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Review: Storytellers Cafe at Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa

I was recently back in Disneyland for a visit, and I couldn’t resist booking lunch at one of my favorite locations, Storytellers Cafe.

storytellers cafe

We visited anticipating a delicious and relaxing experience, as we often have at Storytellers. The fact that I had a mad craving for that Charred Nebraska Corn Chowder and had been dreaming about it was just a happy coincidence. ;-)

Won’t you join us?

Atmosphere

You’ll find Storytellers at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, which certainly lives up to its name. It is simply a gorgeous place to spend some time.

With design that typifies the American Craftsman style, you are surrounded by larger than life, simple warm accents that make grand use of natural materials, like wood and stone. You find the same style carried through Storytellers Cafe.

Fireplace and Atmosphere

Fireplace and Atmosphere

Two major design elements tend to dominate the decor of Storytellers Cafe: you’ll find murals and large paintings covering the walls. Paintings depict…storytelling, of course — featuring classic stories with California as their setting.

One of the Many Large Paintings in Storytellers Cafe

One of the Many Large Paintings in Storytellers Cafe

But you also find ample use of silhouettes in many places throughout the dining space. And check out the beautiful post and beam construction on the ceiling while you’re looking up. (Disney World fans will get a definite Wilderness Lodge vibe from this place!)

Lighting and Ceiling Detail

Lighting and Ceiling Detail

Stained glass with warm swirls of color are a hallmark of Arts and Crafts design, and the stained glass softly filters the indirect light, which provides the perfect backdrop to these working man silhouettes.

And be sure to notice the detail on the hanging lights as well! They’re really something special.

Storytelling Lighting

Storytelling Lighting

Lanterns hung from copper stands distribute light throughout the dining room, and give the sense of bringing the outdoors inside.

Lantern

Lantern

And as is often the case — don’t forget to look down! Even the carpeting conveys the theme and story of this spot with letters and more silhouettes.

Carpet

Carpet

Throughout Storytellers Cafe, the art of storytelling shares the stage with hearty comfort food. Pictures convey tone and mood, but so do words. Quotes are woven into the decor flawlessly.

Blacksmith Motto

Blacksmith Motto

Quotes celebrating the Farm to Table Movement hint that fresh and seasonal ingredients are a hallmark of the restaurant’s menu.

Lighting, Ceiling, and Quote

I Love This Backlit Quote Highlighting Farm to Table Philosophy

Other quotes invite you to relax and sink into the homespun, comfortable environment. This feels less like a restaurant and more like you’re visiting a friend for an intimate luncheon.

Quotes on a Pillar

Quotes on a Pillar

The kitchen is open, allowing you to watch the staff prepare meals.

The buffet is located directly in front of the exhibition kitchen. Guests are invited to enjoy the buffet as an option for both breakfast and dinner, in addition to an a la carte menu. Lunch is strictly an a la carte affair.

Buffet Area

Buffet Area

Seating is mixed, making use of both tables with chairs as well as booths. Chairs are padded and comfortable — check out the backs, which include another use of silhouette. Plenty of natural light floods the room from large floor to ceiling windows.

Table Seating

Table Seating

But you can also choose a cozy, cushioned booth. These are my favorites for the warm lighting along the sides. Looks just like a California sunset, doesn’t it?

Booth Seating

Booth Seating

Now that you’ve had a chance to see a bit of the restaurant, let’s take a look at what’s for lunch.

Eats

Storytellers Cafe serves as the Grand Californian’s casual table service restaurant. As a result, it wears a mixed bag of hats. For breakfast and dinner, guests can choose from either the buffet or an a la carte menu, and breakfast brings a fun bunch of Disney characters as well. Lunch is order-from-the-menu only.

The Story...of the Menu

The Story…of the Menu

And I’m fine with that! The menu happens to make it my favorite meal here!

Begin with a beverage if you like. Most of the drinks are standard Disney offerings.

Beverage Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Beverage Menu — Click to Enlarge

At lunch (as is the case at many Disney restaurants) the menu is a little less formal than dinner. Lighter options, like salads and sandwiches, normally occupy center stage on noon day menus. But you can also still get many of the same items that are available for dinner.

Full Lunch Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Full Lunch Menu — Click to Enlarge

We began by taking a look at the Appetizer Menu. I love how it’s termed “Chapter One — Great Beginnings”! And indeed, the options did sound pretty great. Those Sticky Spare Ribs, which we had enjoyed on our last visit here, were certainly intriguing…

Lunch Menu Appetizers -- Click to Enlarge

Lunch Menu Appetizers — Click to Enlarge

Chapter Two — Entrees, featured a wide array of options. From fish and pasta dishes, to sandwiches and flatbreads, I thought there was an extraordinary variety of offerings. Even common dishes are served with unexpected accompaniments.

Entree Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Entree Menu — Click to Enlarge

Once we had made our selections and our menus were whisked away, our server brought out what we’d been waiting for — a beautiful Bread Basket with Fresh Butter.

Bread Basket and Butter

Bread Basket and Butter

The Corn Muffins in Disneyland (Disneyland corn bread in general) is TO DIE FOR! It’s a bit sweet with a whole lot of flavor! (Oh, I’m sorry. Was there other bread here? I didn’t realize.)

Bread Basket -- Up Close

Bread Basket — Up Close

The Butter serving was so generous that I didn’t have to arm wrestle for my share or request more. :-)

Butter -- Up Close

Butter — Up Close

Aaaaaand, back to the cornbread. As you can see from the distinct lack of crumminess on the plate, they weren’t dry at all. YUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

Corn Muffin -- Inside

Corn Muffin — Inside

Next, our appetizers arrived. My husband, as he is apt to do, went with a salad to start. But what a salad! The Mixed Greens Salad comes with Cheddar Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Toasted Pine Nuts. It’s tossed in a low fat Dijon Vinaigrette.

You can actually get it in an appetizer or entree sized-portion, and I definitely think you could make a meal out of this one. With the colors and all the interesting ingredients, this was a really gorgeous salad.

Mixed Greens Salad

Mixed Greens Salad

And while other starters called to me briefly, there was no escaping the draw of one of my absolute favorite dishes here, the Charred Nebraska Corn Chowder.

Charred Nebraska Corn Chowder

Charred Nebraska Corn Chowder

Much like the Mixed Greens Salad, this soup could easily enough be overlooked on the menu as just another corn chowder. But please. Do not make that mistake. It is outrageously good.

Because it’s not just a corn and potato amalgam, ready to fill you up with cheap ingredients. This should stick to your ribs. It’s filled with big pieces of Chicken, as well as hearty portions of Bacon. There’s also a bit of Cilantro in there, normally. (I, of course, go cilantro-less when I order it.)

Charred Nebraska Corn Chowder -- REALLY Up Close

Charred Nebraska Corn Chowder — REALLY Up Close

Really, you could order this soup and that bread basket, and call this meal Game Over. It’s so filling, and it’s that delicious. (And if I’ve inspired cravings with my raptures — I know I have here! — check out this recipe we have with step-by-step instructions for making it at home!)

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

But of course — we didn’t! We just had to get a few more things to try. All in the name of research.

My husband went with the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. It just sounded like the best Grilled Cheese in the world!

Grilled Chicken Sandwich -- Cross Section

Grilled Chicken Sandwich — Cross Section

In this case, a grilled Chicken Breast is sliced lengthwise so it’s a little thinner. It’s then piled high with Caramelized Onions, Jack Cheese, and fresh-sliced Tomatoes.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich -- Up Close

Grilled Chicken Sandwich — Up Close

Now, normally when you see a menu item that starts with “Grilled Chicken”, they mean the chicken, right? Well, maybe that’s the reference here…but actually, I think it’s referencing the sandwich, which arrives all grilled-cheese-slash-panini-like at your table.

And it’s served on Garlic Bread! Are you kidding me? This was definitely another case of the food being way more incredible than the modest menu might indicate.

And as you can see, the juiciness of that lean, white meat chicken has not suffered via the grilling process.

Grilled Chicken Sandwich -- Inside

Grilled Chicken Sandwich — Inside

He definitely enjoyed this simple, hearty sandwich.

Me? I was feeling a cheeseburger craving coming on, so I went with Half-Pound Char-Broiled Burger. Did you notice how the menu just said burger, without indicating what kind? That’s because you can actually choose from Beef, Turkey, or Veggie! Pretty cool, I think.

But you know me — I went with Beef!

Half Pound Char-Broiled Burger -- Up Close

Half Pound Char-Broiled Burger and Fries

As you can see, the burger is, well, substantial. And that’s definitely real Cheddar Cheese there. It’s served on a “Harvest Bun”. I have no idea what that means, but it was definitely delicious, all toasted and buttery.

This is a good time to mention that both of our sandwiches came with our choice of French Fries or Fresh Fruit. We both went with the fries, which were crisp-tender perfection.

Half Pound Char-Broiled Burger -- Up Close

Half Pound Char-Broiled Burger — Up Close

As for the burger, like everything else, it was perfect, and big enough to share.

We were certainly satisfied with our meals, but we couldn’t resist taking a peek at the Dessert Menu. And I’m so glad we did. Items here, once again, might not be shockingly original or new, but everything sounded delicious, and we wanted to see how they treated some of these classic dishes.

Dessert Menu -- Click to Enlarge

Dessert Menu — Click to Enlarge

Besides, there was no way I was passing up the opportunity to order the Seasonal Cobbler again.

Seasonal Cobbler -- Up Close

Seasonal Cobbler

So glad it was Apple!

This may sound like “So what? Big deal? What’s so great about apple?” But this quite an excellent cobbler!

It arrives to your table, all warm, with the melty Vanilla Ice Cream dripping down the sides. And it’s good that they put it on a plate to catch all of the Sauce and ice cream.

Seasonal Cobbler

Seasonal Cobbler — Another Angle

Up close, you can see how beautiful it is. The Sweet Dough Biscuit on top is the perfect way to soak up all of those juices and apple-y goodness.

Seasonal Cobbler -- Inside

Seasonal Cobbler — Inside

But we also opted to try the Warm Chocolate Brownie, which also served topped with Ice Cream, in addition to Chocolate Sauce.

Brownie Topped with Ice Cream

Brownie Topped with Ice Cream

There was also a drizzle of Vanilla Sauce, which was quite lost with the ice cream on top. (The cobbler had the Vanilla Sauce, too, in addition to a Caramel Sauce. They do love their sauces here, just like meeeeee.)

Brownie

Brownie In Its Ooey Gooey Goodness

And this was the best kind of brownie — that perfect cross between cakey and fudgy. It was definitely the case of a classic executed perfectly.

Brownie -- Up Close

Brownie — Up Close

It’s desserts like these that make me wonder why we mess with hoity-toity flavors at all? I mean, what can top either of these incredible desserts? But, you know I’ve always been a comfort food dessert type of person, right?

Overall

Modest. If I had to use one word to describe Storytellers Cafe, that’s what it would be. Modest in its comfortable setting and menu descriptions. From classic decor recalling some of the most beautiful design movements of our recent past, to simple dishes embracing whole foods and perfect flavors, I can’t say enough good about this restaurant.

And this makes our third stellar trip to Storytellers, so we can add Consistent to our list of accolades — and really, there’s no higher praise when it comes to Dining in Disney!

If you have occasion to take in a meal at Storytellers Cafe, please, do. Definitely good enough to leave the park for!

Have you dined at Storytellers Cafe in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa? What’s your favorite dish? Share below in the comments!

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7 Comments

  1. spencer says:

    Had to try the Robusto Flatbread, potatoes on a pizza had me beyond intrigued. It was exceptionally tasty and worked incredibly well. I would have a hard time not getting it again because it was such an unexpected treat.

    We had an interesting experience, and it was almost dead at lunch and we were there for a slow relaxing meal. Our waiter kept apologizing about the wait and disappearing for a longer than normal period of time. We eventually got the entire meal free, which was incredibly odd. We were happy with the pacing, food and service. Breaks from the park are great when you have a baby. Tried to pay for it and was rebuffed, other than the flatbread this was memory that sticks.

  2. Greg says:

    We are staying at the GC in 2 weeks. We will definitely be checking this place out!

  3. Essie says:

    I’ve never been to the DLR, but this looks like one cool restaurant. I love the comfy decor and the food looks very good like home cooking. Thanks for a great review and photos.

  4. Lisa says:

    Thanks for the memories! I haven’t been in more than 6 years since I moved away from So Cal. Storytellers was definitely a must stop when visiting Disney. So easy to get to midday when the parks were so crowded, and lunch, because it wasn’t a buffet, usually didn’t have as much of a wait as breakfast especially. I often did make a meal just from the bread and corn chowder, which was my favorite thing there. That is saying a lot since I am lactose intolerant and don’t really like creamy soups at all. But once I had a taste of my husband’s chowder, I was hooked, and it was well worth risking my tolerance with the help of a lactose supplement. Such deep flavor and so filling! Once when we stayed at the hotel, I ordered it late at night from room service, yum! I might try the recipe, thanks for including the link. For now, that will be as close as I’ll get to having this soup for a while. I hope I can get back there soon.

  5. Lollie says:

    My husband and I are lucky enough to visit DLR once or twice a month. Storyteller’s is our favorite restaurant. We usually eat breakfast or dinner there and I don’t know that we have ever had lunch. I can tell you we are going on Monday and I know where we are going to be eating lunch at! The Grand Californian is an awesome hotel to check out even if you aren’t going into the parks. They offer a free tour of the hotel, pointing out all the different styles and artists. You can do the tour and eat lunch at Storytellers :)

  6. Angelina says:

    @Lollie-do you have to be a guest of the hotel to go on that tour or is it open to the public? I’d love to go and learn more about it as I will unfortunately probably never get to stay there but always make it a point to visit. It is soooo beautiful!!

  7. Lollie says:

    No, Angelina, you do not have to be a guest it is open to the public. I would call the hotel directly and ask which days they are now doing the tours. You can read more about it here: http://disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2010/08/art-of-the-craft-tour-an-insiders-look-at-the-influences-for-disneys-grand-californian-hotel-spa/

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