On-the-go churros or chicken fingers work for some Disneyland guests for some meals. But when you’re spending as much as a trip to Disney costs these days, you might want to be sure you’re enjoying the best of what the theme parks have to offer — including the best restaurants and meals.
While Disney World’s restaurants are the most talked about, dining in Disneyland has undergone a transformation as well. And with the way things are currently, it’s important that you map out your eating plan in advance, at least for a few meals.
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At Disney, what makes a restaurant great is not necessarily just the very best foodie experience. Instead, it may also be a character experience, a fun theme or a good spot right near the rides.
Does it get better than actually eating inside an attraction at the Blue Bayou and watching the Pirates of the Caribbean boats go by? We think not.
We’ve dined at dozens of Disneyland restaurants over the years on both family and adults-only vacations, from the smallest of snack carts to the fanciest white-tablecloth eateries. Here’s what travelers need to know about dining at Disneyland, along with our picks for the best restaurants at Disneyland Park, Disney California Adventure and at the Disneyland hotels.
For no-cost assistance with planning and booking your next Disney vacation, check out TPG’s Disney booking partner, Mouse Counselors.
Tips for restaurants and dining at Disneyland
As with all things at Disneyland, guests who are prepared will have a less stressful and more enjoyable experience. Here are a few tips you need to know before you make your Disneyland dining plans and restaurant reservations.
Make use of mobile ordering
Over the past couple of years, Disneyland rolled out mobile ordering to the vast majority of counter-service restaurants in both parks. There is no longer a need to wait in a food line just to place an order.
These days using mobile order is pretty much essential. Make sure you have the Disneyland app downloaded and that you place your order in advance of the mealtime rush. It’s not a bad idea to place your order hours ahead in some cases if you know when and what you would like to eat. At popular spots and days, you can be left hungry for a while if you wait until your stomach is growling to order.
Once your order has been placed, wait until the time you have selected to eat, then click in the app again to indicate your arrival as you approach the restaurant. Your food is usually ready in a few minutes at a pick-up window.
Remember the 60-day reservation window
If you plan to visit a table service restaurant or a popular character meal buffet during your Disneyland vacation, reservations are often a must. We recommend booking right at that 60-day window before your trip if you can. If not, a service like MouseDining can be handy in alerting you when an opening appears — just act quickly, as things disappear as fast as they appear.
Don’t forget about dining packages
Disneyland has a number of popular shows and parades that many visitors want to see. Finding a good seat for them may require camping out an hour or more in advance.
One solution is to secure reserved seating areas for these shows by booking an associated dining package. These packages do come at a premium price, but they save substantial time in addition to providing a meal that guests would be paying for anyway. Check the Disneyland website or app for availability, as there are often changes to the offerings.
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Think beyond the parks
While there are so many amazing restaurants within Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, don’t forget to look beyond park borders for other excellent restaurants. The Downtown Disney district has a lot of quality restaurants and dining experiences a very short walk or monorail ride from the parks. There’s even a brewery.
The three Disneyland on-property hotels are also home to several restaurants, including a few character meals and some of the fanciest table service meals on Disneyland property. Scheduling a meal on your arrival or departure day at one of these restaurants can give you a Disney experience without the cost of a park ticket on that day.
Best restaurants in Disneyland Park
Here are some of the best Disneyland Park restaurants to enjoy:
Plaza Inn (Main Street USA)
Home to the only Disneyland character meal located within either of the two parks, Plaza Inn is a favorite for families or anyone else who wants some character face time. During morning hours, Plaza Inn hosts “Breakfast in the Park With Minnie & Friends.” Breakfast is buffet style, with kid-friendly favorites like Mickey waffles available alongside eggs, biscuits and gravy and other morning comfort foods.
While visitors are always guaranteed a photo opportunity with Minnie Mouse, other regular characters include Winnie the Pooh, Captain Hook, Chip ‘n Dale, Max, Fairy Godmother and Tigger.
Reservations go quickly for this meal, so make your plans as soon as the 60-day advance reservation window opens. Remember, though, that early morning hours are the best time for short ride lines — so don’t waste these hours sitting down for breakfast. Pick a time at the Plaza Inn a few hours after park opening (10:30 a.m. is ideal on days with an 8 a.m. park opening).
Bengal Barbecue (Adventureland)
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For a very quick bite, Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland has always been one of my family’s favorites.
The menu choices offer a lot of lean meats and a few veggies — a welcome change from all the churros and Mickey ice cream bars that otherwise make up a Disneyland diet. Many of the food items are on skewers, so you can take them to go as you race off to your next Genie+ reservation time. If you have more time, sit and take a break at the new adjacent shaded and themed seating area.
Red Rose Taverne (Fantasyland)
If you have little ones, chances are good that you’ll spend a lot of time in Fantasyland. The quick-service restaurant there (rebranded a few years ago as Red Rose Taverne but known to many guests as Village Haus) works well for families with babies, toddlers and younger children.
You can count on Red Rose Taverne for the staples many picky children will eat, including macaroni and cheese, hamburgers and cheese pizza. There’s ample indoor and outdoor seating and even enough room to maneuver a stroller up to many of the tables. The food for adults is nothing particularly memorable, but park-weary parents will be grateful for the easy logistics.
French Market (New Orleans Square)
French Market is one of the higher-end counter service restaurants in Disneyland, so it’s a smart choice for guests who want a nicer dining experience without quite as much expense or time invested as a true sit-down experience.
Menu choices are Creole- and Cajun-inspired, with choices like a shrimp po’boy and a French dip sandwich. There are less adventurous options on the kids’ menu if you have picky eaters in the family.
Dining is outside on a mostly shaded veranda where a jazz band, the Royal Street Bachelors, performs throughout the day. Kids are often invited to participate in the musical entertainment and may even be rewarded with Mardi Gras beads.
Be sure to stop by the Mint Julep Bar adjacent to French Market where you can grab a (nonalcoholic) mint julep to accompany your meal or a Mickey beignet for dessert.
Blue Bayou (New Orleans Square)
For the quintessential Disneyland date night, head straight for New Orleans Square. My husband and I have made dinner at Blue Bayou our date-night tradition, starting when we first visited the park together nearly 20 years ago.
The restaurant is entirely indoors but is lit to give the illusion of alfresco nighttime dining overlooking the bayou. Boats from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride float by on the water while fireflies dance overhead. Lunch is less expensive than dinner, and is the only time that you can order the famous Monte Cristo sandwich as well as my personal favorite, the jambalaya. Reservations are an absolute must.
While this is a fancier restaurant and is priced accordingly, families shouldn’t necessarily rule it out. Blue Bayou can be a very special higher-end Disney dining experience with older children or teens for dinner, and it’s usually filled with quite a few families at lunch.
Docking Bay 7
The opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland in 2019 brought several new restaurants into Disneyland Park. To be sure, the food options on Batuu were not without some controversy and mixed reviews.
Related: Best and worst food at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland
Disneyland has tweaked a few menus to respond to customer feedback, and Docking Bay 7 has emerged as one of the better counter service restaurants in the park. With ample air-conditioned indoor seating, it’s also an easy place to take a break and (usually) find a table. There’s a small partially shaded outdoor terrace that offers fresh air and quality views for Star Wars people-watching too.
Lunch and dinner menu items include a fried chicken (“tip yip”) and mashed potatoes, smoked pork ribs, pot roast and several vegetarian options. The pickiest of eaters may not find a lot of choices here, so check the menu carefully if you have young kids.
Also, don’t rule out the idea of a wrap from Ronto’s Roasters as that is arguably an even tastier option. The traditional morning wrap with egg and pork sausage is our favorite but there are also plant-based garden wraps and a wrap with sausage and slaw available for lunch or dinner.
Related: Where to stay at Disneyland
Best restaurants in Disney California Adventure
Here are the best Disney California Adventure restaurants for families:
Flo’s V8 Cafe (Cars Land)
Flo’s is Disney’s take on the classic American diner, just like you might find along Route 66.
The theming and setting in Cars Land is immersive and just so much fun. For a quick-service restaurant, the food is downright delicious. Flo’s is often where my family stops mid-morning for breakfast to grab eggs or Mickey waffles.
Lunch and dinner include items like burgers, a Cobb salad, fried chicken and a turkey club sandwich. Kids can find plenty of variety, from turkey sliders to chicken strips.
Lamplight Lounge (Pixar Pier)
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Lamplight Lounge is one of the hottest dining tickets at Disneyland Resort, so it’s a must to make a reservation well in advance if you want to dine here. The weekend brunch offering is especially popular.
Instagrammable food and cocktails abound. The decor is Pixar-themed, with tons of memorabilia and details to explore. Like Blue Bayou in Disneyland Park, Lamplight Lounge is probably better suited to families with older children and teens due to atmosphere and price, but younger kids who love their Pixar movies will feel right at home here, too.
The sentimental favorite menu item is the lobster nachos that were available at the predecessor restaurant in this space, Cove Bar. The menu choices are definitely more varied and interesting for foodie parents than at many Disneyland restaurants, and the drink menu (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic) is full of whimsical selections.
For a special signature dining experience in California Adventure, Carthay Circle is the top choice. It’s also priced accordingly, so save this for a special adults’ night out or just budget accordingly and enjoy the very centralized location for a more casual lunch. Located within a replica of the Carthay Circle Theater, where Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs debuted in 1937, this restaurant is teeming with Disney and Old Hollywood history and lore.
Menu items include duck breast, filet mignon, salmon and red snapper. If you don’t have the budget or the time for a fancier meal, the Carthay Circle Lounge downstairs in the same building has lighter bites and delicious cocktails.
Also know that eating outdoors has the added perk of five-star people watching — you’re likely to even spot a character or two strolling by on their way to their next appearance.
Pym’s Test Kitchen
OK this food is not the best on Disney property, but it is pretty fun, so it made the cut based on sheer originality.
The concept of this counter service location in the new Avenger’s Campus is that Ant-Man and the Wasp’s Pym particles are being used to experiment with making food teeny-tiny or enormous.
On the menu you’ll find an enormous pretzel, a not-so-little chicken sandwich with a tiny bun and huge chicken patty, pasta with tiny noodles and oversized Impossible plant-based “meatballs.” The kids are likely to get a kick out of the pretzel, which will seriously be larger than their heads.
Food Festival Marketplaces (various locations)
Disney California Adventure is home to multiple food festivals throughout the year. When these take place, food “marketplaces” pop up along the pathways of the park, usually at least from Grizzly Peak to the end of Paradise Gardens. The food options at these festivals are fun and unique, and a great place for visitors to try a lot of new flavors.
The largest of these is the Disney California Adventure Food and Wine Festival in the spring. Look also for the Festival of Holidays during the November and December holiday season as well as the Lunar New Year marketplaces during the annual Lunar New Year Celebration. Families can get a lot of value out of sharing a Sip ‘n’ Savor pass when available, which gives you tickets to redeem for a number of dishes for a single set price.
Best restaurants in the Disneyland hotels
Trader Sam’s in Disneyland Hotel
Lurking near the pool at the Disneyland Hotel is one of the liveliest places to eat or drink on Disneyland property — Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, where volcanoes explode, servers shout and it’s easy to have a good time. The poke bowl and Hawaiian platter are fun options here, but you can’t go wrong just coming in for a snack and a drink. Order the right one and you may be a part of a shipwreck, explosion or other fun disaster.
Napa Rose in the Grand Californian
You won’t find any shipwrecks or screaming servers at the Napa Rose within Disneyland’s Grand Californian Hotel, but you will find a sophisticated (but not stuffy) menu of scallops, steak, sustainable fish and a roasted pear salad, to name a few items.
This is a special occasion meal and one you don’t want to rush through — so don’t try to quickly cram this meal down before catching that next ride on Radiator Springs Racers.
No matter who is in your traveling party or what your budget is, Disneyland has a wide variety of restaurants to enjoy on your next vacation. Remember if you are paying by card for these meals to use a card that rewards you with extra miles for dining, like the Citi Prestige® Card (5 points per dollar), American Express® Gold Card (4 points per dollar at restaurants), Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card (7 points per dollar on eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants) or Chase Sapphire Reserve (3 points per dollar). (Learn more about the best credit cards for dining.)
The information for the Citi Prestige Card and Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Alternatively, you can also pick up some discounted Disney gift cards before your trip to save on meals at the best restaurants in Disneyland.
If you’re planning a family vacation to Disneyland, be sure to check out these other articles as you craft the perfect trip:
- 9 things families should know before visiting Disneyland
- Where to stay at Disneyland: On vs. off-property hotel comparisons
- Skip the lines at Disneyland: 10 line-busting tips for less waiting and more playing
- 10 tips for visiting Disneyland with toddlers and preschoolers
Leslie Harvey is a mom of two who blogs at Trips With Tykes. She is the co-host of the podcast Disney Deciphered and co-owns the Disneyland planning Facebook group, Disneyland With Kids.
Featured photo by Disneyland Resort.
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