The 12 Best Restaurants at Disneyland's California Adventure Park (Slideshow)
April 6, 2016
Dining at this Disney Park is certainly an adventure, with a variety of cuisines, settings, & price ranges from which to choose
#12 Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill
If you crave some spice with your meal, your table service options are somewhat limited, but Cocina Cucamonga Mexican Grill is available as a quick-service spot. Its south-of-the-border standards include fire-grilled chicken, carne asada or chicken tamales, and burritos or soft tacos with beef or chicken, all for under $15. There are also three salad selections: chicken Caesar, fajita with chicken, and fajita with beef. Cocina Cucamonga is also a solid spot for a cerveza, and Rita’s Baja Blenders is nearby if you want to grab an ice-cold margarita to go with your Mexican fare. Of course, dining on the shaded patio is a must.
#11 Paradise Garden Grill
Sometimes a meal loaded with carbs or one that is a bit on the greasy side might not be the best idea before hopping on the various rides, but you still gotta eat, right? Stop over at Paradise Pier’s Paradise Garden Grill for one of its guilt-free skewers — grilled steak, grilled tofu and vegetable, lemon oregano chicken, or spicy meatball — served with rice pilaf, cucumber salad, pita bread, and chile, chimichurri, or tzatziki sauce for $12-13. There’s even a dessert skewer with brownie, strawberry, caramel, chocolate, and mini marshmallows (and probably a bit of guilt).
#10 Cozy Cone Motel
The Cozy Cone Motel might look like the lodging place of a construction worker, but the five tall construction cone kiosks in Cars Land actually offer treats — with a different type for each cone. The first offers bite-sized churros, the second has soft-serve ice cream, the third is for chili (con queso or verde, both served in bread cones), the fourth has pretzels and twists, and the last one pushes popcorn. Our pick? Number four, since it has the best non-alcoholic drink in the entire park: Red’s Apple Freeze. If you’ve ever wanted to drink a caramel apple (or suddenly want to now), then this is the beverage for you.
#9 Corn Dog Castle
If you’ve been to Disneyland’s other California location, Disneyland Park, you probably know that one of the longest lines can be found at the corn dog cart at the end of Main Street. But were you aware that the same perfect concoction of cornmeal batter and hot dog meat can be had at the California Adventure Park — and with less waiting? Just swing by the quick-service Corn Dog Castle at Paradise Pier, throw down $8, and choose between the original and hot-link corn dogs, both of which are served with sliced apples or potato chips.
#8 Flo’s V8 Café
If you think the neon-lighted, retro drive-in known as Flo’s V8 Café serves only hamburgers and fries, then you’ve got another think coming. The lunch and dinner menus actually have roast beef and Cheddar or turkey dip sandwiches, rotisserie quarter chickens, and barbecue pork ribs (all under $12), with nary a burger in sight. However, the best item at Flo’s isn’t served in the afternoon or evening. At breakfast, pass on the traditional breakfast plate and chicken tamales, and order the brioche French toast instead. It costs $8 and is baked and served with salted caramel sauce and bananas… and we’re guessing that’s all we need to say on the topic. If you really desire a classic drive-in treat, ask for a vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or Neapolitan milkshake — all of which are topped with edible “road gravel” candy pieces. Sit outside on the back patio and you’ll catch a glimpse of the Radiator Springs Racers zooming by.
#7 Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop
For the record, there are four locations at California Adventure Park that mainly serve ice cream: Clarabelle’s, the Cozy Cone Motel’s cone #2, Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company, and the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain. As you can tell by the heading, we prefer the last one, because Ghirardelli. This a company that knows how to make a good shake (in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, mint, sea salt caramel, and sea salt caramel banana varieties), float, hot cocoa, waffle cone, chocolate-dipped waffle bowl, and sundae. Oh, how we love the sundaes. Although the cookie bits, brownie, sea salt caramel, and banana split options are enticing, we’d recommend the “Earthquake Family Favorite.” This feast is fit for a family (or one really, really hungry person) and comes with eight scoops of ice cream (in 13 different flavors) eight toppings (13 options), and is topped with fresh bananas, whipped cream, chopped almonds, chocolate, and cherries for a whopping $38 (the normal sizes cost about $10). We hope you’re done with rides for the day.
#6 Pacific Wharf Café
Soup isn’t a food item we often single out for praise, but at the Pacific Wharf Café, it’s a must. It doesn’t really matter which type of soup you order — clam chowder, Dungeness crab corn chowder, broccoli and cheese, or the seasonal specialty — as long as it comes in one of the delightful sourdough bread bowls. The bowls are courtesy of San Francisco legend Boudin Bakery, from a secret family recipe that has been closely guarded since 1849. Not feeling like soup when it’s 80-plus degrees outside? No sweat. Go with the turkey pesto club (served on a sourdough baguette!), Chinese chicken salad, or chicken, apple, and walnut salad instead. Order inside the quick-service joint, and then enjoy your meal (for $11 or less) out on the dock overlooking Paradise Bay.
#5 Ariel’s Grotto
Looking to rub elbows with the elite of Disney (and by that we mean the costumed characters)? Drop into Ariel’s Grotto at Paradise Pier during breakfast or lunch, where Ariel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella regularly appear to sign autographs and pose for photos during meals. Speaking of meals, for breakfast, guests can choose from a selection of pastries and fresh fruit along with an entrée of their choice, including a spinach-artichoke and egg white frittata, fresh berry Belgian waffle, or honey-whiskey barbecue tri-tip with eggs, hash browns, and muesli. Lunch or dinner starts with a soup or salad followed by roasted chicken, grilled lobster tail salad, or sautéed shrimp and angel hair pasta. If it’s a nice day, guests can opt for outdoor patio seating, which offers a fantastic view of the World of Color event — however, that must be booked as a separate package.
#4 Alfresco Tasting Terrace
One of the best ways to take advantage of the pro-alcohol policy at Disneyland California Adventure is to dine with wine at the Alfresco Tasting Terrace. As the name suggests, the table service spot is indeed located on terrace, which happens to be above the Wine Country Trattoria, overlooking Cars Land. The outdoor space features sofas and tables (and heaters when it gets chilly) underneath wooden pergolas strewn with white lights, where guests have the option to sip from almost two dozen California wines, available by the glass ($9-23) or bottle ($39-110). Can’t decide? Try a wine flight with three different varieties ($18-25) and pair it with a Caprese salad, bruschetta, beef tenderloin sliders, or charcuterie and cheese board.
#3 Cove Bar
Yes, the Cove Bar is a bar, but it also has some enticing eats. And although the specialty artisan pizza, spinach and artichoke drip, and tri-tip sliders are delicious, the lobster nachos are the real star of the show. Tender lobster pieces are piled onto house-made corn chips, black beans, and pico de gallo, and drizzled with chipotle crema and an aged Cheddar and Oaxaca cheese sauce for only $15. And that’s actually the most expensive food option here. Pair it with a beer, tequila flight, or one of 20 wines (starting at $8 per glass and $35 per bottle) and 20 specialty cocktails (including the Godiva chocolate martini, “poison” apple-tini, and habanero–lime margarita) on the patio for a truly memorable experience.
#2 Wine Country Trattoria
Enjoy the Alfresco Tasting Terrace, but want a little more? Opt for the Wine Country Trattoria and its umbrella-dotted terrace instead. In addition to the aforementioned bruschetta, shrimp, and Caprese options, guests can also opt for one of three different pastas (campanelle, spaghetti, or fettuccine) served one of five different ways (alla vongole, shrimp scampi, broccolini with oil, bolognese, or four tomato) for $16-19, as well as the fish of the day, lamb osso buco, lasagna Bolognese, herb-roasted chicken alfredo, or braised beef ravioli for $18-23. We’d tell you not to forget about the 25 different wines by the glass, but each food item on the menu has a suggested pairing, so that shouldn’t be an issue!
#1 Carthay Circle Restaurant
Lovebirds looking for a romantic rendezvous should give Carthay Circle Restaurant a try, as its retro theater backdrop provides the perfect atmosphere for a perfect night. The second-floor table service eatery (the first floor has a great lounge) is housed inside a detailed reproduction of the original Carthay Circle Theater, which was built in 1926 and saw the premiere of Walt Disney’s first feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1937 and the West Coast premiere of Fantasia in 1941. Chef Andrew Sutton (who is also the executive chef of Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa) starts his guests off with the restaurant’s signature fried biscuits, firecracker duck wings, and blue crab lettuce cups, before moving on to crispy duck confit, trofie pasta with smoked chicken, shellfish cioppino, and a thick-cut pork chop ($32-45 per entrée). For dessert, Sutton offers a warm dulce de leche marshmallow turnover with popcorn-flavored ice cream and chocolate sauce — best enjoyed on one of the restaurant’s two outdoor patios with views of the World of Color.