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!

Carthay Circle Restaurant Update: Food Pictures and Reservations Available

The Carthay Circle Restaurant will be opening in Disney California Adventure on June 15th, 2012, and you can now make reservations!

And, remember — guests dining at Carthay Circle Restaurant are eligible for complimentary, center-stage viewing for “World of Color.” See details at the end of the post!


The story of the restaurant is set in 1937, on the evening “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” premiered at Carthay Circle Theater! The menu will reflect this time period — with a modern twist, of course! You can see some gorgeous photos of the outside of the restaurant here.

Developed by Executive Chef Andrew Sutton from Napa Rose, and executed by Chef de Cuisine Gloria Tae — also from Napa Rose — the menu will reflect seasonal flavors and Southern California cuisine.

Carthay Circle Seating

Carthay Circle Lounge

What I love is that there will be, essentially, two public dining options at Carthay Circle: a Carthay Circle Lounge downstairs, serving quick meals, shared plates, wine, craft beer, or handcrafted seltzer sodas with muddled fruit; and the larger restaurant upstairs, which will be taking reservations.

This way, if you just need a bite to eat but would like to relax in a more upscale environment (or if junior has finally decided to nap and you need to be somewhere somewhat quiet and air conditioned for a while), you can simply walk into the Carthay Circle Lounge for tapas and a great drink.

The Lounge menu is divided into Bites, Rolls, Snacks, Small Plates, and Finger Desserts, served in a place to “relax, share and have fun,” Chef Sutton says. Tastes range from hot shrimp with a chilled spicy tomato shooter to duck confit sliders with apricot conserve, watercress, crisp onions, and Taleggio cheese.

Lobster Pad Thai Imperial Roll

If you’d like a longer, larger meal, plan on heading upstairs to the Restaurant!

Halibut Ceviche with Green Tomatillo Salsa and Plaintain Chips

Carthay Circle Restaurant

And you can take a peek at the decor of the restaurant here. It’s upscale, yet still comfortable.

But guests will definitely be made to feel special: “Upon arrival, guests are greeted downstairs and escorted up the graceful staircase or by elevator to the restaurant,” says Joy Cushing, restaurant manager. Wow; sounds very [Read more…]

Dining in Disneyland: How They Make World of Color Caramel Apples

Dining in Disneyland columnist, Heather Sievers, walks us through what goes into making one of those beautiful World of Color caramel apples in Disneyland! Oh, and she samples one on our behalf as well ;-)

If you read my posts regularly, you know I am a sucker for Marceline’s in Downtown Disney.  That giant candy kitchen window is my favorite thing to check when I go to the parks.  You never know what they will be making.  I’ve seen everything from cupcakes to chocolate dipped strawberries, and just about every type of Disney caramel apple they make.  Yet, I had never seen them making the World of Color apples until just this past week.  And, until I did, I had no idea what an art form making one of these little beauties was.

Perhaps the Most Beautiful Treat on Earth!

The first thing I noticed was that there is a “full-time” marshmallow cutter. Disneyland uses large, Kraft Jet Puffed Marshmallows for the ears on all of their [Read more…]

World of Color Lunch Package at Wine Country Trattoria Announced

Disney's California Adventure's World of Color Show (c) Disney

While the Wine Country Trattoria and Ariel’s Grotto World of Color Dinner Packages have been popular, Disney California Adventure is now introducing a the Prix Fixe Lunch package at Wine Country Trattoria (see our dinner review here!)! By booking ahead, you and your guests will receive reserved viewing for Disney’s World of Color — the new nighttime [Read more…]

Disneyland’s World of Color Picnic Review: The All American Picnic

This summer, Disney California Adventure in Disneyland Resort premiered its new nighttime spectacular — World of Color. Because they knew demand for viewing would be high, they also announced World of Color Dining Packages and World of Color Picnics that guests could book ahead of time to lock in their viewing spot!

Heather Sievers, the multi-talented inventor of Time Out Spots AND our Disneyland correspondent and food expert, got the chance to try out the World of Color picnic recently! Here’s her review…

Since we like to explore all Disney dining options, and my family had already done the World of Color Premium Dining at Ariel’s Grotto, our next step was to check out the World of Color Picnic Meals.

Picnic Specifics
I have to say for the price, you really can not go wrong. Picnic meals can be ordered one to 30 days in advance. You must order them online and then pick up your “voucher” at the main entrance ticket booths. Meals are just $12.99 for annual pass holders and $14.99 without a pass (still a bargain!) and must be picked up just around the corner from the Wine Country Trattoria. There are a handful of options, but in our case, we ordered “All Americans” all around.

World of Color Picnic Options -- Click for Larger Version

The “All American” Picnic includes:
Cold-honey stung fried chicken
Green and red cabbage cole slaw with apple cider dressing
Old fashioned potato salad with [Read more…]

Disney Food Pics of the Week

We’re starting a new series here at the Disney Food Blog highlighting some of the amazing photography submitted to our Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza Flickr Group!

This week, we’re taking a look at some sweet treats, close up!

First up, you can find these familiar treats at the Candy Palace in Disneyland. That famous mouse is coming in all shapes and sizes these days… . Photographer: Michael Greening

Disneyland Mickey Truffles

These World of Color rainbow apples are new to Disneyland, commemorating the brand new nightly water and color extravaganza! Photographer: Kierstin

World of Color Apples in Disneyland

A favorite sweet treat for those of us who can’t get enough of Peanut Butter and Chocolate — two great tastes that taste great together! This is the classic No Way Jose sundae at Beaches and Cream. Photographer: Angela Sledz

Beaches and Cream No Way Jose Sundae

All images are copyrighted to their photographers. Do not download or re-use without photographer permission.

Guest Review: World of Color Dining Package at Ariel’s Grotto

Here’s how lucky I am:
1.) I was traversing facebook the other day and randomly found Heather Sievers, who just happens to be a Disney food expert;
2.) Heather and her family also just happened to have a reservation for the World of Color prix fixe dinner at Ariel’s Grotto a couple of days later; and
3.) Heather generously put together this awesome blog about her experience.
Lucky, right? I know. Seriously, I should play the lottery.
(By the way, Heather is the brilliant inventor of Time Out Spots. Don’t know what they are? Check ‘em out! Personally, I like the t-shirts.)

July 18, 2010: Born and raised in Orange County, California, I’ve been lucky enough to have had regular visits to Disneyland since my first time on my 5th birthday. Over 15 years ago, my boyfriend (now husband) bought me my first annual pass for Christmas. We’ve renewed over & over and two kids later, our family has never skipped a year.

This means we’ve been closely watching the construction of World of Color since the Paradise Pier Lagoon was emptied nearly a year and a half ago. I knew I wanted to see the show as soon as possible, but I also knew that it would be nearly impossible to get near it…. Fans of all food Disney, I knew they had to have some dinners lined up that would include reserved seating for the show. So what did I do? I called Disney Dining every single day for about 6 weeks straight to ask about it. I know a bit extreme, but guess what? I got my reservation the DAY they started taking them.

Genie at World of Color

We all know that the show opened on June 11, 2010, but we had company coming the following week that wanted to join us, so I waited out one week and made the reservation for Friday, June 18th. (I’m sure you are thinking, “get to the food part, get to the food part;” I promise I am almost there.) My options for in-restaurant dining were [Read more…]

Disney Food Post Round-Up: June 13, 2010

Wow! Lots of Disney food news popping up this week! Here are few of our favorite stories:

Also, I want to remind you to check out two new Disney Food Blog additions:

  • Our Disney Food Blog newsletter is ready to go — sign up here to have fun Disney Food news, info, tips, and photos to be delivered to your inbox straight from DBF headquarters!
  • The Disney Food Blog Photo Extravaganza flickr group is up and running! If you’re a flickr member, come join us and add your pics to the pool!

And now — on to the round-up!

Laura and Jeanine’s Salute to All things Disney but Mostly Disneyland has a great look at some of the World of Color picnic options.

Touring Plans Blog has an awesome post about dining in Disney with special diet needs.

The Disney Chick makes sweet bread from Kona Cafe in Disney’s Polynesian Resort!

The “World” According to Jack takes us to Tokyo Disneyland’s Club 33!!! It KILLS me that there are no food pics in this post, Jack. ;-)

Zannaland has her interview of Raglan Road’s Chef Kevin Dundon up this week!

Disney Every Day reviews Disney World’s House of Blues! Yum!

Main St Gazette heads to the Studio Catering Company in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

DF ’82 shares the menu from Hakuna Matata counter-service restaurant in Disneyland Paris. Frites Hakuna, anyone?

Chip and Co features their favorite Quick Service locations in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Disney Parks Blog showcases the opening of Disney California Adventure’s Wine Country Trattoria.

Also, check out a couple of guest blog posts I did this week (about Disney Food, of course!). Thanks to Anna and Grey for their hospitality:

Cookie Madness allowed me to showcase my amateur baking skills on this Artist Point Berry Cobbler!

Solo Friendly let me create an itinerary for my dream day traveling solo to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival!

Finally, I know it’s NOT Disney, but…it’s cool…

Scott Joseph Orlando reviews The Three Broomsticks in Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Disney Food Post Round-Up: June 6th, 2010

Marble Cupcake at Starring rolls Cafe

Some interesting Disney food news “bites” to start the round-up this week:

Now, here we go to the Disney Food Round-up for this week! Thanks for all the great posts!

Thanks to About.com Theme Parks who let me contribute my suggestions to the favorite Disneyland Restaurants list! Much appreciated!

Thanks to Cupcakes Take the Cake who featured and linked to my post about Animal Kingdom’s Zebra Cupcakes! You guys are the best (psst…even the New York Times says so!)

Spirited Remix blogs about drinking around the world, specifically at San Angel Inn, Coral Reef, and Citricos!

Main Street Gazette chimes in this week with a tribute to funnel cake!

ChipandCo spotlights some Tinkerbell Cupcakes!

Disney Every Day has a sneak peek into California Grill’s Napa Room. Mommy Musings coupled her Napa Room food pics with some great shots of the Main Street Electrical Parade float preview! Thanks for the insights, ladies!

Sweet P Cupcakes has some adorable “Mickey Parts” treats showcased on their blog.

Illuminating Epcot has the Le Cellier mushroom risotto recipe highlighted this week. Yummo!

Zannaland shares her review of the Raglan Road Tables in Wonderland dinner.

OC Register’s Fast Food Maven has news of a new Sports-themed restaurant opening near Disneyland.

A Taste of Disney has put together a recipe video for Liberty Tree Tavern’s Pot Roast!

Fun World of Color Dining Treats

Food Featured at Disneyland Resort's World of Color

In addition to the World of Color Dining Packages and Picnic Meals, guests will also get to experience edible color in other ways!

Spectrum Splash: Beverages in light-up souvenir glasses with a colorful choice of flavors –- strawberry red, blueberry blue, or sour Granny Smith apple green.

World of Color Specialty Drinks

Light-Up Cotton Candy: White cotton candy with a colorful swirl, on an illuminated wand that lights the cotton candy from inside.

Light Up Cotton Candy

Multi-Colored & Flavored Popcorn: A delicious treat that comes in three flavors – red cherry, blueberry and purple grape – and mixed in with regular kettle corn, all served in a Disney California Adventure see-through “World of Color” souvenir popcorn bucket.

Tropical Mist Cocktail (for adults): It’s a passion fruit and mango liqueur with coconut rum – and a light-up swizzle stick. Available at the Cove Bar and Ariel’s Grotto restaurant.

Sounds awesome to me!

Images/Source: Disney