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Review: Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Disneyland’s Downtown Disney

Come with me as we head to the Big Easy – by way of the Downtown Disney District in Disneyland – and experience the party at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen!

View from our Window

Set in the heart of Disneyland’s shopping and entertainment district, the restaurant offers the perfect marriage of “N’awlins” jazz and flavorful Cajun cuisine – the two sensual experiences that put this famous Louisiana city on the map in the first place.

Atmosphere

With a refined decor that is both understated and yet fun at the same time, you will swear that you have been somehow magically transported directly from Anaheim to the heart of the French Quarter. Several dining rooms on two levels of the restaurant surround a vibrant courtyard complete with a fountain!

View of Inner courtyard

The neutral walls in our dining room provided the perfect contrast to crisp white trim at arches, window openings, and crown moulding, and give the restaurant a comfortable, almost residential ambiance. You feel like you’re dining in a well-appointed home.

Table in Dining Room

Table by window

Views from the floor to ceiling windows allow you to keep up with the hustle and bustle outside at Downtown Disney.

View from our table

There are touches of whimsy throughout the space, however, that keep the atmosphere from feeling too stately. Check out these lightcovers, which are actually Mardi Gras umbrellas!

Indoor Table in side room

Another dining room showcases warm murals, depicting the celebration of Mardi Gras. Replete with masked figures and jazz musicians, you can almost see the movement in the fluid painting, set beneath a bright, crescent moon.

Second Dining room

A close up of this light fixture shows the detail on the umbrella and the music notes “spilling out” of it.

Light Fixture

“Understated” would be a good way to describe much of the colorful decor here, however that word definitely doesn’t really apply to the enormous strings of beads in this hallway that leads to the restrooms. Though a little short on subtlety, they were totally fun. (Hey Ralph Brennan’s, I kind of want some of these for my front hallway!)

Bead Decor on Ceiling

Decor

The inner balcony pictured below overlooks the restaurant’s courtyard, which features that bubbling fountain we showed you earlier. The courtyard, with its wrought iron railing and lush landscapes, lends to the authenticity and grand “escape” feeling of this restaurant.

Inner Balcony

Eating on the Balcony

One of our favorite features of the restaurant was the enormous array of varied seating options. We were seated in an upstairs dining room, but tables were to be had on the “jazz balcony” overlooking the hubbub of Downtown Disney, on the courtyard balcony, or in the courtyard itself. There were even cozy places next to the wine cave!

Wine Cave

But now, it’s time to turn our attention to dinner!

Eats

The varied drink menu does The Big Easy proud. Many notable New Orleans favorites are here – with the famous Hurricane at the top of the list – and you’ll find everything in the liquor family, up to and including moonshine!

Jazz Kitchen drink menu cover

Some flavors that the city is known for also pop up in the form of martinis. Here, you’ll find the Bananas Foster rubbing elbows with the Cafe au Lait. There are a few craft beers from Louisiana as well, ranging from the widely available Abita offerings, to lesser known Dixie Lager and Dixie Blackened Voodoo.

Drink Menu - click image for larger version

Drink Menu - click image for larger version

Drink Menu - click image for larger version

We decided to eat our calories, rather than drink them, though. ;-)

We started with the Southern Garlic Cheese Bread. And oh-my-goodness were there some calories in there! But doesn’t it look totally rad?? Well, that’s because IT WAS. Everything that picture is telling you? Ooey, gooey, buttery, garlicky, cheesy goodness? Yes to all of the above!

Southern Garlic Cheese Bread

Cheese Bread Close-Up

The gumbo ya-ya had that gorgeous, mahogany color that tells you the roux has been cooked low and slow, and the dish had just the right amount of kick from the andouille sausage. Overall, this was a fantastic appetizer.

Gumbo Ya-Ya

The candied pecans on the French Quarter salad gave it a fun and unexpected twist. Isn’t it beautiful?

French Quarter Salad

The Bourbon Street Sampler gave us an opportunity to taste several different starters. It proved to be rather mulitcultural (much like NOLA itself!) with the addition of blackened chicken spring rolls, popcorn calamari, coconut shrimp, and a house signature dish, the meatloaf sliders.

Bourbon Street Sampler: popcorn calamari, coconut shrimp, blackened chicken spring rolls, and cajun meatloaf sliders

All of the selections were good and had terrific flavor. The sliders were flavorful, if a tad dry. The glazed coconut shrimp were the standouts here, with unfamiliar, yet very pleasant, flavors.

Cajun Meatloaf Sliders Close-Up

For our entrees, we chose Big Easy takes on some of our favorite dishes. The creamy Blackened Chicken Carbonara is a fantastic Cajun riff on an Italian classic. Ample sauce, rich with egg and cheese, provides the perfect counterpoint to the heat of the blackening seasoning. It’s a match made in heaven.

Blackened Chicken Carbonara

The New York Stip was moist and incredibly flavorful and tender, and was served with a truffle compound butter that pooled on the plate, making for a delicious and satisfying sauce. (Don’t you love when that happens???)

The crisp-tender garlic parmesan frites, another Ralph Brennan’s specialty, were delicious. (I know, you’re already totally jealous of this meal. So am I.)

New York Strip and pommes frites

And you better believe there was no way we were passing up dessert!

We labored long and hard before deciding to skip the traditional bananas foster – flambeed tableside for two! I know, I know — I should have gotten that, too! I saw the set-up for the dessert at a fellow guest’s table and reeeeally wanted it. BUT, we’ll save that for next time.

We went with individual portions instead. First up: the creole red velvet roulade, or as I call it, heaven. I consider this to be one of THE best Disneyland things ever. It’s created by enveloping thick, luscious cream cheese frosting (and plenty of it!) in pliant, flavorful red velvet cake; then the whole thing is served in a pool of cafe-brulot creme anglaise. The dessert is as pretty as it is delicious!

Creole Red Velvet Roulade

We were less jazzed (ha!) by the New Orleans Bread Pudding. Even though it’s the quintessential NOLA dessert, it lacked the flavor that bowled us over with the roulade. Although it was served with a classic creme anglaise, we felt sure it would be vastly improved by a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce a la ‘Ohana. Shoulda got that bananas foster…

New Orleans Bread Pudding

Overall

After hearing mixed reviews from lots of folks, we were pleasantly surprised by our visit to Ralph Brennan’s, and truly liked it a lot!

The decor welcomed us with the casual, elegant, and slightly sassy southern charm that the Crescent City is known for, and it kept our attention with a steady stream of pleasing dishes that were a mix of traditional New Orleans fare and riffs on classics from other cuisine.

If you are in the mood for a fun and relaxing meal while at Disneyland, we encourage you to give Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen a try. And don’t forget to stop for some freshly-made beignets or sno-balls at the kitchen downstairs on your way out! ;-)

What dish from our meal above do you think looks the best? Let us know in the comments below!

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12 Comments

  1. Alan says:

    The steak and frites along with the sampler are making my stomach growl even at 10:30 in the morning. They really should put one in WDW’s Downtown. To me it’s a no brainer. What a great start to rehabilitate that area it would be.

  2. Pudge the Fish says:

    I love Brennan’s, there are some many incredible items on that menu. (It’s what I wish Boatwrights would be at WDW.) Unfortunately I havent had a chance to eat at Brennan’s for table service on the last few trips. However, we usually get to Jazz Kitchen Express at least twice on each vacation. You will need to review the beignets sometime soon. There is nothing that makes me happier than a tidy white paper bag filled with hot fluffy beignets and copious amounts of powdered sugar.

  3. Jeff says:

    For me, this has been Downtown Disney’s Signature restaurant since it’s inception.
    No other spot offers the amazing atmoshere and food combination that Ralphs does.
    As a local, I visit frequently.
    And any rare DLR visitor should not miss this unique Anaheim Downtown Disney Gem!

  4. Wow, that garlic bread looks amazing!

  5. Nate says:

    Deliciousness. One of my favorite things to do is grab a little bread pudding in the bar and listen to some music! Laissez les bons temps rouler!!!

  6. Corey says:

    I love their jambalaya, but I ask for it traditional-style (rice) instead of their normal (spinach noodles).

    While the banana’s foster may be the featured dessert because of the table side preparation, any chocolate lover has to get the double chocolate bread pudding. It’s a chocolate bread pudding cake baked to order (takes 20ish minutes, so plan ahead if you don’t want to linger waiting) and the server breaks and pours in a combination of white and dark chocolate. It is sooooo good.

  7. Katie says:

    I ate here during the D23 Expo last year and it was fantastic! The red velvet dessert looks so amazing. I had the chocolate soufflĂ© when I was there – let me tell you, chocolate glory. :)

  8. Deneice says:

    After living in OC for years & moving away in 2002, it took me until 2011 to finally try this place & could kick myself for never going before. Not sure of they are still doing the dueling pianos on Thursday nights, but that was so much fun. Really trying for a WDW vacation for the first time ever…but if I can’t it’ll be back to Disneyland & back here for sure!

  9. Heidi says:

    This really isn’t a review, but a slick advertisement for/by Ralph Brennan’s. (at one point, it looks like they slipped and said “our dining room”…oops) It’s very nice and informative, but not an honest review that would help me in figuring out where/how to spend my vacation dollars. Thank you.

  10. Heidi says:

    Oops, my apologies. I stopped reading too soon because I actually thought it was an ad. Sorry!

  11. Brent Shepherd says:

    I am insane when it comes to red velvet anything and ordered the dessert mentioned here. My wife had the bread pudding and while the red velvet was fantastic, the bread pudding (I had a couple of bites) was over the moon.

  12. Ashley says:

    Had breakfast on a recent trip at the Jazz Kitchen Express. The French toast was amazing and a hidden gem. They were esentially mini beignet sticks with some cinnamon added into the powdered sugar and maple syrup. Add in a side of bacon to balance out the sweetness and you have yourself a delicious and not at all healthy breakfast.

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