Disneyland’s Princess meal takes place in Disney California Adventure at Ariel’s Grotto, a lovely little restaurant full of windows and under-the-sea themeing perfectly fitting for the princess from The Little Mermaid.
Ariel’s Grotto lunch at Disney’s California Adventure in Disneyland Resort begins with an impressive-looking first course followed by your choice of entrees. Go ahead and skip ahead to the dessert platter. It’s worth a quick peek now, but be sure to return here to finish our full review!
The princess vibe hits you before you even walk into the restaurant. Well, at least it did for us! We were required to walk past a merchandise kiosk selling princess dresses in order to get to the front door. Can you imagine walking by all of those dresses with your little girl on your way to a princess character meal? You’ll have to keep your wits about you, because I’m guessing she won’t!
Passing the princess dresses, we walked under a sign welcoming us (and the Merfolk), and headed into the reception area for Ariel’s.
Here, we checked in at the podium and checked out a display of celebration cakes. These were prominent throughout Disneyland during our last visit. They’re available for order when you arrive at the restaurant, and offer a fun dessert for birthdays and celebrations. They are a little kid-centric, though, so if you’re celebration is a bit more grown-up, these might not work for you.
Once our name was called, we headed down a gorgeous spiral suitcase with this view:
And this chandelier:
Amazing, isn’t it? I knew right away that this restaurant would be beautifully themed to the hilt.
At the bottom of the stairs was the star of the show — Ariel — holding court with her many admirers.
While characters mingle during breakfast and lunch, Ariel’s Grotto is character-free (unless you count anyone wearing Mickey Ears at nearby tables) during dinner. Ariel’s is a great option for the World of Color dinner package, which includes a prix fixe meal and a reserved viewing area for the show. Update: Ariel’s Grotto will begin a character dinner on June 15, 2012. After June 14, 2012, the World of Color Dining Package will no longer be available at this location.
Seating at the restaurant is both indoors and outdoors. I imagine that the outdoor seating is sought after during the warmer months, but our April visit included a few chilly days so we opted to sit inside.
The restaurant is basically a giant room with a relatively low ceiling, but the fun themeing has definitely spruced the place up!
And there are no wands or swords here like you’ll find at Cinderella’s Royal Table in Disney World, but you can get a button proving that you went to a character breakfast. (Use it for bragging rights at the office, or give it to your favorite Disney princess back home!)
Shortly after we were seated, the announcements began. If you’ve been to a princess meal at a Disney park, you probably know what I mean: a cast member dressed in royal gear (footman? town crier?) precedes the entry of each princess with her mini-bio. My guess is that this is to remind forgetful parents which princess is which, so that they don’t seem like a dolt to their kids who obviously know each princess by name. The process is fun and exciting, actually — it makes the character arrival more of an event!
Soon, the princesses were gliding around the room, greeting families, discussing the latest ups and downs in their lives, asking about the princes and princesses you know, and doing their thing. I often wonder if I’m the only one who feels kind of chubby and slobbish sitting there eating a bunch of food while the stunning, twenty-something princesses wander around in full make-up and gowns.
Note, of course, that Ariel stays in the foyer the whole time. Since it’s her party, she has to stay there and greet the guests. So if you didn’t get a chance to have your photo taken with her when you first came down, ask your server if he or she can set up a quick photo shoot on your way out.
While we chatted with the princesses, we perused the menu to see what was what.
Every table gets this fun bread assortment, with one piece baked into the shape of sea grass! Very cool! Also included with the bread is butter, and ranch and pesto dips for the upcoming antipasti tower.
The Antipasti Tower comes almost as quickly as the bread, so nobody’s going to go hungry here! The Tower includes one plate with salami, marinated mozzarella, Roma tomatoes, gherkins, olives, red pepper bracelets, and chilled vegetables. The next plate offers a mixed greens salad served with house vinaigrette. And the third plate holds string cheese “Jewels of the Sea” fruit gelatin, and watermelon triangles.
The salad and antipasti plates were decent. Food quality was standard of mass-produced food (think “fundraising event”). I did like the variety, though. With a big group, everyone will find something they enjoy.
The “Jewels of the Sea” gelatin gave us a few moments of pause, however, when we could not figure out what fruit was inside the yellow gelatin!
I’ll save you the time and just tell you — apples!
On to the entrees. While the bread and tower come unbidden, you get to chose your entree here at Ariel’s. We chose the Santa Maria-syle Tri-tip and the Herb-crusted Chicken Breast, both served with cheddar herb mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
After the meal, I really regretted our choices. While the food was fine, it was, once again, mass-produced “event” style food. I’m wondering if the Mafalde pasta with italian sausage or the seafood might have been significantly better.
As it stands, we weren’t all that impressed with the food here at all, though I’ve heard some folks say they love it. I think we’ll order differently next time.
Dessert was up next, and it was phenomenal! Truly the best part of the meal. Dessert at Ariel’s comes automatically to your table in the form of a dessert platter including Sea Horse Lava Cake, Chocolate-Chip Strips, Cheescake Tarts with Raspberries, S’more Chocolate Bites, and a White Chocolate Conch Shell of Fresh Berries.
The platters come in different sizes depending on the number of people in your group, so here are pics of two different sizes:
Each one of these desserts was delicious. The chocolate lava cake was truly stunning, offering more of a mousse/ganache inside rather than a runny “lava.”
And I loved the conch shell! If you don’t want to eat it right away, break it up into little pieces and ask for a bag to take it with you — you can snack on it all day!
We also loved those S’mores bites — basically brownies, they were rich, moist, and delicious.
Ariel’s Grotto is a mixed bag. The entrees aren’t out-of-this-world, but the view from the restaurant, the opportunity to see the princesses, and that dessert platter really do make up for the lack of food awesomeness.
This is a must-do if you have kids or love princesses, and since it’s one of the few table-service restaurants in Disney California Adventure, it might be worth it to head over here mid-day to take a bit of a rest.
This is also the only all-princess character meal in Disneyland Resort, so getting all of the autographs here is a great way to avoid lines for characters over in Disneyland.
Reservations for Ariel’s Grotto can be made 60 days in advance.
Have you been to Ariel’s Grotto? Would you recommend it? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
Thanks to Chris Mushrush for contributing some photos from his visit to Ariel’s Grotto!