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Dining Options at the 2011 D23 Expo

The D23 Expo in Anaheim is right around the corner, and those of us who have never been are starting to think about what and where to eat while we’re there! Welcome Carrie Hayward, author of PassPorter’s Disney Weddings & Honeymoons, as she gives us a primer on dining options at the D23 Expo! Thanks, Carrie!

If you’re a reader of The Disney Food Blog and you’re headed to Anaheim for the D23 Expo, 2011, you are probably wondering what sort of dining options will be available at the convention.

The first thing to know is that all concessions are handled by Aramark, whose food you may recognize from arenas, convention centers, and stadiums across the country. Disney will augment these offerings with a few treats brought in from the parks, namely Mickey premium ice cream bars and Mickey pretzels.

Two other Disney park favorites—churros and fudge—will be made by Aramark. However, you’ll find that their churros taste familiar because Aramark also makes the ones sold in the parks. And you might even like their fudge better than Disney’s!

D23 Expo Fudge (Those are totally not teeth marks—honest!)

The D23 Expo Show Floor will occupy only two of the facility’s four ground-floor exhibit halls this time around, and most of the event’s food service has been consolidated within them. This leaves just two indoor counter-service spots, one outdoor spot, a lunch cart on the second floor, and a coffee stand in the lobby. Gone are the rooftop kabob stand and access to the Arena Grill, which had the most diverse offerings and the freshest food at the last Expo.

Let’s take a look at dining options in each area of the convention center so you’ll know what’s nearby as you wander the show floor or wait in line. I’ll also offer tips for making the most of your D23 Expo dining and snacking experience.

Anaheim Convention Center First Floor Plan -- Click for Larger Image

Grand Lobby

Eco-Grounds
This specialty coffee stand will offer packaged salads, sandwiches, and wraps, along with freshly made mini-doughnuts. Fresh funnel cakes will be available in the afternoon.

D23 Expo Show Floor

Located in Halls A and B, the D23 Expo Show Floor is where you’ll go to see Imagineering’s handiwork in the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Pavilion, track down rare items in the Collectors’ Forum, purchase official Expo merchandise in the Dream Store, and visit the booths and exhibits of Disney’s various business lines.

Each hall has a counter-service spot that serves grab ‘n’ go items and a limited selection of hot items from 8:30 am to 7:00 pm, plus hot specialty items from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. While the specialty menu varies by location, the other offerings are the same at both places.

Breakfast consists of Danish, muffins, bagels, whole fruit and fruit cups, yogurt, cereal, juice, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. All-day items include hot dogs, Mickey pretzels, nachos, churros, chips, cookies, whole fruit, soft drinks, and juice. Grab ‘n’ go items are fruit cups, vegetables with dip, wraps, deli sandwiches, and salads; and packages of celery and peanut butter, apple slices and peanut butter, or carrots and celery.

Additionally, there will be a barbecue stand on the patio between the two halls (10:30 am–2:30 pm), two ice cream stands, and a combination mini-doughnut and candy stand.

The Eat Ticket – Hall A
Disney has renamed 2009′s Stromboli Trattoria counter-service location “The Eat Ticket” (get it?), but retained the vaguely Italian menu.

In addition to the breakfast, all-day, and grab ‘n’ go items listed above, The Eat Ticket will offer a specialty menu from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm, featuring Freschetta pizza, hot sandwiches (last time these were meatball, sausage, or parmesan chicken), made-to-order deli sandwiches, and soup.

A kids’ meal was not specified at press time, but previously this location served chicken fingers.

Buena Vista Commissary – Hall B
Now named after the cafeteria on the Walt Disney Studios lot, this counter-service spot offers all the same breakfast, all-day, and grab ‘n’ go items as The Eat Ticket.

From 10:30 am to 5:30 pm, you can get hot items from the All-American Grill (think hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and chicken sandwiches), plus chicken tenders, loaded fries, and made-to-order deli sandwiches.

A kids’ meal was not specified at press time, but previously this location served grilled cheese.

Hamburger from what is now the Buena Vista Commissary

The Inn Between BBQ – Hall A & B Courtyard
This outdoor eatery between the two halls will be aptly named “The Inn Between,” after the cast member cafeteria located backstage at Disneyland, between Main Street, U.S.A., and Tomorrowland.

Open only from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm, the stand will offer barbecued hamburgers, cheeseburgers, turkey burgers, and hot link sausages; brisket and chicken kabob sandwiches with barbecue sauce; and roasted corn on the cob with various seasonings.

Sides include coleslaw, potato salad, baked beans and watermelon wedges. The full grab ‘n’ go menu is also available at this location.

The kids’ meal will be macaroni and cheese with sliced apples and milk or juice.

Lil’ Orbits/Ye Olde Chocolate Shop
At press time, the location of this stand hadn’t been determined, but in 2009 it was located between Halls A & B. Offering a sugar coma-inducing combination of fresh mini-doughnuts, candy apples, fudge, giant cookies, brownies, and assorted chocolate candies, this stand is not to be missed.

Chocolate Shop at D23 Expo 2009

Flavor Burst Ice Cream
These two stands will sell soft-serve ice cream with brightly colored flavor swirls or crunchy mix-ins, along with bottled drinks.

D23 Arena

The 4,000-seat arena hosts all the major Expo events, from the Disney Legends Ceremony and 3-D screening of The Lion King to the presentations by Walt Disney Studios and Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. The Arena Grill will not be open this year, but a concession stand in the lobby will sell coffee, pastries, and snacks. More snacks can be found in the lobby’s vending machines.

A welcome addition this time around is a roaming cart selling beverages and snacks to those waiting in the queue for the Arena.

Second Floor

The second floor is where you’ll go to see the various seminars, presentations and meet-and-greets with Disney celebrities, plus the Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives. Unfortunately, the place where you’ll spend the most time waiting around has only one small food-service location.

The Lunch Spot
Located at the top of the middle set of escalators leading to the second floor, near Room 204, this cart offers coffee and pastries like scones, croissants, muffins, and cinnamon rolls. You’ll also find grab ‘n’ go sandwiches, salads and wraps, along with a kids’ meal (in 2009 it was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich).

This would be a great time to eat lunch!

D23 Expo Dining & Snacking Tips

  • A roving cart will sell snacks and drinks to those in line outside the convention center before the Expo opens each day.
  • At the first Expo, lunchtime lines at the counter-service locations rivaled Splash Mountain’s on a hot day. This time around they’re expecting the same number of attendees but have closed three of the seven places that sell hot meals. Plan to eat before or after regular mealtimes to avoid the crowds.
  • If you have access to the D23 Charter Member Lounge, you may find it a more pleasant place to eat than the seating areas near the counter-service spots.
  • Alternatively, since you will probably be spending most of your time in line for some presentation/arena show/merchandise release, you may want to eat your meals while you wait.
  • According to the official D23 Expo web site, outside food and beverages are not allowed inside the convention center.
  • If you can manage to pry yourself from the Expo, there are numerous restaurants on the CenterWalk, a pedestrian pathway that connects the convention center to the Marriott and Hilton next door. A complete list can be found on the Orange County Visitor & Convention web site.
  • Many Anaheim-area restaurants are offering discounts to attendees of D23 Expo when they show their badges. A list of participating restaurants and their discounts can be found HERE.
  • While the restaurants of Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney may appear on the map to be practically across the street from the convention center, no back entrance into the park means a mile-long walk around the fence to either the main entrance plaza or the far end of Downtown Disney. However, guests of the three Disneyland hotels can shorten the trip by riding a special shuttle to and from the convention center.
  • Try the fudge! The first time I tried “Disney” fudge I was at D23 Expo, and I was smitten. After that, I was never able to figure out why the stuff I’d get at Disneyland and Walt Disney World wasn’t as good—until I learned that Aramark made the fudge sold at D23 Expo. I’m sure I’ll take a lot of heat for this, but I swear that Aramark’s fudge is fresher and creamier than any of the fudge I’ve had at the Disney parks.

If you were at 2009′s D23 Expo, do you have any tips and tricks to add? Please let us know in the comments section below!

Carrie Hayward is the author of PassPorter’s Disney Weddings & Honeymoons, a guidebook and bridal organizer for weddings and honeymoons at Walt Disney World and on the Disney Cruise Line. You can read her account of the first Expo here: D23 Expo The “All-Lines, No-Rides” Disney Experience!

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9 Comments

  1. Jo says:

    Great, great info Carrie! It’s my first Expo and I’m a planner. I’m glad to have the knowledge ahead of time!

  2. Laurie Smith says:

    If you are on a special diet bring your own lunch. If this was Disneyland then I would not worry but based on the 2009 event I expect no food to be served that is up to the needs of special diets. I am packing bread, peanut butter, chips, and other filling things. 2009 was where I had to go to the hotel for an over priced breakfast and on one morning I had ketchup packets for breakfast.

    Thanks for the update. For gluten free food check out Tangaroa Terrace, yummy.

  3. Lura says:

    Do they check you for food on the way in or if you bring your own lunch will they look the other way like they mostly do in the parks?

  4. Niekon says:

    Knowing ACC and their food service, you are better off actually leaving the convention center and going some place local. If you don’t want to go very far then I’d recommend hitting up the Hilton or Marriot.
    What I have to laugh about is on the OC Visitor & Convention website… Buca di Beppo is about a 5-10 minute walk down Harbor. For that distance you can either go to Anaheim GardenWalk, Downtown Disney, or Clancy’s Clubhouse.

  5. melissa sue says:

    I just love this blog! It’s not only about what’s worth eating but also how to get the most bang for your buck and how to eat quickly and efficiently. In this case, that last item is SUPER IMPORTANT. I’m not going to the Expo, but if I were, I’d be kissing your feet right now! !

  6. Carrie says:

    Laurie—I agree. Actually, if you like any kind of fresh food, bring your own lunch. This is convention food at its most mass-produced, unfortunately. The best you might do is the Inn-Between—at least there you can see them cooking your food on the spot. We ran into a lot of pre-cooked hamburgers pulled from metal steam trays at the indoor locations last time.

    Lura—We were never searched for food last time, and I’d be shocked if they started enforcing it this year.

  7. Dee says:

    I don’t recall being checked for food/beverages in 2009. However, when attending a baseball convention at ACC last year, we were searched and we could not even bring in a bottle of water!

  8. Nancy says:

    Just an FYI..Stage 23 has been moved to the third floor, so the Expo will once again fill the entire center. No food ootions are listed for the third floor though. We brought in things like granola bars, cheese sticks, etc with no problem at the last Expo.

  9. Carrie says:

    The good thing about Stage 23 being on the top floor is that the theater is large enough to hold the audience that will surely show up for the show by Dick Van Dyke and The Vantastics. However, D23 Expo is still not using the entire convention center—they have only 2 1/2 of the 4 halls downstairs and only half of the possible food locations there.

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