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


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… .


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


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


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


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, 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!

Dining in Disneyland First Look: Starbucks Opens in Downtown Disney!

The walls are down and the doors are open! Disneyland’s Downtown Disney has just welcomed one of the most unique Starbucks stores in the nation.

Downtown Disney Welcomes Starbucks

Downtown Disney Welcomes Starbucks!

This LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certified store is beyond gorgeous.  First off, you may be wondering what LEED is; I myself had to look it up to get some more information.

LEED certification encourages “green” building, using sustainable products in the construction of the building.  It also requires Energy Star performance ratings on appliances, lighting, machinery, etc.

Welcome to Starbucks Anaheim

Hand Painted “Welcome to Starbucks Anaheim, California” Mural

This Starbucks has all that and more. Let’s take a look inside!


Both the interior and exterior of the store are lined with upcycled box car wood.  It has been sanded and stained to a beautiful golden brown color. You can actually see the holes where the bolts originally held the box cars together.

Starbucks Panoramic View

Other design elements include hand painted murals and a tree stump that was cut into a bench for seating.  Starbucks wanted to bring in hand crafted elements that compliment their hand crafted beverages.

Up-cycled Box Car Wood with Hand Painted Murals

Up-cycled Box Car Wood with Hand Painted Murals

More Box Car Wood

More Box Car Wood with Mural

The focal centerpiece of the store is a 9 panel LCD screen that features original content from the areas of the world that Starbucks sources their coffee.

9 Panel LCD Screen Featuring "Water Color" Images of Coffee Resources

9 Panel LCD Screen Featuring “Water Color” Images of Coffee Resources Used by Starbucks

The images have been modified to look as though they are watercolors, and change every minute or so.  The only other Starbucks in the nation to features this same screen is in New York’s Times Square location.

All Content on the LCD Screen is Original to Starbucks.

All Content on the LCD Screen is Original to Starbucks

All Content on the LCD Screen is Original to Starbucks

When designing the store, Starbucks knew that its visitors would be in the area expecting some Disney magic.  Looking to impress guests and spread some of their own pixie dust,  elements were added to this new store that have yet to be introduced to any other Starbucks location.

The main feature is the interactive digital chalkboard.  I immediately noticed this when I walked in the doors.  It does two different things. First, it acts as a drawing board allowing guests to use their fingers to write messages, draw pictures or play a fun game of tic tac toe.

about a game of Tic Tac Toe?

How about a game of Tic Tac Toe?

Of course I couldn’t resist trying it out for myself…

Disney Food Blog Was Here!

Disney Food Blog Was Here!

Second, it creates its own pictures using images it “sees” in front of it.

Sure enough, I watched for a few minutes and I noticed that the man sitting near it was all of a sudden featured in a chalk type drawing right there on the board.  Very cool!

Hey Guy! Look, you're on the screen!

Hey Guy! Look, you’re on the screen!

By the way — it has a disclosure right there on the wall stating that they are using scenes and people in that area of the store to create the unique chalkboard drawings, so you’ve been warned that you might be part of the artwork.

Video Disclosure

Video Disclosure

Above the barista work space, Starbucks has added a light up map featuring locations where they source their coffee.

Light Up Coffee Sourcing Map

Light Up Coffee Sourcing Map


This particular Starbucks has very little indoor seating.  In fact the only seating is really a few small benches and the round stools that can be seen in front of the interactive screen.

Indoor Seating

Indoor Seating

Instead, the seating was designed to be a patio experience; “alfresco” is what I was told specifically. The patio was built around a large pre-existing tree.  Not wanting to uproot this long time resident, Starbucks made it the focal point of the patio.

The seating around it is very inviting.  In fact, if it weren’t for the World of Disney being right next door, you might easily forget that you were just steps away from the Main Gates.  I can definitely see this area being at full capacity most, if not all of the time.  It’s a great spot to take a break.

"Alfresco" Seating

“Alfresco” Seating

Another element unique to this store is the living wall towards the back of the patio.  The wall features 1000 native plants and acts as a backdrop to more patio seating.

Living Wall with Patio Seating

Living Wall with Patio Seating


In addition to their regular beverage menu, this particular Starbucks location has a “Starbucks Reserve”  menu.  They have a special reserve coffee bar that serves up some rare and exotic coffee blends that can not be found at most Starbucks locations.  The Reserve menu changes on a regular basis.

The Starbucks Reserve Coffee Bar: Serving Up Unique & Exotic Blends

The Starbucks Reserve Coffee Bar: Serving Up Unique & Exotic Blends

You can also find the familiar refrigerated cases that serve up prepackaged foods, snacks, bottled water, juice, milk and more.

Starbucks Refrigerator Case

Starbucks Refrigerator Case

Pastries and and treats can be found as well.

Starbucks Pastries

Starbucks Pastries


This location has the typical Starbucks branded gear available for purchase. You can buy coffee, water bottles, cups, mugs, etc.

Starbucks Branded Merchandise

Starbucks Branded Merchandise

They also have a location-specific Orange County mug.

Starbucks Orange County Mug

Starbucks Orange County Mug

I was hoping to see some Starbucks/Disney colab merchandise, but alas it was no where in sight.  I did ask if it was in the works and the answer was, “We aren’t ruling out the possibility.”  So, basically, don’t hold your breath!

Grinds to Go
Reserve coffees can be purchased to take home.

Starbucks Reserve Coffees Available to Take Home

Starbucks Reserve Coffees Available to Take Home

And…. If you need some additional energy to go, you can grab boxes of VIA, tea or coffee to take with you.

VIA, Teas & Coffee for Purchase

VIA, Teas & Coffee for Purchase


Overall, I think that Starbucks did a great job designing a location that fits right in at the Happiest Place on Earth. The design elements are modern and playful, a perfect Disney fit.  I also love that it provides a great little spot for fueling up before a long day in the parks.  It’s also the perfect retreat if you need a break…

Just a few hours in and already a super long line.

Customers Gladly Welcoming Starbucks to Downtown Disney Anaheim

Customers Gladly Welcoming Starbucks to Downtown Disney, Anaheim

Welcome to Downtown Disney, Starbucks!

Have you had a chance to visit the new Starbucks in Downtown Disney?  If so, did you have a favorite design element? Did you try the Reserve coffees or play with the digital chalkboard? 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!

Review: New Limited Time Menu Items at Earl of Sandwich

I have to say, I LOVE my Earl of Sandwich email updates.  And when I got this one, my family and I headed over for dinner that very night!

New Earl ItemsFor a limited time (I’m not sure how limited) Earl of Sandwich is offering 4 new menu items: The BBQ Chicken Sandwich, a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, Bacon Mac n’ Cheese, and Brownie Bark.

These items are currently available in Disney World AND Disneyland, and I’m happy to say that I was able to try out all 4 items and I’m here to report back!


I ordered the BBQ Chicken Sandwich on white bread and thought it was delicious. I almost never ever stray from my favorite, the Holiday Turkey.  While this is on the menu though, I might just have to switch back and forth on alternating visits.

Earl of Sandwich BBQ Chicken

BBQ Chicken Sandwich

The sandwich is full of chicken smothered in sweet BBQ sauce.  It also has red onions, which were not at all overpowering. I normally ask for no or “easy” onions, but I totally forgot when I ordered, and the amount on the sandwich didn’t bother me at all.

Topped with cheddar cheese and a sprinkle of cilantro, I’d love it if this sandwich made its way permanently to the menu.

BBQ Chicken Sandwich Close Up

BBQ Chicken Sandwich Close Up

My husband went with the Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich.  After trying mine, we both realized that the BBQ Chicken was [Read more…]

Dining in Disneyland: Treats at the Jingle Jangle Jamboree

Looking for some fun holiday treats? Look no further, Big Thunder Ranch is currently hosting the Jingle Jangle Jamboree; a one stop shop for fun games, cookie decorating, special snacks & SANTA!

Jingle Jangle Jamboree at Big Thunder Ranch

The menu here is simple, Hot Dogs, Corn on the Cob, “Candy Cane” Cotton Candy, Apple Burritos, Cookie Decorating Kits and various beverages.

Jingle Jamboree Menu

Our visit included the “Candy Cane” Cotton Candy & some Cookie Decorating. Let me break the sad news to you first. The cotton candy here DOES NOT taste like candy canes, it’s just “candy cane striped.” Even the cast member that I bought it from thought that it was peppermint flavored, but alas, that is a rumor. It’s still pretty though!

Candy Cane Cotton Candy on Display

It’s dark and light pink swirled and still


Dining in Disneyland: NEW! Viva Navidad Snack Cart at Disney California Adventure

This year Disney California Adventure is featuring a brand new holiday festival called  Viva Navidad.  It showcases Latino holiday traditions with music, food, and fun!

Viva Navidad!

The colorful celebration has taken over the Paradise Garden area of Disney California Adventure and has some really fabulous food offerings now through January 6, 2014.

I recently visited the new snack cart, which is located just to the left of Goofy’s Sky School.

Viva Navidad Snack Cart

Here you can find a handful of authentic Mexican treats that make for a perfect snack while watching the Viva Navidad Street Party.  The menu features three traditional snacks as well as Abuelita Hot Chocolate, assorted Coca Cola Beverages and some specialty cotton candy.

Viva Navidad Snack Cart Menu

My absolute favorite item were the Bunuelos with Cajeta. I was lucky enough to try these delicious little crisps [Read more…]

News and Review! Holiday Menu Items at Earl of Sandwich

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… I love being on the Earl of Sandwich email list. Not only do you get a free sandwich for your birthday month (which I just redeemed!) but you also get emails letting you know about seasonal specials.

When this one recently arrived, I got pretty excited!

Holiday eats have descended upon Earl of Sandwiches across the country, and I headed into our local Disneyland store to check ‘em out! Note that these are also available at the Walt Disney World Earl of Sandwich!

Holiday Turkey Sandwich

We all know that the Holiday Turkey Sandwich is here to stay as it became a permanent menu item last year. And even though it’s always there, I still get super excited whenever I get a chance to have one.

Piled high with turkey, stuffing, gravy & cranberry sauce, this sandwich is comfort food at its best.  A hand held Thanksgiving meal, the Holiday Turkey Sandwich is toasted to perfection and really can not be beat.

Holiday Turkey Sandwich

Holiday Ham Sandwich

New to the holiday sandwich family this year is the Holiday Ham Sandwich.

With heaps of ham, fresh pineapple rings & a holiday apple glaze type sauce, this sandwich is sure to be a huge hit.  Served warm and toasted just like all of its Earl relatives, the flavors in this new sandwich really pop.

In my opinion, you can’t really go wrong with a pineapple/ham partnership.

Holiday Ham Sandwich

Peppermint Brownies

Peppermint Brownies have also made a comeback.  They taste just as great as they did when they made their debut last year. Chocolate goodness sprinkled with [Read more…]

Dining in Disneyland: 2013 Disneyland Candy Cane Dates!!

It’s about that time of the year! The Christmas decor is being put up around the resort and seasonal treats are starting to surface! Are you craving Hand Made Candy Canes from the Disneyland Resort yet?  Yes? Good! ‘Cause we’ve got the dates!

Not sure what we’re talking about? Check out this post that showcases our first candy cane adventure.

Hand Made Candy Canes from The Candy Palace

Just like last year, Candy Cane making will be alternating between Candy Palace on Main Street USA in Disneyland and Trolley Treats over on Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure.


Technically you are not supposed to line up before park opening, but guess what people do? When I went for the first time, I was lucky and got there just 30 minutes before park opening. But I talked to someone who was there by 4:00am, which to me is nuts. So basically, it’s your call. Last year, the crush wasn’t quite so bad, but you never know what’s going to happen this year.

Wristbands may be picked up at park opening.

I HAVE NOT confirmed this info, but this is how it went down last year:
There will be 40 wristbands per batch and three batches per day.  This means that 120 wristbands will be given out at park opening.

The earlier you are there, the earlier your batch. I HAVE CONFIRMED that [Read more…]

Dining in Disneyland Review: The Market House Reopens as Starbucks!

In “better late than never news” (sorry, I’ve completely lagged on this post), The Market House on Disneyland’s Main Street USA has reopened as Starbucks — and it’s gorgeous!

Market House on Main Street USA

The Market House is the second Starbucks location to open at the Disneyland Resort, following the one inside of Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe.  A third is currently being built in Downtown Disney.

In my opinion, Disney has done a fantastic job at imagineering the themes of Starbucks to fit right in with the resort.  Overall, the Market House has kept much of its quaint decor, but it’s been updated with a larger queue area and more seating.

Market House Starbucks in Disneyland

When you walk up to the Market House, you will notice that the Starbucks signage is very subtle.  In fact some of the windows don’t even have a Starbucks logo.

Market House Window

The windows that do have Starbucks signage are more vintage looking; not the typical obvious green logo that we are used to seeing on every corner.  The window below is near the main entrance of Market House.

Starbucks Logo on the Window of Market House

There are still two entrances to Market House. Below is the back entrance which is also the main exit.  You can see that the Starbucks themeing here, printed coffee [Read more…]

Dining in Disneyland: Oktoberfest Items at Disney California Adventure

Chicken Dance your way over to DCA! As part of their Limited Time Magic promotion, Disney California Adventure is celebrating Oktoberfest with some special items at Bayside Brews.

Bayside Brews in Disney California Adventure

Available through the month of October, the special Oktoberfest items include a Bratwurst Sandwich, Bavarian Pretzels, Gingerbread Bundt Cake, and two specialty beers on tap: Karl Strauss Oktoberfest & Hofbrau Munchen Beer.

The Bratwurst Sausage is served in a garlic brioche with a side of hickory smoked bacon sauerkraut. The sandwich is $8.49 and comes with a choice of apples or potato chips.

Oktoberfest Bratwurst Meal

I have to say, my husband and I were both very surprised how great this meal was for [Read more…]

Dining in Disneyland: The Fried Apple Burrito

RUN, don’t walk, to the Halloween Carnival over at Big Thunder Ranch at Disneyland.

Not for the adorable character meet and greets…

Mickey and Minnie

Not for the amazingly talented pumpkin carvers…

The Amazing Pumpkin Carvers

And not for the toe tappin’ tunes of Billy Hill and the “Haunted” Hillbillies… .

Billy Hill and the "Haunted" Hillbillies

Why do you need to run? Because they have Fried Apple Burritos.

Carnival Treats Menu

Reminiscent of the old school McDonald’s fried apple pies (you know, before they healthy’d em up and started baking them), this super yummy [Read more…]