We are heading into Carthay Circle Restaurant today for dinner with a healthy dose of Old Hollywood glamour!
Located on the newly re-imagined Buena Vista Street at the entrance of Disney California Adventure, this is one majestic building. Let’s head in!
If there is one word that I would use to describe Carthay Circle as I approach, it would be impressive. Disney is in the business of re-creating scenes from film, as well as re-imagining the past and forging the future. And once more, they’ve done an excellent job.
I mean, I’ve seen Carthay’s likeness so many times. There’s a gorgeous mural inside Hollywood and Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios depicting the night that Snow White premiered at the famed Tinseltown icon. You’ll find an old framed print of the theatre in one of my favorite Studios haunts, Writer’s Stop (home of the famous carrot cake cookie.) You can also spy it in the relief work of the Studios arch, and there’s a mini version on Hollywood Boulevard, doubling as a gift shop. (For more info, check out this great post.)
It’s clear that Carthay Circle holds a special place in the hearts of the Imagineering team. And since we’ll never have the chance to venture into the original theatre, it’s a joy to see it so lovingly recreated as part of the DCA overhaul.
Two sets of double doors greet you at the entrance of the building. The mirrored doors are great!
Don’t forget — this is a replica of an old Hollywood movie theatre. So naturally, you’ll find ticket windows on either side of the doors. I think it’s fun to see the scale here, don’t you?
A plaque reminds you of just why Carthay holds such an important place in Disney history.
And be sure, if you have the chance, to swing by here at night — if for no other reason than to see this gorgeous view.
Don’t worry! Helpful Cast Members are there to show you the way.
Carthay Circle Restaurant is actually located on the second floor of the building. As you enter, you find yourself in the check in area. Upon confirming your table, you’ll bide your time in a spacious and comfortable waiting area.
Spend some time taking in the beautiful decor here, as well as all the fun memorabilia. There are tons and tons of photographs and other fascinating pieces. Be sure to check out the collection of Snow White animated cels that are said to have hung in Walt Disney’s home.
Or you can step into the Carthay Circle Lounge, and enjoy a cocktail before heading upstairs.
I won’t go into too much detail here about the Carthay Circle Lounge, since I have my own review of the spot coming up soon. But I will say that this is one of my favorite spots for a quick and delicious dinner — no reservation required!
After a short wait, we headed upstairs. You can choose to take the steps or elevator, or course. Once upstairs, you’ll traverse a short hallway that’s lined with more vintage pictures.
What a completely gorgeous place! While the rest of the building tends to be a little dark and heavy, the skylights within the Carthay tower allow for a good amount of natural light to complement the space. During the daytime, at least.
Take in the heavy, Spanish Colonial Revival style that continues inside. The chandeliers are simply stunning, as are the murals, which depict pastoral settings from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Large and small details abound. This retro corner-style table holds a secret.
Check out the intricate wood grain, and you just might find the likeness of an Evil Queen hiding there.
There are lots of different seating arrangements here. You’ve seen a bit of the main dining room already. You can also sit on one of two terraces overlooking Buena Vista Street — always a nice option for enjoying the beautiful California weather.
And in true Hollywood style, there are also a four private dining rooms, which accommodate parties of various sizes.
The Hollywood Room, the largest of the four private dining areas, will seat up to 20 guests.
Pretty swanky, eh?
The smaller Hyperion and Buena Vista Rooms will hold 5 guests each.
And in the category of just-the-right-size, the Premiere Room seats 14. I think I want to have my next birthday party here! Who’s in?
We were seated in the back dining room, however. Beautiful and comfortable, but not as spectacular as some of the other options.
And if you love wine, you’ll have plenty to choose from, of course.
Now that you know the lay of the land, let’s check out the food.
Chef Andrew Sutton of Napa Rose fame helms the kitchen here at Carthay as well. And while Carthay Circle’s emphasis is on seasonal California cuisine just like Napa Rose, the influence at Carthay is more Southern California.
I began with a non-alcoholic pink lemonade. Pretty standard.
We made our selections, and soon it was time to dig into some bread. The fresh Sourdough is served at room temperature with Unsalted Butter.
The bread was fine, but we definitely wanted to try a few of the house specialties. We started with one of the signature items — Carthay House Biscuits. They look innocent enough, but just wait.
First off, these puppies are fried instead of baked. And inside, you’ll find a stuffing of White Cheddar, Bacon, and Jalapeño. Seriously.
To complement the bite from the cheddar and pepper, as well as the salt of the bacon, the biscuits come with a rich Apricot Honey Butter.
These were good, but, sadly, they weren’t as good as they sound.
Next, we couldn’t pass up the Fire Cracker Duck Wings. The Asian-inspired sauce, made with uber spicy Sriracha Chili Sauce, glazes the deep-fried wings, and imparts a sweet-spicy kick. Unfortunately, I forgot to tell them to leave the Cilantro in the kitchen.
Even so, these were the hit of the meal. I kind of wish I’d just ordered two of these instead of an entree!
My husband decided to try a pasta offering, and went with the Strozzapreti Pasta. Pretty impressive-sounding, huh? Well, it really only refers to the pasta shape. The dish itself included a hearty sauce of Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Pancetta, and Rapini, among other things.
Being the consummate red meat fan that I am, I chose the only steak on the menu. The steak was fine, but not earth-shattering. The Red Flame Grape Sauce was certainly unique.
Up to this point, I’ll be honest, we weren’t completely thrilled with our meals. But there was still dessert! Maybe it would be the turning point — the star of this show?
With a positive attitude, we requested to see the dessert menu.
But to be frank, none of the selections sounded all that amazing. Still, we decided to try a few.
I went with the Toasted Lemon Pound Cake with Marinated Blueberries.
So…kudos for the schmeer of Lemon Curd Cream, which was the absolute best part. That much I appreciated. But the rest of it fell flat for me. Maybe I’m more of a cheesecake/ice cream kind of person versus a pound cake kind of person. I will say that many of my signature dining experiences have left me unimpressed with dessert, so perhaps Carthay just falls into that category.
The Warm Strawberry Rhubarb “Pie” seemed a little more promising. The flavors and textures were good, but I didn’t see anything which warranted the price tag in terms of quality or quantity.
Feeling largely underwhelmed by our dining experience, we headed out.
And that’s the best that I can say about Carthay Circle Restaurant. Our experience here was largely disappointing. Our service was far slower than we wanted it to be, and we weren’t impressed with our meal. Our desserts were a dud, so we couldn’t even end on the high note I’d hoped for.
While the restaurant itself is really lovely, I was disappointed to have been sat in a “back dining room.” I would have much preferred the main dining room, or even (especially!) one of the small private dining rooms.
I’m hoping we experienced an off night and that our next visit to Carthay will live up to our expectations. There’s huge potential here after all, in terms of menu and setting.
Have you dined at Carthay Circle Restaurant? What are your impressions of this fine dining spot?