Okay. So I tried to come up with the Top Three Disneyland Restaurants for First Timers. But there was no way I could limit my picks to just three. So then, I said, hey, let’s try for the Top Five.
So in the end, I cut myself off at Eight. 🙂
There is so much good food in Disneyland. Really, it was super hard not to just give you a list of pretty much every restaurant there, and call it a day.
But if you must narrow it down, these are the restaurants that I love. These are the spots that I’d go to every single time if I could. (And mostly, I do.)
Heading to Disneyland, or just dreaming about a pilgrimage there? Check out my picks for the places you have to visit during your very first trip. Whether you’re looking for a meal or a snack, you can’t go wrong with putting these spots on your list.
If I could only eat at one spot in Disneyland for the rest of my life, I’m fairly sure that spot would be Cafe Orleans. Located on New Orleans Square, it’s offers some of the beautiful patio seating that Disneyland is known for.
But I’m going to be honest — Cafe Orleans claims the distinction of offering not just one or two, but three of my favorite Disneyland dishes. (And that’s pretty much all I ever eat there.) First, when you visit here, I insist you order the Pommes Frites. Tossed with Garlic and Parmesan, they’re served with a Cajun Remoulade ramekin. I also insist you order TWO remoulades. At least. Per person.
While I love their gumbo here as well, it’s the Monte Cristo Sandwich that I can’t live without. Pockets of bread layered with Ham, Turkey, and Swiss Cheese are lightly battered and deep-fried. Served with Berry Puree for dipping, this is pretty much something everyone should eat at least once in life.
Not a meat-eater? There’s also an All-Cheese Version. No. Seriously. There is.
Behold. The Three-Cheese Monte Cristo. Did I mention the Double Creme Brie?
But save room for dessert — because you can’t pass on the Mickey Beignets served with Dipping Sauces.
Have this meal just once, and you can say “I’ve been to Disneyland” properly as far as I’m concerned.
But Cafe Orleans has an older, slightly more posh sister — Blue Bayou. And while I usually skip it in favor of Cafe Orleans, if you’re visiting the ‘Land for the first time, you really need to experience this place.
Because more than anything, Blue Bayou is an experience; it’s as much an attraction as a restaurant.
Because the restaurant is fashioned to look like a verandah on a river’s edge. Look below you into the water, and you see travelers, en route to explore the mysteries of the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Honestly, the food is less important here to me than the “view.” I have enjoyed the New Orleans Signature Gumbo. And in this setting, it’s even better.
And yep, to be honest, I like to order the Monte Cristo here, too!
It’s a little fancier (and more expensive), but just as delicious.
Some of my Disneyland dining choices are obviously sentimental; either I love the restaurant, the food, or both. But it’s not like they’re the tip-top of the culinary pyramid or anything. But then, there’s Napa Rose.
Nestled inside Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, Napa Rose stands as a testament to fine California fusion cuisine, inspired by fresh farm-to-market ingredients.
Chef Andrew Sutton is in charge here, and his menus make use of the freshest items. Prepare to be dazzled by the dishes set before you!
Whether you opt for dinner in the relaxed but beautiful dining room, or choose to make a special occasion of it by indulging in the Chef’s Counter, a meal at Napa Rose is an experience to savor.
Corn Dog Castle
From the heights of gastronomic evolution — to one of the best junk foods that I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. Our next spot to visit is Corn Dog Castle in Disney California Adventure.
I know. The juxtaposition can be a little dizzying. But while this is plain fun-fair food, there’s nothing common about it. Because the dogs that they serve are Hand Dipped Corn Dogs. And if you’ve never had this, the real deal, then you are SUPER missing out.
But here’s the even cooler part — if you don’t like corn dogs, they have a couple of other hand dipped options. Some like it hot, and that’s when I recommend the mouth-watering (and maybe a little eye-watering, too) Hand Dipped Hot Link. This one packs a spicy punch — have that water ready!
Not so much a fan of the meat? Then try their Hand Dipped Cheddar Cheese Stick.
Personally, I have a tough time deciding between the three!
If I had to give an overarching theme to the food you find in Disneyland, it would have to be that it is, well, kind of a cut above. Even counter service food doesn’t seem like fast food. And one great example of that fact is the buffet-but-still-counter service fare you enjoy at Plaza Inn.
To begin, the restaurant, which dates back to Disneyland’s earliest days, boasts an ornate interior, replete with crystal chandeliers, gingerbread trim, and velvet.
Breakfast boasts a Character Dining Experience with Minnie Mouse, and you can enjoy plenty of hearty, traditional breakfast options from the buffet, with wait staff assisting you at your table with beverages.
But it’s Lunch and Dinner that I really love here. Choose from beloved house specialties like Pot Roast. Or go for their amazing (and ridiculously huge!) Fried Chicken Platter!
It’s big enough to share, so plan accordingly! Or, you know, don’t.
Cozy Cone Motel
Next on the list, I think any Disneyland First Timer must — must — visit Cars Land in Disney California Adventure. And while you’re there, you might as well grab a bit to eat. And the Cozy Cone Motel is a great place to do it. (Yes, I love Flo’s V-8 Cafe, too, but there’s something so kitschy about getting your eats from a giant road cone.)
Mostly, Cozy Cone is another snack stop, although their Bread Cone assortment would certainly qualify as a meal. But you’re here for the amazing themeing, first and foremost. Bringing Cars to life in the real world was a daunting feat, and Disney has accomplished it extraordinarily.
But then, the food! I fell in love with their Cones early on.
Don’t forget their breakfast cones!!
And Churro Bites with Dipping Sauces are hard to beat.
And intriguing Flavored Popcorn (folks love the Dill Pickle) and fun drinks like Ramone’s Pear of Dice Soda are too awesome to pass up.
Which Cone will you be stopping by on your first visit?
Tiki Juice Bar
And then, there’s the Tiki Juice Bar. If a trip to Disneyland is a pilgrimage of sorts, then the Tiki Juice Bar is one of the shrines at which you must pay homage.
It’s not that this is the “original” or anything. Actually, it’s one of those times when Dole’s partnership with Disney landed a treat in both Disneyland and Disney World at the same time. Still. There’s just something super fun about a Dole Whip in Disneyland.
Awh, who am I kidding? There are two reasons that this is a must-stop spot. And they are 1) Cherries; and 2) Umbrellas. East Coast Disney folk have been super jealous of these cute little details for…well, ever, actually.
So it is practically required that you enjoy a Dole Whip Float with these embellishments. I swear, I don’t know how, but they make them taste better. 😉
Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar
Speaking of Tiki Culture, there’s one newer place at Disneyland that has firmly established itself in the list of spots ya gotta try the first time out. I’m talking about Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in Disneyland Hotel.
As one of my friends put it succinctly, it’s “the best of the Jungle Cruise, Adventurers Club, and Tiki Room rolled into a liquor license.” I couldn’t agree more.
With hundreds of wonders and wares covering every available space — souvenirs from Trader Sam’s five decades of exploration — you’ll never get to the end of the detail here. So take in some, plan for a return trip to see some more, and settle down to choose your poison.
Because there has never been a more fun drink menu. Anywhere. Ever.
Witness the beauty and majesty of the Uh Oa! (I hope you brought a friend along.)
But there’s some truly delicious food too! For a little taste of lots of things, try the Pu-Pu Platter.
Or the burger. Sometimes it has pineapples.
And if you’ve still got room for more food after all of that — well, I’m speechless.
There is so much good, great, awesome eats at Disneyland, it’s hard to narrow it down. Here’s hoping that I’ve given you a jump off point for planning a truly delicious trip to one of my favorite spots to eat on earth!
Now I wanna hear from you guys! If you’re helping someone plan a first trip to Disneyland, what are your top spots that they must eat? Weigh in with your suggestions in comments below!
Ashley W says
My mouth is literally watering. I’ve added all of these places on to the list for our first trip to DL in June.
Beth K says
I’m so excited about this list! We’ve started planning our honeymoon trip to Disneyland which will also be our first time going to Disneyland. We already have Blue Bayou on our list for eats!
I’ve wanted to go to Disneyland for quite some time, but haven’t made it out to California yet. This post practically begs me to make reservations!!! Since I live in Florida, I get to go to WDW quite often, but I’ll make it to California yet. Thank you for this post. Quite enjoyable and informative. And btw, A.J., my family now uses the phrase “plastic cheese” with regularity.
Gabrielle Kowalewski says
SO weird! Just messaged you asking for a list review of Disney World restaurants for first time adults!
I agree with most of your list, except for Cafe Orleans and possibly Cozy Cone. Cafe Orleans used to be a must-dine location for us, but the last time we went, our Monte Cristos were over-battered and over-fried, making them taste more like an oily mess. They’ve also drastically reduced the amount of raspberry sauce, and the fruit was pretty gross. So, off the list they come.
We had Cozy Cone for breakfast once, and it was pretty underwhelming. My bacon and egg cone had like one strip of bacon, and the eggs tasted very much like fake eggs. So we won’t be returning there, I don’t think.
I would add Rancho del Zocalo to your list. We’ve always had nice meals there, fairly flavorful and tasty.
I wholeheartedly agree with Napa Rose. The food and atmosphere are so much more pleasant for adult dining than the declining Steakhouse 55. (I see that you did not include Carthay Circle, which also failed to impress us.)
In today’s food blog you mentioned the beignets from Cafe Orleans. My wife and I were there just about 2 months ago and at your previous suggestion, we got a small package of the beignets. Our conclusion: They were horrible. It was a total mistake to have thought we could get a treat like these at Disneyland. After the first bite, we realized we had made a mistake.
Fried Green Tomato Sandwich at the Hungry Bear (plus great location for relaxing.) Flo’s pies in DCA. World of Color dining package (lunch) at Wine Country Trattoria. Chef Cookie’s Deep Dish or the S’mores bake at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ. Cove Bar (fish tacos are gone but seafood nachos are good) at DCA.
We are going for the first time in 2016. Can’t wait to try the pommes frites! I also look forward to eating at Napa Rose and Blue Bayou as well. Thanks for the suggestions!!!
If Blue Bayou is too busy then be sure to he’d over to the French Market!
Some of the long time customers aren’t happy with the menu changes but I have met a newcomer yet that didn’t think the food was great!
Also, it’s easy to get into and out of and you get to hear great live jazz music!!!
i never miss eating at Cathay Circle. Gorgeous inside. Fabulous wine list. Great food. I have never had a bad bite.
i ALWAYS eat at cafe Orleans. For the fries and beignets too!!! No matter how long my trip is one of my dining reservations if for this place. And I’ll be there Saturday!!!
Definitely blu bayou and tiki juice bar. Maybe starring rolls? That’s my favorite place to get yummy cupcakes. 🙂
I’d love to see the DLR someday and I’d def visit the Jolly Holiday. One thing on your list that I would def get would be the Monte Cristo. It’s very hard to find where I live and the one place that I know of that does have it, does not make it correctly. I’ve had them twice in my life and they were an extraordinary treat (although not something I’d have often!).
I agree with the Monte Cristo, Dole Whip, Corn Dog Castle, (Huge favorite) The bread bowls at The Galley in Disneyland, or in California Adventure are a Must Have! The character breakfast at the Plaza Inn is awesome….the buffet is wonderful, and the characters come to your table many times and interact…it’s a well worth it, memorable experience. We had two teens and a preschooler and all three loved it. We do it every year now!!!
Rancho del Zocalo with its cheese enchiladas outside at night by the heat lamps, surrounded by vibrant flowering bushes, gorgeous lanterns glowing overhead and the Big Thunder mountain railroad pulling into the station nearby: that’s my can’t-be-missed dining spot at disneyland!
Second place: Fried Green Tomato sandwiches and sweet potato fries on the Hungry Bear’s top deck — toward the back where our girls can conveniently and happily wave at both those passing by on the Disneyland Railroad and those river cruisers on the Mark Twain.
Other favorites: Mickey pancakes outside at the Riverbelle, the Nawlins salad at the French Market and for something sweet: a coconut macaroon AND a Mickey’s premium on the porch at the Jolly Holiday Bakery!
Kelly M says
Arrrrrggghhhh!!! I was a first timer last September and didnt get to the vast majority of these! (was my first time in California so we tried to fit as much as we could)
We aimed for Cafe Orleans on our last day, it was Dapper Day and the first day of Halloween overlays…. Cafe Orleans was SO busy.
But also, I was in love with the simplicity of a Jolly Holiday Combo followed by a Matterhorn Macaroon while gazing at the castle by then.
Oh well, nothing for it, I simply have to go back!
Marie B says
Enjoying a Dole Whip while watching the show in the Tiki room is definitely a must do, especially when it’s hot. We often pick up our beignets at the julep bar and grab a couple of mint juleps while we’re at it; then we settle down to eat them on the veranda while listening to live Jazz.
Our favorite spots for a meal in Disneyland are the Hungry Bear (fried green tomato sandwich with sweet potato fries) and Rancho del Zocolo for fajitas (huge plates of good food for a great price). I can’t wait to try some of the new food at the Harbor Galley too.
A trip to California Adventure is never complete without a trip to the Lucky Fortune Cookery and the Boudin cafe next to it. Plenty of delicious food for a decent price, and you won’t walk away hungry or disappointed with the taste.
We’re heading to Disneyland for our first ever trip, and I’m happy to see that restaurants I was considering are on this list! And I can’t BELIEVE that you get those cute umbrellas & a cherry with your Dole Whip out there! We don’t get those in Florida….
Well, we have a go to spot at Disneyland for when we are really, really hungry (lunch) and everyone beat us to all of the good spots.
We head over to Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port and get a side salad along with a slice of Venus Vegetarian pizza!
They have plenty of seating and it’s always easy to get in!
We also love the food options at Disneyland. They have the best counter service in comparison to options at Magic Kingdom. Our must eat options include:
Cafe Orleans – We buy a few things and share (French Onion Soup, Pommes Frites, La Salade de Maison and Three-Cheese Monte Cristo)
Carnation Cafe used to be a favorite with the Green Chili Cheeseburger, but it was removed from menu. If we do go I love the (Fried pickles, Baked Potato Soup and Special)
Jolly Holiday Bakery for soup and salad
Rancho del Zocalo for Red Chile Enchilada Platter or fish tacos
We always grab a Mint Julep and beignets at Mint Julep Bar (they have seasonal flavors sometimes that are so good – Pumpkin!)
I am a popcorn lover so I always have some and the flavored kind at Cozy Cone Motel are the best.
Flo’s V-8 Cafe Breakfast cannot be beat. The Chicken Tamale Breakfast and the Brioche French Toast are delicious
Paradise Garden Grill is so yummy with Mediterranean Skewers where you pick your meat and sauce. They also have special food at different times of year. During the holidays we had the Mexican food and it was wonderful.
Storyteller’s Cafe – Charred Nebraska Corn Chowder and Los Angeles Farmers’ Market Field Greens
White Water Snacks has nachos that I dream about. You pick whether you have chicken, shredded beef or both
Downtown Disney has some amazing food as well.
Naples has the best pizza I have had in a long time
Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen – Southern Garlic Cheese Bread, Popcorn Calamari and BBQ Shrimp & Grits
You know what would be great? An alternate restaurant list!
This would be a selection of places to eat that aren’t necessarily ‘prime’ places but have good food and are reasonably close to the preferred eating places.
It might be worthwhile for DL or DCA but it would really shine for WDW!
Richard — Does this fit the bill? http://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2013/05/16/the-most-popular-disney-restaurants-and-alternatives-when-theyre-full/
Thanks AJ, that’s right on the mark!!!
This list had many of my favorites but it is impossible to create a one size fits all list IMO. Some were great adult options like Trader Sams and Napa Rose but then I would add Carthay and Alfresco Tasting Terrace as well. For kids friendly Storytellers and the Big Thunder Ranch could be added to your list as well. Totally agree on the corn dogs but I think all three locations are the same quality, 2 locations in Disneyland and the 1 mentioned in DCA. Now I’m hungry. I agree with you that there are many good food options available which go well beyond the typical park foods; burger, chicken strips and pizza.
Jonni Dee says
Napa Rose has been our “special occasion” restaurant since it opened. That is, until Carthay Circle opened. They share the same executive chef, so you can’t go wrong with either. We love the atmosphere, menu and martinis at Carthay, and the wine list and seasonal menu at Napa. I do recommend reservations, and for Blue Bayou, as well. If it’s really warm out, we love the Alfresco Tasting Terrace at CA and the delicious white sangria, on their summer menu. I dream of that, and would LOVE the recipe! Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney is another favorite. You can grab a high-top in the bar and enjoy dinner, and the band, often without having to wait for a table. It is a really fun night. The previously mentioned corn dogs have been written up in foodie magazines, they are THAT good. Also for quick lunch in DL, we like Pizza Port for their pizza salad, the chicken alfredo fusilli, it’s all good. And we love the Rancho Del Zocolo for enchiladas, and also their chicken tacos. I’m a little surprised that the Bengal BBQ walk-up over in Adventureland hasn’t been mentioned. It’s delicious, and “clean eating” for those concerned about calories. You can get either chicken or beef grilled brochettes as well as grilled veggie brochettes, and grilled asparagus. Super tasty, and easy on the waistline. It’s a little salty, so make sure to drink water. We love the beignets and the Monte Cristos, as mentioned above. The one thing I always get at the resort, is a frozen banana. They are the best anywhere. Super frozen.
When I was a kid we went to Disneyland all the time when visiting family in Southern California. I remember my older cousin pointing out the Blue Bayou to me while we waited in line for Pirates, and telling me that it was a VERY fancy and VERY expensive restaurant. Ever since, I’ve dreamed of eating there. I’m so excited that we will do so this May, for my 35th birthday trip!
Liz — That’s SUCH a cool story! Have the BEST time and Happy Early Birthday!!
My daughter was just there this summer and always eats at her favorite places, Cozy Cone and Cafe Orleans are just a couple of her favorite. She was really disappointed to find out that the Cozy Cone no longer serves breakfast, she loved the eggs in then when we where there in 2013. My son’s favorite is Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante!
My two personal favorite in Disneyland is the French Market, almost the entire menu is fantastic, and the atmosphere is unbeatable when there is a live jazz band playing.
My favorite in DCA has to be Flo’s. The seating in the back facing RSR is just the perfect place to enjoy a surprisingly quiet meal.
I also love Ariel’s Grotto, sometimes I dream about those lobster nachos.
Great list though, although I’m not a huge fan of the Monte Cristo, a little much for me.
I love Monte Cristo sandwiches! That being said I had to try the one at the Cafe Orleans and to say I was disappointed is an understatement. Wayyyy to much breading. I would say 90% of the sandwich is breading that is heavily deep fried on the outside. It tasted mostly of oil. The inside has a small amount of ham and cheese. It was one of the worst Monte Cristo sandwiches I had ever had. Most of it was left on the plate when I was done. The fries we ordered were lukewarm and the service was so so. We have not wanted to return after that bad experience. Also just FYI. I have an autistic son who will only eat chicken tenders and fries or pizza whenever we go out to eat (very picky eater). Made reservations at the Blue Bayou restaurant and when we sat down to look over the menu, very surprised to see that they do not have any of those food items on the menu or on a kids menu. We had to leave without ordering. So if you have a child who is a picky eater, be careful about dining at the Blue Bayou. Best place we all liked so far is Flo’s Cafe in Cars Land. They even have a few vegetarian choices.
Thanks so much for this great information!! My fiance and I are spending part of our honeymoon in Disneyland in May, so now I have to figure out how to fit Cafe Orleans, Trader Sam’s, the churros at the Cozy Cone, a Dole Whip, and a dining package into a two-day trip! Hmmm… 🙂
Mallory — We are so glad we could help! Congratulations and enjoy your trip! 😀
Beth W. says
My family and I are headed to Disneyland for the first time this Christmas! It has always been our “bucket list dream” to wake up on Christmas morning at a Disney Park, and what better one to celebrate the holiday in than the original! I’m looking forward to trying all of these wonderful treats!
Great list, we’ve been countless times for the past 10 years and I haven’t tried some if these. Definitely putting them on my list. The Mickey Beignets are a must EVERY time. When they make them hot and fresh, nothing compares for hitting that sweet spot.
The Plaza Inn’s fried chicken is good (and not a bad deal considering how much you get), but fried chicken is not a favorite of mine and everything else I’ve had there in the last year or so there has seemed sub-par either on taste, price, portion size, or all three. If you (or your kids) would get a big kick out of meeting “Minnie”, then I’ve heard their breakfast is good, but at (I think) $34 for adults it’s quite pricy.
I would recommend either Rancho del Zocalo (if you like Mexican food) or Carnation Cafe (if you don’t like Mexican food) over Plaza Inn any day.
Rebecca B. says
You’ve definitely found the best of Disneyland and California Adventure! I REALLY enjoyed your article after reading dozens of others! Now onto the more important point, WHEN did you travel?! I’m sure you are an AP holder but tell me your secret of the best time to go! lol I’ve never seen the Tiki Juice Bar with no line! :o) Every picture has tables open too! SUPER jealous! <3
Best place ever
i have to go
the best times to go are when the kids are in school, check the Anaheim school district’s web page for the school calendar; the very worst times are on holidays, (all), I think, but especially Christmas, thanksgiving, and when there are “parties” after hours, like Mickey’s not so scary halloween party, which are all a shame, cause they are also times when the park is the most decorated, it is absolutely stunning but packed @ Christmas and super-cute @ halloween , I’ve never been @ easter, so someone else will hopefully to advise on that
el zocalo is definitely the best bargain in the park, great food and low prices, and great atmosphere, I love the jazz kitchen’s bread pudding, and usually have that for breakfast holds me well through lunch, til dinner if I have a churro, which I love, but aren’t exactly waist=line friendly (my husband says the ten second” rule”(where all the calories fall out if it hits the floor applies while you’re in the park, because all the walking balances it all out, but I’m mostly in a wheelchair now(arthritis in my back severely limits my mobility), so that rule no longer applies to me, sadly
For the most part your suggestions make sense. We made the mistake of ordering the greasier items at Blue Bayou, but the experience is truly unique. The character breakfast at Plaza Inn is really fun with the kids, but I have to disagree with you on the chicken. The lunch and dinner items are all the quality of the old time cafeteria that your parents (if you are old) or your grandparent (if you are young) used to eat at every sunday. Nothing unique or particularly good about the food. Cafe Orleans is a MUCH better option. Even the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café directly across the road has tastier food options, even if the fare is mostly sandwiches and salads. I would add that our family favorite is to pick up beignets at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen® Express and lattes at Starbucks on the way to the main gate.
Susan Cirner says
Why did they stop selling Monte Cristo sandwiches at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World? That was always our first stop when we entered the park.
Do you have any updates for 2021, especially at the holidays? We are not really first-timers, but it has been six years since our last visit.
DFB Sarah says
Jeff, I’ll let the team know you’re looking for something like this. 🙂
I agree with Jeff. We’re getting ready to have our first trip to Disneyland in 2023, and it would be lovely to have an update. 🙂
GL Josh says
I would agree with Jeff and Becky, plus I have a late 2023 trip to DL/DCA.