10 Things I Ate About You: Disneyland and California Adventure
10 Things I Ate About You finds 10 enticing bites in smaller cities from coast to coast.
Disneyland and the neighboring California Adventure draw millions of visitors to experience thrilling rides and the chance to interact with Mickey Mouse and friends. In addition to the attractions and adventures designed to dazzle the kids (and kids at heart), the Happiest Place on Earth also entices with beyond-basic eats that put standard theme park fare to shame. Within the 150-plus acres that house both parks, you’ll find quick-serve spots offering a mix of concession stand classics (some even shaped like Mickey) and exotic treats such as chile-dusted mango slices and pineapple soft serve, along with restaurants that cater to a range of tastes, with decadent New Orleans-inspired dishes, elevated California cuisine and more. Dig in!
Breakfast Delight: Bananas Foster French Toast
If little ones are in tow, a fun way to fuel up in the morning is at the character breakfast featuring face-to-face time with Mickey and friends. The Surf’s Up! Breakfast at the on-property Paradise Pier Hotel offers a morning buffet with protein-packed staples, such as customizable omelets, and whimsical yet hearty dishes like Mickey-shaped Belgian waffles — all while a handful of Disney characters visit the tables for photo ops. The Bananas Foster French toast shines with caramelized bananas and a sweet, but not saccharine, Foster sauce drizzled over thick pieces of cinnamon-dusted triangle toast.
A Refreshing Twist: Dole Whip
Lines can get long for this frozen, fruit-forward treat that offers a revitalizing reprieve after hours of riding the attractions. Served since 1976 out of the Dole-sponsored Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland, Dole Whips are a must-have for many parkgoers who return year after year. The pineapple soft serve — which is both gluten-free and dairy-free — offers a refreshing burst of tropic-inspired flavor (and comes in a canary-yellow hue to boot). Often served afloat in sweet pineapple juice, it’s a particularly popular way to cool down on hotter days in the park.
Creamy Indulgence: Sundae at Clarabelle’s
The ice cream at this California Adventure park shop, named for the lesser-known Clarabelle Cow, is not to be missed. In addition to being able to create your very own ice cream bar, you can indulge in sundaes that are big enough to be a shareable treat. Three scoops of ice cream fill up a collectible “kitchen sink” in the shape of Mickey’s signature red pants. Opt for the Oswald sundae and your scoops will come adorned with thick swirls of hot fudge, a sprinkling of chocolate chips, a chocolate-dipped banana, fluffy crests of whipped cream and the classic finishing touch: cherries.
Iconic Treat: Corn Dog from the Little Red Wagon
Walking along Main Street — an homage to where Walt Disney grew up in Marceline, Mo. — is an unmistakable red food cart slinging a savory treat that draws the crowds, with more than 1 million corn dogs served here annually. So what makes this corn dog so craveworthy? Fans say it’s all in the batter. Each hot dog is hand-dipped in batter, then fried until there’s a solid coating of crunch that gives way to a cornbread texture underneath. Lines get long, with some visitors turning a stop at the cart into their regular park tradition.
Chef-Driven Bites: Lobster Pad Thai Imperial Rolls
For something a little more elevated, duck into California Adventure’s Carthay Circle Lounge for upscale bar eats and craft cocktails. The restaurant, named after the Carthay Circle Theater, where Snow White premiered in 1937, evokes the glittering art deco era of 1930s Hollywood (complete with photos of Walt Disney’s red carpet appearance and Oscar acceptance speech for the film). The lounge’s menu features small bites, including a variety of rolls. One standout is the lobster pad thai roll. Succulent lobster morsels studded with fresh mint and cucumber come stuffed in a soy-and-seaweed wrapping and served with a cashew tamarind sauce. The restaurant upstairs offers a more extensive menu, but the lounge is the perfect spot for a quick break between rides.
A Healthier Nosh: Fruit Cart
For those visitors seeking a respite from overly indulgent concession stand snacks, fruit carts stationed throughout the park offer a refreshing remedy. Each one is set up like a mini farmers market that matches the theme of the “land” where it’s located, with nourishing fruits, vegetables and beverages on hand. Giant wedges of watermelon, dill pickles, sliced mango dressed up with chile and lime, carrots served with a side of ranch, and bushels of bananas are some of what you’ll see, along with thirst-quenching drinks such as lemonade and orange juice.
Mickey-Shaped Treat: Soft Pretzels
A true Disneyland experience wouldn’t be complete without something shaped like the mouse of the hour. Ice cream bars, beignets, pancakes and cookies are all available in Mickey’s famous silhouette, but the favorite is a classic concession stand staple. A soft pretzel — served fresh out of the warmer with or without salt — is a popular pick for parkgoers of all ages. The savory snack is paired with creamy nacho cheese sauce for dipping.
An Upscale Experience: Napa Rose
If popcorn and pretzels aren’t your idea of a meal, Disneyland has upped its game with the romantic Napa Rose. Helmed by Chef Andrew Sutton (whose career includes turns at Auberge du Soleil, in Napa Valley, and Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas), the restaurant brings sophisticated, seasonally inspired cuisine, like seared scallops with local corn, bacon bubbles and a tangy lemon marmalade, to a kid-friendly world. And there’s a comprehensive wine list. Housed in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Napa Rose has become a destination in and of itself, even attracting diners who aren’t spending the day at the park.
Snack on the Go: Popcorn
Popcorn is a staple at any theme park, but there is something special about the salty, light-as-air popped corn served throughout Disneyland that makes it a popular snack for many a visitor. A stop for popcorn also has the added bonus of getting to see Disney characters in action. Each old-timey cart has a special feature: a different Disney character churning the corn kernels to fluffy perfection. The popcorn also comes in whimsical keepsake containers that have distinct themes each year and serve as the perfect carryall for popcorn refills visit after visit.
A Taste of New Orleans: Monte Cristo
Nestled in this theme park where imagination reigns supreme, Blue Bayou Restaurant aims to transport diners to the heart of Louisiana by way of its New Orleans-inspired dishes (and decor). The menu is rife with the Crescent City’s most well-known delicacies, including gumbo and beignets. But the favorite is the Monte Cristo: a fried sandwich stuffed with ham, turkey and Swiss cheese, and dusted in a sweet flurry of powdered sugar. Served on the side, red currant jam and creme anglaise add to the richness.