Where to eat? Lunches at Earl of Sandwich and Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Express in Disneyland's Downtown Disney
Disneyland's theme parks offer a wide variety of some of the better theme park quick-service options anywhere. But what if you want even more choices for lunch? Downtown Disney awaits, just steps away from Disneyland and California Adventure. Let's take a look at a couple of quick-service alternatives there.
Most of the restaurants you'll find in Anaheim's Downtown Disney are table-service restaurants that appeal more to the apres park crowd. But you do have a handful of counter service options. The most popular might be the west-coast outpost of Earl of Sandwich.
I've not eaten at the wildly popular Walt Disney World location, but I did first try Earl of Sandwich at Disneyland Paris's Disney Village last summer. And, I must concede, I didn't like it. Earl of Sandwich bills itself "The World's Greatest Hot Sandwich," and the "Hot" part isn't simply marketing hype. Each sandwich comes wrapped tightly in foil, like a Chipotle burrito, and steaming hot. While that's not bad on a sandwich that's just meat and cheese, such as the roast-beef-and-cheddar Original 1762, on a sandwich that features lettuce and tomato, such as the Full Montague, the heat and tight packing are a disaster.
To me, part of the appeal of a loaded sandwich is the contrast of its various elements. A hot, juicy burger with cool, crisp lettuce. The snap of crisp bacon coupled with the luscious texture of a ripe, fresh tomato in a BLT. In the Earl's sandwiches, everything's smushed together, like a panini without the exterior sear.
Knowing that this time, and wanting to give the Earl its best shot, I ordered what I understood to be the shop's most popular sandwich, the Holiday Turkey.
Loaded with turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberries, this is a day-after-Thanksgiving dream. And it would work all smashed together and hot, just like so many of us make them at home, straight out of the microwave. It would have worked for me, too, had the Earl thrown on an extra slice of turkey and left off the gratuitous slather of mayonnaise. With mayo, gravy and cranberry sauce, this was less a sandwich and more like soup on a roll.
Just too goopy for me. I picked the sandwich apart after a few bites, to try each component alone, and I liked them all. But the sum here isn't even equal to the addition of its parts, much less an improvement.
Earl of Sandwich also makes a point of noting its freshly-baked bread. But who can tell, when it's toasted this dry? Toasting's a time-honored trick for hiding less-than-fresh bread. I wonder if I could order a Holiday Turkey on untoasted bread, without the mayo, and unwrapped so that the darned thing could breathe a bit. That'd be delightful. Alas.
I also ordered a cup of the Butternut Squash soup, thinking it'd make a perfect accompaniment to my mid-summer faux Thanksgiving meal. Again, meh. Decent butternut squash flavor, but beaten down a notch by a vegetal broth.
If Earl of Sandwich was too fussy for its own good, Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen Express offered an example of how good simplicity can taste.
I ordered the Red Beans and Rice, with a small baguette on the side, from the counter service window next to the main Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen table service restaurant. If you're not familiar with this Louisiana classic, don't be fooled by the name — this is no vegetarian dish. Brennan's Red Beans and Rice comes loaded with ham and sausage and delivered such a peppery kick that I was happy to have that baguette and butter to cool my taste buds after every few bites.
And that baguette! Perfectly fresh, with a crisp crust surrounding an airy interior, this loaf reminded me how good bread can be. No one would dare toast this.
Good bread. A simple, meaty stew. This is a lunch that will wake your taste buds and keep your tummy filled until dinner.
What's your favorite place to eat in Disneyland's Downtown Disney? Please tell us, in the comments.
I tried Earl of Sandwich for the first time a few weeks ago, and while it didn't fully live up to the breathless hype and absurdly long line, my sandwich was rather good. I ordered the special pulled pork sandwich, and it had all the qualities you said make for a good sandwich: contrast between hot pork and cool coleslaw, crispy, airy bread (not the best bread I've ever had, but I'd say better than average), and moist without being sloppy.
I've never been a big fan of Earl of Sandwich -- particularly because the price doesn't quite justify a warmed up sandwich; but I've never been to the Jazz Kitchen before...Ought to change that soon.
Hmmm. I still want to try the holiday turkey sandwich, but I freakin' HATE mayo, so I think I'll be asking to hold that. And maybe half the gravy, if I can swing it.
Hi Robert, if you have patience to try EOS again, try the Cuban. I thought it was delicious. Just the right amount of sauce to moisten, tangy peppers and nice hot chicken inside. Also it's so nice eating in downtown disney and entering Disneyland via the monorail instead of the main gate. A nice little secret I think many visitors don't realize.
I'm sorry you've had bad experiences at Earl of Sandwich. It didn't have to be this way. All the sandwiches can be customized. Don't like mayo or want it lite? No problem. Just tell them. Like extra pickles? Go for it. Don't want it toasted? Again, just speak up. (Although, because the bread is freshly baked each day, the roll will still be warm whether you want the sandwich toasted or not.)
Hey, the Earl of Sandwich is popular because it is cheap!!! The prices are reasonable for that location. This doesn't mean it is necessarily good especially with the volume that must be produced. The mistake is thinking just because everyone is going there, it must be good!!! That's the common mistake that everyone makes.
Never tried Earl's, but I really like the Jazz Kitchen, it's my go to spot whenever I eat at Downtown Disney!
Thanks for that note, Brian.
Earl of Sandwich... well, uh sucks!
Wow, Eric G, if it is that bad you better not go within 1000 feet of it or something might happen to you. My family and I have been to the Earl of Sandwich in WDW many times and it is something we enjoy going to. It has never let us down.
Jazz Kitchen Express is one of our favorites, my husband always gets the shrimp po'boy and we will get some beignets to finish off the meal.
No, I do not like Subway. There are much better places that I would go to here where I live. Earl of Sandwich isn't the greatest place ever, but it is better then the average place. It is one thing to have an opinion about a place, but it is a completely different thing to make it sound like a place shouldn't exist because you don't like it.
Sad to hear that the West Coast version of the Earl is not that good. My wife and I loved the East Coast version. I think we ate there almost every evening except for dinner at Jiko. Maybe it's because I ate mostly Full Montague and 1762. My wife's favorite was the Holiday Turkey. We were looking forward to eating there when our little one is old enough to visit Disneyland.
My family and I tried out the Earl of Sandwich just for a quick place to eat Downtown Disney. It was the best dining experience of the trip. We enjoyed the sandwich so much we planned to return the fallowing night for dinner. I have told other people going to Orlando to be sure to eat there at least one meal.
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