You’ve planned your trip. Tickets have been purchased. You’re super excited! What’s the first thing you think to do to enhance your trip? Dining reservations! Okay, well, maybe that’s not the first thing you think to do, but it’s definitely mine. Booking reservations ensures that you have plans for at least one of your meals (which can be helpful when the park is full), and can also be an amazing addition to your vacation plans. Because I love dining reservations so much, we’ve been able to test out a ton of restaurants. I can officially say I’ve eaten at every single restaurant in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure (DCA). So when you plan your trip and are looking for a good place to eat, here are my recommendations.
Starting at number 5, and making our way down to my favorite restaurant in the parks:
Inside of Blue Bayou | © Disneyland Delights
5. Blue Bayou (New Orleans Square, Disneyland): This is a beloved restaurant that I’m sure needs no introduction. It’s a bucket list item for many Disney fans due to its intriguing location and relaxing atmosphere. Let’s dive into the details.
Location: This restaurant is inside of the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. Yes, inside. I’m sure you can see why a reservation is necessary. Thanks to its unique placement, you’ll need to get a reservation for this high-in-demand dining experience. You can also ask to sit directly next to the water, but this can be difficult to get and may cause a longer wait for you. Even if you aren’t next to the water the light-up menus, audio loop, fireflies, and shooting stars make you feel as if you're on the patio of a grand estate in the bayou.
Food & Price: This is where the restaurant loses the interest of some guests. Disney rated the restaurant “$$$” meaning the meals are $35-$59.99. The amount of food you get for that price is a bit underwhelming. I usually get the catch of the day, which is $39, but they have plenty of other Cajun-Creole dishes. The food is good, but many don’t believe it justifies the price. In my opinion, however, the primary reason for coming to the Blue Bayou is for the theming, not the food. It’s something that every Disney lover should experience at least once, despite how good the food may be. For a full menu and current list of prices, click here. Annual Pass discounts are accepted.
Other: No, you don’t get a FASTPASS for the ride after eating. I’ve actually had people ask me this in the past, and while it would make sense, it’s not offered.
Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante | © Disney Tourist Blog
4. Rancho del Zocalo Restaurante (Frontierland, Disneyland): So this is technically a quick service counter, but I visit it every single trip. While the others on my list are restaurants I occasionally visit, this location is a vacation staple. Why?
Location: Rancho del Zocalo is nicely tucked away into a corner of Frontierland where you’ll find some privacy and relaxing areas. My favorite part of the placement, however, would have to be the fact that you can grab a table next to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Yes, right next to Thunder Mountain. As riders enjoy their last few seconds on the ride, guests dining at Rancho del Zocalo can watch in delight. This is honestly one of my favorite things to do. It’s like ultimate people watching.
Food & Price: I love Mexican food, so this quick service counter is perfect for me. There are options for the whole family — my favorite being the Burrito Sonora with Chicken ($12.49). It’s a monstrous burrito that comes with rice and beans. This meal could easily be shared by two people. You never, and I mean never, get that much food for that cheap of a price in the parks. Disney rated this restaurant with one “$”, which represents a restaurant with meals that are $14.99 and under per adult. If you happen to have a toddler in tow, they are also one of the few restaurants that offer toddler meals for $4.49. For a full menu and list of prices, click here. Annual Pass discounts are accepted.
Other: There was a night where we ate dinner super late, right before Rancho del Zocalo closed down. While we sat there next to their heating lamps, the fireworks show started. We had the perfect view, with no one blocking our vision of the sky. Even though I dislike fireworks, there were many in our group who found this to be an unforgettable experience.
Outside seating at Wine Country Trattoria | © Disney Food Blog
3. Wine Country Trattoria (Pacific Wharf, Disney California Adventure): This restaurant is actually my favorite, depending on how much money I’m wanting to spend. If I’m ready to spend an awful amount of money on food, this wouldn’t be my “favorite” restaurant that I would go to. But if I’m looking to spend a average amount of money on a nice meal and relaxing experience, this would most definitely be my favorite restaurant. (Wine Country Trattoria would also beat out my number one restaurant if I were picking a dining experience based off wanting a cheaper meal with a lot of food – but we’ll get to that later.)
Location: This is in a very relaxing place within the hustle and bustle of DCA. The Pacific Wharf often provides its guests with relaxing music, a beautiful view, and a nice atmosphere. Whenever there are festival kiosks in DCA, I grab my food and sit in this area of the park. It’s honestly one of my favorite places. This restaurant is no different. You feel like you’ve left a Disney park and entered into wine country. The immersive theming and relaxing atmosphere will leave you with a smile on your face. This restaurant has a beautiful terrace filled with vines, subdued colors, and is filled with calming music. With a glass of wine in hand, you may catch yourself thinking you’re actually in wine country.
Food, Drinks & Prices: You know what else leaves me with a smile on my face? Wine. And Wine Country Trattoria has plenty of it. At pretty reasonable prices, you can split a bottle of wine with the family. Their food also can be found at a good price. I get the salmon dinner entree, which comes with potatoes and salad. It fills me up, is extremely tasty, and is only $27. In comparison to the $39 you spend for the catch of the day at Blue Bayou, this restaurant comes first for me. Disney rates this restaurant ($$) meaning $15-$34.99 per adult. For a full menu and list of prices, click here. Annual pass discounts are accepted.
Other: Depending on the shows taking place during your visit, there will usually be a dinner package available which comes with reserved seating for a select show. To find current dining packages, click here.
Outside look of Carthay Circle Restaurant | © Christina Favela
2. Carthay Circle Restaurant (Buena Vista Street, Disney California Adventure): I’ve only had the opportunity to eat here once, but it was spectacular. During our walk to the table, we received a history lesson about the restaurant from the hostess. The entire restaurant is absolutely gorgeous. And their food is nothing to scoff at either.
Location: This beautiful restaurant is easily seen from the entrance of DCA. At the end of the Buena Vista street is Carthay Circle. Carthay Circle has both a lounge and a restaurant. I’ve been in the lounge once, and it felt like an actual lounge in Hollywood. It brought you into an entirely different time and place. The same can be said for the actual restaurant. The restaurant is themed around Hollywood’s Golden Age and the rise of Walt Disney’s fame, which is perfectly captured through the images on the wall and art-deco architecture.
Food, Drinks & Prices: Carthay Circle has a unique array of cocktails, wines, and beers to choose from. When I visited the restaurant, I ate the salmon (shocker). It was $30 and came with tomatoes, corn and bacon. This was also an extremely delicious meal, and was cheaper than Blue Bayou’s comparable option, but more expensive than Wine Country Trattoria’s comparable option. Disney rates this restaurant ($$-$$$), which means a meal costs $15-$59.99 per adult. Although, they are referring to their starters when they say a meal could be as little as $15. For a full menu and list of prices, click here. Annual pass discounts are accepted.
Other: Carthay Circle also offers dining packages that include reserved seating for select shows that take place during your visit. I also definitely recommend getting a reservation regardless of how empty the parks are, the wait times can be lengthy without one.
Before we get to my favorite restaurant in the parks, let’s visit some honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut:
Lucky Fortune Cookery (Pacific Wharf, Disney California Adventure): This is a quick service counter that I frequently visit. You get an amazing amount of food for your money, and it’s really tasty. There are a ton of options, and it’s easily my favorite quick service counter in the parks. Disney rates this ($) meaning the meals are $14.99 and under per adult.
Hungry Bear- Fantasmic! On-The-Go Package (Critter Country, Disneyland): Fantasmic! is currently closed for refurbishment, but this package is my absolute favorite! You simply pick up your food from the counter, and receive your reserved seating admission for the Fantasmic! show. I got a (yes, you guessed it) salmon entree with a salad and rice. It even came with a soda! The reserved seating also gave us the ability to have my daughter right at the front of the seating for the show. She enjoyed it, mist and all.
Entrance to Lamplight Lounge | © Christina Favela
1. Lamplight Lounge (Pixar Pier, Disney California Adventure): Location, food, and drinks are combined beautifully to make this my favorite restaurant in the parks. We visited in September of 2018, and asked to eat in the downstairs area, specifically on the water. My goodness, was this an experience.
Location: As you walk on the pier, you’ll see Lamplight Lounge. It’s right on the water, and provides you with amazing Pixar-related theming. From Pixar sketches and quotes on the walls, to seats with our favorite Pixar characters on the backs, it will be every Pixar fan’s favorite restaurant! We asked to eat in the downstairs area because it was on the water, and we could see everything going on around us. The sofas we sat on were so comfortable I could sleep, and the overhang kept us protected from the sun (which can be a huge selling point in the heat of summer). It felt like I was transported to an actual pier on a beach in California. While I was able to relax, I was also aware of the magic in the park surrounding me, like the unique view of the Incredicoaster, which provided me with some entertainment.
Food, Drinks & Prices: In a twist of events, I got the spinach salad when I ate here. It was delicious, but many could argue that it was overpriced – I paid $21. With that being said, it was still the best spinach salad I’ve ever had. It came with mushrooms, a poached egg, bacon, and blue cheese toast. The drinks were outrageously delicious – they are all Pixar-themed. I got the “Over Budget” drink, which is basically their take on a Moscow Mule. This was $13.25, but was all I needed. Someone else got the “Plot Twist” drink, which had Absolut Citron Vodka, Midori Liqueur, White Cranberry Juice, and fresh Lime Juice. That drink was $14.25. Disney rated Lamplight Lounge ($$), which means a meal is $15-$34.99 per adult. For a full menu and list of prices, click here. Annual pass discounts are accepted.
Other: Take out a lot of time to just look at the decor around you. The walls are filled with Pixar history, and you could spend hours looking at the minor details. Also, make sure you get your reservation when you can (60 days in advance). These reservations fill up quick, and the line to get in without a reservation is pretty insane, especially around sunset.
Lamplight Lounge is my favorite because every detail combined make it an astounding experience. As stated in my review of Wine Country Trattoria, I would definitely choose that restaurant over Lamplight Lounge if I’m just looking for a reasonably-priced meal that will fill me up. Lamplight Lounge’s spinach salad was only $6 cheaper than Wine Country Trattoria’s salmon dinner entree, which comes with a salad and potatoes. But the location and theming of Lamplight Lounge blew every other restaurant out of the water, and the food was unique, tasty, and reasonably priced. Every single facet of this restaurant worked together to make this one of the funnest dining experiences I’ve had. So that’s what makes this overall, my favorite restaurant.
There it is! These are my top five restaurants (and some amazing quick-service counters) in Disneyland and DCA, with some honorable mentions added in. I think Disneyland and DCA have so many amazing choices, so it was extremely hard to narrow down this list. There were so many that I would’ve loved to mention, but I didn’t have enough spots. When you visit the parks next, try out one of these restaurants/quick service counters!