Disneyland dining review: 'Yes' on the chowder and curry, 'No' on the barbecue
Published: April 15, 2010 at 10:33 AM
I took the family down to Anaheim this week during the kids' Spring Break and we spent a day each at Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. (Well, a half-day at California Adventure.) I already posted some photos of the ongoing construction at DCA, and today I want to talk about the food.
First, the pleasant surprises. I've not been a fan of the food in California Adventure, finding it mostly nondescript. Living in Southern California, if I want a fast-food hamburger, I'll go to In-N-Out, so I'm not going to waste the fat, calories (and theme park prices!) on a burger that's not as good. Show me something more special when I'm in the parks.
This time, with the kids in tow and not looking forward to yet another full-price, table-service meal, we decided to give the counter service eateries in the Golden State section of the park another shot.
Disney's upgraded these restaurants over the past few years, and they now impress. Natalie opted for the Monterey Clam Chowder ($8.99) at the Pacific Wharf Cafe and Laurie and I tried the Thai Coconut Curry from the Lucky Fortune Cookery ($9.49 - Laurie opted for chicken, and I for tofu).
The clam chowder delivered far more flavor than we've been come to expect from bread-bowl soups. Natalie declared it second only to the razor clam stew she'd had in Washington, D.C. last summer. There's not much heat in the curry, which I expected given the theme park audience. But the flavors of the sauce and veggies blended well and I scarfed down my serving in no time. (I also appreciated that the tofu wasn't fried, as is the case at too many restaurants.)
I'd definitely put both of these options on my "recommended" list for visitors to DCA. Laurie and I had tried the Wine County Trattoria last year, and while I like the Chicken Panini ($10.29) over there, the Coconut Curry offers better flavor and better value.
Over at Disneyland, the Chicken Fusilli ($8.99) at Redd Rockett's Pizza Port continues to be our go-to meal for taste and value. Laurie enjoyed her Starfield of Greens ($7.49) salad, with blue cheese, candied walnuts and cranberries, but not as much as her bite of Natalie's Fusilli. Give the pizzas a pass, though. Disney's thick-crust pies remain tasteless globs of crust and cheese, not worth the $6-a-slice price (50 cents to a buck more for one with toppings).
Based on our good experience there last year, Laurie and I took the kids to the Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue for dinner. Disney's made some changes to this all-you-can-eat meal in an effort to draw more customers (including dropping the "Celebration Roundup" name), and I regret that all the changes have been for the worse.
Last year, Laurie and I paid $28.99 for the family-style lunch, which included barbecue chicken and ribs, cole slaw, corn, baked beans, cornbread, drinks and dessert. This time, we paid $24.99 for the dinner version, which added sausages but now no longer includes drinks ($3 each) or dessert (from $5 - we passed).
The new lunch price is $19.99, but that version of the meal does not come with the sausages served at dinner and now has dropped the corn, too, in addition to the drinks and dessert.
Kids can eat much more cheaply, for just $9.99 - down from $12.99 when we dined last year (and drinks are included in the kids' meal, but still, no dessert). Unfortunately, Disney only counts children 9 and under as "kids." Ten-year-olds pay the $28.99 adult price. Disney really needs a "tween" price on a meal such as this, for kids ages 10-14, who aren't going to eat anywhere near an adult portion, but who still would eat more than a smaller child.
Ultimately, much of what the kids are getting for the price here is the show. But Disney's gutted that, too. Toy Story's Woody, Jessie and Bullseye are gone from the scene. Tex Tumbleweed's still roaming the crowd, playing for and chatting with guests, but Miss Chris is just up on the stage now, for a short set with a piano player.
Without the characters and with the new pricing, Big Thunder Barbecue simply doesn't deliver the value it did last year. And for families with kids older than nine, the meal's simply a rip-off. My advice? Avoid the Big Thunder Barbecue and let's hope Disney shutters this concept in favor of one that offers some value again.