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Dining in Disneyland: The Hungry Bear Re-Opens with a New Menu

Dining in Disneyland columnist Heather Sievers shares her review of the brand new Hungry Bear Restaurant menu today!!

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!

Eager Beaver Welcoming You to The Hungry Bear

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 Hungry Bear Restaurant's Bi-Level Seating Can Be Seen Just Before the Entrance

Restaurant Entrance

Eats
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.

EMPTY Walk Up Dining at The Hungry Bear

Hungry Bear Menu Boards

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.

"Thanks for Buzzin' By, Enjoy Your Vittles!"

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.

Upstairs Dining Area

More Seating & Restrooms Downstairs

The Rivers of America View From Our Peaceful Table

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.

Mini Burger... I Mean Hamburger Kids Meal

Where's the.... Chicken Breast Nuggets Kids Meal

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 Pioneer Chili Cheeseburger with Zesty Slaw

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.

Crispy Chicken Sandwich with Sweet Potato Fries

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.

Mini Blueberry Pie with Lattice Crust

Mini Blueberry Pie Filling Close Up: Served Up Warm

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.

Honey Lemon Cupcake Topped with Edible Glitter & A Chocolate Bee

Cross Section of the Honey Lemon Cupcake with Lemon Mousse Filling

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.

The Fantasmic Fireworks Barge Driving By

Overall
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.

This Hungry Bear Lives in the Bushes Nearby

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.

A Fond Farewell Sign As You Exit The Hungry Bear

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19 Comments

  1. Love the looks of the blueberry pie and cupcake! Everything was still closed during my last visit back to the US — will definitely check these out this summer!

  2. Lillian C. says:

    Oh I was waiting for a review of this new menu. I went this week to try out the new fried green tomato sandwich and it was delicious. This sandwich is now my favorite sandwich on Disneyland property! WOW. Can I ask for the jicama mango slaw by itself? Oh and I’m not a fan of pies but the blueberry pie here is very tasty. It could use a scoop of vanilla ice cream. :) Are you reading this Disney? Can’t wait to go back and have both of them again.

  3. Sarah says:

    Great post. Love the detail of the whole experience. I’m going to try the cupcake and pie on Friday. At first I had no interest in the pie, but everyone keeps saying it’s delicious. The kid meal is perfect for my two year old, but if he was a little older that portion/size would be very disappointing.

  4. Carolyn says:

    The Hungry Bear has been a family favorite for a long time. Even tho service is as slow as molasses, the atmosphere here is great. Watching the Columbia or Twain sail by and waving at other park guests while eating lunch is such a nice break from the crowds. The food was mediocre but hoorah! They had onion rings!! Not sure why this excited me so much but it did. :-p. When I heard they were re-doing the menu, the first thing I thought of was “oh no! I hope the onion rings stay!”. Yahoo! They’re still they’re! Anyway – thanks for the review. I am veg but am not really a fan of tomatoes so not sure if I’ll be trying the fried green tomato Sammy or not. The salad sounds good though. And wow – those are some nice looking desserts! I wonder if you could take the pie to-go and then go grab some ice cream somewhere? I agree – pie needs a little mode!! Especially blueberry pie. Cupcake looks nice. Kinda $$ tho! But wow, great desserts for a CS place!

  5. Jennifer says:

    Yum! I think I am going to head over there just for that Honey Lemon Cupcake. Thanks for the review.

  6. Sarah says:

    Add this place to the list of restaurants I need to try on my next trip out to Disneyland! I wish we had some cool options like the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich here at WDW! And those kids meal boxes are too cute!

  7. Susan says:

    I love the relaxed atmosphere at this restaurant… and the new menu sounds good. I do wish that they had kept regular french fries because I always thought they were particularly yummy here.

  8. Madoka says:

    I have never eaten at the Hungry Bear before because I had heard the food was mediocre at best. But now with this new menu, it is on our must-do list for the next trip! I can’t wait to try the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich and blueberry pie. And DH loves sweet potato fries! While I agree Disney should also serve regular fries to appeal to a wider audience, I am very happy and excited that they are introducing more unique eats into the parks like sweet potato fries, the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich, and jicama slaw.

    Between the new menus at the Village Haus and now the Hungry Bear, Disneyland is finally on the right track to improving their in-park dining experience. Kudos to the culinary staff at DLR and President Kalogridis! :D

  9. Heather Sievers says:

    @Erin – The desserts are a must have!

    @Lillian – I want to try that sandwich too, and I 100% agree on the ice cream.

    @Sarah – Perfect portions for kids age 2-6, a little small for 7 & up… Enjoy your cupcake!

    @Carolyn – Really the best atmosphere in the park, so relaxing. Let me know if you figure out how to get the ice cream with the pie! ; )

    @Jennifer – Let us know what you think, I loved it!

    @Sarah – I’m looking forward to trying the fried green tomato sandwich too.

    @Susan – I was the only one in my family excited for sweet potato fries, so you aren’t alone.

    @Madoka – Here’s to dining improvements, YAY!

  10. di says:

    Ikea its more kid meal friendly than disneyland
    :(

  11. Bonnie says:

    Thanks for the review but I have to say I’m disappointed with the new menu. I loved the funnel cakes and am really sorry to see them go. The new dessert choices are both unappealing to me. I’m wondering if the cheeseburger is basically the same thing being served up at Village Haus. If so, then I expect that to be disappointing too as the one I had at Village Haus tasted like rubber cement on a sawdust bun. I know a lot of people are pleased with many of Disney’s lastest menu changes but I have to say that the food is really not very good and you are right about the kid’s meals. My son is 5 and he can eat a lot more than what they offer. We are going more and more either to DTD or out on Harbor to eat.

  12. Janet says:

    We ate there Sat night with friends. We asked at the register what the special sauce was on the cheeseburger, but no one seemed to know. (Thousand Island type dressing we later discovered).

    I had the cheeseburger (without cheese) and the slaw. The first thing I noticed when we got our order, was that my hamburger was plain. No tomato, lettuce or special sauce on the bun. I went back to ask what I had gotten, & was told “that’s a hamburger”. When I asked what happened to the lettuce, tomato & sauce, they were surprised. “You wanted a hamburger right?”. I told them yes, I wanted everything that was on a cheeseburger, just no cheese. They seemed shocked that I didn’t want it plain. I’m not sure what that was all about, as most of the menus list cheeseburgers, not hamburgers, but you still get all the accompaniments, without the cheese.

    My husband had the chicken sandwich, with the slaw & a side of chili. He thought the sandwich was just ok. We both thought the slaw tasted much better then it looked & the chili was good, but with a spicy aftertaste. The chili side is approximately the size of a side of salad dressing at Plaza Inn & comes in the same style little cups. It’s also very thick.

    We tried some of my friend’s sweet potato fries since we’d never had them. They were really quite good, but sweet. I think I would only order them on rare occasions. I don’t know if the chili would work – to tone down the sweetness & the fries would mellow out the spiciness of the chili, but that might be worth trying. (I’m not going to be able to have regular chili fries.) I was so looking forward to having chili fries once I heard you could order a side of chili.

    We all wondered what comments they’ve been getting since no one we know has children that like sweet potato fries & lots of adults don’t either.

  13. Andrew says:

    We were very excited to try the new Hungry Bear menu when we visited Disneyland last weekend. Maybe too excited, because we found it kind of disappointing. My vegetarian wife ordered the fried green tomato sandwich; I ordered the chili cheeseburger.

    Our disappointment started when several people behind us in the ordering line got their food before we did. We were told it was because the tomato sandwiches were made to order. Since several of the parties behind us got their tomato sandwiches before we did, we didn’t feel that argument really held water.

    My wife thought her sandwich was okay, but the bread it was served on was so thick, that was about all she could taste. I took a bite, and most of the flavor was masked by the bread.

    I had the same problem with the chili burger. The burger itself was overcooked and dry. The chili was nice and flavorful, but that flavor was dominated by the huge onion ring. It’s like they went to a lot of trouble to develop some tasty sandwiches and burgers, and then did everything they could to mask those flavors.

    We both like sweet potato fries, and thought the Hungry Bear ones were nicely done. Not overfried or too tough, and not overly seasoned/sugared. (Yard House, I’m looking at you and the ton of maple syrup you dump over your fries.)

    My wife had the honey lemon cupcake for dessert. We could definitely taste the lemon, but not the honey. I don’t like lemon desserts, so not a fan of this. She thought it was okay, but felt if it’s advertised as honey-lemon, she should taste the honey. We agreed that the blueberry pie was the one standout item.

    We had a better experience with the new Village Haus menu (I loved the burger, she loved the salad, and we both loved the Black Forest cupcake) so we’d be inclined to return there before we’d go back to the Hungry Bear.

  14. Eileen L. says:

    I can understand having sweet potato fries on the menu, but it’s crazy to not ALSO offer regular potato fries. The new menu is a disappointment! I loved the old menu. Loved sitting in the relaxing outdoor setting near the Rivers of America. I doubt I will be eating there again, unless they add back the regular fries and get rid of that oversized bun!

  15. Angela Freberg says:

    Enjoyed your food blog on the Hungry Bear! It’s one of our favorite stops because of the view and atmosphere. The burgers have always been on the dry side, but with some added condiments they were “eatable.” :) We always enjoyed the onion rings and funnel cake too. I am really excited about the new menu….we LOVE sweet potato fries and they are much more healthy than regular potatoes as far as nutrition goes. The blueberry pie and lemon cupcake look just amazing. We will go there in June and try it out! Thank you for your food blogs, I really enjoy them!!!!!!!

  16. Angela says:

    Last weekend we went and tried the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich with the Jicama Mango Slaw and it was good! Too much for 1 person but perfect for 2 to share. The sandwich was moist and the bun was just right. We also ordered a side of the Basil Mayo to dip our sweet potato fries in….yum! The lemon cupcake was adorable and tasted good too!

  17. Kari says:

    My husband took me to Disneyland for the first time in fall of 2011. We had a great time. . . .but I’ve been looking for the recipe for the Honey Lemon Cupcake now forever and have had no luck whatsoever. I’m so sad. Would have made a perfect excuse for gaining weight while I’ve been pregnant.

  18. Kari says:

    Or maybe I just needed to wait a little longer. Looks like I’ve found it!

  19. Mark says:

    I don’t think you go anywhere in Disneyland for the food. For the most part, the food is mediocre and very expensive. But what I always like about the Hungry Bear restaurant, at least going back ten, fifteen years, was the lack of crowds (it is kind of out of the way) and the atmosphere; I would always grab a table right next to the Rivers of America. It was almost like being out in the bayou somewhere.

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