After weeks of renovations, the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Disneyland’s Critter Country has reopened with a brand new menu. We had seen the tarps and boards up for some time; we even took a sail on the Columbia to see if we could get a sneak peek at what was going on behind the scenes. No such luck. So, when the restaurant opened back up this past week, we headed over for an early dinner to check it out. Hungry? Why yes, we are!
Location and Atmosphere
Let me start by telling you that Hungry Bear is in the way way way back of Disneyland. I mean, we’re talking outskirts. If you’re looking for a semi-quick way to get there, hop on the train and get off at the New Orleans Station, head left, pass the Haunted Mansion & Splash Mountain, follow the curve around to the left and you will find the Hungry Bear just before the Winnie the Pooh ride on your right side.
When we first walked up to the restaurant, we were a little nervous. There were ZERO people in line, which isn’t really a great sign for a restaurant. Especially for a Saturday evening during Spring Break. I’m going to assume this was because people really didn’t know it was open. There are still lots of walls up around the area due to the Splash Mountain refurbishments in progress. So at the moment, Critter Country doesn’t look too inviting. Though, as soon as you pass the walls, you are transported into what I feel is one of the most relaxing areas in all of Disneyland.
The “no people in sight” situation did not stop us from giving the new menu a go. The options were posted clearly above the cashier area where you place your order. I actually had a really hard time deciding what I wanted to try. The good thing about the menu is that the options are not overwhelming, there are only a few things to choose from. The disappointing thing? Some classics were removed. For example, no regular fries — only sweet potato fries, which did not make my kids happy. I went in knowing I was for sure getting the Honey Lemon Cupcake and the Mini Blueberry Pie, but as far as entrees went, I really wasn’t sure in which direction to go.
I ended up going with the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, my husband braved the Pioneer Chili Cheeseburger, my 6 year old had the kids Hamburger Meal and my 9 year old went with the kids Chicken Breast Nuggets Meal. After ordering & paying (don’t forget your annual pass discount) you head to the window to pick up your food, where you are greeted with your meals, drinks, & a pretty cute message.
After picking up our food, we needed to decide on where to sit. When dining in Disneyland, you normally just take whatever table you can find that will fit your party. Since the restaurant was pretty much empty, we had tons of options — covered patio upstairs or downstairs, middle of the dining area, or waterside. We chose upstairs waterside & we had our kids sit at their own table behind us. Which, by the way, was really nice. Sort of like date night, until it was time to share the desserts and they got all up in our business.
Before diving into my adult entree, I got the kids situated. With all honesty, I have to say that Disneyland really needs to revamp their walk up dining kids’ meals. I’ve found that in most of their restaurants the meals are substantial, but the boxed kids menus from the walk up locations are pretty weak. My boys are almost 7 and 9, so a giant adult meal is still too much food & it’s also pricey for what they’d eat. However, what I’m about to show you is going to make you laugh.
The Hungry Bear Kids’ Menu features a kids’ Hamburger Meal as well as Chicken Breast Nuggets Meal. It comes with a drink and a choice of fruit (apple pack) or sweet potato fries (big mistake, as I don’t know too many kids who enjoy sweet potato fries over “regular” fries). They also serve a Power Pack Meal which is basically a snack pack: string cheese, nonfat yogurt, an apple pack and some whole grain “fish crackers.” A Toddler Meal of mac n’ cheese is also an option.
My 6 year old went with the Kids’ Hamburger Meal. When I put it in front of him, his exact words were, “Mommy, that’s not a hamburger, that’s a mini-burger.” And you know what? He was totally right. It was SO small. Like, ridiculously small. My 9 year old chose the Chicken Breast Nuggets Meal and he was also disappointed by the size of his meal: 4 small chicken pieces. They both chose apples as their side because neither of them would even consider trying the sweet potato fries. I always force milk on my kids, but juice or a small soda is also an option with each kids meal. Both boys ate their meals without complaining, but I know they would have eaten more if the portions were bigger. The toddler/kids meals range from $3.99-$5.99. It’s a good thing dessert was just around the corner.
After getting the kids all set up, my husband and I dug into our meals. When I first saw the description of the Pioneer Chili Cheeseburger, I couldn’t believe my eyes; the description alone scared me. But guess who ordered it? My husband. This thing is an enormous 1/3 pound Angus burger topped with a huge scoop of chili, cheese & a hand battered onion ring. It comes with either sweet potato fries or zesty slaw. After his first bite his words we’re, “I think we’re both going to be regretting this later.” I won’t go into detail there.
I did not try the Pioneer Chili Cheeseburger, but my husband did eat every last bite. He said that it was just “OK;” not amazing, not disgusting, and definitely not a new favorite. We both however really enjoyed the zesty slaw he chose as his side (also not a sweet potato fries kind of guy). The slaw was crisp, not too mayonnaisey, had great flavor, and was a nice alternative to fries.
The Crispy Chicken Sandwich comes on a multi grain bun topped with crisp lettuce and a slice of fresh tomato. The chicken is fried and has a mild flavor, not spicy at all, which I prefer. The menu boasts about the honey mustard sauce, but mine was pretty dry, barely any sauce at all. In fact I should have asked for an extra side of it, but instead I just used some ketchup to perk it up a little.
To me the bun was very large, so I took off the top half, broke it into pieces, and tossed it to the ducks in the Rivers of America. I sort of felt that same about my Crispy Chicken Sandwich as my husband felt about his burger. It was good, but not fantastic; definitely edible, but I’m not sure I’d order it again. I will tell you this, I am the only sweet potato fries lover in my family, so I went with them for my side and I’m so glad I did. The fries were delicious. Crisp and warm, just the way I like them. I was actually pleasantly surprised that they were so good, and I’d totally order them again.
Now, on to the best part of the meal, the desserts! The Hungry Bear has two signature desserts: the Honey Lemon Cupcake and a Mini Blueberry Pie. Both of these items alone are worth a trip to the restaurant. The mini blueberry pie is a personal sized pie that looks like a full sized old fashioned blueberry pie, lattice crust topping and all. It is served warm and is amazingly delicious. Sweet blueberry flavor, not at all too sugary or artificial tasting. My only complaint: it would have been even more perfect with a mini scoop of vanilla ice cream! My husband and I devoured this mini fantasticness in less than two minutes. Fortunately, our kids have no interest in blueberry pie.
However, when we cut open the Honey Lemon cupcake, they immediately flocked over to our table. The cupcake was so pretty; the frosting was a perfectly swirled cloud sitting on top of the lemon flavored cake. It was sprinkled with edible gold glitter and topped with a smiling chocolate honey bee. After snapping a few photos, we cut it open to discover it had a lemon mousse center. What a delicious surprise. Not being a chocolate person, this cupcake was my definition of perfect. Moist cake, yummy lemon flavor, creamy frosting. And it was giant, making it perfect for sharing. My only complaint? I didn’t really taste the honey, I think the frosting was infused with it, but it was very mild. Both desserts are $4.99 each.
On a side note, if you are eating dinner early, around 5:30ish, you will see all of the “behind the scenes” preparation for Fantasmic. We saw all of the barges driving through getting ready for the show. Between feeding the ducks, the resident cats, and the Fantasmic prep action we had some great dinner entertainment.
Overall, I most definitely will go back to the Hungry Bear again. The desserts and atmosphere alone are worth the walk over there. It’s a beautiful setting that tends to be a quiet area where you can relax and enjoy the views of The Rivers of America while feeding some of Disneyland’s resident kitties and ducks.
I am very interested in trying the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich (great vegetarian option) with Jicama Mango Slaw as well as the Turkey Provolone with Basil Mayo on a Multi Grain Roll. I think the Big Al’s Chicken Salad sounds yummy too: smoked chicken, lettuce, watermelon, candied pecans, dried cherries, pickled red onion and honey-lime vinaigrette. AND for those of you who are looking for vegetarian options, any meat patty can be switched out for a veggie burger and the salad can be ordered without the chicken. I think this time around I just picked the wrong entree for me. So Hungry Bear, I will give you another chance, and next time I will make better choices.