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!
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.
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!
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.
Views from the floor to ceiling windows allow you to keep up with the hustle and bustle outside at Downtown Disney.
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!
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.
A close up of this light fixture shows the detail on the umbrella and the music notes “spilling out” of it.
“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!)
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.
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!
But now, it’s time to turn our attention to dinner!
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!
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.
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!
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.
The candied pecans on the French Quarter salad gave it a fun and unexpected twist. Isn’t it beautiful?
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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!
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…
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!