After years of watching the progress of Disney California Adventure’s expansion, and in recent months being able to see the tower of Carthay Circle Theater from behind construction walls, it’s so surreal that I have now actually dined there…twice!
*Please note, the lighting inside Carthay at night is so dark. Many of my photos do not do it justice.
Inspired by the original Carthay Circle Theatre in Hollywood where Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937, the restaurant is about as close to a true replica as you can get.
The theming inside is true to the period as well. It features fabulous old photos of Walt as well as memorabilia from Snow White. From the moment you walk into Carthay Circle Restaurant, you feel as though you have stepped back in time; back to the “Golden Age” of Hollywood.
When facing Carthay, there are three doors. The two on the left are entrances to the restaurant, and the door to the right is the entrance to the private 1901 Lounge (for which we will soon have a review,too!). Lovely cast members are there to get the door for you and welcome you to Carthay Circle.
Upon entering there is a rather large lounge area. To the left is a spacious waiting area to enjoy after you’ve checked in for your meal, and to the right there is a separate room — The Carthay Circle Lounge — where the bar and extra seating is located.
Carthay Circle Lounge
In the lounge, you can get drinks and small bites. No reservations are needed to visit the lounge, and you are more than welcome to grab a drink or appetizer while you are waiting for your table.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to try the lounge, but we will be back for a full review soon!
The reception desk and waiting area are quite spacious. Here you will find plenty of seating and lots of fun memorabilia to look at.
Several images from the evening Snow White premiered hang next to a “Police Pass” from that night and a gorgeous display of Seven Dwarfs animation cells, which were said to be the only animation art that hung in the home of Walt Disney.
Since you will be more than likely overwhelmed by the beauty of the reception area, friendly cast members point you in the right direction to check-in.
Once it is time to be taken to your table, you are given an option: stairs or elevator to the dining room? We took a different route on each visit!
When you have reached the top floor, you enter a gorgeous photo-lined hallway that leads you to the main dining room of Carthay.
The main dining room includes the kitchen, seating, and private dining rooms. And in the center of it all there is wine service and an amazing ceiling mural featuring background paintings from Snow White.
There is also a lovely outdoor, patio dining area.
Private dining rooms can be arranged through Disney Dining. There are 4 private rooms with varying occupancies: Both the Hyperion & Buena Vista Rooms seat up to 5 people, the Premier room seats up to 12, and the Hollywood seats up to 20.
The ceiling mural featuring paintings of Snow White backgrounds is very subtle. There are no characters, but if you know what you’re looking at, it does seem very familiar.
The painting is located on the ceiling in the direct center of the main dining room above the wine service area.
Chef Andrew Sutton from Napa Rose serves as Executive Chef here at Carthay Circle while Gloria Tae, also from Napa Rose is on board as Chef de Cuisine.
While Napa Rose focuses on a Northern California type of cuisine, Carthay Circle dishes are inspired by sunny Southern California. As I write this post, I have eaten at Carthay twice, once with a fixed menu and once ordering off of the “Summer” dinner menu. So, photos will be from both meals.
Bread service at Carthay was different on each of my two visits. The first night (the fixed menu and special event), we were served Sourdough with Red Bell Pepper Hummus.
The bread is not served warm, which I prefer; but the Red Bell Pepper Hummus was fabulous, so I didn’t mind so much!
The second visit included Sourdough with Salted Butter. I love salted butter. It’s so simple, but really gives the butter a great flavor.
The bread was again served at room temperature. So, I’m guessing that this is the way the bread is served at all times.
We tried the House Biscuits, which I highly recommend. The night that we ate at Carthay with a fixed menu, I was so sad that the biscuits weren’t being served. So when we were seated for the second visit, I immediately told our server we needed those ASAP!
The biscuits are stuffed with white cheddar, bacon, and jalapeno, and served with apricot honey butter. Normally I am not a jalapeno fan, but the flavor in these is very mild and the sweetness of the butter also tones it down.
There are a lot of flavors going on inside of these little balls of happiness. Sweet, savory and spicy; they’re served up warm and gooey. Be careful. I ate almost an entire order.
Additional appetizers we have tried are as follows. First up, the Halibut Ceviche, which was part of our fixed menu, special event meal night. It includes avocado and tomatillo-cilantro essence served with crisp plantain chips.
I will tell you now that I am not a seafood fan, therefore, I am automatically not a ceviche fan. I did however try this because, well, it’s my job.
The dish was fin, and the plantain chips were awesome. My husband, who enjoys halibut and ceviche, ate the entire thing!
Another appetizer we received on our fixed menu night were the Signature Firecracker Duck Wings.
These were so amazing that we actually ordered them again on our second visit. The funny thing? I probably wouldn’t have ordered them had I not have been forced to have them at the special event we attended!
They are crispy, spicy, and a little sweet, too. Served with soy, lime, and sriracha chili sauce, they are truly one of my new favorite dishes at the Disneyland Resort.
The first entree I experienced at Carthay was the Bacon Wrapped Shrimp on Summer Roasted Corn, Grilled Zucchini and Basil Salsa. Remember that “not a seafood fan” thing? The fixed menu at the event helped me to branch out, and I’m so glad that I did. The shrimp were cooked to perfection and the bacon is actually crispy, which I seldom see in “bacon wrapped” items.
The soup-ish salsa it came with, though? It was beyond delicious. I literally wanted to lick my bowl clean. Had I been at home, I would’ve. The salsa was so sweet and creamy — and amazingly enough, I was told by a cast member that there is zero cream used in it, making the dish somewhat “healthier” for you!
It alone should be an individual menu item.
On the night of the fixed menu event, my husband had the Sauteed Northern Halibut with Relish of Roasted Bell Pepper, Caper Berry and Orange. He really enjoyed it, and is very picky about his fish, so it must have been fab. I passed on trying this one…
When we came back the following week, we tried some other options. I had the Pappardelle Pasta with House-made Chicken Meatballs, Tear Drop Tomatoes, fresh Basal, and Yellow Tomato Essence. I really enjoyed this dish.
Although this particular pasta is made in house, most of the pastas at Carthay are not. This one is amazing and reminded me of the fresh pastas I had in Italy last year. The sauce was also nice, and the meat balls were tasty. They really didn’t have a ton of flavor, but overall I really enjoyed the dish.
My husband went with the Udon Noodle Bowl with Red Thai Curry Broth, Shrimp & Mussels, Shitake Mushrooms, Bok Choy, Daikon (white radish, I looked it up!), Mint, Cashews, and fresh Coriander. This dish came highly recommended by one of the managing Cast Members who visited our table.
My husband likes seafood and udon, so he went for it and he really loved it. Me, I tried the noodles — which were great, but that was as far as I was willing to go!
The Dessert menu at Carthay is Seasonal, so it’s exciting to think that it will be changing every few months! We were able to check out a few different dishes, all of which were spectacular.
Personally, I love fruity desserts, so I was really happy about all of the seasonal fruit menu items. On our fixed menu night we were brought out two dishes to try: the first was Toasted Lemon Pound Cake with Fresh Marinated Blueberries, Lemon Curd Cream, and Tahitian Vanilla Chantilly. This dish was fantastic; fresh, tart, creamy with the sweet blueberries. Right up my alley.
I even found a Hidden Mickey while I was eating!!!
Next up was the Seasonal Fruit Pie with Whipped Brown Sugar Sour Cream. Forgive me, but I can’t remember the exact flavor of the fruit. This one was my husband’s and I was enjoying my blueberries so much, I didn’t pay much attention to his.
I did have a bite and it was good; more like a pastry than a pie. I think it was some sort of berry/apple type of number. I’ll pay more attention next time!
Saving the best for last, we ordered the Fried Banana Split Monte Cristo Sundae on our second visit. This little plate of amazingness consisted of raspberry and chocolate fudge ice creams, and warm caramel rum bananas.
Perfect to share, this one won’t disappoint.
It may sound silly, but one of the things that excites me most about Carthay is their Children’s Menu.
The offerings here are unlike anything I have ever seen on a Disneyland Resort Children’s Menu. Forget chicken strips and hamburgers, Carthay is giving little ones a chance to eat sophisticated meals designed with kids in mind.
There are several dishes on here that I’d love to try too! I’m seriously considering ordered the Sloppy Joes or Chicken Schnitzel on my next visit! Oh, and those desserts? Let’s just go with, YUM!
My boys are both major carnivores, so they went with the exact same meal, the Grilled Petit Filet of Beef with Broccoli and Crispy Macaroni and Cheese. However, they switched it up and got green beans and french fries instead of the broccoli.
We did, however, take that order of Mac n’ Cheese on the side, and I’m thrilled we did because it was so delish. Really rich and filling, very similar to the Mac n’ Cheese at Napa Rose.
The desserts on the children’s menu also do not disappoint. My boys ordered the Green Apple Caramel Parfait Push Pop and the Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich. They devoured them so quick, I barely managed to get a taste in!
My favorite of the two was definitely the Green Apple Caramel Parfait Push Pop: Green Apple and Lemon Raspberry Sorbets layered with caramel. It was tart, sweet, and topped with the same chocolate “gravel” Flo’s uses on their milkshakes!
My 10 year old son really enjoyed the presentation of the Push Pop. I literally had to pry it out of his hands to try it.
This is what the Push Pop looked like after just a few minutes after my son received it. I’d say it was a hit…
My 8 year old ordered the Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwich with Chocolate Cookies and Chocolate Dipping Sauce. Basically two fresh chocolate-chocolate chip cookies with chocolate ice cream in the middle, served with a little dipping bowl full of chocolate sauce, sprinkles & whipped cream. Heaven for my little chocolate lover.
It was really yummy, but for me, chocolate overload! There’s no way I could’ve eaten the whole thing. My 8 year old had no problem scarfing it down.
Beverages at Carthay Circle Restaurant
Carthay serves a wide variety of “Disney” family wines, including several from John Lasseter’s winery in Napa located in Northern California.
There are also several specialty drinks as well as specialty non-alcholic drinks. Stay tuned for a post on Carthay drinks. I need to go back just to cover beverages!
Wines sold by the glass are stored here in the center of the main dining room. There are also wines available by the bottle that are stored in several cellars throughout the restaurant.
I am thrilled that Carthay Circle Restaurant is open, and both of my meals there were absolutely fabulous. They have an excellent variety across the board, and I think that their Children’s Menu is perhaps my new favorite in all of the Disneyland Resort.
The dishes are creative, flavorful, and unique; and it’s a super bonus that dining includes World of Color viewing (see here for details). I can’t wait to go back again. But first, Aulani awaits (stay tuned for reviews from Aulani soon)!
Have you been to Carthay Circle Restaurant or Lounge yet? Any favorite items?