the disney food blog Rotating Header Image

Dining in Disneyland: Dinner and Updated Menu Review at Ariel’s Grotto in Disney California Adventure

It has been just over a year since I’ve visited Ariel’s Grotto at Disney California Adventure. On past visits I’ve found the food just so-so. Not bad, not fabulous, but obviously it took me a year to head back… .

Because I chose to to stay away for quite some time, I was not aware that their menu had a major overhaul just about a year ago! So, on that last visit I must have just barely missed the changes.  Anyhow, I’m back and happy to report that the new menu items are actually quite fabulous! And I apologize up front for the photos. My camera died, it was dark, and all I had was my phone.  Next time I promise to be more prepared!

Ariel's Grotto

Ariel’s Grotto

Now, I know many people go to Ariel’s Grotto for the princesses, but please note that the princesses ARE NOT there during dinner service.  They are only there for breakfast and lunch, so if it’s princesses you’re looking for, make sure to dine early.

We made a reservation through Disney dining (714.781.DINE) to hold our spot for dinner, which I highly recommend. It gets very busy in the evening due to the fact that dinner includes preferred viewing to World of Color.  After dinner, you will be handed one ticket per diner, which will allow you to have a fabulous view of the show.

World of Color Tickets

World of Color Tickets

Atmosphere

When you enter Ariel’s, you descend a spiral staircase into the entryway and dining room area. Be sure to check out the bubbly chandeliers on your way!

View from entryway

Chandelier in entryway

The dining room has a great view of Paradise Pier, and “under the sea” touches can be found everywhere — including the walls!

Ground floor restaurant entrance

Wall mosaic mural

One of the restaurant chandeliers

Ceiling Decor

Once you’re seated, you’ll quickly launch into your meal… .

Eats

Now, on to the food! The menu was previously designed as family style appetizers, you choose an entree, then family style dessert.  You can read more about the old way  here.

Now, everyone orders everything individually. You choose an appetizer, entree, and the dessert is a fixed trio of treats, but it is served individually.  The current menu features soup or salad, 6 different entrees, and the dessert trio.  The dinner menu is a fixed price of $41.99 for adults (over 9 years old) and $19.99 for children under 10.

Ariel's Grotto Menu

Ariel’s Grotto Menu

The Kids’ Menu includes fresh fruit and veggies as an appetizer, 4 different entree options, and dessert.  Unfortunately, my growing every minute boys don’t order off of the kids menu any more…  And bummer, because I was really pushing them towards Ursula’s Octo-Dog!

Two of the four items on the Kids’ Menu are Mickey Check items, which means they are “healthier” choices.

Kids Menu

Ariel’s Grotto Kids’ Menu

Bread Service

Dinner starts with a basket of warm sourdough bread. It’s very tasty, but I do miss the trio of salted butter & dipping sauces from the old menu.

Hot Sourdough Bread

Hot Sourdough Bread

Dinner Salad & Soup

Upon ordering you choose whether you’d like soup or a dinner salad.  Soup options were Crab Chowder or Butternut Squash Bisque.  I’m a huge butternut squash lover so I didn’t think twice about my order. But since my kids didn’t want their soup or salad, we were able to sample both soups and the salad! Thanks, guys!

The bisque was lick your bowl (or at least mop it up with a piece of bread) good.  Fall flavors in Spring are A-OK with me! The bisque is thick, creamy, and topped with a swirl of sour cream & a sprinkle of pepitas.

Butternut Squash Bisque

Butternut Squash Bisque

The Crab Chowder was also a hit at the table. My husband — who normally isn’t a seafood chowder person — really enjoyed it. The Crab Chowder came topped with bacon and chives.

Crab Chowder

Crab Chowder

The Dinner Salad consisted of mixed greens, candied walnuts, pears, and blue cheese topped with a vinaigrette dressing.  Also, very good, but I’m a huge blue cheese & pear fan.  If this isn’t your thing, you can order the salad to your liking without the goodies!

Dinner Salad

Dinner Salad

Entrees

The menu at Ariel’s Grotto has six entrees to choose from.  Unfortunately everyone but me chose the same thing, so I don’t have a lot of entree photos to share.  Let’s start with my entree, the Citrus Glazed Chicken Breast.

Served in a bowl with Udon Noodles, Bok Choy, Edamame, Carrots, and Miso Broth this dish is such a great addition to the new (to me) menu.  I thought it was unique and very flavorful.

The noodles were cooked perfectly as was the chicken, very juicy.  The Miso Broth complemented the chicken very well.  After my last visit I went in with some low-ish expectations and was quite surprised by how good this dish was.

Glazed Citrus Chicken

Glazed Citrus Chicken

Everyone else at the table opted for the Red Oak Smoked Honey-Whiskey Barbecue Tri-Tip.  My boys were very happy to learn that they could substitute the mashed potatoes for french fries.

 Tri Tip & French Fries

Tri Tip & French Fries

The two grown-up boys (aka my husband and a friend of ours) at the table went for the Grilled Lobster Tail and Red Oak Smoked Honey-Whiskey Barbecue Tri-Tip which is served with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.  The portions were very generous and everyone cleared their plates.

Lobster Tail & Tri Tip

Lobster Tail & Tri Tip

 Dessert

The dessert trio features 3 mini desserts. Everyone receives the same dessert which includes a Chocolate Covered StrawberryS’mores Bar & Creme Brulee.

The Chocolate Covered Strawberry was sweet & juicy. They are smaller versions of the ones that are sold at Candy Palace and Marceline’s.  The S’mores Bar was the table favorite; a chocolate ganache filled crust topped with 3 dollops of chocolate mousse, a graham cracker, and toasted marshmallow.  The Creme Brulee was actually a little runny.  It tasted OK, but the other two items trumped the brulee by far!

Dessert Trio

Dessert Trio

Drinks

Because the Cove Bar is right there at Ariel’s Grotto, the restaurant serves up a full bar plus specialty drinks.

Drink Menu

Drink Menu

We sampled a few adult beverages including the Skinny Coconut Mojito and the Habanero Lime Margarita.  The mojito was SO delicious.  One of those, “Are you sure there’s alcohol in this?” types of drinks. Way too easy to drink.  Ingredients include Skinny Girl Island Coconut Vodka, coconut water, fresh lime juice, mint and agave nectar.

Skinny Coconut Lime Mojito

Skinny Coconut Lime Mojito

The Habanero Lime Margarita had some serious kick to it.  Ingredients include Patron Silver Tequila, habanero lime syrup, agave nectar, and fresh lime juice.  Interesting to taste but be prepared for a little burn!

Habanero Lime Margarita

Habanero Lime Margarita

Overall

Overall, I am 100% impressed with the change of menu at Ariel’s Grotto. I felt like the food was more flavorful and there was a more interesting variety of entrees. The soups and salad were great and the dessert was also a big improvement.

In addition to the food upgrades, I noticed a difference in service. My last visit was rather sluggish and unimpressive.  This visit started off a bit slow, but once we ordered, our server was fabulous and very attentive.

I really think that Ariel’s Grotto has brought itself up to par with the other table service restaurants in Disney California Adventure. I might even go as far to say that it’s one of the better dining options in the park (ranking just below Corn Dog Castle, 1901, and Carthay Circle, ha!).  I would definitely recommend a visit, especially if you are interested in seeing World of Color. It’s a great meal, plus you get the added bonus of preferred viewing – win win!

Have you been to Ariel’s Grotto for dinner since the menu change?  What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Heather Sievers is the Disney Food Blog’s Dining in Disneyland columnist. See more of her columns here!

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

16 Comments

  1. Roth says:

    Ariel’s is usually my go-to WoC meal at DCA. We were disappointed that it turned into an all-day character meal following the re-grand opening of DCA but were happy to find that the WoC packages were back for our visits last Oct and Nov. I do miss the cioppino, though.

  2. Miles says:

    That habanero lime margarita is on the drink menu at many of the restaurants at WDW as well. I can confirm that it is very spicy and acidic. If you don’t like that strong, burning sensation, you don’t enjoy the margarita. I’m a spicy-kind-of-guy and it wasn’t my forte. I prefer my margaritas to be smooth and slightly tart.

  3. Heather Sievers says:

    @Roth – I was happy too!

    @Miles – Our friend ordered and finished TWO of them! Too spicy for me.

  4. Aimee says:

    I completely agree with this review! I hadn’t been for a long time and was unaware of the menu changes until I decided to visit last time. I went for lunch, had a lovely visit with the Princesses, had GREAT table service from our waitress, and the food was excellent. For the entertainment, service, and quality of food, it’s definitely worth the fixed price. I’d recommend it to anyone.

  5. Heather Sievers says:

    @Aimee – I think it’s a great value too. And if you want to see princesses it’s definitely the perfect spot without having to wait in line for hours!

  6. Jennie B says:

    Do you need to have a ticket to California Adventure to have breakfast at Ariel’s grotto?

  7. Yvonne says:

    @ Jennie Yes u do have to purchase a day/ hopper/annual in order to go into Ariel’s Grotto.

  8. Christina says:

    Hi there!

    We’re thinking of a WOC dinner on a upcoming trip end of July. Does the pre-fixe price include appetizer, entree and dessert plus non-alcoholic beverages? I really wanted to do Carthay Circle but we’ll have two picky eaters with us including a 13 year old first time Disney-er so thinking Ariel’s Grotto may be better bet? And, where exactly are the “preferred” WOC viewing areas vs say the fast pass viewing or general viewing area? (Furst time to DCA since 2005 so trying to plan this out! Thanks!!

  9. Heather Sievers says:

    @Christina – Yes, it does include all of those things. With picky eaters, I’d definitely go with Ariel’s Grotto. I’m not exactly sure where the World of Color FP area is for the show. But if you don’t do the dining package or a FP, I know it will be nuts on a summer July night.

  10. Christina says:

    Thanks @Heather! Reservations are made for the WOC dinner at Ariel’s Grotto. Hoping this will be magical for everyone!!

  11. Heather Sievers says:

    @Christina – Great! Let us know how it goes!

  12. Amanda says:

    Hi there! Does anyone know if Disneyland also has a fireworks & dine package like Adventureland does?

  13. Heather Sievers says:

    @Amanda – They don’t have one for fireworks at Disneyland, only for World of Color at Disney California Adventure. You can buy reserved seating for Fantasmic though and they allow you to stay in your seats for fireworks. Details here: http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2010/09/29/guest-review-disneylands-fantasmic-premium-viewing-dessert-package/

  14. Tania says:

    Hi, love the review! I am thinking of making a reservation to have dinner here with my husband but there is something that isnt clear to me and I hope you can help :) … So do I have to make the reservations to dine for the time the WOC is going on (do we view from the restaurant) OR do we eat (make the reservation) for any time and then go where to view the show?

    Thanks!

  15. Heather Sievers says:

    @Tania – You can dine whenever you’d like and they give you World of Color fast passes to view the show (not from the restaurant). So for example, if you have a 5:00 dinner reservation, you go back later to watch the show from a designated viewing spot.

  16. Elaine says:

    Does anyone know what the kids get (specifically) for an appetizer & dessert? The main dishes look terrible ( this new menu might be better for adults, but I’m thinking the old menu was better for kids over three). I know I’m going to have to shell out the cash to meet the princesses either way, but I’m realy worried that my daughter might hate the food enough to not have a good time. I read the appetizer was fruit and vegetables, but are we talking just carrot sticks and grapes, or something better? I also read that kids get different desserts. Does anyone know what those are? Sounds nit-picky, I know, but I also know she won’t like the main dish, and I’m hoping we can slide by with the rest of the food. If anyone knows, It would be a great help, thanks!

Leave a Reply

Current month ye@r day *