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Guest Review: Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop at Disney California Adventure

Today we’re welcoming guest author Kent Walker with a cool review of the brand new Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop at Disney California Adventure. Read on for a delicious dose of ice cream and brownies!

Having been big fans of chocolate since before we could spell the word, my wife and I were very excited to find out that a Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop would be opening at Disney California Adventure. Not only would we be able to ride Radiator Springs Racers, we’d be able to do it with a belly full of ice cream, hot fudge, and brownie.

Atmosphere

The Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop occupies the space that used to be the Mission Tortilla Factory, which was an original DCA attraction in 2001.

While we were sad to see the factory go (our sons especially loved the free corn and flour tortillas – including a whole bag on their birthday!), our depression was short-lived when we found out we could drown our sorrows in sea salt caramel hot cocoa!

Inside Ghirardelli at Disney California Adventure

Our family has been to San Francisco and visited the Ghirardelli Square shop, so we knew how good their chocolate, sundaes and chocolate drinks were. Other than the much larger selection of chocolate in San Francisco, the soda fountains are very similar.

Ghirardelli in DCA made the wise choice of having much wider aisles for easier stroller navigation and crowd control, and a Ghirardelli staffer hands out samples and menus out at the door. They even go the extra step and cut off the top of the foil package so it’s easier for you to get at your free chocolate treat. On the day we stopped by, it was a caramel filled milk chocolate piece.

Other than the wider aisles for crowds and strollers, the inside is very similar to other Ghirardelli Soda Fountains across the country. One nice touch, though, is a beautiful mural along the back wall paying tribute to Ghirardelli’s home, San Francisco, including their namesake Square.

Ghirardelli PIck-Up Order Station and Mural

They take your order just inside the door and you wait for your order at one of four stations, which does a good job of spreading the crowd out. You get hot drinks at the far end of the shop. There are quite a few tables outside for enjoying your treats, but nowhere inside to sit.

Ghirardelli Mural Close-Up

Eats

There are tons of things to choose from. You can get everything from your basic ice cream cones and shakes to decadent hot chocolate creations and their Intense Dark Sundaes, a couple of which feature a strongly bittersweet 86% cocoa content chocolate.

Ghirardelli Menu - click image for larger version

There are fourteen ice cream flavors to choose from and you can add any of the twelve toppings to customize your ice cream.

Of course, they have a wide selection of signature sundaes, including the eight scoop, eight topping “The Earthquake,” enough to feed a herd of stampeding Cars Land fanatics.

Ghirardelli Menu - click image for larger version

On our visit to the new shop, my wife, Jennifer, and I perused the menu while our sons Ty (6) and Ethan (4) enjoyed their free chocolates. Jennifer got the Sea Salt Caramel Hot Cocoa, which she loved. It was rich and velvety and the touch of salt in the caramel sauce they added only intensified the wonderful chocolate flavor.

For me and the boys, it was the Warm Brownie Sundae. I’ve had it before with Mint Chip ice cream and it was amazing; but this time, Ty and Ethan wanted the normal vanilla ice cream for our two scoops.

Covered in a lava flow of dark chocolate hot fudge (you can choose milk chocolate hot fudge if you’d like) and topped with whipped cream, almonds and a cherry, you almost don’t need the brownie. But who are we kidding here, the brownie’s amazing.

Ghirardelli makes their brownies rich and chewy, like if a normal cake brownie and a luscious piece of fudge had a baby. The warm brownie works so well with the cold ice cream, and when you add a touch of the hot fudge, it’s a trio of wonderfulness. The one sundae was easily enough for the three of us and nobody got too full or didn’t have enough.

Brownie Sundae

Overall

The pricing is very similar to any other Ghirardelli’s we’ve been to, so you won’t be paying the normal theme park premium for the privilege, which was nice. It’s not a cheap sundae, but it’s one of the best you’ve ever had. And the Sea Salt Hot Cocoa was about what you’d pay for a fancy espresso drink at your local Starbucks (which they now also have at DCA, but that’s a whole other review…).

If you’re a lover of chocolate and ice cream, you really can’t go wrong with a stop at the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain & Chocolate Shop. And for my money, Ghirardelli still makes the best chocolate shake in the world. (Their key is using their own chocolate ice cream, not the standard vanilla, and mixing in Ghirardelli chocolate sauce. It’s the most rich and decadent chocolate shake you’ll ever have).

All Disney needs to do now is add an In-N-Out at Disneyland and we’re moving in!

Kent Walker is a lifelong Disney fan from Colorado who grew up in Los Angeles and has visited Disneyland over fifty times. He converted his wife, Jennifer, into being a Disney fanatic, and she loves Disney maybe even more than he does now! His two children, Ty & Ethan, have been to Disneyland a dozen times already – and can’t wait for the next trip. He loves sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge of all things Disney with fellow Disney fans and anyone else who wants to catch the Disney bug. Kent shares his thoughts on music, movies, Disney & more in his blog In Case You Were Wondering.

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11 Comments

  1. Pudge the Fish says:

    “like if a normal cake brownie and a luscious piece of fudge had a baby”

    Funniest thing that I have read today.

    We love Ghirardelli in SF and WDW and we are looking forward to a refreshing dessert there at DCA in August. Thanks for sharing.

  2. AJ says:

    Pudge — I know, right?! I love his writing; so glad he decided to do a guest post for us. Keep me updated on your DCA adventures; I can’t wait to hear about what you find.

  3. Carrie says:

    I am soooooooo excited to finally have a Ghirardelli Soda Fountain less than 3 hours’ drive from my house. One thing I discovered on my first visit that kinda bummed me out and may be of interest to others: This location does not sell jars of Ghirardelli’s fabulous Bittersweet Chocolate Fudge Sauce. So I guess I’ll have to continue schlepping them back to LA from Walt Disney World – boo!

  4. AJ says:

    Carrie — Can you buy them online?

  5. Paula B. says:

    Love Ghirardelli, but we don’t have one near us. When I’m at Disney I may just go for that brownie, especially after the yummy description. What takes a hot fudge sundae over the top, yup, the addition of a brownie. I’d go for the mint chip ice cream, too.

  6. Carrie says:

    @AJ — Well, OK, yeah, but then you have to pay $$$ for shipping! I’m cheap enough that I’ll haul them from Florida instead. :)

  7. Madoka says:

    Thanks for the fun review! We visited the Ghiradelli Soda Fountain in DCA last weekend and were very impressed! We live 45 min south of San Francisco but don’t make it to Fisherman’s Wharf much, so we will probably visit the DCA shop more often than the SF one lol. All of Ghiradelli’s famous ice cream creations can be had here, and if you have an annual pass like we do, the discount actually makes it cost less than at Ghiradelli Square! :)

    The one thing I would highly encourage visitors to do is to spend a few minutes to watch the mural behind the counter. Various parts of it will light up and animate, from the cable cars that come down the street on the left and up the hill on the right, to the gold miner hoping to strike it rich in the river that suddenly lights up with a glittery trail of gold. This animated mural is truly delightful and holds nice surprises worthy of a Disney theme park!

  8. AJ says:

    Carrie — Ba ha ha!!

  9. Janet says:

    The mural only lights up when the “specialty” ice cream sundae is ordered. “The Strike it rich” lights up the miner, “The earthquake” shakes the buildings, “The Cablecar” send the cable car on it’s way, etc.

    We loved the mural, but totally missed out on the interactive portion the first time we were there. Made a special trip to go back & check it out after knowing what we were looking for.

    By the way, the sundaes in the center that light up, are the ones being currently ordered.

  10. Madoka says:

    @Janet – That is really good to know. Thanks for the clarification! I guess we were lucky to see them all in a short span of time.

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