the original. In Disneyland, the Dole Whip is found at the Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland, but be sure to plan your visit and use mobile ordering to avoid waiting.
Throughout the year there are any number of special food items for sale honoring everything from Disney anniversaries to major holidays, but my favorite seasonal snacks happen during the Christmas season. On any given day, the food options at Disneyland are considerable. Whether it’s in Disneyland itself, Disney California Adventure or Downtown Disney, the many options mean that you’ll never get tired of trying new things. During the holidays though, Disney rolls out even more choices; special holiday offerings showcasing the best of the season. Before I left home, I printed off checklists of the special holiday food items for sale so I could better plan my snacking experience. That being said, I was only able to get through a tiny fraction of the list, there was just too much to eat. From holiday-inspired churros to the incredible Festive Foods Marketplace in Disney California Adventure, the options were a little overwhelming but certainly delicious.
First-time visitors to Disneyland know that the attractions will be an important aspect of their trip, but few understand the important role food plays. Whether it’s an elaborate meal or a simple snack, for millions of people Disneyland food is a key part of the experience and one that is not to be missed.
What’s your favorite bite in Disneyland?