Located on Main Street in Disneyland, the Carnation Café is a great little spot for a relaxing lunch. This table service restaurant features outdoor seating and a very simple, yet delicious menu.
Atmosphere…And a Visit With Chef Oscar
The décor of red and white umbrellas that shade the adorable chairs and tables reminds me of an old “soda fountain” type of place. Casual and cute is how I’d describe it. I’ve dined at Carnation Café on several occasions, coming back again and again for their amazing Loaded Baked Potato Soup.
Today’s meal was to be a quick lunch, so we called Disney Dining ahead of time and made a reservation. This means we were able to bypass the long line, give our name, and have a seat. The perfect way to start a meal.
On a side note, you’ll notice in the “Eats” section below that there is an “Oscar’s Choice” on the menu. Oscar has a featured item on all three menus of the day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Why? Because he’s super important, that’s why! Chef Oscar Martinez is not only the head chef at the Carnation Café, he is also Disneyland’s longest tenured cast member. From his mouth to my ears, “I’ve worked here 54, but closer to 55 years!”
I was lucky enough to get to chat with him when I saw him (and a Disneyland “guard”) standing near the Carnation Café waving to all of the guests as they entered the park. I strolled over to introduce myself to this famous Disney icon! I explained to him that I write for the Disney Food Blog and Oscar immediately began telling me his whole story about how he started as a bus boy and moved his way “to the top.”
Back in the day, each land at Disneyland had just 2 restaurants each. Oscar told me that he’d worked at every single one of those restaurants at some point in his early career. He spent a lot of time in Fantasyland, then moved to Tomorrowland and eventually found a home on Main Street, where he’s been working for The Carnation Café for almost 44 years.
He now spends most of his time overseeing the cooking and making sure that all of the dishes come out to his expectations. However, he did tell me that his favorite part of the day is not the cooking, it’s interacting with the guests. After a 10 minute visit with him, I now know this to be true. If I didn’t have a 2 ½ year old in tow, begging to drive the Autopia cars, I know Oscar would have chatted with me all morning. What a kind and interesting man. With all that he has experienced over the years, he really should write a book. I’d read it!
I love Carnation Café for a few reasons. First of all, the simplicity of the menu makes it easy to make a choice: soup, salad, sandwich or a combo, along with a few entrée choices. And with just three items to choose from, the kids’ menu is also simple: Main Street Macaroni and Cheese, The Smucker’s Peanut Butter Painter’s Palette, and the standard issue hot dog (aka The Carnation Café Dog, which is turkey). With these three home run options, even the pickiest eater is sure to find something to feast on.
My mom and I both ordered the Half Sandwich and Soup Combo. I had the Three Cheese Veggie Sandwich, which consisted of cheddar, Monterey Jack and Swiss with zucchini, cucumber, lettuce and pesto mayo on pretzel bread. It also comes with tomato and red onion, but I removed them after my photo. I’m not a fan of either!
My sandwich was very refreshing, I love going “veggie” once in a while. The produce was crisp and fresh and the pretzel bread, which I am a sucker for, was also on par. I also appreciated the fact that the pesto mayo was not too strongly flavored. The taste had just enough pesto flavor to make the mayo interesting. It does come on the side, so you can add the perfect proportion to fit your needs.
I can’t stand sandwiches that leak condiments, but I also get annoyed when I have to ask for extra. So, it was nice to be in control of my spread!
My mom ordered the smoked turkey sandwich, which has a funny little back story to it. When our food arrived, her sandwich had one tiny sliver of turkey on it. The Monterey Jack, tomato, lettuce and whole grain mustard aioli were all there, but pretty much no meat. So we flagged down our server and he was QUICK to fix the problem. Ends up that someone got double the turkey on their half sandwich that day and it wasn’t my mom. The roasted turkey also comes on pretzel bread and was quite tasty.
Both of us ordered Chef Oscar’s famous Loaded Baked Potato Soup with chives, bacon, sour cream, cheddar and Monterey Jack. This soup alone is worth a trip to the Carnation Café. Chef Oscar has been making it for decades and can often be found writing the recipe down for people on napkins or other scraps of paper. He’ll even autograph it for you! I think next time I will bring a piece of paper and get it for myself (of course I’ll share it)!
If you like creamy comfort foods, the Loaded Baked Potato Soup will quickly become a favorite. It is on the heavier side, think cream, cream, and more cream, but completely worth those extra calories, at least once in a while.
Now, on to the kids. My 9 year old went with The Carnation Café Dog, a turkey hot dog served with baby carrots and fresh fruit. I love the fact that french fries are not an option here at the Carnation Café. It’s an easy way to make your child’s meal a tad more nutritious. The hot dog meal was pretty standard, no complaints.
I thought for sure my 6 year old would go for the hot dog as well. But apparently he was feeling a bit more adventurous that day ordering what I think is a pretty clever menu item: The Smucker’s Peanut Butter Painter’s Palette. This super fun meal included all the fixings you need to create a peanut-butter-and-whatever-you-want masterpiece.
Two slices of white bread smeared with peanut butter come to you atop a painter’s palette. The “artist” gets to adorn their meal with sides of bananas, raisins, marshmallows, and of course Smucker’s grape jelly. My son kicked it up a few notches by asking for a side of pickles, his favorite food.
He truly had a blast with this meal. AND because he created it, he ate every single bite, pickles, marshmallows and all. I honestly think that this is one of the most fun meals that Disney has to offer.
Because we were in a bit of a hurry, we skipped dessert. I did manage to snap a shot of the “neighbor’s” banana split though. Looks pretty tasty! Next time…