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Dining in Disneyland: Carnation Cafe, the Matterhorn Sundae, and a Chat With Chef Oscar

For my son’s 10th birthday, he really wanted to tackle the famous Matterhorn Sundae from the Carnation Cafe located on Main Street in Disneyland.  Always up for a challenge like this, I booked a lunchtime reservation with some friends of ours and we fueled up with lunch before the challenge of finishing this wondrous mountain of goodness.

Atmosphere

I always recommend making a reservation in advance for the Carnation Cafe.  Although the menu is small, the food here is really fantastic and the prices are reasonable for a table service restaurant.

Carnation cafe view of street

Seating is also limited to a pretty small area (though the Cafe will be refurbished in 2012 to create a larger indoor seating area). You can see more photos of the seating area here. So, with a party of eight, on one of the last weekends of the summer, it made perfect sense to grab that reservation.

Carnation Cafe Menu

Eats

I normally don’t stray from my favorite item, the Loaded Baked Potato Soup; but on this visit I noticed a “Summer Special” menu laying on the table that featured a chicken salad croissant, which sounded pretty tasty.

Summer Special: Chicken Salad Croissant

I went ahead and ordered it, and I was so glad I did; it was really delicious and a nice alternative to hot soup, especially since it was a hot August day.  I love me a good chicken salad sandwich, and I especially love fruit in the mix; so I was pretty much sold when I saw the list of ingredients.

My only pet peeve is too much mayonnaise, and thankfully this sandwich was not heavy in the mayo department.  The croissant was light and flaky, and the sandwich was served with fresh fruit and the Carnation Cafe signature dill pickle spear.

Chicken Salad Croissant

Normally when I visit the Carnation Cafe it’s with a small group — my family of four. But today we were a party of eight, so it was fun to check out some menu items I’d never seen in person!  Items ordered included the Cafe Steak Melt and Oscar’s Choice: The Cafe Chef’s Salad.

The Steak Melt looked amazing: grilled beef slices, melted pepper jack, and caramelized onions, served all hot and melty on a cheese roll with a choice of potato salad, mixed greens salad, or fresh fruit.

Cafe Steak Melt Top View: Look at that Cheese Roll!

Cafe Steak Melt: Ooey Gooey Goodness

Oscar’s Choice: The Cafe Chef’s Salad has a prominent place on the Carnation Cafe Menu.  Why? Because this is Oscar’s restaurant, that’s why! And there’s nothing better than this cheery chef serving it up to you himself, which is what happened on this day.

The Chef’s Salad includes mixed greens, smoked turkey, honey ham, Swiss cheese, hard boiled eggs, grape tomatoes, avocado, and Boudin Bakery sourdough croutons served with your choice of dressings.

Oscar's Choice: The Cafe Chef Salad

I did not try the Cafe Steak Melt or the Cafe Chef’s Salad, but both adults that ordered them ended up being members of the clean plate club, so I’d say they were good choices.

Now, onto the slew of kids that were with us for lunch…

What I really love about the Carnation Cafe (besides the fact that Oscar is there) is that they offer “healthier” options for kids.  And by this I mean that french fries are not an option here because they do not serve them at the Carnation Cafe.  (All kids meals are served with fresh fruit and baby carrots.)  Nor do they have anything fried.  I’m not saying a hot dog is healthy, but it is a better option than some of the kids’ menu items I have seen. I also appreciate that the menu does not have soda as one of the kids’ drink options (although they will serve it with the meal if desired).

Carnation Cafe Kids Menu

There were four children in our party, two hot dogs, one Smucker’s Peanut Butter Painters Palette, and one grilled cheese.

“Grilled cheese?” you ask, “But it’s not on the menu!?!”  Well, here’s a super secret tip, this is the only item that the Carnation Cafe will make you that is not on the menu.  We found that out by asking if they had any secret menu items… I am actually quite excited to know this as I wouldn’t mind dipping a warm grilled cheese sandwich into my Loaded Baked Potato Soup the next time I visit the Carnation Cafe.

Kids Hot Dog Meal

Secret Menu Item: The Grilled Cheese Sandwich

And finally, I give you (even though I’ve shared this before) the Smucker’s Peanut Butter Painter’s Palette, which my youngest child always orders so he can make his famous peanut butter, pickle, and marshmallow sandwich. No, he is not pregnant…

Smucker's Peanut Butter Painter's Palette

The Peanut Butter Pickle Marshmallow Sandwich...

So, now that we are all stuffed, it’s time for the grand finale. Dessert. Even though we knew what we wanted, we took a peek at the Carnation Cafe’s Dessert Menu.

Carnation Cafe Dessert Menu

I’ve heard that their apple pie is divine, but we came for this:

Matterhorn Sundae

Consisting of 4 giant scoops of ice cream — one chocolate, one strawberry and two vanilla — this beauty is topped with caramel, hot fudge, strawberry sauce, a mountain of whipped cream, Mickey sprinkles, and a cherry, which we let the birthday boy eat.

Tackling the Matterhorn Sundae is not an easy task.

It took 8 of us, but WE DID IT!

Chef Oscar Martinez to Retire

On a side note, I was able to talk to Chef Oscar Martinez a bit on this visit.  He’s always so friendly and walks around serving, greeting, and visiting with guests.  He literally takes the time to go to every single table when he’s out making his rounds.

I asked him how he was doing and he shared the bittersweet news that he would be retiring in the next year, but not before getting his 55 years of service pin and banquet in September (2011).  He is the first Disney cast member to get a pin for 55 years of service, working in the park since it first opened.  Other cast members will be recognized at the event including a few with 30 and 40 years of service under their belts.

Oscar was so excited to have this special celebration just weeks away; he stated that his entire family and some good friends would be there to celebrate at the banquet with him.  He also told me he was going to receive a “nice trophy.”

I’m wondering if his plan is to retire when the Carnation Cafe closes at the beginning of the new year for it’s planned expansion and refurbishment?

Chef Oscar

This being said, I’m going to squeeze in as many visits to the Carnation Cafe as I can to visit my favorite smiling face of Disneyland, Chef Oscar Martinez, before he says good bye to his Happiest Job on Earth.

Heather Sievers is the Disney Food Blog’s Dining in Disneyland columnist. See more of her columns here!

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9 Comments

  1. Pudge the Fish says:

    Wow, I am regretting not having the time to dine there in July. The cheesy oniony steak melt and Matterhorn sundae look amazing.

  2. Matt says:

    I’m not one to gush over celebrities or Disney legends. But when Oscar came out and sat next to me at our table back in September, I was gushing as I had never met nor seen him before. He talked with us for 10 minutes! He reminisced about the old days and mentioned retiring, although he wasn’t sure if he was going to wait until the end of 2012, or when Carnation re-opens sometime next year. All I know is, having Disney celebrity and legend Oscar come sit with us was a Disney memory I will cherish forever.

  3. Heather says:

    @Pudge – There’s always next time (after the reopening, of course!)

    @Matt – He’s always so kind. I love seeing him interact with guests.

  4. Diana says:

    I just LOVE the look of the peanut butter painter’s palette! Unfortunately, my son has a life-threatening peanut allergy and can’t have it but that is the cutest idea!

  5. Brittni R. says:

    Chef Oscar is retiring?! My morning Mickey waffle won’t be the same without his smiling face! Sad to see him go, but wow what a legacy! Talking to Oscar has always been a treat. He truly embodies the Disney spirit!

  6. Paula B. says:

    Here’s to Chef Oscar, I bet he enjoyed every one of the days he went to “work”. The Carnation Cafe looks like a real winner, sounds like the bday was a huge success.

  7. PT says:

    Aw, I’m so sad to hear Oscar is going to retire! My breakfasts at Carnation Cafe will never be the same. I hope he’s still there next week when I go. He’s such a sweet person and makes the best potatoes EVER!

    As always, a great post, Heather! BTW, thanks to your review of the Thanksgiving Feast, my family and I are going next week. Those photos you took was just the ticket to get us to book our Thanksgiving trip!

  8. Louie says:

    With the reopening of the Carnation Cafe, the Matterhorn Sundae is no longer available :-(

  9. Heather Sievers says:

    @Louie – We’re working on bringing back some favorite menu items (Matterhorn Sundae, Eggs Benedict & Cinnamon Roll French Toast). Make sure to “voice your opinion” when you go that you miss the items!

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